Out of Dunland

In all the world, I don’t think there is anything a human can craft with hands – well, at least that I can craft with hands – more beautiful than a lace shawl while it is being blocked.


Evenstar is done. My pace accelerated as I got closer I got to the finish line, and I did the last eight repeats (placing 400 beads) in a week.

One repeat to go...
One repeat to go…
Nothing left but the grafting! Which took three tries and still looks kinda bad. No picture because I got a little carried away with my concentration, and found afterwards that M had eaten a crayon.
… And nothing left but the grafting! Which took three tries and still looks kinda bad. No picture because I got a little carried away with my concentration, and found afterwards that M had eaten a crayon.

When last we left the Fellowship, they had only just formed and embarked from Rivendell. This project was associated, in my knit-through-the-saga, with that frustrating chapter of meandering up and down Dunland, a semi-hostile land, under watch by an an enemy that should have been a friend. Although the shapes in the shawl are of that Last Homely House they just left, with its open arch-lined halls grafted seamlessly into the forest outside, the color reminds me of the grey-brown land they left it for, in the ugliness of late fall, at the foot of the misty mountains, with murders of crow-like Crebain threatening.


In the meantime, I confess, my read-through with Jared moved on. When I realized how long it would take me to finish, I gave up lining up my knitting with our actual reading. We finished Return of the King soon after we moved to Iqaluit, read some of the appendices (enough to get through Aragorn and Arwen’s story, as is my usual practice), and just as I was finishing the last couple repeats of border, Jared started reading aloud The Silmarillion.

At the end of The Lord of the Rings, I was glad to be reminded that Arwen gives her Evenstar pendant not to Aragorn, but to Frodo.

The star shape inspired by the pendant, worked into the pattern at three points in the shawl, is one of my favorite bits of design cleverness of all time.

As I worked this shawl over the last year and a half or so, my associations with it have evolved. Consciously, I always placed it with the Fellowship, wandering through unfriendly Dunland, full of memories of both worse and better times. But I also thought of Arwen, her fate tied up with this departed band, sitting down to begin working the standard of Gondor that would only be flown if all their impossible hopes came true.

But by the end, there were new associations that I could not have guessed at in the beginning. The arches became the church we were entering. The branching lines became the trees I was leaving behind. And the beads – oh the endless beads! – now make me think, not of the Crebain, but of the endless arctic ravens outside my window (“Tulugaqs,” N calls them, though the proper plural is tulugait). These birds are not threatening, but creatively clever, carrying on their conversations with a variety of calls.


The Fellowship indecisively traveled back and forth, finding that all ways across the Misty Mountains seemed too daunting, but they finally committed to the only possible way, through haunted Moria. So now, our wanderings are also over, and we are in for a long dark, in a place where so much goodness seems lost beyond recovery. And dark things linger here too, though we have an even better guide than Gandalf, one whose victory over the Dark One is already won.

So what will happen to this glorious gray shawl? For a few weeks, at least, I’ll leave it out to be admired and petted, and maybe I’ll get to wear it to a Christmas concert. (I might even get to sing in a choir; wouldn’t that be a treat? The festival of the coming of the Light means even more here!)

But then I’ll carefully fold it up, maybe wrap it in some acid-free tissue paper, and tuck it in a special place. My first Evenstar is laid up for N’s hope chest, so this one will be for M.


I have had the first carefully stored away, so I had to pull it out to see them together.


They are as alike and different as my girls. N is bubbly, high-pitched, thin as a rail, effervescent and iridescent. M is sweet, soft, solid, and strong. N is the stars, M is the moon. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll stay that way, though most of all I hope they feel free to discover for themselves. Both will glimmer in their own ways.



Beauty is its own reward. “Pointless,” and yet the point. And, as well, the pointer, toward the beautiful one. These fairy stories fill me with all kinds of longing for that better country, while making me more alive to dwell in this one. For that reason I fill my head with them, alongside immersion into The Story, and I hope to do the same for my children.


5 thoughts on “Out of Dunland

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