Layabout or unexpected hero

When the scent of wood-smoke lingers in the mountain air, the leaves of the trees on the foothills turn to flaming gold, and the days grow crisp and the nights cold, autumn has come once again. It is time for the Dwarves to retreat into the warm, dry sanctuary of their hollow halls beneath the fells, there to enjoy roaring fires and the deep-voiced singing of the minstrels, and to begin the craft-work that will take them through the deeps of winter.

A pipe and a fire on a brisk night

This dwarf, considered young in the reckoning of his kind, loves this time of year best. He spends hours basking in the warmth of the hearth, pipe in hand, listening to tales of the Fathers of the Dwarves, stirring up the embers, and staring thoughtfully into the leaping flames. But to crafts he pays little heed. His elder brothers therefore call him Coalbiter and gently chide him as a dreamer, but with little malice: for all know that in the Great Tales, it is the coalbiter who becomes the most resourceful and successful of unlikely heroes. Who knows what fate might have in store for their youngest brother?

He spent the autumn nights gazing into the hearth-flames

Prior to the formation of the Inklings, Tolkien founded another informal literary club called the Kolbítar, or “Coalbiters”, which was dedicated to reading and studying the Norse and Icelandic sagas. The name is, of course, from the Old Norse kol “coal” + bítr “biter, eater”. A coalbiter, sometimes called an ash lad, is a kind of stock character in the northern sagas, a young man seen as a layabout and ne’er-do-well by his kin because of his love of whiling away the hours near the fire, sitting so close that he practically “bites the coals”. However, the coalbiter is an abstract free-thinker compared to his conventional kin, and when adventure inevitably comes calling, the coalbiter succeeds where his kin fail. Per Gynt from Norwegian folklore is an example of this kind of character. In The Lord of the Rings, the coalbiter archetype could be seen to be represented by Sam and, especially, in The Hobbit by Bilbo — but because of the Old Norse name I couldn’t help but think “dwarf” for this outfit. It seemed like a good concept for an autumn-themed post — maybe something to wear to the upcoming Harvestmath festival — incorporating the seasonal colours of black and orange, which also reflect the hues of flame and coal. I was also pleased to find a customised use for the Helm’s Deep pre-order boots, which like most pre-order cosmetics, cannot be dyed.

The table set for an autumn feast

  • Head: Thick Quilted Hat (looted — general world drop; or crafted — tailor T2), grey
  • Shoulders: Shoulder Pads of Resolve (bartered — Ox-clan merchant camp Minstrel trader/Minstrel instance armour), grey
  • Back: Cloak of Shadow and Flame (looted — epic [60] Volume 2, Book 6, Chapter 8: New Devilry/Gwathnor), black
  • Chest: Extravagant Festival Robe (quest reward — Yule festival [10] Gain and Glory: Assist the Rich), rust
  • Hands: Lesser Blade of the West Gauntlets (bartered — Harndirion novices quartermaster/tier 1 difficulty Champion armour), white
  • Feet: Boots of the Hammerhand (pre-order — Helm’s Deep), default

Tips: A ceremonial version of the Cloak of Shadow and Flame can be purchased at the LOTRO Store. The shoulders from the other two Minstrel’s Rise of Isengard sets, as well as the shoulders from the Lore-master and Rune-keeper Rise of Isengard sets (all available at the Ox-clan merchant camp), all share the same appearance as the shoulders used in this outfit. The gloves from the Captain and Warden sets from the Harndirion novices quartermaster also have the same appearance as the Champion gloves used in this outfit.

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8 Responses to Coalbiter

  1. Cennwyn says:

    I love your dwarf outfits! Somehow I always end up working against that short, broad build, but you really embrace it and make it work.

  2. gloredh says:

    I like how the colors of the outfit perfectly match the interior of the house, the pointy hat makes this dwarf look kinda cute and the atmosphere is so warm 🙂

    • Thanks Gloredh! I’m glad that cozy, warm, stay-indoors, autumn-evening feeling came through, and that he looks a little disarming, even cute. I wanted to try to make him seem a little cute/goofy to get across that apparent sense of unlikelihood of a “coalbiter” ever being heroic. It’s great to hear that it worked for you! 😀

  3. Yay an irregular post! With nice shiny new bootses! Love the flame light here it makes for a very mysterious atmosphere. Beautiful.

    • Hehehe, no sooner do I say I’ll be posting irregularly than I go ahead and post an outfit. 😛 Aaaand of course it’s October, so I’ll have a few “guises” this month too. Lol, at least I have a plan!

      Anyway, glad you like this one, Hymne! I was happy to find a way to use those boots which of course we’ll be seeing everywhere. Sure do wish the pre-order stuff could be dyed though!

  4. Ben says:

    Oh wow! I totally recognized the references. As a Norwegian, I’m practically raised on the stories about the Ashlad (Askeladden)! There’s the story where he tricks the troll in an eating match by making it think that cutting your stomach open makes you able to eat as much as you want; the story where he makes the haughty princess dumbstruck by his clever arguing; the story where he gathers people ostracized by society that turn out to be good helpers; and so on and on.
    As a funny (and childish) sidenote, Askeladden was originally recorded by Asbjørnsen and Moe (the Norwegian equivalent to the Grimm brothers) as “Oskefisen” (Ash-fart), since the character was often reduced to blowing air at the ashes to keep the hearth going. But they censored it, finding it rather inappropriate. Another term for the character is “Tyri-Hans”, or the boy that watches the “tyri”, or heartwood-of-pine, which was used to start fires quickly (and also gives the fire a pleasant smell). In Norwegian, Cinderella is called “Askepott”, or “Ash-pot”, the similarity between the archetypes being fairly noticeable.

    I’m sorry, I ramble, I’m really enjoying your blog though!

    • I love it! 😀 Welcome Ben and thank you so much for your fascinating comment. I love hearing little details like the ones you shared and these are all new to me. Folklore and the work of people like the Grimms, Elias Lönnrot, Andrew Lang is so interesting. And now thanks to your comment I know about Asbjørnsen and Moe too. 🙂

      Thanks again for the great comment and I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. Cheers!

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