The White City of Gondor is packed.
Everyone has gathered in Minas Tirith, from all across Middle-earth and other lands far beyond, for the third annual presentation of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril Award.
The sable curtains, bearing the image of the white tree of Gondor, part and draw back. I stand in the center of the stage and wave at the expectant audience.
“Welcome, everyone!” I call. “Thank you for coming to the Award Ceremony to present the winner of the 2018 Silmaril Award for Wisest Counselor!”
The crowd cheers, and some hobbit near the back, who is a little confused about what the reason for the gathering is, raises a mug and calls, “Happy birthday!”
There is laughter.
I smile and carry on. “In previous years, as winners of this award, we’ve had Aslan himself from Narnia—not sure where he is today; not a tame lion, you understand—as well as Professor Hamilton from Dragons in Our Midst, who is visiting.” I wave toward the back of the stage where the grey-haired professor stands, smiling.
The audience applauds.
“And now, to present this year’s nominees and the winner, I’d like to welcome Gandalf onto the stage. Mithrandir, as some of you know him, is one of the wisest counselors in all of Middle-earth—even in all of Arda—and therefore highly qualified to present this award. Friends, I give you . . . Gandalf!”
I gesture to the right of the stage. Nothing happens. I wait several long, awkward moments, and laugh nervously. “Sorry, folks, looks like Gandalf is a little late this evening.”
“A wizard is never late, my dear blogger,” says a voice. The crowd laughs and applauds as Gandalf himself steps onto the stage, sweeping across it in his long grey robes and silver scarf and grey pointy hat. “I arrived precisely when I meant to.”
“Of course, of course. Well, I’m sure you were busy with something important, as always.”
Gandalf furrows his bushy eyebrows and looks mysterious, but I suspect he’s hiding a smile in his long grey beard.
“Thanks for coming, Gandalf. I’ll turn things over to you.” I nod to him and slip off the stage, finding a place in the front row where the applause for Professor Hamilton had been loudest, between a teenage boy and a girl with—wings? I spin back to look at her again—oh, she’s only wearing a backpack. Must have been my imagination . . .
I settle in with the rest of the excited audience to watch the following proceedings on stage.
“Welcome, Elves, Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and . . . others,” Gandalf says. “Allow me to present the nominees of this year’s award.”
The audience’s murmur hushes in anticipation, and then they applaud as each name is announced.
“Rayad of Arcacia from the land of Ilyon.”
A somewhat grizzled man in a simple tunic steps onto the stage, bows, and then smiles and nods toward two members of the crowd near the end of the front row—a teenage girl holding hands with a young man whose black hair falls over his ears, a black wolf lying at their feet. The young man nods back to Rayad, quiet and unobtrusive but proud.
“Professor Digory Kirke of Narnia, come all the way from England via wardrobe.” Gandalf glances toward the ornate wooden wardrobe near the back of the stage.
An old man with shaggy white hair and equally shaggy beard comes into view and waves at the audience. There are cheers—particularly from the very middle of the front row, where four children—two boys and two girls, one of whom is a familiar face from last year—sit together and are heard to say things like “Hurrah for the Professor!” and “Good old Prof!”
“Puddleglum of Narnia.”
A tall, thin Marshwiggle steps forward on webbed feet, shaking his head with the pointy hat rather like Gandalf’s, and muttering, “I don’t see why I’m always being called to these things. A mistake, through and through, I shouldn’t wonder . . .” A girl and a boy in the front row, between a fair-haired prince and a large white owl perched on an empty chair, applaud and grin, shaking their heads.
“Ranger Halt,” Gandalf continues, before pausing and looking around.
The audience scans the stage in search of Halt, and for a moment nobody sees him.
“Wizards may not be late, but perhaps Rangers are—though not a certain other Ranger I know,” Gandalf mutters.
But just then, a shadow moves away from the dark curtain, revealing Halt himself, camouflaged in his long grey mottled cloak. “I’ve been here all along,” he says dryly, stepping forward.
“A fellow grey wanderer. I can approve.” Gandalf nods.
A rather small but wiry boy in the audience applauds loudest, between a girl and a hulking young knight-to-be. There’s a sturdy pony next to them where a chair used to be. I’ve no idea how they got it inside . . . Stealthy Rangers.
“And Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore,” Gandalf finishes, ending the list of nominees.
An unassuming young man with a quiet, thoughtful face and deep, kind eyes, wearing fine clothes and a simple golden circlet, bows from the stage. A young woman in a white gown seated in the front row—with a smug-looking fluffy orange cat on her lap—smiles.
And the Winner Is . . .
“And now,” Gandalf says, “here at last, on this stage in Minas Tirith, comes an end to the voting and anticipation. May I present the winner of this award, a very remarkable man, and one whom I am glad to call a friend . . . Professor Digory Kirke!”
Cheering fills the air. A massive silver firework explodes overhead (no doubt why Gandalf was . . . erm . . . that is . . . not late). There are gasps and laughs of surprise, and a few more cheers. Gandalf chuckles.
Professor Kirke joins Gandalf in the center of the stage. “How did you manage to set that off while you were on stage?” the Professor asks. “Logically, somebody must have . . .”
“I may have had an assistant,” Gandalf says noncommittally.
“I love Minas Tirith!” yells a small, rather sooty hobbit figure before disappearing into the crowd.
Everyone laughs and I shake my head.
So does Gandalf, muttering, “Fool of a Took.” He clears his throat and turns to Prof. Kirke. “In recognition of your wisdom and guidance of certain young charges, Professor, I present you with this Silmaril.” Gandalf holds up a glowing golden sphere on a ribbon.
A hush falls across everyone as the gem shines out like the sun—or like an echo of the glimmer of the golden tree Laurelin from the land beyond the western seas many an age past.
Gandalf drapes it around Professor Kirke’s neck. “Bear it well, my friend.”
“Thank you, Gandalf, and thank you, everyone.” He turns to the crowd. “I’m quite at your disposal, I’m sure, and I’m honored that in your very careful consideration you should think me worthy of such an award.”
The Professor bows to the audience, to the sound of thunderous applause. Then he turns and steps past Gandalf to where last year’s winner, Professor Hamilton, stands. The two shake hands and smile.
Professor Kirke glances beyond him to where a great golden Lion, who was not there a minute before, sits quiet but majestic in one corner of the stage, his golden eyes laughing but wise—the ultimate Wise Counselor and the winner of the award two years past. A look passes between them, and Professor Kirke, feeling more like a young boy named Digory every moment, bows to the lion—who the next moment is no longer there.
“One last announcement,” Gandalf calls. “To the feast! There are a few hobbits here, who can be quite fearsome eaters in a pinch—or, well, at any time. If you want anything to eat, you had better get going before they eat everything—even though it is the finest feast King Aragorn could provide.”
There is laughter as everybody follows Gandalf toward the feast hall and its delicious aromas.
Well, almost everybody.
Halt and Rayad are on their way down the street toward a tavern to chat over mugs of ale.
Puddleglum is already planning on going back to fishing, muttering about coming rain.
Aslan is still nowhere to be seen (well, he’s not a tame lion), and nobody knows where the Prince of Farthestshore has gotten to.
Professor Kirke and Professor Hamilton are headed off in another direction for a quiet cup of tea, deep in conversation—discussing their adventures, their young charges, and (probably) logic.
“Yes, and after all of that, with the dragon slayer and everything, I was quite done with teaching there,” Professor Hamilton is saying.
And Professor Kirke’s voice floats back as they walk out of sight together: “My dear chap, of course you were. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?”
Thanks for joining us for the awards presentation ceremony of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril Award!
You can find the rest of the winners here (some are still to be announced in the coming days).
For those curious, here are the final results:
- Professor Digory Kirke (The Chronicles of Narnia) 86 votes / 43%
- Halt (The Ranger’s Apprentice series) 39 votes / 20%
- Puddleglum (The Silver Chair) 30 votes / 15%
- Rayad (The Ilyon Chronicles) 22 votes / 11%
- Prince Aethelbald (Tales of Goldstone Wood) 21 votes / 11%
As always, thanks for being a part of this fun fantasy character awards! What did you think of the ceremony? Who were you hoping would win? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for coming! ❤