…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
Arwen Undomiel x2
Northern Tracker x2
Rivendell Minstrel x2
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Song of Wisdom x2
Dark Knowledge x2
Love of Tales x2
Fast Hitch x3
Ring Mail x3
Boots from Erebor x3
Good Meal x3
Small Target x3
A Good Harvest x3
Elrond’s Counsel 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: