Spaewife of Dale

Little is known of the language spoken by the Men of Dale, but Tolkien translated it into Old Norse and anglicised it to repesent the few names we are given in the text (for example, O.N. dalr > Dale = “valley”; O.N. Bárðr > Bard = “battle-peace”). This also shows where the tongue of Dale fits into the linguistic structure Tolkien established for Middle-earth:  the language of Dale is to the language of the Rohirrim is to Westron as Old Norse is to Old English is to modern English. Since the culture of the Men of Dale is also only sparsely described, we might turn to Norse culture for cues in depecting these Men. Perhaps, like the Norsemen, their culture had the tradition of practising spæ or prophesying and fatespinning.

This woman is a spaewife, a seeress held in extremely high esteem. No longer a young woman, she has cut the close familial bonds cherished in Dale and now wanders the land offering her services for hire. At each homestead or village that she visits, she is accorded the highest honours, for her stature and authority are great. Among her services is the ability to affect the outcome of battles that the Men of Dale may fight, perhaps with  Easterlings on the distant marches. While the menfolk wield sword and axe and spear in such battles, the spaewife does not sit idly. Travelling to the site of battle with the men, she first dresses her distaff (which she always carries) with flax fibres which she then weaves, tying and loosing knots to sway the tide of battle, symbollically twining the threads of fate and thus impeding the enemy warriors. She wears a simple peasant-woman’s robe girdled with a belt of beaten amadou. Her shoes are of calfskin and her white gloves of supple catskin lined with fur. She wears a brimmed hat traditional to wanderers in the lands of Dale as well as a fur-trimmed shoulder-wrap and a blue cloak that instantly identifies her as a spaewife, far-seeing, wise, and respected by all.

It’s easy to conceptualize an Elven or Gondorian lore-master since characters like that are so central to Tolkien’s published stories, but this outfit is my way of working out for myself what a lore-master from Dale might be like. The Nordic sagas and myths were such an important source to Tolkien, and when you delve into them it’s really interesting to see how concepts from them seem so at home in Middle-earth, and in our game of LOTRO. Reading about the way a spaewife would attempt to affect the outcome of a battle really made me think of the debuffs used by our Lore-master class. It’s a shame that the Men of Dale didn’t come into the main action of The Lord of the Rings, because I think it would be really fascinating to see how Tolkien might have portrayed their culture. As I said above, I think it’s reasonable to guess that it might have had a very Norse flavour. Meanwhile, the name of the game with this outfit was to find something to match the undyeable portion of the shoulders, a lovely, dark, jewel-tone blue. The Ranger cloak served very well in that regard and I’ve also tried to bring in a similar colour with her shoes. The combination was very fortunate, because in the Saga of Eric the Red, a spaewife is described as wearing a blue or black cloak, white gloves, a belt of amadou and of course carrying a distaff (a wand used in spinning and weaving, the origin of the “magic staff”).

  • Head: Padded Hat of the Dunland Soothsayer (quest reward — Dunland [69] Scattered Delivery), grey
  • Shoulders: Mathom-hunter’s Mantle (looted — Hobbit presents/light armour), grey
  • Back: Worn Cloak of the Ranger (quest reward — [75] Volume 3, Book 5, Chapter 1: Separate Ways – Corunir), navy
  • Chest: Ferrier’s Robe (purchased — LOTRO Store), grey
  • Hands: Padded Gloves of Courage (looted — world drop/general), washed
  • Feet: Elven Explorer’s Shoes (crafted — tailor T4; purchased — Rivendell light armour vendor; or looted — world drop), washed
  • Weapon: Proper Walking Stick (quest reward — Evendim [30] Northcotton Farmer’s Market)

Tips: The hat used in this outfit has the same appearance as several other Dunland quest rewards. It can also be obtained as the Rider’s Woolen Hat (bartered — Galtrev, Forthbrond or Grimbold’s Camp Rohirrim quartermaster). The shoulders used in this outfit are a random prize granted by Hobbit presents; shoulders with the same appearance, called the Pauldrons of the Wandering Bard, were formerly available as a PvMP reward, but these are no longer available. The shoulders from the Armour of the Mighty Verse set (bartered — Twenty-first Hall Minstrel trainer) also share the same skin, but have a different dye pattern so if you chose to use them you would lose the greyish-blue portion and would need to do some further dye experimentation. As an alternative to the world drop gloves I used, you could use the Gloves of the Vicious Proclamation (bartered — Tinnudir Wardens of Annúminas quartermaster/Rune-keeper’s goods), which have a similar criss-cross pattern that echoes the pattern on the sleeves of the robe.

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9 Responses to Spaewife of Dale

  1. Theofried says:

    Ah Dale.. how I would love to see it ingame.. but that will probably never happen 😦

    I like the rough yet not too simple look on that one. Did that sentence make sense? Anyway another great outfit.

  2. Laenlis says:

    Nggh, I want Dale in GAME. /selfish

    And good heavens, I loved the text for this one. You do fantastic outfits, of course, but the real treat for me is the accompanying written detail. Have you read the Icelandic sagas? They funnel into Tolkien so well.

    • Thanks Laenlis! I always worry that when I’m doing these sort of “cultural extrapolation outfits” that I get way too wordy and devolve into “lore lessons” — but I really want to show that the context is there in Tolkien’s sources. Anyway, it’s a relief to hear that these kind of posts don’t make (some) people’s eyes glaze over! 😛

      I haven’t read the Icelandic sagas, but I will have to! I have read Beowulf, the Volsungas saga, and the Kalevala. All so awesome!

  3. I agree with Laenlis. I love your outfits, but also look forward to the stories you’ll weave together about each one. It’s fun how a story can come together because of a piece of armor.

    • Yes, it’s so fun to see where a cool piece and a little research will take you when putting together a themed outfit! For me, that’s what really gets my imagination going — trying to marry the lore to the outfit or vice versa. I’m really happy others appreciate reading my attempts, thanks very much Leann!

  4. I am a bit different than your average blog fan I suppose, as I feel more attracted to the outfits than the stories, but I always read them! (ahem…), and this outfit is really good! I snickered when I read “offering her services for hire”. She might have to slip into something different… 😉

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