The Holly King is a Primary World mythological figure whose existence as an archetype has been argued by authors such as poet Robert Graves in The White Goddess and anthropologist Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough. Both writers thought that there is evidence in the Celtic, Scandinavian, and other bodies of folklore to suggest a mythical eternal struggle between two figures, each representing one half of the year: the Holly King and the Oak King. The Oak King represented summer, while the Holly King, dressed in red and with sprigs of holly twisted into his long white beard, represented winter. Though probably primarily a Celtic figure, because the Holly King was at the height of his power during the Germanic Yule festival he became strongly associated with that festive season in places where Celtic and Germanic peoples came into contact (such as the British Isles). The Holly King may even have been a pagan precursor to Father Christmas (a figure which was later blended with wonderworker and gift-giver St Nicholas of Myra to become Sinterklaas). Graves identified a number of paired mythological figures that he felt represented the Oak King and the Holly King, including, respectively, the Arthurian figures Sir Gawain and the Green Knight — whose story Tolkien translated from Middle English to Modern English. The Holly King isn’t referenced anywhere in Tolkien’s works, and there is no evidence that the Hobbits of the Shire had a folkloric figure like the Holly King, but it’s something that wouldn’t feel out of place, especially for Hobbits with Stoor ancestry, given their historical closeness with the Men of Dunland and the Celtic translations Tolkien gave their names. Most of all, the idea makes for a fun Yuletide outfit!
This lad is dressed up as the Holly King for his extended family’s Yuletide celebration, to the delight of his younger cousins. Tales of this spry old figure have been told by the fire in his Stoorish family for generations, perhaps back even to the time out of memory before his distant forefathers first came to the Shire from the South. Now, worn with retelling, those old stories have come to be associated with the Yule festival. Sprigs of holly adorn his hat and his backpack (full of treats), and he holds another in his mitten-clad hand. Although the evenings are chill and snowy, he will be kept quite warm when he goes out to select a Yule-log for his hearth or to visit his neighbours a-wassailing. Nevertheless, it’s nice to return to one’s own Hobbit-hole, well-decked for the season, to enjoy a mug of warm brandywine!
I hope everyone’s enjoying the in-game Yule festival. May the present-sacks be good to you and your kith and kin, and your days in-game (and out!) be full of cheer!
Merry Christmas, happy holidays,
and all the season’s greetings
from the Starry Mantle!
- Head: Wintry Yule Hat (bartered — Winter-home Yule festival quartermaster/The More The Merrier – tier 2), red
- Shoulders: Lesser Memory of the West Shoulder Guards (bartered — Harndirion novices quartermaster/tier 1 difficulty Lore-master armour), white
- Back: Wintry Yule Backpack (bartered — Winter-home Yule festival quartermaster/The More the Merrier – tier 2), yellow
- Chest: Ceremonial Robe of the Seven Stars (bartered — skirmish camp cosmetics quartermaster/Annúminas cosmetic clothing), crimson
- Hands: Oven Mitts (bartered — skirmish camp cosmetics quartermaster/cosmetic items), yellow
- Feet: Ajokoira Shoes (crafted — tailor T5/Lossoth reputation), red
- Hand: Festive Yule Mug (bartered — Winter-home Yule festival quartermaster/festival rewards)
- Hand: Bunch of Holly (bartered — Winter-home Yule festival quartermaster/festival rewards)
Tips: The Wintry Yule Cap, a hat with similar styling to the one in the outfit, but decorated with a snowflake instead of a holly-sprig, randomly drops from the sacks of presents rewarded by the Yule festival daily repeatable quest.
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