If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.
This Week: The Wight Stuff
I never knew if these guys sported a rib cage like some skeletal graveyard reject, wavered insubstantial like the spirits of the past or looked like something else strange and unearthly. What were wights? I remembered that barrow-wights from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” were corpses with corrupt souls that bound them to the world to continue with their evil deeds, and wights in the D&D Monster Manual had this vicious power to drain the life essence out of their victims and turn them into fellow wights.
Turns out the word wight comes from Middle English and means “living being” or “creature.” Perfectly generic to confuse us even further. A wight can also label a being from one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology, especially a nature spirit or ancestor. The English Channel’s famous Isle of Wight, by the way, has nothing to do with our creature wights, though that would be a crazily disturbing sight if it did, like something straight out of 28 Days Later.
Wights are a fascinating part of fantasy history that aren’t as fleshed out (no pun intended) than some of their famous elven and faerie brethren. Dwarves, goblins, dragons have become canon in fantasy literature; not the wight. They’ve only shown up as bit players on the fantasy stage. And that’s probably the way they like it, left to their own horrible devices in secret lairs beneath the earth. It’s enough to make a Balrog envious.