The Creatures of Middle-earth

Arda had a rich fauna, largely (though not exactly) coinciding with that of our world: it would be going overboard to try and list on this page every single type of animal mentioned in the legendarium even in passing; so the descriptions and commentary hereafter will be limited to those animals that significantly impact a given event (or sequence of events), or are otherwise key characters.

Like the people and peoples of Middle-earth and Arda, the legendarium’s creatures — at least those that can be seen as active participants in the events — are fairly distinctly connoted as being forces either for Good or for Evil; in other words, heroes or villains.

 


Heroes

Birds

Regardless whether big or small, almost all species of birds featured were forces for Good.  The exception were crows, which Saruman and Sauron used as spies, and which Hobbits, Men, Elves, and Dwarves had learned to distrust.

 


(Image sources  here and here)
The Great Eagles

Unquestionably the lords of the skies, sent to Middle-earth and Númenor by Manwë himself in order to keep an eye on things after the exile of the Ñoldor and the drowning of Beleriand; and over the course of Three Ages (or more), coming faithfully the the aid of Middle-earth’s peoples whenever some of their number were in need of assistance.  However, they did so on their own initiative only, never at anybody’s bidding; not even Gandalf could command them — Gwaihir the Wind Lord, the greatest of the Great Eagles of the Third Age, came to him out of loyalty when called, not because Gandalf would have been able to order him about.

The Great Eagles’ many feats include:

  • The assistance given to the Ñoldorin lord Fingon in rescuing his cousin Maedhros (eldest of the sons of Fëanor) by Thorondor, King of the Eagles during the First Age, who at the time had made his eyrie at the top of Thangorodrim and had seen Maedhros being chained to the ash mountains’ outer face, so when Fingon, having at last located his cousin, was unable to climb the sheer walls of Thangorodrim on his own, Thorondor carried him up, and after Fingon had cut his cousin loose (at the cost of one of Maedhros’s hands), Thangorodrim carried both of them to safety;

  • (Source)
  • Thorondor’s injuring Morgoth so as to be able to carry Fingon’s father Fingolfin away from the place where he had fallen and died in his duel with Morgoth, in order to allow his sons to bury him;
  • Thorondor’s and two of the other Great Eagles’ bearing Beren and Lúthien away from Thangorodrim after they had cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown and had almost been killed by his hellhound guardian, Carcharoth;
  • The Great Eagles’ friendship with Turgon, not only providing him with news and allowing him to keep his city hidden longer than any of the other hidden realms of the Elves in the First Age, but also coming to the aid of Tuor and the refugees from Gondolin once the city had fallen after all, driving away the Orcs lying in ambush on the secret way to (hoped-for) safety;
  • Fighting on the side of the Valar in the War of Wrath and, together with Eärendil, destroying almost all of Morgoth’s winged dragons; including and in particular Ancalagon the Black;
  • Helping the Wizard Radagast the Brown keeping an eye on Mirkwood in the Third Age;
  • Rescuing Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, Gandalf and company from the host of Orcs and wargs that had attacked them on their way out of the Misty Mountains;
  • Coming to the aid of the forces allied against the Orcs in the Battle of the Five Armies near the Lonely Mountain;
  • Thorondor’s son Gwaihir‘s — the Third-Age Wind Lord’s — rescuing Gandalf from the top of the Tower of Orthanc after he had been imprisoned there by Saruman;
    — and last but not least:
  • Gwaihir’s, his brother Landroval’s and a third Great Eagle’s, Meneldor’s, rescue mission carrying Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee away from Mount Doom and from Mordor after the destruction of the One Ring of Power.

Swans


Top left: Anke Eißmann: Following the Swans; bottom left image: source; bottom right: Donato Giancola: Imrahil

Swans also assumed prominence repeatedly, though perhaps not quite in quite as extraordinary a manner as the Eagles.  To wit:

  • Swans helped to convey those Teleri that had decided to follow Oromë’s invitation to Aman across Belegaer, the Sundering Seas.  The Teleri later named the port city which they founded on the coast of Eldamar (the Elves’ realm in the Undying Lands) Alqualondë, “Haven of the Swans”.
  • At Ulmo’s bidding, swans guided Tuor to Vinyamar, there to find the arms that Turgon had left behind (also at Ulmo’s bidding) a long time ago, including a shield bearing the device of a swan.  Tuor, in turn, had loved swans even when he had still been living in Hithlum, and was thus primed from his youth to follow their guidance.
  • Galadriel‘s boat in which she came to say goodbye to the Fellowship at their departing from Lothlórien bore the device of a swan (and in the screen adaptation, is pictured as swan-shaped).
  • The device of Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth and one of the highest noblemen of Gondor, whose house in part descended from Amroth, the last Sindarin King of Lothlórien, included the image of a swan.


Ted Nasmith: The Thrush
The Thrush of the Lonely Mountain

“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole”

— thus ran the instructions coming with Thrór’s map of the Lonely Mountain; and when Bilbo, Thorin and company finally reached Erebor, in the evening of Durin’s Day they found a thrush there busy cracking open the shell of a snail.  The the sun set, and the light of the moon — the last light of Durin’s Day — shone on a newly-appeared hole in the rock face above them, which turned out to be the keyhole of the mountain’s side entrance.

The same thrush later told Bard the Bowman where to find the soft spot in Smaug’s belly at which to aim his dart and kill the dragon; and after that had been achieved, it flew back to the Lonely Mountain to inform the Dwarves (with the aid of the raven Röac, since unlike Bard the Dwarves did not understand the thrush’s song).


The Ravens of the Lonely Mountain

The ravens of Ravenhill near the Lonely Mountain had been friends of the Dwarves when those had still been living Under the Mountain.  Their chief at the time had been Carc, whose son Röac was now the leader of those ravens that had remained on Ravenhill even after Smaug had driven out the Dwarves.

When the thrush realized that its message about Smaug’s death was not getting through to the Dwarves, it returned a short while later with Röac, who told them what he had learned from the thrush, but also warned Thorin that the treasure inside the Lonely Mountain would likely be his death.


Nightingales


Elena Kukanova: Melian and Thingol, and Melian the Maia

Nightingales were the constant companions of Melian the Maia; it was she who had originally taught them their songs.  The nightingales’ songs, too, were what attracted the attention of Elwë (Elu Thingol) while walking in the forest of Nan Elmoth during the Teleri’s journey to the coast of Beleriand on their way to Valinor, and what thus brought about Thingol’s and Melian’s meeting — and in its further consequence, another Sundering of the Teleri between the Eglath (“Forsaken”), who decided to stay behind and search for their suddenly-vanished King, and those who decided to go on to Valinor (the Falmari).  The Eglath, together with the Falathrim under Círdan the Shipwright — who later decided to stay on the coast of Beleriand instead of crossing the Sundering Seas — were subsequently united by Thingol into the Sindar, after he and Melian had emerged from their several-years-long mutual enchantment.

For her beautiful singing voice, Thingol and Melian’s daughter Lúthien would late come to be named Tinúviel, which literally translates as “daughter of twilight”, but which was also the word for nightingale.  (In the first version of the tale of Beren and Lúthien, she was even called Tinúviel only.)

 



Top: Randy Vargas: Húan;
Bottom: Ted Nasmith: Huan’s Leap
Huan

A giant hound formerly belonging to Oromë’s own pack, whom the Vala had gifted to Fëanor’s son Celegorm when the Ñoldor were still living in Valinor.  When Celegorm followed his father to Middle-earth to pursue Morgoth and try to regain the Silmarils, Huan went to Middle-earth with him. 

He turned on his former master, however, when Celegorm and his brother Curufin twice attempted to abduct the Sindarin King Thingol’s daughter Lúthien in order to marry her to Celegorm and thus force an alliance between the two Elven Houses.  Instead, Huan protected Lúthien and her beloved, the human warrior Beren, from the two Ñoldorin princes’ attacks; and he assisted Lúthien in freeing Beren from captivity in Sauron’s stronghold of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the “Isle of Werewolves” on the river Sirion, in the process even subduing Sauron himself, who, too, had taken the shape of a werewolf.  Later Huan brought Beren and Lúthien the skins of Sauron’s servants, the werewolf Draugluin and the vampire bat Thuringwetil, as disguises allowing them to slip into Angband and bypass the gate watched over by the gigantic hellhound Carcharoth; and when the latter went rampaging through Beleriand, torn apart by the pain in his insides after having bitten off Beren’s hand holding the Silmaril, Huan joined the party that had set out to hunt him down and retrieve the Silmaril.  When the hunters had at last tracked down their quarry, Carcharoth wounded Beren once more, this time fatally, and though Huan jumped him and managed to kill him in turn, Carcharoth also caused Huan injuries that in short order brought about his own death.

Having been granted the gift of human speech, to be exercised three times over the course of his life, Huan used his gift in favor of Beren and Lúthien all three times; first to show Lúthien a secret passage out of Nargothrond allowing her to escape from Celegorm’s captivity, then to counsel the lovers to proceed to Angband together, as their fates were now entwined, and finally to bid the two lovers a last farewell in the moments before his own death.

 


Horses
Nahar


Images of Nahar by Steamey (left), Anke Eißmann (center) and Guy Gondron (right)

The great steed of Oromë the Huntsman: his coat shone white under the sun and shimmered silver in the night; and his hooves were shod in gold. 

It was Nahar who first alerted Oromë to the awakening of the Elves: while they were out hunting near the Orocarni (Red Mountains) in the far east of Middle-earth, near Cuiviénen Nahar suddenly neighed and stood stock-still.  Wondering and listening, Oromë then heard the sound of singing in the distance and when he approached, he saw the Elves.  When the Eldar later embarked on the Great Journey to Valinor, Oromë, on Nahar, rode at their head and guided them.

In the Darkening of Valinor, the sparks flying from Nahar’s hooves were the first light to return to Aman after Ungoliant had destroyed the Two Trees, when Manwë sensed a darkness beyond dark swiftly moving northward and the Valar, including Oromë, embarked on the pursuit of the being cloaking itself in that darkness (which was Melkor, rushing north to steal the Silmarils in Fëanor’s place of exile).


Shadowfax, the Mearas, and the Other Horses of the Rohirrim

The Mearas were the exceptional horses of the Kings of the Rohirrim, brought to Middle-earth (or so the Rohirrim themselves said) by Oromë the Hunter, and thus possibly even descending from Nahar himself.  Wild, usually grey or white, endowed with extraordinary strength and hardihood, and with an intelligence that in at least some of them (e.g., Felaróf and Shadowfax) included the ability to understand human speech, their life span was as long as that of a human, and they would allow nobody but the King of the Mark or his descendants to ride them; the sole exception being Shadowfax, who after a two-day-long pursuit eventually accepted Gandalf as a rider.  Like the horses of the Elves, they would generally be ridden bitless and without a saddle.

The first of the Mearas tamed by an ancestor of the Kings of the Mark was Felaróf, who had killed the King of the Éothéod, Léod, when he had tried to tame him.  However, Léod’s son Eorl the Young found the horse and demanded to be accepted as his rider in payment of wergild for Léod’s death, and Felaróf agreed.  He would be the sire of all future Mearas ridden by the Kings of the Mark.

Shadowfax was the greatest of the Mearas of his time; lightning-quick like an arrow and faster than any other horse; untiring — he was able to run twelve hours in one stretch –; and endowed with a courage that even let him, as the only horse to do so, face up to the Nazgûl and their “fell beasts”.  As reflected in his name, his coat shone silver-grey; and it was visible clearly only by day, but rarely by night.  Shadowfax was a stallion of unmatched pride and nobility; even Gandalf had to chase him for two days and over a distance of twenty miles before he finally agreed to bear the Wizard as a rider.  The King of Rohan had originally agreed to lend Shadowfax to Gandalf (then still Gandalf the Grey) after his escape from Orthanc, after which however he returned to Rohan.  Only after Gandalf had come back to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White did Shadowfax become his own, as a gift from Théoden, and he eventually accompanied the Wizard to the Grey Havens (and from there, likely, to the Undying Lands).

Snowmane was the horse of Théoden, King of the Mark, whom he rode to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.  Snowmane comported himself bravely, but he shied before the Witch-king of Angmar’s “fell beast”, was hit by a poisoned arrow and buried Théoden under himself in falling, thus causing his death.  The stallion was buried in the place where he had died, which would come to be known as Snowmane’s Howe and noted for the exceptionally green grass growing there ever after.

At least in part from the Mearas, the Rohirrim also bred many (or even all) of their other horses, which were known to be the finest in Middle-earth, and which included:

  • Hasufel, the steed that Éomer lent to Aragorn during their first meeting on the plains of Rohan, and whom Aragorn rode before the Rangers of the Grey Company brought him his own horse, Roheryn (Hasufel is described as grey in The Two Towers, and that is actually the meaning of his name, but he is a chestnut in the movies);
  • Arod (“quick, swift”), the light but fiery horse that Éomer lent to Legolas, and which for most of the way also would come to cary Gimli.  Legolas rode him Elven-style, without a saddle or a rein.  Unlike the horses of the Rangers, he shied and needed to be calmed by Legolas when entering the Paths of the Dead.  He carried Legolas during the remainder of the War of the Ring — presumably including the Battle of the Pelennor Fields — and afterwards back to Rohan as part of Théoden’s funereal train.
  • Windfola (“wind-foal”), Éowyn’s horse (presumably not a full-blooded Meara because Éowyn was not Théoden’s child, even though she was his foster daughter).  Windfola carried Éowyn (disgused as Dernhelm) and Merry to Minas Tirith and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but shied and threw his two riders at the attack of the Nazgûl’s “fell beasts”, leaving them to confront the Witch-king of Angmar on foot.

Even the black steeds of the Nazgûl were horses from Rohan, obtained by theft or by pressure brought on Théoden while he was also being weakened by Saruman’s minion Gríma Wormtongue.


Asfaloth


Left: Glorfindel and Asfaloth (art by Egalmoth.lofter.com, CG-Warrior, and Juliana Karina); right: Arwen and Asfaloth

The white horse of Glorfindel — or in the movies, of Arwen — who rescued Frodo from the Nazgûl at the Ford of Bruinen, outpacing their black steeds.  His name means “sunlit foam”; like all Elven horses he was ridden without a bit and generally without a saddle or with only decorative tack — Frodo clung to his mane during their escape from the Nazgûl.


Rochallor


(Art by Marya Filatova, Elena Kukanova, and egalmoth.lofter.com)

The stallion of Fingolfin, High-king of the Ñoldor, whom Fingolfin rode to his fatal duel with Morgoth during the fourth Battle of Beleriand.  Rochaldor stayed with his slain master until his death and, thereafter, escaped from the wolves of Angbands’ attacks by outrunning them all the way to Hithlum.  There, however, his heart broke and he died.

Like many horses ridden by the Ñoldor in First-Age Middle-earth, Rochallor was among those they had brought with them into exile; he may have been sired by Oromë’s steed Nahar.



(Sources of last three images here, here and here)
Roheryn

Aragorn’s horse; a gift from Arwen, which is reflected in his name (Roheryn means “horse of the lady”).

Arwen’s brothers Elladan and Elrohir and the Rangers of the Grey Company brought Roheryn to Aragorn when meeting up with him in Rohan, and he rode him during the remainder of the War of the Ring.  Like all the Rangers’ horses, Roheryn’s trust in his master was so great that he even suffered to walk the Paths of the Dead without fear or resistance.

The horses of the Grey Company (presumably including Roheryn) are described as “strong and of proud bearing, but rough-haired”: although Roheryn’s color is not mentioned, there seems to be some sort of general agreement that he was dark brown or black; and presumably back in the stables at Rivendell something would also have been done about the “rough” coat he had acquired by the time he had reached Rohan.  And let’s just pretend that the only other horse besides Hasufel we actually seem to see Aragorn riding in the movies is Roherym, not Théodred’s horse … (never mind Brego’s and, well, Théodred’s tragic backstory and his instant bonding with Aragorn)!


Bill the Pony

Last but definitely not least: the Hobbits’ faithful beast of burden, rescued from mistreatment at the hands of Bill Ferny and Sam Gamgee’s bestest of best friends (with the possible exception of Mister Frodo) until they had to part, to their mutual heartbreak, at the gates of Moria … to then be reunited, to their mutual delight and roughly a year later, in the stables of Mr. Butterbur’s Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree.

 


Villains

Dragons


(Image source)

Morgoth’s one-stop-shop solution to getting rid of large quantities of Elves (preferably Ñoldor) in a single blow and thus vastly superior to Orcs or even Balrogs:

Dragons were huge, immensely cunning, reptile-like monsters (apparently hatched from eggs, also like reptiles) with an insatiable greed for gold and riches and a hypnotic power known as dragon spell that could only be avoided by responding to them in riddles instead of giving straightforward information.  A dragon’s life typically spanned several centuries; many of them — almost all of the great ones — were fire breathers (Urulóki, “fire-dragons”), and no less than four of the seven Dwarven Rings of Power were destroyed when they were swallowed by dragons.  Yet, although a dragon’s exterior consisted almost entirely of impenetrable iron scales, they had a small spot on the underside of their body that was vulnerable to blades or the sharp tips of arrors and spears and through which they could be killed.

Originally not having endowed them with wings, by the time of the War of Wrath Morgoth had improved on his original creation and released winged dragons as a new and even greater terror on Middle-earth than had ever been seen before.  However, not even these could ultimately prevent his defeat (on the contrary, Ancalagon the Black’s fall onto Thangorodrim even precipitated it).

Throughout much of the Second Age, those dragons that had survived the War of Wrath apparently withdrew for the most part into the Withered Heath, far in the north of Middle-earth, in the eastern part of the Grey Mountains, where they stayed long into the Third Age, until Sauron began to reassert himself and rekindle their bloodlust and greed for gold and riches.  The first to feel the effects of this were the Dwarves who had, by this time, settled in the Grey Mountains, as well as the Northmen of northern Rhovanion.

Not many dragon names are known; those that are include that of Scatha, the dragon whose killing by the Northman Fram roughly two-thirds of the way into the Third Age inspired a dispute with the Dwarves over the dragon’s hoard, which had originally belonged to the Dwarves, and from whose hoard came the silver horn later known as the Horn of the Mark and given to Merry by Éowyn as a farewell gift in appreciation of his services to Rohan. 

The three greatest dragons Middle-earth ever saw were these:

 

Ancalagon the Black


Ruben de Vela: Ancalagon the Black

The greatest one of all of Morgoth’s dragons, a winged fire dragon of such enormous proportions that, when Eärendil finally killed him after a cataclysmic night-long battle at the height of the War of Wrath, and when the slain dragon fell onto the peaks of Thangorodrim, the mountain fortress’s mighty peaks themselves broke apart.  Indeed, the total impact of the violent battles fought during the War of Wrath on Middle-earth — including the shattering of Thangorodrim by Ancalagon’s dead body — was so enormous that it caused an earthquake and a flood of gigantic proportions, which destroyed almost all of Beleriand and the lands to its north and cleft apart the Blue Mountains to form the Gulf of Lune, with Lindon (just to the west of the Blue Mountains) becoming the new westernmost edge of Middle-earth.

In their turn, the fire storms and bolts of lightning and thunder unleashed by Ancalagon in attacking the Host of Valinor were so hot and fierce that even two Ages, i.e., several millennia later, towards the end of the Third Age, Gandalf would still use them as an example to explain the indestructibility of the One Ring, telling Frodo that not even Ancalagon the Black could have harmed that Ring.


Glaurung


Glaurung the Black Worm (art by Vaejoun)

The first dragon created by Morgoth and one of his most fearsome creatures; a fire-dragon, even if not a winged one (Glaurung crawled on four legs, like a four-footed snake). Glaurung did terrifying amounts of damage in the Battles of Beleriand (especially the last two, even if he was grivously wounded and temporarily driven away by Azaghâl of Belegost, a feat for which he made the Dwarf-lord pay with his own life); as well as destroying Nargothrond, bewitching the warrior Túrin Turambar — leader of the forces of Nargothrond — and, shortly thereafter, his sister Nienor, to the point of temporary madness and memory loss, which ended with Túrin’s and Nienor’s incestuous marriage and eventually both of their suicides.  However, before Túrin’s eyes were opened to his own many wrongs, he still found a way to kill Glaurung, who had embarked on a path of destruction across the better part of Beleriand, by stabbing him from below when Glaurung was crossing a gorge near the place that Túrin had made his home after leaving Nargothrond.


Smaug

The winged fire-dragon who had driven the Dwarves out of the Lonely Mountain — killing almost all of them except for Thrór, King Under the Mountain, and his son Thráin — and devastated the nearby township of Dale and all its surrounding lands.  Bilbo Baggins, when secretly breaking into Smaug’s chamber at the heart of Erebor two centuries later, would find that even in sleeping the dragon gave off a reddish glow and wisps of smoke, while his belly was encrusted with the gems and pieces of gold on which he had been lying asleep for such a long.  When roused to fury and attack, Smaug`s flames were green and scarlet.  Ultimately the dragon’s arrogance, which had made him disregard Bilbo as an adversary, as well as his rashness proved Smaug’s downfall: Bilbo had goaded him into revealing the soft spot on his underside; and Bard the Bowman of Lake-town had learned of it from the thrush of the Lonely Mountain (who in turn had been listening to Bilbo’s conversation with the Dwarves).  So Bard was able to use his final arrow to kill the dragon — albeit not before Smaug had destroyed a large part of Lake-town by burning its wooden buildings and swiping its main building, the Great House, into ruins with a flick of his tail even while he was still alive; and moreover at the price of the town’s complete destruction when Smaug crashed into it after having been killed.

While to Thorin Oakenshield, the main reason for attacking the Lonely Mountain and driving out Smaug was the thought of regaining the most legendary home of Durin’s Folk besides Khazad-dûm, Gandalf had planned it to coincide with the White Council’s attack on nearby Dol Guldur, so as to prevent Sauron and Smaug to form an alliance and stand by each other.

Smaug was yet another example that Gandalf later used to explain to Frodo the power of the One Ring, saying that after his death, “there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough [to melt the Rings of Power]”, however continuing that not even the fire of Ancalagon the Black (which was apparently even hotter and more destructive than Smaug’s) would have destroyed the One Ring.

 


The Great Spiders

Next to dragons and the Nazgûl’s “fell beasts”, far and a way the most horrible creatures of Arda, both Aman and Middle-earth; and if possible, even more nauseating and loathsome than the “fell beasts”. 

 

Ungoliant


(Image source)

The mother of them all; a spirit of pure and condensed Evil in the form of a giant spider: at least possibly an incarnation of darkness or emptiness itself.  When called upon by Melkor, she was living in a shadowy, forgotten part of Aman named Avathar (which in turn possibly translates as “The Shadows”).  At Melkor’s behest, she sucked all the light out of the Two Trees of Valinor and poisoned them, and then proceeded to spread the nauseous, impenetrably black vapors from her insides all over Valinor, thus causing the Darkening of Valinor that enabled Melkor to steal Fëanor’s Silmarils.

Melkor had promised her any reward she desired in payment for her assistance; and as it turned out, she did not only want all the other treasures he had stolen along with the Silmarils (which he grudgingly handed over, only to watch her swallowing them one and all) — she wanted the Silmarils themselves, and these, Melkor was not willing to relinquish.  So she enmeshed him in a giant web, but he gave such a cry of pain that it was heard by the Balrogs lurking at the very bottom of Angband, who rushed to their Lord’s assistance, dstroyed the web, and drove Ungoliant away with their fire whips.  Thereafter, she made her home in the Ered Gorgoroth (Mountains of Terror) on the southern edge of Dorthonion, where she produced a breed of offspring almost as terrifying as herself; probably including the monster much later living near the path into Mordor and towards Cirith Ungol:


Shelob

Indiscriminate feeder off all living things and supremely useful to Sauron (who knew of her, but left her to her own devices as she was useful to him), she nevertheless preferred Men and Elves over Orcs and was delighted to have Gollum promise to bring her prey of that sort in the form of the Hobbits Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee.  Yet, like many another opponent, she underestimated the Hobbits; and even though she eventually managed to sting, poison and cocoon Frodo, Sam drove her away with Galadriel’s phial of the Light of Eärendil (which hurt her eyes), Frodo’s sword Sting, and more desperate courage that any Hobbit and in fact anybody ever should have to muster to overcome an enemy embodying this much concentrated malice.


The Spiders of Mirkwood

Almost certainly either direct offsprings of Ungoliant or offsprings of Shelob (and in the latter case, in turn probably at least indirectly descended from Ungoliant).  Their complaint that Bilbo’s (as-yet unnamed) Elven blade “stung” them inspired the Hobbit to name his blade Sting.

While we know from The Hobbit that the Mirkwood spiders were killed by Bilbo and the Dwarves, after Bilbo had freed his companions, nothing definite is recorded as to the ultimate fate of Ungoliant and Shelob.  The latter may have been killed by Ungoliant (who is recorded to eventually have eaten both her mates and her own children); or Shelob may have died in the earthquake caused by the eruption of Mount Doom after the destruction of the One Ring — and if neither of this happened, she almost certainly would have starved to death at some point, as even most of the surviving Orcs later left Mordor or withdrew to its eastern parts; and anyway, they were no longer compelled to use the paths near Shelob’s lair (and that’s not even mentioning the damage to her eyesight, which may well have been permanent). — As for Ungoliant herself, the Silmarillion suggests that her insatiable hunger and greed may eventually have caused her to devour herself.

 


The Nazgûl’s “Fell Beasts”

Giant, man-eating, preternatural (and at least possibly prehistoric) beasts carrying the Ring-wraiths: the Witch-king’s ride is described as

“a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank.  A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, fingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed.”

Legolas shot down one of the “fell beasts” near the rapids of Sarn Gebir while the Fellowship was traveling down the Anduin after having left Lothlórien; a short time later, the Nazgûl were observed riding them all over the areas to the north and west of Mordor, looking for the Ring-bearer, whom Sauron believed to be taking the One Ring to Gondor.

The “fell beast” ridden by the Witch-king of Angmar was decapitated by Éowyn during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, immediately before she (helped by Merry) destroyed the Witch-king himself.  However, like their riders most of the others survived that battle and continued to wreak horror on Aragorn’s forces before the Black Gate of Mordor; they were only destroyed when the One Ring itself was finally cast back into the fires of Mount Doom.

 


Hounds and Wolves
Draugluin


Left image: Ted Nasmith: Beren and Lúthien transformed into Draugluin and Thuringwetil; right image: Draugluin (source)

Sauron’s servant and the sire of all werewolves, including Morgoth’s hell-hound Carcharoth, the guardian of Angband; and possibly also the sire of the wargs.  Imbued with an evil spirit sent by Morgoth himself, Draugluin lived with Sauron in his fortress of Tol-in-Gaurhoth in the middle of the River Sirion, the Great River of the First Age.  He was finally killed by Huan during Lúthien and Huan’s attack on Sauron’s island fortress, rescuing Beren; and Beren and Lúthien later disguised as Draugluin and as Sauron’s vampire servant Thuringwetil in order to sneak into Angband unrecognized during their quest for a Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown.


Carcharoth


Left: Stevce Lazarevski: Carcharoth — right: Justin Gerard: Beren and Carcharoth

Draugluin’s son; Morgoth’s hellhound guarding his prison-fortress of Angband in the Iron Mountains far to the north of Beleriand.  Beren and Lúthien made their way past Carcharoth unobserved on their way into Angband on their quest for the Silmaril, as going in they were disguised as creatures of Darkness themselves (Sauron’s servants Draugluin and Thuringwetil).  However, on their way out, the hellhound watchdog barred their way and, when Beren tried to keep him at bay by holding up the Silmaril, Carcharoth just bit off his hand holding the jewel.  This, however, burned up his innards, and he fled, howling with pain and creating a trail of terror, death and destruction wherever he went.  Eventually he was hunted down by Beren and a company of Elves, as well as the hound Huan, who had already assisted Beren and Luthien on their quest for the Silmaril; and though Carcharoth fatally wounded both Beren and Huan, Huan still managed to kill him in turn.


Wargs

Man-eating, wolf-like creatures ridden by the Orcs; possibly descended from Draugluin.  Bilbo Baggins’s and Thorin’s company were hunted by a pack of wargs after they had found their way out of Goblintown in the Misty Mountains (in the story as told in the book, the wargs were initially on their own, albeit allied with the Orcs, who showed up a bit later; according to the movies, they were ridden by Azog the Defiler and his pack of Orcs from the start), and whether or not Tolkien actually intended this, at this point it’s hard to imagine any band of Orcs without even a single warg in attendance.


White Wolves


Right image: Preston Stone: White Warg

White Wolves were a type of wolves / wargs native to the frozen lands in the north of Middle-earth, living among the snows of the Forodwaith and perhaps beyond.  Not normally seen in Eriador, they did invade this part of Middle-earth during the long and harsh, so-called Fell Winter of TA 2911, when the ice and snow of the north came at least as far south as the Shire, and when they crossed the frozen Brandywine River into the East Farthing; causing the horn of Buckland to sound the last time before the War of the Ring.



Top row images: sources here and here
Mûmakil (Oliphaunts)

Monstrous, elephant-like, ferocious beasts from Far Harad, the part of Harad so far to the south that even Gandalf would seem to have visited it only once and briefly. 

Called mûmakil (“great elephants”) by the Haradrim, who had succeeded in taming them, these trunk-snouted giants were the most perfect killing machines of Third-Age Middle-earth: in battle they would madly charge through enemy lines, skewering enemies right and left with their enormous tusks and trampling everything and everybody in their way to certain death beneath their huge, tree-like legs and massive feet; all the while carrying battle towers strapped to their backs that were garrisoned with whole companies of archers and spearmen who could target enemy soldiers with their arrows and spears, secure in the knowledge that, towering over the battlefield at heights higher than a house, they themselves were as good as unassailable. 

Horses — even those of the Rohirrim — feared the mûmakil and would not go anywhere near them; and since arrows would typically not pierce their leathery hide, there was only one way to kill a mûmak that promised success at least in theory: to face it and shoot it in the eye with an arrow — provided the archer had not himself been either smashed by the charging beast or been shot by one of its riders before he could ever loose his own arrow in the first place.  (Nevertheless, in the movie version of The Return of the King, Legolas achieves just this, by mounting the beast itself in the way only an Elf could presumably do; whereas the actual text of the book mentions several warriors who had been trampled in the attempt, even if all of the mûmakil were seen to have been killed, after all, once the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was over.)

To the inhabitants of the West of Middle-earth, mûmakil (also known as oliphaunts) were creatures of legend; the Hobbits had a poem about them, and after having seen a mûmak running wild in Ithilien after the company of Haradrim taking it into Mordor had been attacked and decimated by Faramir’s Rangers, Sam Gamgee knew that nobody at home would ever believe him if he told them he had seen one of the fabled giants.

 



Top image: Ted Nasmith: Beren and Lúthien
 transformed into Draugluin and Thuringwetil
Bats

Thuringwetil was a First-Age vampire bat with iron claws at the end of her wings; the servant and messenger of Sauron, at the time Morgoth’s second-in-command.  In order to enter Angband  unrecognized, on Huan’s advice Beren and Lúthien disguised as Sauron’s servants, Thuringwetil and the werewolf Draugluin, after Lúthien and Huan had killed the real beasts in their attack on Sauron’s fortress Tol-in-Gaurhoth, freeing Beren.

In the Third Age, Bilbo Baggins hat several encounters with bats; first in the tunnels of the Misty Mountains, then in Mirkwood (where the bats followed the moths attracted by the Dwarves’ fires); then in Smaug’s lair inside the Lonely Mountain, where a bat brushed by his face, which caused him to fall and lose the light of his torch, so he had to call for the Dwarves’ assistance; and finally during the Battle of the Five Armies, where bats came to the Orcs’ assistance in such a huge and densely-packed crowd that their wings darkened the light of the sun.  (And if there were bats in Mirkwood and near the Lonely Mountain, presumably it’s also feasible that there were bats in Dol Guldur, as shown in the Hobbit movies.)

 


The Boar of Everholt


(Image source)

A great wild boar living in the Firien Wood in Anórien, northwest of Minas Tirith, near the border between Rohan and Gondor and just below the foothills of the holy mountain of Halifirien (the original burial place of Elendil and also the place where the oath of assistance had originally been sworn by Steward Cirion of Gondor and Eorl the Young, King of the Éothéod, and where it was renewed by Aragorn and Éomer after the end of the War of the Ring).

The boar was killed some 150 years before the War of the Ring by Folca, the thirteenth King of Rohan, a great hunter who had successfully rid his country of Orcs (thus also avenging his father) but who found the boar to be his final prey, as the beast caused him a mortal wound with its tusks even as Folca killed it in turn.  A tapestry in the Golden Hall of Meduseld in Edoras commemorated the event; and it also inspired the Mountain Orcs of the White Mountains to incorporate boar tusks and bones into their armor.

 


Cats

Gareth Sleightholme: Tevildo
Tevildo

None other than Sauron himself before he became Sauron: In the first version of the story of Beren and Tinúviel (Lúthien), contained in The Book of Lost Tales, Beren was caught by Orcs and brought to Melko(r), who in turn gave Beren as a prisoner to Tevildo, Prince of Cats — his lieutenant as much as Sauron would be to Morgoth in later versions of the legendarium, and just about as evil.

Also like Sauron later, Tevildo was eventually defeated by Tinúviel and Huan (who already existed in much the same form as in the later versions of the tale); and the actual events concerning the cutting off of the Silmaril told in this early version very much resemble the later version in the (originally unpublished) Lay of Leithian and the Silmarillion (both the version eventually published under that title and the earliest, albeit also originally unpublished version of the text exceeding a mere sketch-like summary, the Quenta Noldorinwa): Beren and Tinúviel devised a way to secretly get into Melko’s stronghold, Beren in this instance disguised wearing the fur of an associate of Tevildo’s, whom Huan had killed in his fight with the cats; and Tinúviel enchanted Melko with her dancing and singing; Beren’s knife (here: a kitchen knife he had brought from his thralldom as Tevildo’s kitchen slave) snapped after he had cut off the first Silmaril; the doorkeeper hellhound (Karkaras) bit off Beren’s hand with the Silmaril in it, and he then had his insides scorched by the jewel’s inner fire and ran away, torn apart in a mad rage; except that Beren and Tinúviel were rescued by Huan, not by the Great Eagles.  Also like in the later versions, Beren told Tinúviel’s father that all he needed to do to lay his hand on the Silmaril was capture the raging hellhound; and they went on a hunt, taking Huan with them, in which Beren was killed, but redeemed from Mandos by Tinúviel’s song, albeit at the price of both of them becoming humans, thus fated to die once and for all when their natural life had run out.  (Both Beren and Tinúviel were Elves in this earliest version of the text, though Elves of radically different Kindred.)

Tevildo would, in the next versions of the tale — the Lay of Leithian and the Quenta Noldorinwa — become a hunter named Thû, “the Lord of Wolves”, a Necromancer living in the watch tower / Wizard’s Isle in the middle of Sirion, until finally morphing into the Dark Lord we’ve all come to know, and heir to the evil realm left behind in Middle-earth by his former master Morgoth, in the version of the Silmarillion published in 1977.



Queen Berúthiel and her cats (art by Steamey)
Berúthiel’s Cats

Berúthiel was the Black Númenórean wife of the first of Gondor’s ship-kings, Tarannon Falastur (“Lord of the Coasts”);  lady whom he had married solely for political reasons. 

She hated the sea and refused to live in the palace that he had built on arches in the riverbed of the Anduin downstream from Pelargir, or indeed anywhere near the ocean; and their marriage was child- and loveless.  Instead, Berúthiel spent almost all of her time with her ten cats, which were famous for always being able to find their way home: nine black ones that she sent to spy on others at Court in Osgiliath and a white cat that she sent to spy on the nine black cats.  For this, both the Queen and her cats were widely hated.  The King eventually banned her from his realm and sent her away on a ship that was last seen sailing into the Southern Seas.


 

Crows

Crows are virtually the only species of birds that come with a negative connotation both in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings; their assessment ranges from Balin’s “nasty suspicious-looking creatures … and rude as well” with regard to the crows over the Lonely Mountain, to his own earlier suspicion that they might be spies of evil, and Aragorn’s similar suspicion with regard to the crebain (Dunland crows) spying on them during their approach to the pass of Caradhras and the Redhorn Gate in the Misty Mountains: inspiring a feeling of unease that caused him and Gandalf to make the Fellowship spend the day in hiding without a campfire despite the bitterly cold winter weather and only to move by night.

 

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Note: Images not specifically attributed or sourced otherwise on this and the associated sub-pages of this blog’s Middle-earth Project originate from the three-part movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King; Peter Jackson / New Line Cinema, 2001-2003) and the three-part movie adaptation of The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies; Peter Jackson / New Line Cinema / Warner Bros. Pictures / MGM, 2012-2014).  Please see the blog’s Copyright and Privacy Policy page with reference to the use of third-party images under the doctrines of fair use and fair dealing.

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