Battles in the Barrows

One of the very cool aspects of Middle Earth is delving into the Barrow Downs.  I have been pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Barrows instances a few times each week, recently.  This is entirely thanks to the new instance system which allows you to set the level to whatever you please and start the instance from wherever you are.

Why are the Barrow Downs so fascinating?  Mainly because they are somewhat based on real life.  Of course, the interiors of real-life barrow tombs tend to be quite a bit more cramped, but we can excuse the artistic license that the game designers have taken in the name of drama and utility.

We only have the most basic inklings about the people who dug real-world barrow tombs – most of them date back to the Stone Age.  Obviously, they didn’t leave a great deal of literature behind.  Thus, the barrow tombs in Europe are a narrow window into the past which allow us a few glimpses into what Stone Age Europe was like.

Just as in reality, the barrows in the Lord of the Rings are ancient.  There were a few tombs from the time of the kingdom of Arnor and the three successor sister-kingdoms of Cardolan, Rhuadaur, and Arthedain.  However, there were many tombs from even earlier – perhaps predecessors of the Men of Bree, or maybe cousins of the Dunlendings (whose ancestors had a rather advanced civilization akin to the Celts, but their descendants have regressed a bit).  We don’t really know much about these proto-Dunmen, and that mystery is part of what makes a trip to the Barrow Downs so cool.

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