The words Rhûn and Harad evoke great interest and curiosity in many Tolkien readers. Neither Rhûn nor Harad were specific lands or nations; the names are simply the Sindarin terms for “the East” and “the South”, respectively. Similarly, the people of Rhûn, the Easterlings, and the people of Harad, the Southrons, did not belong to a single monolithic culture, but to many different nations, clans, and tribes. These were peoples and lands outside of the common experience of the Free Peoples of the West, and what little interaction they had with each other was often during times of war. Only one specific realm outside of the West was known, and that was the land of Khand. It lay to the southeast of Mordor under the influence of the Shadow, and the Men of Khand were held to be Men of Darkness. Beyond its name, precious little is known of Khand. The Men of Khand supplied Mordor with horses, and so may have been a people of riders; they may have employed foreign “barbarian” mercenaries of northern stock, or pressed into service naturalised foreign populations (the Variags; discussion). Khand had come into conflict with Gondor in the first half of the Third Age, and then again during the War of the Ring upon the battleground of the Pelennor Field. Ultimately, the land of Khand remains extremely mysterious, and it is even unclear whether it belongs to Rhûn or to Harad.
This man is a warrior-satrap, a high-born governor of a province of Khand that pays a tribute of horses, gold, and slaves to the god-king of Mordor. A man of wealth and privelege, he is richly arrayed in a long coat of iron scales overlaid with a heavily dyed silk tunic embroidered with golden thread. He wears a brazen war-mask and a round steel shield for additional defence and wields a deadly axe. Well-trained, he is prepared to lead his warriors against the foes of the Eye should he be called upon to bolster the hosts of the Black Land. When that day comes he will ride on his small but swift steed away from his home and through Mordor until he comes at last down into the Westlands where the fate of Middle-earth shall be decided.
When I started writing this blog, I told myself that I wasn’t going to present any “evil” outfits, but the cosmetics of some of the pieces that crop up are so suggestive of cultures outside of what I would expect to see in western Middle-earth that I’m afraid I’ve given into temptation. I’m extremely fascinated and curious about the Easterlings and Southrons — what little we know about them is so tantalising and so scant, and yet there is so much more to discuss than I can fit into one blog post. I’m really looking forward to seeing the ways that Turbine will portray them in-game. We have already seen some Easterlings in the Great River region; Turbine seems to have blended Turkic, Sassanid, and Indic influences to create their look. I’m not sure where these particular Easterlings are meant to hail from; probably not Khand or they would be identified as such (and I don’t think we will see Men of Khand until we have reached Gondor and the final battles of the War). Nevertheless, they are clearly southern Easterlings (northern Easterlings, such as those who attacked Dale, would likely have a more Slavic/Alanic/Hunnic visual influence; somwhere in the middle, near the Sea of Rhûn — for example the Wainriders — we might expect a Scythian/Sarmatian influence). With this outfit, I am imagining the land of Khand as having a vaguely Parthian or Median (ancient Iranian) culture. I have tried to give him an exotic look, clearly foreign to western Middle-earth, that attempts to recall the long heavy scale armour and masked faces of the Iranian cataphracts. I can envision the land of Khand as consisting of lush, high meadows contrasted with wide arid plateaus stetching beneath high snow-covered peaks, much like the Iranian Plateau of the Primary World. But all this is my own imagination, and I hasten to point out that there is nothing in Tolkien’s writings to support it. Ultimately, I saw an eastern influence in the design of the chest piece in this outfit and my imagination was inspired by it!
- Head: Battle-mask of Rhûn (purchased — LOTRO Store), red
- Shoulders: Dwarf Leather Shoulder Guards (purchased — Gabilshathûr medium armour vendor; or looted — world drop/general), crimson
- Chest: Saets-crus (looted — Fangorn’s Edge/tier 1 Undúrz), crimson
- Hands: Gauntlets of the Golden Wood (crafted — tailor T6/Galadhrim), crimson
- Feet: Footman’s Boots (crafted — tailor T6), crimson
- Shield: Light Bronze Buckler (crafted — metalsmith T1; or looted — world drop/general; or purchased — Bree-land light armour vendors)
- Weapon: Steel Axe (crafted — weaponsmith T2)
Tips: Saets-crus has the same appearance as a variety of heavy armour chest pieces rewarded by Dunland quests. The recipe for crafting the Gauntlets of the Golden Wood is available from a barterer in Caras Galadhon once you have reached Friend standing with the Galadhrim. They have the same appearance as the gloves from the level 60 Mines of Moria instance cluster medium armour sets.