Lord of the Rings Party

Lord of the Rings -7yr- Cloaks and Badges




Tina in Uffington, Oxfordshire, UK


October 2004



At the end of September we celebrated Craig's 7th Birthday. As early as Easter he had decided that he wanted a "Lord of the Rings" party, and I was pleased to have a go at such an unusual theme. The decorations consisted of lots of green and gold balloons, with posters from the films in the same colours put up around the walls. More balloons were put at the gate, along with a notice saying "No admittance except on party business" printed in the "Tolkien" font. We got hold of the CDs from the films, and played them as very atmospheric background music during the party. We found a gold paper tablecloth for the tea table, sprinkled it with glittery green stars and set it with paper plates which were green-rimmed with a gold filigree pattern. Some gold-based plastic champagne flutes from the supermarket made splendid Elven goblets. 

The invitations (from the Bagginses of Bag End) were printed on parchment paper in Tolkien font and read:  We would like to invite  Master (hobbit name)  To a Birthday Party of Especial Magnificence, to be held on:  Sunday 28th September 2003  At the Old Dairy Smial on the Green,  From 2pm to 4.30pm  In order to celebrate Master Craig's  Seventh birthday.  Please wear stout clothing for  an overland quest.  At this point I got stuck.

Although the story and characters are endemic in playground culture, there is very little merchandise available for children. I was still puzzling over what to include in the party quest when I remembered that Tolkien was also a professor of Anglo-Saxon at nearby Oxford, and elements from this period abound in the books. Now these Wessex hills are not short of Anglo-Saxon history, and even more was available in Suffolk where we spent a holiday weekend.

Soon I had collected enough bits for a series of treasure hunts! In a final burst of enthusiasm, I ran up a set of green wool cloaks. These were 80cm semi-circles with a 12cm semi-circle cut out at the centre, fastened with a large hook and eye. I added Fellowship badges by googling for a good resolution image on the web (there are lots) and printing copies out onto card. These were stuck to brooch pins from a craft catalogue. The children loved their costumes; the cloaks were not waterproof, but fortunately we had sunshine and dramatic scudding clouds during the party. 

The format of the party was to have the guests be a Fellowship, and complete a quest with the help of Gandalf (played by Craig's dad). First though, we started guests off with two craft activities to get everyone settled in. The first was to write out their names in Futhork (Anglo Saxon runes) from a crib sheet. The second was to decorate some gold boxes with leaf sequins (both from the craft catalogue again). When everyone had arrived and had time to play, "Gandalf" gathered them round and explained:  "Welcome to Middle Earth in the year 1352 of Shire Reckoning. This story takes place sometime between the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I am Gandalf the Wizard and I need your help to solve a problem.

The prophecies say that the King will soon return. When he does he will need a crown, but the ancient Crown of Gondor is missing. The only clue to where it is, was stolen and scattered by Smaug the Dragon long ago. We need to find the Crown before the King returns. I am told that in the Northlands, magical Dragon Eggs can still be found. I think that these have something to do with Smaug. So we will start by collecting as many Dragon Eggs as we can. Follow me!"  The Fellowship headed out into the field to hunt for "dragon eggs": brightly coloured plastic Easter egg shells which a friend had sent over from the States. There were 30 of these and inside each was a jigsaw-shaped piece of card. When the Fellowship fitted them together they created a parchment map of the grounds, complete with Middle Earth names.

The kids were quick to note a red X on the parchment at Kazad-Dum (aka the old stables) and raced off to find the treasure, Gandalf following more leisurely with an essential lantern. In the blacked out, cobbled stables they found a poster printed in luminous letters in Ringbearer font:   Forgotten and lost are treasures three, A cup, a stone, and an ancient key. Bring them together and there will be The crown of the King from over the sea.  "Where are these treasures?"  I hear you say, That by elves, men and dwarves were hidden away. Look in the labyrinth; there your clues lay, Beware the ringwraths or still you will stay. 

On the egg hunt they had already seen the maze; a simple 6 x 6 grid made out of garden canes and construction tape. Inside were nine scrolls: three each of yellow, blue and green. But when they arrived back there they found the maze guarded by two Ringwraiths (myself and my sister-in-law, in black cloaks and hoods)! Amid much delighted screaming, Gandalf explained the rules:  -If you are touched by a Ringwraith you are frozen and must stand still;  -You can unfreeze someone by crawling through their legs or by handing them the Ring.  -The Ringbearer cannot be seen by the Ringwraiths and can enter the maze.  -In there you may take just one clue and exit the other side. Don't get greedy!  -When you have collected your clue, hand the Ring onto the next person and help distract the Ringwraiths.  

The One Ring was a plastic toy replica hung on a bathplug chain: and became easily the most coveted artifact of the afternoon. The game of stuck-in-the-mud was fast and furious! In the end all of us threw off our cloaks to avoid heat exhaustion, but the Fellowship got all their clues.  At the end of the game they adjourned to the lounge and put together the three groups of scrolls. Each clue was "indentured" or toothed, to show where it fitted together, and printed in Papyrus font which the children found more readable than the Tolkien font. The green scrolls, when put together, showed the following clue:   To get Galadriel's goblet Go to the Mallorn tree; Take 17 steps Eastwards.  The Mallorn tree was labelled on the map which they had put together earlier.

The Fellowship raced off to the big tree and found, under a logpile to the east of it, a green leather pouch containing an ornate silver goblet, a length of green string and a line of Futhork on parchment.  The blue scrolls yielded:   The sky-bright Arkenstone Is underground, seek The steps leading down.  Again they raced off and in our dark, damp, cavernous cellar discovered a black pouch containing a large blue faceted gem, a length of blue string and a line of Futhork on parchment. Finally the yellow scrolls gave:   The key of Cardolan Is in the black East Gate leading nowhere.  This was much harder for them to find but eventually our youngest guest, Arabella, noticed some derelict gates which now lead only onto a neighbour's wall. 

Hanging on the back was a brown leather pouch holding a big old key, a length of yellow string, and a line of Futhork. At this point Alex and David proved themselves to be the keenest decoders, and quickly turned the Futhork runes into the following message:  TIE GREEN TO ASH TREE. GO E. TIE BLUE TO GREEN. GO S. TIE YELLOW TO BLUE. GO SE.  The clues, of course, referred to the coloured strings. When put together they produced a series of vectors which zig-zagged across the kitchen garden.  The final string drove through a hobbit-sized gap in the bushes and ended in a corner of the garden they hadn't seen before. There was a huge mound of dried grass which Gandalf "recognised" as a barrow or burial mound.

The Fellowship dived in and soon extracted the "Crown of the King from over the Sea", which was resting on a length of cardboard in the shape of a ship. Because the final film has yet to be released, we had a little leeway in what this looked like. We chose a cardboard model of the very famous and beautiful Sutton Hoo helm; the model is available from Sutton Hoo, the British Museum, the Ashmolean and many other museums.   After the quest we adjourned for refreshments and cake: the children needed vast amounts of apple juice after their exertions! We also provided some snacks and, of course, a birthday cake. This year it was a red dragon cake (Smaug)! For the first time, Craig got very embarrassed at having his friends sing "Happy Birthday" to him, so I will have to check whether this has become "uncool" next year.  

After tea, we showed the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring DVD (the unscary bits). I thought they would have been riveted and want to see the whole thing. It turned out that they were still far too excited to sit still for long, and after Bilbo's party scene we stopped and took them out to the garden for a football game instead. After half an hour we ended the party with several bangs. Well, if you have Gandalf you must have a firework display! Despite the fact it was still daylight, it made a very splendid finale. The parents arrived and we gave out the Fellowship cloaks and party bags (gathered circles of brown felt) containing chocolate coins, rubber gems, LotR bookmarks, LotR 3" figures, and Sutton Hoo pencils; plus the decorated boxes they had made at the start. It was a fun theme, and very interesting for adults that enjoy treasure hunts too.

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