Special Feature: The Others

Derek recently brought to my attention a cool idea posted by user Ozil23 on the FFG forums, and I couldn’t resist falling down the rabbit hole.  In short, what if our duplicate versions of unique characters aren’t actually the same person, but rather other people from other eras of Tolkien’s legendarium with the same name?  If so, then could we run a table with two Boromirs, two Aragorns, two Glorfindels, or (perish the thought) two Pippins?  It would require playing fast and loose with the timeline of course, but I’ve already run a zombie Thorin Oakenshield in the Dwarrowdelf cycle (though that’s only about 60 rather than 600 years off as most of these cases are).  At any rate, I thought the concept would be a fun reason to consider the lore of “the Others” — the more obscure Tolkien characters who have the same name as our popular and beloved heroes.  So sit back and get lost in the lore as we meet Other Faramir, Other Glóin, and more, culminating in a longer look at our very first duplicate hero who just may not be an Other after all!

the-others

OTHER FARAMIR

Lived: Some time before T.A. 1896 until 1944 (about 2000 years earlier)

Who was he: Younger son of the 31st King of Gondor

Notable for: Dying after going to battle the Wainriders in disguise, leaving no direct heir to the throne of Gondor alive.

Appears in: Appendix A “Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion”

Other Faramir also happened to be the younger prince of Gondorian royalty. His older brother was named Artamir and his father, not the Steward, was King Ondoher whose brief reign was cut brutally short by a massive invasion of the Wainriders. This invasion was the “third evil” which, along with the Kin-strife and the Great Plague, completed the trifecta of terrible events that contributed to Gondor’s decline. The war with the Wainriders began in T.A. 1851 and had been raging nearly a hundred years when Other Faramir rode into battle against them in the Battle of the Camp, which ended the war in 1944. Other Faramir, however, only sallied forth by defying the custom that an heir to the throne should remain as regent in Minas Anor. He rode out to battle in disguise where he was slain in the Dead Marshes along with his brother and his father. With no direct descendent of the King remaining, the crown passed to Ëarnil II (he is Other Ëarnil, not of Ëarnil’s Map fame), the valiant army captain who won the day for Gondor but whose son would be the last King of Gondor before the Ruling Stewards. It seems that to be named Faramir in Gondor means to get as close as possible to ruling the kingdom but never sealing the deal! Since Other Faramir was a warrior eager for battle, let’s say that he’s the Lore hero because of its combat buffing ability.

Faramir-LOTR-LCG

OTHER BOROMIR

Lived: T.A. 2410 – 2489 (about 500 years earlier)

Who was he: The 11th Ruling Steward of Gondor

Notable for: Defeating Mordor uruks in Ithilien and sparking fear in the Witch-king.

Appears in: Appendix A “Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion”

Unlike Boromir, Other Boromir actually became the Steward of Gondor after the passing of his father (also named Denethor, see below). Other Boromir was Other Denethor’s third son and a fierce warrior who was the first to lead Gondor into battle with “the race of uruks” that issued from Mordor in T.A. 2475. Although Other Boromir was able to regain Ithilien and earn a reputation that made “even the Witch-king fear him”, he was unable to retake Osgiliath and eventually died after only 12 years as Steward from becoming “shrunken with pain” from a Morgul-wound. I’m not sure why Denethor gave his son the same name as Other Denethor when the latter also failed to capture Osgiliath but it sounds like both Boromirs were valorous leaders who sacrificed it all on the battlefield. Since the Leadership hero has a natural sphere match with the Steward of Gondor, he’s going to be our Other Boromir.

Boromir-LOTR-LCG

OTHER DENETHOR

Lived: T.A. 2375 – 2477 (about 550 years earlier)

Who was he: The 10th Ruling Steward of Gondor

Notable for: The end of the Watchful Peace and the return of Sauron to Dol Guldur

Appears in: Appendix A “Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion”

Forced: Discard when Other Denethor enters play.

Things tend to go downhill for Gondor whenever someone named Denethor becomes the Ruling Steward. We get very little information about Other Denethor, except that he was also the Steward and also named his son Boromir (above). The first line of Other Denethor’s entry in Tolkien’s notes in The People of Middle-earth simply says: “Great troubles arose in his day.” Indeed. I’d say the resurgence of Sauron and the first breeding of the Uruk-hai qualifies as “great troubles”. Interestingly, Other Denethor was probably also named after a previous Denethor, this third one being the Lord of the Laiquendi (Green-elves) while they lived in the Land of the Seven Rivers in Beleriand during the First Age. We’ll have to wait until a third version comes out before going deeper into the Elvish Denethor though. For now, let’s make Other Denethor the Leadership version. Unlike his later namesake, he definitely didn’t see Sauron or the Uruk-hai coming!

Denethor-LOTR-LCG

OTHER ARAGORN

Lived: T.A. 2227 – 2327 (about 700 years earlier)

Who was he: The 5th Chieftain of the Dúnedain

Notable for: Getting killed by wolves

Appears in: Appendix A “Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur”

There is less information about Other Aragorn than any of our other Other heros so far. All we know is that Other Aragorn, or Aragorn I, was the Chieftain of the Dúndedain after they had “passed into the shadows and became a secret and wandering people, and their deeds and labours were seldom sung or recorded.” Although Other Aragorn led his people during the Watchful Peace, his brief note mentions that he was “slain by wolves, which ever after remained a peril in Eriador, and are not yet ended”. Perhaps Other Aragorn was eaten by Other Wargs! Since the Leadership hero is obviously carrying the shards of Narsil, the Lore hero hooded in stealth mode is going to be our Other Aragorn (despite obviously being Strider).

Aragorn-LOTR-LCG

OTHER PIPPIN

“Gamgee Family” by Boudicca-Keltoi

Lived: Born in 1429 Shire Reckoning (10 years after the War of the Ring)

Who was he: Son of Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton

Notable for: Being named after Pippin

Appears in: Appendix B “The Longfather-Tree of Master Samwise”

Other Pippin is the 5th of 13 children that Sam and Rosie had after the War of the Ring. Of course, we know nothing about Other Pippin besides his entry on a family tree, but the sprawling line of names is proof that Sam kept “as busy and as happy as anyone can be” just as Frodo charged him on their way to the Grey Havens. Sam also named sons Frodo, Merry, and Bilbo whereas his daughters were all named after flowers (fitting for a gardener) beginning with Elanor. Since Other Pippin was surrounded by so many Hobbits all of his days, we’ll make him the Lore version.

Pippin-LOTR-LCGOTHER GLÓIN

 Lived: T.A. 2136 – 2385 (about 650 years earlier)

Who was he: King of Durin’s Folk

Notable for: Ruling in a time of Dwarven exploration and prosperity

Appears in: Appendix A “Durin’s Folk”

“True Cold-drake” by Kevin Ward

Like Other Pippin, Other Glóin gets no more in the legendarium than an entry in a genealogy in the appendices. He was the fourth generation from King Durin VI and he is the son of Thorin I and grandson of Thráin I (the Thorin and Thráin in The Hobbit are each “the Second”). It seems Durin’s Folk were quite powerful and expansive during Other Glóin’s reign as he ruled for 96 years, died of natural causes, and was succeeded on the throne by his son Óin. Other Glóin’s grandfather Thráin I founded Erebor and discovered the Arkenstone, but his father Thorin I removed the throne “into the far North, to the Grey Mountains… for those mountains were rich and little explored”. After 200 more years, this exploration ran the Dwarves afoul of “great cold-drakes” causing them to split and return to the Iron Hills and Erebor as their primary homes but this was well after Other Glóin’s reign. The Leadership hero’s white beard and regal bearing seems more fitting for a King of Durin’s line.  Since he has the Noble trait, he’ll be our Other Glóin.

Gloin-LOTR-LCG

OTHER GLORFINDEL

Lived: First Age until 510 (about 7000 years earlier)

Who was he: Chief of the House of the Golden Flower in Gondolin

Notable for: Saving the lives of Tuor’s family and other refugees by killing a Balrog during the fall of Gondolin

Appears in: The Book of Lost Tales II “The Fall of Gondolin”, The Silmarillion, The Peoples of Middle-earth “Last Writings”

Now we come at last to the character whose second version perplexed even the great Professor Tolkien himself! Other Glorfindel was a captain of Turgon‘s army in the hidden Elvish kingdom of Gondolin in the First Age of Middle-earth. When the city was finally sacked by a host of Orcs, dragons, and Balrogs towards the end of the age, Other Glorfindel fought valiantly through the streets establishing a path of escape for several refugees including Tuor, Idril, and their young child of destiny, Ëarendil.

However, just when this remnant was about to pass out of the Encircling Mountains through the Eagles’ Cleft, they were ambushed by Orcs and a Balrog. An epic blow-by-blow account of Other Glorfindel’s duel with the Balrog can be read in The Book of Lost Tales which contains the only complete narrative of Gondolin’s fall that Tolkien ever wrote. I just read this for the first time this week and the whole tale is, in my opinion, the most epic battle description Tolkien composed. Get it and read it. In the end, Other Glorfindel defeats the Balrog, but they both “fell to ruin in the abyss” and it is only by the grace of Thorondor that his body is lifted back up for a proper burial.

“Glorfindel and the Balrog” by John Howe

When Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, several names from his previous Book of Lost Tales manuscripts found their way into the narrative, including that of Glorfindel. There’s no indication in The Lord of the Rings that Glorfindel of Rivendell has anything to do with Other Glorfindel of Gondolin, but once Tolkien discovered the duplication of names, it presented him with a special problem that he was puzzling out until the end of his life. In fact, his essay on “Glorfindel” is among his “Last Writings” which Christopher Tolkien has collected in The Peoples of Middle-earth. In this essay, Tolkien writes that the “use [of Glorfindel] in The Lord of the Rings is one of the cases of somewhat random use of names found in older legends, now referred to as The Silmarillion, which escaped reconsideration in final published form of The Lord of the Rings.” He further remarks that “this is unfortunate, since the name is now difficult to fit” both into Sindarin linguistically and into the “organized mythology” historically.

What I find so fascinating and brilliant about J.R.R. Tolkien, however, is how he goes about solving this problem. In the essay, Tolkien brings his formidable skills of scholarly inquiry and analysis to bear on his own previous works. How could it be that an Elf in the House of Elrond during the Third Age could have the same name as one who died and was buried 7000 years earlier? Tolkien picks the name Glorfindel apart and puts it back together again philologically. He re-examines his own narratives as if searching for hidden clues in the text. And when he finds them (such as Glorfindel’s reverence towards Gandalf at the Council of Elrond and Other Glorfindel’s presence with Turgon’s company at the Kinslaying) he begins to postulate a story that could answer his question. Because of his method, Tolkien’s remarks in this essay are speculative, but because his hypothesis is so cool, many Tolkien fans take the idea as canonical. After all, Tolkien himself says in preface to his findings that “acceptance of the identify of Glorfindel of old and of the Third Age will actually explain what is said of him and improve the story.”

“Glorfindel Concept” from Battle for Middle-earth II

So what’s the story? When Other Glorfindel died in Gondolin in the First Age, his spirit was, as with all Elves, “obliged at once to return to the land of the Valar.” In Valinor, after death, Elves are restored to incarnate life, if they so desired it, though this could be delayed by Manwë if they were unrepentant of evil deeds committed in their life time or “still harboured any malice”.  However, as one of the Noldor who left the Blessed Realm in Fëanor’s rebellion, Glorfindel was under the ban and thus should not have been allowed to take corporeal form in Valinor again. But because the life of Ëarendil was “of vital importance to the designs of the Valar”, Manwë made an exception in Glorfindel’s case (being “not bound by his own ordinances” since he is the “supreme ruler of the Kingdom of Arda”).  Therefore, after “purging his guilt”, Glorfindel “became again a living and incarnate person” and “regained his primitive innocence and grace of the Eldar”.

Living again in Valinor, Glorfindel had a “spiritual power greatly enhanced by his self-sacrifice” and “became a follower, and friend, of Olórin (Gandalf), who… had an especial love of the Children of Eru.” He then returned to Middle-earth either around Third Age 1000 with Gandalf and the Istari or (because that might “make Glorfindel of greater power and importance than seems fitting”) some time during the Second Age before the drowning of Númenor removed Valinor from the Circles of the World, meaning such a journey could still be made by a regular boat. Tolkien proposes that this reincarnation backstory is perhaps what lends Glorfindel “the air of special power and sanctity” in The Lord of the Rings and explains why “the Witch-king flies from him, although all others however brave could not induce their horses to face him.” Pretty awesome, huh?

Taken in whole, the essay is a compelling glimpse of Tolkien’s thought process in composing his tales and his dedication to perfecting the details even to the end of his life. For our card game, however, it implies that unlike the other duplicate heroes, there is no Glorfindel and Other Glorfindel — just one amazing reincarnated Elf, glowing with the Light of Valinor and galloping over locations on Asfaloth with deep memory of his Balrog-slaying days back in the First Age of Middle-earth!

Glorfindel-LOTR-LCG

There is no Other Glorfindel. Just me.

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7 comments

  1. Tonskillitis · · Reply

    You gotta hand it to Prof. Tolkien, such is the richness of his universe that he has actually created a long-stretching lineage for his characters. I suppose these minutiae are what make Middle Earth so immersive for me. It really gives the stories a cyclical feel and it is interesting how many parallels there are between the famous heroes of the Third Age and their progenitors. All this makes me realise what anthropological masterpiece the Lord of The Rings is…

    1. The more I read of the History of Middle-earth, the more amazed I am at how Tolkien spent his entire life retconning his own work to fit everything into the mythology he’d been developing since the very beginning. It is, indeed, a cultural treasure!

  2. Love the LOST reference, love that you went whole-hog with this thing.

    1. No bacon bits here at Master of Lore. You dish me up a prompt like that, I’m going whole-hog!

  3. Tonskillitis · · Reply

    I like it that your alternate versions allow players to technically field multiple copies of heroes without breaking the uniqueness rule. I guess you’re advocating time travel over various ages of Middle Earth but I suppose this is nothing new for a card game which straddles many eras anyway! I wonder if we will ever see an Isildur hero card fighting alongside Aragorn son of Arathorn- I guess Elrond could introduce them…

    I suppose we will probably have to settle for fan expansions- I’m sure TalesfromtheCards First Age project will be pretty satisfying in this particular flight of fantasy.

    1. Yes, I can’t wait to see what Ian’s come up with in his First Age project. As for time travelling in Middle-earth, Tolkien never finished The Lost Road, but it might have been possible. I wrote a bit about it in this piece: https://masteroflore.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/old-forest-road/

      As for playing with two copies of the unique heroes, I don’t really intend to do it but just used the concept as a thought experiment and excuse to dig into some interesting lore. I would love to see an Isildur card! Perhaps if the game makes it through all 18 scenarios based on the novels, they could do a special Battle of the Last Alliance saga expansion!

  4. […] power in The Lord of the Rings. To learn more about Glorfindel’s story, check out my feature article called “The Others” about characters with multiple iterations in our card game and Tolkien’s […]

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