mercoledì 28 settembre 2016

Citadel Dark Elf Legion Leader with Mace (1988)

Dark Elves... look at those beauties!

I got this on eBay together with the Norsemen of the previous posts, but this is a proper vintage Old Citadel figure. It belongs to the issue of 1988, the first Dark Elves with slotta bases. The Catalogue of that year identifies this as 074252/29, "Mace".
Now, this is one of my favourites miniatures from that issue, and in general as well, just because it is so alive. Look at the guy, advancing and ducking at the same time, like it is under enemy fire, or maybe he just risks being spotted as he stealths forward; and at the same time, he glances back and gestures at others to move on. This is a fantasticly dynamic figure, I'll tell you. All thanks to Bob Naismith, iconic sculptor of Citadel/GW who is now still in business as a freelance.
I painted in a quite straightforward way: steel armour with golden/brass decorations and leather straps, toned down with heavy blackwash. Dark leather boots and gloves with lighter leather trims and decorations. Additional copper on weapons to create a variation on metal parts. Purple tights and crimson tunic. Finally, a bright red tail attached to the mace, just to break with the general gloomy feel.
Dark Elves figures are in general quite heavy with decoration and using bright colours risks to make them look like clowns. That's why I tried to stick to realistic, dark colours. To add on that, I used gravel on the base to represent some rocky terrain, a mountainside, the bed of a stram or a stony beach.

I've got a bunch of other Dark Elves, from later issues, that will match with this guy as an assault force. Look forward to paint them soon!

mercoledì 21 settembre 2016

Generic fantasy Vikings (Alternative Armies Sidhe)

Got these two on eBay, together with a bunch of old Citadel miniatures. I didn't even notice these weren't Citadel, until I searched online (even though the Seller stated these were Alternative Armies Norse/Vikings).

"The Internet" tells me that these aren't actually supposed to be Vikings, but rather Sidhe, that is ancient Irish warriors opposing the monstrous Fomorians. But hey, they look enough like Vikings that somehow both me and the Seller on eBay got confused. I mean, not historical Viking, but Fantasy Viking can be a pretty broad category! Still, that explains the pointy ears of the red-haired one.

"The Internet" also tells me that these are sculpts of Bob Olley. He did quite a lot of sculpts with a very distinctive style back in the day, it seems, for many companies such as Citadel, Reaper and Ral Partha. Also, he's not the same Bob Olley who is as well a British sculptor, but working on bigger projects like lifesize statues of Stan Laurel (this one has a Wikipedia page).
The figures are from 1990, and at least one reports the author.

About these figures, I really like the detail, the bulkiness that is so typical of classic Warhammer style. And the best part are the cloaks.

I'm especially happy with the first one. The second, I was probably too lazy to finish properly. But still, it is nice.

I painted them to represent generic Fantasy Vikings, like for example Norseman mercenaries travelling to the Old World. They are handy characters both as allies and as enemies.

So I named them Olaf (after the PC of a friend) and Ivar (like the Engine Driver from the Who song).

Olaf Hrotkinson is the Viking every Old World's woman secretly wants. Blonde, muscular, confident and armed with a long moustaches and a thick, heavy sword. So lock your doors well, Nordlanders.

Ivar the Engine Driver had his nickname when he tried to steal a Dwarven Ironclad. From that moment on, he's always on the watch for the good chance to get rich at somebody else's expense. "A quick one, while he's away" is his motto, of course.

domenica 4 settembre 2016

Large Warg (Mithril M25)

...and he's coming at you!
Wait, what is a Warg, anyway?
Well... you know... that's a large wolf, I guess. Large fantasy wolf. Right?

Sounds about right!
There seems to be some confusion about wargs, for a number of reasons. To some, Wargs are large wolves; to other, they are super-wolves, related to common wolves in the same way a tiger is related to a wild cat. To other still, Wargs are supernatural wolves,endowed with special powers: in MERP, for example, True Wargs are essentially undead spirits. And then, there are werewolves, of course - are they even related to Wargs?

Let's look at what Tolkien tells us, starting with the Hobbit:
"All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl. It was answered by another away to the right and a good deal nearer to them; then by another not far away to the left. It was wolves howling at the moon, wolves gathering together!
     There were no wolves living near Mr. Baggins' hole at home, but he knew that noise. He had had it described to him often enough in tales. One of his elder cousins (on the Took side), who had been a great traveller, used to imitate it to frighten him. To hear it out in the forest under the moon was too much for Bilbo. Even magic rings are not much use against wolves-especially against the evil packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you! [...]
"But even the wild Wargs (for so the evil wolves over the Edge of the Wild were named) cannot climb trees. [...]"
 Tolkien makes quite clear that Wargs are wolves. Not similar, mind me: they are a kind of wolf. What made them different to other kinds, then?
"The Wargs and the goblins often helped one another in wicked deeds. Goblins do not usually venture very far from their mountains, unless they are driven out and are looking for new homes, or are marching to war (which I am glad to say has not happened for a long while). But in those days they sometimes used to go on raids, especially to get food or slaves to work for them. Then they often got the Wargs to help and shared the plunder with them. Sometimes they rode on wolves like men do on horses."
Well, for a start, they developed an alliance with the Goblins and even let them ride them! Earlier on it is said in the book that the Wargs had a "dreadful language" of their own, which people could learn: at least some Orcs did, and so did Gandalf. Not that regular wolves didn't have their language: in the Hobbit, it seems a lot of beasts and birds have their own speech.

Wargs were probably well more intelligent and cunning than other wolves, considering they held meetings, planned raids on the woodmen and even stationed guards at the feet of trees where the Dwarves had climbed. We are also told that they ran "swifter than ponies", and that with an Orc on their back, so we can assume they were rather big and strong.
In fact is seems that the Wargs had developed their friendship with Orcs and Goblins so much that somebody even developed a proverb in Westron about that.
"[...] where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.'
But there is another creature, similar to the Warg, that is first mentioned in the Fellowship of the Ring:
"[...] Not all his servants and chattels are wraiths! There are orcs and trolls, there are wargs and werewolves. [...]"
Now, this is unfortunate, in a way. Tolkien developed Wargs for the Hobbit, drawing from the word from Old English wearg, which meant "wolf". But earlier than that he had developed werewolves in the Silmarillion (see later), and the word werewolf is derived from the Old English werewulf, with wer- meaning "man, person". The two words are quite different, but they were translated in many other languages as exactly the same: in Italian, for example, they are Mannari; in French, Loups-garou.
We seem to meet werewolves when the Fellowship of the Rings travels from Rivendell to Moria.
"In the dead of the night many shining eyes were seen peering over the brow of the hill. Some advanced almost to the ring of stones. At a gap in the circle a great dark wolf-shape could be seen halted, gazing at them. A shuddering howl broke from him, as if he were a captain summoning his pack to the assault.
"Gandalf stood up and strode forward, holding his staff aloft. 'Listen, Hound of Sauron! ' he cried. `Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.'
"The wolf snarled and sprang towards them with a great leap. At that moment there was a sharp twang. Legolas had loosed his bow. There was a hideous yell, and the leaping shape thudded to the ground; the elvish arrow had pierced its throat. The watching eyes were suddenly extinguished. Gandalf and Aragorn strode forward, but the hill was deserted; the hunting packs had fled. All about them the darkness grew silent, and no cry came on the sighing wind.
"The night was old, and westward the waning moon was setting. gleaming fitfully through the breaking clouds. Suddenly Frodo started from sleep. Without warning a storm of howls broke out fierce and wild all about the camp. A great host of Wargs had gathered silently and was now attacking them from every side at once."
Apparently, these are regular Wargs, but something odd happens, after the wolves are routed again:
"When the full light of the morning came no signs of the wolves were to be found, and they looked in vain for the bodies of the dead. No trace of the fight remained but the charred trees and the arrows of Legolas lying on the hill-top. All were undamaged save one of which only the point was left.
"`It is as I feared,' said Gandalf. `These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness. Let us eat quickly and go!"
What were those things? Although more than one had been slain, they left no bodies. Were they incorporeal? Did the surviving Wargs carry away the bodies of the dead? Well, we don't know, but we may suppose these things were werewolves.
Regular Wargs were certainly not incorporeal: Beorn at least took pride in skinning them and nailing their hides to trees.
Don't need supernatural powers to scare anybody! Growl!
 In the Silmarillion, ironically, the word Warg is never used just because it had been written before the Hobbit. But the idea of regular wolves and supernatural werewolves is already quite clear:
"And ere long the evil creatures came even to Beleriand, over passes in the mountains, or up from the south through the dark forests. Wolves there were, or creatures that walked in wolf-shapes, and other fell beings of shadow [...]"
A definition of werewolves is offered at the beginning of the tale of Beren and Lúthien:
"[...] werewolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he [Sauron] had imprisoned in their bodies."
Sauron was, apparently, the creator of werewolves, so much that he was called "Lord of Werewolves". He conquered the Minas Tirith, the fortress of Finrod Felagund built on an island on the upper Sirion, and turned it into Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of the Werewolves. We see there was a specific word in Sindarin, Gaur (pl. Gaurhoth), to describe the werewolf, well distinct from the regular wolf, Draug.
It is interesting to note that Drauglin, "a dread beast, old in evil lord and sire of the werewolves of Angband" is never described as a werewolf, even if he is "sire of werewolves". But when Beren using his wolf-hame masks himself, he "became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean". Sauron, too, when he shapeshifts, "took upon himself the form of a werewolf". It seems to me that the essence of a werewolf, a Gaur, was to be wolf in body but not in spirit.
So the wolves that attacked the Fellowship on the way to Moria were probably werewolves. What happened to them and their bodies? Well, what I think happened is that the bodies were killed, but the evil spirits were still there; by using their powers, the spirits carried their own butchered bodies away, like undead, so they were not left on the site.
No need to imagine ghost wolves, which by the way wouldn't even be able to hurt anybody, being ghosts and the like; and that at any rate would never be wounded by an arrow at all. From what we gather, wargs and werewolves were induistinguishable at first sight, the only difference being their spirit.
That, of course, means that this miniature can also represent a werewolf.
Care to test me, dear? I may yet surprise you.
Having drawn the line between Draug and Gaur and established that they look one and the same, let's have a look at how are these creatures are represented in other media, shall we?
The Hobbit animated movie, 1977. Could have been worse.

Pauline Baynes, Bilbo's Last Song, 1990. The Authority.
The Two Towers, 2002. That doesn't even look like a wolf.

The Hobbit: An Enexpected Jorney, 2012. Better, but weird.
 No, ok, I am partialy to Paline Baynes, but Tolkien was, too, right? I like the take of Mithril on Wargs. They look very realistic. Not terribly easy to paint, given the fur's texture is not very deep, but still pleasing.
These are the alternatives:

Easy and fun to paint, still weird and not very wolf-like, in my opinion.

Now, a look on proportions:
32mm: that is a BIG wolf, now!
15mm: another reason to hate that f***er Sauron.
As you can see, it works both ways, depending whether you want to play First or Third Age, Well, that's all to say. Have a nice day and, remember, don't talk to strangers in the woods!
Off to Grandma's House while you pick flowers. See you!