For their latest LEGO creation Josiah Durand drew inspiration from ‘The Fall of Gondolin’ by J.R.R.Tolkien. Since I am not familiar with the source material, there is little I can say about this creation being true to the story. I can, however, say that it definitely deserves a mention on TBB. The castle is white with some tan details, but the dark grey rock formation it’s build on gives a great contrast in colour. The top of the castle is light grey and it ends with a flat rooftop – a detail we hardly ever see when it comes to LEGO castles. This flat roof is adorned with a diving board like balcony. Which to me always predicts a stand off between two nemeses that ends in one of the two falling off the balcony towards certain death. As we see in Josiah’s creation, that might just happen.
Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and the newly joined Merry travel by ferry in this LEGO vignette by Thorsten Bonsch. This series from Thorsten follows the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring. Here, we see the four primary hobbits traveling across the Brandywine River into Buckland. The color palette of this build is outstanding, allowing each detail to stand on its own among the others. When it comes to the building techniques, the roofing tiles on the structure draw my eye. It’s a simple technique, but quite effective. It’s just tiles on plates, but the tiles aren’t pressed down on the raised end. The rest of the structure is cool too, with the disheveled layers and angled brown supports. This is one of those locations in a LEGO build that I would love to visit if it were a real place. I would listen to the sounds of the lapping water on the riverbank and the nocturnal sounds of nature around the river.
This scene you may recognize from the movie as well, with a Ringwraith bearing down on the hobbits. In the book, upon which this vignette is based, this scene had less pressure on it. The book takes a lot longer to get Frodo and company out of the Shire, but there’s only so long they can take with a movie runtime to consider. Either version, the wraith takes the long way over Brandywine Bridge. Silly Ringwraith, shortcuts are for hobbits!
The next LEGO build from Thorsten Bonsch in this The Lord of the Rings vignette series is here! Hamfast Gamgee, the father of the hero Samwise Gamgee, receives a peculiar traveler. Frodo and Pippin learn of this event shortly after their own frightful encounter with a Ringwraith. Sam tells the tale of his gaffer’s visitor and the feeling of dread his father felt. Here, Thorsten paints the scene with greater detail than Sam in his own telling. Check out that thatch work on the roof of the hobbit home! The layering of grille tiles gives the roof a wonderful straw-like texture. Minifigure hands and droid arms stand in for disheveled bits of straw sticking out at the ends. This is a delight to see rendered in LEGO, as some thatch work can look too tidy without it. Another example of great texture layering is the plates and tiles making up the brickwork in the house’s structure. Also, be sure to check out that wheelbarrow!
Continuing in the tradition established in the previous builds in the series, this vignette depicts the moment from the The Fellowship of the Ring book. The movie version does this scene with Farmer Maggot. In fact, Hamfast is only in the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring film. Here, Hamfast gets his due! Personally, I’m really enjoying this series, as the books often get overshadowed by the movies in artwork depictions. Can’t wait to see what’s next in this ongoing vignette series!
Three is company, but four with a Ringwraith is a crowd. Coming from builder Thorsten Bonsch, this LEGO scene is the fifth build in a series taking on the legendary world of The Lord of the Rings. Depicting moments iconic to both the films and the books, these builds favor the books in the details. That’s why we see three instead of four hobbits–Merry didn’t join the group until the next chapter! Thorsten returns to this story moment after ten years away, though this time at a much smaller scale. What makes or breaks a build at this scale are the details, and the details here are amazing! Take a look at those tree roots, how they frame the hiding hobbits and flow towards the leaning tree. The tree takes you to the Ringwraith sniffing out the Ring, but Sam stops Frodo from revealing their location. These aren’t the hobbits you’re looking for, Ringwraith!
Ten years ago, Thorsten realized too late that Merry wasn’t part of the group of hobbits hiding from the Ringwraith pursuing Frodo and the Ring. This time around, the mistake is corrected with Frodo, Sam, and Pippin in the hideaway. The ten year-old build is quite beautiful, and I recommend checking it out. It’s at a larger scale than this one, and on a steep slope rather than the hollow Tolkien described in the book. Also look forward to the next build in this Middle-earth vignette series! It will expand to other builders once Thorsten’s contributions are finished. I do enjoy a good adventure through Middle-earth!
To this day it still baffles me that they managed to make three movies out of the book The Hobbit. It’s not a complaint, I do love the movies, but it’s just strange to me. Especially since the book is about a third the length of The Lord of the Rings, which also is three movies long. But let’s not get into that for now. Jaap Bijl drew inspiration from the movie The Hobbit for their latest LEGO creation.
Here we see the dragon Smaug setting flame to Lake-town. The atmosphere Jaap managed to create is amazing. Smaug itself is a miniature and the fire he is breathing is done simple yet really effective with bricks, plates and tiles transitioning from yellow to red. Smaug being dark red makes him feel and look like he is part of the fire he is creating. But what’s interesting is that not a single fire piece was used in this creation, and yet it still looks and feels very much on fire. One thing that also contributes to this great model is the backdrop, which to me hardly even looks like it is edited in. Framing the main scene with a dark brick build archway is a really nice and effective way to set the mood and draw your attention to the center of the picture. However, if you zoom in on the arch you’ll find lots of hidden details in the darkness. Last but not least I would like to note the use of round quarter tile to create those great rooftop shingles.
Longtime TBB readers might know that we are quite partial to a good LEGO Hobbiton creation. This one by Patrick Bohn deserves to join the line-up. Let’s zoom in on some of the details which make this creation so lovely. The picket fence made of bars and minifigure hands looks lovely. The inclusion of hockey sticks as a fence gate. The window frame and the round doorway look stunning thanks to the use of the macaroni tile. The use of the microscale Hogwarts arched windows looks especially fitting for this setting. The bucket handle makes a perfect door knocker. Using flex tubing to frame the roof of the building is really smart as it makes the building look more organic verses composed out of angular bricks.
Some LEGO creations manage to turn up a soundtrack in your head. A new series of builds by Thorsten Bonsch is a perfect example. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies had numerous wonderful film locations, but the journey always starts by the Bilbo’s home Bag End in the town of Hobbiton located in the lush pastures of the Shire.
While not depicting any particular scene I can remember, Mountain Hobbit’s Fishing Docks is clearly set in Middle Earth. The colour palette is consistent with the official sets, and Gollum lurking behind one of the trees on the hill is a dead giveaway. Let’s talk about those trees and hill though. The shaping of both is superb. Everything is basically sculpted using slopes and wedges. I really like the heavy use of pieces that are one brick wide on the hillside, giving it the appearance of being quite weathered. The curve on the rightmost tree is particularly well done, as it tells a story about how that tree grew: when it started growing, it wasn’t so close to the edge, but over time, its trunk grew thicker and the hillside eroded. Because of geotropism, the tree grew to point upward though, giving it the curved trunk we see today.
At the far end of Bagshot Row at number 10 is the house of Fredregar “Fatty” Bolger, the son of Odovacar Bolger and Rosamunda Took. Patrick B. has captured Fatty with his wife and a furry friend outside his beautiful house at Bag End — another Shire creation for his “ExploringTheShire” project he started a year ago.
Like many a member of the online LEGO community, Patrick has credited fellow builders in the comments on Flickr to acknowledge where he has “borrowed” Jonas Kramm’s cobble design and appropriated the watering can design from Simon NH. I love how the online LEGO community reminds me very much of Hobbiton in more than a few regards.
Regular readers will know that we’ve featured many LEGO dragons over the years, but I think on this occasion YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID now that heavy-duty character builder Shawn Snyder has decided to get in on the game with this recreation of Tolkien’s Smaug. From head to tail it’s 28 inches and the wingspan is a whopping 35 inches!
We used Sauron’s seeing-stone to track down the damp cave that Shawn hides in, and dispatched our goblin hoard to interrogate him about his latest bunker-busting creation…
TBB: You’re best known for creating large figures and busts of humanoid characters from videogames such as Halo and Assassins Creed, or movies like Iron Man and Predator. What inspired you to attempt a monster this time?
SS: I’ve actually wanted to make a dragon for quite some time. It wasn’t until ArchLUG did a collaborative build of Laketown that made me commit to finally attempt it. After all, Laketown needs a Smaug!
TBB: Tell us about the build. How did you get such a large yet detailed model to stay in one piece? Did it present any new building challenges for you?
A few week ago we reviewed two of the four new sets for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. With the movie opening this evening and all of the sets now available in stores and on LEGO.com, we’ll dive into the third set, 79011 Dol Guldur Ambush, which is the smallest of the lot.
79011 Dol Guldur Ambush comes with a $19.99 USD price tag, but has an admirable 217 pieces and three minifigs packed in. Taking place in the second film, the set portrays a scene not pictured in the book, in which Beorn ventures to Dol Guldur, the stronghold of the rising dark force we will later know as Sauron. Inside the box are two unnumbered bags and a very crumpled instruction manual. This is a terrific set for parts, particularly for castle builders, as nearly the entire set consists of black, greys, and browns. The instructions first call for the construction of a small double-catapult, which is really a plate with two wheels and two of the mini-catapults. It’s effective, but hardly inspired. The main portion of the set consists of the ruins of Dol Guldur, an ancient fortress. Here we get a bit of broken rocky wall surrounding a large entryway. Of course, as the set name implies, there’s an ambush. On each side of the door there are lever-controlled booby-traps: on the left are two axes, and on the right a giant hammer contraption. Neither are actually triggered by a pressure plate or anything — you simply swing them into place independently with your fingers via a knob on top. To the right of the main doorway is a segment of rock connected by a hinge brick. This swings aside to reveal — you guessed it: a flick-fire missile. A spare missile is included if you really want to go nuts. That’s about it as far as play-features in this set are concerned. The real noteworthy part here, though, is the wall itself. Much like the Mirkwood Elf Army wall, it is constructed almost completely from very small pieces. The designer went a little crazy with the Brick, Modified 1 x 1 with Stud on 1 Side, using 20, when fewer than half that number actually utilize the extra side stud. However, I see this as a bonus rather than otherwise, since the modified brick tends to be more useful. There are also two of the “dougnut tiles,” or Tile, Round 2 x 2 with Hole in dark grey. This is the only set that is actually released yet which contains this highly useful piece, though other sets with it are in the lineup for the new year.
There are three minifigs in the playset: two Gundabad orcs and Beorn. The two orcs are the twins of the two included in the Mirkwood Elf Army, except that the two here haven’t gone prematurely bald. Mighty woodsman Beorn is the unique figure to this set, and he is a profound disappointment. The great furry mane is not a new hairpiece, but is actually part of the head. There is no excuse for LEGO to have taken this route, since the part of the head that is visible is clearly shaped like a normal LEGO head. Nevertheless, the hair and head is all molded as one, reducing the usefulness of it considerably. I won’t bother to enumerate here all the times LEGO has managed to produce similar head/hair combinations without resorting to this sort of shoddy work.
Ultimately, however, this is a really excellent set. The minifigs are not worth bothering with, but the bricks make the set more than worth-while. The wall, while not particularly exciting, is very nicely done, and it even connects up to the bigger 79014 Dol Guldur Battle set to make a bigger playset.
79013 Lake-town Chase is the medium-sized set from the new year-end lineup of Hobbit kits, set to release in conjunction with the second movie on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. Some of the new sets are available through Amazon with a ship date of Dec. 1, though sadly Lake-town Chase isn’t available at the time of writing.
79013 Lake-town Chase depicts a scene presumably from late in the second film, when our heroes arrive in Lake-town, the village built upon Long Lake under the shadow of the Lonely Mountain. It’s a town built upon a pier, with the entire town raised above the waters of the lake to act as a natural moat and to aid in defense against the fiery breath of the great dragon Smaug. The set is priced at $49.99 USD, weighing in with 470 pieces. Included are two of Lake-town’s structures and a longship.
The box contents contain no surprises: 4 numbered bags, 2 instruction manuals (2 bags per), a very small sticker sheet, and the loose boat mast. Bag No. 1 builds the ship, Bilbo Baggins, and Thorin Oakenshield. The ship is a great build, cleverly placing 2 rowboats stern to stern to create the hull. The boat is the twin of 7016 Viking Boat against the Wyvern Dragon from 2005’s Viking theme. I’m OK with that, though, since the Viking theme was one of LEGO’s coolest non-licensed themes in the last decade, and the 7016 was one of the better sets from that line. The few minor differences are simply swapping out a few details, such as utilizing the newer smooth round shields instead of the old stickered Technic disks, plus the addition of a nifty brick-built furled sail. The shields here are printed with a Viking-esque double fish pattern which looks fantastic. There’s a large barrel in the fore of the longship to finish up the Barrel Escape scene from the last wave of sets (but still from the second film). Also included is a mini catapult in the aft. Bilbo is naturally equipped with Sting and the One Ring, and Thorin is armed with the gladius. As per usual, two extras of the One Ring are included, along with an extra oar and some typical spares.
Bag No. 2 builds the smaller of the 2 buildings. I’m not entirely sure what sort of building it’s intended to be. Part of it seems to be some sort of armory, containing a removable rack with extra weapons. The opposite half of the building has a small enclosed space, with a flip-up door/barrel of fish. The action is controlled via a knob on the side. There’s a ladder on the side that can function as a gangway between the two buildings. For both of the buildings, the pier is depicted by placing large plates atop 1-brick high pillars over blue plates, a visual language LEGO has been using since 1991’s 6267 Lagoon Lock-up. This bag also contains the only generic figure of the set, the Lake-town Guard, who is armed with a fancy pike.
Bags No. 3 and 4 together make up the larger structure, which is a jail. True to form with all LEGO prisons, there’s a lever-activated break-away wall segment for easy escapes. The neighboring house has an upper floor containing a simple table and lamp, though no ladder, and there’s a balcony above the cell which contains another mini-catapult. The entire building is open in the rear. All 3 of the stickers are used in this section. While I’m not typically a fan of stickers, the ones included here are pretty innocuous. There are wood plank stickers which are applied to 1×4 and 1×6 brown tiles, and the jailhouse sign hanging out front is stickered with a padlock image. I went ahead and applied all 3, since I can see them being useful in their stickered forms in other creations. There are also 2 more of the of the reddish-brown “Gothic” arches which I noted in 79012 Mirkwood Elf Army. Both this building and the previous are frosted with patches of snow, which looks quite nice and increases the visual interest of the buildings considerably. This segment includes the final 2 minifigures: heroic Bard and the Master of Lake-town, carrying a bow and a pearl gold key, respectively.
I understand that LEGO feels it necessary to include protagonist characters in every set in the theme, but I really wish this set had included more guards or townsfolk instead of Bilbo and Thorin. Thorin, at least, has a torso print that is unique to this set. Bilbo is identical to versions that have appeared in multiple previous sets. The generic Lake-town guard looks snappy in an ornate purple frock over armor. The helmet is a very detailed accessory, with a silver top, dark tan fur brim, and brown leather side flaps. The crest on the helmet is quite generic, so it won’t look out of place in other settings. The guard’s pike now has a hole in the bottom that is almost, but not quite, the size of a plume. You can fit a plume in, but it’s extremely tight and doesn’t seat all the way. It’s an odd change, but of no real consequence. The Master of Lake-town has a detailed suit of fine clothes and an ornate hat that incorporates his flowing hair. The hat has a plume hole in the top. The Master also wears a double-sided cape of dark tan and dark red, which looks fantastic. And finally, there’s Bard. In every trailer I’ve seen for The Desolation of Smaug, I can’t help but see Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner character from Pirates of the Caribbean. The semblance is perpetuated in the minifig version of Bard, who looks more like Will Turner than the official Will Turner minifig. Bard is sporting Qui-Gon Jinn’s hairpiece in black, which is a new color for that piece. The LEGO kid is still featured on the back of the instruction manuals, looking like an adolescent R. Lee Ermey as he screams at you to take the survey.
Lake-town Chase doesn’t seem to contain a lot of chase, though it does contain a nice bit of Lake-town. It’s a solid set; the buildings are well-built and looking nice, and the ship is great. There’s not much in the way of unique or new elements, aside from the arches, but the vast majority of the pieces are brown or dark brown, with plenty of log bricks, so if you want to stock up on brown, this is a good way to do it. Fans of the line will be interested in it for the 4 unique figures. Fans can create much more interesting wooden structures than the ones found in this set, but any equivalently sized fan-created set would cost at a minimum twice as much, so we can’t be too harsh on LEGO.
Be sure to also read our previous review of The Hobbit’s 79012 Mirkwood Elf Army.