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 delve into the origins of one of Turbine’s most enigmatic creations: The enormous Earth-kin.
The Jorthkyn (or Earth-kin in Westron) are found in the eastern North Downs, southern Angmar, and eastern Lone-lands. They are a people of meagre wealth who maintain a hunter-gatherer culture in a world that has simply outpaced them. Their numbers are few, and their villages are small. From the dialogue of various quests they offer, it can be inferred that they are a nomadic people who left their homes in the east long ago. Any fan of Tolkien’s works will know, of course, that the Earth-kin are not present in the source material, so where did Turbine come up with the concept?
Let us start with some etymology. The word ‘Jorthkyn’ roughly translates from Old Norse as ‘Earth people’. This is an important clue to discovering their identity; while Tolkien used Old Norse roots for much of his mythology, one work of his stands out among the rest for being filled to the brim with it: The Hobbit. All the dwarf names in The Hobbit come directly from the Norse poem Voluspa. The professor also stated that the people of Dale had a language of their own which would be Scandinavian if translated properly. Additionally, the names Beorn, Smaug, and Gandalf come from similar roots.
There is a race that appears in The Hobbit that is never again mentioned in any other Lord of the Rings-related work: The Giants of the Misty Mountains. The Earth-kin are, in fact, a spin-off of these giants. For further evidence, note that in early versions of the Silmarillion, giants did exist, and they fell into a category called ‘Earthlings’, but they were later edited out of the lengendarium.
The giants we see in The Hobbit are largely antagonistic to Bilbo’s party, but the Jorthkyn of LotRO are friendly. As the company is making their way across the Misty Mountains and through to the other side, Gandalf mentions that he would like to find a “more or less decent giant” to block up the entrance to Goblin Town so that the pass may be safer for travel. Perhaps the decent giants Gandalf mentions are not too different from the Earth-kin.
Some speculate that they may be of another race of creatures, such as Ogres, that are mentioned in The Hobbit and never heard of again, but these races are never “on-screen” in the novels and as such may be entirely mythological, even in Middle-earth. Most likely, the Earth-kin are a branch of giants from the Misty Mountains that spread out westward in small numbers and settled in wild places where they could live at peace with one another as their kind dwindles into obscurity.
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