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|
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.|
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.
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!