Category: return of the king

Umbar was a major Númenorean
port city in Harad, off the Bay of Belfalas, that went from a major Gondorian trading port to a pirate haven. Founded by the Númenóreans during their colonizing of Middle Earth, under Ar-Pharazôn it was the staging point for his invasion and subjugation of Sauron. When Númenor collapsed the city came under the control of the King’s Men (Black Númenóreans who sided with the dark cult of Morgoth). With
Númenor destroyed and the remaining Númenorean colonies under control of
the Faithful (Those who stayed loyal to the Valar), Umbar became more closely
aligned with Morgoth’s other allies such as neighboring Harad. By the beginning
of the Third Age the city remained under Gondor’s control, and they were able
to repel many of the Harad invasions until the Kin-strife (Castamir’s attempt to seize power). The civil war weakened Gondor and allowed Umbar to become independent and the city become a corsair haven. The Corsairs of Umbar
were a mix of the King’s Men, Castamir the Usurper’s supporters from the Kin-strife, and local
Haradrim who joined the powerful city-state. Gondor was not able to reclaim the
city for hundreds of years due to the Great Plague, Mordor’s incursions into
Ithilien, and Corsair raids along the Belfalas coast. Significant battles in
the latter half of the Third Age include The Corsair raid on Pelargir which killed King Minardil. Minardil’s ancestor King Umbardacil briefly recapturing Umbar but
being ousted by the Haradrim, and Thorongil (Aragorn) leading
a raid that sabotaged the Corsair fleet just prior to the War of the Ring.
During the War of the Ring Umbar had joined Sauron and sent their remaining
fleet to attack Gondor, however Aragorn summoned the Army of the Dead
(Oathbreakers from the Second Age) to frighten and ultimately rout the
Corsairs. With the destruction of Sauron came the scattering and ruin of his
cult, and Umbar fell back into the fold of the Reunited Kingdom. Aragorn 2, Corsairs 0.

“There at
Pelargir lay the main fleet of Umbar, fifty great ships and smaller vessels
beyond count. Many of those that we pursued had reached the havens before us,
and brought their fear with them; and some of the ships had put off, seeking to
escape down the River or to reach the far shore; and many of the smaller craft
were ablaze. But the Haradrim, being now driven to the brink, turned at bay,
and they were fierce in despair; and they laughed when they looked on us, for
they were a great army still.

Aragorn halted and cried with a great voice: “Now come! By the Black Stone I
call you! “ And suddenly the Shadow Host that had hung back at the last came up
like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it. Faint cries I heard, and dim
horns blowing, and a murmur as of countless far voices: it was like the echo of
some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago. Pale swords were drawn; but I
know not whether their blades would still bite, for the Dead needed no longer
any weapon but fear. None would withstand them.

‘To every
ship they came that was drawn up, and then they passed over the water to those
that were anchored; and all the mariners were filled with a madness of terror
and leaped overboard, save the slaves chained to the oars. Reckless we rode
among our fleeing foes, driving them like leaves, until we came to the shore.
And then to each of the great ships that remained Aragorn sent one of the
Dúnedain, and they comforted the captives that were aboard, and bade them put
aside fear and be free.”

– Gimli
telling how the Three Hunters captured the Corsairs’ ships. Return of the King, The Last Debate

And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked. The men of Ringló Vale behind the son of their lord, Dervorin striding on foot: three hundreds. From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons, Duilin and Derufin, and five hundred bowmen. From the Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of men of many sorts, hunters and herdsmen and men of little villages, scantily equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord. From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain. Fisher-folk of the Ethir, some hundred or more spared from the ships. Hirluin the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin with three hundreds of gallant green-clad men. And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, and a company of knights in full harness riding grey horses; and behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came. 
And that was all, less than three thousands full told. No more would come. Their cries and the tramp of their feet passed into the City and died away. The onlookers stood silent for a while. Dust hung in the air, for the wind had died and the evening was heavy. Already the closing hour was drawing nigh, and the red sun had gone behind Mindolluin. Shadow came down on the City.

The Grey Havens (Sindarin: Mithlond) was a major
Elvish city in Eriador, on the coast of Lindon. Founded at the beginning of the
Second Age by elves who survived the War of Wrath, the city is noted for being
the primary port from Middle-Earth to Valinor.


Shipwright was the lord of the Havens and Lindon after Gil-Galad’s death, Círdan ruled throughout
the Third and Fourth Ages. Notable people who came to Middle Earth through
Mithlond include the first Númenóreans, The Istari (Gandalf received the ring
of Narya from Círdan when he arrived), and the Gondorian fleet that fought
Angmar during the Angmar’s conquest of Arnor. The port was the biggest emigration
point for Elves leaving Middle Earth for Valinor. After the War of the Ring the
Last Riding of the Keepers of the Rings occurred, where Elrond, Galadriel,
Bilbo, Frodo, and most of the remaining High Elves went to the Havens and
sailed to Valinor. In the Fourth Age the Last Ship left from the Grey
Havens, which carried


Celeborn. The Grey Havens never fell to siege or violence, and had an almost
religious significance to the Elves, as it was their final sight of Middle
Earth before they passed into the Blessed Realm.

“‘Well, here at last, dear friends, on the
shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace!
I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’

Then Frodo kissed Merry and
Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and
the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and
the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And
the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last
on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the
sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in
his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver
glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far
green country under a swift sunrise.”

– Gandalf saying goodbye as him and Frodo board the ship to go West. Samwise, Pippin, and Merry had gone with them to say goodbye. Of the remaining Hobbits Samwise would eventually cross the sea, as he had been a ringbearer, albeit briefly. Return of the King, The Grey Havens.

The Houses of Healing was a large infirmary in the higher levels of Minas Tirith. As it’s name implies, it was used as a hospital for the sick and injured of Gondor. It features prominently after the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Faramir was sent here after being saved from Denethor’s attempt to burn him. Merry and


were also sent here after fighting the Witch King in the battle, where they both contracted the Black Shadow. Ioreth, the eldest woman working in the Houses of Healing, was worried about all three, and their fatal conditions, proclaiming that ‘The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.’. Gandalf heard this and summoned Aragorn to the Houses to help, where Aragorn proved his kingship (and knowledge of old lore) by caring for them all with Athelas (Kingsfoil in Common tongue), the herb that healed them and could defeat the Black Shadow. While the Armies of the West marched on the Black Gate Faramir and


had still not left the Houses, and though


initially wanted to join the battle, she decided to remain with Faramir, where the two fell in love.

“So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. For though all lore was in these latter days fallen from its fullness of old, the leechcraft of Gondor was still wise, and skilled in the healing of wound and hurt, and all such sickness as east of the Sea mortal men were subject to. Save old age only. For that they had found no cure; and indeed the span of their lives had now waned to little more than that of other men, and those among them who passed the tale of five score years with vigour were grown few, save in some houses of purer blood. But now their art and knowledge were baffled; for there were many sick of a malady that would not be healed; and they called it the Black Shadow, for it came from the Nazgûl. And those who were stricken with it fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died. And it seemed to the tenders of the sick that on the Halfling and on the Lady of Rohan this malady lay heavily. Still at whiles as the morning wore away they would speak, murmuring in their dreams; and the watchers listened to all that they said, hoping perhaps to learn something that would help them to understand their hurts. But soon they began to fall down into the darkness, and as the sun turned west a grey shadow crept over their faces. But Faramir burned with a fever that would not abate.“

– The wounded after the Battle of Pelennor Fields, and before Aragorn comes to the rescue. Return of the King, The Houses of Healing.

The Barrow-downs (Sindarin: Tyrn Gorthad) were a hilly area near Bree, in Eriador, that served as a graveyard for the kings of Arnor and the Edain. Initially the region was inhabited by the Edain during the First Age; the first Men in Middle Earth who fought during the War of Wrath. When the


came they settled in the region and upon Elendil’s arrival the Barrow-downs were brought into the Kingdom of Arnor. During this time it became marked with large tombs and barrows for the Kings of Arnor. Arnor broke up and was ultimately destroyed by Angmar, under the Witch-King. Cardolan (The Arnorian splinter kingdom where the barrows are located) became a refuge for the


fleeing south from Angmar’s conquests, they were eventually defeated and the area became desolate. In order to ensure the


could not re-establish Cardolan or hide in the Barrows, the Witch-King cursed the land and sent Wights to haunt the region. During the Third Age the Barrow-downs are feared by the men of Bree and the hobbits of the Shire. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin ventured into the Great Barrows during their quest to Rivendell. After leaving Tom Bombadil’s House they got lost in the great fog and were captured by the Wights. They awakened in one of the dark tombs, surrounded by old treasures and the chanting Wights. Frodo awoke first, broke free of the Wight’s spell, and sang Tom Bombadil’s song. Tom Bombadil broke into the tomb, banished the wights, and helped Frodo carry his companions out. He then gifted the Hobbits each a dagger from the barrows, which to them was long enough to be a sword. These swords were made by the


of Arnor. The barrow-blades would serve the hobbits throughout their quest. During the Battle of Pelennor Fields the Witch-King’s armor would be undone by Merry stabbing him in the back, as only a blade of Westernesse (Númenórean) work could destroy his armor. Pippin would slay a troll during the Battle at the Black Gate. Sam lost his sword in Cirith Ungol but recovered it from Gandalf. Frodo remained with Sting.

“They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again. A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.’ Stone rings grinned out of the ground like broken teeth in the moonlight.

The hobbits shuddered. Even in the Shire the rumour of the Barrow-wights of the Barrow-downs beyond the Forest had been heard. But it was not a tale that any hobbit liked to listen to, even by a comfortable fireside far away. These four now suddenly remembered what the joy of this house had driven from their minds: the house of Tom Bombadil nestled under the very shoulder of those dreaded hills. They lost the thread of his tale and shifted uneasily, looking aside at one another.”

 – Tom Bombadil telling the Hobbits about the regions of Eriador. Fellowship of the Ring, 

In the House of Tom Bombadil


Nazgûl, Black Speech for “Ring-Wraith”, were Men who fell to Sauron’s power and became his most deadly servants. They were all great kings of men and received nine rings of power from Sauron the Fair, which in turn corrupted them and bent them to his will. The only named

Nazgûl are the Witch-King and Khamûl The Easterling. Similar to wights they had no real physical appearance and often wore heavy robes and armor. They would often shriek to intimidate foes and communicate, a blinding noise that debilitated enemies. Contact with Nazgul could result in the Black Breath. They first appeared in a major way where the Witch-King took Angmar and campaigned against the Kingdom of Arnor. The campaigns and successes against the Dunedain solidified the Witch-King’s position as the leader of the Nine and lieutenant to Sauron himself. Defeated at the Siege of Fornost, the Witch-King retreated and proceeded to retake Minas Ithil from Gondor. Minas Ithil became Minas Morgul, and the Nazgûl maintained order and discipline among the armies of Mordor, and were feared among the orcs. The War of the Ring saw them as intelligence and terror units. They cloaked themselves in black robes and sought the One Ring, knowing it was in the hands of a “Baggins” from the “Shire”, as told by Gollum when captured. The chase lead them to Weather-top where they fought with Gandalf, who fled but was chased. The remaining Nazgul came upon Aragorn and the Hobbits. They wounded Frodo, learned that the Ring belonged to a hobbit, but were routed by Aragorn. Their chase after the wounded Frodo would end with Glorfindel defeating them at the Fords of Bruinen. Nazgûl terror tactics were used during the war on Gondor, mounted on fell-beats they would spread fear and dread among Men. This proved successful in the initial phase of the war and during the siege of Gondor, however the defeat of the Witch-King in the Battle of Pelennor Fields proved decisive. The last act of the

Nazgûl  was the Battle of the Morannon, where the mounted

Nazgûl were engaged by the Great Eagles of Gwaihir. They were all destroyed following the destruction of the Ring.

“’I’l give your name and number to the Nazgul,’ said the soldier lowering his voice to a hiss. ‘One of them’s in charge at the Tower now.” The other halted, and his voice was full of fear and rage. ‘You cursed peaching sneakthief!’ he yelled ‘You cant do your job, and you can’t even stick by your own folk. Go to your filthy Shriekers, and may they freeze the flesh off you! If the Enemy doesn’t get them first. They’ve done in Number One, I’ve heard, and I hope it’s true!’” – Orcs discussing discipline following the fight at the Tower of Cirith Ungol, after the Battle of Pelennor. Return Of The King, The Land of Shadow.


Oliphaunts, also known as “Mûmakil” in Harad (plural of mûmak), were large creatures similar to elephants. They are from Far Harad. They were tamed by the Haradrim and used for war. Strapping siege towers on the back of these elephants and launching darts and spears from there. They were presumably used during the wars with Gondor over Umbar, but were extensively used during the War of the Ring. First seen by Frodo and Sam in Ithilien marching to Mordor. They were also used during the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Often considered a myth in the West, the hobbits were very surprised to see such beasts, and Sam sang a poem of them, presumably learned from a Shire folk tale.

“Grey as a mouse,
Big as a house,
Nose like a snake,
I make the earth shake,
As I tramp through the grass;
Trees crack as I pass.
With horns in my mouth
I walk in the South,
Flapping big ears.
Beyond count of years
I stump round and round,
Never lie on the ground,
Not even to die.
Oliphaunt am I,
Biggest of all,
Huge, old, and tall.
If ever you’d met me
You wouldn’t forget me.
If you never do,
You won’t think I’m true;
But old Oliphaunt am I,
And I never lie.” 

– Samwise Gamgee in Ithilien, Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed.


Gríma Wormtongue was a Rohirrim man of the Third Age. He served Saruman and ultimately betrayed him. Gríma was the son of Gálmód, an unknown man of Rohan. Little is known about Gríma’s life prior to his service with Saruman. He is described as “a wizened figure of a man, with a pale wise face and heavy-lidded eyes” when he is the adviser and Saruman’s spy in the court of Théoden

of Rohan. He was likely coerced into Saruman’s servitude through a mixture of intimidation and reward (It is implied that he was promised Éowyn, the king’s niece, from Éomer’s accusations). He enters the story when the Thee Hunters and Gandalf The White arrive at Edoras. Gríma speaks for the weakened King and insults them, naming Gandalf “Láthspell, a bearer of ill news”. Gandalf purges the poison spirit from


and releases him from Saruman’s control, to Wormtongue’s chagrin. Gríma is offered the chance to redeem himself if he rides with Rohan to fight the White Hand, but he turns this down and flees for Isengard, spitting at the King’s feet. A guard uses his helmet to pour water and wash the stone spat on “that he defiled”. (all LOTR, TT, King Of The Golden Hall). After the Battles of Isengard and Helm’s Deep, 

Gríma was trapped in Orthanc. Following the argument between Gandalf and Saruman and the breaking of Saruman’s staff, 

Gríma angrily threw a heavy stone at Gandalf, (Or Saruman, nobody could tell) missing. That heavy stone was Saruman’s Palantír. This foolish act led to Saruman torturing Gríma severely. Gríma and Saruman were found on the road by the returning Hobbits after the destruction of the One Ring. Gríma was reduced to a crawling slave, and when Gandalf gave him the thought of freedom, he “only shot a glance of his gleared eyes full of terror, then shuffled behind Saruman” (LOTR, ROTK, Many Partings). When the Hobbits returned to The Shire they found it under the control of Sharkey (Saruman). With most of the Shire being liberated, the Hobbits marched to Bag End, where they found Saruman and


in Bag End. Frodo pleaded for Wormtongue to free himself, Saruman mocked him; citing his weakness and his murder (and probable cannibalism) of Lotho Sackville-Baggins. This was the last straw for the crawling and weak Wormtongue, who drew a knife and slit Saruman’s throat. He then attempted to run away but was shot down by Hobbit archers.

“‘Then I will’ said Saruman ‘Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn’t you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice. You had better leave him to me.’” – Saruman revealing the fate of Lotho. Return of the King, The Scouring of the Shire.



The Silmarillion

The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings

The Children of Hurin

Beren and Lúthien
(best available version)
and (web version)

Unfinished Tales

History of Middle-earth
1-2. The Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2
3. The Lays of Beleriand
4. The Shaping of Middle-earth
5. The Lost Road and Other Writings
6. The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings I)
7. The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings II)
8. The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings III)
9. Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings IV)
10. Morgoth’s Ring!Ao3sDPKlSLY5gxZPojP6tng2xNgC
11. The War of the Jewels
12. The Peoples of Middle-earth

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien


Tolkien’s books irrelevant to Middle-earth:
Tales from the Perilous Realm

The Fall of King Arthur

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún

Essay on Fairy Stories


Links to learn Tolkien’s languages:



One of the most comprehensive sites about all Tolkien’s invented languages

For whom it may concern.

The Watchers of Cirith Ungol were two statues guarding the entrance to the Tower. They were formidable black statues with three joined bodies, three vulture-like faces, and clawed hands. The orcs of the Tower mention them being “tark’s work”, which references the Numenoreans, as Cirith Ungol was built by them in the beginning of the Third Age but lost to Sauron. During the time of the Quest of the Ring they are known to contain an evil spirit. Gandalf warns the Fellowship of them as the “Silent Watchers” as they plan their infiltration of Mordor. They functioned as both sentry and alarm system for any intruders. Samwise encountered the Watchers during his mission to save Frodo after his capture. He could not bypass the Watchers as they created an invisible obstacle with strength compared to Shelob’s web. He used the Phial of Galadriel to break through the barrier. As he passed the Watchers, they let out a shrill cry, a warning to the denizens of Mordor and the orcs of the Tower. Samwise saved Frodo, feeling the Watcher’s dread until the escape where he had to fight the Watchers’ barrier once more. He used the Phial, but this time Frodo and Sam conjured some Elvish magic to break through. As they fled, the Watchers’ shrieked for the last time, and the gateway came crashing down. Better than a “Beware of Dog” sign.

“They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape. Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head. Then greatly daring, because he could think of nothing else to do, answering a sudden thought that came to him, he drew slowly out the phial of Galadriel and held it up. Its white light quickened swiftly, and the shadows under the dark arch fled. The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape. For a moment Sam caught a glitter in the black stones of their eyes, the very malice of which made him quail; but slowly he felt their will waver and crumble into fear.“  – Samwise coming face to face with the Two Watchers. Return of the King, The Tower of Cirith Ungol.