If you see 20 or so fellas wearing armor and wielding swords in Prospect Park, don’t be alarmed. They’re just playing make-believe.
Fort Greene native Blackwell Hird is one of the stars of these Dagorhir battle games, which were created in the 1970s to mimic “The Lord of the Rings” fantasy novels following hobbits, fairies and wizards fighting to save Middle Earth.
Hird, a 25-year-old industrial designer, has dubbed himself Nebuchadnezzar, the king of dreams. He wages faux war with a padded sword and an all-black ensemble, including a leather breastplate and cape, which would fit in perfectly at Medieval Times.
“We have this need to be competitive and active, but we don’t necessarily want to get into soccer or football,” Hird said. “Also, we have a need to dress up and have an absolute blast.”
These fantastical games provide participants with the ultimate break from real life, added Bruce Lindsay, founder of Dagorhir’s New York chapter.
“There is definitely an appeal for this kind of escapism, especially when it’s not passive like watching a movie,” he said. “Violence is the biggest taboo in our culture and outside of professional sports, there’s no socially accepted way of releasing what is a very natural human instinct. Dagorhir helps people.”
Hird relishes the chance to live in J.R.R. Tolkien’s realm where Gollum roams free — and life’s responsibilities are nonexistent.
“It takes you out of the real world. You’re away from your job, your work and your life. You go into a totally different setting where people have swords and shields,” he said.
For the first time, anyone can walk up to the Dagorhir fighters in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow and ask to play.
“We are making an effort to find more members,” said Lindsay, 37. “People can come up and join us. They just have to sign a release waiver.”
New players may wear jeans and T-shirts or follow the veterans’ lead and don custom-made medieval costumes and weapons.
“It can be as simple as a poncho-style tunic and sweatpants or something hand-embroidered and made of Puritan cloth,” said Lindsay.
Some fighters wear padding, but even that won’t protect them from the weapons’ mighty stings.
“Most of the swords have a plastic or fiberglass core and are padded with special foam that absorbs most of the impact,” Lindsay said. “They won’t injure, but I won’t say they don’t hurt. It’s like a slap. It’s brief and fleeting.”
It seems the fighters actually enjoy the pain.
“We’re out there absolutely hauling butt on each other for five or six hours a day,” Hird said.
“I had a 6-foot Scotsman waving an ax at me and launching me six feet in the air. The only problem — I was eating dirt afterwards.”
Dagorhir battle participants meet under the arch in Grand Army Plaza (Union Street between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. No phone) at 11 am every first and third Saturday of the month.
©2010 Community News Group
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