While our heroes are questing through the Fords of Isen, the mountain of Methedras, and Fangorn Forest at Saruman’s bidding, Fantasy Flight continues to drop previews of our upcoming adventures in the Ring-maker cycle.
The cover art of the second pack titled “The Three Trials”, caught the attention of Cardboard of the Rings co-host Jared, who is running a contest on their Facebook page for players to guess the card type, sphere, keywords and stats of this new character.
Those still wanting to enter can find an answer to at least one of those questions on artist Jake Murray’s DeviantArt page where he has posted a high resolution version of this artwork. We’ve featured Mr. Murray’s work at Master of Lore twice before, both in The Eagles Are Coming! and Dori and he’s outdone himself again here, presenting a bold portrait of who he calls “a hardened female ranger of the Dúnedain”. Her name appears to be Idraen, which means she will be joining the ranks of FFG-created characters intended to round out the gender balance in Middle-earth.
Mr. Murray says that he rather enjoys illustrating these non-canonical characters as he gets more artistic license to create his own vision of their persona. In the case of Idraen, his goal was to portray “someone who seems much older and more jaded on the inside than she really looks on the outside.” I’d say he’s done an impressive job!
Many have noted that this portrait would be fitting for Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen, who passed away in 3007 just 11 years before the War of the Ring. With such a similar name, I’d say there’s little doubt that Gilraen was an inspiration for Idraen. Gilraen is quite a tragic character in Tolkien’s legendarium, overwhelmed with “foreboding” at Aragorn’s love for Arwen and spending her final years living “alone” and out of touch with her son while Aragorn is gone for “years in far countries”. She had named her son Estel, which means “hope”. But she dies hopeless, as is told in the “Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” from Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings:
“This is our last parting, Estel, my son. I am aged by care, even as one of lesser Men; and now that it draws near I cannot face the darkness of our time that gathers upon Middle-earth. I shall leave it soon.”
‘Aragorn tried to comfort her, saying: “Yet there may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.”
‘But she answered only with this linnod:
Onen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel anim,
(‘I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself’)
and Aragorn went away heavy of heart. Gilraen died before the next spring.
In Peter Jackson’s Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, these final words of Gilraen are engraved on her tombstone in a touching scene of Aragorn visiting her memorial before the Company departs following the Council of Elrond. Of course, unlike Tolkien’s Aragorn who encourages his mother that “there may be a light beyond the darkness”, Jackson’s Aragorn initially wants nothing to do with his destiny and is a much more reluctant king.
Gilraen’s character is also fleshed out in the brilliant feature length fan film Born of Hope which “follows the lives of Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn, from their first meeting through a turbulent time in their people’s history.” Anyone interested in the Rangers of the North will love this film.
Assuming some relation to Gilraen, maybe our new character Idraen can be imagined as an aunt or perhaps a cousin to Aragorn. Aragorn’s final meeting with his mother takes place within the time period of our game (the 17 years between the Long Expected Party and Frodo’s departure from the Shire) and so Idraen may be “hardened” and “jaded” by the despair of her relative Gilraen, yet she is still fighting for a chance to see Aragorn’s “light beyond the darkness”. At least, that’s the story I have in my mind for the character!
In terms of gameplay, I’m hoping that the Idraen card will make a Dúnedain deck a more viable archetype. As FFG’s preview article says this pack will support “a wide range of player themes and mechanics that include the Noldor, Dúnedain, and Scout traits”. For me, I’d love to see Idraen as an ally that allows players to use the Signal attachments more readily and move them to allies as well as heroes. Take a look at my custom Idraen and let me know what you think. What other abilities would you like to see on a Dúnedain card in order to give the trait more synergy and theme?