80106: The Story of Nian Review

Over the last couple of years, the LEGO® sets released in association with the Spring Festival/ Lunar New Year have been some of the most delightful sets that I have experienced in recent years. With their bright colours, families celebrating and insights into Asian Cultures, they have been a highlight of the new year releases in 2018-19.This year, we have two new sets: 80106: The Story of Nian, and 80107: The Lantern Festival. I was delighted to be given the chance to look at both of these sets ahead of time. The Story of Nian will be released in Mainland China and the Asia-Pacific Markets on January 1 and rest of the world from January 10th, 2021. It will retail for $AUD109.99/USD79.99/GBP59.99/CAD109.99, and has 1067 elements.

The Legend of Nian.

The Instruction book gives us a simplified version of the Nian Legend.

This is integral to the traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year: The Nian (which translates as ‘year’) is a green and orange beast which is said to live under the sea or the mountains. Every year, on the Lunar New Year’s Eve, it would hunt livestock and children – so villagers would flee and hide every year.

Legend has it that one year, a strange old man, dressed as a begger, came to visit a village, just as the villagers were fleeing: he asked an old lady if he could stay at her house, he would rid the village of the monster forever. She reluctantly allowed him to do so, while she also fled into hiding.

When the monster came to the village, it saw the old lady’s house pasted up with red papers, illuminated from within by candles. The monster glared at the strange decorations and was startled by a loud ‘bang’, and the old man ran out of her house, dressed in red, and laughing. The monster was frightened, and fled into the night.

When the villagers returned, they found that the monster had not damaged the village at all. They realised that the old man had come good with his promise to get rid of the Nian: loud noises, the colour red and bright lights all terrified the creature, and so the news was spread to the surrounding villages, and the Nian was defeated for years to come. [Ref: China Travel Guide; Wikipedia]

And how does this translate into LEGO form? What aspects of the New Year traditions do we see as we build this set? Let us take a look.

The Build

The set comes with one instruction books, 200 pages thick, and 8 numbered bags. There are 6 minifigures spread throughout the bags. Lets take a bag by bag looks. Once again, thanks to Ann for her dedication to laying the elements out – making my building easier, and spotting of interesting elements all the more possible for you. I shall consider the minifigures after the build.

Bag 1

In the first bag, we start to set the scene for the build. As well as a visitor to the place we are building, we have lots of plates, in white, tan and medium stone grey; a number of sloped wedge bricks, amd some of the 2x2x 1 2/3 rounded corner elements, that have appeared in 2020. We also have some teal palisade bricks, some red 1x1x1 2/3. In a separate bag are some orange ‘power bursts’ seen in Super hero sets in recent years: here they are transparent orange. I presume these will be used for some fireworks later on.

We start to layout a snow covered base, with some sotne steps, leading up to a doorway. The landscape is in part bare dirt, and in part snow covered. The doorway is already starting to look large and imposing. the round structures outside the doorway, facing each other, have some significance, but I have been unable to find a proper description.

Bags 2&3

The next two bags are full of grey elements as we start to build up the house. There are a large number of masonry bricks, snot elements and ingots in various shades of grey. Red bricks, tiles and fences are also featured. We also see 4 rings, although only two will be used in the building. There are a number of printed elements included here as well.

The second bag sees the wall almost completes, with some orate red window frames. The door frame is complete, surrounded in red with some gold trim.

The red tiles printed in gold and black depict couplets, lines of poetry, traditionally celebrating aspects of the new year and the changing of seasons. The couplets are traditionally pasted to on either side, and above the doorway before lunar New Year’s Eve. In rural areas, they are often left to wear off during the course of the year. If they are removed, they are traditionally burned, to release the gods living within them back to heaven.

The lintel of the doorway is completed in the next bag, and we also add the main doors. I like the use of the ring elements around the studs on the offset plates to provide gold door handles. Ingot elements are use to provide the texture to the roof. they are placed on hinges to agulater them. We have a few clumps of snow, and icicles, conveying further feeling of the winter.

There are two stickers in this set: one placed on each door. These stickers represent guardians, or door gods. These images are often pasted on to the doorways, so the use of stickers seems somewhat appropriate here. The figures face one another, and provide protection for the house from evil spirits during the year.

Bags 4, 5 and 6

Bag four brings us the grandmother, carrying a spade, and clearing the path of snow.

It also gives us the elements required to build the final part of the roof, completing the facade of the house. We see the traditional shape of the roof, with an added snowdrift. Further ornamentation is added at the top – supported by the increasingly versatile rollerskate element, seen here in medium stone grey. Lanterns are also added to the doorway, providing illuminated red to further scare away the monster.

Bag five brings us Grandfather, carrying a bucket and sponge. During this bag, we also add a ladder and extend the front yard, with further snow covered ground… err sorry, white plates., as well as a box, which may well serve a further purpose as time goes by.

Bag 6

Bag 6 opens with the construction of our ‘Year of the Ox’ figure: wearing a bright red shirt with gold decorations, an ox head, and waving around a string of fire crackers, he is sure to scare away any creature with a fear of loud noises and the colour red. We add a couple of green plants near the house – perhaps a sign that spring can’t be far away, and we build a snowman.

Next, we continue to decorate the yard with fireworks. Some might already be exploding thanks to the Bower burst elements! Some further decoration with small trees, already starting to blossom brings us hope that the new year, and spring, are close by. The trunks of these trees are ‘elephant trunk’ elements, in medium nougat.

We complete the scene by adding some firworks, exploding overhead. Based around the belville snowflake element, in trans neon reddish orange, fairy wands with stars on top are used to represent the the starbursts. A mixture of neon and non neon elements gives rise to an interesting effect under UV light.

We have now completed the house, and unveiled all the minifigures of the set. But what of the Nian?

Bags 7&8

Legends tell of the Nian being Green and orange, and having a large single horn. As such, the LEGO Nian is made of teal (medium greenish blue/medium turquoise), bright orange, with golden elements too (teal bananas, amongst other things!).

Bag 7 sets out to construct the body, including the legs of the beast. the joins for the hips, ankles and tail are all small ball joints, while a larger ball joint is used for the neck.

As we start bag 8, we add what appears to be a red lantern hanging from its tail, which must have is perpetually anxious. From hee we start work on the head. The head uses an interesting collection of slopes, SNOT Brasckets, and angled elements to ensure thatthe creature has an almost orgsanic feel. It’s neck is framed by golden curved elements. finally, we add an articulated jaw, showing off the great fangs of the creature.

The Nian is thought to have inspired the Lion dance, also traditionally performed in the Lunar New Year. As such, I thought I would compare the look of the Nian with one of the lions from last year’s lion dance set.

As you can see, the lion dance creature is relatively small – slightly taller than a minifigure, thile the lges of the Nian are almost as tall as the full lion dancer. The head of the Nian is 8 studs wide, compared with the 4-5 of the lion.

The Minifigures

I’ll start with the Ox figure: He wears a splendidly decorated red jacket, with gold details, which extends down over his purple trousers. I have performed an accidental head swap here, and substituted the fathers single sided grinning face, while giving the combination of wry smile and toothy grin to the father. The ox -man wears a dark orange hood shaped like an ox, with two white horns attached on either side. The father is wearing also wearing a traditional red jacket, with fine gold stripes and featuring a picture of the Nian on the back. He carries a small tan satchel/sling bag.

The children – the young boy wears a similar jacket to his father (Well, I imagine it to be his father), with the Nian on the back, and his sister wears a top with a traditioal design. She has straight black hair, while he wears a medium azure beanie, and has prominant front teeth – a smile on one side, and a look of surprise on the other.

The family is visiting their venerated grandparents. Grandfather is wearing black rimmed glasses, and has grey hair, with a light beard. He is wearing a checked knitted vest, with buttons down the front, over a red shirt. There are some red envelopes in his pockets. These are traditionally containing money, and gifted to the children.He has dark blue trousers.

Grandmother has her hair in a bun and is wearing gold rimmed glasses. There is come subtle variation in her facial expressions, raising and lowering her eyebrows, extra lines under her eyes and a gentle smile. Perhaps she is tired after digging all the snow off the path, and preparing for the annual family visitors. she is wearing a fine vest with a floral design.

In summary

If this doesn’t scare the Nian, I don’t know what will!

Overall, I enjoyed building this set, as well as reading around the legends of the Lunar New Year. The light facade of the house and landscape contrast with the bright red of the doorway, as well as the brightly coloured minifigures, and fireworks, to say nothing of the brightly coloured Nian itself. The build was simple enough but brings enough storytelling to the scene to convey the significance of the tale.

I enjoy the execution of the fireworks: both the exploding rockets, as well as the land based fire crackers are very effective in their execution. Even though this is the smaller set for the Lunar New Year, it has a strong selection of minifigures, both in age and gender.

The Spring Festival sets have been a highlight in recent years, and this year’s is no exception. 80106 covers an important aspect of the Lunar New Year legend, and having spent some time reading around the features of the set, I feel a little wiser for it. I am disappointed that I was unable to get the writing included in the couplet translated. Can you help me? comment below.

This is a strong start for sets being released in January 2021. I award it 4.5 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise Units. This is of course only one set celebrating the Chinese New Year – the other – 80107 Lantern Festival will be released at the the same time, and I will be presenting my review of that set soon.

What do you think of this set? Does it make your early purchase list for 2021? why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play well!

This set was provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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