Minecraft Legends: Return of the Piglins
We talked to Matt Forbeck about his Minecraft Legends novel!
Minecraft Legends’ main story is an epic tale of bravery and friendship – the only problem is that it eventually ends. If you want more tales about the clash between the Overworld and the Nether, then you’re in for a real treat.
The latest Minecraft novel, Return of the Piglins, takes inspiration from the (supposed) events of Minecraft Legends, and asks the question: what happens if the piglins invade the Overworld again? This novel also marks the return of award-winning author Matt Forbeck! You might be familiar with his previous novel, Rise of the Arch-Illager, which is a prequel to Minecraft Dungeons.
In Return of the Piglins, we meet Farnum, an Overworlder who dreams of running a famous zoo, but doesn’t have the creatures necessary to attract crowds. Then there’s Kritten the piglin, who is an advisor to the fearsome Great Bungus, and is in desperate need of finding more land for their horde. When Farnum stumbles upon a mysterious portal while searching for new animals, the two strike an unlikely alliance that could lead to terrifying consequences for the Overworld...
Intrigued? So am I. That’s why I reached out to Matt with some questions! And if you stay tuned until the end, you will find a bonus in the form of an excerpt from the actual book!
Cristina: This isn’t your first time working with an upcoming Minecraft spin-off game. Do you enjoy writing about unreleased games?
Matt: I love writing for games that are in development because it gives me a chance to see all sorts of things before they’re released to the public. I also get to ask the developers questions to see what they’re thinking about the game’s background and get some deeper insights about why things are the way they are in the game.
C: But it’s not all sunshine and sneak peeks when working with unreleased titles…
Matt: Working with a game that is not quite finished can be a bit of a challenge, in that the game might change at some point, and those changes can affect what I’m writing in my story. That’s the way it has to be though, as making the game the best it can be is the most important thing. When it happens—which isn’t always—I just have to adjust for it as best I can.
Often I don’t get to play the game before I write the book, as it’s not ready for that quite yet, but that means I get to dig into all sorts of other documents and images and such to get a feel for it. It’s good fun.
C: Compared to Dungeons, the events in Minecraft Legends are a story, not history or fact. Did that pose a challenge when writing the novel?
Matt: That was a bit tricky, but I think we managed it. The story in Return of the Piglins treats the happenings in Minecraft Legends as if they are just that: legends. These are things that happened so long ago that the stories about them are iffy and impossible to confirm but still fill the people of the present with both cautionary tales and hopeful heroics.
In a way, it was freeing because I didn’t have to attach my story directly to Minecraft Legends. I got to treat it not as dictation but inspiration. That’s kind of how regular Minecraft players can approach Minecraft Legends too, I’d think.
C: By the way, what inspires you about Minecraft in particular?
Matt: The best part of Minecraft is the sense of wonder that it gives you as you wander around the world and learn how things work. I just love figuring things out and then experimenting with them to see what else can be done.
The game isn’t merely a set of recipes for crafting though. It’s all about what you can do with that knowledge once you acquire it. You see so much creativity being expressed in the game in so many wild and unexpected ways. The dedication players show to their works of art there always astounds me.
C: Looking closer at the main characters of the novel, Farnum and Kritten, they don’t speak the same language. What was it like writing the interactions between them?
Matt: That was a bit of a challenge. In the real world or in a video game, you can communicate with gestures and grunts and such, and while it’s a challenge, it works, but describing that in words can get tedious. So I skip over some of those details and get into them figuring out the rough details of what the other means pretty fast.
The real trick was making each of them desperate enough to even attempt to communicate with the other. This is something that neither of them would normally even attempt, but I put them in a situation in which they didn’t have many other choices.
C: And unfortunately, Farnum’s only choice was trusting a piglin. Speaking of Farnum, he's not exactly a hero in the traditional sense, is he? How do you make readers root for someone like him?
Matt: That’s part of the beauty of prose is that you can get deep into a character’s head and explore their motivations. Farnum might not be your typical brave and hearty hero, but that’s what makes his story more interesting.
He’s not naturally courageous. Most of the time he tries to avoid conflict, just like many other people would, so I had to put him under some terrible pressure to get him to the point at which he would start showing his true colors.
C: We spend quite a bit of time with Kritten as well, and it’s a very entertaining journey. How do you get readers to relate to such an unpleasant, scheming character?
Matt: That’s actually easier than it sounds! While Kritten might be a schemer, they also get bullied a lot, and we all like to root for the underdog. (Or under-piglin!)
On top of that, Kritten is smart and sees things in their world a lot more sharply than most of the people around her—with the possible exception of Farnum. It’s easy to root for someone who’s cleverer than anyone around but is still dealing with troubles from bigger and tougher folks.
C: I have one last question. On a scale from 1 to 10, how big of a mistake is trusting a piglin?
Matt: 100. NEVER trust a piglin. Unless… If you know how piglins think and work, you can trust them to act in their own self-interests and to betray others when their interests diverge. If you think they would never do that to you, well, your interests just haven’t split apart enough yet.
Thank you for the insights and wisdom, Matt! We’re definitely better equipped to face those cunning piglins in Minecraft Legends now.
Return of the Piglins is available now.
And finally, here is an exclusive sneak peek at Return of the Piglins!
* * *
WHAT A BARGAIN
The terrified Overworlder threw their hands up and made a pitiful noise that was perhaps the least threatening thing that Kritten had ever heard. They kept their axe at the creature’s throat, though, just in case, and shouted, “Who are you? What are you doing here? Tell me now!”
The Overworlder whimpered and said something in its unintelligible tongue. As far as Kritten knew, no one had ever been able to talk with an Overworlder, but that didn’t seem to stop this terrified person from trying.
Kritten hadn’t spent much time with Overworlders before. All they knew about them was that they came in two kinds. The first were tremendously powerful people who rampaged across the Nether, taking whatever they wanted and beating up anyone who got in their way.
The piglins understood these Overworlders. If the piglins could be nearly as strong and amazing as such invaders, they would do the exact same things. If anything, the piglins were jealous, and that jealousy often sent them into a frothing rage.
The second kind of Overworlders were weaklings who somehow managed to stumble through a portal and find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the Nether’s vicious mobs. Lots of times they never even saw a piglin before they met their end. This one beneath Kritten’s blade was clearly of that second type.
Most of these weakling Overworlders didn’t stick around long enough for anyone to get to know them. They either were beaten down within minutes or they fled.
Maybe it was because this particular Overworlder seemed so pathetic, or perhaps it was due to the fact that Kritten had feared for their own life not so long ago, but the Overworlder’s plight moved them to pity it. More than pity, though, in the back of Kritten’s head they wondered if the Overworlder might be able to help them get out of this pit. Rather than steeling themself to put an end to the person, Kritten crawled right off and over their chest and then spun around and backed off a few feet.
The advisor wasn’t that trusting, though. They still brandished their axe before them. If the Overworlder was shamming and trying to trick them into lowering their guard, they would be sorely disappointed.
For their part, the Overworlder took a moment to try to recover their dignity—if they had actually had any in the first place. Once they seemed to have control over themself once again, they sat up with their hands up, showing Kritten that they intended them no harm. The advisor wasn’t sure they believed them, but they were willing to give this situation a chance to see where it went.
The Overworlder backed up while still on their rump until they were well outside of the reach of Kritten’s axe. Even at that point, they made a huge show of being harmless and asking permission to stand. Feeling magnanimous—and perhaps a little more intimidating than usual—Kritten gestured with the head of the axe that it would be safe for the Overworlder to rise.
The Overworlder glanced longingly over Kritten’s shoulder, and the advisor saw that the intruder had noticed that they’d intentionally put themself between the stranger and the obsidian portal. The piglin wasn’t quite ready to let the intruder race off yet.
Kritten pointed the axe at the Overworlder with purpose and hoped that they would figure out what they wanted. “Give me what you’ve got!”
The intruder gave Kritten nothing more than a confused look and a helpless shrug. They didn’t understand at all.
Instead they pointed at themself and said something. Kritten cocked their head to one side to listen to them carefully.
“Farnum,” the Overworlder said. “Farnum.”
Farnum. Kritten realized that must be the Overworlder’s name. They pointed to their own chest with their free hand, never letting their axe lower for even a moment. “Kritten! Kritten!”
The Overworlder mimicked the name, mangling it only slightly in the attempt. “Krit-En.”
“Close enough!” Kritten said. “Now: Give me everything you’ve got!”
The Overworlder—Farnum, Kritten corrected—shook their head, still unable to understand anything else the advisor said. Kritten sighed in exasperation. They didn’t have the patience to teach this fool how to speak properly.
They considered taking them down then and there, if only to keep things simple. But Kritten was tired and aching and didn’t know exactly where they were, how they would manage to get out of there, and how to find someplace safe to go if they actually pulled that off.
Killing Farnum seemed like a waste at the very least, and Kritten had so little left to them that they didn’t feel like they should let anything go to waste. Frustrated, they sat down in front of the obsidian portal and glared at Farnum as if daring the Overworlder to try to escape.
It was around then that the strider came limping around the bend.
Kritten saw it before Farnum did, and they instantly wondered what the Overworlder would think of it. They hoped that Farnum wouldn’t try to attack such a harmless beast, but if that happened, Kritten wasn’t going to stop it. Let the Overworlder exhaust their strength on useless things.
Kritten reached out with their axe and pointed it at the incoming strider. It took Farnum a moment to figure out what the gesture meant, but eventually they followed the line of sight the weapon’s handle indicated and spotted the strider coming right for them.
To Kritten’s surprise, Farnum didn’t scream or bolt in terror. Instead, they leaped up and down and clapped their hands in delight.
Kritten didn’t understand this reaction at all. They just gaped at the Overworlder as they walked over to the strider and attempted to introduce themself to it.
Oddly, the strider seemed to respond in kind, just as curious about the stranger as it was about them. The two of them circled each other for a bit and grew closer with every rotation. Soon enough, the Overworlder realized that the strider was pale and shivering and let loose a wild exclamation of sympathy—something that was in short supply in piglin society.
Farnum came over to Kritten, their eyes wide and pleading. Despite the language difference, it was hard to misinterpret what the Overworlder wanted. Kritten gestured at the strider with their axe and then to Farnum, indicating that the Overworlder could take possession of the strider if they liked—even though the creature wasn’t really Kritten’s to give away.
Farnum practically squealed with glee. They were so excited that Kritten worried that they might burst. They spun about again and again until they were dizzy with delight.
When they were done, they fell over and collapsed on the ground and laughed themself silly. The strider approached to lean over the Overworlder and see if they were dead, which set Farnum off laughing again.
Once Farnum managed to recover from their joyousness, they began rummaging through their pack. That got Kritten’s attention, and the advisor stood back up and brandished their axe at the Overworlder, warning them not to try anything stupid.
Farnum just put up their empty hands and smiled at Kritten until the axe was lowered. Then they went right back to picking through their pack, although much more gingerly this time. A moment later, they produced something surprising and reached out to Kritten with it.
The advisor looked at it suspiciously. It was a glass flask filled with a violet fluid and stoppered with a cork. They glared at it and shook their head.
The Overworlder sensed Kritten’s misgivings. To allay any fears the advisor might have, Farnum uncorked the flask and took a little sip of the fluid themself. After a quick swallow, they opened their mouth and let loose a dramatic “Ah!” of refreshment. Then they offered the flask to Kritten again.
Still suspicious, but feeling a bit less cautious than normal, Kritten accepted the flask from Farnum. They put it to their lips, watching the Overworlder’s reaction the entire time. Farnum didn’t seem like someone excited about tricking a foe into drinking a bottle of poison. Instead they seemed entirely delighted.
Kritten took a sip of the viscous fluid. It went down slowly, but it tasted delicious. It filled them with a wonderful sense of warmth that seemed to permeate them all the way to their fingertips and the ends of their toes.
A moment later, Kritten had gulped down the whole thing without even meaning to. It was so good, and it made them feel incredible.
Farnum gestured toward the bruises they’d had on their arm, and they glanced down at them to see that they had disappeared. They were so surprised that they put down their axe so they could roll up a sleeve and get a better look at their arm. There was no longer any sign of an injury on it at all!
Kritten gaped at the Overworlder. They had heard about Potions of Healing like this, but the ingredients were hard to come by in the Nether. Apparently that wasn’t the case wherever Farnum was from.
The advisor gazed up at the smiling Overworlder and realized that they hadn’t even flinched toward attacking them, even though they were completely vulnerable. Kritten found that hard to believe, but in a gesture of goodwill on their own part they lowered their axe and bowed their head to Farnum to say thanks.
The Overworlder sighed in relief, and their smile grew even wider.
Meanwhile, the strider had become fascinated with the obsidian portal and walked within a couple feet of it, staring at it the entire time. Farnum moved to intercept the creature, unsure that it should be allowed to depart, but Kritten gestured toward the swirling portal as if asking them both to leave.
Perhaps that was foolish on the advisor’s part, but they didn’t see anything good coming from Farnum getting mixed up in their troubles here in the Nether. Kritten couldn’t defend them from the other piglins and had nothing to trade with them now either. Better to send the Overworlder back home where they would be safe from the predations of the place’s hostile mobs—and maybe they could return with more potions or other incredible things!
In an effort to encourage that, Kritten reached into their pack and produced a bit of warped fungus, something the advisor knew that striders were fond of. They handed it over with a grunt, and the Overworlder accepted it graciously.
Farnum followed the strider over to the portal cautiously, clearly not wanting to give Kritten the impression that they were trying to flee. The Overworlder even gestured for the advisor to join them on the other side of the portal.
For a moment, Kritten considered going with the Overworlder, but from what they had been told it was impossible for piglins to survive in the Overworld. If that wasn’t true, Kritten felt sure the piglins would have invaded the place and conquered it long ago. Many piglin myths spoke about such great battles, but they all somehow skipped over both how the piglins had gotten into such places and what might have driven them back.
Instead, Kritten simply waved goodbye to Farnum and wished them well. The advisor was determined to figure a way out of the pit, but they didn’t think Farnum would be much help to them in that regard. They would have to manage it on their own.
Farnum gave Kritten a well, I tried shrug and led the strider through the obsidian portal. With a spin of the purple energies swirling within, they were gone.
- Cristina Anderca
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