30 June 2012

'Hobbit' Stars Confirmed for Comic-Con 2012

It was recently confirmed on The Hobbit films’ Facebook page that the cast and crew will not only be attending this year’s Comic-Con – which comes just one week after the cast and crew hold their wrap party –  but they will also be showing fans new footage from the films.

The official announcement reads:  “Join director Peter Jackson, producer Philippa Boyens, Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis and Richard Armitage for a special look at the upcoming film on Saturday, July 14th, in Hall H.”
The world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be held in Wellington, New Zealand on November 28; the film will be released in theatres on December 14.

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 365: Carcharoth

Huan's Leap; Ted Nasmith

Carcharoth (S. ‘The Red Maw’; also called Anfauglir, ‘Jaws of Thirst’) was a Wolf of Angband and Guardian of the Gates of Morgoth’s Realm in the North. In origin, he was a cub of the werewolf Draugluin; but at an early age, he was taken by Morgoth, who feared the power of the great HoundHuan. It was said that the great Hound would only fall to the greatest Wolf who ever lived, and so Morgoth bred Carcharoth to be the bane of Huan. In Morgoth’s care, he was fed the flesh of Man and Elf and raised into evil ways, his greatness surpassing all other wolves.

When Beren and Lúthien came to Angband, they were challenged by Carcharoth, guardian of the gate; but Lúthien cast a spell on the wolf, putting him into a temporary state of sleep. Once they had recovered the Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, they found the beast had awoken and would not be enchanted a second time. Beren, attempting to ward off Carcharoth with the power of the Jewel, lost his hand – and the Silmaril – to the great wolf. But the Silmaril, which burned the flesh of the wicked, drove the beast mad with pain. Carcharoth fled, ravaging the lands in his path, until finally he came to Doriath, breaking through the ring of enchantment that had been set upon the land. He was caught in the Forest of Neldoreth by hunters from Menegroth, and in the Hunting of the Wolf, slew both Beren and Huan (thus fulfilling the prophecy), though he was in turn slain by the great Hound before he died. Upon his death, Carcharoth’s body was disemboweled and the Silmaril recovered.

29 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 364: Mathoms

In Hobbit culture, a mathom was an object (of any value) for which no use could be found or remembered, but which the owner was unwilling to discard. Weapons and other gears of war, frequently displayed as trophies, were among the many types of mathoms to be found. Hobbit holes were typically crowded with mathoms, gifts that had been given from one Hobbit to the next (typically at birthdays); they may even have passed through so many hands that they had found their way back to their original owner.

The Mathom-house was the Shire’s chief museum, located in Michel Delving; it was here that old or unwanted mathoms were kept.  Bilbo loaned his mithril-mail to the Mathom-house, though he reclaimed it shortly before leaving the Shire in TA 3001. 

The Mathom-house (LOTRO); source: LOTRO-Wiki

28 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 363: Kings' Reckoning

After the creation of their realm at the beginning of the Second Age, the Dúnedain of Númenor devised a calendar, largely based upon the Calendar of Imladris used by the Elves. By the latter part of the Third Age, a modified version of this calendar had been adopted by almost all folk using Westron (Common Speech).


The Elves of Middle-earth had devised the first forms of calendars, which were based primarily upon observed cycles of growth; their divisions of time were chosen more for ritual, rather than practical, reasons. It was because of this system, in which one Elven year was equivalent to 144 mortal years, that the early Númenoreans developed a calendar which fit their own needs.

They adopted the Eldarin cycle of 365 days – known as the loa, or ‘growth’ – and retained the Mannish custom of beginning this cycle at Yule (compared to the Elves, for whom the new cycle began mid-spring). They also abandoned two of the six Elvish seasons – ‘fading’ and ‘stirring’ – and recognised instead just spring, summer, autumn, and winter. (Unlike the Elven seasons, these were unfixed in length and simply indicated a change in temperature, length of day, or vegetation.)

To better simplify their 365-day calendar year, the Dúnedain divided their loa into twelve months (astar) of nearly equal length (ten months had 30 days; two had 31). Additionally, there were five Eldarin days which belonged to no season specifically; these were reduced to three and then redistributed across the calendar. Another day – Eärenya, ‘Sea-Day’ – was added to produce a seven-day week, and the Dúnedain now began to recognise the day as beginning at sunrise and ending at sunset, rather than from sunset to sunset as the Elves did.

Quenya was the language most commonly used for the names of the months, though the Dúnedain often used their Sindarin forms, and Hobbits typically used Mannish ones.


The calendar for one loa was:

(Q) Yestarë, (S) Minien  – first day

(Q) Narvinyë, (S) Narwain, [ January]  – “New Sun,” 30 days  
(Q) Nénimë, (S) Nínui, [February] – “Watery,” 30 days
(Q) Súlìmë, (S) Gwaeron, [March]  – “Windy,” 30 days
(Q) Víressë, (S) Gwirith, [April]  – “New/young/budding,” 30 days
(Q) Lótessë, (S) Lothron, [May] – “Flower month,” 30 days
(Q) Náríë, (S) Nórui, [June] – “Sunny,” 31 days

Loëndë – Midsummer’s Day (replaced by two Enderi – middle days – during a leap year, which occurred every fourth year; excluding the last year of a century)

(Q) Cermië, (S) Cerveth, [July] – “Cutting,” 31 days
(Q) Urimë, (S) Urui, [August] – “Hot,” 30 days
(Q) Yavannië, (S) Ivanneth, [September] – “Fruit-giving,” 30 days
(Q) Narquelië, (S) Narbelet, [October] – “Sun-fading,” 30 days
(Q) Hísimë, (S) Hithui, [November] – “Misty,” 30 days
(Q) Ringarë, (S) Girithron, [December] – “Cold/shivering month,” 30 days

(Q) Mettarë, (S) Penninor – last day


The days of the week, in their Quenya/Sindarin/Mannish forms, are:

(Q) Elenya, (S) Orgilion – Starday
(Q) Anarya, (S) Oranor – Sunday
(Q) Isilya, (S) Orithil – Moonday
(Q) Aldëa, (S) Orgaladh – Treeday
(Q) Menelya, (S) Ormenel – Heavenday
(Q) Valanya or Tárion, (S) Orbelain or Rodyn) – Valarday
(Q) Eärenya, (S) Oraearon – Seaday


Those Númenoreans who survived the Downfall brought their Calendar back to Middle-earth with them. For the first two thousand years, the Kings’ Reckoning was left unchanged; but after the passing of Gondor’s last King, the Steward Mardil introduced a revised Calendar (TA 2060), known as the Stewards’ Reckoning. (In reality, this new Calendar was just the Númenorean system with its accumulated deficits of 5500 years re-adjusted.) In this form, the Calendar was adopted by most of the other Westron-speaking peoples of Middle-earth. The Hobbits, however, preserved the original Kings’ Reckoning, which they had used in the Shire prior to the fall of the North-kingdom, modifying it only slightly for their own use.

A New Reckoning was adopted in TA 3019 by the Reunited Kingdom. Beginning on March 25, the date of the Downfall of Sauron, this calendar corresponded more closely to the spring beginning of the Elven calendar.

27 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 362: Beleriand

Map of Beleriand; Encyclopedia of Arda

Beleriand (S. ‘Balar-land’; also called the Land of the Elves) was the home of the Grey-elves during the Elder Days of Middle-earth, and also the most westerly Elven-realm in all of Middle-earth. ‘Beleriand’ originally referred to the area surrounding the Bay of Balar, and was home to the Sindar of Doriath, but later incorporated all the lands to the west of the Ered Luin and south of the Ered Wethrin – joining the Elves of Doriath were the Laiquendi of Ossiriand, the Noldor of Nargothrond, Himlad, East Beleriand, and Thargelion, and the Edain. The chief river of Beleriand, the Sirion, divided the land into East and West Beleriand.

The land was gradually overrun by the forces of Morgoth, and all of Beleriand – save the part of Ossiriand later known as Lindon – was submerged in the Great Battle at the end of the First Age.

26 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 361: Ioreth


Ioreth (S. ‘Old woman’) was a Woman of Gondor, originally from Imloth Melui in the province of Lossarnach. During the time of the War of the Ring, she was the eldest of the women serving in the Houses of Healing.  Well-versed in old lore, her knowledge proved helpful in the healing of Faramir. Her wisdom was exceeded only by her talkative nature, which was of great annoyance to Gandalf and Aragorn.  

25 June 2012

Lord of the Rings LEGOs!!

Yesterday, I went back about ten years in time and revisited my childhood LEGO Maniac persona. Excitedly, I purchased three of the five available sets in-store from Toys 'R Us and quickly rushed home to set them up.


The "Attack on Weathertop" set was the most fun to build. I love LEGO's attention to detail - miniature statues on the top and bottom floors, a rat (not pictured) to spice up the scene, the fruits and vegetables near the campfire, and the One Ring in Frodo's hand. There's even a trap door up top, which I thought was very neat!


Next, I built the "Shelob Attacks" set. Building a giant spider from scratch was fantastic, and she even came with a roll of string to spin a web or wrap up some tasty Hobbitses. Unfortunately, Sam's back is turned, but if it weren't, you'd be able to see the Phial of Galadriel in his hand. So cool!


And last but certainly not least, the "Gandalf Arrives" set. Simple, but fun.

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 360: Mardil Voronwë

Mardil (Q. ‘Friend of the House’), the eldest son of Steward Vorondil (the Hunter), was the first Ruling Steward of Gondor (TA 2050-80). He had been the Steward of King Eärnil II and King Eärnur, and had dissuaded the latter from accepting the Lord of the Nazgûl’s challenge. But in 2050, King Eärnur could not be restrained, and when he rode to Minas Morgul and never returned, Mardil took up rule of the South-kingdom (with the approval of all) to prevent civil war among the royal family.

Mardil was a wise ruler who helped ease the South-kingdom through the transitional period that followed after the disappearance of Eärnur. At the same time, he brought great honour and renown to his own House, and it was he who introduced the Stewards’ Reckoning, a series of minor changes to the King’s Reckoning calendar system. (This calendar was eventually adopted by most of the Westron-speaking folk of Middle-earth.)

Because of his faithfulness, he was called Mardil Voronwë, the Steadfast.  For almost a thousand years after his reign, the Ruling Stewardship passed to Mardil’s heirs, but in all that time, no Steward ever called himself King.

24 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 359: The Watcher in the Water

The Watcher in The Fellowship of the Ring

The Watcher in the Water (also called “The Watcher”) was a creature with many tentacles which guarded the West Gate of Moria and lived in a lake created by its damming of the Sirannon. Very little is known about this creature, even to Gandalf. It may have been related to the nameless things below Khazad-dûm, and might have escaped when the Balrog was let loose.  It was definitely an evil creature, though it is unknown whether or not it was under the control of Sauron or the Balrog. However, when it attacked the Fellowship as they entered Moria, Gandalf noted that where Frodo had been seized first, there may have been a connection to Sauron in some way, or at the very least the Watcher sensed that the One Ring was present.

23 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 358: Freca

Freca, as depicted in the LOTR TCG

Freca, father of Wulf, was a Man of mixed blood – Rohirric and Dunlending – and one of the chieftains of Rohan during the reign of Helm Hammerhand.

A very rich and powerful Man, he owned much of the land near the river Adorn, and eventually became independent of the King. He attended one of the King’s councils in TA 2754 for the sole purpose of proposing a marriage between his own son, Wulf, and the King’s daughter – which Helm refused, being deeply distrustful of Freca (in addition to Freca’s being of mixed blood).

Upon insulting the King for denying the marriage proposal, Freca was slain by Helm himself. His followers allied themselves with the Dunlendings, and four years later they invaded the Mark.

Want to Win a Ring from the Original Ringmakers?

If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings films, then you’ve seen the incredible work the crafters at Jens Hansen Jewellers have done. Have the films left you desiring your own Ring of Power? Well here’s your chance to win one!  

What You Could Win
  • A silver movie ring made by Jens Hansen Jewellers
  • A silver chain – the same as Frodo’s
  • The official Certificate of Origin, which proves that you own the real movie ring.
How to Enter
  • You must be following them on Tumblr
  • Reblog their advertisement (as many times as you’d like)
  • Check out their website, theringmaker.co.nz, for a special page, where you can sign up for their newsletter containing special offers for those on Tumblr

This competition ends on 12 July 2012, at which time a winner will be announced. 

22 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 357: Ar-Pharazôn the Golden

Ar-Pharazôn (Adunaic, ‘golden’ from the Q. Tar-Calion), the son of Gimilkhâd and nephew of Tar-Palantir, was the twenty-fourth and last King of Númenor (SA 3255-3319). After his father had died, he led the rebellious Númenoreans during his Uncle’s reign. When Tar-Palantir died, he forced the heiress, Tar-Míriel, to marry him despite their blood relation, and he then usurped the sceptre.

Ar-Pharazôn was an ambitious man and a popular king. The high point of his reign occurred in 3261, when he sent a mighty army to Middle-earth to challenge Sauron (who was at the height of his power). But in his pride, Ar-Pharazôn instead brought Sauron back to Númenor as prisoner, and he and his court quickly fell under the Shadow. The next fifty years of Ar-Pharazôn’s reign saw civil chaos and increased persecution of those Faithful to the Eldar. 

Under Sauron’s influence, Ar-Pharazôn cut down Nimloth and worshiped Melkor with human sacrifices; following these incidents, he was persuaded to attack Valinor and forcefully obtain immortality. For nine years, he built the Great Armament and in 3319 landed on the forbidden shore of Aman the Blessed Realm. Ar-Pharazôn, with his landing party, was entombed in the Caves of the Forgotten by the Change of the World, and Númenor was destroyed.  

21 June 2012

LOTRO Quest

In this month's LOTRO Quest (put together by the amazing Bandoras), we all met up at the Rabbit Room of the Bird and Baby in Michel Delving. From there, we ventured north to Tinnundir, stopping along the way to check out various landmarks and discuss some of the wonderful lore of Middle-earth.

(Click to enlarge photos)

Our first group photo in the Rabbit Room

Waymeet: Hobbit trailer park, or gypsies?

Picking on Ted Sandyman

At the statue of Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, inventor of the game of golf

Out of nowhere, we were attacked by a pack of wolves - and deer!


  We met Ronald Dwale (aka Tolkien) in Dwalling


 Greeting other players once we arrived at Tinnundir



 After arriving at Tinnundir, we decided to swim to Annúminas


 The Tomb of Elendil

 And one last group photo to end a wonderful evening!

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 356: Gwaith-i-Mírdain

The Gwaith-i-Mírdain (S. ‘People of the Jewel-smiths’; also called the Elven-smiths) were the Noldor of Eregion and the folk of Celebrimor (grandson of Fëanor).  The height of their craft was the making of the Rings of Power.

The Noldor had settled Eregion around SA 750, in part due to its proximity to the mithril-mine of Khazad-dûm. The craftsmen of Eregion worked together with Durin’s Folk for nearly a thousand years; and it was at this time that the friendship and prosperity among the Elves and Dwarves were at their greatest.

At the ending of the First Age, they were the most skillful Elven craftsmen in all mortal lands, their skill being second only to Fëanor. The making of the Rings of Power was the greatest of their achievements, but also their downfall. When Sauron, disguised as Annatar, approached them around 1200, the Gwaith-i-Mirdain accepted his gifts and instruction. Under Sauron’s direction, nearly 1500 craftsmen forged the Rings of Power (though Celebrimor alone forged the Three Rings). Upon the completion of the Rings in 1590, Sauron betrayed the Noldor, forging the One Ring in secret. When Celebrimor discovered this, the Three Rings were hidden; but by now, Sauron had turned to open war. Eregion was overrun in 1697 and Celebrimor and most of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain slain. 

20 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 355: Eärnur

Eärnur (Q. ‘Sea-friend’), son of Eärnil II, was the thirty-third King of Gondor, and the last to take the throne until the Restoration of the Kingship at the end of the Third Age.

While Captain of Gondor, he was sent by his father Eärnil to Arthedain to aid the Dúnedain of the North against Angmar. With an Elf-host led by Círdan (and reinforcements led by Glorfindel), the Army of Gondor defeated the forces of Angmar in the Battle of Fornost. But Eärnur was shamed when his horse bolted from the presence of the Witch King, who had now become his greatest enemy.  

After Eärnur became King of Gondor, the Witch King – now in Minas Morgul and embittered by his defeat – challenged him to personal battle, but the King was restrained by the Steward Mardil. Seven years later, the Witch King again taunted the King, and this time Eärnur, with a small escort, rode to Minas Morgul to meet him in battle and never returned. 

Having taken no wife and thus producing no heir, the Line of Anárion was ended upon Eärnur’s death. Mardil took office after the King’s death, though neither he nor his Heirs – the Ruling Stewards – referred to themselves as King or sat upon the Throne.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-Ray Sometime in Mid-2013


During yesterday’s Holiday Parks Association of New Zealand Conference, head of Tourism New Zealand Kevin Bowler revealed that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will make its Blu-ray and DVD debut in mid-2013.

Included in the Blu-ray and DVD sets will be a New Zealand tourism feature (directed by Peter Jackson).

“Internationally, we really want people to make the connection The Hobbit films were filmed here in New Zealand,” said Bowler. “Our research has found that there is a very high level of awareness to that fact, which is much broader than in what might be called... the geeky community.”

While a specific release date has not been confirmed, Bowler hopes that this will encourage even more tourists to visit the country. (A year after the release of The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, surveys discovered that six percent of New Zealand tourists had been persuaded to some extent by the Lord of the Rings films; one percent of these arrivals were specifically because of the films.)

At least 300 journalists will arrive in Wellington for the November premiere of An Unexpected Journey (typically, Tourism New Zealand brings in about 400 journalists per year).

“If that was to happen next year, we'd have 150,000 people floating around the country because of the first Hobbit film, which is great.”

19 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 354: Amandil

Amandil, father of Elendil the Tall, was the eighteenth and last Lord of Andúnië and the last leader of the Faithful – those Númenoreans who were still loyal to the traditions of the Eldar. He was a direct descendant of Lady Silmariën and, therefore, from Elros Tar-Minyatur, the founder of Númenor; this lineage, combined with his long friendship with Ar-Pharazôn the king, provided him with the opportunity to counsel the king in matters of policy in his later days. But after Pharazôn sent a great fleet which later returned with Sauron the Great as their prisoner, all of the king’s subjects (save Amandil) were influenced to begin worshipping Melkor.  As Sauron’s favour grew, Amandil began to withdraw from the king’s presence. He went to Rómenna and secretly gathered all of the Faithful.

In his old age, Amandil heard of the Great Armament which was being built and the King’s plans to attack Aman. After warning his son Elendil about the great disaster that lay ahead, he then counseled his son to prepare ships as a means of escape when the time came. Then Amandil, with three trusted companions, sailed to Aman to seek aid from Manwë and beg the Valar for mercy (emulating his forefather Eärendil), but was never again heard from.

18 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 353: the Maiar

The Maiar (also called the People of the Valar; sing. Maia) were those of the lesser Ainur who chose to enter Eä. They tended Arda under the direction of the Valar, though some – notably Sauron and the Valaraukar (Balrogs) – were seduced away from their allegiance by Melkor.

Though the Maiar were far greater in number than the Valar, only eight of those most loyal are named:

Ilmarë – the Handmaid of Varda

Eönwë – the Herald of Manwë

Ossë, Uinen, and Salmar – these Maiair served Ulmo, Lord of the Sea

Melian – in the following of Vana and Estë, she came to Middle-earth, wedded Thingol, and passed on a strain of the Ainur to the Children of Ilúvatar via their daughter Lúthien

Olórin – a Maia of Nienna and the wisest and greatest of the Istari who came to Middle-earth

Arien – originally served Vana but was chosen to steer the Sun through the Heavens

Tilion – follower of Oromë who afterwards became the Steersman of the Moon

Additionally, the Five Wizards (Istari) were Maiar of Valinor in their origins.

17 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 352: the Ainur

The Ainur (Q. ‘Holy Ones’; sing. Ainu) were the angelic spirits and offspring of the thought of Ilúvatar, brought into being before the Beginning. They participated in the Creation and made and ordered the World (Arda) in preparation for the arrival of the Children of Ilúvatar. Though they are beings of spirit with no innate forms, they had kinship with each other and had gender. While most of the Ainur dwelt with Ilúvatar, some – such as the Valar and Maiar – came to Eä to fulfill the Ainulindalë, and some others – Ungoliant and the Balrogs – came to hinder the Ainulindalë and destroy the Light. Of the latter group, Melkor and Sauron were both cast out into the Void.

16 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 351: the Sackville-Bagginses

Lobelia and Otho in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring

The Sackville-Bagginses were an obnoxious family of Hobbits living in the Shire, founded by Otho (son of Longo Baggins and Camellia Sackville). The family died out after just two generations.

Otho
Otho, founder of the Sackville-Baggins family of Hobbits, was the cousin of Bilbo Baggins. He is remembered as being greedy, ill-tempered, and offensive. He married Lobelia Bracegirdle and they had one son: Lotho, who took over the clan upon Otho’s death in TA 3012.  

Lobelia
Born in Hardbottle, Lobelia, a Bracegirdle, was known for having a shrewish temper. She married Otho Sackville-Baggins and bore him a son, Lotho. For most of her life, she tried to gain possession of Bag End from Bilbo and Frodo until the latter finally sold it to her in TA 3018. When Saruman took control of the Shire, Lobelia was imprisoned in the Lockholes after arguing with some of the Chief’s Men. Though she was a vindictive Hobbit, she was also tough; during the occupation of the Shire, she gained much respect from her fellow Hobbits, and upon her release from the Lockholes, she found popularity for the first time in her life. But she was so crushed by her son’s death that she returned Bag End to Frodo and went back to her family in Hardbottle. She died the following spring; upon her death, her money went to Frodo to be used to help those Hobbits left homeless by Lotho and Saruman.

Lotho
Lotho was the son of Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. The Hobbits of the Shire called him Pimple or Little Pimple, as his face seems to have been covered in blemishes. After the death of his father in 3012, he became the head of the clan and was soon after singled out by Saruman, who by now had taken an interest in the Shire. In 3018, he moved into Bag End with his mother, Lobelia. He began buying property – more than he could afford – and supporting outside Men, known as Ruffians or the Chief’s Men. He then imprisoned the Mayor, Will Whitfoot, and, naming himself Chief Shirriff, took over the Shire. But where most of the money for his land purchases had come from Isengard, Lotho soon found himself so indebted to Saruman that he could not prevent Sharkey’s Men from entering the Shire. And by this time, the wizard had no more use for the Hobbit. In September or October of that year, he was slain by Gríma Wormtongue at the order of Saruman.  

15 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 350: Círdan the Shipwright

Círdan (S. ‘Ship-maker’) was a Telerin Elf, a mariner and shipwright.

With his people, Círdan founded Eglarest and the Haven of Brithombar, the two most ancient harbours of the Elves in Middle-earth, and became chief of the Falathrim (S. ‘Coast-Elves’). During the War of the Jewels, he guarded the coasts of the Falas against any assault from Angband that might come by sea.

Seven years after the Battle of Sudden Flame, he led a seaborne force to aid the High King Fingon. But twenty-eight years later, the kingdoms of the Noldor were defeated in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. In the aftermath of that defeat, the Falas was overrun by the armies of Morgoth and Círdan, with a remnant of his people, withdrew to the Isle of Balar. 

During the Second and Third Ages, he was Lord of the Grey Havens and was given Narya the Great, the Ring of Fire, by Celebrimor. At this time, he was accounted the wisest of the Eldar. With the army of the Last Alliance, Círdan fought against Sauron and stood at the side of Gil-galad as the Last King of Lindon was slain.

When Gandalf arrived in Middle-earth, Círdan surrendered his Ring of Power. During the Third Age, Círdan provided frequent aid to the Dúnedain of the North. Leading the forces of Lindon across the Lhûn in TA 1974, he overthrew the Witch-King of Angmar in the Battle of Fornost.

Círdan was said to have remained in Middle-earth until the sailing of the last ship sometime in the Fourth Age; by this time, he had grown a long beard and looked old. 

3D Hobbit Puzzles to Be Released This Year

Photo Source: Wrebbit Puzzles
Coiledspring Games, a company who for the past twenty years has been making 3D jigsaw puzzles – including iconic puzzles based on the Taj Mahal and Big Ben – has announced that they are working with Wrebbit on an exclusive range of Lord of the Rings puzzles, to be in stores just in time for the December 14 release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The company has previously released a few Lord of the Rings-themed puzzles, including a 400-piece Saruman’s Tower (Orthanc), a 700-piece Golden Hall (Meduseld), and an 815-piece Minas Tirith citadel. These puzzles are made from special, high-tech foam and can stand on their own without the assistance of glue. They retail between £20 and £40 ($31 to $62), and Amazon and many local jigsaw retailers have already signed on to carry these products.  

“We are delighted with The Lord of the Rings 3D jigsaws and are sure they will be enormously popular,” said Coiledspring Games director Roger Martin, “especially in the run up to the much anticipated first prequel film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

“More importantly, we hope families really enjoy working together to build these wonderful puzzles.”

14 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 349: Michel Delving

Michel Delving (also called Delving), located on the White Downs in the Westfarthing, was the chief township and, essentially, the capital of the Shire. In this town were the home of the Mayor, the Lockholes, and the Mathom-House.


Mayor of Michel Delving

Though less powerful than the Thain or the Master of Buckland, the Mayor of Michel Delving was the only properly and regularly elected official in the Shire. Every seven years, one was elected during the Free Fair, held in the White Downs. The chief duty of the Mayor was to preside over feasts, but he was also somewhat responsible for the Shirrifs and Messenger Service. During the War of the Ring, Will Whitfoot held the office of Mayor, but he was unjustly imprisoned during the Scouring of the Shire, and during his time in the Lockholes was greatly weakened. For eight months afterward, Frodo Baggins took over as Mayor while Whitfoot recovered.

The most famous Mayor, however, was Samwise Gamgee, who was elected seven times. In FO 13, he was elected – with the Master of Buckland (Meriadoc Brandybuck) and the Thain (Peregrin Took) – by King Elessar as a Counsellor of the North Kingdom.

13 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 348: Smials

My character's Smial in LOTRO

Smials (trân ‘burrow’ in its original Hobbit-form) were large tunnels or delvings inhabited by only the richest and poorest of the Hobbits of the Shire (the archaic practice of living in holes in the ground had slowly fallen out of use by the time of the War of the Ring).  Smials varied in size and splendour: some of the larger ones (such as the Great Smials or Brandy Hall) contained many branching tunnels and passages, while Bag End was a good example of a ‘manor-hole.’ Some smials were so large that they had room for more than a hundred Hobbits.


The Great Smials

The Great Smials (also called the Smials) were a vast series of tunnels, located in the Green Hills of Tuckborough, which were home to the Tooks. Their excavation was begun in TA 2683 (1083 Shire Reckoning) by Thain Isengrim II.


Brandy Hall

Built into the side of Buck Hill, Brandy Hall was the home of the majority of the Brandybuck clan. Its excavation was commenced in TA 2340 by Gorhendad Oldbuck (who later changed the family name to Brandybuck). The chief of the Brandybuck clan was thereafter known as the Master of Buckland (or of the Hall).


Bag End

See: Bag End

12 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 347: Ungoliant


Both a foul and dangerous monster, Ungoliant was the first (and also greatest) of the spider-race. She had her origins as an entity of the Outer Darkness, created at the Beginning of Arda, and was the first of the Great Demons to invade the World. It has been suggested that she may have been a Maiar corrupted by Melkor, but the only being she served in Arda was herself.

Following the fall of Utumno, Ungoliant dwelt in Avathar, in the freezing south of Aman where none of the Valar ever went. Her hunger was for Light, which she devoured much in the same way that lesser spiders devoured insects. After Melkor fled from Valinor, he came upon the great spider and promised to assuage her hunger in return for her aid in the destruction of the Two Trees. The two went to Ezellohar, where Ungoliant drained the Trees of their sap, poisoned them, and drank the Wells of Varda. 

After the poisoning of the Trees, she fled with Melkor to Middle-earth, larger in size after her meal but hungry as ever. By now, even Melkor feared her, and when she discovered that he had withheld from her the most precious item from their sack of Formenos – the Silmarils – she attacked him. At the last minute Ungoliant was driven off by the Balrogs, and the now fearful spider fled south, making her nests in the Ered Gorgoroth – the Mountains of Terror. It was here that she mated with lesser beasts of Middle-earth and produced offspring that were evil like herself, though of lesser stature (the most well-known of these offspring being Shelob the Great). Her eventual fate was not recorded, but it has been said that she went far south and devoured herself in hunger.  

11 June 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend

This past weekend was, I believe, the final beta weekend for Guild Wars 2. I received a copy of the game just in time to take part in this event. Where I have little experience in reviewing video games and also didn’t get to play all weekend long as I’d hoped, I’m just going to post some screenshots and share just a few of my thoughts on the game so far.

(Click to enlarge photos)



Though there are five races to choose from - Human, Norn, Asura, Charr, and Sylvari - only three were accessible during the beta event (Human, Norn, and Charr). Then, there are eight professions accessible to all races. They are broken down into three categories:

Soldiers - Guardian and Warrior
Adventurers - Engineer, Ranger, and Thief
Scholars - Elementalist, Mesmer, and Necromancer

Additionally, you will have to make a few biographical choices for your character to determine their initial personality, which can be affected later in the game by decisions your character makes or the dialogue you choose. Personally, I love having that option; I become more engaged in a video game if I am allowed to make my own decisions. I'm more likely to stop playing if I'm forced to play a character whose actions or decisions I disagree with.


Anyway, I decided to play a Norn Thief (that's me on the left). Another important aspect to me is physical character customisation. Maybe it's just because I'm a female player, but I like to take the time to ensure my character looks good and that I feel satisfied playing them. The physical customisation in this game is phenomenal, and there were so many options I probably spent at least twenty minutes or so just playing around with various combinations before I finally made a decision.


The graphics and artwork really impressed me.


 I really like 'Fight to Survive.' After awhile of playing, I got the impression that my health - which I initially thought was decent - was actually not very good at all. Even when I was at the same level or higher than my opponent, they seemed to be able to sap my health too quickly for me to keep up with healing, especially during instances. 'Fight to Survive' gave me a second chance to stand my ground, and by the time I'd gotten back on my feet, my healing skill would be fully recharged and the battle would turn in my favour. I also liked that when anyone around me fell, I could walk over and revive them. (Unfortunately, the few times I did end up dying, nobody saved me.) 



Some of the artwork displayed during the (brief!) load screens.


 Later, I decided to make a second character - this time, I went with a Charr Necromancer, whom I named Thaura (my feminised version of Thauron, the Quenya form of Sauron). 


That's me on the left!


What I liked: Impressive graphics and artwork, short load screens, excellent character customisation, engaging storyline, memorable characters, interactive environment/NPCs, professions accessible to all races, ability to toggle between armour and town clothes (and dye them at will), group battles, ability to revive fallen companions, ability to choose dialogue to enhance personality, level ranges displayed on map.

What I didn't like: Health seemed to drain too quickly, objectives disappeared from my tracker if I left a quest area...but really, nothing else I can think of at the moment. (Regrettably, I did not have a chance to try any crafting, so I don't know how that works.)


Overall, I am very impressed with Guild Wars 2 so far. Where it differs quite a bit from LOTRO, it did take a little getting used to initially, but I loved every minute of it. While I will always think that $60 is extremely high for a video game, it is definitely one worth purchasing.

(The release date is still unknown; rumour has it we could see the game in stores somewhere around the 26th-28th of this month, but NCsoft has stated that the date has not been set yet, and will be determined based on the results of the beta tests.)

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 346: Húrin

Húrin, the elder son of Galdor and Hareth, was a Lord of the First House, considered the greatest warrior of all the Edain of the First Age. For his heroic efforts, he was called Húrin Thalion (‘the Steadfast’).

With his brother Huor, he spent a year in Gondolin before returning to Dor-lómin, where he wedded Morwen of the First House. She bore him three children: Túrin, Lalaith (who died early), and Nienor.

In 462 FA, Húrin broke the siege of Barad Eithel, in which his father was slain, and with his brother led the Edain in the Union of Maedhros and the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Húrin, the only survivor of the rearguard covering the retreat to Gondolin, slew seventy trolls before being captured and brought to Angband. Morgoth knew that Húrin’s courage was so great that he would defy him to the end, and so he did not torture him. When he refused to reveal the location of the hidden city, Morgoth cursed him and his wife and children, and set him in a high place of Thangorodrim, where he remained for twenty-eight years.

A year after the death of his son Túrin, Húrin was freed by Morgoth. Embittered, he wandered through Beleriand; in Dimbar he called for Turgon, thus revealing to Morgoth the exact location of Gondolin. After thirty years apart, he found his wife in Cabed Naeramarth, and held her once more in his arms before she died of grief and weariness. He buried her with Túrin. Next he went to Nargothrond, slew Mîm, and reclaimed the Nauglamír, which he brought to Thingol in Menegroth. There, Melian released him from the deceptions of Morgoth, and soon he departed, never to be seen again by Man or Elf. (In slaying himself not long after, he became the last victim of the curse placed upon his line.)

10 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 345: Brandir the Lame

Brandir was of the Haladin, the Second House of the Edain. Because of his clubbed foot, he was known as Brandir the Lame. Following the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the death of his father Handir, he became leader of his people. He forbade open acts against the forces of Morgoth, hoping that they could lay in hiding and wait it out.

When Túrin son of Húrin arrived, Brandir tended to him. Not long after, Túrin’s sister Nienor, enslaved by a spell of the dragon Glaurung, came to the Woodsmen of Brethil and fell in love with her brother, whom she had not seen since childhood and no longer recognised. But Brandir also loved her, and to his dismay, Túrin and Níniel – as Nienor was now called – were wed. 

The dragon returned to that region of Beleriand, and while Túrin sought him out, Brandir, hoping to avoid war and trouble, refused to join him on the quest. Dorlas and Hunthor of the Haladin went with him, and Brandir was shamed before his people.

Though Túrin was victorious against Glaurung, he was struck down and left for dead. Believing that Túrin was dead and unaware that the dragon had been slain, Brandir attempted to escape with Níniel, who rushed to the scene of the battle. There, she encountered the dying dragon, and the spell upon her was lifted. When she realised she was carrying the child of her own brother, she cast herself into the river Teiglin and perished. 

In sorrow, Brandir returned to his people and relayed some of what had befallen. As they took in the news, Túrin returned, and after being informed that Níniel was actually his sister, slew Brandir.  

09 June 2012

Christopher Lee Records Second Metal Album

Christopher Lee, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, is marking the milestone by releasing his second metal album, titled Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, which the actor describes as “100 percent heavy metal.”

“I’ve done my bits and pieces and they are heavy metal,” he said. “I’m not screaming or anything like that, but it is definitely 100 percent heavy metal.”

The actor’s first metal album, Charlemagne: By the Swords and the Cross, was more along the lines of symphonic metal and was met with critical acclaim.

On BBC Radio 5’s “Up All Night” programme, Lee talked about his history with the genre.

I was first introduced to metal when I sang with a band called Rhapsody. But what I sang was not heavy metal. I sang with a tenor. Then I worked with Manowar as a narrator, I think it was in Germany, and again, that was not me singing metal. I became fascinated by this, cause in terms of the history of music, it’s fairly recent really. And if it’s properly done and you can understand the story and you can understand what the people are singing and you have the right bands and the right singers, I think it’s rather exciting.”

In 2010, Lee received the “Spirit of the Hammer” award at the annual Metal Hammer Golden God ceremony, which he described as, “a most amazing occasion for me, very exciting, and something I’d never had happen to me my whole career, my whole life, in terms of awards. I have received quite a few. But I was interviewed … by Tony Iommi, who founded Black Sabbath. And I hadn’t heard them, but I made it a point [to]. I thought it was extraordinary.”

While Charlemagne: The Omens of Death does not yet have an exact release date, is expected to become available this summer (followed by a musical based on the album coming in 2013). In the meantime, you can listen to samples from two of his songs on Amazon.com.

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 344: Olwë

Olwë was the younger brother of Elwë Thingol and conjoint Lord of the Teleri on the Great Journey. In Beleriand, Elwë was lost; when the time came for the Eldar to depart and Elwë still had not returned, the Vanyar and Noldor sailed West, leaving the Teleri behind. Olwë then became their king, and they dwelt by the sea-coasts. But after another summons came from Valinor, most of the host of Olwë embarked and left Elwë and his people behind.

It is said that Olwë did not immediately go to Aman, but instead tarried in Tol Eressëa for another Age; here they learned and developed the craft of ship-building (being instructed by the Sea-Maia Ossë). After this they completed the Journey and finally set foot in Eldamar. They made their new home – the city and port of Alqualondë, the Haven of the Swans – on the northern shore of its Bay. They were called the Falmari, the Sea-elves, by the other Calaquendi.

Olwë’s daughter, Eärwen, wedded Finarfin, the youngest of the three sons of Finwë: and so in this way the Teleri and Noldor were allied with one another. Yet it did not prevent Olwë’s people from being attacked by the Noldor in the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, which took place at the time of the theft of the Silmarils and the rebellion of the Noldor. The Sea-elves had denied the Noldor the use of their ships, and Olwë himself would not join Fëanor’s revolt. Many of the Teleri were slain and their ships taken from them, being burned after Fëanor had made use of them. Though the Teleri were able, in time, to restore their city and ships, it took much longer to restore their numbers. Olwë never again returned to Middle-earth.  

08 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 343: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields


Fought on March 15, 3019 (TA), the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was the greatest battle of the War of the Ring and the Third Age, fought between the armies of Sauron and the forces of Minas Tirith.


The Dawnless Day

On March 10, the Dawnless Day, Sauron had sent forth a great mass of dark and foul clouds over Gondor, invoking uncertainty and dread in his enemies and easing the movement of his armies. It was at this time that Frodo and Sam passed through Minas Morgul, where they saw the Witch-King of Angmar depart from the city on a black horse.


The Fall of Osgiliath

Faramir had sent reinforcements to the garrison at Osgiliath on March 9, expecting an attack from the enemy. On March 11, he left to command the garrison; they were attacked that night, and Faramir retreated to the Causeway Forts the following day. Doing his best to hold the rearguard, he was wounded by a foul arrow of the enemy on his way back to Minas Tirith. With Denethor, the Steward, refusing to leave his son’s side, Gandalf took over command of the city’s defences, and on March 13 the Siege of Gondor began.


The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Led by the Lord of the Nazgûl, Sauron’s army (consisting of 30,000 Haradrim and a large number of Easterlings, Variags, and Orcs) attacked Minas Tirith. Though the Lord of the Nazgûl broke down the Great Gate of Minas Tirith (see: Grond), the unexpected arrival of the Rohirrim (6,000 in number) prevented him from entering the city any further.

While the Rohirrim were able to force the Haradrim cavalry into a retreat, the Witch-King appeared and scattered the Rohirrim and mortally wounded King Théoden, who was crushed by his horse; in turn, the Lord of the Nazgûl was slain by Éowyn and Merry.

Under the command of Éomer, the Rohirrim continued their assault while the Footmen of Gondor launched a counterattack of their own. But they were outnumbered by the Mumakil, Haradrim, and Southrons, and the enemy had quickly recovered from the loss of its commander. Even more terrifying to the Men of the West was the arrival of the ships of Umbar.

But unbeknownst to either side, Aragorn and the Army of the Dead had vanquished the corsairs; upon their arrival, they found themselves in a very advantageous position. The Men of Gondor and Rohan were able to use this to their advantage as well, and most of the Mordor-host was slain (the rest fled back toward the Land of Shadow). By sunset the battle had ended, and both armies had suffered considerable losses.  

07 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 342: Amroth

Amroth (S. ‘High-climber’), son of Amdir, was an Elf-prince of the Woodland Realm of Lothlórien. Though he was Sindarin in origin, he had adopted the customs of the Wood-Elves and made his dwelling in a high house on Cerin Amroth. (He also built the port of Dol Amroth in Belfalas.) During the middle years of the Third Age, he opted to sail West over Sea with his lover, Nimrodel, abandoning his people in their time of need following Sauron's assault on the Elves of Eregion so that she would marry him after they had reached a land of peace. Long he waited for her at the Bay of Belfalas, but she never came: she had not survived the crossing of the White Mountains. After a storm broke the moorings of his ship and hurled him out to sea, Amroth, attempting to reach the shore, dove into the raging waters and was lost.

06 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 341: Gilraen

 Gilraen (S. ‘Wandering star’; also called Gilraen the Fair), daughter of Dírhael and Ivorwen, was a Dúnedan of the North, born in TA 2907. She wedded Arathorn II in 2929 and gave birth to their son, Aragorn II, in 2931. After the death of her husband in 2933, Gilraen went with her son to Rivendell, where the young Aragorn – named Estel, ‘Hope’ – was taken in by Lord Elrond. When she learned that her son had fallen in love with Elrond’s daughter, Arwen, she warned him that Elrond would not likely consent to his only daughter marrying a mortal Man. A few years after Aragorn and Arwen plighted their troth, Gilraen left Rivendell to live alone in Eriador near her people. When Aragorn came to visit her, she foretold of her coming death, and died in the spring of 3007.

05 June 2012

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 340: Rohan

Rohan as depicted in the films by Peter Jackson

Once a province of Gondor (Calenardhon), Rohan (S. ‘Horse-land’, from the Q. Rochand[e]) was the kingdom of the Rohirrim, given to the Men of the Éothéod by Cirion as a reward for their aid in the Battle of the Fields of Celebrant and their swearing of the Oath of Eorl (TA 2510). The kingdom was thereafter ruled by King Eorl and his descendants, and throughout its history, Rohan remained friendly with the Dúnedain.


Major Settlements

The capital of Rohan, Edoras, was situated on a hill in a valley of the Ered Nimrais (White Mountains) and had been built by Brego, the son of Eorl and the second King of Rohan. It was here that the Golden Hall of the King, Meduseld, was located. 

While Edoras was the main city of Rohan, several other important settlements include Aldburg (the capital of the Eastfold and the original settlement of Eorl the Young), Snowbourne (named for the river which runs nearby), Dunharrow (a refuge in the Ered Nimrais), Helm’s Deep (the valley in the Ered Nimrais in which Rohan’s major fortress, the Hornburg, was located).


Culture

The Rohirrim were famous for their leagues of rich and abundant grassland and more so for their prized horses, which they loved above everything else and whose grace and beauty were unmatched by any other in the world. The armies of Rohan were largely made up of horsemen, divided into units called éoreds which included up to 2,000 riders. 

In times of war, every able-bodied man was obligated to join the Muster of Rohan; they were still bound by the Oath of Eorl to aid Gondor in her times of peril, which was signaled via the Red Arrow or the lighting of the beacons of Gondor. 

The Rohirrm were held in respect by the people of Gondor, who described them as Middle Men – they were inferior to the Númenoreans, yet superior to the Men of Darkness who had worshipped Sauron.


History

Rohan was overrun by Dunlendings (led by Wulf) in TA 2758, but the invaders were defeated by Fréaláf. Soon after, Saruman moved into Isengard, where he was welcomed by the Rohirrim as an ally.

In 2799, Rohan was troubled by Orcs fleeing the Battle of Nanduhirion; they were not entirely driven out until 2864.  

By 2960, Saruman had begun to harass Rohan, and in 3014 he began to use his influence to corrupt King Théoden. Five years later, an army of Orcs and Dunlendings attacked the weakened country. The Rohirrim were defeated in the two Battles of the Fords of Isen (in which Théodred, the King’s son, was slain), but with the aid of Gandalf and the Huorns, the invaders were defeated in the Battle of the Hornburg. 

Following this victory, Théoden rode with an army to Minas Tirith and helped break the siege in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where he was slain. His nephew, Éomer, took up the reign and began the Third Line of Kings; his niece, Éowyn, succeeded in slaying the Lord of the Nazgûl. Éomer then rode with the armies of Gondor to the Black Gate of Mordor and fought in the Battle of the Morannon against the forces of Sauron; the enemy was defeated when the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom. 

After Elessar became the new King of Gondor, he and King Éomer renewed their oath of alliance, reaffirming Cirion’s grant of Calenardhon to the Rohirrim. Éowyn married Faramir, the Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor, thus uniting the lines of Gondor and Rohan.

By the Fourth Age, a Dwarven community had developed in the caves of Helm’s Deep and became prosperous from mining precious materials, and Rohan remained in peaceful coexistence with the Reunited Kingdom.  

LOTRO: Riders of Rohan Expansion Coming This September!

Turbine has officially confirmed the release date of the Riders of Rohan expansion. Available for pre-order now (in three varieties), the game will become available on September 5. Watch both the cinematic trailer and teaser below:



Some of the new features include:

The Rohan region – Nearly twice as large as Moria, the Rohan region will offer hundreds of new quests, new gear, new deeds, and more. Additionally, the game will now feature a level cap of 85.

Mounted combat – With the announcement of the RoR release date, Turbine has also promised a new combat system unlike anything previously seen in an MMO. With mounted combat, players will be able to team up with a fellowship to challenge groups of enemies, stomping, trampling, kicking, and charging them in the new combat system.

War-steeds – These steeds are faster, stronger, and better trained for battle than normal mounts. War-steeds’ skills can be advanced over time and their appearance is customisable.

Continuation of the Epic Story – Follow the epic storyline to witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; form an alliance with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer in his attempts to ward off the growing Shadow.



Which version should you buy?

The expansion is available in digital download format and comes in three editions: Base, Heroic, and Legendary.

Base EditionFor $39.99, the Base Edition will get you the expansion pack upon its release, plus the Steed of the Eastemnet (an exclusive Rohirrim mount) and the “Friend of the Mark” in-game title.

If you pre-order between now and September 5, you will also receive a Rohan Elite Guard Statted Cloak and a Rohirrim Soldier on Landscape appearance.

Heroic EditionFor $49.99, the Heroic Edition offers the same as the Base Edition but with the following additions: a Hauberk of the Eastemnet (Rohirrim cosmetic chest piece) and the Evendim, Moria, and Lothlórien Quest Packs (over 650 quests, 10 fellowship instances, and two raids).

By pre-ordering this edition, you’ll also receive a Rohan Elite Guard Statted Cloak, The Outrider’s Token (25% XP boost for all characters on the account, up to level 75), and the Rohirrim Soldier on Landscape appearance.

Legendary EditionFor $69.99, the Legendary Edition contains even more exclusive content: the Steed of the Eastemnet (available immediately, with matching War-steed appearance available upon RoR release), Armour of the Eastemnet (full set of Rohirrim cosmetic armour), “Friend of the Mark” in-game title, a 6th inventory bag (15 additional storage slots), Crystal of Remembrance (adds one additional legacy to your legendary weapon), and exclusive Rohan content (earn a mounted combat deed which will grant an exclusive skill for your War-steed).

Pre-ordering between now and September 5th will get you a Rohan Elite Guard Statted Cloak, the Outrider’s Token, and the Rohirrim Soldier on Landscape appearance.


For a side-by-side comparison of all three editions, visit Turbine’s Riders of Rohan page.

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