December 25, 2012

Bert, Tom, and Bill

[I just discovered that an article I had published long ago has apparently been sitting in draft form for a very long time!  I must have put it back into draft form somehow without realizing it, so keeping with the theme of The Hobbit movie release in the U.S., I guess the timing is good!]

Almost every player who has made it as far as the Trollshaws has come across Bilbo's Trolls - Bert, Tom, and Bill - at some point.  And most of us can remember how wonderful it was to discover such an iconic part of the Lore that ties us to both the Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit.  Right down to Bill still stooping over where the dawn caught him, to the bird's nest behind the ear of one of the others, they were such a treat to encounter.

One point of Lore that you don't often hear people mention, however, is the cave that the three trolls were using.  For it is indeed there, back up the path that heads northwest away from the three (and in the direction that the big boy, Dhit, paths for the bounty runs).

"They followed the tracks up the hill, until hidden by bushes they came on a big door of stone leading to a cave.  But they could not open it, not though they all pushed while Gandalf tried various incantations.  'Would this be any good?' asked Bilbo, when they were getting tired and angry.  'I found it on the ground where the trolls had their fight.'  He held out a largish key, though no doubt William had thought it very small and secret.  It must have fallen out of his pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.

'Why on earth didn't you mention it before?' they cried.  Gandalf grabbed it and fitted it into the key-hole.  Then the stone door swung back with one big push, and they all went inside.  There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell was in the air; but there was a good deal of food jumbled carelessly on shelves and on the ground, among an untidy litter of plunder, of all sorts from brass buttons to pots full of gold coins standing in a corner."

The troll cave is locked.
Among the treasure in this locked cave were various swords of all sizes and makes.  "Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts.  Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath."  Hello Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting.

The cave in LOTRO is unfortunately once again locked.  There does, however, remain one more bit of Lore attached to the three trolls which I have been unable to locate in the game, if it does even exist.  That is the spot where the company hid the treasure they took from the cave.

"Then they brought up their ponies, and carried away the pots of gold, and buried them very secretly not far from the rock by the river, putting a great many spells over them, just in case they ever had the chance to come back and recover them."

Late in The Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn and the Hobbits pass this spot after finding the trolls.  "After a few miles they came out on the top of a high bank above the Road.  At this point the Road had left the Hoarwell far behind in its narrow valley, and now clung close to the feet of the hills, rolling and winding eastward among woods and heather-covered slopes towards the Ford and the Mountains.  Not far down the bank Strider pointed out a stone in the grass.  On it roughly cut and now much weathered could still be seen dwarf-runes and secret marks."

The terrain in the Trollshaws of LOTRO does of course differ from how it appears in the books - the place where the trolls were camped seems as if it should have been much closer to the River Hoarwell - so it is difficult to guess precisely where the treasure could potentially have been placed by the company.  With so many other wonderful Lore nuggets, I would be surprised if that bit was left out, but perhaps it was.  If anyone has ever come across the place where the company left their treasure, please let me know!

Sources:  The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring

December 15, 2012

Down, Down, to Goblin Town!

With the U.S. release of The Hobbit movie this weekend, how could I not focus on Hobbit-related content?  And what better place to do so than Goblin Town?  Ho, ho, my lad!

I have been re-reading The Hobbit in anticipation of the movie, and numerous times I have been struck with how well LOTRO incorporates descriptions from that book, such as Thorin's party making their way toward Rivendell.  My very first time I tried to find Rivendell, attempting a run on a much-too-small Hunter, I encountered my first real "roadless road" and got horribly lost as soon as I crossed the Bruinen.  And it took me several journeys before I finally grasped the way; the pathless, steep and wild slopes heading higher and higher into the mountains are dead on.  Sure, it seems clear enough now, but I was constantly getting lost at first!

The Black Crack
They did a fantastic job with Goblin Town, filling it with references to The Hobbit that are great fun for fans to encounter.  And of course we will get to see even more with Update 9 this Monday.

As it is now, it's a formidable place for toons in the upper 40's-50's, and can be a tedious maze even for level 85's who can otherwise pass unmolested.  It is also the perfect place to farm Rivendell reputation drops as well as pick up some interesting armour and shields with unique appearances.  Be sure to empty your bags before you go!  I have taken a few toons through to finish all of the quests and deeds now, and use a fantastic map I found on the LOTRO Vault website.

If we prepare properly for our trip to Goblin Town, we get to pick up some quests from old friends from The Hobbit before we leave.  We get to talk to Gloin and Dwalin before heading out.  Bilbo certainly has some special requests for us to take care of on his behalf.  One of his tasks starts a deed where we get to collect the buttons he lost while squeezing through a doorway to escape from Gollum and Goblin Town, which I have always thought to be one of the most charming connections to The Hobbit. "It was still ajar, but a goblin had pushed it nearly to.  Bilbo struggled but he could not move it.  He tried to squeeze through the crack.  He squeezed and squeezed, and he stuck!  It was awful.  His buttons had got wedged on the edge of the door and the door-post.... He gave a terrific squirm.  Buttons burst off in all directions.  He was through, with a torn coat and waistcoat, leaping down the steps like a goat, while bewildered goblins were still picking up his nice brass buttons on the doorstep."

Ever wonder what happened to the other surviving Dwarves from Thorin's expedition?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to encounter them at some point as well?  We were able to play as the doomed Ori during the session play "We Cannot Get Out."  We also got to encounter Dori briefly at a few points in LOTRO.  We know that Bifur, who survived the Battle of Five Armies and supposedly stayed in Erebor, is dad to our Bosi and granddad to Bori of LOTRO Moria fame.  And of course we see an ale called Bombur's Beard.  I wonder if any of the other survivors will be found in the new Erebor instances/raids that are slated to be released in the spring?  Several of them supposedly stuck around that area after the Battle of the Five Armies.

At any rate, back to Goblin Town!  Most know there are two routes in:  One through the Mountain's Throat and one through the more hidden Black Crack.  As the book states, "That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves: you don't now how far they go back, sometimes, or where a passage behind may lead to, or what is waiting for you inside."  Indeed.

Once inside we discover that Goblin Town is, naturally, again filled with Goblins.  There's a new Great Goblin in charge, with terrible posture.  And these Goblins and their friends have not forgotten how Thorin and company killed their prior Great Goblin, gave them the slip, and then trounced them during the Battle of Five Armies.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Deep inside Goblin Town can be found some wonderful cave art created by the goblins.  One picture commemorates a particularly frustrating moment for them, after the Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf had escaped and climbed up trees to escape them and the local Wargs.  We see a wonderful image of the company being rescued from the burning trees by the Eagles, cheating the Goblins and Wargs out of nice crispy fried Dwarf.

Further down the long, winding passages of Goblin Town, we encounter an image that shows us what Goblin nightmares might look like.  We of course know him as Gollum, or Sméagol.  To the Goblins, it was the hideous creature who lurked in the darkness, unseen, but preyed upon them as yummy snacks now and then.  I'd have nightmares, too.

One other piece of cave art has always puzzled me, and I have studied it several times trying to figure out exactly what it represents.  It is the image of what appears to be a large number of Goblins or Orcs battling Dwarves.  A particularly large Goblin, wearing what could be a crown, is shown dual-wielding two swords or daggers and stabbing a Dwarf.  The image appears to show what could be interpreted as rock formations, or the inside of a cave, and looks as if the Goblins are streaming out toward the Dwarves, who are running outside into a wooded area.  There seems to be a bit of fire going on inside as well.  When I first saw this art, I wasn't paying close attention, and thought it represented the Great Goblin attacking Thorin's party.  But on further inspection during subsequent visits to Goblin Town, I realized there are far more than 13 Dwarves represented here, and no Wizard or Hobbit, so I'm quite certain that isn't what it is meant to represent.

So I started thinking about other Goblin/Orc vs. Dwarf conflicts in the Lore.  There is of course the Battle of Five Armies with the Goblins led by Bolg, son of Azog, but again there are things missing that would be significant:  Men, Elves, Eagles, a representation of the Lonely Mountain.

I suspect the picture is set in Moria.  Several significant things have happened there, such as Thrór, Thorin's grandpa, venturing in with Nár as his sole companion (yes, our Nár from Nár's Peak!) and getting his head whacked off by Azog.  But that just involved the two Dwarves, and Nár escaped to tell of the tale.  "When Thrór came to Moria, the Gate was open.  Nár begged him to beware, but he took no heed of him, and walked proudly in as an heir that returns.  But he did not come back. Nár stayed near by for many days in hiding.  One day he heard a loud shout and the blare of a horn, and a body was flung out on the steps.  Fearing that it was Thrór, he began to creep near, but there came a voice from within the gate:  "Come on, beardling! We can see you.  But there is no need to be afraid today.  We need you as a messenger."  Thus Nár, after seeing the body and severed hear of Thrór with "AZOG" branded on the forehead, was allowed to live and carry the tale back to Thráin.  No wonder he was a little mad ever since.
Unhappy Dwarves and One Big Orc

There is of course also the ill-fated attempt of Balin, along with Ori and Óin and many other Dwarves, to resettle Moria.  They made it five years before Balin was killed by an Orc archer in the Dimrill Dale.  We know about this and the ensuing siege thanks to Ori and the book left in the Chamber of Mazarbul.  Except, as Ori made clear, they were stuck inside and could not get out, so this too does not match the images in this last cave painting.

Going back to the death of Thrór, Thráin decided to take revenge, and began the long War of the Dwarves and Orcs, routing out and killing Orcs "from Gundabad to the Gladden" as revenge and to try to find Azog.  Finally the remaining Orcs took refuge in Moria, and the large company of Dwarves arrived at Azanulbizar, what we also know as Nanduhirion or the Dimrill Dale.  At first the Orcs had the upper hand and fought mercilessly, and the Dwarves were "driven into a wood of great trees that then still grew not far from Kheled-zaram."  Thráin's son Frerin was slain (Frerin's Court, anyone?) as well as Fundin, and both Thráin and Thorin were wounded.  The arrival of the Dwarves from the Iron Hills, led by Náin, helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the Dwarves.  This drew out Azog, "a great Orc with an iron-clad head," who slew Náin but was in turn beheaded by his son Dáin, ending the Battle of Azanulbizar.  Although this Battle ended badly for the Orcs and particularly for Azog, I think there are enough clues in the picture to make this the  most likely event represented.  They just represented the part they liked to remember most.

Gollum's Island
In the far, far reaches of Goblin Town, we of course find Gollum's Cave.  Once you get to the creepy artwork above, you know you are close.  There inside the cave is the lake, and little island littered with fishbones.  And a hut.  Now, this hut - I have no memory of this hut.  In Rivendell, Bilbo even makes mention of having forgotten about it since he had never been too close to it when he bestows the quest to go write a description of Gollum's Cave.  I cannot find a hut mentioned anywhere I've looked in The Hobbit or in the Fellowship of the Ring.  Where am I missing this hut???  It's driving me crazy!

I'm looking forward to the new instance with the Great Goblin, and seeing how his area has been revamped.  I wish everyone enjoyment of the new movie as well as Update 9!