Thursday, April 19, 2012

M is for Mewlips...

Yes, Tolkien had amazing and astounding ideas and stories, and many of these have formed the basis of mainstream fantasy writing.  Rangers, glowing swords, orcs, majestic elves so annoying you want to strangle them...

But there are many other stories, poems, fragments, ideas, that haven't been so mercilessly mined.  At least, I thought so, until I ventured into the shadowy world of the Tolkien Gateway...

Here's the poem - from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962), a collection of poems, that, aside from this one, are mostly fairy story rhymes or comedy poems. I had a copy as a kid, and this one struck me as quite different, and scary...

The Mewlips
Richard Svensson's Interp.

"The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

You sink into the slime, who dare

To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.

Beside the rotting river-strand

The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.

Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool's borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.

Angus McBride's famous image
The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.

Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;

Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.

They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they've finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and gallows-weed,

You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed"

Which leads to this...

Anyway, what are mewlips?  Primordial beasts from the beginning of time; undead monsters, like sneaky ghouls; cannibalistic men? Does it matter? They hide, they eat people, and they have gold. Almost an invitation to kill and loot them.

But, it's not that easy. Even if a group of PCs finds the Shadows of the Mewlips, through spider-woods, the Marsh of Tode, not to mention gallows-weed and all that slime, it's all about misdirection, psychological terror, henchmen vanishing when you turn around, rooms underwater.  There's no need for stats , as they don't get isolated or trapped, not on their own turf. There's a touch on your shoulder, but nothing there when you turn. There's a grinning skull behind you, but when you look again, it's only the stone wall.

 Forget about Tucker's Kobolds - these guys (girls?) are nasty, especially when the group stumbles across a courtyard full of sacks, and each one contains a carefully cleaned and stacked skeleton.  And the skulls start whispering when uncovered...

And thanks to all who leave comments here. It's great to know that people are actually reading this and maybe getting inspired to do something interesting!

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