May 15, 2013

A Break from LOTRO

There will be no Lore in this post.  This is purely a personal essay.

I have decided to take (actually, to continue) a break from LOTRO, and thus from this blog as well.

I've been playing for over 4 years now.  It is easy to get burned out on an MMO after that amount of time.  And until recently I was a defender of many of the odd things that have been done to the game lately. 

However, starting just before the Anniversary I lost all interest in logging in.  The three raids were weird and just not fun at all.  I didn't feel up to leveling yet another character at that point in time.  So I started playing other things.  When the Anniversary rolled around, I thought at least now I'll have a reason to log in every night and chat with kin.  Then I discovered there was NOTHING new added to the available items except the new warsteed appearance from the envelopes.  Because of my completionist tendencies, I got all there was to get from the Anniversary last year.  So all I literally had to do was log on for 5 minutes to do the envelope quest.  It did take me numerous tries and I even blew some Mithril Coins to repeat it as I have over 450 of the things for some reason.

So when they extended the Anniversary and added these "new" items, I already had enough Anniversary tokens to barter for the "new" things that were available (and you better believe I felt a level of disgust that the new items were essentially just different colored copies).  So still no reason to log on for other Anniversary activites.

When Update 11 came along I happened to be home that day, and after the relatively fast patch, went to log in.  And found I could not.  I was one of those players who experienced the issue with nothing happening after pressing the Play button.  I tried it several times, and then also got hung up on the Initializing screen once.  I saw others were having the same/similar problems with the new launcher, and numerous suggestions people were making.  I just thought to myself, "Why should I bother?  Why should I have to experiment with settings and folders and all of these other things that may or may not work just to get in to this game?"  Nothing on my computer had changed since the last time I played.  So I gave up.

I tried again tonight (Wednesday) because I saw there was to be a fix tomorrow and I wanted to experiment.  I again tried a few times to log in with no success.  I then changed my settings so that "No Proxy" was selected, and this time it worked.  After getting hung up on the Loading screen for 5 minutes I was in.  Only to find I was the only person on in my kin.  At 9:00 p.m. on a weeknight.

This was my first opportunity to experience the Hobbit Presents.  Let me be blunt:  I hate these things.  I think the whole concept is cheap and gimmicky, and also annoying if this is going to be popping up every day I log in.  I of course understand that I only need to accept my daily present, then the notice disappears.  But I don't even want that much.  I just want to not even see it, and am still trying to figure out if there is a setting so I don't get Hobbit Present notices.

I also realized that, although standing in the Snowbourn vault where I had logged out a couple weeks ago, my morale was about 1475 out of almost 12,000.  It remained this way for the almost 10 minutes I was logged on.  I had not been in any combat the last time I was on, there was no DoT bug on me, just a campfire buff from some hunter.  I moved outside and nothing changed.  I thought about logging out and back in to see if that fixed it, then decided - I just don't care enough to take the time to do that.  So I logged off for the night.

I'm not done with LOTRO.  I still enjoy being able to spend time in Middle Earth.  I may even be on later this same week to start the new area and epic line - hey, it is NEW content, right?  But the enthusiasm I once felt, that feeling of anticipation in looking forward to logging in after a long day at work, or spending a whole weekend afternoon, just isn't there.  This is not the same LOTRO I began playing four years ago.  And there's no way it could be.  Games evolve and change.  I just have not personally been fond of several things that have happened lately, and I think coupled with my generalized burnout, is making the game not terribly fun for me right now.

I'll still be around, I think.  I'm curious enough to want to see the new area, and to see what happens with Horn and Nona.  And soon the "Spring" festival will be here.  But my heart just isn't in it the way it used to be.  So continuing to step back and play much less than normal is probably exactly what I need to do right now.  I do hope some things turn around and the wisdom of many of these gimmicky, store-oriented things is reexamined.  I've been called a LOTRO/Turbine Fanboi (despite being a 42 year old woman), and I was always OK with that.  Until now.  If I'm not happy with aspects of the game, that permeates the whole game for me, and by extension this blog.

So this will be my last post, at least for the time being.  Who knows down the line, I might encounter something - maybe in this latest update even, or maybe with Helm's Deep this fall - that recaptures my enthusiasm.  Some great piece of Lore that I feel just HAS to be blogged about.  I really hope so.

Until then, I deeply appreciate all of you who have read this blog and left comments and emails with encouragement and suggestions.  You all made this a very fun ride!

McF

April 4, 2013

McFarlane...At Your Service

Requests Make Me Happy Dance
Suggestions for posts are always welcome, and as Danania can attest after suggesting the post on Thorin and Company, I really REALLY enjoy getting them.  I have received a few since starting this blog, and always appreciate more.

I always have a list of topics that I've either started or have been kicking around in my brain but cringe at the amount of research that will be required (although those are always the most fulfilling to write).  But this post serves no purpose other than letting you readers know that you are always welcome to send me ideas or things you have always wondered about.  If there's the slightest chance I can make a lore-related post about it, I'll accept your challenge.

You are welcome to send an email to l.ward.mcfarlane@gmail.com or can also post questions/topics in Comments.

Thank you as always for following and sending me your comments!

March 28, 2013

The Company of Thorin Oakenshield

I have Danania from "The Adventures of Danania, Supergirl of Lorien" blog to thank for this fantastic post idea!  I don't know how this didn't occur to me before now, so double-thanks to you for hitting me over the head with this one!

Who exactly are all of the Dwarves who were in the company of Thorin Oakenshield, what was their relationship to each other, where does the doughty Gimli fit in, and where (if anywhere) do we find them (or references to them) in LOTRO?

I briefly touched on this in my post on Goblin Town last December, and even speculated about whether we would see some of the surviving Dwarves when we made it to Erebor.  And sure enough, we now have some answers!  But I never really took an in-depth look at them, and the roles they played in the Hobbit or how Turbine integrated them into LOTRO.  What a fun topic!

OK, before you read any further, count off all of the Dwarves by memory.  A chocolate chip Cram for each of you who can!  Thanks to the Hobbit movie, it definitely helps many of us remember them.  Here's a list, just because I find it fun to make such a list:

  1. Thorin Oakenshield
  2. Balin
  3. Dwalin
  4. Fili
  5. Kili
  6. Glóin
  7. Óin
  8. Dori
  9. Nori
  10. Ori
  11. Bifur
  12. Bofur
  13. Bombur

Cool, I didn't even have to look to do that.  And there's even a bit of logic (at least in my mind) in how I have them ordered.  Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Glóin, and Óin are all related (as I'll discuss below), and are all descendants of Durin the Deathless.  Take a look in the Appendix, as there's a nice genealogical chart that is far better than anything I could create.  Dori, Nori, and Ori are also mentioned as being part of the House of Durin in Appendix A but more remotely related to the others.  Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur are said to be descended from Dwarves of Moria but not of Durin's line.


Thorin's Hall, as viewed from Frerin's Court
Thorin Oakenshield

We all know him - Thorin, leader of the party to reclaim Erebor.  Thorin was a descendant of Durin I, the first Dwarf to awaken on Arda, and would have been in line to become King under the Mountain following his grandfather, Thrór and father, Thráin II.  He's actually Thorin II; there was another King Thorin I about 500 years before our Thorin.

In The Hobbit, Thorin is described as wearing a sky-blue hood with a long silver tassel, and plays the harp.

After Smaug routed the Dwarves from Erebor, Thorin later settled in Ered Luin and founded the area of Thorin's Hall.  In LOTRO we see Frerin's Court is named after his younger brother, who was killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar while trying to take back Moria and avenge the murder of King Thrór by the orc Azog.  Just beyond the gates near Frerin's Court, you enter the Vale of Thráin, named after Thorin's father.  (I guess he did not feel the need to name anything in Ered Luin after his grandfather, who got Thrór's Coomb in Enedwaith as his namesake.)  Thorin of course dies from wounds received during the Battle of Five Armies, and is laid to rest deep under the Lonely Mountain, with the Arkenstone on his breast and Orcrist the sword laid atop his tomb.  We can barter at skirmish camps for a nice bust of Thorin to add as a housing decoration!


Balin and Dwalin


Balin's Tomb
Balin and Dwalin were brothers, sons to Fundin, and distant cousins to Thorin, as well as first cousins to Glóin and Óin.  I have to say, I found the first Hobbit movie adorable; yes I'm a Lore Junky, but I have no problems with what Jackson did in order to adapt it to the big screen (and I just have fun telling my son the REAL lore when they get it wrong lol).  I get a kick out of these two guys and they are absolutely my two favorite Dwarves in the movie!

In the book, both play large viols.  Dwalin wore a green hood and Balin a scarlet one.

In LOTRO, Dwalin is now ruling in Thorin's Hall, working to defend Ered Luin.  We meet and assist him during the introductory section for Elves/Dwarves, and then can stop by to see him at any time at his seat at Thorin's Hall.  Just remember that he does NOT like sugared honeysuckle candy.


Dwalin
In The Fellowship of the Ring, we first hear of Balin when Frodo and Glóin are dining together, and Frodo asks what had become of Balin, Ori, and Óin, who went to Moria together.  "A shadow passed over Glóin's face. 'We do not know,' he answered.  'It is largely on account of Balin that I have come to ask the advice of those that dwell in Rivendell."  It was 30 years before the time of the War of the Ring that the 3 Dwarves took a company to resettle Moria.

Gandalf reads what he can from the book in the Chamber of Mazarbul:  "The first clear word is sorrow, but the rest of the line is lost, unless it ends in estre.  Yes, it must be yestre followed by day being the tenth of novembre Balin lord of Moria fell in Dimrill Dale.  He went alone to look in Mirror mere.  An orc shot him from behind a stone.  We slew the orc, but many more...up from east up the Silverlode....Poor Balin!  He seems to have kept the title that he took for less than five years."


We unfortunately know all too well what happened to Balin.    He was entombed in the Chamber of Mazarbul, or the Chamber of Records, which had been established as his seat in Moria, and was later discovered by Gimli and the rest of the Fellowship during their journey through the Mines.



Fili and Kili

Fili and Kili were brothers, and nephews of Thorin.  Their mother, Thorin's young sister, was the sole named female Dwarf that we know of from the Hobbit - Dís.  Fili and Kili were killed at the Battle of Five armies, trying to defend Thorin "with shield and body."  With their deaths, thus ended this particular line of the House of Durin; neither Thorin or his brother Frerin had children.

Oddly these two Dwarves are not - thus far - worked in to LOTRO in any manner that I can recall.

In the book Fili is noted as having the best sight.  Both wore blue hoods, silver belts, and had yellow beards, and played little fiddles.


Glóin and Óin


At Glóin's Camp
Glóin and Óin were brothers, wore a white and brown hood respectively, and were cousins to Balin and Dwalin.  Their father was the unfortunately named Gróin, who was brother to Fundin, dad of Balin/Dwalin.  (Really, just look at the chart in Appendix A, it is so much easier!)  And of course Glóin is dad to our favorite LOTR Dwarf, Gimli.  So Gimli is indeed of the line of Durin!

The two brothers were reputed in the book to be particularly skilled at building fires, but do not seem to have been musical, unlike the other Dwarves.

Glóin is alive and well in LOTRO, and can be found at the camp named after him just north of Rivendell, as we pass into the Misty Mountains.  Glóin has been protecting the passes of the  mountains, and has much business for us to take care of in Goblin Town.


The Remains of Óin
Óin, on the other hand, was not so fortunate.  After Erebor, he elected to accompany Balin in his attempt to recolonize Moria.  From the book found in the Chamber of Mazarbul, we learn that Óin was killed by the Watcher in the Water.  And sure enough, we get to meet him - er, his remains - when doing both Volume II and wrapping up Volume III of the Epic Book line.  The fabled axe that belonged to Durin, what LOTRO calls Zigilburk, is closely tied to the fate of Óin.





Dori, Nori, and Ori


In the movie, these three Dwarves are brothers.  Did you know that in The Hobbit book, no mention is made of their actual relationship?  Maybe they are related, maybe not.  Curiously, Dori and Nori both wear purple hoods in the book, with Ori wearing a grey one.  All three played the flute.

As stated earlier, Ori accompanied Balin to Moria, where he met his end with the others.  In LOTRO we see him in a session play during the Volume II epic line, "We Cannot Get Out."   It was Ori who recorded the last moments of the Moria settlers in the book of Mazarbul. 


Captain Ori in "We Cannot Get Out"
"Here is something: a large bold hand using an Elvish script. 'That would be Ori's hand,' said Gimli, looking over the wizard's arm. 'He could write well and speedily, and often used the Elvish characters.'"

"We cannot get out.  We cannot get out.  They have taken the Bridge and second hall.  Frar and Loni and Nali fell there....the pool is up to the wall at Westgate.  The Watcher in the Water took Óin.  We cannot get out.  The end comes...drums, drums in the deep...they are coming."

In The Hobbit book, Dori is noted to be the strongest Dwarf, and most often looked after Bilbo, often having to carry or assist him.  Dori was actually carrying Bilbo through the darkness of the caves of Goblin Town when he tripped and dropped Bilbo, who rolled off unconscious and unseen in the blackness, later making his way to Gollum's lair.  Dori also saved Bilbo from the Wargs by letting him jump on his back to climb up the tree, almost at his own peril.  He also took a lot of heat from the others for supposedly putting their "Burglar" in peril.

Dori and Nori at the Battle for Erebor
In LOTRO, we get to see Dori during the introductory session for Elves/Dwarves, in Frerin's Court with Dwalin.  We also encounter him later in the North Downs, where he has been imprisoned in a fortress near Othrikar, then later shows up in Esteldin.

We also see both Dori and Nori at the entrance to the new Battle for Erebor raid!



Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur

Bofur and Bombur are brothers, and cousins to Bifur.  Bifur and Bofur wore yellow hoods, and Bombur a green one.  The former two were talented with the clarinet, while Bombur played a drum.
 
Bifur and Bofur Fight the Fires of Smaug

All three survived the Battle of Five Armies, and prospered at Erebor, though in perhaps different ways.  As we learn in the Fellowship of the Ring, "Bombur was now so fat that he could not move himself from his couch to his chair at table, and it took six young Dwarves to lift him."  In LOTRO, we have not yet seen or heard much of Bombur, except in a possibly very appropriate way - the Bombur's Beard ale is named after him.  (There is also a fake version, Bombur's Breath, available from the Ale Association.)

In LOTRO, we meet cousins Bifur and Bofur at the entrance to the new Fires of Smaug raid.  (I'm sorry, but that raid - ugh.)

Interestingly, in LOTRO we see other traces of Bifur and Bofur in Moria.  Remember all of the "B" Dwarves you help throughout Moria?  The Devs created Bori, who is the son of Bosi, son of none other than Bifur!  And we can infer that Brogur, who is the father to Bróin, is the son of Bofur.  Bosi refers to Brogur as his cousin (and we are sort of tipped off by the name of a quest that Bosi confers named "Cousin Brogur.")  Bori also calls Bróin his cousin.  I believe Brogur, in the instance "Zigelburk Returned,"  refers to Óin as a "friend to my father."

Whew.  Those are a lot of Dwarves to incorporate into LOTRO, and a lot of Dwarves to keep track of!  I have very much enjoyed how LOTRO has found ways to keep the Company alive - either truly alive or in memory.  (What about Fili and Kili?!)  So have I missed anything?  Let me know!



References:  The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Appendix A

March 22, 2013

Lore in the Classes: Minstrel



The LOTRO Lorebook tell us that the Minstrel class was "inspired by Lúthien Tinúviel, whose Elven voice beguiled friend and foe alike."  They have skills such as Cry of the Valar, Call of Oromë, Invocation of Elbereth, Song and Gift of the Hammerhand - from what or whom do all these names come?

Let me start by taking several steps back, which is quite necessary when talking about many Minstrel skills and where they come from.  I mean way, way, way back to the start of things as chronicled by The Silmarillion!


In the beginning, there was Eru. "There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.  And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad."


Ilúvatar is the monotheistic creator entity of Tolkien's world.  He created this group of spirit beings called the Ainur, for whom music was their first and foremost means of expression and action.  Then Ilúvatar revealed his great plan to them and bade them "make in harmony together a Great Music," whereby the "voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words" created a music that began to fill the Void (I don't think Eru had invented the Pibgorn yet).  As Ilúvatar later showed them, the Void was no longer void, but a new World had appeared of their creation.  Ilúvatar showed them a vision of what this world, Arda, could be like, populated with the Children of Ilúvatar, who would be the first Elves and Men.  Throughout the first pages of The Silmarilion music - harmonies, melodies, parts -  is the critical ingredient in creating and expanding the Universe of Ilúvatar, and also is the means to introduce the first strife and tension.  Because of their musical skills Minstrels are tapped into the foundations of creation; little wonder that their skills can give so much healing.


Some of the Ainur were so taken with the idea of Arda and the Children of Ilúvatar that they wished to help this new creation develop, and were bound to Arda by Ilúvatar so "that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefor they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World."


There were originally 15 Valar, each generally "in charge" of a specialty based on what part of Ilúvatar was put into them when they were created. For example, Ulmo was the Valar connected with water; Aulë the one who built landmasses, gems, ore, and created crafting (and also created the race of Dwarves). However, one Valar was more of a "generalist" with a broad understanding of the knowledge of all the other Valar, and was more powerful than the others. His name was Melkor, later known as Morgoth.


The Valar often had "companions" of "lesser Ainur," who became known as the Maiar, who would learn the expertise of their Valar tutors. The Wizards in Middle Earth were Maiar. Gandalf, originally known as Olórin, was most associated with Manwë and Varda, the "leader" of the Valar and his "wife," who is also known as Elbereth. Radagast the Brown was associated with the Valar known as Yavanna, the "Giver of Fruits" who loved all the things growing on Arda. Curumo (Curunír, or Saruman) and even Sauron (yes, he was of the Ainur) were associated with Aulë, at least initially. Melkor, who is no longer counted as one of the Valar because of all his naughtiness, corrupted several Maiar who later became Balrogs. Kind of interesting connections being made now, huh?


So back to Lúthien Tinúviel - she was the daughter of King Thingol, one of the Eldar, and his wife Melian, one of the Maiar. Basically,Lúthien liked to dance and sing a lot and was pretty good at it. She fell in love with Beren, a mortal Man. King Thingol, who like so many dads in Middle Earth want the guys interested in their daughters to first prove themselves, sent Beren on an ambitious quest to steal a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. When Lúthien discovered this, she went to help him, which was fortunate as Beren had been captured by Sauron, who was now a servant of Morgoth. She then helped Beren later to obtain the Silmaril, singing a song that distracted Morgoth and his minions, keeping them from realizing what was happening until it was too late. (Sounds like Song of Distraction, doesn't it!). As often happens in such stories, Beren and then Lúthien died soon after, but her singing as a spirit brought them both back to live out long lives. Elrond is descended from Beren and Lúthien, as was his brother Elros. And that means that far, far down the line, so is Aragorn.


Varda, or Elbereth, as mentioned above is the spouse of Manwë, the "leader" of the Valar. Together their powers complemented each other. Elbereth created the stars and constellations, and is also called Gilthoniel, or "Star Kindler" (not "Stir Kindly" if you listen to the tipsy Elves near the Vineyards of Lorien). She was said to be the most beautiful being, and became the favorite Valar of the Elves. For a Minstrel, calling upon her name will cause mobs to run in fear - a bit of an odd choice for such unsurpassed beauty, but there's no accounting for the taste of the minions of Morgoth.


As for the Song and the Gift of the Hammerhand, I already mention the noble behavior of Helm Hammerhand in my post "A Dunlending and Rohirrim Romance" found here. As the skill text describes, "the name comes from the adage that those who know this lay were said to have been able to take a blow from Helm Hammerhand himself." Not the most admirable behavior in a guy so revered by the Rohirrim, but that's probably why they hold some of the prejudices that they do.

Call of Oromë - "sheer lightning cleaving the clouds"

Once during one of my annual readings of the Lord of the Rings, I was flipping through Appendix A and came across a name that jumped out at me.  I had been playing my Mini frequently, and absolutely recognized the name Oromë from the skill Call of Oromë ("This piercing call, a lesser echo of one used long ago by Oromë the Great, demoralizes a group of your foes and reduces their resistance to further attacks."). In a teeny tiny little footnote, I read: "The wild kine that were still to be found near the Sea of Rhûn were said in legend to be descended from the Kine of Araw, the huntsman of the Valar, who alone of the Valar came often to Middle-earth in the Elder Days. Oromë is the High-elven form of his name." The footnote also refers the reader to the last page of the chapter "The Ride of the Rohirrim" in The Return of the King, where Éomer says: "Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young."


Oromë was one of the Valar, described as a "mighty lord" in The Silmarillion.  It was said he loved the lands of Middle Earth, and was the last of the Valar to go to Valinor.  He was a lord of the hunt, loved all trees, and horses, and hounds.  His steed was named Nahar, and thus is revered by the Rohirrim, who said the mearas must have been descended from horses brought by Oromë out of the West. He also carried a great horn called the Valaroma. The horn is described as being heard above all other horns, "the sound of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds." 

Oromë it was who first encountered the Elves soon after they awoke, and called them Eldar.  Interestingly, it seems that Morgoth, or Melkor at that time, was aware of the awakening of the Elves before any of the Valar, and so through either disguised minions and/or rumors, caused some of them to fear Oromë as being a dark, shadowy hunter who would come to steal them.  The fact that solitary or small groups of Elves who ventured too far from their original home would disappear, never to be seen again, bolstered this notion.  And these, according to The Silmarillion, were the Elves who were taken captive and slowly broken and corrupted by Melkor, thus leading to the race of Orcs "in envy and mockery of the Elves."


References:  The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Appendix A; The Silmarillion; Unfinished Tales