The Spring of Arda came upon us once more and the winter's grey slumber
has been lifted from Kelvar and Olvar alike...From the awakening of nature sprang forth a multitude
of life in every colour of the rainbow and every creature great and small knew that Arien's
power was in ascendance. She would claim her season and bring to them the gift of summer....
The coming of Anar and her warmth is indeed rejuvenating, yet in spite of her splendour, observations about the weather are not the only reasons for this "Summer Greeting" from your Dreamlord of old. :)
Some time ago, I was made aware of the resurrection of the "valar.org" page
and reading the Vision-section brought back a lot of memories.
At a Sunday Meeting in the spring of 98 the business part of the agenda led into chit chat about old times and former members. Being fairly new, I remember asking Eru to recount the founding of the Guild and its initial Themes - and it was indeed a tale worth hearing. He rolled up his sleeves, put on his "melodrama face" and poured out the events that made up the roots of our group - good as...slightly chaotic :) As far as I recall that was also the first time a more permanent written account was suggested, in order to create the basis of a common "Guild History".
Later on, Eru succumbed to the lure of nostalgic storytelling once or twice and Manwë, the oldest remaining member, gave his version of things with all the "heya"'s and typos he could possibly muster...
- Which (at long last...) brings me to my point. :)
I realised that the glorious spring and summer of 98 when the 3rd Theme reached its peak, is now "Guild history" just like the 1st Theme was at the time - so, sit back, reach into your own memories and I will share some of mine.... :)
And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm. And thus was the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.
I started being a regular on B.net in November 97, an independent player
with no intentions of joining any of the giddy guilds, crummy clans, or any of the other classifications.
As the Tolkien-fan I was (and am), I used to always greet and chat with other people
whose names bore the distinct mark of the Professor.
As my chars lvl'ed, more and more random recruiters and friends who happened to be in various guilds tempted me with memberships. There were hundreds of groups out there - some short-lived, some psychotic, some well-meaning, some clogging, some enthusiastic, some disorganised and some simply annoying and of course there would occasionally be a few friendly and interesting people involved. Still, I somehow felt that there ought to be more in it than just playing together.
One day, however (early March to be precise), I happened upon Master Elrond himself and talking about Tolkien and guilds I asked him what the -(V) signified. Out of pure luck, Varda, already an ardent recruiter, was online at the time and told me more. After a short visit in the channel, I had no doubts. Tolkien-chat, quizzes and the unique co-operation with all the skilled Diablo-slayers were the bait that caught me... :)
Valar was an ordered and well-structured environment - no pk's, no pkk's, none of the abusive or obnoxious morons that reigned supreme in the public channels...
My memories from those days include my first meetings with Manwë in
the channel - a very warm welcome - Aule, who had been celebrating his birthday and came to the
channel still tipping the ole bottle ;) Varda - encouraging and ever helpful....In Arda, Namo was nothing
short of a walking department store dealing in rare items, except for the fact that he did it
I quickly grew very attached to the character of Felagund - whose name I had the honour of bearing - and my enthusiasm in guild matters led to the Maiar-test, conducted by Eru, whose role-playing was at all times very true to his literary counterpart - elevated and legendary. Three candidates were up for promotion and though we all chewed up most of our nails, we passed!
In fact, there was only one problem.... After the Test, B.net decided that I needed some heavy time lag, so by the time I made it back from limbo, vacant Maiar-names were extremely hard to come by....it boiled down to this:
Either become Tom Bombadil, that is: wear huge, yellow boots, be greeted with a "heya heya heya dol merry dol" every time I entered the channel and generally rant "ring-a-ding-dillo!" for the rest of Eternity - or improvise...(No offence to ol' Tom...) ;)
With my personal sympathy for Elves, I argued that King Thingol who took Melian for wife and thus (very well may have) undergone a mysterious "racial metastrophe" - some sort of interchange during the time they remained enchanted in Nan Elmoth in which he attained almost-Maia-characteristics - was the one Quende who would pass as a credible Maiar member. This was approved of and set a precedent of generally more flexible solutions when naming high-ranking char's in the growing guild.
I focused my efforts in the Guild mainly toward the Tolkien-Theme and one
of the most significant tasks I assumed was the planning and management of the weekly Saturday Chat
- A formal Tolkien-discussion (new angles/interpretations, deeper speculations and all
kinds of deduction) to which I added elements of pop quiz and sometimes "20 questions". - Originally,
Varda conceived of this idea as a supplementary to the chats Tuesday and Thursday night and
invited me to run it.
In spite of the keyboard-cramps (typing fast almost constantly for over 2hrs can work up a sweat! :)... ) we delved into some juicy topics and reached some very memorable, original conclusions, truly going where no chat-topic had ever gone before.... :)
As a Maia, I acted as the assistant of Tulkas the
Linguist who took up the
prestigious Five Week Quiz which Eru introduced during the 2nd Theme.
Our co-operation on this
project went smoothly and furthered my appetite for Guild commitments
in general and before long my Sat.Chats, as I abbreviated them, had a
steady group of members attending. Not large - but
Back then Tulkas maintained a page called "The Discussion Board" which was used as a bulletin for Guild Announcements as well as all the written Tolkien-related discussions and exchanges of opinions - in my mind it performed some of the basic Guild functions that have been elaborated in the current news page and encyclopedia. At its peak the page hosted questions and results from Quizzes, Tourney-announcements, chat topic announcements and summaries plus many articles and question/answer-posts regarding interesting and debatable aspects of the Tolkien books.
Even though the "Board" is no more, its purposes (and more) are being served in the present web-structure. Since the page was taken down in the end, I never saw any of the contents again....
The further fate of all its posted (and still relevant) material certainly continues to elude me....(?) :)
Then dawned the Age of Manwë's absence - longer than anyone had expected - and farewells were said in a long letter on the aforementioned Board. Because of his friendly and likeable nature, and his impact on the guild in general, everyone was sad to see him leave. Meetings, general council management and recruiting under his chairmanship were exemplary to all and without ever making any effort to, or ever having to maintain the right, his role as "Primus inter pares" was unquestionable. (In later times when visiting the channel he more than once offered to step down from his post as Chairman, regretting the inevitable consequences of the many months away. Let me say it flat out, the Council always turned it down unanimously, indeed refused to even acknowledge that option...)
During those months The Valar enjoyed the friendship of another Tolkien-based
guild on B.net called the "Dunedain". When I say friendship I mean exactly that - the guilds
weren't officially allies, nor in any way competitors. Dunedain and Valar weren't affiliated
apart from the Tolkien fandom they had in common and which paved the way for some occasional visits
to each other's channels. Elessar and Arwen, as the exuberant co-leaders were called, sometimes
guested us in our Valar channel and I, who was one of their most frequent Valar visitors, got
acquainted with several of their members. Apart from the Tolkien interest we shared, they were a
lively group and I shall never forget the informal channel parties of that summer - usually, three
or four people would be plenty to stir up some ROFL's and whenever larger groups were gathered, champagne
corks were sure to pop! :)
Aule, the smith of many skills, will probably remember the huge portable swimming pool he used to supply for the festivities - as a curious feature it was enchanted so that it folded up nicely in his back pocket whenever he had to leave the premises.... :)
Unfortunately, the Dunedain days on B.net are at an end.... The guild was dissolved in peace in the autumn of 98 and with their departure, B.net lost some of its merriest fellows and, alas, some of its few serious Tolkien fans outside the Valar.
[Note from Varda: the co-leaders of the Dunedain married each other and became involved in their real life; more power to them.]
Recruiting in the Valar was steady and more members were doing good work
for the guild. As we grew, more and more features were added, new pages, bios of all the people
involved, Ulmo set up some of his famed tourneys and SC was assimilated into the gaming aspects of the guild.
On a personal note, I felt very pleased to be conducting the weekly Tolkien chats and did research for each Saturday. Apparently, this reached the eyes and ears of several Council members who appreciated the effort.... - So much so, in fact, that by May, during a cleansweep of inactive members, I came up as a candidate for the Council seat of Irmo, the Desirer - Lord of Lorien.
In my new guise, I found it important to sustain my guild work and if possible
to launch some new projects and create new ideas for improvement. One way was to be active in
"Board" articles, another was to translate parts of a large paper on Tolkien which I'd done
in Danish before I joined the Guild as contributions for Varda's new-born encyclopedia project.
The Valar Guild had now reached such numbers (and Eru's wallet such mythic proportions) ;) that our founder decided to purchase our own domain name - www.valar.org.
During the research, before deciding what the exact name should be, we browsed around and found www.valar.com - a waste of everybody's time and a truly ludicrous site... While writing this, I tried a 2nd look and found that by some strange coincidence, the same lamentable page (with minor additions) is still up, you should pay it a visit - it defied description... :)
Summer gave way to Autumn and we now approached the 1st anniversary of the group (early October) and considered ourselves one of the largest, most stabile international Tolkien organisations solely based on the Internet. This position was solidified further by our new status as domain owners...
Thus peace came again and a new Spring opened on earth; and the heir of Isildur was crowned King of Gondor and Arnor, and the might of the Dúnedain was lifted up and their glory renewed.
In the courts of Minas Anor the White Tree flowered again for a seedling was found by Mithrandir in the snows of Mindolluin that rose tall and white above the city of Gondor; and while it still grew there, the Elder Days were not wholly forgotten in the hearts of the Kings.
- As with another tale, this one indeed grew in the telling. It started
out being intended as a Spring Greeting, but history passed it by and made it closer to a Summer Greeting....
Looking back can be valuable as well as nostalgic and
the Valar Guild has
now reached such an age as to justify a detailed retrospect. This
account is of course drawn off my memory alone and though I've tried
to stay objective and chronological it is not only the history of the
Guild as I experienced it,
it is also - inevitably - MY story as a member.
I'm positive that you all have your own, different, tales to add - indeed
I hope you will.
Your Dreamlord - Irmo-(Valar)