Issue date: 04 July 2003

ISSUE DATE: 04/07/03
Gandalf the wizard, Aragorn, Frodo the Hobbit and Legolas the elf were spotted strolling at Blaise Castle on 28 June. But they were not there to defend Middle Earth against the evil Sauron – instead they mingled amicably with two ringwraiths, one on a riding school pony. The reason: it was all part of a fundraising stunt by Lord of the Rings fans in aid of the National Literacy Trust that will take place in December on the date of the premier of The Return of the King.

Legolas, otherwise known as Vicky Sleap, fell in love with the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child when her father read the stories to her. Vicky works in the University of the West of England’s Centre for Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies. Now, as well as knowing the books inside out, she has seen the first two films enough times to take detailed notes and reproduce some of the costumes.

She has been particularly inventive in the matter of ageing the costumes so that they look as if they have been worn throughout battles, ambushes and long forced marches. “I used six cowskins for Aragorn’s leather costume, and aged it by scuffing it up with mud and dirt, and also by hanging it up with rocks in the pockets. This makes garments really look as if they have been worn a long time,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges – as well as the time and skill demanded to make the costumes on a small budget – was making hard items such as armour, helmets and the ringwraiths’ armoured boots.

In all, 11 costumes are being made in time for the premier of the third and final film, The Return of the King. Vicky and her loyal friends will spend the day in Leicester Square, London, in full costume, collecting money in aid of the National Literacy Trust.

Richard Sved, head of fundraising at the National Literacy Trust said: “This is such an original fundraising idea but with a strong link to literacy. We’ll be putting the story on our website,” Vicky is also collecting funds in the meantime and hopes to raise over £1000.

It won’t be the first time that Vicky, who is also a fan of Star Wars, has displayed her costume-making skills in public. “I once rode the tube in London in full Klingon battle armour. People were really interested and I had only positive reactions. We will spend the day in London explaining the important work that the National Literacy Trust does – after all, reading has given me a doorway into such interesting and magical places and I want to help give other people the chance to have that doorway opened for them.”

Anyone wishing to help by sponsoring Vicky or her ten friends on their mission to recreate the Shire in Leicester Square can donate by visiting or by contacting her on tel 0117 344 2055.


Editor’s notes

Jpegs available:

1. The names of the people and characters clockwise from top left are Caroline Smith as Eowyn, Pru Comben as Arwen Undomiel, Mark Brown as Elrond, Brian Savidge as Aragorn, Alison Burd as a Ringwraith and Ruth Martin as Samwise Gamgee. Centre picture is Becky Sleap as Gandalf Stormcrow

2. Alison Burd as Ringwraith on Fergus, a Shire cross kindly lent for the occasion by Avon Riding Centre for the Disabled

The National Literacy Trust (NLT) is an independent charity dedicated to building a nation in which everyone enjoys the skills, self-esteem and pleasures that literacy can bring. We are the only organisation concerned with raising literacy standards for all age groups throughout the UK.

Contact details – e-mail: tel: 020 7828 2435 or

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