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Napa Library celebrates all things Tolkien

Elves, dwarves, wizards, hobbits and humans were all welcome at the Napa County Library’s celebration of Middle-earth creator and “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien’s 125th birthday on Saturday.

Party goers followed paper cutouts of little hobbit footprints through the library and were greeted by a dragon guarding chocolate coins before entering the Teen Room for two hours of crafting, snacking, and talking about both Tolkien’s books and movies inspired by his works.

“What’s an Ent?” asked Kerry Gorman while folding a cut-up brown paper bag into something resembling a tree.

“They walk and talk slowly,” replied Susan Wheeler, who was also folding an Ent, the ancient tree-like creatures that live in Tolkien’s books.

Gorman isn’t exactly a fantasy fan, but her 11-year-old son Liam is.

“I read ‘The Hobbit’ like eight times,” Liam said. It’s his favorite book by J.R.R. Tolkien. He first read it two years ago, and he rereads it when he’s bored.

“I’m really into fantasy,” he said. “I like the adventure.”

Liam said it was “cool” that the library put on the event and he liked that he could make his own “One Ring to Rule Them All.”

Despite not being a Tolkien fan herself – admitting she fell asleep during one of the movies – Kerry Gorman said it’s great that the library is having more events like this.

“I love that the library does these events,” she said. “It’s great for kids.”

The event was definitely not just for kids, though. Tolkien fans came in all ages.

Susan Wheeler, 63, planned to bring her three granddaughters to the event, but they couldn’t make it, so she attended it on her own dressed as a knight of Aragorn, one of Tolkien’s protagonists. She planned on making extra crafts to bring home to them.

“I do like ‘Lord of the Rings’,” she said. “I read it in high school.”

Although she hasn’t read it in years, Wheeler said she enjoyed how the story takes place in a whole other world and that Tolkien even created his own language.

“There’s nothing like reading the book and coming up with your own picture,” she said.

Local librarians thought of the idea of having a Tolkien party back in 2014, but put it off a few years when they realized his 125th birthday would be in 2017. The author was born Jan. 3, 1892.

“You can’t pass up something that big,” said Teen Librarian Melinda Mathis, who was wearing a green Elven cloak. “It’s multi-generational,” she said. “It’s one of those things that kids, parents and grandparents know.”

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.

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