Notes from a hobbit historical field trip to Fornost!
These are the talking notes used during the hobbit historical field trip from The Shire to Fornost, as presented by an enthusiastic but amateur hobbit historian in the year 1418 by Shire Reckoning. Most of the text below is based on Tolkien’s original lore (as it is presented on LOTR Wikia, which the text below borrows heavily from).
However, some liberties have been taken with details, and many things related to the company of hobbit archers have been added to a) spice things up for hobbits and b) lay the foundations for a future field trip. Also, this is not in any way an exhaustive treatment of the topic, but a shortened version tailored to be presented during an in-game chat session in LOTRO. The lecture was given during the field trip to Fornost on March 5 2017.
I thought I’d tell yer a little about this old city, Fornost. I hear them ellufs call it Fornost Erain, which means something like “Northern fortress of the king”. Others called it Norbury of the Kings, or just Norbury.
This was one of the most important cities in the old northern kingdom of Arnor. We know not when the city was founded, just that it happend several thousand years ago.
Back when hobbits first settled in The Shire, Fornost was the capital of the north. It was not always so. As I told yer on Friday, the strength of Arnor depleted after years of war and internal struggle. And more than two thousand years ago, the kingdom split into three realms: Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur. At that time, Fornost grew in importance, as it became the capital of Arthedain.
Creating The Shire
For more than eleven hundred years, the Arthedain kings ruled the northern lands from Fornost. It was one of these kings, Argeleb II, that fourteen hundred years ago granted the Shire to us hobbits. Two hobbits called Marcho and Blanco lived in the Bree-lands, which was also part of Arthedain back then. However, they had seen a fertile, lovely farmland to the west, completely uninhabited. Thus, they approached the king and asked to settle there. And the king agreed.
Why did he do so? Why did he give up the most fertile farmland in all his realm to two adventurous hobbits? Well, it was a direct result of the decline of the king’s power. Ever since the northern kingdom split into three realms, there had been struggle and strife in the north. The continued in-fighting, combined with times of famine and disease, made the population shrink. Thus, huge areas of Arthedain was uninhabited, its infrastructure crumbling. So also in The Shire.
When Marcho and Blanco approached the king, the Shire was turning into an overgrown untended area, occasionally used for hunting. So, the king allowed hobbits to settle there, but he had three conditions: First, hobbits should acknowledge his Lordship. Second, they should maintain the roads within the Shire. And finally, they should aid the king’s messengers. Hobbits therefore considered themselves subjects of the king and part of the kingdom.
The war with Angmar
When Marcho and Blanco headed for the Shire, the northern kingdom was already engaged in a centuries-long, dreadful war with another realm. In the land of Angmar, hordes of orcs, trolls and wargs were sent into the world to kill the men of the north. The Witch-King, the Lord of Angmar, was an evil sorcerer, and he had sworn to destroy the northern kingdom. He went to war against the three Arnorian realms, making Rhudaur his vassal state and crushing the realm of Cardolan. His warfare is a likely reason why hobbits long ago left our original homelands, crossed the Misty Mountains and settled near Bree.
In the end, only the realm of Arthedain remained. The last northern king, Arvedui, held back the assaults over the years, but his strength dwindled and his resolve weakened. When Angmar started the last offensive against Fornost, king Arvedui saw no way out but to flee. He abandoned the city, and the Lord of Angmar took Fornost as his own capital. This happened a little more than a thousand years ago.
The Host of the West
When Angmar prepared the final push against Fornost, Arvedui sent out dispatches for aid. The help took so long to arrive that Fornost could not be saved. However, by now, Angmar was seen as a possible threat to all of Middle Earth. And so, many rallied to help smite the Witch-King.
The message reached the southern kingdom of Gondor. Gondor answered, and they sent a huge army north by the sea. They arrived by the elluf havens in the lands west of the Shire. They say so many ships arrived, there was hardly room for them all along the coastline. Horses and men were unloaded on the shore, ready for battle. The ellufs also rallied, summoning all who would fight. The combined army was a glorious sight, blanketing the land like snow in winter. I heard tell that there was near fifty thousand men gathered, and around fifteen thousand elves. They called it the Host of the West, and it was a mighty force indeed. Once ready, the Host travelled east, across the river Lune.
At this time, the hobbits of the Shire also received the calls from the north. Being subjects of the king, our ancestors responded. A company of archers was summoned from all across the Shire, between five hundred and a thousand hobbits strong. They joined with the Host of the West as they crossed the river Lune and travelled north towards Fornost.
A prideful sorcerer
In Fornost, news of the marching army reached the Angmar sorcerer. He sat safely on the throne inside Fornost, and the city was filled with his evil minions. However, his pride was strong. And so, he rode out on the battlefield instead of defending behind the city walls. Orcs and wolf riders, evil men, hill trolls and wargs… his army was almost as large as the Host of the West.
His plan was to drive the Host back across the river Lune. In the plains east of the huge lake Evendim, the armies met. And a horrible battle ensued.
The Battle of Fornost
Now, as the Host of the West saw the approaching Angmar forces, they sent their horse-riders into the hills. There, they waited in ambush. Once the main armies clashed on the fields of Evendim, the horse riders attacked Angmar from the rear, sweeping through the orcs.
Now facing attacks from two sides, the Angmar forces tried to hold their ground. However, the Lord of Angmar soon saw his Lieutenants drop like flies, hit by arrows shot from a nearby hill. It was the hobbit archers, concentrating all their firepower on the evil sorcerer. This might well have been the major turning point of the battle.
Realizing that his forces crumbled and his commanders were dying, the Angmar lord fled eastwards. Here, his escape was blocked by an approaching army of elves from the South. The battle continued for days more, as the remnants of the Angmar forces were driven to the north. In the end, it was completely destroyed. However, the Witch-King was not among the fallen. They say he managed to slip away in the night, his whereabouts unknown.
Victory then, for the Host of the West! For Fornost, though, it was too late. The city was damaged, and the line of the northern kings was no more. The remaining inhabitants of the northern kingdom were too few to rebuild their nation or maintain their cities. And so Fornost decayed.
The fate of Arvedui
Now then, to the mystery that led us hobbits here. What happened to the hobbit archers? And what happened to their mission to search the Fornost archives for the agreement that granted us the Shire?
Well, I have had talks with the rangers over the day. Not least the curious, boot-wearing miss Penny Took below. They have a theory about it all. One related to the fate of the last northern king, Arvedui.
When Angmar conquered Fornost, king Arvedui and his close guard fled west. With orcs and wargs nipping at their heels, they managed to cross the river Lune. In their packs, they carried the heirlooms, papers and treaties of the northern kingdom. Weary, starving, injured, them travelled north, and eventually them reached the frosty lands of Forochel.
The cold wastes sapped the warmth from their bodies, and their horses perished one by one. Upon reaching the very ends of the world, an icy coastline far north of here, they met a tribe living in snowy villages. And there they spent their time before managing to send news south of their fate. The ellufs of the Grey Havens pitied the lost king, and them sent a ship north to bring them back to safety.
The ship was never heard from again. And the fate of king Arvedui is unknown. However, some believe that the ship and the king drifts in the icy waters of the north even to this day.
What happened to the hobbit archers?
What then, of the hobbit archers? Some fell during the battle. They were brought here to Fornost, along with other victims. Apparently, yer can still find their remains in the ruins behind us.
We believe that most survived, though. And that once the battle was over, they continued on their second mission. To recover the agreement granting the Shire to us hobbits. Not finding the documents in the remaining Fornost archives, I believe they chose to go on. They followed in king Arvedui’s footsteps to the north. And there ends all signs of them so far…
We just might have to go north one day to see if we can find out more.