Gateway to Fionavar, A Photographic Travelogue

by Julie C. Hollar, photos by R. Darrow Bernick. Julie is a freelance writer/composer from Detroit, and met Darrow during a musical theater production, at which point he introduced her to The Fionavar Tapestry. Darrow is a web developer, also from Detroit. Julie welcomes questions or comments at Click on an image and a larger version will appear in a new browser window.

“In the spaces of calm almost lost in what followed, the question of why tended to surface” (Chapter 1, The Summer Tree). Or more a question of what, where and how? It was in search of answers to these questions that my friend, Darrow and I traversed to Toronto from Detroit, Michigan to see how much of the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy we could make real for ourselves. So with paperback trilogy and camera in hand, we journeyed to Toronto in September of 1999 to fulfill our quest: to experience the places described in the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy. What follows is a chronicle of our exploits.

We began with the University of Toronto, where the opening action begins in Book One, The Summer Tree, pg. 7. It is on the University of Toronto campus where we first meet the main characters: Paul, Kim, Jennifer, Kevin and Dave. We wanted our experiences and photos to be as accurate as possible so we started our exploration at dusk. In general, the campus was beautiful: old buildings, well-manicured grounds with “quadrangles and shaded paths…”

Convocation Hall
We quickly and easily found our way to Convocation Hall where Lorenzo Marcus, i.e. Loren Silvercloak, would have given his talk at the Second International Celtic Conference.

Convocation Hall Interior
The “brightly lit entrance” was not so brightly lit upon our arrival. The large Convocation Hall Interior double doors were unlocked, so we sneaked into the darkened room, hoping not to be discovered. It was a huge, multi-tiered auditorium, almost like theater-in-the-round. I turned the lights on with a push-button, dimmer-type switch.

Convocation Hall Dome Convocation Hall dome

It was completely empty inside. We sat in the folding theater seats as “the five” would have sat, and pretended we were watching “the reclusive genius” Lorenzo at the podium assisted by Matt Soren. We turned our gaze “high above the dome in the hall” to see if we could see a “hidden creature”- a svart alfar waiting there for us. The ceiling dome was under construction. There was a palpable mysteriousness in the air here. Having “broken in” we didn’t stay too long for fear of discovery. When we left Convocation Hall, I couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights off.

Philosopher's Walk EntranceEntrance

Philosopher's WalkPhilosopher’s Walk

Next, we followed the directions in The Summer Tree to the Philosopher’s Walk. It was “a short walk, and a pleasant one. Across the wide central green of the campus, then along the dark winding path…that twisted, with gentle slopes on either side, behind the law school, the Faculty of Music, and the massive edifice of the Royal Ontario Museum…” (pg. 13).

Philosopher's Walk PlaquePhilosopher’s Walk plaque

We walked this path after dark, just as “the five” would have. The path was paved with brick. There was only one posting that actually indicated we were indeed on Philosopher’s Walk. Hardly anyone was out that night, and we had the path to ourselves.

Park Hyatt HotelPark Hyatt Hotel

When we “came out to the noise and bright lights of Bloor Street,” we looked for the “huge stone pile of the old Park Plaza Hotel,” but it wasn’t there. What was there, was the Park Hyatt Hotel. We asked a police officer if he knew about the hotel. He said it had been gone for some time and that the Park Hyatt was built on its old location.

16th floor16th Floor

I was determined to go inside a suite on the sixteenth floor to see where Silvercloak would have stayed, but there was a problem: the Toronto Film Festival was in full swing and no one wanted to let me wander up to the sixteenth floor! After all, I had a camera and might be the paparazzi sneaking up for an exclusive. So, I had to use my Kim-like tenacity and Jennifer-like charisma to bribe a bellman to accompany me to the sixteenth floor, where he would only let me take a picture of the elevator and a door. Unfortunately, I was unable to have a drink with Loren inside his sixteenth floor suite.

Bloor Street Sign

Next we went outside and stood on the corner where, following their meeting with Matt and Loren, the five would have parted ways that evening: Kim and Jennifer went to their duplex beside High Park, Dave’s flat went to his flat one mile west on Palmerston, and Kevin jogged across Bloor to where he had parked his car. We walked following Paul’s route-north up Avenue Road and two blocks over at Bernard, and then we walked back to the Faculty of Music building on the University of Toronto campus.

Edward Johnson Building signEdward Johnson Building

We approached the place where there would have been “…a graduate recital in the Faculty of Music’s Edward Johnson Building, by a girl named Rachel Kincaid” (pg. 29). First, we wandered into the performance hall. It was a circular auditorium with about 150 seats, and had a small stage with a piano. I sat in the theater and could almost hear the second movement of the Brahms F-Major Cello Sonata as played by Rachel – the movement Paul could never get through.

Edward Johnson Music HallEdward Johnson Recital Hall

(Click here to go to an MP3 site where you can download the second movement of the Brahms Sonata to listen to).

Outside the recital hall on a wall were framed, black-and-white pictures of graduates who had been recognized as Eaton Scholars for distinction in academics and performance.

Elizabeth DolinElizabeth Dolin

Interestingly, there was a picture of a woman with “dark hair like his [Paul’s] own and dark eyes like no one else in this world.” Below the picture of the dark-haired cellist was a plaque that read, Elizabeth Dolin, 1981, Cello. With The Summer Tree having been published in 1984, one must wonder if Ms. Dolin was in some way inspiration for Rachel Kincaid. It was this thought that we pondered on the way back to our own hotel that evening as we passed Ontario Place where Rachel would have played the Dvorák Cello Concerto on the night of her death.

City HallCity Hall

The next day, we headed off with a copy of The Wandering Fire. We followed Dave’s route as he cut “across Nathan Philips Square in front of the twin curves of the City hall…as he maneuvered toward the restaurant entrance on the far side…” (pg. 3).

Mackenzie MarqueeMackenzie Marquee

This path was a bit harder to navigate. We ended up going in the front door of City Hall and asking about the location of the Mackenzie King Dining Room. The girl at the information desk hadn’t heard of it. This was our first “non-existent” landmark. Hmmm. Not to be thwarted, we followed a curving hall around to where we thought the restaurant should be – but all we found was the IBMS Training Center. About to give up, I stopped to fix my hair in the reflection of some stained glass, when I realized the glass read, “The Mackenzie Room” where Dave recalled Kevin’s oath against Rakoth to avenge Jennifer.

Mackenzie Street EntranceStreet Entrance

All that was left of the restaurant was the lobby. We walked out the side entrance which still read “The Mackenzie Dining Room” (where Dave would have entered). We would not be having “filet of sole…amid the clink of cutlery and the lunchtime talk of lawyers and civil servants” (pg. 5).

Museum of OntarioArt Gallery of Ontario

That afternoon we headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario for the final site of the Toronto/Fionavar tour. This was the place where Paul, out of need, would cross back to Fionavar with the pregnant Jennifer to escape Galadan’s pursuit. At the beginning of book two, Paul seems to be the only one who can entice Jennifer out of her apartment, using “an exhibition of Japanese prints at the Art Gallery” as a lure (pg.10).

Henry Moore ExhibitThe Moore Exhibit

Unfortunately, although unsurprisingly, that exhibition was no longer at the Art Gallery in September 1999. We followed Paul and Jennifer’s path to the forked corridor and through a door that took us “out into the largest room in the gallery, Henry Moore’s permanent sculpture exhibit…the pride of the Art Gallery of Ontario…” (pg.13). We passed “several huge pieces, a madonna and child, a nude, an abstract shape.

Crossing Site?Crossing Site?

“We sat down at the base of one of the large sculptures. There were others in the room: sketch artists, mothers and children, students. All watched us with curious interest, as Darrow took my hand and said to no one in particular, “Slave of Maugrim, I cannot defeat you yet, nor can I see you in the dark…we will meet again. But I will not tarry for you in this place.” Then we felt a great wind and opened our eyes to see…Henry Moore’s permanent sculpture exhibit.

The last place that links Fionavar to our world is Stonehenge, where the five cross back into Fionavar. We didn’t make it there–

Julie and DarrowDiar and Sharra? No – Darrow and Julie maybe next time.

This concludes the Toronto/Fionavar narrative tour. Our quest was fulfilled. We saw the places that inspired the Fionavar Trilogy and it was well worth the trip. If we ever unlock the secret to the crossing between worlds, we’ll do our next segment – the search for the Baelrath, and photos from Brennin, Cathal, Khath Meigol, and Eridu-when it isn’t the rainy season.

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