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Tolkien’s characters from Middle-earth have found their way onto goblets, shot glasses and chessmen, in a piece of pricey, Australian-designed merchandising that came before – not after - the movie, reports Andrew L. Urban.

The first thing you notice is the intricate pewter sculpting that defines the character of your chosen goblet. The second is that they’re heavy. The Gollum goblet is the most striking, his bulging eyes looking askance, his pot belly the only smooth part of him. This goblet would be ideal for drinking frog’s wee. (Gollum, you’ll recall, is the only Hobbit ever to have succumbed to evil and the power he gains contorts his form beyond recognition.)

"crafted and made years ago"

Gandalf, by conrast, is a serene and wise goblet, his beard platted to become the stem; good for oak-aged wine, or meade - or some Shire-made ale.

For those special Rivendell celebrations, you can use the special champagne goblets, which house a flat bottomed champagne flute inside the pewter carving.

Another goblet depicts Galadriel, portrayed in the movie by Cate Blanchett, her head forming the cup and resting on her hand, the stem of the goblet. The cup is embellished with a piece of onyx, creating the impression of Galadriel wearing a crown, befitting her status as the Elven Queen.

But the characters bear no resemblance to the actors, it should be noted, because these – and other items in the Tolkien-themed Royal Selangor range - are not new items of merchandise hurriedly sent to market as the movie hits the cinemas. They were crafted and made years ago, as part of Melbourne pewter sculptor Dr Graeme Anthony’s personal interest in Tolkien’s books.

And that goes back 18 years. He began with a chess set, when some close friends (and fellow sculptors) suggested a set based on Lord of the Rings. Anthony had already made some based on other works, like The Wizard of Id. Then one day Anthony decided to make some goblets and he carved his first, based on Smaug, the dragon. "But it took us seven years of experimentation to cast it."

"in the image of the characters of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien"

There are now two different chess sets – three if you count the rather novel shot glasses that can double as chess pieces. Anthony says that "if you pick thee right pieces, you can select the 32 pieces to make a complete chess set. And you can fill one side of the shot glasses with something like Kahlua, the other with say, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and every move when you take one of the pawns, you drink it. So it’s the world’s first drinking chess set, which also doubles as a handicap system: the more pieces you take, the more handicapped you get!"

In partnership with Royal Selangor, officially licensed by Tolkien Enterprises, Anthony has created an amazing array of beautifully sculptured pewter goblets, shot glasses and chess sets in the image of the characters of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. There are literally dozens of items, ranging in price from $25 for a figurine (like Orc, Gollum, etc), through $185 for a goblet, to $1,100 to one of the more elaborate chess sets. Characters depicted include Galadriel, Arargon, Sauron, a Hobbit, Strider, and there are even works of Dark Tower and the City of Tirion.

The Smeagol Gollum goblet has his twisted form eerily captured in great detail. Gollum is the only Hobbit ever to have succumbed to evil and the power he gains contorts his form beyond recognition.

According to Royal Selangor National Retail Manager, Gay Howlett, "The world of Middle-earth has been brought to life in the sculptors recreation of the goblets and chess set. This relationship will allow us to reach out to a new audience which may never have enjoyed the beauty of pewter before".

Interest has been fuelled by the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, not just in the Westrern world, but in South East Asia and even the Middle East, says Anthony.

"based on his own interpretations of the Tolkien characters"

Anthony’s designs continue to be based on his own interpretations of the Tolkien characters from the book, but he’s already seen Peter Jackson’s first film twice, and approves: "it’s a pretty good interpretation," he says.

(Royal Selangor has four retail outlets: three in Victoria at the Block in Melbourne, Chadstone & Southland Shopping Centres and in Brisbane at the Myer Centre. The goblets can also be purchased as selected Myer stores, Games World and selected jewellers.)

Published January 10, 2002

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