The races of Elves and Men have long shared friendship in the northwest of Middle-earth. The two kindreds first came into contact long ago, in the First Age of the world, when the Edain, the Fathers of Men, came over the Blue Mountains and down into Beleriand. Finrod, the Elven king of Nargothrond, first of all the Noldor encountered Men. Coming upon a band of them encamped for the night and asleep, he stole among them and, taking up a harp, began to play with elvish skill. The men awoke, and hearing Finrod’s beautiful music, thought they lingered in some fair dream. Finrod remained with the men for some time, befriending them, learning their language and teaching them the tongue of the Grey Elves. In all the long years since, the Elves and the faithful descendants of the Edain have had friendship, and their fates are intertwined.
In the Third Age, though the time of the Elves is fading, there remain some among the fair folk who have a special fondness for mortal Men, particularly the Dúnedain of the North, who are the descendants of the Edain of old. This elf is one of these Friends of Man, who feels that it is the duty, indeed the fate, of the Elves, the elder of the two kindreds, to offer guidance and support to Men, the younger, for the dominion of Men over Middle-earth shall soon come, even as the Elves fade. Therefore, he travels far and wide throughout Eriador, sometimes alone, sometimes among one of the Wandering Companies, meeting his mortal friends, for the most part Rangers, at hidden places in the wild, often the sites of ruins dating back to the Elder Days. Together they share tidings, songs and tales, and the goodwill of their kindreds. Our elf is comfortably clad for travel, in a jacket and leggings of rusty green and fawn-brown, and wears a hooded cloak of many hues of green. He carries a harp which he plays while encamped with his companions beneath the stars, just as Finrod played for the Edain long ago. His vambraces, pauldrons, and jacket are of Mannish make, treasured gifts from his Ranger friends, some now long dead, maybe, for the lives of Men are fleeting to the Elves.
I was inspired by two things putting this outfit together. For one, I wanted to finally use the Cloak of the Fifth Season in an outfit. I haven’t used it so far because find it to be a challenging piece, since it’s undyeable and has a strange default colour that incorporates several different shades of green. (Complete digression, but I was sorry to see that there is no Cloak of the Sixth Season on offer at the in-game anniversary celebration this year.) The other inspiration was the in-game Elvish racial trait “Friend of Man”, which mitigates the penalty Elves take to the Fate statistic. In contrast, Men in LOTRO take a reduction to Will and have a bonus to Fate. When I first started playing LOTRO I remember thinking this was all a bit weird (I still do), since the interplay of fate and free will is such an important and prominent theme in Tolkien; and it is Elves who are heavily governed by fate while Men are notable for their free will. In The Silmarillion Ilúvatar decrees that
‘[…]the Quendi [Elves] shall be the fairest of all living creatures, and they shall conceive and bring forth more beauty than all my Children; and they shall have the greater bliss in this world. But to the Atani [Men] I will give a new gift.’ Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else[…]
— Of the Beginning of Days, The Silmarillion
I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to audit several courses taught by esteemed Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger, who reads this passage as an indication that Elves do not possess free will. Thus, she says, Tolkien uses the separate races of Elves and Men in his fiction to contrast one people governed by fate and another with the ability to exercise free will. However, I think a slightly different interpretation is possible. I suggest that all the beings created by Ilúvatar do in fact have free will, but only in the Race of Men can the results of actions taken by free will change the fate laid out in the Music, as suggested in the passage quoted above. Elves can and do exercise free will, but the consequences of their actions are strictly internal; only the acting elf’s motivation is affected, not the course of events that follow. For example, we see this demonstrated when, after the Two Trees of Valinor are destroyed, Yavanna asks the elf-artisan Fëanor to break the Silmarils, the great jewels he had made, so that she might restore the Trees. But loving too well the work of his own hands Fëanor refuses, not knowing that the Silmarils have already been seized by Morgoth. Had Fëanor agreed to Yavanna’s request, his motivation, his inner character, would have been entirely different, yet all of the events that followed would not be changed, only their context, for the Silmarils were for ever beyond his reach. Thus, my interpretation is that Tolkien is using Elves and Men to illuminate the ways in which free will can sometimes appear to affect fate, yet at other times have no effect upon it, and to explore and reconcile the paradox of a world (our world) in which fate and free will can appear to coexist.
- Shoulders: Westernesse Protector’s Shoulder Guards (crafted — tailor T5; or looted — world drop/general), olive
- Back: Cloak of the Fifth Season (bartered — anniversary event games-master/cosmetics), default
- Chest: Lesser Voice of the West Robe (bartered — Harndirion novices quartermaster/tier 1 difficulty Minstrel’s armour), yellow
- Hands: Gloves of the Heartmender (bartered — Tinnudir Wardens of Annúminas reputation quartermaster/Minstrel’s goods), olive
- Legs: Elven Traveller’s Leggings (crafted — tailor T3; or looted — world drop/general; or purchased — Rivendell light armour vendor), Ranger green
- Feet: Boots of the Shadow-walker (bartered — skirmish camp classics quartermaster/Barad Guldur – level 65 medium), yellow
Tips: If you don’t have access to the Gloves of the Heartmender, there are a number of world drop Westernesse-style medium armour gloves that would make a great alternative. You could also use the Barrow-scout’s Gauntlets (bartered — skirmish camp classics quartermaster/Great Barrow – armour set). Don’t forget that you can pick up the Cloak of the Fifth Season from the Games-master vendors in Bree, Michel Delving, Thorin’s Hall, and Celondim while the anniversary event is running until 6 May this year.
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