January 30, 2012

The Ghost in the Bay of Forochel

The Seamonster in the Bay of Forochel
Volume I, Book 13 of the Epic line takes us to Forochel, and intertwines itself with a lesser-known but very important part of historical Lore.

I briefly mention the overthrow of the Kingdom of Arthedain and Fornost being overrun by Angmar in 1974 of the Third Age in another article.   Arvedui, who was king at the time, fled north after all was lost at Fornost and spent months trying to survive with a small remainder of his men in the dwarf-mines at the far end of the Blue Mountains.  Hunger drove them to seek help from the Lossoth - a people not of the Edain and quite different from the culture and customs of the Men of Númenor, such as Arvedui and his men - and who were just as isolated and wary of outsiders as LOTRO represents them.  But as anyone who has quested in Forochel knows, the Lossoth can be friendly - gradually.  In the Lore, they eventually decided to aid Arvedui and his men (in part due to pity for his gaunt condition, hence we see Saija in Book 13 referring to him as the Gaunt King - this shouldn't be confused with the Gaunt Lords we see elsewhere).  The Lossoth built huts of snow for the refugees from Fornost to help them survive the rest of the harsh winter.
The Last King of Arthedain

When Círdan the Shipwright learned that Arvedui had fled from Fornost to the north, he sent a ship from the Grey Havens to Forochel.  When the ship arrived, the Lossoth warned Arvedui not to mount upon this "seamonster" and instead have the crew give them provisions to help them survive the rest of the winter.  But Arvedui did not follow their counsel.  As the ship attempted to sail from the Bay of Forochel, strong winds from the north drove it back onto the ice (the Lossoth believed the Witch King of Angmar could control the winter weather), causing the hull to rupture and the ship to sink, killing all on board, including Arvedui.  Along with Arvedui and the others on board the ship, two palantíri were supposedly lost forever in the Bay of Forochel as well - the palantír from Annuminas and the palantír from Amon Sûl.

The name Arvedui translates as "Last King," something that was prophesied at his birth by Malbeth the Seer:  "Arvedui you shall call him, for he will be the last in Arthedain.  Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm.  If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again."  And we all know what choice the Dúnedain of the south made.

Before becoming king of Arthedain, Arvedui had sought the throne of Gondor in year 1944 when the last king of Gondor and his sons were defeated.  He argued to the Dúnedain of the south that as a direct heir of Elendil, who was initially High King of both Arnor and Gondor before they were given to his sons Isildur and Anarion, that he was in line to assume the kingship.  He had also married  Firiel, daughter of the last King of Gondor and only surviving child of the king.  According to the ancient rules of Númenor, rule could indeed be passed from father to daughter, but this law was not followed in Gondor, and Arvedui's claim was rejected, thereby leading to the route of "sorrow" as prophesied.

Fortunately for all of us, the son of Arvedui, Aranarth, had survived before the decimation of Fornost.  After the death of his father, the Last King, Aranarth became the first Chieftain of the Dúnedain and ancestor to Aragorn.  If you follow the many chapters of Book 13 to the end, you will be able to bring tidings to Aragorn of the his ill-fated ancestor.

Sources:  Appendix A:  The Lord of the Rings

January 28, 2012

Cracked Eggs: Moor Cowbell!

Read here to learn more about the Cracked Eggs series.

I got a Middle Earth fever.

And the only prescription?.....

Moor Cowbell!

There's probably not a lot I need to say about this one lol.  If you happen to not have heard the Moor Cowbell in-game, you are most definitely missing out.  It's got the rhythm, it's got the mooooves, and it will make you shout for Moor!  I just need a Christopher Walken look-alike.  Thank you, Saturday Night Live!

Huge thanks to Council of Eriador kin member, Rhaknor.  Il est un chasseur extraordinaire!  I just wish I could make videos.  ;)


The Moor Cowbell is a rare world drop, but don't fear - you can also obtain one from the Curiosities vendor in any skirmish camp.  Once you obtain one, you still have to learn to play it.  The old-fashioned way for non-minstrel classes used to be learning it from a Minstrel who could Mentor you on the Moor Cowbell skills (and any Minstrel who had any sense might refuse!).  Non-Minis are now able to barter a Manual from the Curiosities vendor to enable them to play.  If you are not familiar with playing music in LOTRO, there is a good basic guide on LOTRO-Wiki.  If you would like to play composed songs, you can then find songs to play on sites like The Fat Lute.

Gollum's Nassssty Diet

Our first chance to cross paths with Gollum (and most definitely this, as much of my blog, will be a spoiler for those who have not done this yet, so read at your own risk!) comes in the Trollshaws, at a lonely cottage on the shore of the Bruinen.  A fisherman, Garbert, and his wife Afanen live here with a new baby.  The night before you meet them, they experience something that would horrify any parent.  It is part of the questline "The Skulking Creature," and even the title of this particular quest is creepy and full of foreboding:  "The Open Window."

Thank you to LOTRO-Wiki for the dialogue, as I don't currently have a toon at the right level who has not already done this questline.  Afanen tells us:

Inspecting the window Gollum snuck through.
"Last night, just after dark, we had snuffed out the candles, locked the door, and we were just getting into bed, when I thought I heard something moving around in little Whelan's room. Whelan is just a baby, so you can understand my worry: I thought a bird might have flown into his room through the window, which we always leave open a crack so the breeze can come in, and I did not want him to be frightened. But when I went into his room to check on him, I saw that it was not a bird at all, but a monster: a terrible creeping thing hunched over bony legs! It was moving towards Whelan's cradle, and making a terrible noise from his throat.  Its intent was clear -- it meant to harm my baby! I let forth a cry such as you have never heard, and sprang towards it; I do not know what I thought to do, but the thing sprang out the window through which it had crawled, vanishing into the night. Little Whelan is fine, but what if that thing comes back? That is why Garbert has not collected his catch, and that is why we will not leave the house! Speak to my husband if you like, but you will not change his mind!" 

This isn't just Turbine being sensationalistically and darkly suggestive.  It too is straight from the Lore.  Way back at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf is telling Frodo the latest news of Gollum in the chapter, "The Shadow of the Past," he talks of the search of the Elves of Mirkwood to locate him:

"The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds.  The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood.  It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles."

Not to put too fine a point on it, Gollum was planning to make a dinner snack of Garbert and Afanen's young baby, but thanks to the fast attentions of this NPC mom, he was foiled.  This time.

To be fair, we also need to note that in the timeline in Appendix B, in August of 3018 it is stated that, "All trace of Gollum is lost.  It is thought that at about this time, being hunted by both the Elves and Sauron's servants, he took refuge in Moria; but when he had at last discovered the way to the West-gate he could not get out."  Since this leaves room for some uncertainty about the whereabouts of Gollum that fall, this gives Turbine the wiggle-room needed to place him skulking around the Trollshaws.  And very, very hungry.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring, Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings

January 26, 2012

The Ninth Horse of the Nazgûl

Volume I, Book 4 of the Epic storyline deals with Rivendell trying to figure out what happened to the Nazgûl following the flood of waters as Frodo was pursued at the Ford of Bruinen.  As I can't say often enough, if you are the sort to skip your Epic books, please go back and do them all!

Book 4 provides a nice creative opportunity for Tubrine to conjecture what became of one particular Nazgûl and his mount.  While the fate is never discovered in the trilogy, the entirety of Book 4 is built on a very real excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Following the arrival of Aragorn and the Hobbits in Rivendell, as well as guests from other realms such as Legolas from Mirkwood, Glóin and Gimli from the Lonely Mountain, Galdor from the Grey Havens sent by Círdan the Shipwright, and Boromir from Gondor, the Council of Elrond is held so that all key players can share their stories - regarding the Ring, regarding Gollum, regarding Saruman and what is happening in the other realms.  Many stories are told, and much discussion is held, until at the end Frodo offers to carry the Ring, although he does not know the way.

Elrond then sends scouts out to various parts of Middle Earth, some to contact friends in other places, others to scour the land and gather what information they can before the party of the Ring sets forth.  One piece of intelligence that is brought back has to do with the fate of the Nazgûl and their mounts:

"Three of the black horses had been found at once drowned in the flooded Ford.  On the rocks of the rapids below it searchers discovered the bodies of five more, and also a long black cloak, slashed and tattered.  Of the Black Riders no other trace was to be seen, and nowhere was their presence to be felt.  It seemed that they had vanished from the North.  'Eight out of the Nine are accounted for at least,' said Gandlaf.  'It is rash to be too sure, yet I think that we may hope now that the Ringwraiths were scattered, and have been obliged to return as best they could to their Master in Mordor, empty and shapeless.' "

From this bit of Lore mystery - one missing mount, one found cloak - Turbine is able to weave a story about what just might have happened to that Nazgûl and his mount.  Poor horsey. To learn that story, be sure to do Volume I, Book 4 or revisit it in a Reflecting Pool if it has been a long time.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

January 23, 2012

Hope in Middle Earth

"In the darkest of times, even the faintest glimmer of hope can make all the difference." 

So the Edhelharn tokens tell us.  (Edhelharn is Sindarin for "Elfstone.")

Hope really is found throughout Middle Earth, although the times are extremely dark.  In LOTRO, Hope is a good thing to have - it increases our morale, boosts the damage we do, makes healing easier.  Aside from the normal ways of increasing Hope - Edhelharn tokens, Horn of the Dwarrowdelf, Destiny Points, etc. - many places and NPC's around Middle Earth radiate an aura of Hope.

Leeowyn is feeling pretty hopeful.
Places like The Shire (+3) or Rivendell (+5) give a Hope buff just by being within their bounds.  A number of individuals radiate Hope as well: Tom Bombadil (+8), Elladan and Elrohir (+4).  You can run around and visit all of the main storyline NPC's in Rivendell and see how much each gives:  Bilbo (+2), around Sam, Merry, and Pippin you receive +3, Arwen (+4), Legolas and Gimli (+5), Aragorn and Boromir (+8, and I find Boromir's level of Hope very interesting, although remember at what point in the story he is while in Rivendell - the Ring hasn't had a chance to work on him yet), Gandalf and Elrond are both +9.  Interestingly when you enter the House of Elrond, your Rivendell Hope aura drops, and you are at 0 until you get near one of the NPC's.  Outside the House of Elrond, Glorfindel gives the highest individual Hope buff that I am aware of:  +10.  Standing near him your total is then +15 since the Hope aura of Rivendell is added to it.

If you have never noticed it before, go stand beside Frodo inside the House of Elrond.  You'll see Gandalf's +9 Hope buff, but you will also see an icon for +1 Dread - it is coming off the Ring, of course.

As I was re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring the other day, I came across a simple couple of sentences that jumped out at me, and immediately made me think of all the places and characters who boost Hope.  I don't know that this passage specifically played a part in the creation of Hope (and Dread) in Middle Earth, but it most definitely gives some Lore credence to that mechanism in the game:

"Indeed there is a power in Rivendell to withstand the might of Mordor, for a while:  and elsewhere other powers still dwell.  There is power, too, of another kind in the Shire."

The Hope stat gives us a good way to remember the positive power of those places and characters, and gives us a little extra boost to help see us through the task at hand.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

January 20, 2012

Cracked Eggs: A Retired Swedish Dwarf Cuisinier?

Read here for more information on the Cracked Eggs series!

For this Cracked Egg I have to give complete credit to Maliki, dps Mini, scourge of the Ettenmoors, and Council of Eriador leader extraordinaire.  Mal has been playing LOTRO since the end of closed beta - almost 5 years exactly!  Despite a strong aversion to Hobbits, the man knows this game very well.

When I invited kin members to send me ideas to include in my blog, Maliki told me to check out the chef, Bork, in the Free People's Camp at Fornost.  Get it?  Chef?  Bork?  Bork Bork Bork? 

I rode to the camp.  I saw Bork.  He was a Healer and Provisioner.  He didn't try to cook me a single thing.  I thought, "hmmmm...."

I asked Maliki if he was sure about this little Easter egg.  He assured me he was, and that way back when, the NPC Bork was a cook, and that it was his favorite Easter egg in the game.  I arched my eyebrow dubiously (he couldn't see me, after all) and then turned to Google.

And then found an entry on Allakazam that referenced Bork as a "Novice Cook." ORLY?

Mal kindly refrained from saying, "I told you so," and said at some point the designation of the NPC had been changed, he just didn't remember when or ever knew why.

After digging some more, I found the Release Notes that mentioned precisely that:

"Bork zee Cuuk" ves nefer a cuuk und zeereffure-a, hees ooccoopeshunel teetle-a hes chunged tu "Heeler & Prufeesiuner. Hurty flurty schnipp schnipp!" (Translated from Swedish Chef: "Bork the Cook" was never a cook and therefore, his occupational title has changed to "Healer & Provisioner.") 

I would never have known about this Easter egg, and am betting many of my readers would not also, if not for the impressive memory of my kin leader.  Thank you Maliki!

 But Turbine - why unBork the Bork?!?  This should also fall into the Uncandled Eggs category - another mystery!

McFarlane scolds Bork for changing careers.

The Old Forest

There is so much Lore to be found in the Old Forest, the subject could be broken up into several smaller posts.  But I like the flow of including everything in a single post, it feels as if we are immersing ourselves in the Old Forest right along with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin as they entered through the west gate.

The entrance itself is almost perfectly true to the story.  Entering from Buckland, we see the well-tended Hedge stretching from north to south, protecting the settlements from any encroachment from the Forest.  "A cutting had been made, at some distance from the Hedge, and went sloping gently down into the ground.  It had walls of brick at the sides, which rose steadily, until suddenly they arched over and formed a tunnel that dived deep under the Hedge and came out in the hollow on the other side."  As we pass through that tunnel and gate, the whole atmosphere becomes dark, brooding, and oppressive.

Once inside, we see that the trees do not crowd the Hedge, and find a long strip of bare land between it and the edge of the Forest, much as Merry described when telling of how the trees once attacked the Hedge long ago, when the Bucklanders then cut down and burned that strip to drive them back.  A path leads deeper in to a nearby clearing - the Bonfire Glade, the "wide bare space not far inside where the bonfire was made."

Traveling east and a little north beyond the Bonfire Glade, the ground begins to rise gradually in the direction the Hobbits were heading as they tried to find a way through the forest.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, the Hobbits work through the twisting and seemingly shifting paths and spot higher ground in the distance:  "Before them, but some distance off, there stood a green hill-top, treeless, rising like a bald head out of the encircling wood."  From this hill, they can see the edge of the Forest and the start of the Barrow Downs farther to the east.  In the game, I don't think it is unreasonable to assume this is Bald Hill, just beyond the Bonfire Glade. 

As the Hobbits try to continue forward, they are driven against their will to the east and south, toward the valley of the River Withywindle, which they had hoped to avoid.  Avoiding it was a great if hopeless idea, as it is here they encounter Old Man Willow.  Turbine represents him well, from his mouth-like crack to the effects of Drowsiness, Lethargy, and Sap Power, which reduces your movement speed and drains you of all power when in his vicinity.  Level 75's are not immune to this!  But woe unto the lower level toons who must battle with Old Man Willow's roots - no power means no dps, and the slower movement means you have a very good chance of falling victim to his crafty wooden wiles.

Fortunately you can still move, if you're still alive, and the river leads you back in the north easterly direction.  If you were so unfortunate to be defeated and have to release, there's a handy rez circle not far away which takes you to one of the most wonderful places in Middle Earth.  Near the rez circle, toward the eastern side of the Old Forest, sits the house of Tom Bombadil.  The Hobbits were fortunate to be rescued by Tom and taken back to his house - in the game, we must either travel there of our own accord, or be rezzed there. Ultimately, getting there is all that matters.

Tom Bombadil - he's merry, his jacket is bright blue, his boots yellow.  Check, check, and check.  Take note of your stats when you stand next to him, if you can get him to stand still long enough.  +8 Hope from being in Tom's aura.  And he is still very good at saving hapless noobs.  If you are one of those people who don't like running the Epic Book series, please go do Othrongroth if you've never done so.  Please.

The first thing that struck me upon entering the house of Tom Bombadil was the tableau opposite the door.  "In a chair, at the far side of the room facing the outer door, sat a woman....  About her feet in wide vessels of green and brown earthenware, white water-lilies were floating, so that she seemed to be enthroned in the midst of a pool."  Of course what we also notice on entering is - no Goldberry.  But her chair and bowls are there, awaiting her return, exactly as described.

Unfortunately we do not get to meet Goldberry in the house she shares with Tom, because in the game she is off in another part of the forest.  There may be slight liberty taken here with the Lore of Goldberry.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, it is stated by Tom that the Hobbits were fortunate to cross paths with him, as after that day he would not be venturing far out again until spring:

"And that proved well for you - for now I shall no longer
go down deep again along the forest-water,
not while the year is old.  Nor shall I be passing
Old Man Willow's house this side of spring-time,
not till the merry spring, when the River-daughter
dances down the withy-path to bathe in the water."

His song could conceivably be interpreted to mean that Goldberry would normally be staying in as well; during the Hobbit's stay, she is undergoing her washing day and autumn cleaning, which seems to indicate settling in to rest through the coming winter.  At the time the Hobbits visited Tom and Goldberry, it was late September, and we pass through the Old Forest in the game shortly after that time.  However, in the game we find her off in the far northwest corner of the Forest by Goldberry's Spring.  A little creative license?  Maybe, maybe not, and who cares - because Goldberry is out and about, she introduces us to a wonderful deed full of Lore about none other than the Entwives.

Technically the Lore extends only as far as giving a nod to the Entwives.  We ultimately do not know what happened to the mates of the Ents that we meet much farther along in the game.  In the trilogy, their fate is left uncertain.  Even Professor Tolkien himself purported to be uncertain of their fate, speculating in Letter 144:  

"I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance (Second Age 3429 – 3441) when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin..."

But that bit of uncertainty gives Turbine room to imagine perhaps a slightly brighter fate for eight of the Entwives.  Goldberry explains the deed titled "Flowers of the Old Forest:"

"Greetings, McFarlane. You have seen an unusual breed of flower that grows within the depths of the Old Forest? Their origins are most unusual.
As the old tale goes, eight Entwives came into this forest from the distant south many years ago and took shelter here beneath the boughs of the Old Forest. But darkness was everywhere in the lands in those times, and Tom thought it wise that the sisters should pass into the heart of the forest where no evil might reach.
The flowers I speak of mark the places where each of the Entwives disappeared into the weave of the forest, and it is possible to understand their nature in those places.
Only Tom knows when or if they will ever awaken from their slumber, and he will not tell even me!"

If you pursue this deed, once you locate a flower, you will be able to open your Deed Log and hover over the description for that flower.  You will find that each of the flowers is named after an Entwife, each with special qualities of her own, and often a glimpse of her fate.  I won't spoil these by posting the text - instead I strongly encourage you to complete the deed or, if you have already done it, to enter your Deed Log and read the description for each flower if you have never done so before.  It is a touching and creative way in which Turbine could provide some hope for one of the great mysteries of Middle Earth.

Clearly the Old Forest does not lack in Lore, from the smallest details such as Goldberry's chair and bowls to the many twisting paths, moving trees and grasping roots, and the characters that we absolutely expect to meet such as Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil.  Many people dislike questing in the Old Forest - it certainly isn't easy at-level, it's dark and gloomy, and a bit of a maze though easy enough to maneuver once you get the hang of it, and good maps exist! - but it is so worth the time and such an important part of the Lore of Middle Earth.  Don't miss out!

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

Cracked Eggs: A Killer Coney

Look here for an explanation of the Cracked Eggs series.

Deep in the heart of Enedwaith - a land full of terrors from Gaunt Lords to drakes and dragons and awful Shadow Wolves - lies an even greater terror that surpasses them all.  It may be smaller in size, but its thirst for blood is insatiable.

It's the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Wanderers in search of Ost Dunhoth will encounter this small white terror, properly guarding a nearby cave surrounded by destruction and pools of blood.  Monty Python fans will recognize it immediately and will Run Awaaaaaaaay!  I swear I didn't soil my armour the first time I saw him.

Don't let his 1 point of Morale fool you.  I haven't come across a Holy Handgrenade of Arthedain yet, so until that time I'm giving him a wide berth.

Bravo Turbine for this fun bit of Pythonesque tribute.

Props to my Council of Eriador kinmate, Noodly, for bumping this Cracked Egg up on my list!

January 19, 2012

Uncandled Eggs - Mystery Wagon in the Lone Lands

When questing in the Lone Lands near Ost Guruth, you will eventually be sent to clear out some orcs and wargs who have settled in to the ruins of Ost Cyrn, south of Ost Guruth.  Just between the road and Ost Cyrn, you'll find a capsized wagon.  Prior quests out of Iorvinas and Ost Guruth warn us that goblin attacks have been on the rise in the Lone Lands, so this wagon appears to have been one of countless casualties.

However, the appearance of this wagon grabbed my attention.  It looks a little familiar, doesn't it?  And if you move around to look at the back, you find a very round door - much like the wagons you see in Waymeet.

Is it possible a wagon of Hobbits could have been traveling through these lands far from The Shire and Bree-land?  Not inconceivable - trade happened, even in those days of danger.  I'm still very curious about this wagon.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the quests in this area mention it specifically.  If it is just meant to be a wreck by the side of the road, why not a cart?  Why something that matches the Hobbit wagon homes in Waymeet?

At the very least, it piques the imagination.  Anyone have an explanation?

January 17, 2012

Vagabond Hobbits in the Shire

Just what exactly is the deal with the wagons in Waymeet?

And if you hear Cher start singing in your head every time you ride through here, you are most definitely not the only one.

One of the many, many things I enjoy about Professor Tolkien's writings is the attention he spends on cultural and social issues.  This is woven throughout his writings on Middle Earth, in both broad and fine strokes.  From the differences between the races of Middle Earth to the the social hierarchies among Hobbits, such as we see between even Sam and Frodo, these distinctions permeate life in Middle Earth and make the stories all the richer.

So what is the deal with Waymeet?  Here we have Hobbits living in what seems to be a temporary and unsettled fashion (although we do have gardens and yards that obviously require some time and care), instead of living in a cozy hole or typical Hobbit-style house.

This seems to be the LOTRO version of Professor Tolkien's "tramps" of The Shire's socio-economic strata - "Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole in any bank and stay only as long as it suited them." 

We also see mention of the different socio-economic classes of Hobbits in the "Concerning Hobbits" prologue:  "All Hobbits had originally lived in holes in the ground, or so they believed, and in such dwellings they still felt most at home; but in the course of time they had been obliged to adopt other forms of abode.  Actually in The Shire in Bilbo's days it was, as a rule, only the richest and the poorest Hobbits that maintained the old custom.  The poorest went on living in burrows of the most primitive kind, mere holes indeed, with only one window or none; while the well-to-do still constructed more luxurious versions of the simple diggings of old."

Perhaps it was too difficult or confusing to try to represent a Hobbit "tramp" hole in the game, and these colorful wagons were a compromise.  The fact that they were added at all when in no way do they come close to being part of the essential and basic storyline attests to how well Turbine has included such seemingly irrelevant elements of lore.  They do shout, "I'm here - for now!  Where I'll be tomorrow, who knows!"

Even if this is a group of less prosperous Hobbits, they still face the same day-to-day concerns as everyone else - what dress to wear to a party, how those Minstrels can't be trusted.  And I particularly enjoy the hospitality of their campfires when it is time to cook!

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

The Statue in Michel Delving

I already briefly mentioned Marcho and Blanco in my post about the Hobbit archers at Fornost.

In the year 1601 of the Third Age, these Fallohide brothers left Bree and headed west.  After receiving permission from the King of Arthedain at Fornost (King Argeleb II, according to records in Gondor), Marcho and Blanco and a great company of Hobbits were permitted to cross the Bridge of Stonebows that spanned the Baranduin, and settle all of the lands to the west between the river and the Far Downs.  This of course became our beloved lands of The Shire.  It also marked Year One in the Shire-reckoning.

I also mention the special qualities of the Fallohide strain of Hobbits in A Hobbit Boating Adventure.  These brothers exemplify those Fallohide qualities.

The statue located in the center of Michel Delving, the chief township of The Shire, pays homage to these pioneer settlers of The Shire.  Looks a bit like some Lewis and Clark representations, doesn't it?

January 14, 2012


Sometimes the smallest touches can bring that warm fuzzy glow of recognition. 

After Strider and the Hobbits set forth from Bree, and are stuck several days in the Midgewater Marshes, one night in camp they see flashing lights far off in the eastern sky.  Eventually they come to Weathertop and the ruins of the old watchtower of Amon Sûl.  Exactly as in the chapter "A Knife in the Dark" from The Fellowship of the Ring, we see the grass inside the crumbled ring is black and scorched as if set on fire.  In the center is faithfully placed a cairn of stones.  At the foot of the stones (and not on top, as in the book), we find a lighter, flat stone with what appears to be some etchings on it.  Of course it is none other than the G Cirth, or Rune, left by Gandalf, followed by three hashes to suggest he was there on the 3rd of October, as Strider deduces.

If we wander around to the western side of Weathertop, we find the remains of a small camp with a spring nearby and, beyond some fallen rocks, stacks of firewood.  This is none other than a perfect picture of the camp Strider and the Hobbits stumbled upon, which Strider believed was recently visited by Rangers (who left the firewood) as well as Gandalf.

"They had explored the small dell and the surrounding slopes.  Not far away they found a spring of clear water in the hillside, and near it footprints not more than a day or two old.  In the dell itself they found recent traces of a fire, and other signs of a hasty camp.  There were some fallen rocks on the edge of the dell nearest to the hill.  Behind them Sam came upon a small store of firewood neatly stacked."

Weathertop and the Weather Hills were crucial ground in the millenia before the time of the War of the Ring.  It is said that Elendil stood here, watching for the Elven-king Gil-galad to come from the west, in the days of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age.  After the Kingdom of Arnor had been split into three separate kingdoms in year 861 of the Third Age, the area was highly desired by all three.  Not only did Weathertop command a wide view of the East Road and the lands around, but the tower of Amon Sûl contained one of the chief Palantir of the north.  Unfortunately, over the centuries Rhudaur was falling under the sway of Angmar, and waged war against Arthedain and Cardolan.  In the year 1409, Amon Sûl was burned and razed by a host from Angmar.

If Rhudaur sounds familiar from things you have seen in the game, there are very good reasons, particularly in this region.  Signets of Rhudaur sound familiar to anyone?  As should a series of quests in a nearby area...but that's a whole separate blog post!

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring and Appendix A:  The Lord of the Rings

January 11, 2012

Frostbluff Theatre

The last two Yule festivals brought an array of fun new activities to LOTRO.  A very popular and unique place to visit has been the Frostbluff Theatre.  Nowhere else can LOTRO players have the chance to formally perform (and critique!) for each other in such a manner.  The plays put on by the G.L.O.B.E. (Green Lily Orators, Bards, and Entertainers) company and the chance to act in one or be an audience member are more than enough draw in and of themselves.  But there's much more to this little theatre that we get to visit only once a year.

I have already mentioned how Turbine pays homage to one of their own characters in the Old Bloodtusk post.

The actual play we get to see and participate in, "The Curious Disappearance of Mad Baggins," carries much more subtle lore than might be seen at face value. It harks back to the strange events of several years ago, on the day of Bilbo's Eleventy-first birthday party.  This is of course the day he disappeared, and did so in a very strange and mysterious manner that caused quite a stir in and beyond The Shire for years afterward.

Remember, this play is the interpretation of local Hobbits who have stayed behind in The Shire, with virtually no idea of the events relating to the War of the Ring or the implications for their own world.   So we see the perspectives of the local Hobbits throughout the play.  Party goers expect to receive gold and jewels as party gifts, because naturally Bilbo is swimming in them after his great Adventure.

The antagonists are the Evil Dwarf and Gandalf the Villain.  Knowing all that we know, this is of course absurd.  But the Dwarves who spirited Bilbo away on their "adventure" are viewed by the other Hobbits as suspicious and up to no good.  The villainous Gandalf is their ringleader.  Gandalf is credited with having an "evil plan" up his sleeve.  The Evil Dwarf is described as "sour-looking," and their ultimate plan is to of course steal the great fortune that everyone believes Bilbo possesses.  Frodo is viewed as a bit of a dupe, and Bilbo is quite mental, though still the hero of the story.  Bilbo's disappearance is attributed to the two villains, the Dwarf and Gandalf, "doing away" with Bilbo and making off with his treasure.

The tendency for Hobbits to view outsiders with suspicion, including other Hobbits, and attribute less than noble motives to outsiders is found throughout The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Gandalf was generally held between distant respect for his skills with "fires, smokes, and lights" and some disdain for how he would lead innocent Hobbit lads and lasses "off into the Blue for mad adventures." 

The books do reflect these growing attitudes toward Gandalf - in the time after Bilbo's disappearance, Gandalf returns to Bag End to speak to Frodo and admits that his reputation is in decline:  "I find that I have become rather unpopular.  They say I am a nuisance and a disturber of the peace.  Some people are actually accusing me of spiriting Bilbo away, or worse.  If you want to know, there is supposed to be a plot between you and me to get hold of his wealth."  Although the local Hobbits believed Bilbo was mad (at the end of The Hobbit we are informed that upon his return to The Shire, he discovers he has lost his reputation) and odd, the blame for his disappearance was "mostly laid on Gandalf."  As for Dwarves, it is stated that companies of Dwarves who passed through The Shire to and from the Blue Mountains were the chief source of outside news for Hobbits, yet as a rule Dwarves would say little to the Hobbits, and the Hobbits would not go out of their way to speak to the Dwarves.  So the seemingly over-the-top play is actually quite representative of the attitudes and beliefs concerning Bilbo's disappearance and particularly Gandalf's role.

Another point of interest in the Frostbluff Theatre actually falls into my Cracked Egg category.  If you sit and watch the play, you may notice in between performances that there are a couple of Hobbit critics up in a balcony overlooking the stage.  These two sharp-witted gentleman are Waldo Tunnley and Statdor Proudfoot, who provide some entertaining commentary in between plays.  Possibly something about their exchanges - the insulting comments, the thorough enjoyment of their own humor - sounds a bit familiar?  Even the names sort of sound like...Waldorf and Statler, maybe?

By the way, if you look at the pictures hanging below Waldo and Statdor, look closely at the middle one.  If you approach it, the image just blurs out, but from a distance it looks kinda familiar now, doesn't it?  Now what would a bunch of Hobbits, who have presumably never traveled outside of The Shire, be doing with a painting of what most certainly looks to be Durin's Door, the western entrance into Moria?!  Mysterious, Turbine, very mysterious.

The painting in Frostbluff Theatre
Look a bit familiar to Turbine fans?

John Howe's conceptualization
Professor Tolkien's own rendering of Durin's Door

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit

January 8, 2012

Cracked Eggs - Old Bloodtusk

Read more about the Cracked Eggs series here.

At a couple points now Turbine has done a send-up of itself, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I will admit to being very sad and disappointed to discover that, after the launch of Free to Play and some content updates, Old Bloodtusk was never to be found in his tree trunk again.  Those of you who played before this time know, Bloodtusk was the temperamental boar who lived in a dead tree trunk outside Archet.  Little level 7's would have to take him on, with varying amounts of success.  It was not uncommon to have to stand there waiting in line to get him with other newbies (we were apparently either too ignorant to group up at that point in order to save time for one mob kill, or just stubbornly resistant to doing so). Inevitably some noob rock star would come in from nowhere and immediately tag him ahead of everyone else waiting to do so.  Ahhh, the old days.  I was lucky enough to take several toons through that area, and Bloodtusk was a regular part of it.  But since Free to Play, he's apparently moved on. His trunk is still there, though.
Nobody's home.

So imagine my pleasure when the Frostbluff Theatre first advertised its new play, an Ode to Old Bloodtusk, in 2010!  I sat excitedly in the theatre, waiting to see what would happen.  Only to be surprised by a change of plans and a play instead about that Mad Baggins.  I wanted to see Old Bloodtusk!  But I really enjoyed how cleverly they added that tiny nod to a popular part of their own game.  I still have high hopes that some day we really might see a Bloodtusk play.

Naturally I was even more excited when I arrived in Dunland a year later, and just outside Galtrev wandered into an area titled Bloodtusk's Den!  My heart raced as I imagined seeing Old Bloodtusk again after all this time and distance!  I eventually picked up the quest to go back to the Den, only to discover this was actually a descendant of Old Bloodtusk, that "old, grisled boar" who had wandered down from the north.  This youngster was called Big Bloodtusk.  How Big Bloodtusk came about so quickly, and grew so large in such a brief amount of time, I'm not quite sure.  But he certainly is a big boy and Old Bloodtusk must have been very proud.

I like how Turbine nested this little joke within a joke about one of their own characters.  He may have been a relatively small and insignificant mob, but for new baby toons, he was definitely a memorable one.  And it has been nice to cross paths with at least his reputation, and a descendant, on my journey south.  It also gives me hope that the now unemployed rep barter NPC's may have found jobs elsewhere in Middle Earth, and that we'll encounter them somewhere as well.

January 7, 2012

Uncandled Eggs - Ost Barandor

Read more about the Uncandled Eggs series here.

This post is dedicated to my first mystery - Ost Barandor.  I cannot connect this to any Tolkien lore.  Maybe I just have not looked in the correct places.  But it certainly seems like it SHOULD be straight from the lore somewhere!

Ost Barandor is a ruined fortress in the far northwest corner of Bree-land.  High above the rolling Brandy Hills, it isn't far from the spot where you find the giant Svalfang.  Don't confuse it with Ost Baranor, another ruins in the Chetwood near the Yellow Tree.

It is far from most quest lines and seldom visited except by node farmers and those curious enough to wonder about the high ruins they often see in the distance.  Nearby is Starmere Lake, another seemingly "actionless" area that is quite beautiful and tranquil.

The view from Ost Barandor stretches for miles around.  My favorite, as shown in the accompanying illustration, looks to the southeast.  To the right of the photo you can see the edge of the Old Forest, and the land slowly climbing up to the high hills surrounding the Barrow Downs.  You can also spot the farm overrun by brigands to the north of Adso's Camp.  A view of the northeast would look out over Starmere Lake toward the northern Bree-fields.  To the west of Ost Barandor, the view of the Brandywine Bridge is unfortunately obscured by hills and trees, but you can see stretches of the brown Brandywine River and The Shire on the other side.

Berephon of Turbine confirms that Ost Barandor translates as "Fortress of the Brown Land."  Baranduin is of course Sindarin for "golden-brown river," and the brown-toned water is most definitely rendered so in LOTRO.  The Hobbits had a bit of fun with the name at several points, calling it Branda-nîn, the "border water" in their Westron terms, and later Bralda-hîm, the "heady ale."

I can't help but wonder when this fortress was built, and by whom.  This region was once part of the Kingdom of Arnor long ago.  When Arnor was broken into smaller kingdoms, I believe this place would have been on the borderline of Arthedain and Cardolan.

In 1636, the Great Plague killed the King in Gondor and spread north and west, devastating much of the population.  The kingdom of Cardolan was particularly decimated with very few surviving.  One can't help but wonder if Ost Barandor was struck by that plague, leaving it deserted to fall into ruins.  Possibly the barrows of some of its inhabitants can be found inside those Downs to the southeast.

I'm more than happy to be proved wrong.  If anyone can provide references for Ost Barandor appearing anywhere in Tolkien lore, by all means please post here!  At any rate, if you have never bothered to explore this very quiet corner of Bree-land, the view is not to be missed.

Sources:  The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F

January 5, 2012

The Origin of Golf in Middle Earth

At this point in time, the only formal hobby available to us in LOTRO is fishing.  Yet Turbine still manages to give a nod to a lesser-known Hobbit hobby - golf.

According to The Hobbit as well as the timeline from Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, goblins from Mount Gram invaded The Shire in year 2747 of the Third Age.  The Hobbit defense in the Battle of the Green Fields was led by Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, the great-grand-uncle of the Old Took, whose name is also found in the place Bullroarer's Sward.

An uncommonly large and brave Hobbit (he was a Took, after all), he charged into the midst of the goblins and, swinging his wooden club, knocked the head off their leader, Golfimbul.  The head went flying and landed in a rabbit hole, and so was born the game of golf.  Oh yes, and the battle was won, as well!  No bogey on the bogey.

If you visit the town of Brockenborings in the northern part of The Shire, you'll see a large statue commemorating the Bullroarer's mighty backswing.

In a series of quests that begin in nearby Scary, you can end up finding what appears to be a goblin tooth in one of the many rabbit holes dotting the Green Fields north of town.  You may even go deep into the Quarry cave, braving the many spiders, and find the remains of Golfimbul's skull.  And in a later quest, your assistance is required to help get back the stolen club that the Bullroarer used.

Those players who are able to go on to Enedwaith will also find a chance to experience a little golf yourselves as emotes that can be obtained from the Grey Company - drive, putt, and chipp.  So next time you take a swing, remember Golfimbul's head flying and go for the hole in one!

January 4, 2012

Cracked Eggs - The Number One Threat to Middle Earth


Anyone who is a Stephen Colbert fan and LOTRO player probably saw that coming.  I am both, and I adore the way that Turbine planted a little bit of pop-culture in Middle Earth.  While I'd hate to see too many eggs from real life popping up like they do in other MMO's, these are just downright clever and funny.

If you have traveled to the edge of the Fields of Fornost and stumbled upon Mincham's Camp, you have probably met a man named Colbert the Mad.  He's the one we can thank for sending us after the very interesting lost girl, Idalene.  He also likes to rant about the evil bears that threaten Fornost; in other words, he's as obsessed about the villainous, soulless bears as his namesake.

As any baby toon who has stepped foot out of Archet into the greater open spaces of Bree-land understands - THEY. WILL. KILL. YOU!

But this isn't all - when entering the Giant Wing of Helegrod in the Misty Mountains, we encounter the most monstrous epitomy of evil itself - Coldbear (get it - coldBEAR - it's all in how you say the name).  How many noble raids have fallen to him and his bear cronies, one can only guess.

To make matters worse, even if you triumph over him, he COMES BACK as a Wight in the Glacier Fortress at Sari-Surma in Forochel!  Apparently bears do have souls, and they can be resurrected as Wights by Drugoth.  The horror!

Jokes aside (well, jokes included), Mr. Colbert is a true hardcore Lord of the Rings fan, as evidenced in a number of segments from his show.  The man owns Andúril, for goodness' sake!

He knows and respects his Tolkien material, and for that he has my deepest respect.

Read more about the Cracked Eggs series here.

January 3, 2012

The Elf Camp Above Woodhall

The description of Woodhall and the surrounding area as Frodo, Sam, and Pippin passed through always caught at my imagination.  Something about the name itself conjures up images of  a dark oak-wood under the stars, deep in the wilder Green Hill Country, quiet except for a mild late-summer breeze rustling the leaves, with the few yellow lights of the village blinking among the dark tree boles.  What better place to encounter Elves.

Such a fortunate encounter for the Hobbits occurs just as a Black Rider approaches, when the sound of the Elves' voices drove it away.  The three Hobbits are able to enjoy the hospitality and protection of the Elves that night within a true hall of woods.

Discussing the possible fate of the three Hobbits.
In LOTRO, on a high hill to the west of Woodhall, you'll find the Abandoned Elf Camp.  A lone Elf, Orthir, stands guard there, possibly passing through on his way to or from the Grey Havens.  Or more likely, passing through while conducting research on the trees in that part of Middle Earth.  For Orthir is a Scholar of the Trees, and you will meet him again much later in Lothlorien, concerned about the state of some of the trees there (where he also admits to having had reservations about my intentions and abilities, but we're all good now - ah the frankness of the Elves).  He's also adept at reading ancient runes found on a collar that identify a huge creature terrifying the Hobbits around Budgeford as being a Warg from Angmar (The Secret of the Collar, The Warg of Budgeford).

It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to believe that this may very well be the same Elf camp where the traveling Elves hosted Frodo, Sam, and Pippin.  Maybe Orthir was even among the party on that night.  As for the Elf in charge that night, the noble Gildor Inglorion, we are fortunate to cross paths with him again in the North Downs, inside the library of Lin Giliath.  You will meet him personally when you run Chapter 5 of Volume 1, Book 3.

It is Gildor Inglorion who gives us another of the famous lines from the Lord of the Rings:  "Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

Happy Birthday Professor Tolkien!

Professor Tolkien was born 120 years ago today, on January 3, 1892 - and we are all lucky for it.  Raise a glass or mug or pint today in his honor!

Or, if you don't have a mug in-game, lift a pipe in his name!

January 2, 2012

The House at Crickhollow

When Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry set off into the Old Forest on their journey east, Fatty Bolger remained behind.  The unsung "fifth Hobbit" feared to go toward the peril that the other four were heading into.  But he was a faithful friend of Frodo's nonetheless, and his often overlooked role was to stay back at the house Frodo had purchased in Crickhollow, carrying on the facade that Frodo was living there and simply keeping to himself.  He even kept some of Frodo's old clothes to help maintain the illusion.

On the night that the other Hobbits arrived in Bree, a "brooding threat" permeated the darkness of Buckland and around the house at Crickhollow.  In the hour just before dawn, three Black Riders descended on the house.  They were even polite enough to knock:

"Open, in the name of Mordor!" said a voice thin and menacing.

At a second blow the door yielded and fell back, with timbers burst and lock broken.  The black figures passed swiftly in.

Fortunately Fatty knew something was up, had the wisdom to leave the house before the Black Riders arrived, and at that moment was able to muster help through the Horn-call of Buckland.  Hearing the horns and the ensuing clamor of Hobbits gathering, the Black Riders fled, dropping a Hobbit-cloak as they retreated.  But they had already learned what they wished to know - Frodo was not at the house at Crickhollow.

If you visit Crickhollow, and you certainly will if you do Chapter 7 of Volume 1, Book 1, you can see the broken door and the dropped Hobbit-cloak, and have a chance to chat with Fatty Bolger as well.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring

Cracked Eggs

Just like Uncandled Eggs, the Cracked Eggs section will track non-Tolkien/Middle Earth eggs that Turbine has worked into the game. Sure, they are not lore-related or part of Middle Earth in any age.  But they can still be quite fun and clever, and worth a nod!

Watch for these in upcoming posts as well!

Uncandled Eggs

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to come from a rural area (I come from The Shire of the U.S., and beautiful it is!) you may not know what it means to "candle" an egg.  In simplest terms, it means to shine a bright light behind an egg so you could get some idea of the contents.  Of course the first candling lights were...candles.

From time to time I'll create posts that are "Uncandled Eggs" - these are places or happenings inside LOTRO's Middle Earth that make me think there must be some manner of lore link, but for the life of me I haven't been able to figure out what.  Could be nothing and just my imagination  Could be I haven't been researching in the right places.  But if anyone can add information to what I bring up in these posts, I'd very much welcome it!  Let's see if we can shine enough light in there to see what's what.

Watch for the first Uncandled Eggs posts in the very near future.