What's Nepeta cataria? It’s a small plant better known under its nickname, Catnip. If you’re lucky enough to have a cat as pet, maybe you already had Nepeta cataria home, for this plant is know for his effects on felines. Apparently, it influences their mind to the point it’s consider to be nearly hallucinogenic. Most of you don’t own a tiger, but it seems they enjoy the same effects from Nepeta cataria. Note it can also be used in many other ways, like as a mosquito repellent or as medic against flues and colic.
Why do I speak about catnips and its effects on felines? Because, according to
, “catnip, something these particular bugbears relish » (Keep on the Borderlands, p. 19). This is a good early sample of Gygaxian naturalism, and most of all, an interesting clue about what are bugbears. As wolfbane can affect werewolves, adventurers could bring catnip to avoid bugbears. Gary
Bugbears’ name and fur led to picture them as goblinoid bears – and the French translation, Goblours (literally, gobl’bear) sent me that way ; that’s the reason I was thinking the goblinoid could be related to bears in the same ways humans are to apes. Catnip’s connection leads to another way: could bugbears, and by the way all goblins, be related to cats? Why not, after all? In D&D, description of goblins is very limited, except for their taint (grey and chalky). Size is only suggested as relative to other goblins (in OD&D, kobolds > goblins > orcs > hobgoblins > bugbears, this chain being shorter in D&D). Nothing prevents to picture them as catlike beings – just have a look on the picture.
So bugbears’ relation to cats could explain, more than bears, why theses big and clumsy critters could be so sneaky, because of toe paws. Then, it could lead to plenty of ethological features for Borderlands’ goblinoids.