Quendi 1st round: Middle-Earth around us (part 2)
The 4th task of the 1st Quendi round (leading to the creative writing task you already had a taste of and will have more in the second part of this post) was for the competitors to place their hometown on the map of Middle-Earth:
In one of his letters (#168) Tolkien mentioned his travels in Europe by referring to locations of historical Middle-Earth: "while I was away, in Gondor (sc. Venice), as a change from the North Kingdom". You have already disclosed us which part of the present world you are from but where would that place fit best in a map of Middle-Earth in the first four ages?
Although this is not from the "creative" part, I would take this opportunity to present you also those of the competitors, who decided to do only the "quiz" part and show you this alternative map of our world based on the answers of Eimeria, Eruantalon, Laurel, Mirach, Mirwa, Nairalin and Santo-Ignaggins.
A Quendi 1. forduló kreatív feladatára érkezett írások közül egyet már korábban közöltünk, egyet (a legtöbb pontot elért írást, Mirach "Fekete fa" című munkáját) ebben a postban teszünk közzé, további kettő pedig hamarosan következik. Volt azonban ennek egy felvezető feladata is a "kvíz" szakaszban, ahol konkrét közös jellemzők gyűjtésével kellett a versenyzőknek "beazonosítaniuk" a lakhelyüket Középfölde térképén. Az erre a feladatra érkezett válaszok rövid összefoglalója képezi eme post első felét.
Salzburg (Austria): Hithlum (Mithrim)
There is not only one lake but a few and the climate should be similar. Because of the surrounding ranges they are in a sheltered position. The Mountains of Mithrim and the Ered Wethrin would suggest the same weather phenomena we have here in Salzburg like mist streams coming through the cols. The people of Salzburg are extremely stubborn and proud and if needed also courageous. The same can be said about the people of Fingolfin and Fingon. They both were regions conquered by superior powers (in Hithlum the Noldor and in Salzburg the Romans).
Its inhabitants arrived there from the East and they are not from the same origin as their neighbours. When they ask the people about famous Hungarians/Rohirrim, the answer may be a horse (Kincsem – Felaróf).
Vieux Lyon (France): Minas Tirith
Both are crowned with a white "citadel" (Tower of Echtelion - Notre Dame de la Fourviere), both are built on a "mountain", you can reach the top of the town by climbing many stairs, and you can see the mountains on the east (Ephel Duath – Les Alpes).
Bratislava (Slovakia): Osgiliath*
A capital on the banks of a river, with a bridge across the river bearing a tower. It is situated below the end of a mountain range – Malé Karpaty (Little Carathians), or Ered Nimrais (Mindolluin = Kamzík).
With that said, Slovakia should be compete with France to be Gondor, but it seems that Slovakia is also Hobbiton. But there are Hobbits also elsewhere...
Vernante (Piemonte, Italy): The Shire*
All the people is fond of genealogy and of countless repetition of family histories. Each summer they stage big celebrations with country parties and social dancing: the focal point of the celebrations are the Traditional Fireworks. And the only pub in Vernante is called "Il Cavallino", which means "The little horse".
That last part would resemble to Bree, but Bree is also to be found in Pennsylvania (United States), in a town which used to be a booming trade area as it only 4 kilometres from the main road going North to South and the main road East to West. Trade has since tapered off, buildings are in disrepair, and there are now 'villains' (drug dealers, small time criminals) as a surprising percentage of the population. It also seems to rain there quite often. There are marshes directly to the east, and a large cemetery bordering a park forest to the west (resembling the Barrow-Downs and the Old Forest).
Cleveland (Ohio, US): Esgaroth
Cleveland is on Lake Eire, they both have have harsh, icy, and cold winters. It used to be a prominent trading/mineral city, yet is now in a shadow of its formal standing. As the Master of Laketown was selfish, corrupt, and stole money from the city, Cleveland just had a few politicians arrested last year for similar crimes. And as Esgaroth caught fire due to Smaug, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire due to pollution (oil).
What are the * signs for? These are the answers which have also a short story attached to them. You could already read about the hobbitish Vernante and there are two dreamlike stories coming soon about Hungary and The Dwarven City of Edinburgh.
And for now? Here is another proof that Bratislava really has something to do with Osgiliath...
I am a scientist. Not the stained lab coat & crazy hairstyle type, though. Those are only in superhero movies. And not the CSI determines-the-murderer-from-one-cell type either. Those are only in TV, too, and I'm envious of their lab equipment even though they use it all wrong. I do play with DNA and liquid nitrogen sometimes, but I am a dendrologist. I study trees. I gather molecular data from the oldest ones, to determine their genetic variability within one organism.
My friend Peter is an archaeologist, which doesn't seem that connected at all at the first sight. He often uses a method called dendrochronology, though. From one sample of wood with tree-rings, he can estimate the date when the tree has been felled. He can also find out how old the living trees that I study are, from just a few millimetres wide core sample, while I can help him with determining the exact species of trees in his studies, because he's no botanist.
That's why it didn't surprise me when he called with such request one morning. "Hello Eva," he said. "Do you have some time today?" I told him I'm teaching a class in the morning, but in the afternoon I'm free. "That's great!" he replied, the excitement of some big archaeological finding almost tangible in his voice – or I was just bored and imagined it: plant systematics is not exactly an exciting stuff to teach. "I will bring some samples at 2pm, I'm really curious what you will think of them!" I was slightly curious as well, but that was in the morning still. I taught the class, had lunch, and until 2pm I almost forgot about any curiosity I felt before. Only the knock on my door reminded me that Peter was supposed to come. I tend to forget such things, if I don't write them down.
"Look at this!" he told me instead of a greeting, and took out a piece of wood, carefully wrapped in plastic. It was black.
"It's not burnt, is it?" I asked, just to be sure. The wood did not look burnt indeed.
"No," Peter shook his head. "Do you think it could be ebony?"
To be honest, it was the first that came to my mind, too. Ebony is the most famous black wood. "Maybe," I admitted. "Is there some reason why it would be unusual?"
"Um… maybe," Peter said. It was apparent he wasn't willing to reveal the circumstances of the find until I determine the species with more certainty. Maybe it would be a proof of some new ancient trade road that he was careful to announce.
"Well, before I look at it through microscope, there's a simple way how to tell if it's from Diospyros or not." I took the sample, and assured its plastic wrap is waterproof. Then I filled a beaker with water, and put the wood in. It swam.
"So, not ebony," I said. "Ebony is denser than water, it should sink."
"Oh…" Peter murmured. "Alright then. Can you find out what it is… as soon as possible? We need some lead on dating this thing…"
"Sure, I will try," I nodded uncertainly. To date a wood sample dendrochronologically, he needed to know the species, and compare the widths of the tree-rings with the known database. "Maybe you should try radiocarbon instead, though. I doubt there will be database for this species. It seems rare, whatever it is."
He just murmured something about too expensive and too time-consuming. Apparently he already sent another sample to a radiocarbon laboratory in Germany, but it will take a few weeks to get the results.
I spend the next two days trying to identify the strange wood. It was not as heavy as ebony, but more sturdy. I almost broke the cutter while trying to get a slice for microscoping. And even under the microscope, the structure of the wood didn't look like any I was familiar with. Finally, I gave up and called Peter. "Hi," I said into the phone. "Um… look, I hate to admit it, but I really have no idea what the wood is from. Where did you get it, anyways?"
He was quiet for a while – I almost wondered if he didn't hang up the phone. "Alright then," he said finally. "I'm at the Bratislava castle. Ring me when you are here, and I will show you."
And so I came, and he led me – not to the castle, but to its gardens. They were just being renovated, and archaeological research was going on there, before it's impossible to dig it again for who knows how many years. The findings were not taken out of the soil yet, to not disturb their spacial relations.
"This is a very old layer," Peter explained almost reverently. "It's even before the Celtic and Slavic settlement here. There shouldn't even be any wood there…"
But there it was. It was a chest from the black wood. Even the metal hinges corroded to almost nothing, but the wood seemed to bear no sign of decay. Intrigued, I came closer. A little bit of the wood was broken off when Peter took the samples, and it seemed to me like the darkness inside was drawing me towards it.
"What's inside?" I asked.
"We didn't open it yet," Peter replied. "We need to get it to the lab first."
I nodded absently, still watching the chest. I came close, and watched through the narrow crack. It seemed to me I saw a shape inside. I shouldn't be able to see it in the darkness, but it glowed. It drew me in. I felt like my mind flew through that crack, inside the chest, into the stone. There was a stone – dark, and perfectly round and smooth. But it was not dark when I watched it. It seemed to be… alive. I saw a big river. I recognized the shape of the country. It was Danube, and Little Carpathians. But the city I saw was different. It was not Bratislava. There were white palaces, and a great stone bridge over the river, with a beautiful tower built directly on it. A flag with a tree, a crown and seven stars flew from the tower.
Suddenly I blinked, feeling disoriented. I was kneeling in the dirt, next to the black chest, and Peter was looking at me with concern.
"I know what wood it is made of…" I whispered with sudden certainty. "It's lebethron…"