Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nature Walkers Discover Tolkien’s Forest in State Park

Chris Bertoni, guide
By Angela Rodriguez
Gordon College News Service
October 4, 2011

(This story appeared in the October 14, 2011, print and online editions of The Salem News, and October 20, 2011, in the print and online editions of The Gloucester Times.)

NORTH SHORE, MASS. ––Swords, maps and weathered copies of
Lord of the Rings books are all welcome at the annual J.R.R. Tolkien Walk in the Woods at Ravenswood Park in Gloucester on Sunday, October 23, from 1-3 p.m.

“We’re trying to reach out and get a broader audience to enjoy the outdoors, so why not a literature walk?” said Ramona Latham, program director for the Cape Ann properties of the Trustees of Reservation in Massachusetts. “We wanted to try it out for the first time last year, and because of the success, we did better publicity for this year’s walk.”

The Trustees started this walk to try to bring visitors and locals alike to the outdoors. For the past few years, the organization has worked to create new programs that bring people with similar interests, such as Tolkien fans, together in unique settings. They also recently offered yoga on the beach for yoga fans, and have scheduled October events that include bird watching and canoe trips.

“One of the things I always do is pay attention when I’m walking in the woods, and it always ties me back to Tolkien and his work of fiction,” said Chris Bertoni, 58, of Beverly Farms, who is the guide of
the J.R.R. Tolkien Walk in the Woods. When Bertoni is not walking and guiding people through the woods of J.R.R. Tolkien, she works at the registration center of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. “Tolkien was quite the walker in his home in Britain, and he must have been seeing some of the things I am as I walk.”

Last year’s group of about a dozen participants experienced a two-hour walk with Bertoni through the Ravenswood Park, stopping occasionally and reading excerpts aloud of Tolkien’s work as it applied to the forest.

“This is Old Salem Road today, but for Tolkien, it could be a trail through Mirkwood,” said Bertoni. “Your mind can kind of play with the imagination Tolkien had as you continue walking.”

Bertoni said that last year’s hike included families with children, couples and hearty individuals who all shared a love of Tolkien’s characters and stories. “I tried to engage the children in the walk by showing them the works of the woods,” Bertoni said. “I took them to large boulders and asked if they were large granite rocks or trolls that had been turned into stone in the Mirkwood Forest.”

Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most bought and read series ever, and Bertoni says she’s read and re-read them once a year since the 1960s, always finding something new with the complex books that they are.

“They’ve been popular for a long time, but reached their peak in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Gabrielle Watling, professor of literature at Endicott College in Beverly. “It was a whole new counter culture that could be explored for the readers. The possibility of a fantasy world was created. It lost popularity after the 1970s until the recent Peter Jackson movies came out.”

Bertoni wasn’t sure if those unfamiliar with Tolkien would come on the walk since it is “geared towards the fabulous stories he told within the books, whereas the movies took a different view of the story.”

Still, Bertoni says the whole point is to get people out into nature at all. So this year, Bertoni is focusing on the poems and the clever writing Tolkien used throughout the
Lord of the Rings.

“If people want to come and read their favorite chapter out loud as we walk around the ledge of the forest they can. It is not a difficult walk, but there is a slight rise to the lookout where we view the ocean,” she said. “We want (them) to become aware of the forest around them with the help of Tolkien and his stories.”
If You Go: What: Tolkien’s Walk in the Woods
Where: 481 Western Avenue (Route 127) Gloucester, MA,
Exit 14 from Rt. 128, Take Rt. 133 East toward Gloucester for 3 mi. until it ends at Rt. 127
When: Sunday, October 23, from 1-3 p.m.
How Much: Members/children are Free; Nonmembers $5.


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