The Toy-Makers of Dale


From the ashes of Laketown, Dale arose again.
From the Dragon's dread-filled shadow
The men of Dale were freed.
They began with their hands to create things of beauty.
For fine craftsmanship thrives in times of peace.
With dwarven friendships and pure metals from the Mountain,
A place was found for their newly awakened skills.
The town flourished, and older glory restored,
And its streets filled with children.

The toy-makers of Dale knew and remembered
Their beloved small friend in The Shire.
They cheerfully set out to fill his generous orders
With their best for this hobbit party so far away.
Children of any race would desire these toys.
Carefully polishing the edges,
Proudly they showed off their chasing designs.
Friendly, their banter as they tried out the tone
On the small silver instruments, shining.
Packaging them up in party crackers -
Gathered together: festive and bright.

Not knowing they were on the eve of war,
Untouched by the worries of darkness that day,
They carefully boxed up the packets of playthings
One bright early morning, and sent them on their way.
Bumping along a long, winding road,
In the company of dwarves their labors went;
Dwarf companions happy to be reuniting with
Their old friend of renown and
To travel with him again.

Such hard times followed all too soon after -
Harsh seasons returned with a vengeance.
The strength of the Men,
Elves and Dwarves in alliance
United together was barely enough...
Young one's toys regretfully melted down,
The craftsmen bent over weapons now.
Grim and brooding, they sharpened the edges,
Compared the deadliness with others made,
And tested their work on the field of battle.
Grievous the losses to the bright town of Dale,
To the Mountain and to the Wood.
Days were now faced with heaviness and sorrow -
Mourning and shock replaced earlier cheer,
Muted the voices of the children.

Thoughts of faraway parties and bright toys
Were abandoned in the harshness of war.
The craftsmen surrounded by death
And numbed in feeling no longer found
The expression of beauty in their hands.
For it is out of the heart that artistry comes -
And the flower of their peace had been sent away,
Boxed and gone over the long, winding road.

Many years later,
In the fading warmth of September
Paper, once bright, now faded with age,
Rustled and crackled and was gently pulled aside.
A small silver horn lay in the hand of a hobbit;
Lovingly drawn out of a chest of remembrances.
His hand was much younger when it first held
This delicate trinket from a faraway place,
And he smiles to remember
The silly dances it led.
A souvenir from a childhood party...
When his Gaffer berated him for blowing it too loud.

He knows that not all the gifts given were sweet
Or lighthearted...
Another small gift was given that night,
Heavy and golden -
Given to his dearest friend, changing him forever.
Changing many things in the world irrevocably...
Truly a night to remember.

He turns the horn gently in his hands,
And the firelight runs along the edges -
A simple memorial to a party
And to a people:
To a brief flowering of loveliness,
Like the desert after its long-awaited rain.
For though war is long past and peace now restored,
Under the sod, in the shadow of a mountain
In stillness
Lie the men whose hands lovingly placed
The mark on it's side...


    A. Buckles / '03