Login | Register
 
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: How tall is Barad-dur?

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > Places > How tall is Barad-dur?   
Do we have any data about the height of Barad-dur or Orthanc?
Hmmm... don't remember at the moment about the Dark Tower, but I remember posting on Orthanc (somewhere), and if I recall correctly the text says that between the horns of Orthanc was a narrow space, and there a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain.

Galin is correct about Orthanc's height, it is so stated in 'The Road to Isengard' in TTT as part of the description of Isengard found just before Gandalf and Theoden's party reached the bloody great white hand pillar.

I haven't been able to find any height for Barad-dr; though if one were to scale-up Peter Jackson's movie model of the tower, it would be about 5000 feet high. Of course this was mere artistic conjecture by the movie makers and has no basis from Tolkien's writings, as near as I can tell.
the dark tower was so tall that if you would have jumped down from it you should have about 30-20 seconds of airtime before you hit the ground
thats tall...
Whilst there are no definitive quotes about the height of Barad-dur we can make some vague estimations.

As already stated about the height of Orthanc:

"Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain. This was Orthanc, the citadel of Saruman, the name of which had (by design or chance) a twofold meaning; for in the Elvish speech orthanc signifies Mount Fang, but in the language of the Mark of old the Cunning Mind."

But here is a folloewing quote which gives a gigantic estimate of how much bigger Barad-dur was then Orthanc:

"But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived-for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child's model or a slave's flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dr, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength."

If Orthanc at 500 feet was a 'little copy' of Barad-dur (of course this doesn't always refer to height, it also refers to the scale of the other dimensions of Barad-dur) it does indeed give a very large scope to work with.

We can narrow down the height a little more:

"Thus men reached at last the High Court, and the Place of the Fountain before the feet of the White Tower: tall and shapely, fifty fathoms from its base to the pinnacle, where the banner of the Stewards floated a thousand feet above the plain." (refering to Minas Tirith)

"Then turning south again he beheld Minas Tirith. Far away it seemed, and beautiful: white-walled, many-towered, proud and fair upon its mountain-seat; its battlements glittered with steel, and its turrets were bright with many banners. Hope leaped in his heart. But against Minas Tirith was set another fortress, greater and more strong. Thither, eastward, unwilling his eye was drawn. It passed the ruined bridges of Osgiliath, the grinning gates of Minas Morgul, and the haunted Mountains, and it looked upon Gorgoroth, the valley of terror in the Land of Mordor. Darkness lay there under the Sun. Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising. Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dr, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him."

This is a little more vague. But from the first quote which names Orthanc as a little copy and Minas tirith being described as considerably smaller than Barad dur I think so far we can estimate a height of at least 1800-2000 feet.

Lastly... Mt Doom. Orodruin stood about 4500 feet from pinnacle to base, which is clearly described in Karen-wynn fonstadd's 'the Atlas of Tolkien's middle-earth'. The 'tumbled shoulders' of the mountain stood some 3000 feet high and then the central cone, which Sammath Naur was built into nearer the lower half stood a further 1500 feet. This places the Doorway into the mountain at around 3200 feet high. Now the next part is complete supposition but it is possible, and quite a 'Sauronish' thing to do, but I would say he built that doorway level with his topmost chamber in barad-dur where he gazed forth from with his palantir. Otherwise he could have built this doorway lower down in the mountain (or built barad-dur taller to match it).

Therefore concluding I would say Barad-dur is at the very least 2000 feet high but if you take my last theory I would place its estimate at between 2800-3400 feet.
But if you merely wished to know this to see if its the biggest fortress in Tolkien's myth then I would say no.
Thangorodrim were three mountains actually built by the orcs from the delving of Angband. They were hollow and clearly had many inhabitible chambers within. I would class this as a 'Built structure' of sorts. Therefore if you count this then the biggest built structure in Tolkien's myth measured, giving a good estimation from 'The Atlas of Tolkien's middle-earth', approximately 35,000 feet high, about 6.5 miles (roughly) and I beleive taller than Mt Everest which of course was not made by hands. It was the tallest peak in Middle-earth, surpassed only by the highest tower Oillose (not sure of spelling) on Taniquetil where Manwe and Varda dwell, and possibly* Kalorme, the highest mountain in the Lands of Sun, far east of Middle-earth across the eastern sea.
The only other mountain towers to ever surpass these three were the Pillars of Light which were made by the Valar and "Varda filled the lamps and Manw hallowed them, and the Valar set them upon high pillars, more lofty far than are any mountains of the later days." These lights of course were afterwards overthrown by Morgoth.
The Dubai Tower (Burj Dubai) is currently going for the *record. Taipei 101 is about 1670 ft (this varies a bit according to the source); and in general it depends upon what is being counted too, like a spire on top for example.

Maybe Deorcengel means how tall was the Dark Tower itself, as opposed to how high it might have stood, considering it is described as founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits. In Tolkien's drawing what seems to be the base of the tower appears to sit upon a thrust of stone, itself already high.

In an early conception of Orthanc the tower sat upon a mountain-like base in one sketch; and in one draft one could stand a thousand feet above the plain because the tower sat upon a mound.
_____
*according to an article in July the developer wants the tower to be the world's tallest building according to all four criteria listed by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which measures buildings to the structural top, the highest occupied floor, the top of the roof and the tip of the spire or flagpole.
Quote:
the dark tower was so tall that if you would have jumped down from it you should have about 30-20 seconds of airtime before you hit the ground

That corresponds to a height of almost 4.5 kilometres.
Well Sauron was setting himself up to be a god and thus need a tall mountain upon which to live. Compare this with the gods' domain in ancient Greece and on Diskworld. Also the ancient Babylonians built a tower trying to impress God with what they could do on their own. "The bigger they are the harder they fall" and "Don't get too big for your britches" comes to mind when thinking about tall towers. I do hope this ancient history doesn't apply to these newest modern ones. And now we are trying to build a space elevator to reach even higher towards heaven. God has allowed the invention of wings made of wax, steel and carbon-fiber, but there is always a price to pay. I'm rambling here, but I think there must be a point somewhere in it. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie
I just mean the height of Barad-dur itself. I have read your posts and now I think Barad-dur is so tall...This question just came to my mind when someone asked me about it.
Also don't forget that it might not be quite so vertically orientated as the film shows. It could indeed have been a central tower with many smaller ones leading of it but more likely it had a width and length to match its height, unlike that shown in the film.
And remember these are guesses so far. I would agree with arguably taller than Orthanc, but how much?

Half again as tall for example (still considerably taller in my opinion) would result in 750 feet, and twice as tall is obviously 'only' 1000 feet, but twice as tall is very much taller in my opinion. Tolkien originally published that the tower of Ecthelion was 900 feet, but that didn't work with the rest of the Minas Tirith description, so he revised this.

The Empire State is usually reported at 1250 feet (not counting the lightning rod), which would have been famous enough in Tolkien's day of course, though obviously he need not use Primary World models in any case.

Unless something is remembered by someone here, or something new comes to light, so far all we really have are guesses about the Dark Tower, and the comparative description to Orthanc, as has already been noted, can be due to other factors -- and with respect to the comparison to Sauron's fortress, technically Saruman did not make the tower itself of course.

I would say according to what has already been posted we don't really know much for certain.
Is it coincidence that Dark Lords always build their lairs as ridiculously high, big, labyrinthine and in the most remote place possible?

This penchant for overcompensation merely serves as a beacon for their insecurity and petty megalomania.

At least if I were a Dark Lord, my lair would be a barrel, Diogenes-style!
Personally I would say your estimation is a little off Galin...

Orthanc is 500feet tall and is described as a 'little copy' a 'children's toy' a 'slave's flattery' compared to barad Dur. So half as tall again is, in my opinion, virtually no different.

Plus we have the statement that as Minas Tirith was 1000 feet at its tallest, even this was 'far smaller' than the Dark Tower. See above quotes for exact wording.
Quote:
Personally I would say your estimation is a little off Galin...


Which estimation is that? half again as tall as Orthanc? twice as tall as Orthanc? And I also mentioned the Empire State building purposely to suggest a height Tolkien would be aware of (though as I say he need not follow this example). Not to mention my post above begins with a question -- and ends with me essentially saying that all we really have so far are guesses based on descriptions which are subject to interpretation. I don't even know what my own ultimate estimation would be, so far.

Quote:
Orthanc is 500feet tall and is described as a 'little copy' a 'children's toy' a 'slave's flattery' compared to barad Dur. So half as tall again is, in my opinion, virtually no different.


You're entitled to your opinion, but none of the quotes posted so far necessarily rule out even 750 -- which again was only my smallest example, for consideration as a possibility. And 1000 would be very notably taller than Orthanc by comparison (build a tower in New York City twice as tall as the Empire State and it will seem very, very high by comparison).

In any case, even you already posted above, regarding the 'little copy' reference: 'If Orthanc at 500 feet was a 'little copy' of Barad-dur (of course this doesn't always refer to height, it also refers to the scale of the other dimensions of Barad-dur) it does indeed give a very large scope to work with.' -- my emphasis on your parenthetical aside here.

Quote:
Plus we have the statement that as Minas Tirith was 1000 feet at its tallest, even this was 'far smaller' than the Dark Tower. See above quotes for exact wording.


Exact wording, yes. I don't disagree with what Tolkien wrote above, but let's look at what he wrote as opposed to paraphrasing something ('far smaller').
I guess its a matter of opinion indeed. If you find a 2 floor house a 'slave's flattery' a 'child's toy' a 'little copy' of a 4 floor house thats up to youSmile Smilie

Personally I think Tolkien used every effort the English language gave him ability to do in order to just tell us how minute Orthanc really was in comparison to Barad Dur. I would hardly say 750, or 1000 feet fit the bill.

If Barad Dur was 'only' 1000 feet then why did it take the Rings Power to create the foundations for it, if the Gondorians could build Orthanc without any such 'angelic' intervention?

And I am not sure what this reference is to the Empire state building. If it even entered Tolkien's head, which is highly doubtful, then he would surely seek to make Barad Dur much bigger, not smaller, than it.
Quote:
If you find a 2 floor house a 'slave's flattery' a 'child's toy' a 'little copy' of a 4 floor house thats up to you.


As these descriptions can also refer to the scale of other considerations, then pressing them isn't going to add much here.

Quote:
If Barad Dur was 'only' 1000 feet then why did it take the Rings Power to create the foundations for it, if the Gondorians could build Orthanc without any such 'angelic' intervention?


From the brief statement at the Council we know that its foundations would survive if the Ring did (despite that other parts could be removed), which to my mind speaks, however quite briefly, to strength of endurance. Do you have something more along this line (there might be, feel free to look)?

Quote:
And I am not sure what this reference is to the Empire state building. If it even entered Tolkien's head, which is highly doubtful, then he would surely seek to make Barad Dur much bigger, not smaller, than it.


And you know that Tolkien would 'surely' do this... how exactly?

Incidentally Tolkien appears to have drawn a sketch in which the Dark Tower (as Hammond and Scull think) and Minas Tirith both appear (with what looks like Mount Doom in the middle), and they both reach to about the same height. Granted there may be artistic tinkering here that alters a true comparison -- I'm not claiming it solves the issue, but it exists so I mention it (a high rocky 'throne' is depicted).
The foundations of Barad-dur were made with the power of the One Ring. That is why the foundations could not be wholly removed when the Last Alliance had victory and the Dark Tower was levelled. But if my word isn't good enough:

"The Dark Tower was destroyed, but its foundations were not removed, for they were made with the Power of the One Ring, and while it remains they will endure"

My point is that if Barad-dur required the One Ring to make such indestructable foundations, why then was Orthance built like any other tower? Why did Barad-dur require such foundations if it was only 750-1000feet, while Minas Tirith was 1000feet and it did not need the One Ring for its foundations.

Its simply a matter of interpretation. While there is nothing in the lore to directly contradict the Dark Tower being a mere 1000 feet, there is neither anything to contradict Melkor being 1000 feet tall. I think Tolkien summed up the scale of Barad-dur pretty well for me with regards to comparing it to Orthanc.
Quote:
The foundations of Barad-dur were made with the power of the One Ring. That is why the foundations could not be wholly removed when the Last Alliance had victory and the Dark Tower was levelled. But if my word isn't good enough: "The Dark Tower was destroyed, but its foundations were not removed, for they were made with the Power of the One Ring, and while it remains they will endure"


Who said your word wasn't good enough? I posted: 'From the brief statement at the Council we know that its foundations would survive if the Ring did (despite that other parts could be removed), which to my mind speaks, however quite briefly, to strength of endurance.

The wording matches up pretty well because I was referring to the very quote you felt the need to then post for some reason.

Quote:
My point is that if Barad-dur required the One Ring to make such indestructable foundations, why then was Orthance built like any other tower? Why did Barad-dur require such foundations if it was only 750-1000feet, while Minas Tirith was 1000feet and it did not need the One Ring for its foundations.


Have anything more in this line of argument outside of questions? you're free to speculate on the answers, though the tower in Minas Tirith was not 1000 feet in any case -- Tolkien changed its height from 900 to 300 feet.

Quote:
Its simply a matter of interpretation. While there is nothing in the lore to directly contradict the Dark Tower being a mere 1000 feet, there is neither anything to contradict Melkor being 1000 feet tall. I think Tolkien summed up the scale of Barad-dur pretty well for me with regards to comparing it to Orthanc.


Well, when someone actually claims Melkor was 1000 feet tall you don't have to agree Smile Smilie

In any event no one is claiming the absence of contradictory evidence is proof of anything. The point was rather that a lack of evidence here allows for various interpretations, including the three I offered, among others. Anyway, since nothing new of a compelling nature has been added, I think the statement I made last November is still true enough as of today, at least:

I would say according to what has already been posted we don't really know much for certain.
And as I said in the beginning 'I THINK the estimations you gave are way off' allows complete access for interpretation to take place. So pray do not make it seem as if I have 'stated' anything - I have merely providied my opinion as to why I think your's is invalid, whilst providing examples, nothing more.
Quote:
So pray do not make it seem as if I have 'stated' anything - I have merely providied my opinion as to why I think your's is invalid, whilst providing examples, nothing more.


I don't know where you think I've tried to make it seem like you were posting your opinion as if it were fact; my 'various interpretations' includes yours, as an interpretation, even if I disagree with it .

And when you chose to post that Tolkien: '... would surely seek to make Barad Dur much bigger [than the Empire State building], not smaller, than it' -- that was really your opinion too.

Thanks for making a point of it Smile Smilie
Your welcomeSmile Smilie
So, Barad-dr was quite a bit taller than knee-high to a grasshopper or Melkor even; and maybe even taller than the Empire State Building. which at the time JRR Tolkien was creating his world. was the tallest building in our world at 1250 feet to the top of its roof, not counting the antenna that sprouted another 222 feet on above it.

Although we will never know its exact height for certain, we do know Barad-dr was the greatest fortress in Middle-earth in the Second and Third Ages.
It must have been considered a 'great height' in its day in any case, and the word barad itself seems to denote other considerations along with height: barad, baras 'great height combined with strength, size, majesty'.
Aye, so mighty, tall and majestic it was less than half the height of the tallest building in our world today of 2500 feetSmile Smilie Sounds terrifying to behold.
And being surmounted by a great fire-rimmed eye would also make it scary. (Not PJ's flaming eye, but Tolkien's, which Frodo saw in the Mirror of Galadriel and again from Amon Lhaw.)
And in its day I'll bet at least a few people were impressed by the Great Pyramid of Giza, for example.

Pippin, granted being a Hobbit, still actually cried aloud when he saw the Sun hit the 300 foot White Tower and Minas Tirith and etc... part of an example of a 'fair effect'; and of course there is more to making an impression than just height.
Regardless of devided opinion on the subject, nothing in our world can even come close to the size of Thangorodrim, which was built by Orcs from the refuse from Angband and was approximately 39000 feet high.

So I guess the "great" Empire state building doesn't claim the title against Middle-earth after allWink Smilie
Of course the mountains reared by Morgoth are huge (and partly volcanic). Hammond and Scull reveal Tolkien's entry from his index:

Quote:
(Thangorodrim) 'the great mountain-crown (Sindarin 'mountain chain of tyranny') above the vast underground fortress of Morgoth, the Dark Lord of the Elder Days.' JRRT


H&S also note that 'the name is sometimes used also to refer to Angband, the fortress beneath the mountain'.

Incidentally, KW Fonstad's estimation that you provided with respect to Thangorodrim appears to be actually based on a drawing Tolkien did back in 1928.
Quote:
And being surmounted by a great fire-rimmed eye would also make it scary.

From what's described when Frodo looks upon the Dark Tower, I interpreted it that the Eye was rather an eye-shaped window.

What Frodo saw in the Mirror of Galadriel, was not a physical eye, but rather a personification of Sauron's will. The "Eye of Sauron" is not something that should be taken literally, which PJ missed or didn't care about.
Thangorodrim I do not believe (not 100% certain) was raised by Morgoth as were the rest of the Iron mountains. The Iron mountains were raised in the very earliest days (they seem to be present almost from the very beginning, perhaps Melkor as first to descend already planned there contruction beforehand) to hide Utumno from the Valar. Thangorodrim was built much later as a sort of 'entrance' or 'guard' or whatever above Angband beneath it. They were actually built with the refuse from Angband by Orcs. IF this is what you meant by 'raised by Morgoth' then I interpeted your post wrongly, I thought you meant reared as in the rest of the mountains chain (which you may yet think, you'll have to clarify).

As to the "estimation", of course its an estimation...Tolkien wasn't hot on giving us exact things to go on, he seems to provide descriptions with no direct answers (such as Barad-dur being much bigger than any building today^^).
But regardless, Thangorodrim were the tallest mountains in Endor and could have been either bigger or smaller than 39000 feet.
Quote:
'... IF this is what you meant by 'raised by Morgoth' then I interpeted your post wrongly, I thought you meant reared as in the rest of the mountains chain (which you may yet think, you'll have to clarify).'


Not sure why you're trying to interpret this at all -- my use of 'reared by Morgoth' follows Tolkien. Just for example:

Quote:
'Morgoth, however, came not himself to Beleriand, but went to the Iron Mountains, and there with the aid of his servants that came forth to meet him he delved anew his vast vaults and dungeons. These the Noldor named after Angband: the Iron Prison; and above their gates Morgoth reared the vast and threefold peaks of Thangorodrim, and a great reek of dark smoke was ever wreathed about them.' JRRT, Grey Annals


Quote:
'As to the "estimation", of course its an estimation...Tolkien wasn't hot on giving us exact things to go on, he seems to provide descriptions with no direct answers...'


And my aside allows people to note the actual Tolkien source behind the secondary source (Fonstad).
I never disputed Melkor 'raised' them. I was disputing what you may or not not have believed was the manner in which they were raised. And before you say "I never said Melkor raised them with his ethereal power" as I have already stated, that I wasn't 100% certain whether you believed that or not.
Quote:
The "Eye of Sauron" is not something that should be taken literally, which PJ missed or didn't care about.


Speaking of the Empire State and Jackson (ahem, well not really), I just saw his Kong for the first time (on TV).

The ESB looked great on film anyway Smile Smilie

For some reason 1 mile high popped into my head regarding The Barad Dur....  Im not sure where this is from.

Well, again, for comparison Orthanc stood roughly 500 feet above the plain. The tower of Minas Tirith was 300 feet high. I realize people imagine the Dark Tower as larger and higher for example, but...

 

... a mile is 5,280 feet! that's nearing the tower of Ecthelion plus 5 thousand!

 

Or do you mean it stood a mile high in that the structure stood upon something already high?  already high alread

Cant remember whether its from the base of the actual Tower or included the entire mountail side it was built on. We are decimal in Aus, Mile is more a metephor for us. Hehe

 

it was too big.

I do not think we are able to give any "precise" measures to height or largeness for Lugburz. We must remember, that though much has been published, still some aspects of Arda remain open for one's imagination. NEvertheless the largness of some objects in Arda was so vast, that we cannot point  such object in our real world, yet this is how Tolkien made them and we must stay to his word.

Just as idea- in Atlas of ME it is said that Orodruin (Mount Doom) stood 4500 feet high (and seven miles across in the base), so Barad dur cannot stand higher and wider, otherwise Mount Doom wouldn't be visible from Morannon (Balck Gate). And we know it was, do we not?

I did not even know about those dimensions, but given them you are right. That brings the realty right into focus and that is great to know. I wont forget that.

I know this thread is dead, but I read this " Aye, so mighty, tall and majestic it was less than half the height of the tallest building in our world today of 2500 feet Sounds terrifying to behold." And that sounded pretty weird... Since we are assuming it all existed, you automatically say it is our past. Let's say it was 5000 years ago. I think that a tower of 1000 feet is pretty well done for that time :p