Walker of the Otherworld

During the Watchful Peace of the early Third Age, the forefathers of the Men of Dunland dwelt in the wide green land of Calenardhon, the northernmost fief of the realm of Gondor. In those days, Gondor was overseen by the Ruling Stewards, who recalled the hosts of Gondor from the fortresses of Calenardhon, abandoning the land to the Dunlendings’ ancestors in all but name. This was the situation until IIIA 1944, when Easterlings crossed the Anduin on the western marches of Calenardhon and Gondor repelled the invaders only by calling upon the aid of the Éothéod, the Horse-folk of the North. Then, in friendship, the Steward of Gondor granted the land of Calenardhon to the Éothéod; but to the men who dwelt there already, the Horse-folk were usurpers who drove them out of their own lands. They withdrew to the hinterlands of Calenardhon and over the River Isen into the hill-lands beyond. By the end of the Third Age, their descendants dwelt there still, known as the Dunlendings, Hill-men, and they remained hostile to the Forgoil, the Strawheads, who had displaced them.

She brandished an oaken stave

Because the Dunlendings have long been estranged to the other Men of northwestern Middle-earth, they have many practices that would seem dark and mysterious to a Man of Rohan or Gondor. This Dunlending woman, for example, holds a special place in Dunlending society. There are some, even among her own people, who would call her gurach: hag, witch; but she is a seer, a druidess. Formally instructed in secrecy over many years by learned mentors, she is wise in the ways of ritual, sacrifice, augury, and the laws of her people. She is also an envoy and guide to Annun, the Otherworld of the spirits. She dwells apart from her people for much of the year, tending a grove of sacred oaks and a ring of standing stones, for it is here that she performs the ritual of oak and mistletoe, ensuring the fertility of the land and its people, and here that the waking world of mortal Men comes closest to the fey Otherworld.

Rites among the standing stones

In LOTRO, Turbine has loosely modeled the various societies of the Hill-men (including the Dunlendings) upon Iron Age Celtic peoples. The Dunlendings have been given a Welsh flavour, with Welsh words being used to represent their language. This was a good choice for a number of reasons. For one, the Dunlendings lived alongside the migrating Stoor-hobbits for a time, and a certain amount of linguistic crossover took place between their two peoples; this influence is reflected in the names of some of the Hobbits of the Shire having Stoorish ancestry. For example, the first Master of Buckland was called Ogmandab Zaragamba, and in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien “translates” this as Gorhendad Oldbuck; the first name means “great-grandfather” in modern Welsh. Furthermore, there are certain parallels that can be drawn between the fictional history of the Dunlendings and that of the Celtic Britons of the Primary World, in that both lived in a land more or less abandoned by a much more advanced, powerful nation (Gondor and Rome), but were then pushed to the periphery of that land by incomers (the Rohirrim and the Anglo-Saxons).

Tolkien never mentions druids in any of his writings, but for an adaptation in which Dunlending society is to be seen more intimately than it is in the book, it seems plausible that they might have had a spiritual tradition similar to the druidism of the Celts. Druidesses are known in Celtic mythology (particularly in the Irish tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill, who was raided by a druidess named Bodhmall); indeed the vilification of the old pagan practices may have led to druidesses being remembered in folklore as witches (gwrachod in Welsh, singular gwrach; translated “gurach” in LOTRO). Little is known about the Primary-world historicity of druids (derwyddon in Welsh, singular derwydd; translated in LOTRO as “derudh”, as in the well-known Derudh’s Stone pocket item), but their practices may have been closely tied to beliefs about the Otherworld of the spirits. The Otherworld was a sort of  Faërie-land, which in Welsh mythology was called Annwn and was often represented as an island to the west. Interestingly, in Tolkien, Faërie is Valinor, itself an island located in none other than Annûn; but here the word is Sindarin and means “the West”. I do not think the similarity of the words is accidental, and I think the folks at Turbine drew the same conclusion. When you are traveling in Dunland and encounter a cun Annun, a hound of Annun (Cŵn Annwn in Welsh), does the name refer to Welsh Annwn or Sindarin Annûn? I think both. To the Dunlendings, who fear the Elves and the even greater Powers that dwell in the West, Annun would be a fearful place, and thus the evil black dogs that stalk their lands would be ripe for association with it.

Guardian of the grove

  • Head: Eastemnet Skirmish Helm (crafted — tailor T8), rust
  • Shoulders: Song-caller’s Shoulders (bartered — Shadowed Refuge light armour quartermaster or Twenty-first Hall Minstrel trainer), rust
  • Back: Cloak of the Algraig (purchased — LOTRO Store), white
  • Chest: Lesser Memory of the West Robe (bartered Harndirion novices quartermaster/tier 1 difficulty Lore-master armour), rust
  • Hands: Fingerless Gloves (quest reward — Yule festival [1o] Self-sacrifice: Support the Poor), white
  • Feet: Eastemnet Campaign Shoes (crafted — tailor T8), white

Tips: The shoulders from the Rune-keeper and Lore-master Moria instance cluster sets have the same appearance as the shoulders used in this outfit. If you’d like to recreate this outfit with a hat instead of a hood, I experimented with fairly good results using the Ceremonial Silver-voice Helm (bartered — skirmish camp cosmetics quartermaster/Helegrod cosmetic clothing – light), dyed rust, to approximate the almost mitre-like hats depicted in some imaginative 19-century illustrations of druids. The hat has some undyeable highlights in an unusual red colour; to match them try using the Ceremonial Ajokoira Gloves (crafted — T5/Lossoth reputation) dyed orange.

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20 Responses to Druidess

  1. gloredh says:

    I really like the lore that you explained in this post, true Tolkien didn’t talk about druids among the cultures he described in the books, but for people like the men of Dunland, who are a rural folk and not much is known about them, shamans and druids don’t sound so out of place, it makes me think of our in game Gwillion the Old Woman of the Mountain, who was kinda feared-revered even among her own people (and the fact that she was in favor of Saruman and wasn’t a very pleasant person might have earned her a title like hag-witch XD). Nice the connection that you found about the Annun as and the fear of Elves as evil spirits, like the Rohirrim who call them dwimordene, phantoms. The derudh stone, nice reference, perfect also with the Mournshaws 🙂
    And the minstrel shoulder piece work well with the robe color scheme, it makes her look tough (as the npc say “Do not assume to mislead me Duvodiad! hehe 😉 )

    • Thank you Gloredh, I’m so glad you liked it! 😀 This one was really fun to think about and write about. I definitely had Gwyllion in mind, and in fact I think in at least one of the quest dialogues she is actually referred to as a gurach/gwrach. Turns out that her name is significant too: a gwyllion in Welsh mythology is an ugly female spirit or mountain fey, wandering in the night up to no good, and carrying a cauldron.

  2. Interesting lore about the Druids, never knew the Derudh’s Stone was named after it. Awesome outfit! 😉

  3. Baranwen says:

    Awesome! As usual, great job with the contribution of an historic background to the piece.
    As a “celtophile” myself, I enjoy the celtic inspiration in Tolkien’s work, and the way de developers of the game have been faithful to that. And I imagine Tolkien must have loved welsh language, it’s so unique!
    Beautiful outfit, perfect to copy, 😉

    • Thanks Baranwen! I think you are quite right about Tolkien loving Welsh. You may have already read it, but he gave an interesting lecture called “English and Welsh” that is collected in The Monsters and the Critics. I agree, it’s a beautiful-sounding language. 🙂

  4. shipwreck says:

    Another informative, stylish class act! I’ve been flipping through A Reader’s Companion and it’s just crazy how EVERY name has a link to some primary world term. I knew that most of them did, but the consistency is amazing. It seems like Turbine (or at least Berephon) have tried to do this as well.

    • Thank you Shipwreck! You’re so right that the consistency is amazing. I think the carefully considered framework of both the constructed languages and the “analogue languages” (like Old English for the tongue of the Men of Rohan, Old Norse for the Men of Dale, etc.) has to be one of my favourite things about Tolkien.

      I agree with you that Turbine has done quite well in employing the same strategy with the Lossoth and the Dunlendings and so on. Sometimes they get it a bit humourously wrong like with good old voiceover “The uch-gwirod requires us to give welcome to Duvodiad!” where they’re trying to convey that the clan-spirits require us to welcome you, but in fact are saying that the clan liquor/spirits/booze requires us to welcome you. The other good one is Tulwulh-gwirod, supposedly the Ghosthole-spirit but actually the Ghosthole-booze. 😛

      By the way, Iranon of Arda has done a fantastic linguistic guide to the Welsh used in the Dunland region — highly recommended!

  5. Elenluin says:

    Great story! The Dunlendings remind me of the Picts, trapped between Rome and the Saxon invaders. Not sure if that’s historically correct though, its from a story I once read. Mournshaws is one of my favourite areas in game, the stone circles have a mystic feel to them specially because you can reach the Huntsman’s place from one of them. It also reminds me of the ‘heart trees’ and ‘children of the forest’ from A Song of Ice and Fire.

    • I love all the Huntsman stuff in Dunland as well. 🙂 I’ve been reading this fantasy series from the 80s lately that ties the Atlantis legend to the Arthurian legend via Celtic mythology. It’s pretty interesting, so I’ve been feeling really into all this Celtic stuff lately. As always, thank you for your kind comment, Elenluin! 😀

      • Fionnuala says:

        The Pendragon Cycle? I still can bring myself to finish reading Taliesin. I just found it boring and I love Celtic Mythology, Arthurian Legend and the Atlantis legend. I really expected to like it.

        • That’s the one! I can see why it might be found to be a bit boring. It’s definitely a bit slow, but sometimes I like that. My idea of a good summer read is something kind of slow and meandering. 😛 I read Taliesin on my recent vacation and I’m about halfway through Merlin (I’m the slowest reader in the known universe). So far Taliesin is far superior to Merlin! :O

        • Fionnuala says:

          *can’t bring myself to finish reading it

  6. Such a wonderful outfit and beautiful setting. Druids may not be mentioned by Tolkien, but I agree that their culture is a natural fit. Even one such as Radagast has a lot of druidic aspects. The Dunlending language trips me up though. As does Welsh. Too many ll’s and ww’s to wrap my tongue around. 🙂

    • Thank you Hymne! Hehehe, Welsh does look a little like a cat walked across a keyboard, doesn’t it? 😛 But the times I’ve heard it spoken I always thought it sounded so pretty and soft. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Tough skin | Wandering Around Arda

  8. Frieja says:

    This is absolutely fantastic! I’m actually preparing a character very similar to this for role-play. I assume that Derudh would be the male title. What would be the equivalent for Druidess?

    • Thanks so much Frieja, and welcome to the blog! 😀

      I wish I could answer your question with authority, but my knowledge of Welsh only goes as far as what I needed to write this post! Doing some quick reading, it seems that in modern Welsh, feminine versions of nouns can be created by adding a suffix -es to the word (or -wraig if the masculine noun ends in -wr). So derwydd could become derwyddes, which you could then represent Turbine-style as derudhes.

      If anyone reading has some Welsh knowledge that can confirm this or (far more likely) correct me, please do chime in!

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