Travel is a recurring theme in Tolkien’s works. Every one of his stories, from world-renowned The Lord of the Rings to lesser-known works like Children of Húrin, has a protagonist who must venture from the safety and comfort of their home out into the wide world. This is by no means a coincidence. Tolkien’s adventure stories are rooted in a panoply of European myths. These ancient tales are woven into the rich history of wars and migrations of various peoples across the medieval world.
This love of adventure is one of the many things about Tolkien which has always appealed to me. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel outside of my native country several times in my life. Like the characters from my favorite stories, I always return from my journeys changed in some way. Mrs. Beorn and I just returned from one such journey, this one with a special significance.
As many of you know, my father passed away suddenly last summer. Being the one who first introduced Tolkien’s writing to me, my father shared a love of travel. It was tragic that his life ended before he could ever take advantage of his retirement and see the world. One of the journeys in particular that we often discussed was going to Ireland, to see the land of our ancestors.
We can trace our family name all the way back to Ireland in the 18th century. We talked wistfully of finding our village and sharing a beer in the pub which bears our family name. After his passing, my family decided to honour my father’s memory and go on the trip to Ireland that we had always planned. While bittersweet, this trip was one motivated by love and respect.
Traveling outside of the friendly confines of our homes gives us the opportunity to meet people who live in very different places but who share similar interests and passions. Just as the Hobbits grew from the many peoples they met in their travels, we too grow and expand our understanding of the world by making friends from distant lands. On our way back from Ireland, my wife and I were fortunate enough to pass through France. Spending time in and around the City of Light was the perfect ending to our journey.
On our last day before returning home, we visited a game store in Versailles called Les Fous Du Roy (The King’s Fools). As yet another happy benefit to come from this blog, I made contact with a local player there named Xavier. I just so happened that their LotR game night in Versailles lined up perfectly with the day that my wife and I would be in town. After spending a glorious day exploring the palace and gardens of Versailles, we joined a great group of people for conversation and games at their FLGS.
We had three tables of four-player games running, two in French and one in English. It was fascinating to hear the game played in a language which I don’t speak. While I couldn’t understand every word they were saying, I could follow the flow of their game. Discussing quest strategies, coordinating enemy engagement and combat, sharing in the agony of an ill-timed treachery – all of the elements are there, albeit spoken in a more beautiful tongue. The language of fun is a universal one.
Having a night of gaming and talk with good people, who share my love of this game, was the perfect ending to an important chapter in my life. In addition to helping deliver us back at our flat in Paris after the last train, they were gracious enough to provide us with some beautiful alternate arts cards. As someone who loves to design alternate art and custom cards, it was a treat to receive such elegant examples. I want to extend a giant merci beaucoup to Xavier, Emmanuel, and all of the wonderful people that we met at Les Fous Du Roy.
If you ever find yourself in Versailles, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting their store and meeting the fine people who play there. In a similar gesture, I want to extend a welcome to any readers of this blog. If you ever find yourself in the far away Republic of Texas, we would love to have you join us for for games, or mead, or troll-slaying, or just a good conversation. I like to think that both Tolkien and my father would smile to know that they have inspired fellowships like these between travelers from distant lands.