Having spent the latter half of 2023 painting Uruk-Hai, along with the many Historical projects that continually occupy the painting bench, I decided that I needed to add something a bit more human to my Middle Earth collection. The obvious choice, to expand an Isengard army, are what Tolkien calls, 'the wild hillmen and herd-folk of Dunland'.
The Hillmen are an impoverished, rugged and hairy people, forced to live in the plains to the west of the Misty Mountains, having being ejected from their homeland by the Rohirrim, for whom they, consequently, have an intense and violent hatred. They have little access to metal and so carry weapons plundered during raids on "strawhead" farmsteads, or given to them by Saruman, following their swearing of the oath of allegiance to the turncoat wizard.
Although it's probably not the easiest way to build a warband, I decided to create my own hillmen, largely from spare bits and bobs I have left over from a variety of historical armies that I have created over the years. Vikings and Ancient Germans are the two which spring instantly to mind, but there are parts from other ranges and I also have some figures from Etsy which very much fit the image I have of these hill men and herders of Dunland.
The Warband leader is Hern the Hairy... he is one of the wonderful, no longer available, Ancient German range from Black Tree Design. I bought many of these figures some years ago for a project which has, subsequently, evolved into a warband that I use with Clash of Spears, fighting Imperial Romans and Ancient Celts. This figure didn't make the cut for that warband and I found him at the bottom of a box full of spare bits and bobs! Lucky for me! Here he is, regenerated and starting a new career. leading Dunlanders into battle in the name of Saruman! Look out Rohan... Hern the Hairy is coming to raid a farmstead near you.
It's a lot of work creating these figures, especially when they only cost 5 points a man, which means they're not going to put up a great deal of resistance to your average hero of Rohan. This is what was required to make the hairy torch bearer...
It would be much easier to spend £40 and buy the Games Workshop set of 12 figures, which equates to £3.33 per figure, but then you only actually get four different sculpts for your money. This way definitely takes a lot more imagination and laborious crafting, but, when you've completed your model and plastered up your thumbs, you have something which is totally unique and, like Frankenstein's monster, is a creation you can be proud of.
So, will I be doing any more hairy hillmen? Yes I will, but not for a while! This first collection are all armed with swords, daggers and axes, and I would like to add some two-handed weapons into the mix. To do that, I'll need a second hero to command another 12 figure warband and I want to ensure that he will be as dynamic, heroic, valiant and downright good looking as Hern.