08 December 2007

Dwarven Music

For too long have dwarves been regarded as little more than coalminers, blacksmiths, misers, and stocky angry little Vikings. How unfair! While it is true that dwarves don't often linger in the Shire (much less Hobbiton), those who have had dealings with dwarves know them as master craftsmen; rare artisans with a fierce desire to create beauty. Consider this all too telling scene from the first chapter of The Hobbit.

"Now for some music!" said Thorin. "Bring out the instruments!"

Kili and Fili rushed for the bags and brought back little fiddles; Dori, Nori, and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside their coats; Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking-sticks. Dwalin and Balin said: "Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!" "Just bring mine in with you!" said Thorin. They came back with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit hole under The Hill.

What a marvelous night! After an uninvited meal at an uninvited party, Thorin and company treat Bilbo to an evening of music and song.

Fiddles, flutes, a drum for Bombur, clarinets, viols, and a golden harp for Thorin; and this is just after-dinner music! So intoxicating and magical is the dwarves' music, it wakes the Tookish side of Bilbo's soul, and he longs (at least for a moment) for adventure.

With Durin's Day is coming up, why not try your own hand at making a dwarven instrument, such as a Sutton Hoo lyre?

Patrick Woolery has an excellent "work-in-progress" site that shows the actual construction of a Sutton Hoo lyre.

As Mr. Woolery notes on his site, the inspiration for his project came from an article titled, "The Saxon Lyre: History, Construction, and Playing Techniques."

Need some inspiration? Ron Cook is a luthier whose Anglo-Saxon lyres and mountain dulcimers and viols look as though they came straight from the workshops of Erebor.

I, myself, am building a Sutton Hoo lyre of black oak. I've only just roughed out the frame, but will post pictures when it nears completion.

And again ~ happy Durin's Day!

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