Minor Spoilers are marked with SPOILER in review below.
T’was a brisk and chilled day in Toronto as we hurried to rendezvous with our fellow TORCers. As we drew ever closer to the Royal Ontario Museum’s McLaughlin Planetary Building, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers posters began to appear upon various buildings and street signs. My heart rate increased and I began to go into full anticipation mode for what I was about to experience. Middle Earth in Toronto.
My father and I flew up last year for the Fellowship exhibit at Casa Loma. As fate would have it, it was the last trip that I was to take with my father. We had a grand old time, though, and we were both dazzled by the Fellowship props and scenery that we saw. Well, I was dazzled by it all; I think that my father was simply dazzled in a bewildered sort of way.
So, here I was, Mallorn Nut from Atlanta, back in Toronto for another Middle Earth exhibit. I was set to meet up with quite a few TORCers; I had my digital camera charged and ready; my ticket in hand; and my eyes cast towards the Plains of Rohan.
We were only a few minutes late to the rendezvous point where our Fellowship of the White Council paused for several group photos. I gotta say: What a buncha camera hams! Behind us was the entrance to the exhibit itself; complete with a HUGE Two Towers banner sporting Ent sized images of Arwen, Gandalf, Gimli, Aragorn, and more. A sight to bring tears to your eyes, mellyn.
Hint: Don’t eat the chicken hot dogs from the hotdog vendor just a block or so away from the exhibit. I don’t care how hungry you are. Trust me on this one.
Once inside of the entrance to the exhibit, you are treated to a flat screen TV that is playing a looping TTT trailer. Boy, can you see more detail on the TV versus your computer screen. We stood there and watched the trailer while oooing and ahhhhing, pointing and exclaiming, totally oblivious to the crowd behind us that, I assume, also wanted to view the trailer.
Hint: If you’re taking a camera to the exhibit, you’re going to need to borrow the One Ring. They are very, very strict with cameras this year.
Turning away from the (very cool) flat screen TV, we then examined the glass cases in the room:
Merry’s Knife: I’m not really sure why this was chosen as part of the exhibit other than it was simply a prop from the movie. No, it wasn’t the Westernesse sword that will later become so pivotal to the Return of the King; it was simply a knife; albeit a very cool knife. (They had the Westernesse swords at Casa Loma last year and this was definitely NOT one of those.)
Boromir’s Horn: This was at Casa Loma last year and I guess it’s part of the TTT exhibit because of the flashback scene with Boromir? It’s a gorgeous horn and it struck me again just how large a horn it is compared to how it is perceived visually in the movie.
Mithril Vest: WOW. When I saw this in the movie last year, I thought that it was some sort of silvery, shiny cloth that they were labeling as Mithril. WRONG! It is thousands of tiny, tiny, tiny chain mail links. Someone made the comment that the guy who made this prop was probably now in need of a Seeing Eye Dog. Incredible devotion to detail.
Sting: I was a bit disappointed in Sting, (the actual prop Sting). Why? Well, it looked…cheap to me. In fact, it looked like one of the really cheesey fake Stings that I’ve seen at some Rennaissance Faires and conventions in the last year or so. I KNOW that this was the movie prop, and it even had some chips and scratches to prove it, but it was not, to me, very impressive at all.
Elven Scrolls: I have no idea what these scrolls said or even which Elven stronghold, (Rivendell or Lothlorien), from which they supposedly hailed. Very nice Elvish scripting on the parchment. I just have no idea where they were used or why.
Moving on into the actual exhibit, (all of the above was still out in the foyer entrance to the planetarium), we see a collection of Hobbit pipes and Wizard pipes along with Galadriel’s water basin and jug. I had seen the basin and jug last year at Casa Loma; they are still very impressive in the detail and especially in how they managed to make these items look “used” if not quite “worn”. The pipes were…pipes.
FANGORN. Kind of a spooky, dark, and creepy Fangorn was next. I can see why Gimli was none too keen on spending too much time under the canopy of the forest. Trailing moss, dark underbrush, and queer sounds filled this “set” of the exhibit. There were Pippin and Merry’s Hobbit outfits; Pippin’s was even missing his Lothlorien brooch, as it should have been. A very small waterfall cascaded nearby; I was very tempted to give it a taste to see if it was Ent Draught, but I thought better of it.
Hint: Forget the “Do Not Touch” signs throughout the exhibit; instead, adopt the “Do not eat or drink any exhibit items” stance. You just never know.
ROHAN. The incredible devotion to detail, (that was so prominent at Casa Loma last year), was probably most keenly seen and felt in the Rohan part of the exhibit.
Eomer’s Banishment Order: There it was, marked with the Royal Seal of King Theoden, the official banishment document for Eomer.
Theoden’s Royal Seal and Box: The complete “How to seal a kingly document in Rohan” kit. Ink well, wax, and the seal itself. Amazing that they made this and I wager that you’ll never see it in the movie.
Edoras Golden Hall: Theoden’s Throne is absolutely immaculate. A beautifully carved chair that is truly Kingly in every sense of the word. The detail behind the throne in the banners and wall decorations was breathtaking. I don’t know how much we will get to see of this in the movie; or how much attention we’ll pay to it, but everyone commented on how amazing this set was.
Rohan Bow, Helmet, and Axe: Again, incredible detail in the armor and weapons. I doubt that we will think to look at the axe head carvings during the battle scenes, and that’s almost a shame, for the Rohan weaponry is very nicely done.
Rohan helmet: I think that this was Eomer’s helmet, but honestly can’t recall. The helmet is immaculate: The nose piece is a horse’s head! Very well done and very handsome piece of armor.Rohan Royal Guard Armor
Legolas’ Knives and Quiver: These were at Casa Loma last year as well but it was still wonderful to see them again. The detail on the knives and quiver is exquisite.
SPOILER: Throughout the exhibit there are scenes from TTT; some we’ve seen, some we haven’t. One in particular, (SPOILER warning again!), that caught my eye was one depicting Aragorn on horseback while battling an orc who is riding a Warg. I am none too thrilled about the Wargs being in TTT, and this scene pic only served to make me feel even more reserved. I HOPE with all of my heart that I am wrong in how I feel, but this picture looked absolutely ridiculous. Aragorn on horseback, sword drawn, while orc on Warg, sword drawn, attacks. It looked silly. Sigh.
HELM’S DEEP: The “set” for Helm’s Deep at the exhibit is actually quite cool. There is the Deeping Wall running the length of the exhibit wall, a ladder has been thrown up before you, and to your right is a supply of spears to help you defend the wall. Some of the spears are most definitely Elvish, (the shape of the blade and the decorative detail on the shaft), while others must be Rohirrim. The lighting in this part of the exhibit was very effective as the flashing blue lights, I assume, were simulating the storm that pounds Helm’s Deep during the movie.
GLITTERING CAVES: Most definitely glittering and most definitely caves. Peasant and children’s costumes in this part of the exhibit depicting the Edoras refugees, I assume.
SPOILER: Scene poster here showed Eowyn holding a sword, in the Glittering Caves, and her hands covered in blood. Defending the caves? Slain Ugluk? Hmm…
ORTHANC: The Orthanc set was an interesting paradox of impressive detail and speculation of whether or not it was actually from the movie set. Saruman and Wormtongue’s costumes, obviously, were from the movie. But, Saruman’s throne and the backdrop looked…well…it simply looked “cheap” in comparison to the other sets and props. Black plastic.
Upstairs, in Saruman’s laboratory, there were all kinds of icky critters in vials and jars of liquid scattered amongst a cluttered table. Some sort of skeleton was also on the table. Young Warg?
Oh, and I know now where the Noble Collection’s “Saruman’s Brooch” comes from: The brooch is a Salamander-like critter and I had wondered WHERE that idea had come originated. It comes from the door handles upon Saruman’s lab entrance; they are salamanders.
Saruman’s Book: Interesting pages displayed in this of rings. On the right side, a sketch of Barahir’s Ring, (or, at least a Ring of the House of Finarfin), with some Elvish and on the left page, a sketch of an alchemical symbol of the serpent eating his own tail.
Downstairs again, a Ringwraith sword and a Warg saddle. The Ringwraith sword looked pretty nasty, and I am pretty sure that it looks much older and more worn than do the United Cutlery reproductions that I’ve seen. The Warg saddle looked something like a leather toilet training device or a very strange plowing harness. Very odd indeed.
ISENGARD CAVERN: Dirty place way down in the depths of that huge hole that Saruman dug in Fellowship. Half-finished orc swords and other armory items in this area. I kept looking up for falling trees.
EASTERLING ARMOR: Wow. Wow. Wow. I thought that the Elvish armor was my favorite movie armor or weapon prop, but the Easterling armor is absolutely astounding. I really don’t know if we’ll notice the detail of this armor in the movie, but almost every piece of armor has some sort of script on it that looks like a cross between Arabic and Elvish lettering. The Easterling shields are also very impressive, (I think we will notice those per the scene posters.) Bladeheads and armor fanatics: Look for the Easterling armor to get your drooling glands kicked into gear.
DEAD MARSHES: Creepy. Just plain creepy. I never liked this part of the book simply because it gave and gives me the creeps. Seeing it today did nothing to quelch that fear. Dead Gondorian soldiers just beneath the surface of the still (too still) water and farther down, a dead Elvish warrior. It definitely gave off the aura of the forsaken and forgotten dead. Creepy.
HENNETH ANNUN: One of the favorite sets of some of our TORC Fellowship. The Ithilien Rangers have plenty of supplies in the cave and it comes complete with a waterfall cascaded just behind a “window” to the West.
OSGILIATH: My personal favorite of the exhibit, although, it has some rather bothersome elements to this set. The ruins are very, very impressive. You FEEL like you are standing within the ruins of the once mighty Osgiliath. There are Sam and Frodo’s costumes…and behind those, is Faramir’s. Wait a minute: Sam and Frodo at Osgiliath? Ah, but there’s a very nice broken statue that adds more ambience to BEING there. But, what’s that just behind the statue and back in the shadows? A Nazgul? And what’s that banner lying nearby..Easterling? Orc? What is this set telling us? And, why is it in TTT? Hmm….methinks I smell a major diversion from the books within this set as it is portrayed here. What could it mean?
LEMBAS: Just beyond the ruins of Osgiliath is a glass case with Mallorn leaves and Lembas. Mallorn leaves, mellyn, are HUGE. And I do mean HUGE. In fact, they could be the Elephant Ear plant of Middle Earth. The lembas that sit atop the huge Mallorn leaf are interesting. The TORC Fellowship decided that Lembas are actually poptarts. No WONDER we CAN survive off of poptarts and Pillsbury turnovers; they undoubtedly originate from the Elvish waybread which we know can sustain one on long, arduous journeys.
THE ONE RING: Would you believe that some of us in the TORC Fellowship didn’t even notice the One Ring and chain that was in the same case as the Lembas and Mallorn leaves? Were we THAT hungry? For that matter, WHY was the One Ring in the same case as the Lembas and Mallorn leaves?
ARWEN’S ROOM: Gorgeous costumes of Elrond and Arwen and exquisite floor tiling and bedroom decor. Will we actually see this room in the movie? I don’t recall seeing it in any trailer scenes, but surely I’m wrong on that.
EXHIBIT ENDED. Yes, that’s correct, after Arwen’s Room and a glass case with Gil-galad’s banner, (why was Gil-galad’s banner at a TTT exhibit?), we came to the exhibit exit.
Too hasty. Much too hasty. It took me about 3 hours to tour the Casa Loma exhibit last year and that was on a single walk-through of all of the rooms and sets. The TTT exhibit took about an hour. I was stunned at that.
We did manage a second walk-through of the exhibit after pleading our case to one of the staff members. Well, Donna plead our case as I was already not very well liked due to having been caught snapping a few digital pics. Saying that we had folks from Atlanta, (me!), and folks from Texas, (Katarina!), who had flown a very long way to see this exhibit, we asked if we could walk through one more time in order to get more detail.
Gracious in their grudging affirmative, we quickly set out, en masse, to tour the exhibit again. This time, I put up my notes (and my camera), and simply enjoyed the exhibit’s visual dazzling.
Too short? Yes. The exhibit is MUCH shorter and smaller than the Fellowship exhibit at Casa Loma last year.
Strangely organised? Yes, I wonder at some of the props that were, it seemed, tossed into glass cases together. A Ringwraith sword and a Warg saddle? Lembas and the One Ring? Gil-galad’s banner at a TTT exhibit?
Worth seeing? Oh yes. Definitely yes. If you can see it, don’t miss it. Smaller than Casa Loma and some things just tossed in for good measure aside, these ARE the movie props and you do get to see detail that you will never see from just watching the movie.
Thanks to my TORC Fellowship friends for a wonderful visit to Toronto! Namarie!