A madman named Bryan Weise saw the movie "Robin and Marion" while he was reading "Lord of the Rings." Bryan had never heard of "medieval re-enactment," "Live Action Role Playing," or "Dungeons and Dragons." But he wanted to find a way to capture that spirit of adventure that could only come from wielding a sword or bow.
In 1977, he ran ads on Maryland's underground radio station WGTB that said, "Anyone wanting to fight in Hobbit Wars with padded weapons call Bryan at the following number." Bryan became Aratar Anfinhir the Stormbringer. For the first two years, all battles were woods battles; most included a camp-out the night before. Many battles in the first three years included rain or snow, giving power to Aratar's moniker of "Storm Bringer."
As the group began to grow, a madman Elvish scholar named Celemir suggested the name Dagorhir: "Battle Lords."
All weapons were thick lumps of couch-padding foam duct-taped to sticks. The first prototype of modern Dagorhir weapons (a shaped "blade" of closed-cell foam glued to a fiberglass rod) showed up in 1978. It was in this time that rocks were invented by a madman named Edwin of the Danes, who asked, "What do we do with the scraps of leftover foam? Can we wrap 'em with tape and say they're rocks that only kill you if they hit you in the head?"
Aratar found he couldn't do it all himself, so he formed the Council of Seven to help organize events, check weapons, and disseminate information. Remember that this was in the days before e-mail, before the World Wide Web, before voice mail. When answering machines were a rarity - every member had to be called and given the information for every event.
Dagorhir placed ads in bookstores, and recruited while performing staged fights at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 1979. That year also saw the first field battles and unit battles in Dagorhir history.
Dagorhir survived an attempt to splinter it by a disgruntled and power-hungry member. (Some time later, this same disgruntled former Dagorhir moved to Texas and started a group based on Dagorhir rules. Eventually, they kicked him out too, so we should regard Amtgard as our long-lost siblings.)
At the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Dagorhir caught the eye of the "PM Magazine" TV show, who asked to do a feature about us. Dagorhir holds the record for most canceled PM Magazine shoots - every time they would schedule to film us, "Storm Bringer" would pummel the event with rain or snow. Finally, we had clear weather (although with two inches of snow on the ground) for the filming.
PM Magazine aired the Dagorhir segment on Washington, DC, TV in early 1981.and Dagorhir membership took off. More than 70 fighters showing up for the next battle, and attendance reached levels of more than 200 fighters by 1983. Aratar retired as President of Dagorhir late in 1983.
Later, PM Magazine re-broadcast their piece on Dagorhir. But this time they showed it NATIONALLY. It was seen by a madman sitting in a cave in Illinois, who said, "Wow! I've gotta do this!" He contacted Dagorhir, got a bunch of handbooks, became Beowulf the Dreamer (and later Sir Geoffrey of Bright Hills), and founded Dagorhir Middle Earth around 1984.
Beowulf got into a bragging match with the then-president of the (then-unnamed) founding Dagorhir Tribe, a madman named Graymael. It started off something like this:
Bey: "I know you Washington Dagorhir think you're tough. But you've never seen anything like us. You couldn't HANDLE us if you ever had to fight Middle Earth! We send people flying through the air. Grown men weep when they see us coming."
Gray: "No way! We'd kick your collective ass!"
Bey: "Oh yeah?"
Bey: "I'm in Illinois. You're in Maryland. What's halfway between the two?"
Bey: "Then it's settled. We'll fight in Ohio."
Thus began planning for the first Dagorhir Tribal War. A madman named Dominus noted that, "When we die we go to Valhalla. We call our Tribal Law Meeting Althyng. Our Great War should be Ragnarok."
And so it was.
Unbeknownst to either the original Dagorhir Tribe or to Middle Earth, a madman named Falcon had moved West from Maryland to Cleveland, Ohio, in the early 1980's, taking with him his padded weapons and Dagorhir handbook. Falcon founded the lost Tribe of Dagorhir Pent Wyvvern.
In the summer of 1985, some of the Washington Dagorhir met Falcon at the SCA's Pennsic War in Pennsylvania. Since plans were already shaping up for Ragnarok, PW was extend an invitation to attend the war. The first Ragnarok was a weekend camping event in April of 1986.
The members of the original Dagorhir Tribe decided they needed a name to differentiate themselves from their new siblings. A madman named Shengar (formerly one of the Council of Seven) declared, "We were the first of Aratar's children. We shall be known as the Aratari!"
And so it has been, ever since.
Ragnarok I included 80+ fighters from 5 states, including 2 from Massachusetts who had seen the PM Magazine broadcast. It was fought on Private property in Ohio, and featured the Thunderstorm of the Gods, followed by the first hot, humid day of the year (and thus, a lot of fighters nearly fainting from the heat).
Rag II fielded about 80 participants at a State Park in Ohio. The weather was more temperate. The battle featured the first-ever Ragnarok Bridge Challenge Battle (and in it, the first-ever cross-Tribal Unit, the Bridgeborn) and the famous phrase, "Dude, seven hits to the torso is DEATH!"
Ragnarok III (and IV and V) took place at a private campground in Ohio. Rag III lasted four days, and included snow, the first Ragnarok Woods Fort Battle, and the first Ragnarok Unit with members from every Tribe.
By Ragnarok IV, new Tribes began to appear, some splitting off of the original three, others springing up like new-sown wheat...