Big as a House

Here I am! As you all probably know by now: I arrive precisely when I mean to.
Some of you already now me as GandalfDK from the Deck Spotlights on COTR.com or from the COTR Discord server. After several journeys I’m currently staying at the Hall of Beorn, for peace, thought, honey and company. I will produce articles that will mainly focus on lore, for my love lies therein. Without further ado, I hope you’ll like the article and have fun playing!

Finally we are at the utmost border of Middle-Earth as known from the maps of old. Not only on the physical border, but also treading into the unknown lore-wise. Deserts, Harad, Haradrim: keywords for the upcoming cycle. Deserts may sound dull, but if you know the Haradrim, you’ll be familiar with something called an Oliphaunt. Yes, Mûmakil, yes!
The designers are taking us on such an epic adventure, the excitement is overwhelming.

What exactly are Mûmakil though? They are big elephants, yes, but there is more to it than that, I deem. Mûmakil, as the Haradrim call them, Oliphaunts, as the Hobbits call them, or Annabon, Sindarin for long-snout. These elephant-like creatures had legs the size of trees (large trees of course), bodies larger than a house, sail-like ears, a long snout and six tusks!
They lived in the jungles of Far Harad and Rhûn. How big would the trees be there? How much fruit would these trees hold? To sustain even one Mûmak, let alone multiple Mûmakil, there must have been quite an abundance of food. So, if Mûmakil have legs the length of trees, these trees must’ve been massive in their own right. The jungles of Far Harad were likely far more vast than even Fangorn Forest before Saruman betrayed the Free Folk. One great mass of trees and plants, with even more exotic creatures than Mûmakil.

Sadly, Mûmakil were only known in the West because of their use by the evil Haradrim during the War of the Ring. Resembling howdahs as used on elephants in South Asia, they built massive platforms atop of the oliphaunts. Archers and javelin throwers would have a great view to target their enemies. More than any tactical advantage, fear would have been the greatest weapon of the Mûmak. Many a soldier would break and run at the sight of a giant mass of muscle and bone stampeding towards you. Only the most disciplined soldier would be able to hold their ground. With thick skin to protect them from arrows and blades, their most vulnerable spot would have been their eyes – not an easy target for most archers. Mûmakil could also go berserk when roused to anger, as seen with the Mûmak that got ambushed by Faramir and the Ithilien Rangers. Mûmakil are one of the (not so) small things in the Lord of the Rings which has always tickled my fancy. Giant elephants at the edge of the known world, the very concept implies adventure.

One of the aspects I love the most about Tolkien is how he allows for mystery. Rather than explain everything in depth, he chose to leave certain threads of his narrative with many gaps, to leave space for your own imagination to fill. Such is the case with these giants beasts, one immediately wonders: “Where did they came from? Are there more like them? What happened to them after the War of the Ring? Were these creatures themselves evil as well, or was it simply their riders who spurred them to evil deeds?” So many questions, and without an authoritative answer, we will never know. But being left to contemplate these mysteries is part of what gives Middle-earth its charm. This is also what draws me to this game and I am enthusiastic that the designers have free reign over these mysterious lands and majestic beasts. I wish you all luck with the taming of your own magnificent Mûmak!

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