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 we diverge from the novels and look at some of the real-world inspirations for the places and people we see in the game.
Anyone who stops by the Shire is sure to have heard of Michel Delving, the largest town in the area and the city that holds the seat of the Mayor. A traveller passing through might spend the day at the Bird and Baby, a tavern with a large common room near the center of town. Turbine may invented this inn for the purpose of the Lord of the Rings Online, but the roots of this iconic place go back to the time that Tolkien himself was a professor at Oxford University.
Back then, J.R.R. Tolkien was a part of a writing club called “The Inklings” composed of himself and a number of other prestigious individuals who met regularly at a local tavern known as the Eagle and Child, but the pub also had a nickname that was commonly used by its regular patrons: The Bird and Baby.
Look behind the bar counter and you’ll find a hobbit by the name of Carlo Blagrove. This hobbit actually represents a real-world person; at the time that Tolkien visited the inn, the proprieter was Charles F. Blagrove.
Walk down the hallway in LotRO’s Bird and Baby and you will find a small room in the back with a table where three hobbits can be found, two in discussion and one reading a book. The hobbits’ names are of particular interest: Owen Farfield, Carlo Williams, and Jack Lewisdown. In fact, each of these hobbits reference a member of Tolkien’s writing club!
Owen Farfield is a tribute to Owen Barfield. During a particular quest, Owen Farfield mentions that he is writing a book called The Silvered Horn; this is a reference to Owen Barfield’s book, The Silver Trumpet.
Carlo Williams is, in real life, Charles Williams. He talks about his book, The Place of the Boar, which is a reference to Charles William’s book The Place of the Lion.
Jack Lewisdown represents C.S. Lewis, who went by Jack with his friends.
The observant eye will notice that one member of the club is missing from the Bird and Baby. Tolkien himself is not present at the pub; but he can be found in a different part of the game. Travel with me to the southern hills of Evendim, where we find the town of Dwaling and encounter a peculiar hobbit named Ronald Dwale. This is, in fact, a stand-in for the professor; he was called Ronald by his close family (it is his first middle name) and Dwale is closely related to a Gothic translation of the surname Tolkien. He provides the quest ‘Missing the Meeting’, in which the player may travel back to the Bird and Baby and explain to Ronald Dwale’s writing club that he cannot attend the meeting. A few lines of dialogue are interesting to see in this quest, starting with the bestowal dialogue:
‘…I really should get started on my new book, but I haven’t an inkling how I should reach my friends in time to tell them of my absence…’
Notice the terminology? This is a subtle nod to the real-life writing club.
Ronald Dwale also offers two other quests which directly reference his real-life works. In the quest ‘Recovering the Lost Leaf,’ the player finds a scrap of paper with the words ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a boar…’ with a note written in the margin beneath in red ink that reads, ‘No, that’s not it…‘ The inspiration for this quest is The Hobbit, which famously begins with ‘In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.’
Another quest with a more subtle tie-in to real life is Lost Dog. Ronald sends the player to the sandy banks of the Brandywine river to find a small lead dog toy that his son lost and return it to him. Tolkien’s son Michael once lost a toy dog when the family went to spend a day at the beach. He was so distraught over the loss of his toy that the professor wrote the story Roverandom to console the young boy, a tale of the adventures of a dog turned into a toy by a wizard.
What other real-world inspiration have you found in Turbine’s Middle-Earth? Share your discoveries and any comments on this week’s article below!