Update 5 gave us a new instrument to play around with, the pibgorn!

If you thought theorbos were obscure, well, theorbos are obscure but they’ve got nothing on pibgorns.
I only found out about the pibgorn recently when I was doing research for my minstrel instrument article, and I like to think I know a good many obscure and archaic instruments.
The pibgorn is a Welsh hornpipe (leeks, pibgorns, the Dunlending language — someone at Turbine has been reading a lot about Wales). The instrument looks like a wooden flute with cattle horns stuck on either end. The smaller horn is a mouthpiece, you blow into it and it funnels the air into the reed. The larger horn serves as an amplifier.

A real pibgorn  sounds somewhat like a bagpipe with not unpleasant hints of kazoo and harmonica.  As for how the LotRO pibgorn sounds,  lotrostrategery  said it “sounds part synth, part violin, part stepping on cats”. There’s also something  screwy with the scale, a few of the notes are not the notes they should be, but I’ve bug reported it and I’m hoping it will be fixed soon.

December 17th edit:
this post has been added to the main minstruments article, rendering that article once again a complete listing of all the instruments in the game.


A Dunlending Lexicon OR All the Welsh Turbine will make you wish you knew

“Yet there are many that cry in the Dunland tongue,” said Gamling. “I know that tongue. It is an ancient speech of men, and once was spoken in many western valleys of the Mark.”

The Dunlendings are supposed to evoke a flavour of pre-Roman Britain and their culture and manner of dress is obviously inspired by the Celts. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien only gives us one word from the Dunlending language (forgoil is a term used to refer to the Rohirrim, it seems to mean Strawheads), which leaves Turbine with as much room to play around as they could wish. In Tolkien’s books the Rohirrim are very like the Anglo-Saxons, and Gondor has a good deal in common with Rome; after the Dunlendings had been in Dunland and what is now Rohan for quite some time, the Gondorians and then the Rohirrim settled the area and the Dunlendings were pushed out. The parallel is obvious, and it was a bright move on Turbine’s part to give the Dunlendings the Welsh language (Welsh is a Celtic language, related to Gaelic and to the ancient Celtic dialects spoken in Boudica’s time). Welsh is not a language with which I’m very familiar, but I have seen just enough written Welsh to recognise that the names in Enedwaith and Dunland are modelled on it. A little work with a Welsh/English dictionary and I was certain that the Dunlending language was Welsh with the spelling slightly modified to make it easier on the English reader, much the way the Lossoth of Forochel speak Finnish without the double vowels. Considering that Welsh and Finnish are the two languages after which Tolkien modelled Quenya and Sindarin respectively, including these two languages in the game is an interesting nod to Tolkien’s work. I here attempt to present, alphabetically, every* Welsh-based word in Enedwaith and Dunland. I’ve probably missed something, but I’m hoping my omissions are slight compared to what I’ve included.
*I didn’t bother including the names of NPCs since so few of them have actual meanings, the vast majority of them are merely Welsh given names snagged from the Mabinogion or a baby name book.

The Changes:
The changes are not uniform across all the words, but the shifts listed here are the general trend
(note: the words shouted by the Bugan have had their spellings changed more extensively in order to reflect Black Speech)

  • Where a Welsh word has an f, the Dunlending equivalent has a v
  • Where Welsh has ff, Dunlending has f
  • Where Welsh has wy, Dunlending has u or û
  • Where Welsh has w as a vowel, Dunlending has u or û
  • Where Welsh has y, Dunlending has u
  • Where Welsh has ll, Dunlending has a lh or, in a few cases, a single l
  • Where Welsh had dd, Dunlending has dh or a single d

The Words:

Next to each of Turbine’s Dunlending words, I have the Welsh original and English translation in parentheses.

  • Algraig (allgraig = outlier)
  • Asgurn-capten (asgwrn = bone; capten = captain)
  • Avanc-lûth (the afanc of Welsh legend is a lake monster which is described as looking pretty much like the avanc Turbine let loose in Dunland, the word afanc is also used to mean beaver ; llwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Avardin (I’m not certain about this one, the closest I can find is: afal = apple; dinas = city)
  • Barnavon (barn = view or opinion; afon = river)
  • Bedh-stones (bedd = grave)
  • Brathach (brath = a wound, stab or bite; ach = ancestry, lineage)
  • Brehur/Brehures (This is the only Dunlending word with both a masculine and a feminine form. However, I cannot seem to find any Welsh original for it. The closest word I’ve found phonetically is Brithwr = Pict)
  • Brenin (brenin = king, sovereign
  • Bröntrig (bron = bank, slope; trig = stay, dwelling)
  • Bugan (bwgan = ghost, bogey)
  • Bûta khi! (bwyta chi = to eat you)
  • Carreglyn (carreg= stone; glyn = glen, valley)
  • Cartrev (cartref = home, household, domicile) the cartrevs of Dunland are associated with personal names.  eg. Cartrev Duved = Duved’s cartrev or home. In the Mabinogion, kingdoms are often described by listing the cartrefs within their bounds.
  • Cartrev Maru (cartref = home, household; marw = dead)
  • Caru-lûth (carw = stag, deer; llwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Cloben (cloben = monster)
  • Coblun (coblyn = goblin, imp)
  • Colven-unus (colfen = branch, tree; ynys = island)
  • Corrach (corrach = dwarf)
  • Cors Avanc (cors = bog, marsh; afanc = beaver or lake monster, [see avanc-lûth above])
  • Crug (crug = hillock, barrow, heap) Crug shows up in two compounds, Crug Fernvael and Crug Cadelhin, both second words are personal names.
  • Cun Annun (cwn = dog; Annwn = the otherworld or faerie world of Welsh Mythology)  The King of Annwn is often described as having a pack of rather interesting hunting hounds, which would seem to imply that Turbine didn’t invent the Cun Annun. — thanks to Erinreth for pointing this out.
  • Cuthraul (Cythraul = Devil)
  • Cuvnerth (cwff = a cuff or blow; nerth = power, strength, force)
  • Cymunu (Cymynu = to hew, to fell)
  • Derudh (derwydd = druid)
  • Dievlig (dieflig = vicious, diabolic, accursed, unholy)
  • Draig-lûth (ddraig = dragon; llwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Draig-math (ddraig = dragon; math = type, kind)
  • Draigoch (ddraig = dragon; goch = red)
    Y Ddraig goch is the Welsh name for the critter on the flag.
  • Dremidudh (trem = eye; dydd = day; trem y dydd = eye of the day)
  • Drug Haniad (drwg = evil, bad, hurtful; haniad = derivation, descent)
  • Druggavar (drwg = evil, bad, hurtful; gafr = goat)
  • Duhirun (dihiryn = rascal, scoundrel, blackguard)
  • Durdrú (Dyr = break; Dwr = water; Drwy = through)  the idea in this name seems to be either “[one who goes] through water”, or “to break through [something, probably the player]”.
  • Durgors (dur = steel; gors = marsh, bog, fen)
  • Dutegelh (du = black; tegell = kettle)
  • Dûv corvan (dwf= water; corfan = foot)
  • Duvodiad (dyfodiad = advent, arrival, one who comes, newcomer, stranger)
  • Elhudan (ellyll = fiend, ghost, goblin, fairy, will-o-the-wisp) as for the final syllable,  an is a prefix meaning not or non and dan is a preposition meaning under, but I’m not sure which it’s supposed to be, of even if the last syllable was just thrown on for kicks.
  • Enaid-helgi (enaid = soul, life, ghost; helgi = hound)
  • Flam-Cadlus (fflam = flame, blaze; cadlys = camp, enclosure)
  • Fordh Maru (ffordd = road, way; marw = dead)
  • Galar Culch (galar = mourning, grief, sorrow; cylch = circle, ring)
  • Galar-gwig (galar = mourning, grief, sorrow; gwig = wood)
  • Galtrev (gallt = hill, cliff; tref = town)
  • Gavar Cadlus (gafr = goat; cadlys = camp, enclosure)
  • Gavar-diavol (gafr = goat; diafol = devil)
  • Glewlûd (glew= brave, valiant; llwyd = grey)
  • Glûs (glwys = fair, holy)
  • Gurach (Gwrach = witch or hag)
  • Gwaed Brun (gwaed = blood; bryn = hill)
  • Gwâl Draig (Gwâl = couch, lair, den; Ddraig = dragon)
  • Gwiber (gwiber= viper, adder)
  • Gwirod (gwirod = spirits, liquor) It would seem that someone typed “spirit” into a Welsh/English dictionary but didn’t doublecheck to make sure it was the right kind of spirit.
  • Gwunfardh (gwyn = white; fardd = poet) Kind of an odd name for a giant, isn’t it?
  • Gwyllion (the gwyllion of Welsh legend are spirits or fairies of some sort, which usually take the form of pan-wielding old women (though it seems they can take other forms, including those of goats). The gwylion can be unpleasant, and they enjoy making travellers lose their way,  but they aren’t the nastiest of bogies as long as you’re polite to them.)
  • Harcennun (ennyn = to burn, kindle, ignite.) the first element of this name poses some difficulty, it could be any of the following: archoll = a wound or cut; arch = coffin; ar = on
  • Hebog-lûth (hebog = falcon, hawk; lwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Hen Turrau (hen = old; Tyrrau = towers, heaps)
  • Khinio (cinio = dinner or lunch)
  • Khoblún Utot (coblyn = goblin, imp; I’m finding nothing even resembling “Utot”)
  • Lhaid Ogo (llaid = mud, mire, sludge; ogof = cave)
  • Lhan Bach (llan = parish, village; bach = small, little; can also mean a corner or nook or bend)
  • Lhan Colvarn (llan = parish, village; collfarn = doom, condemnation)
  • Lhan Gogledh (llan = parish, village; gogledd = north)
  • Lhan Rhos (llan = parish, village; rhos = moor, heath)
  • Lhan Tarren (llan = parish, village; tarren = knoll, escarpment)
  • Lhanuch (llan = parish, village; ych = ox)
  • Lhe colvarn (lle= place, room; collfarn = doom, condemnation) this name is literally Doomplace!
  • Lhu Lhechu (llu = a force or host; llechu = to hide or lurk)
  • Lhun Avanc (llyn = lake; avanc = lake monster or beaver)
  • Maer = mayor
  • Malh-gavar (mall = corrupted, rotten, evil; gafar = goat)
  • Maur Tulhau (mawr = big, large, great; tyllau = holes, burrows) this name could be a rendering of Michel Delving (michel is an archaic English word — related to modern much — meaning great or large)
  • Mîn Haerchen (min = edge, brim, verge of a river) as for Haerchen, I can find nothing.
  • Munuv Dûv (mynydd = mountain; dwfr = water)
  • Oirnad culch (dirnad= to discern, comprehend, perceive; cylch = circle, ring) I can’t find anything corresponding to oirnad, but dirnad is only one letter off and the meaning makes sense.
  • Plas Maru (plas = hall, mansion, palace; marw = dead)
  • Pluvun Gwern (plufyn = feather; gwern = meadow, grove)
  • Pren Gwydh (Pren = wood, tree, timber; gwydd = loom OR plough OR goose OR wild, woods) gwydd has way too many meanings and I’ve no way of telling which is intended
  • Pruv Cadlus (pryf = worm, insect, bug; cadlys = camp)
  • Rheg (rheg = curse, swear)
  • Rhi Helvarch (Rhi = king, lord; helfarch = hunter)
    The Rhi Helvarch (or Wild Huntsman, as the Rangers like to call him) is a Maia in service of Oromë, the Huntsman of the Valar. Turbine rather cunningly made the Rhi Helvarch look like Cernunnos, a horned or antlered Celtic god who is suspiciously similar to Oromë.
    The picture below is Cernunnos as depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron.
  • Rhost khig! (rhost = roasted; cig = meat)
  • Rhuvel-cadlus (rhyfel = war, warfare; cadlys = camp)
  • Sarf Cadlus (sarff = serpent, snake; cadlys = camp)
  • Skud Carchar (cudd = hidden, disguised; carchar = prison, jail) “skud” gives me some difficulties, but “cudd” is similar enough phonetically and the meaning is perfectly suited.
  • Tantafod (tant = string on a musical instrument; tafod = tongue)
  • Trac-plas (trac = track; plas = hall, mansion, palace)
  • Trenghi! (trengi = die)
  • Trum Dreng (trum = ridge; dreng = morose, sullen, harsh)
  • Tuisog (tywysog = prince)
  • Tulwulh-gwirod (twll = hole; wyll = owl, ghost, fiend; gwirod = liquor, spirits)
  • Tûr Morva (twr = tower; morva = moor, fen, marsh)
  • Turch-lûth (twrch = boar; llwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Uch Cadlus (ych = ox; cadlys = camp)
  • Uch-lûth (ych = ox; llwyth = tribe, clan)
  • Ufern-helgi (uffern = hell; helgi = hound)
  • Ûmborth! (ymborth = food)
  • Unig-pulh (unig = lonely, abandoned; pwll = pond, pool)
  • Urdhas Culch (urddas = honour, dignity; cylch = circle, ring)
  • Uvel-cadlus (ufel = fire; cadlys = camp)


while compiling this lexicon, the following websites and books were indispensable:

Welsh/English dictionary (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)
“What are these darned Bugan saying” (thread on the official LOTRO forums)
Enedwaith dev diary

The Mabinogion. Trans. Jeffrey Gantz. New York: Dorsett Press, 1976. Ellis, Peter Berresford.
The Chronicles of the Celts. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1999.


The Lord of the Rings Online provides players with nine different instruments to goof around with; three stringed instruments (lute, theorbo and harp), four wind (bagpipes, clarinet, flute and horn) and two percussion (cowbell and drum). I wanted to figure out just what my minstrel was actually playing and so I researched the real life counterparts of each of the nine LotRO instruments, this article is the essence of my findings.
It seems that the inspiration for the instruments comes predominately from the Renaissance period, with some influence from the Middle Ages and Baroque era.

If you would like to hear real life music using these and other related instruments, find any band which plays Renaissance or Medieval music or “music of Shakespeare’s day”, preferably one which uses period instruments. Some of my favourites are The Broadside Band, Ensemble Galilei, The Folger Consort and Piffaro.


The lute is (literally) the iconic LotRO instrument. Minstrels are denoted by a lute icon and every character, minstrel or otherwise, begins life with the ability to play the lute.
When most people think of Shakespearean or Renaissance music, the lute is the instrument which comes most readily to mind. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign all the cool people were writing for and playing the lute. John Dowland, one of the most popular composers at that time, wrote primarily for lute and voice.
During the Middle Ages the lute was often played with a quill plectrum, but later, during the Renaissance and nowadays, it is usually played with the fingers. The LotRO lute looks to be of Renaissance design and is played without a plectrum.
The guitar and lute are similar instruments and music written for one plays nicely on the other. However, the guitar is not descended from the lute. They developed simultaneously and both enjoyed a good deal popularity during the Renaissance and the Baroque era, but the lute died out while the guitar retained its popularity and continued to evolve throughout the last few centuries.
Sometimes I think the LotRO lute sounds too much like a guitar, but one has to remember that the guitar and lute do sound very similar and that LotRO instruments are midi approximations and not actual instruments; that considered, the LotRO lute is close enough to the real thing.


The theorbo is possibly the most interesting of the LotRO instruments. It sounds roughly like a bass guitar (it often takes the place of that instrument in ABC music files) or like a LotRO lute brought down a few octaves. What makes the theorbo so interesting, though, is that most people have no idea what it is.
The real life theorbo was developed in the early 17th century for use in orchestras and string ensembles. The first theorbos were modified lutes; stick an extension on the neck, add a few bass stings and presto! a new instrument.
A theorbo has two peg boxes in the middle of the neck for the shorter, fretted stings and one at the end of the neck for the unfretted strings. The unfretted strings are used much like the drone pipe on bagpipes, they make one note each and are used as a sort of foundation for the rest of the music.
Like the lute, the theorbo is usually played with the fingers.
The archlute is roughly the same thing as a theorbo, only smaller. Perhaps the LotRO theorbo is actually an archlute. Our theorbo is about as tall as the character, while the real life theorbo is quite notably taller than its player.


The harp has been a very popular instrument for a very long time. Harpists have been popular in royal courts and country inns since as long as there have been courts and inns.
Harps come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, the most familiar being the concert harp (the gigantic thing with all the scrollwork which you see in orchestras) and the Celtic harp (the smaller and simpler instrument you see in Irish folk bands).
The LotRO harp looks a good deal like a Medieval or Celtic harp, and is about the size of a lap harp. I don’t believe any harp could possibly be played held in one hand the way the LotRO harp is played, but perhaps it could be played standing up if the player used a shoulder strap. Lap harps are played sitting down and are held, not surprisingly, in the player’s lap.
Of all the LotRO instruments, I think the harp has the nicest sound. It’s a midi approximation of a harp, and a rather pleasant approximation at that.

There is a Lossoth reputation woodworker recipe available for a harp called Satakieli (Finnish for nightingale, all the Forochel words are Finnish or modified Finnish). I do not have one myself and so cannot verify this, but I found this thread on the official forums which purports that the Satakieli looks like the basic harp when being used for minstrel skills but has a fancy, blue Lossoth skin which shows up when the Satakieli is being used for player music.


The varieties of bagpipes in real life are nearly innumerable. It’s as if every country in the world came up with the idea of sticking a flute on a bag of air to produce a continuous, loud sound.
The sort of pipes which come most readily to people’s minds are the iconic Scottish Highland pipes, which are gigantic and very loud. LotRO minstrels, however, are clearly not using highland pipes. LotRO pipes are small, the bag is hardly bigger than the character’s head and the sound is much softer and less harsh than Highland pipes.
I was going to try to figure out exactly which sort of pipes LotRO minstrels are using, but in the interest of getting this article published before MMOs are obsolete, I confined myself to a cursory search. I looked only at European pipes and didn’t bother with the ridiculously obscure ones, which means I sifted through pictures and descriptions of a few hundred different types of pipes. Within these parameters, it seems that LotRO minstrels are playing something very similar to Welsh bagpipes or the German hümmelchen.
LotRO bagpipes don’t sound like any real pipes I’ve ever heard, instead they sound like a Casio 2-octave keyboard. Because of this, they are ideal for annoying the heck out of everyone in earshot, and they pair nicely with the cowbell for impromptu nonsense parties.


The mouthpiece of a LotRO clarinet does resemble that of a real life clarinet, but the resemblance ends there. A real life clarinet is covered with a complicated mass of metal keys, whereas a LotRO clarinet is a simple tube of wood with holes drilled in the top and no keys at all; it looks very much like a recorder. The Clarinet dates from the early 1700s, later than most of the inspirations for Tolkien’s stories and Turbine’s game. The recorder, while thought of today as a children’s instrument, was incredibly popular during the 1500s and early 1600s, and we see much influence from this time period in the game, notably in some fashions (such as the ridiculously awesome brimmed hat) and in the technology of the Shire (the styles of the mills and ploughs, for example).
The sound of the LotRO clarinet is an electronic approximation of some sort of woodwind, and could easily be either a clarinet or a recorder.
For these reasons, I have decided that the LotRO instrument isn’t a clarinet at all, but a misnamed recorder.


The flute is one of the very oldest instruments in the world. In fact, some of my sources claim that the flute is the oldest instrument in the world (although drums are another contender for that honour). There’s nothing fancy about a flute, it’s just a tube with holes in it.
Many woodwinds are actually types of flutes. In fact, the recorder discussed above is a kind of flute, and the bagpipes are flutes with trappings.
The LotRO flute is some sort of wooden transverse flute (meaning the mouthpiece is on the side of the instrument instead of at the end) and has no keys; it looks roughly like a non-keyed version of the standard concert flute. The sound is an electronic approximation of some sort of high pitched woodwind (it’s the same sound as the clarinetrecorder, only much higher), at its higher ranges it could very well be a piccolo, but the LotRO flute is much too large to be a piccolo so I’ll leave that be.
Taken all in all, and considering that the LotRO “clarinet” is a recorder, I conclude that the LotRO flute is a Renaissance or Medieval wooden flute.


The LotRO horn looks like a very tiny, extra curvy alpenhorn with holes down the front and sounds like that same toy keyboard from which the LotRO bagpipes borrowed their voice (although it could be argued that the LotRO horn is supposed to sound like a saxophone, and I think it sounds like a very bad shawm).
The real life instrument known as the horn is a brass instrument, it’s a coil of tubing with plenty of valves and keys and it looks and sounds nothing like the LotRO horn. The LotRO horn is a wood instrument and I was hard pressed to find its real life equivalent. If I set aside the word “horn” and looked for large, low pitched woodwinds, the basset horn, alto clarinet, oboe, bassoon and shawm were all plausible candidates. But the basset horn and alto clarinet have far too many keys, the shawm is straight instead of curved, the oboe has keys and is straight, and the bassoon is straight, has keys and doubles back on itself in such a way that the mouthpiece projects from the side of the instrument.
After a great deal of digging, I was able to turn up a rather obscure instrument called the cornett or cornetto (the more familiar cornet is a completely different affair). The cornett is actually a type of shawm and is sometimes straight, sometimes a bit curved and occasionally S-shaped like the LotRO horn. It was a popular woodwind during the Renaissance and then, like so much else, it faded into such obscurity that even someone like me, who enjoys Renaissance music, didn’t know what the thing was. I have to thank Turbine for introducing me to the cornett (although I suspect it was an unwitting introduction).


Real life cowbells are bells which are worn by cows so that a herder can tell where his cows are from a long way off.
In music, cowbells are a novelty instrument. You just take a cowbell (or several cowbells of various sizes and tones) and ring it in time to the music.
Some cowbells are clapperless, meaning they don’t have the bit of metal suspended inside, and are hit with a stick instead of rung. This is the sort used in LotRO.
Of all the LotRO instruments, the cowbell is the closest in sound to its real life counterpart, they both sound like hollow clanging metal.
A real life clapperless cowbell has a short range of pitch, different tones can be produced depending on where the bell is hit with the stick or where the player’s hand is one the bell. The LotRO cowbell, however, only produces a single tone.
The moor cowbell looks and sounds just like the other cowbells but is held above the character’s head whereas the basic and Lothlorien cowbells are held at the character’s chest.
The LotRO cowbell with its signature atrocious din is a staple for annoying your fellowship and reminding them that they have a minstrel in their midst.


The LotRO drum is a small, hand held drum with the drumhead on one side of the shallow frame and a crossbar on the other side, it is played by striking it with a double-headed drumstick. This is also a description of the bodhrán; a quick glance at the LotRO drum shows that it must be bodhrán, there aren’t any other contenders.
The bodhrán is the traditional drum used in Irish Folk Music, it’s the drum you see at ren fests and hear in almost any recording by an Irish Folk or Celtic band.
Oddly, although drums have been used in traditional Irish music since forever, and the bodhrán itself is a good few hundred years old, it did not become a staple of Irish folk music until the 1960’s (The Chieftains helped with that, my thanks to them); before then it was merely a noisemaker.
Most real life drums create a sort of pounding din, but the bodhrán has a remarkably smooth and almost lyric tone. The LotRO drum, regrettably, sounds like an assortment of percussion instruments and noisemakers including a bass drum, a tambourine, a gourd and a pounding din.

Update 5 addendum!
(added 16th December 2011)

Update 5, released only a few days ago, gave us a new instrument to play around with, the pibgorn.

If you thought theorbos and shawms were obscure, well, theys are obscure but they’ve got nothing on pibgorns. I like to think I know a good many obscure and archaic instruments, but even I only found out about the pibgorn earlier this year. I stumbled across it while I was researching obscure woodwinds for the horn section of this very article.
The pibgorn is a Welsh hornpipe, and the word means simple “pipe horn” (leeks, pibgorns, the Dunlending language — someone at Turbine has been reading a lot about Wales). The instrument looks like a wooden flute with cattle horns stuck on either end. The smaller horn is a mouthpiece, you blow into it and it funnels the air through the reed. The larger horn serves as an amplifier.

A real pibgorn  sounds somewhat like a bagpipe with not unpleasant hints of kazoo and harmonica.  As for how the LotRO pibgorn sounds,  lotrostrategery  said it “sounds part synth, part violin, part stepping on cats”. There’s also something screwy with the scale, a few of the notes are not the notes they should be, but I’ve bug reported it and I’m hoping it will be fixed soon.

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