The Abandoned Graveyard
In LOTRO, as you travel north of Bree along the Greenway, there is a small cleft in the hills to the left of the road. It’s southeast of Saeradan's Cabin, east of Thornley's Work Site, and south of the Festival Grounds. In this remote spot is a small abandoned graveyard within a low walled enclosure. An empty cabin overlooks the site and a solitary mourner weeps at the grave of a departed friend. It’s a rather mournful place and somewhat esoteric. The mourner doesn’t bestow any quests, nor do any of the other NPCs in the vicinity. In fact, beyond the aesthetic, this location serves no apparent purpose in the game. So, what is the purpose of the abandoned graveyard?
Well after a little research, trawling through old forum posts and defunct websites, it would appear that this particular location represents a storyline and quest hub that was removed from the game during its development. Breeland is one of the original areas of LOTRO that came with Shadow of Angmar. It is quite common for material to be removed from a game during its testing. There are (or at least were) other examples of such in LOTRO. At one point a hidden Hobbit village, west of the Shire, was still accessible in the game. As for why such content was changed I cannot say. Size, relevance or quality may well have been deciding factors.
There is certainly some evidence remaining within the graveyard area itself that sheds light on a possible story arc. To the right of the cabin is an old wagon. Next to it is a corpse with a dagger in its chest. There are also skeletal remains scattered around the area. Was someone caught grave robbing and subject to summary justice? Also there’s the graveyard mourner and her reference to old Cal. Both present interesting possibilities. Who are they and what is their history. There is also one grave that differs from the others by having a small bush (or flowers) growing on it. Is this of any significance?
The graveyard itself is also a point to ponder. In western culture, such places are usually linked to major religious institutions. Yet Tolkien does not mention any comparable equivalent bodies in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, theirs is a conspicuous lack of any major organised faith in the source text. Although a Catholic, Tolkien conspicuously avoids any major theological elements in his work. With regard to burial practises, the only references that I can immediately recall are to barrows, burial mounds and tombs. So, is a graveyard a little incongruous, or should we just accept it, assuming it to be the standard manner of dealing with the deceased of Middle Earth?
There may well be more examples of residual stories and quest littering the game. However, they may not be as tangible as the abandoned graveyard. As the game has been revamped on several occasions, it gets harder to tell. So many NPCs, items and quest locations have been moved over LOTROs lifespan, it’s possible that many potential clues have now been lost. Yet these anomalies do add a great deal of character to the game which is one of the reasons I return to LOTRO frequently. And there presence provides more reasons to explore the MMOs extensive regions and zones.