Other creatures of Middle-Earth

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Demons of shadow and flame, Bal­rogs were crea­tures of great power and terror. Their fun­da­men­tal form appea­red to be that of a man of great sta­ture, but they were cloa­ked in shif­ting sha­dows and they had fiery cores. Bal­rogs had bur­ning yellow eyes and strea­ming manes that kind­led with fire. Their arms were long and power­ful, and they may or may not have had wings (see below). The Bal­rogs” chief wea­pons were whips with fla­ming thongs. 

Bal­rogs belon­ged to the order of the Maiar — the ser­vants of the Valar. The Bal­rogs were ori­gi­nally spi­rits of fire that were cor­rup­ted by Mor­goth in the begin­ning. They dwel­led in Morgoth’s stron­gholds of Utumno and Ang­band in Middle-earth. When those for­tresses were des­troyed by the Valar in the Battle of the Powers, some Bal­rogs hid in the caverns below and they awai­ted Morgoth’s return from cap­ti­vity.

After Mor­goth was relea­sed, he stole the Sil­ma­rils. The Great Spider Ungo­liant tried to take them from him, but Mor­goth gave a ter­rible cry and the Bal­rogs heard him and came to his aid. They freed Mor­goth from Ungoliant’s webs with their fla­ming whips and Ungo­liant fled from them in fear. 

The Elf-crafts­man Feanor mar­ched on Ang­band to retrieve the Sil­ma­rils he had made, and Bal­rogs came forth and sur­roun­ded him. Feanor fought long and hard and recei­ved many wounds from their fiery whips until at last he was struck down by Goth­mog, the Lord of the Bal­rogs. Feanor later died of his wounds. After­wards, Mor­goth said he would nego­tiate with the Elves, but he sent Bal­rogs with his emis­sa­ries and Feanor’s son Maedh­ros was taken cap­tive.

During the Battle of Sudden Flame in the year 455 of the First Age, Glau­rung the Dragon led a host of Bal­rogs and Orcs to attack the Elves and Men. At the Battle of Unnum­be­red Tears in 472, Goth­mog, Lord of the Bal­rogs, slew Fingon, the High King of the Noldor. Ano­ther Balrog trap­ped Fingon with its fiery whip while Goth­mog clea­ved Fingon’s helmet with his axe, and then the Bal­rogs beat him into the ground with their maces. 

Bal­rogs were among the forces that atta­cked the hidden realm of Gon­do­lin in 510. Goth­mog bat­tled the Elf-lord Ecthe­lion and they both were slain. Ano­ther Balrog tried to prevent the escape of Tuor, Idril, and Earen­dil in the pass called the Eagles” Cleft. Glor­fin­del enga­ged the Balrog in battle to allow the others to escape. They fought on the pre­ci­pice and both fell into the abyss to their deaths. 

When the Valar van­qui­shed Mor­goth in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, most of the Bal­rogs were des­troyed, but it is said that a few fled into deep under­ground caverns. The fate of only one of these is known : It went to the Misty Moun­tains and hid at the roots of the Red­horn, where it lurked for over 6,000 years. 

In 1980 of the Third Age, the Dwarves of Khazad-dum were del­ving under the Red­horn for mithril when they encoun­te­red the Balrog. The Balrog may have been roused by their mining or it may already have awa­ke­ned in res­ponse to the gro­wing power of Sauron. King Durin VI was slain by the Balrog, and the next year it killed Durin’s son Nain I. The Dwarves aban­do­ned Khazad-dum and it became known as Moria, the Black Chasm, and Orcs and other evil crea­tures came to dwell there. 

The Fel­low­ship of the Ring ente­red Moria on January 13, 3019, and the Balrog became aware of their pre­sence. On January 15, the Balrog ente­red the Cham­ber of Mazar­bul after the Fel­low­ship had left and it per­cei­ved Gan­dalf beyond the door. Like the Balrog, Gan­dalf too was of the order of Maiar. Gan­dalf placed a shut­ting spell on the door, but the Balrog cast a coun­ter-spell and was nearly able to open the door, and then Gan­dalf spoke a word of Com­mand. In the struggle bet­ween the two, the door shat­te­red and the roof of the cham­ber col­lap­sed.

The Balrog esca­ped and pur­sued the Fel­low­ship to the Bridge of Khazad-dum. Gan­dalf remai­ned on the bridge and denied the Balrog pas­sage. The Balrog wiel­ded a whip of many thongs and a fla­ming sword. Gan­dalf used Glam­dring to shat­ter the blade of the Balrog’s sword into molten frag­ments. He then struck the bridge with his staff and the stone cra­cked under the Balrog’s feet. The Balrog fell into the abyss with a ter­rible cry and it lashed its whip and caught Gan­dalf around the knees, drag­ging the Wizard in after it. 

The Balrog and Gan­dalf fell toge­ther for a long time, and Gan­dalf was burned by the creature’s fire. They landed in a sub­ter­ra­nean lake at the root of the moun­tains. The Balrog’s fire was quen­ched and it became slimy, but it remai­ned strong and it conti­nued to battle with Gan­dalf. Then the Balrog fled through the tun­nels to the End­less Stair and clim­bed to the peak of the Sil­ver­tine with Gan­dalf in pur­suit.

The Balrog burst into flame again, and it fought Gan­dalf in the Battle of the Peak from January 23 to 25. At last Gan­dalf threw the Balrog down from the peak and it shat­te­red the moun­tain-side and died. Gan­dalf died as well, but he was retur­ned to life as Gan­dalf the White. 

There are no fur­ther reports of Bal­rogs in the his­tory of Middle-earth, so the Balrog of Moria may well have been the last of its kind. 

Do Balrogs have wings ?

This is one of the most deba­ted issues among Tol­kien fans. There is no defi­ni­tive answer. The ques­tion cen­ters mainly on these sen­tences des­cri­bing the Balrog : 

The Balrog… halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it rea­ched out like two vast wings… It step­ped for­ward slowly on to the bridge, and sud­denly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall… 

The Fel­low­ship of the Ring : « The Bridge of Khazad-dum, » p. 344–45

This pas­sage can be read two ways. Those who believe that Bal­rogs have wings inter­pret this as saying that the Balrog had phy­si­cal wings on its body that it spread from wall to wall. Those on the oppo­sing side say that the wings that were spread out were not real wings, but were ins­tead the shadow around the Balrog, which is des­cri­bed as rea­ching out like wings. 

There are a few other ambi­guous pas­sages that are rele­vant to the debate : 

« Thus they roused from sleep a thing of terror that, flying from Than­go­ro­drim, had lain hidden … » 

Appen­dix A : « Durin’s Folk, » p. 353

Here flying may be used in the sense of tra­ve­ling through the air, or it may mean fleeing. 

« Swiftly they [the Bal­rogs] arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hith­lum … »

The His­tory of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth’s Ring : « Of the Thieves” Quar­rel, » p. 297

The phrase « winged speed » may be used lite­rally or meta­pho­ri­cally.

« Too much it remin­ded me of the shadow in Moria — the shadow of the Balrog. » 

The Fel­low­ship of the Ring : « The Great River, » p. 404

In this quote, Gimli is reac­ting to encoun­te­ring a Winged Nazgul for the first time. Gimli may be refer­ring to the phy­si­cal shape of the crea­ture, or the shape of its shadow, or even simply the fee­ling of terror it evoked. 

Ano­ther issue cited by those who think Bal­rogs do not have wings it that Bal­rogs do not fly in seve­ral ins­tances when it would bene­fit them to do so. For example, when Glor­fin­del bat­tled the Balrog at Gon­do­lin, the Balrog fell to its death and did not save itself by flying as one might expect if it had wings. The Balrog that Gan­dalf bat­tled also fell into an abyss and was later cast down from the peak of the Sil­ver­tine.

Those who believe that Bal­rogs have wings explain this lack of flying in a variety of ways. Some say that Bal­rogs could not use their wings to fly. Others say that in these par­ti­cu­lar cir­cum­stances the Bal­rogs were unable to fly, either because of the tra­jec­tory of the fall, the nar­row­ness of the space, or the inju­ries sus­tai­ned in combat. 

In the end, there is nothing in Tolkien’s wri­tings that defi­ni­ti­vely states whe­ther he inten­ded for Bal­rogs to have wings or not. So — unless someone encoun­ters a Balrog in the modern world and lives to tell the tale — the ques­tion of whe­ther Bal­rogs have wings remains open to each reader’s inter­pre­ta­tion.

For a more detai­led look at this issue, see Do Bal­rogs have wings, and can they fly ? by Conrad Dun­ker­son at the Tol­kien Meta-FAQ. 

Other Names: Also called Vala­rauko (sin­gu­lar) and Vala­rau­kar (plural) in Quenya. 

The Balrog of Moria was called Durin’s Bane because it killed King Durin VI. A bane is a cause of death, ruin or harm. Gan­dalf called it Flame of Udun — which was ano­ther name for Morgoth’s stron­ghold Utumno where the Bal­rogs once dwel­led. Ara­gorn refer­red to it as the Terror and Lego­las called it an elf-bane because in the First Age a number of Elves were slain by Bal­rogs.

Ety­mo­logy: The Sin­da­rin name Balrog means « Demon of Might » from bal mea­ning « power » and rog mea­ning « demon. » 

The Quenya name Vala­rauko also means « Demon of Might » from val mea­ning « power » and rauko mea­ning « demon. » 



Evil spi­rits inha­bi­ting the burial mounds of the Barrow-downs in Eria­dor. Ori­gi­nally the bar­rows were the res­ting places of the Dune­dain and their ances­tors, but the Barrow-downs were aban­do­ned when the Dune­dain were stri­cken by the Great Plague of 1636. The Witch-king then sent evil spi­rits from Angmar and Rhu­daur to occupy the bar­rows. The Barrow-downs became a place of fear and even Hob­bits had heard of their sinis­ter repu­ta­tion.

Frodo Bag­gins and his com­pa­nions ente­red the Barrow-downs on Sep­tem­ber 28, 3018, after lea­ving the house of Tom Bom­ba­dil. Tom advi­sed the Hob­bits to pass the bar­rows on the west side. They hoped to make it across the downs to the Great East Road by night­fall, but they fell asleep while res­ting on a hill and a fog rolled in that caused them to become diso­rien­ted.

Frodo rea­li­zed he had been sepa­ra­ted from his com­pa­nions and tried to find them, but he heard an eerie voice cal­ling to him and was confron­ted by a tall dark figure in the fog. He lost conscious­ness and woke to find him­self inside a barrow. The barrow may once have been the tomb of the last prince of Car­do­lan, who was killed in battle against the forces of Angmar in 1409, but it had become the home of a Barrow-wight. 

Frodo saw Merry, Pippin and Sam lying on the ground with a sword across their necks. They had been dres­sed in white robes and ador­ned with gold and jewels. A green light filled the barrow and Frodo heard a voice chan­ting.

Cold be hand and heart and bone, 

and cold be sleep under stone : 

never more to wake on stony bed, 

never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead. 

In the black wind the stars shall die, 

and still on gold here let them lie, 

till the dark lord lifts his hand 

over dead sea and withe­red land. 

The Fel­low­ship of the Ring : « Fog on the Barrow-downs, » p. 152

A hand appea­red, cree­ping toward the hilt of the sword that lay on the Hob­bits” necks. Frodo felt an overw­hel­ming temp­ta­tion to put on the Ring, but he resis­ted it and ins­tead used a sword to cut off the hand at the wrist. He then called for Tom Bom­ba­dil, who came and relea­sed the Hob­bits from the barrow. He sang a song to banish the Barrow-wight, and it fled with a shriek. Tom gave the Hob­bits swords of Wes­ter­nesse from the barrow that had been used to fight the Witch-king long ago. He then spread out the gold and trea­sures from the barrow on the grass so that the barrow’s spell was broken and no Wight would return to it. 

It is thought that the Witch-king him­self had visi­ted the Barrow-downs while the Nazgul were sear­ching for Frodo and that it was he who had roused the Barrow-wights to be on the watch for tres­pas­sers on their land. 



Scatha the Worm

Dragon of the Grey Moun­tains. Scatha the Worm wrea­ked havoc in the North and he gathe­red a great hoard of riches. Some­time during the late 20th or early 21st cen­tury of the Third Age, Scatha was slain by Fram of the Eotheod — the ances­tors of the Rohir­rim. After Scatha’s death, the land had peace from the long-worms for many years. 

Fram took Scatha’s hoard, but the Dwarves dis­pu­ted his claim. Fram sent a neck­lace made from Scatha’s teeth to the Dwarves, saying : « Jewels such as these you will not match in your trea­su­ries, for they are hard to come by. » (App. A, p. 346) The Dwarves were greatly insul­ted and they slew Fram. 

When Eorl the Young led his people south to settle in Rohan, he brought with him a silver horn from Scatha’s hoard. The Horn of the Mark was later given to Merry Bran­dy­buck by Eowyn in recog­ni­tion of his ser­vice to Rohan during the War of the Ring. 

Ety­mo­logy: The name Scatha is from the Old English mea­ning « inju­rer, enemy, robber. » 



Dragon who cap­tu­red the Lonely Moun­tain. Smaug was the grea­test Dragon in the latter part of the Third Age. He was intel­li­gent and cun­ning and was able to speak the Common Speech. With his gaze he could put people under a dragon-spell and compel them to do his bid­ding.

Smaug was a Fire-drake, or fire-brea­thing Dragon. He had sharp claws and teeth, a long tail, and great wings that could be folded when at rest. Smaug was red-golden in color and was cove­red with hard scales. His under­belly was pale and was encrus­ted with gems, but unbek­nownst to Smaug there was a bare patch in the hollow of his left breast. 

Nothing is known about Smaug’s ori­gins. In 2770 he came out of the North and des­cen­ded upon the Lonely Moun­tain, where the Dwarves had a pros­pe­rous king­dom. He set fire to the woods and to the town of Dale and he slew the Dwarves and Men who tried to oppose him. Then he ente­red the Lonely Moun­tain through the Front Gate and routed the Dwarves from the halls and tun­nels. Thror, the King Under the Moun­tain, was able to escape through a secret door with his son Thrain and they fled with the remain­der of their people. Girion, Lord of Dale, was killed but he sent his wife and child to safety in Lake-town. 

In the vast dun­geon-hall at the Mountain’s root, Smaug amas­sed the trea­sures of the Lonely Moun­tain into a great pile which he used as a bed. He emer­ged from the moun­tain from time to time to hunt prey, par­ti­cu­larly mai­dens, until Dale was deser­ted. Lake-town on Long Lake was the clo­sest to the Lonely Moun­tain that anyone dared to live. 

When Gan­dalf the Grey lear­ned that Sauron had retur­ned, he became concer­ned that Smaug might be used to wreak havoc in the North while Sauron atta­cked Riven­dell and Loth­lo­rien. Gan­dalf met Thorin Oaken­shield, son of Thrain, by chance one day in the spring of 2941. Thorin wanted to reclaim the Lonely Moun­tain and toge­ther they came up with a plan invol­ving thir­teen Dwarves and one bur­glar. For the role of bur­glar, Gan­dalf chose a Hobbit named Bilbo Bag­gins.

In the autumn of 2941, Bilbo crept into Smaug’s lair and stole a great two-hand­led cup. Smaug awoke and imme­dia­tely rea­li­zed the cup was mis­sing. Smaug flew out the Front Gate in a rage see­king the thief, but all he found were ponies. He thought that Men had come up the River Run­ning from Long Lake. Smaug remem­be­red hea­ring strange noises in the tunnel lea­ding to his lair and rea­li­zed the thief had come from there, but he was unable to locate the secret door in the side of the moun­tain.

The next day, Bilbo retur­ned to Smaug’s lair and the Dragon was wai­ting for him. But Bilbo was wea­ring his magic Ring and Smaug could not see him, nor was he able to use his dragon-spell on the Hobbit. Bilbo spoke to Smaug in riddles, which plea­sed the Dragon, and when Bilbo refer­red to him­self as « Barrel-rider, » Smaug deci­ded this meant that he had been sent by the Lake-men. He tried to per­suade Bilbo that his employers meant to cheat him. Bilbo replied that revenge was more impor­tant than trea­sure, which rein­for­ced Smaug’s belief that the des­cen­dants of Dale were res­pon­sible. Smaug boas­ted that no one could defeat him. 

« I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the war­riors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong. Thief in the Sha­dows ! My armour is like ten­fold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thun­der­bolt, my wings a hur­ri­cane, and my breath death ! » 

The Hobbit : « Inside Infor­ma­tion, » p. 238

Smaug showed Bilbo his jewel­led under­belly and Bilbo saw the chink in the Dragon’s armor. Bilbo fled, and Smaug brea­thed fire down the tunnel after him but the Hobbit was only singed. 

Smaug flew out of the moun­tain and des­cen­ded upon Lake-town. Bard — a des­cen­dant of Girion of Dale — saw the Dragon coming and the Lake-men pre­pa­red for attack. Smaug roared as he approa­ched and the lake was red with flame. He was wary because the town stood out in deep water which could quench his fire. When the Lake-men fired arrows at him and blew their trum­pets, Smaug was enra­ged. He set the town on fire and sma­shed the roof of the Great House with his tail. People began to eva­cuate and things looked hope­less.

Then a thrush that had ove­rheard Bilbo spea­king of the Dragon’s weak spot came to Bard and told him where to aim. Bard fired, and the Black Arrow hit its mark in the hollow of Smaug’s left breast. Smaug shrie­ked and fell out of the sky and landed on Lake-town, com­ple­tely des­troying it. The town was later rebuilt far­ther north, and Smaug’s bones remai­ned visible in the shal­low waters for many years. No one dared to enter the waters where his car­cass lay, not even to reco­ver the magni­ficent gems from his armor. 

Other Names: Also called Smaug the Golden and Smaug the Dread­ful. Bilbo called him Smaug the Tre­men­dous, Smaug the Chie­fest and Grea­test of Cala­mi­ties, Smaug the Mighty, Lord Smaug the Impe­ne­trable, and Your Magni­fi­cence. In the lan­guage of Dale, Smaug was called Tragu. 

Ety­mo­logy: The name Smaug is deri­ved from the Ger­ma­nic verb smugen mea­ning « to squeeze through a hole. » Trâgu — the Dragon’s name in Dale — is rela­ted to the stem trah- mea­ning « burrow » in the lan­guages of Rohan and the Shire. 


Fell Beasts

Winged steeds of the Nazgul. The Fell Beasts were huge, larger than any bird, and their wing­spans were great. Their wings were made of hide stret­ched bet­ween bones like horned fin­gers and they had no fea­thers. They had beaks and long necks. The Fell Beasts smel­led foul and they shrie­ked.

The Fell Beasts were simi­lar to but not exactly like the pte­ro­dac­tyl and may have been pre­his­to­ric crea­tures that had some­how sur­vi­ved into the Third Age. They were nutu­red and fed fell meats by Sauron and became steeds for his most dread­ful ser­vants, the Nazgul. 

The Fel­low­ship first encoun­te­red one of the Fell Beasts on the night of February 23, 3019, as they rowed down the Anduin. They were atta­cked by Orcs, and then a dark shape passed ove­rhead. Lego­las shot and killed the Beast with an arrow, but its Rider sur­vi­ved. Frodo sensed that it was one of the Nazgul. 

When Merry and Pippin were cap­tu­red by Uruk-hai at Amon Hen on February 26, Gri­sh­nakh, an Orc of Mordor, said the pri­so­ners should be taken across the Anduin where a winged Nazgul waited. Ugluk taun­ted Gri­sh­nakh about the mount that had been shot out from under the Nazgul, and Gri­sh­nakh said that the winged Nazgul were not yet ready to show them­selves on the west side of the Anduin. They were to be used for the War and other pur­poses.

When Frodo, Sam and Gollum emer­ged from the Dead Marshes on the night of March 2, they heard a pier­cing cry and saw a Fell Beast pass ove­rhead and then return to Mordor. Gollum was ter­ri­fied and after­wards Sam sensed a change for the worse in Gollum. Later, on March 5, Sam saw four more of the Fell Beasts cir­cling.

That same day, across the Anduin, Pippin looked into the palan­tir while Gan­dalf slept. Shortly after­wards, a Fell Beast flew over the camp at Dol Baran. Gan­dalf took Pippin up onto Sha­dow­fax and rode swiftly to Minas Tirith. Gan­dalf explai­ned that the Fell Beast could not have flown 200 leagues from Mordor in reponse to Pippin’s action, and said that the Nazgul had pro­ba­bly been sent ear­lier to deter­mine what Saru­man was doing. 

When Gan­dalf and Pippin stop­ped at Edoras, a Fell Beast came once more and des­cen­ded almost to the roof of Medu­seld. Gan­dalf then coun­sel­led the Rohir­rim to assemble in the valley at Dun­har­row rather than in the fields. 

Pippin and Bere­gond felt a shadow pass across the sun as they stood on the walls of Minas Tirith on March 9. The next day Fara­mir and his men were retur­ning to Minas Tirith pur­sued by five Nazgul on Fell Beasts. Gan­dalf rode out to meet them and sent a shaft of white light from his staff to hit one of the Fell Beasts. The Nazgul flew away and Fara­mir ente­red the City. 

Fara­mir was sent out again to defend the river against the enemy, and when he and his men were forced to retreat to the Pelen­nor on March 13 they were again pur­sued by Winged Nazgul, but the Nazgul once again fled when Gan­dalf appea­red, for their Cap­tain was not ready to face him. 

On March 14, as Frodo and Sam esca­ped from the Tower of Cirith Ungol, the Wat­chers at the gate let out a wail, and a Winged Nazgul appea­red and landed on the bat­tle­ments. Frodo and Sam esca­ped by jum­ping from a cliff into a thi­cket.

At the Battle of the Pelen­nor Fields on March 15, the Witch-king of Angmar des­cen­ded onto the field on a Fell Beast. The horses of the Rohir­rim fled in terror. Merry and Eowyn were thrown from Wind­fola. Theoden’s mount Snow­mane was pier­ced by a dart and fell on his master. The Fell Beast dug its claws into Snowmane’s body. It atta­cked Eowyn when she confron­ted the Witch-king, and she behea­ded the Fell Beast. Then she and Merry defea­ted the Witch-king. After the battle the car­case of the Beast was burned. 

In Mordor, Frodo and Sam saw a Fell Beast flying to Barad-dur. They sensed that some­thing had gone wrong for Sauron, though they could not know of the Witch-king’s defeat, and Sam felt a flare of hope. The remai­ning Winged Nazgul were sent by Sauron to shadow the approach of the Cap­tains of the West as Frodo and Sam made their way across the Plain of Gor­go­roth.

When Frodo clai­med the Ring on March 25, the Winged Nazgul raced toward Mount Doom but they were too late. The Ring was des­troyed and the moun­tain erup­ted in fire. The Nazgul and their steeds were engul­fed in flame. 

Other Names: Black Wings, the Winged Mes­sen­ger, Winged Nazgul, winged steeds, Wraiths on wings, Fell Riders of the air, Black Riders of the air. 

Ety­mo­logy: The word fell in this sense means « cruel, ter­rible. »


Great Spiders


Evil entity in spider form. Shelob’s body was vast and bloa­ted and her wrink­led hide was thick and tough with no weak spots. Her upper body was black with mar­kings and her belly was a lumi­nous white and gave off a ter­rible stench. Her legs had knob­bed joints that bent above her back. Each leg was cove­red with stiff hairs and ended in a claw. Her neck was a short stalk and on her head were great horns and two clus­ters of multi-face­ted eyes. She secre­ted venom through a beak around her mouth. 

Shelob was a crea­ture of great malice whose only thought was to devour and des­troy.

Little she knew of or cared for towers, or rings, or any­thing devi­sed by mind or hand, who only desi­red death for all others, mind and body, and for her­self a glut of life, alone, swol­len till the moun­tains could no longer hold her up and the dark­ness could not contain her. 

Shelob was the off­spring of Ungo­liant. In ancient times, Ungo­liant helped Melkor des­troy the Two Trees of Vali­nor and she then went to Middle-earth where she spaw­ned nume­rous Great Spi­ders that lived in the Moun­tains of Terror in Bele­riand. At the end of the Third Age, Shelob was the only one of Ungoliant’s off­spring left in the world. 

Shelob had nume­rous off­spring her­self, inclu­ding the Great Spi­ders of Mirk­wood. They were lesser crea­tures than her­self though still ter­rible. Shelob some­times mated with her own off­spring, and after­wards she devou­red them. 

It is not known how Shelob came to the sou­theast of Middle-earth. Some­time before the year 1000 of the Second Age, she made her lair on the wes­tern border of Mordor in the Moun­tains of Shadow high in the pass that came to be called Cirith Ungol. Shelob’s Lair was called Torech Ungol. It was a long tunnel with many branches and secret exits. Inside it was pitch dark and there was an unbea­rable stench. 

At first, Shelob fed on Men and Elves who ven­tu­red near her lair. As Sauron’s power increa­sed and Minas Ithil became the Dead City of Minas Morgul, her diet consis­ted mainly of Orcs. She stung her vic­tims in the neck, injec­ting them with a poison that made them uncons­cious and limp, and she wrap­ped them in her silken webs and hung them in her lair. Then she drank their warm blood and feas­ted on their living flesh. 

Sauron was aware that Shelob lived in Cirith Ungol on the bor­ders of his realm. Her pre­sence guar­ded the pass more effec­ti­vely than any gar­ri­son, though Shelob served only her­self and was not allied with Sauron. The Dark Lord some­times sent pri­so­ners that he had no fur­ther use for into her lair to pro­vide her with sport and food. 

In 2980, Shelob encoun­te­red Gollum, a scrawny, unap­pe­ti­zing crea­ture who gro­vel­led before her. Many years later, on March 11, 3019, Gollum retur­ned to Shelob’s Lair and pro­mi­sed to bring her sweet meat. The next day, Frodo Bag­gins and Sam Gamgee ente­red her lair. Shelob tra­cked them through the tun­nels and was about to attack them when Frodo brought out the Phial of Gala­driel and cried, « Aiya Eären­dil Ele­nion Anca­lima ! » (« Behold, Earen­dil, brigh­test of the stars ! » — TTT, p. 329) 

Shelob was not daun­ted at first, for she had heard that cry from the Elves long ago. But then Frodo turned and advan­ced on her with his sword Sting in one hand and in the other was the Phial bla­zing brigh­ter than any­thing she had ever seen. Shelob felt the first stir­rings of doubt and she retrea­ted.

Shelob did not give up, howe­ver. As the Hob­bits esca­ped from her lair on March 13, Shelob emer­ged from one of her secret exits. She des­cen­ded swiftly on Frodo and stung him in the neck and wrap­ped his body from shoul­der to ankle in her web. Before she could make off with her prey, she was atta­cked by an adver­sary more furious and deter­mi­ned than any she had ever encoun­te­red.

It was Sam Gamgee, who rushed to Frodo’s defense and hewed off one of Shelob’s claws and put out one of her eyes before she could react. He then sliced her under­belly, but though poison bub­bled from the gash it was not enough to pierce her thick hide. Shelob raised her huge belly and then bore down, inten­ding to crush Sam beneath her. But Sam held Sting aloft, and Shelob ske­we­red her­self on the blade. She shud­de­red and convul­sed in anguish and was pre­pa­red to attack again when Sam brought out the Phial and invo­ked the name Elbe­reth, one of the Valar. 

« A Elbe­reth Gil­tho­niel

o menel palan-diriel, 

le nallon sí di’nguruthos !

A tiro nin, Fanui­los ! »

TTT, p. 339

« O Elbe­reth Star­kind­ler

from heaven gazing far, 

to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death. 

O look towards me, Everw­hite. »


Sam’s indo­mi­table spirit caused the Phial to kindle with a brilliant white light. The pain was into­le­rable to Shelob ; her vision was seared and her mind was in agony. She craw­led back into her lair oozing a trail of green-yellow slime. Shelob’s ulti­mate fate is not known. She may have died from the wounds inflic­ted by Sam, or she may have spent long years in pain and misery hea­ling her­self until she was strong enough to wreak terror once more. 

Frodo sur­vi­ved but he never fully reco­ve­red from Shelob’s sting. He became ill on the anni­ver­sary of the attack each year for as long he remai­ned in Middle-earth. 

Other Names: Also called Shelob the Great. Sha­grat refer­red to Shelob as Her Lady­ship. Sauron called Shelob his cat. Gollum refer­red to Shelob simply as She or Her. In Elvish she was called Ungol. 

Ety­mo­logy: The name Shelob means « female spider. » The word lob is an archaic English term mea­ning « spider » deri­ved from the Old English lobbe. The Elvish Ungol means « spider » deri­ved from ungo mea­ning « cloud, dark shadow. » 



Large crea­tures of great strength fre­quently in the ser­vice of the Enemy. Trolls were huma­noid in shape but mons­trous in appea­rance. They were much taller and broa­der than Men. They had scaly skin and large flat feet with no toes, and their blood was black. 

Trolls were gene­rally rather stupid. They did not build or create any­thing. Trolls hoar­ded riches that they stole, and they often ate the people they robbed. Trolls had no lan­guage of their own, though some Stone-trolls in Eria­dor were able to speak the Common Speech and Sauron taught Trolls in his ser­vice the Black Speech. 

Trolls were incre­di­bly strong and power­ful and dif­fi­cult to kill. Their main weak­ness was that most Trolls turned to stone when expo­sed to sun­light.

Trolls dwel­led in Mordor, sou­thern Mirk­wood, the Misty Moun­tains inclu­ding Moria, and in the Etten­moors in Eria­dor, where the woods called the Troll­shaws were loca­ted. 

Trolls lived in a variety of habi­tats. There were Cave-trolls, Hill-trolls, and Moun­tain-trolls. There may even have been Snow-trolls : Helm Ham­me­rhand was com­pa­red to one, though no other record of such a crea­ture exists. Stone-trolls may have been a spe­ci­fic breed of Troll, or this may have been a gene­ral term that applied to all Trolls that turned to stone in sun­light. 

Trolls may in fact have been made from stone ori­gi­nally. It is said that Trolls were made by Mor­goth, pos­si­bly in mockery of the Ents. Tol­kien was uncer­tain of their origin : 

« I am not sure about Trolls. I think they are mere coun­ter­feits”, and hence … they return to mere stone images when not in the dark. But there are other sorts of Trolls beside these rather ridi­cu­lous, if brutal, Stone-trolls, for which other ori­gins are sug­ges­ted. »

The Let­ters of J.R.R. Tol­kien : Letter #153

By « other sorts of Trolls, » Tol­kien appa­rently meant the Olog-hai, a super­ior breed of Troll crea­ted by Sauron at the end of the Third Age. It is not known what method or stock Sauron used to breed this new kind of Troll. In an unpu­bli­shed note, in what appears to be a refe­rence to the Olog-hai, Tol­kien sug­ges­ted that « It would seem evident that they were cor­rup­tions of pri­mi­tive human types. » (HoME X, p. 414) 

The Olog-hai could withs­tand direct sun­light and they were more cun­ning than other Trolls. They were large and power­ful and their skins were as hard as stone. They unders­tood the Black Speech, though they rarely spoke. They lived near Sauron’s stron­ghold of Dol Guldur in sou­thern Mirk­wood and in the moun­tains of Mordor. The Olog-hai were enti­rely under Sauron’s com­mand and acted solely in his ser­vice. 

As Sauron’s power grew, Trolls became more of a menace in Middle-earth. Aragorn’s grand­fa­ther Arador was killed by Hill-trolls in the Etten­moors in 2930. 

On his adven­ture in 2941, Bilbo Bag­gins met three Trolls named Tom, Bert, and William Hug­gins. These Stone-trolls roamed the Troll­shaws and they had a cave there where they kept the riches they acqui­red, inclu­ding Glam­dring, Orcrist, and Sting. It is not known where or from whom the Trolls obtai­ned these swords. 

Tom, Bert, and William spoke the Common Speech, though rather poorly. They ate mutton and pas­sing tra­vel­lers when they could get them. They were plea­sed to cap­ture Bilbo and the thir­teen Dwarves, but Gan­dalf tri­cked them into arguing over how to cook them until the sun rose and the three Trolls turned to stone. They remai­ned there like sta­tues ; Frodo Bag­gins and his com­pa­nions saw them 77 years later while tra­vel­ling to Riven­dell.

The Fel­low­ship encoun­te­red live Trolls seve­ral times during their quest as well. In Moria, they were atta­cked by a Cave-troll, which Frodo stab­bed in the foot. 

Moun­tain-trolls wiel­ded the great bat­te­ring ram Grond at the Battle of the Pelen­nor Fields and des­troyed the gates of Minas Tirith. 

A great com­pany of Hill-trolls from Gor­go­roth fought at the Battle of the Moran­non. Since the battle took place during the day, these Hill-trolls may have been of the Olog-hai strain. The Hill-trolls struck down many Men of Gondor with their heavy ham­mers. The Troll-chief woun­ded Bere­gond and would have bitten his throat, but Pippin Took stab­bed the Troll with his sword of Wes­ter­nesse, which he later called « Troll’s bane. » After the battle, Gimli found Pippin alive under the Troll’s heavy car­cass. 

After Sauron’s down­fall, the Trolls in his ser­vice became mind­less and direc­tion­less without his evil will to guide them. Some slew them­selves and others fled and hid. At the begin­ning of the Fourth Age, the Men of Gondor and Rohan conti­nued to hunt down Sauron’s ser­vants, and it is likely that in time Trolls ceased to pose a threat to the peoples of Middle-earth. 

Names & Ety­mo­logy: Trolls were called Torog in Sin­da­rin. The Black Speech word was Olog. The ending hai in « Olog-hai » may be a col­lec­tive plural deno­ting « race, people » deri­ved from the Sin­da­rin li mea­ning « many. » Alter­na­ti­vely, it may be deri­ved from the Sin­da­rin gae mea­ning « dread. » 


Watcher in the Water

Water-dwel­ling crea­ture out­side Moria. The Wat­cher in the Water had ten­tacles that were pale green and lumi­nous and had grip­ping fin­gers at the ends. The Watcher’s nature and origin are uncer­tain. Gan­dalf sug­ges­ted that it may have come from the waters under the Misty Moun­tains. The Wat­cher lived out­side the West-gate of Moria in a lake that had been formed by the dam­ming of Siran­non, the Gate-stream. 

In 2994, the fifth year of the colony esta­bli­shed by Balin in Moria, the Wat­cher in the Water killed Oin, who had been one of Bilbo Bag­gins” com­pa­nions on the quest to the Lonely Moun­tain.

The Fel­low­ship arri­ved at the West-gate of Moria on January 13, 3019, and dis­co­ve­red the lake that had been formed from the Siran­non. Frodo shud­de­red with dis­gust when his foot tou­ched the water, and ripples began to form on the sur­face of the lake. Boro­mir threw a stone into the water and more ripples appea­red, rea­ching the shore where the Fel­low­ship stood. 

« Why did you do that, Boro­mir ? » said Frodo. « I hate this place, too, and I am afraid. I don’t know of what : not of wolves, or the dark behind the doors, but of some­thing else. I am afraid of the pool. Don’t dis­turb it ! » 

The Fel­low­ship of the Ring : « A Jour­ney in the Dark, » p. 321

Just as the Fel­low­ship was ente­ring the gate, the Wat­cher grab­bed Frodo’s foot with one of its ten­tacles. Sam sla­shed at the ten­tacle with his sword and Frodo esca­ped, but 20 more ten­tacles came out of the water. The Fel­low­ship fled into Moria and the Wat­cher slam­med the doors shut behind them and blo­cked the gate from the out­side. Bill the Pony was able to escape the Wat­cher and made his way back to Bree. 

It is not known whe­ther the Wat­cher acted inde­pen­dently in atta­cking the Fel­low­ship or whe­ther it was under some exter­nal influence, but Gan­dalf found it dis­tur­bing that the Wat­cher sin­gled out the Ring-bearer. 

The ulti­mate fate of the Wat­cher in the Water is unk­nown.



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