Welcome back to LotRO and Lore, an article series where we take a look at a few of the stellar ways that Turbine ties Tolkien’s wonderful writings into the realm of the MMORPG. Today’s topic is one I have often wondered over the years: Where exactly did the Kergrim come from?
Kergrim are a race of greenish-purple wart-covered monstrosities, towering over the races of the free peoples with their intimidating size and terrifying countenances. They can be found in the tombs of the Barrow-downs, in the submerged ruins of Evendim, and in the ancient depths of Moria. But, what exactly is a Kergrim? Tolkien’s works never mention these hideous beings by name, so I think there are a few possible expanations for their presence in LotRO.
For starters, it is important to look at the origins of the word ‘Kergrim’. It may seem obvious to look for a Sindarin translation, since the ‘-rim’ suffix often implies a racial distinction (‘naugrim’ = dwarves; ‘aphadrim’ = men; etc.) However, the letter ‘k’ does not exist in Sindarin, so we know this cannot be the case. (Elves use ‘c’ phoentically like we would use ‘k’.) Research has pointed me to the real-world location of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Launceston, England. It is said amongst locals that a ghoul (called a ‘kergrim’) haunts the churchyard, so this is certainly a starting point. It is likely that the name ‘Kergrim’ was derived from a local legend like many other creatures in LotRO, like the Barghests and Draugar.
But what about Tolkien? How do Kergrim relate to Lord of the Rings? I believe there are a number of compelling arguments. The first is that the Kergrim are simply an off-shoot of trolls that have learned to scavenge among the caves and crypts of ancient Arda to survive. Perhaps they are only found in underground and interior locations because, like Stone Trolls, they would be turned to solid rock if exposed to the light of the sun.
The second possibility is that they are part of what Gandalf refers to when he speaks of his struggles with the Balrog in Moria:
“Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he.”
This is interesting because the Kergrims’ teeth are much like rats’ teeth, perhaps indicating a ‘gnawing’ tendency. To further support this theory, Kergrim can be found in Skumfil, which is the deepest location of Moria.
A third possibility comes from a fairly obscure poem by Tolkien that was published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil called ‘The Mewlips’. It describes terrifying creatures that dwell in dark, wet places and waylay lost travellers. A few of the more pertinent stanzas are included below for reference:
The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.
The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.
Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.
They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they’ve finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.
What do you think about the Kergrim? Leave comments below on your thoughts and suggestions for other places of inspiration that Turbine may have drawn from to create this startling race of monsters.
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