Boots from Erebor

…in metalwork we cannot rival our fathers, many of whose secrets are lost. — Gloin, Many Meetings

But how about boots? The flavor text from Boots from Erebor doesn’t go anywhere near the Lonely Mountain. It is taken from the prologue “Concerning Hobbits” and reminds us that, yes, some hobbits wore boots. Not just any boots, mind you, but proper dwarf boots. Right off the cuff this tells us a few things: if there were any cobblers in the Shire (or amongst the Bree-hobbits), they weren’t especially good, and that the hobbits have had regular interactions, if only commercial ones, with the dwarves. After their exile from Erebor, The Lonely Mountain, the dwarves established a new realm for themselves, albeit a petty one, in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are just a hop, a skip, and probably a jump away from the Shire (see the map below). From there, the dwarves had some dealings with the halflings, and a hobbit or two, ‘queer’ enough to wear them, scored themselves a nice set of boots.

Boots from Erebor

Click for a high resolution version of this entry’s featured card.

EXPLORE THE LEGEND

The Blue Mountains are a special mountain range as they are amongst the oldest places in the west of Middle-earth. The Blue Mountains (Sindarin, ‘Ered Luin’) held the vast, ancient dwarf kingdoms of Nogrod and Belegost during the First Age. When they were destroyed in the sundering of Beleriand, many dwarves fled to Moria. The eventual return to the Blue Mountains thousands of years later was not a grand one. Thráin II, father of Thorin Oakenshield, led his people there, knowing the Blue Mountains to be a peaceful place and one where the dwarves had lived before (I’m not entirely sure, but I think they kept functioning mines in those parts even before the return of Durin’s Folk). After the sack of Erebor and the War of Dwarves and Orcs, they established a “petty home in exile”, as Thorin described it in the Appendices, but it was not enough for Thorin and his people; the eagerness to reclaim Erebor was rekindled with the loss of his father. Famously, Thráin left and went wandering with a few friends, most notably Balin. He was captured and held in Dol Guldur, tortured, and left to die. As chance would have it, he had hidden a certain map and key, which was passed on to a wandering wizard who had infiltrated the dungeons.

There is a notable strain of crazy in the line of Durin that appears after they are given a certain set of seven rings. It’s believed that the hold of the rings amplified the natural dwarvish want of gold and sent Thrór in a fit to the walls of Moria, where he was subsequently mutilated. It sent Thráin out to his doom and, even though Thrór’s ring was lost at this point, the same lust almost cost Thorin everything when he finally retook his long forgotten gold before the Battle of Five Armies.

By Viirberrocal (Deviantart)

The Lonely Mountain, after its reclamation, once again became the center of dwarvendom. We get little hints about the other Houses of the Dwarves dropped here and there, but it is really the Longbeards (Durin’s Folk) who are the strongest and most well-known at this period in time. But let’s go back a bit.

At the end of the First Age of the Sun, times was hard. Morgoth, the Great Enemy (I like to think of him as Sauron’s boss), was having his way with the West of Middle-earth. Orcs were on the loose, Balrogs were in abundance, and the nastiest of all dragons had been bred and unleashed with orders to kill. The dwarves at that time lived in the Blue Mountains, which were then a great chain comparable to the Misty Mountains. The two dwarf-homes there of note were, as I said, Nogrod and Belegost and they aided the Elves and Men of that Age in what ways they could. They also had their difficulties with the Elves, but that’s another card and another story.

By Fabio Leone (Deviantart)

In the aftermath of the First Age, when the continent of Beleriand was smashed into the Sea, Nogrod and Belegost were lost and the dwarves of those Houses moved eastwards and joined their cousins in Moria. If it was not the greatest of all dwarf-kingdoms before, Moria, now with the added strength of the dwarves of Beleriand, was surely the strongest home of the dwarves in all Middle-earth. However the dwarves were not the only people to flee eastwards. As we all know, they delved too deeply and too greedily. Durin’s Bane, a Balrog asleep in the roots of the mountains, hiding and awaiting the return of his master Morgoth, was awoken and ran the dwarves from Khazad-dûm. And from there, where did they go? Here and there, but mostly to the Grey Mountains far in the North, beyond the northernmost point of the Misty Mountains. And things were good, for a time. The dwarves seem to have no shortage of enemies and they were, after much slaughter, driven from the Grey Mountains by Scatha the worm. A particularly nasty dragon who was later killed by Frumgar of Rohan. So, where to next? Some of the Longbeards left for the Iron Hills. One particularly royal dwarf went there. Grór founded his realm in the Iron Hills and It would be inherited by his son Náin and, later, his grandson Dáin II.

Migrations of the Dwarves

Migration of the Dwarves from “The Atlas of Middle-Earth”

But most the dwarves of the kindred of Durin found the Lonely Mountain and there created a famous realm. My favorite part of the recent Hobbit movie was the opening scene in which the halls of Erebor are shown. They look amazing and help to paint the picture of the dwarves at their best. That is a home worth reclaiming from a dragon.

And, as we all know, through a certain set of events it was restored to its former glory. Old trade routes were re-established between the Lonely Mountain and the Blue Mountains far to the east. That way took the Dwarf Road through Mirkwood, the High Pass over the Misty Mountains, all the way to the Great East Road through Eriador, passed Bree, all the way over the Brandywine River and into the Shire, where…

as a rule, dwarves said little and the hobbits asked no more.

It appears they were not on the friendliest of terms with the Little Folk. In “The Quest for Erebor” in Unfinished Tales, Gandalf has a hard time convincing Thorin that he needs a hobbit burglar. In an effort to explain that hobbits are not all simple villagers, who “drink from clay”, the wizard speaks of some of the heirlooms at Bag End. It’s at this point that Bilbo is said to be a thief (because, obviously, he could not have gotten nice things from anyone but a dwarf). It’s not explicit that the dwarves of the Blue Mountains all felt the same racial superiority. Gandalf suggests that hobbits have had dealings with Dwarves (and Elves) for a great long while. Perhaps even Bilbo’s later renown, which surely spread amongst Dwarves as much as it did Hobbits, helped repair things a bit. Nonetheless, we get the impression that Hobbits and Dwarves weren’t bosom buddies; but some trade still occurred. For those hobbits who wanted them could get their hands on sturdy boots all the way from the Mountain.

SHOWCASE THE ARTWORK

What else is there to say about the art featured here? It’s a pair of boots.

MEC08_3_Dwarf Boots-CarolinaEade

Click for high resolution version.

Click for high resolution version.

The card artwork was created by Carolina Eade, a Chilean artist whose fine talents in fantasy characterization are not properly showcased with these boots.  Check out her Facebook and DeviantArt pages for more impressive work, including this gorgeous and intriguing portrait of Galadriel which she produced for FFG but we haven’t seen on a card.  I wonder if this was for another submission for The Favor of the Lady, a different FFG game, or perhaps a preview of an upcoming expansion?

Ms. Eade is a proud member of Ohtarima, the Tolkien Society of Chile, and says that her work with FFG on The Lord of the Rings Card Game really meant a lot to her because she loved the novel since she was a kid.  She says that her directions were to use only the books for reference, not any film imagery, to which she added, “Not that I’d think about doing THAT” (she hasn’t even seen the movies!).  Hearing from yet another member of the creative team behind this game with such great appreciation for Tolkien’s literary work just further boosts my confidence that this license is in good hands.  Thanks for sharing, Carolina, and best wishes!

Back to the boots though, the most remarkable thing about them is not the pair of boots itself, but the fact that hobbits are meant to wear them. The halflings are renowned for running around barefooted, with ‘thick leathery soles’ and what is essentially a full head of hair on top of each hoof.  There lived some hobbits, however, who called upon their Stoorish descent and chose to wear boots.

The Stoors were one of the three original kindreds of hobbits to come West over the Mountains. If we go way, way back, then Hobbits are a strain of Men who awoke with the coming of the First Age of the Sun. From there we lose a few millennia or so, but once the Hobbits pop back up on our historical radar, they are easily divided into three strains: Harfoots, Fallohides, and Stoors. The prologue to The Lord of the Rings explains, rather thoroughly, the key differences in these strains. The main thing for us, though, is that they all made it westwards and the Stoors are no exception.

Some settled in Dunland, but many landed in the Shire. This was mostly in the Eastfarthing, where the muddy lands of the Marish merited a prolonging of the tradition of the boot. Those hobbits were said to be bigger, more mannish, and it is the Brandybucks who mostly chart themselves in line with that ancient blood.  Here is a depiction of what a Stoorish hobbit may have looked like (whiskers and all).

Stoor

This boot-wearing Stoor was illustrated by Lidia Postma, who has some additional Tolkien themed work featured at the Council of Elrond webpage.  She also illustrated a book titled The Hobbit Companion by David Day which looks be a great read for a lore junkie judging by the excerpt!

Surprisingly, LOTR LCG is not the first licensed gaming property to depict Stoors in dwarf boots either! Here is an image of what a Stoor, complete with boots, may appear like in The Lord of the Rings Online game, compliments of the fabulous Starry Mantle blog:

shod-in-the-manner-of-her-kind-png

Short of that, there just aren’t many illustrations of hobbits in boots, so the simple painting of a good pair of hobbit (or dwarf) sized boots suits this card right down to the ground.

DISCUSS THE CARDS

Would a hobbit’s lifespan been increased by +1 if he had donned a pair of boots? I can’t say. There’s little evidence to suggest that those of the Eastfarthing were any longer lived, or more survivable, than their fellows throughout the Shire. This, however, is how the boots are represented, albeit abstractly, in the game.

Boots from Erebor is a bit of underplayed card. Sure, free boots are free boots but there are more cards in the pool to get your Hobbits and Dwarves more hitpoints more efficiently. I recently included them in a Hobbit deck I made and they are very effective in beefing up the typically fragile halflings, especially when especially nasty effects like Dark and Dreadful or Evil Storm can do some serious damage to your heroes. I expect to see this card get a little more attention with the forthcoming Black Riders expansion, which is very hobbit-focused.

That said, I wish to share with you the aforementioned Hobbit deck. Of course most of the talk surrounding the new Pippin hero, and the Hobbit trait in general, is that it’s either lame or simply underdeveloped. However, this deck works fairly well, especially if you can get a good draw with your opening hand, and most especially if you use the Easy Mode rule that lets you begin with two resources per hero (even if you don’t remove the Easy Mode cards). A first turn Gandalf, who is able to hang around for a good while thanks to the low starting threat of the hobbits, is incredibly powerful. He’s essentially a fourth hero who doesn’t exhaust to quest.

The real travesty of this deck is that the two Hobbit allies we’ve seen so far were too useless to make the cut. Use A Good Harvest to pay for the off-sphere cards and Song of Wisdom to ease the burden on Bilbo’s Lore resources.

Heroes
Pippin
Bilbo Baggins
Frodo Baggins

Allies (16)
Arwen Undomiel x2
Northern Tracker x2
Rivendell Minstrel x2
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Faramir x2
Dori x2

Attachments (18)
Song of Wisdom x2
Dark Knowledge x2
Love of Tales x2
Fast Hitch x3
Ring Mail x3
Boots from Erebor x3
Good Meal x3

Events (16)
Small Target x3
A Good Harvest x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Hobbit-sense x2
Infighting x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2

I think we’re all looking forward to some fresh additions to the Hobbit trait with the imminent arrival of the Black Riders saga expansion at GenCon. For now, the hobbits will have to rely on the Grey Pilgrim, as usual.

Until next time, here is your moment of zen:

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8 comments

  1. Great work Derek. I really like that you mentioned the Blue Mountains’ significance dating all the way back to The First Age. If you have not had a chance to ready The Children of Hurin, I definitely recommend it. Not only does it add richly to the Tolkien’s legendarium, but is an excellent epic tragedy in its own right.

    I tip my paw to you, Master of Lore, for the fine work on this site. You articles are always entertaining as well as enlightening, and I must say you have good taste in guest writers. This blog is a real asset to the community and all fans of Tolkien’s work!

  2. Thanks for another great article Derek! I’ve recently read the prologue of The Lord of the Rings since all the recent talk of Black Riders and Tom Bombadil at COTR led me to shamefully confess that I actually skipped Book 1 last time I read The Lord of the Rings.

    After reading The Silmarillion this past winter, the history of Hobbits migrating west in three houses struck me in its echo with the three houses of Men that came into Beleriand in the First Age. The interaction between Hobbits and Men and Dwarves in the history of the North also came as a surprise. Apparently The Shire wasn’t so cloistered until only just before the War of the Ring and the Boots from Erebor are a reminder of a time when there was much more trafficking.

    Your recounting of the Dwarves’ numerous migrations seeking for a homeland reminds me of an interview I read in which Tolkien states that the Dwarves story gained some inspiration from modern Jewish history saying “The dwarves of course are quite obviously – wouldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic.”

    Finally, I have a question. Is it known what happened to Thrór’s Ring? I thought that Sauron reclaimed it while Thráin was imprisoned in Dol Guldur and that it never passed to Thorin. Of course, we’re also told that the Dwarven kings kept their rings a secret and so it’s not certain and Thorin’s lust for gold at the end of The Hobbit is certainly symptomatic of the ring. I’m curious to see if and how Peter Jackson incorporates the Dwarven ring into the next couple Hobbit films.

    Thanks again for your fine work. Between us I think we may actually manage to keep this blog active on a monthly basis!

  3. The Jewish connexion crossed my mind a few times in writing this, but I thought it shaky ground. As correct as Tolkien was (he cites the dwarves as being ‘a people apart’ as the Jews were after the diaspora, how they kept their own tongue but learned that of their new neighbors, and how their ancestral homes had been destroyed) some people find offense somehow.

    Thrór’s ring was taken in Dol Guldur. I may have to go back and edit this article to make sure that’s explicit. Sauron took it and his envoy to the Lonely Mountain, as we learn from Glóin in FOTR, offers Rings in return for information about ‘Baggins’. I have no doubt that one of those would have been Thrór’s ring.

    The gold-lust we see in Thorn in The Hobbit is probably inspired (1) by his finally having got his own back and (2) the lingering dragon sickness, if it’s really a thing that spreads like a virus. No, Thorin did not have the ring. I do, however, think that it’s not unlikely that the ring had some kind of effect on Thorin.

    Just my two pence.

  4. As usual, very interesting article. The deck is pretty interesting too. I probably wouldn’t have taken so much advantage of A Good Harvest, and I wouldn’t have used 3 Elrond’s Counsel when it depends on one of the 2 Arwen cards being out for it to work. I at least would have replaced one Elrond’s Counsel with a Galadhrim’s Greeting.

  5. This was a great read! I’m currently in the process of reading through the Hobbit and LotR again; I started with Return of the King and Appendix A, and naturally I decided to start from scratch after that. It had been quite a while since I read that one and to see Prince Imrahil as such a prominent character was really cool and made me want to use him in the card game all the more!

    I’ve never read any of the additional Tolkien texts even though I consider myself a huge fan of the universe. Where would you recommend starting? The Silmarillion or perhaps Unfinished Tales?

    Again, great work at delving into the lore of the Dwarves. I look forward to seeing more of your posts.

  6. Thanks, Karlson!

    As far as which Tolkien text to tackle next, I’d say you should do whatever you like! As far as tales in Middle-earth, The Silmarillion is typically next in the progression (presuming you’ve read The Hobbit, which I’m sure you have). It’s the only other ‘completed’ work (even though his son, Christopher, had to do a lot of editing and splicing) and sets an epic backdrop to The Hobbit and Rings. That said, it’s a dense read; there are lots of proper nouns and the style is pretty archaic. It’s most often compared to the Old Testament. But, not unlike the Old Testament, there are some truly moving stories within the difficult language.

    Unfinished Tales are just that: unfinished. So, while it provides some extensions to the stories and biographies begun in Rings, it can be a little confusing because sometimes there are presented various versions and Christopher pops in here and there, breaking the narrative to keep the drafts strung together.

    Children of Húrin I would recommend for a later time; it’s an extended version of one of the tales in The Silmarillion and, while very good, is dark and isolated. It doesn’t give you much of the breadth of the elder days.

    The Tolkien Reader is a good choice, too, because it contains some Middle-earth stuff (Hobbit poetry, for instance) and it also gives you a good look into some of his other stuff. This includes other fictional pieces, like ‘Farm Giles of Ham’; philosophical pieces, like ‘Tree and Leaf’; and academic/historical stuff like the ‘Homecoming of Beorhtnoth’.

    Well! You see what happens when you get a Tolkien nerd going. Hopefully that shed a little light on the subject.

  7. […] artist for Narvi’s Belt is Carolina Eade, who we’ve featured once before in the Boots from Erebor article.  I don’t know why FFG has made Ms. Eade their go-to artist for Middle-earth accessories […]

  8. […] are quite a few options for sideboard cards: Bill and Boots from Erebor can give you a little hit point boost, which is actually nice to mitigate threat gain should damage […]

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