A review of Other Hands Issue 28 (January 2000)

Copyright ©2000 Nathan Jaworski
Edited for The Guild Companion by Joe Mandala

Issue 28 of Other Hands not only has a dictionary of the Silvan language, but also a general description of those Elves that forsook the long journey west, or never started it. It also includes a brief history of Mount Gundabad, which is intended to bring the MERP supplement of the same name in line with the information given us in History of Middle-earth (HoME), and some original poetry. It is obvious from the beginning that the authors of each piece know what they are talking about when it comes to Tolkien. Almost nothing was put into these articles without some sort of reference to the HoME. Even the Silvan dictionary was extrapolated as much as possible from what little Tolkien gave us of that language. It is amazing, and will add a lot more character to anyone who plays an Elf in Middle-earth.

The first section is an essay on the history of the Silvan folk and the relation of the language of the Mirkwood and Lórien Nandor populations. I do suggest reading it with a diagram of the Elven family tree handy. When you see all the different names together, Vanyar, Avari, Teleri, etc. it can get a little confusing if you are not very familiar with it.

This leads into a full account of the history of the Tatyarin Avari, those Dark Elves who stayed behind in Cuivi´nen. This was my favorite article. It gives us a clearer idea of how to play an Elf from somewhere other than northwestern ME. In the same style as the MERP rulebook, it gives us information for character creation, including everything from religion, outfitting options, special abilities, just like we are used to. I will be re-evaluating how I play an Elf character from Valagalen. If there were a way I could permanently put it in my MERP book I would do it.

The section on the language looked like a passage from one of my old foreign language textbooks. It was amazing! David Salo must have spent months or years doing this. It is not just a list of words, but also notes on pronunciation, verbs, compound tenses, everything. Staying with the theme it also shows the differences between Mirkwood and Lórien Silvan dialects. It is almost a complete language. Though I will unfortunately never use this to its fullest it is an invaluable resource for any MERP player. [Ed: This is also a great secondary resource for those interested in the study of Tolkien.]

The issue ends with a history on Mount Gundabad and some original poetry. It gives us a new idea of what Mount Gundabad was supposed to be in the MERP module, but was not quite. It is intended to be a supplement for the module, and requires only a reworking of the original layout to be put in line with the new text. How extensive it is, is up to the gamemaster. I wish the poem were translated into Silvan, but it was still good.

Overall a great issue, it was nice to see such attention paid to detail. That was one of the things that I enjoyed about Middle-earth - the level of realism that it achieved. It is obvious that this idea guides these writers through their work. It is nice to know that there are people who have the time and devotion to work on things Tolkien that I have an interest in, but not the time to do myself. Issue 28 has added a lot to how I view Middle-earth in just one issue; I can't wait to read the next.

Editor's Note

For more information about this and other issues, visit the Other Hands website.

Please post your comments on this review on the Middle-Earth Discussion Board.

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