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Just saw the hobbit movie. One scene where the morgul blade is presented to the white council puzzled me. They say it belongs to the witchking of angmar and that he (and the sword) were buried deep underground but I thought the witch king of angmar was never killed, doesnt he escape hence the line 'no man will kill him' and goes to occupy minas morgul after the war in the north??

Well in Tolkien's world the Witch-king escapes, prompting Glorfindel's prophecy as you say, but I haven't seen The Hobbit yet so all I can do is confirm that he does escape here, and in TA 1980 he comes to Mordor and gathers the Nazgul.

Yes Cliff it's all a bit vague in book and film. The Morgul Knife isn't the knife that stabbed Frodo, it was simply a Knife with the Nazgul use. Also I'm pretty sure none of the knife business is in the books, it's an invention of PJ to link the stories for those who haven't read Tolkien.

Still, it's not vague in the book that the Witch-king is not slain at this point, which Cliff2005 is comparing to the Witch-king being 'buried deep underground' according to the films.

How the Witch-king ended up buried in the film may be vague so far (I assume it is anyway, going by what others are posting), but in the books we know that he did not fall by the hand of man until Eowyn and Merry, including even by King Earnur's hand, who was both a man and a Man and would have fulfilled Glorfindel's prophecy.  

How the Witch-king ended up buried in the film may be vague so far (I assume it is anyway, going by what others are posting), but in the books we know that he did not fall by the hand of man until Eowyn and Merry, including even by King Earnur's hand, who was both a man and a Man and would have fulfilled Glorfindel's prophecy.

Galin, I'd love to know where I can read more about the Witchking's story. His identity is really interesting to me, as much as the story of Barrow-downs. I can see the connection, but it's just a big, foggy mess in my head. I know that I won't find any clear information on it, but I can't help it.

Indis, hmm, going from memory Glorfindel's encounter is briefly (but interestingly) described in Appendix A for example, and subsequent movements and doings can be traced in Appendix B. Tolkien refers to him at least once in a letter, and I think there are scattered references in posthumously published writings (or at least to the Nazgul in general)...

... I suppose one could collect all that is said of him, or the Wraiths in general, and produce a substantial enough report, but his identity is left vague for example, and there are notable chunks of time where we have no mention of his doings. Tolkien noted that:

'The name and origin of the Witch-king is not recorded, but he was probably (like the Lieutenant of Barad-dur [the Mouth of Sauron]) of Numenorean descent.'

published by Hammond and Scull

So again Brego is not wrong with respect to his 'all a bit vague' comment, but I wanted to stress that according to the books at least, we have no reason to think the Witch-king was slain or buried during the time of The Hobbit, which I think was Cliff2005's point for wondering what the film was up to.

At one point King Earnur accepts the WK's challenge, but I'm guessing it didn't go well for Earnur.

One interesting thing (Appendix A) is that the WK was said to have feared Boromir... another Boromir not the Boromir of the Fellowship...

... but still Smile Smilie

Oh, so I'm re-reading these sources this weekend! Smile Smilie I saw online an essay where an author (too bad, I don't remember who it was or how I found it!)  tries to figure out the identity of Witchking, and he suggests that WK might be a former member of royal family in Numenor. He also makes some points why it cannot be one of Numenorean kings (which I believe was also clarified by J.R.R. Tolkien, I'm not sure though). He tried to find some dates, and even estimated how much it took to make a Nazgul from a Man. Very interesting.

I remember that the Ringwraith second to the WK was the former Easterling. I'm talking about Khamul here.

Interesting. I would like to read that article if you happen to find it again some day.

I'll try google too!

Got it!

Origins of the Nazgûl and the Downfall of Númenor

Wow that was quick. Thanks!

Apparently Google doesn't have too much to say when you put keywords like "essay, numenor, witchking, angmar, identity" in their search engine Wink Smilie I just don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing! Wink Smilie

No problem!

Ah this is Alcuin from Entmoot! If I recall correctly (I think it was Alcuin) we had a fairly long discussion (at Entmoot) where we tried to make The Line of Elros fit with already published dates and comments from Appendix B.

I spent a lot of time on that 'project'. And my poor math skills were tested greatly!

Yes it was Alcuin. Just checked Smile Smilie

But thanks again as I wasn't aware of this essay.

They did say the witch king was buried deep in a mountain didnt they? Or did I imagine it or mishear? Someone else back me up.
Cliff, if your talking the film now? Galadriel states that he was buried deep and dark and something like in a place where no light would illuminate his evil. Or something like that. I think she also mentions The Numemorians. I expect in this area PJ would need to be very careful in regards to legals. See above for Indis and Galin's excellent further written info.
Also although she does not mention who created it, Galadriel states that a spell of great power holds the Witchking in his crypt deep underground. I imagine the name Glorfindal cannot be mentioned due to legals, however this would somewhat fit into Tolkien's lore, that it was the golden haired Elf who cast the spell after his and the Numanorean forces defeated The Witchking in Arnor.

This would mean that only a power greater that the Elven lord would be able to free the Wraith from his prison. This could only be Sauron or at this time The Necromancer. Interestingly and very well contrived by PJ and co I would say. Lets hope we hear and see more in the next instalments.

Using the name Glorfindel should be legal, as he lends his horse to Frodo for example, as well as his role in the defeat of the forces of Angmar being described in Appendix A.

I hope that's so Galin as I've heard there may be may back story and perhaps we may get a glimpse of Glofindal and co.

I believe there shouldn't be any problems with incorporating Glorfindel into Hobbit. But it's going to be weird, since the character was already changed, before he was even filmed. He should be in LOTR after all. Just... weird. Or they will left him out again, and introduce someone else. Hm. Don't know what to expect, don't know what to think about it.

Galin, so you know the author of the essay?Please, let him/her know that I'm a fan if you'll get the opportunity.

Galin, so you know the author of the essay? Please, let him/her know that I'm a fan if you'll get the opportunity.

We have had a few exchanges elsewhere on the web. This project was back in 2009 and I remembered it, but I can't remember seeing Alcuin posting anywhere in some time now. Then again maybe we have 'spoken' to each other and I wasn't aware of it, as some people use different names on different sites. 

Anyway... I will let Alcuin know if I get the chance, yes Smile Smilie

I wonder whether the prediction made by Glorfindel (no man shall kill him) will be shifted forward into one of the 3 hobbit movies.  

The only reason I say it is that there seems to be a very strong effort by Jackson to tie every little thing back to the LotRs movies and the fact that they discussed the death of the witch king at the council seems odd if nothing will come of it.  

Add to this the big battle of the 5 armies we are to expect later on I wonder whether the wraiths will be present during it only to flee at the end giving someone (likely gandalf) the opportunity to use the line.


Just a theory......


I would love to see Glorfindel on the big screen. Just as I loved seeing Thranduil, brief as it was.

Cliff I hadn't thought of the prophecy of Glorfindal regarding the final destruction of The Witch King. What a great tie in to the penultimate scene in The Return of The King. Would love it!

If Glorfindel shows up in the film then I think the most reasonable place would be in Dol Guldur. During the time Gandalf and company banished the Necromancer out.

As for the WK goes, (in the film version) he was killed and ressurected according the Radagast. The White Council confirmed that he was dead, but going around that idea, it was only an assumption. Just as Thorin thought that Azog was dead, same can be said about Elrond and Galadriel, thinking that the WK was dead.

I dont think glorfindel is going to make an appearance because I think he would have been introduced by now, espcially during the rivendel scenes. I had forgot about the dol goldur siege actually. As we have already seen the witch king there id say that the prediction is going to made there by elrond or gandalf. Although it is out of place for a tolkien fan the casual viewer will enjoy the link to the return of the king. All speculation though....we'll have to wait and see.
Mmmm I don't think the word Killed was used in the film. Defeated and buried deep maybe.

They do say he had been defeated, but no mention of being killed. Only that he was defeated and buried in a tomb under powerful magic so that he'd never escape. Why they wouldn't kill him is beyond me, I assume they were going for the good guy route but it seems obvious there should be exceptions...

I did find out that Glorfindel does make an appearance in the very beginning of FOTR during the Battle of the Last Alliance scene as well as at the final scenes of ROTK. Same with Gil-Galad. They're never named, but apparently it is them.

....on that note, I'm not psyched about how he looks. Way too effeminate in my opinion (like most elves in PJ's movies). So maybe they'll find a way to bulk him up in armor or something but...I dunno. He looks so....frail. Even Elrong looks kind of...misplaced. Gil Galad however I like, wish we could see more of him...

Not sure about affeninate Balrogs, a bit unfair as Tolkien states that all Elves are fair of face. Maybe a little too gentle perhaps from PJ.

Re the Witchking. As a wraith, only his body could be killed as his spirit is locked into his ring, akin to Sauron's was to his. The Rings of Men had the power to preserve the spirit and as we know give seemingly eternal if not unbeatable life. Perhaps his body was crippled along with his army destroyed and perhaps even along with the eight others. Glorfindal probably sensed this and therefore cast the spell. Sauron then would only need to find the place of burial, and simply re animate the body/ies through various arts. This is not bringing the dead back to life because the Nazgul were really not alive beyonf their natuarl life spans, as we know it anyway.

I of course could be wrong, however this is how I read it in the various forms of written material, never mind the movie.

All true Brego, though I guess I interpret fair of face differently. To me that doesn't necessarily mean all girlish and frail, but that they have a, shall we say, overall attractiveness to them. They are what we might consider "beautiful" people. Now I do interpret it as saying they were a little more effeminate than, say, Brad Pitt, but not to the point you can't distinguish between the men and women walking in the background.

Good point about the Witch King, I guess I didn't realize they didn't have any sort of "physical" form that could be killed. I'm not sure about their spirits being preserved in the rings though, but it undoubtedly preserved life, though perhaps instead of being re-animated it came to the point where they decayed and dissolved while they still lived, which is maybe why Frodo could see them in the netherworld. They were still there, just without flesh and bone. However it seems their "spirit" lived on through Sauron's ring and not so much their own. Thus even through fire, water, and steel, the only thing that ultimately defeated the Nazgul was the destruction of the One Ring.

So that explains why he wasn't, and really couldn't be, killed. Though it makes me wonder...I ASSUME the Nine wore their rings at all times; this is what would preserve their "life." Obviously meaning without that preservation, they'd die. So what would happen if, say, they "defeated" the witch king and were able to just pick up his cloaked form to the point they could take and lock him away somewhere? Would they not search it for a hand or a chain with a ring on it? If they found it, would taking it have killed the witch king? Or would he have become more like Gollum, where he went mad and no longer had a master but craved his former power? Since it wasn't until the One Ring was destroyed that his actual spirit would be destroyed as well?

Christopher Tolkien once noted his father's reaction to a depiction of Legolas...

'Long afterwards my father would write, in a wrathful comment on a 'pretty' or 'ladylike' pictorial rendering of Legolas (...)' quoted from The Book of Lost Tales

Of course this is subjective, but I would agree that Tolkien's Elves are not androgynous looking.

Galin do you know which rendering he was referring to??

Good question Balrogs.

I don't know, but I have always wondered about this too.

Balrogs R Us wrote

So that explains why he wasn't, and really couldn't be, killed. Though it makes me wonder...I ASSUME the Nine wore their rings at all times; this is what would preserve their "life."

Actually, at the time of the Hobbit and LotR the nazgul no longer wore their rings - Sauron had taken them off them.


From Unfinished Tales

At length he resolved that no others would serve him in this case but his mightiest servants, the Ringwraiths, who had no will but his own, being each utterly subservient to the ring that had enslaved him, which Sauron held.

note; this sentence refers to the mission to track down the One Ring, so the ring that Sauron is said to hold is not the One Ring, but the nine rings that enslaved the nazgul.

Also from UT

They were by far the most powerful of his servants, and the most suitable for such a mission, since they were totally enslaved to their Nine Rings, which he himself now held; they were quite incapable of acting against his will.

I think while their spirits were bound to the Nine Rings they could not die - similar to Sauron not dying while the One Ring is around. I see this as the rings power binding their souls to the ring, preventing it returning to Mandos. At the end of the second age their physical forms were probably destroyed, as had Sauron's, but the Rings provided a focus for their spirits to gradually return to at the beginning of the Third age. Incidentally, I think this binding to the rings would have eventually enabled the Witch King to return once again after Merry had killed him if the rings had not been destroyed with the destruction of the One Ring.

Indis, I really enjoyed reading that article. Thanks for that

Merry killed who now? Wink Smilie OK maybe that's for another thread

I guess I shouldn't deny Eowyn the credit for her part in the double act. I have often wondered which was the killing blow - Merry's strike to the tendon at the back of his knee or Eowyn's strike into his helm?  In normal circumstances the wound to the face would be much more grievous than to a tendon. The Witch King was not normal though.

Glorfindel had prophesised that the Witch King would die by the hand of no man. The Witch King had also said to Eowyn that no mortal man could hinder him. At that point Eowyn had revealed herself to be a woman, not a man. What exactly had Glorfindel prophesised, however? That he wouldn't be slain by a man (eg a male) or by a Man (someone from the human race)? Glorfindel's prophesy had been:

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

Although "man" in that sentence is not capitalised, it speaks of, "of man" rather than "a man", as though it is referring to race rather than sex. To me, that has always implied that it would not be a human that slew the Witch King.

I am not sure where I had read it, but I also thought that the Witch King could not be harmed by normal weapons, but his touch caused them to shatter. If this is so, Eowyn's blow with her normal sword would not have harmed him. As it was, her sword did indeed shatter. Merry's sword, however, was from the Barrows, and is not mentioned as breaking when he struck the nazgul. It is an ancient weapon, possibly from Numenore. That it didn't break possibly means it was crafted with long-forgotten arts.

For these reasons I believe it was Marry's blow that killed the Witch king, not Eowyn's... but then, who is Glorfindel to be making such prophesies, even if centuries later the Witch King was also quoting them? On this last point, I don't think it was so much Glorfindel's prediction that the Witch King was referring to, but to his own "undead" nature. He possibly believed there was no human who would dare to stand before him, and if one dare, he would not possess a weapon capable of hurting him.

You could argue that there is no evidence that eowyn or merry killed the witch king anyway.  We are told at several points the wraiths cant be killed and are bound to their rings (like Sauron) could argue they destroyed his physical form but Im not sure he had much of a physical body anyway...


I wouldnt place too much weight on Glorfindel's prediction I think he meant essentially -'you cant kill him'.  I think Tolkien used it as a bit of a play on words to have a woman kill him (and give a meaningful purpose to a female character...which is a topic for another debate).  


But as I said at the start I would also argue he wasnt actually killed by either merry or eowyn

I'll add that Glorfindel spoke his prophecy, and translated into English man and Man cannot be distinguished by sound (but Tolkien had to write one or the other of course).

So the wordplay can include both Eowyn and Merry as far as not falling by the hand of man, and it is even noted that both Eowyn and Merry are included with respect to the prophecy -- see Appendix A, a footnote in the section dealing with the Rohirrim, concerning both Eowyn and Master Holdwine fulfilling the words of Glorfindel.

So they both fulfill the prophecy, as Eowyn is not a man, Merry is not a Man.

But that's different from who delivered the 'killing' blow (as noted it's arguable that the WK could have returned had the One not been destroyed). And in my opinion Eowyn's sword breaking does not mean her strike did not land. Merry's blade was also destroyed in some fashion, if I recall correctly.

Although "man" in that sentence is not capitalised, it speaks of, "of man" rather than "a man", as though it is referring to race rather than sex.

I think this was on purpose. Tolkien arguably implies Man but writes man -- yet if I recall correctly in Appendix A he writes that Master Holdwine also fulfilled the prophecy as he is not a Man but a Halfling (that is, here he writes Man; again if I remember rightly).

In other words the fun of the wordplay is best when including both characters, and forced to write this I think Tolkien tried his best to keep the ambiguity of the spoken word.

I think this is all the genius of JRRT.  Man or man?  Hobbit or Woman? Fantastic at prophecy!

In my mind the Nazgul were only really "Dead" after the destruction of The One. 

Merry's Barrow Blade broke the binding spell which held The Witch Kings spirit to his vessel like body, or what ever was left of it. Eowen finished off the body, the Spirit fled back to Sauron, perhaps..

Man I've only read through UT once and it's been awhile, I really need to pick that up again. Damn you lack of time!!!

On the subject of translations, is it possible that there is no real word or phrase to separate "man" or "a man?" For instance, in English you can say something like "what's up man," which if broken down, could imply either "what's up MY man," as in your friend, or "what's up fellow man," meaning another human being (obviously nobody would use it like this, but technically it would make sense)? So even though the wording is the same, the implication varies. In English the grammatically correct reading would depend on context, which I know is true in other languages like Korean and the native Alaska tongue.

Of course I could be completely wrong, but just a thought...

Either way Glorfindel's prophecy did come true.

1. Ewoyn killed WK, she was a woman not a man

2. Merry killed WK, he was a hobbit not of the race of Men

3. Sauron killed WK, he was bound to the ring and died when sauron and the ring was destroyed. Sauron was a maiar not of the race of Men

4. Frodo/Gollum Killed WK, destroyed the ring ending in the destruction of Sauron and WK. Frodo, a hobbit not of the race of Men

That's true Glorfindel, but the last two seem a bit broad for me, even with respect to the vagueness of this prophecy. Here's the footnote I referred to from Appendix A:

'... mace of the Witch-king; but he was brought to nothing, and thus the words of Glorfindel long before to King Earnur were fulfilled, that the Witch-king would not fall by the hand of man. For it is said in the songs of the Mark that in this deed Éowyn had the aid of Théoden's esquire, and that he also was not a Man but a Halfling out of a far country, though Éomer gave him honour in the Mark and the name of Holdwine.'

So Merry also was not a Man -- 'also' because Eowyn was not a man. That's Tolkien essentially telling his readers how to interpret things, in my opinion anyway. 

About Merry's aid: his blade broke a spell, yes, but one that knit the Witch-king's sinews to his will, which I think means that the Witch-king could not will himself to ward off Éowyn's strike. The connection between will and body was broken by a mere leg wound inflicted by a Hobbit, but a Hobbit not wielding a mere dagger however.

If Merry's strike to the knee had separated the WK's spirit from his 'unseen sinews' (in other words, if his wound had broken a spell that knit these things) then the Wraith would have effectively been 'slain' in my opinion, rendering Éowyn's stroke essentially useless.

Merry strikes, the WK cries out in 'bitter pain', Merry then calls out Éowyn's name, and the choice of wording in the passage does not exactly imply that Éowyn's reply was lightening-quick, as Merry cries out twice and Éowyn is '... tottering, struggling up' before she strikes (yet the wraith does nothing to avoid or parry her sword).

All to deliver a basically useless blow? I don't think so, especially as after she struck another cry went up but faded, and it seemed 'a voice bodiless and thin...'

And her sword shattered as it struck home, as Aragorn says: 'but all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.'

Just my opinion, but to my mind one gives 'aid' to the principle 'doer' of the deed in question, and Eowyn seems to get first billing in this matter, so to speak. I note the word hand from Glorfindel's prophecy, repeated in the following:

'The greatest deed of that day was the deed of Éowyn Eomund's daughter (...) By her hand the Black Captain, The Lord of the Ringwraiths, the Witch-king of Angmar, was destroyed.'

[this is from the Tale of Years, long version (T4, The Peoples of Middle-Earth), concerning which Christopher Tolkien describes: 'As will be seen subsequently, T4 was and remained for a long time the form of the Tale of Years that my father thought appropriate, and was indeed proposed to publishers in 1954.' ]

However Rayner Unwin advised JRRT that this version should be shortened: '... a considerable reduction be made in the accounts of events already told in The Lord of the Rings,...'

Tolkien did reduce his text, and even though T4 was revised (not merely shortened) with respect to certain details, I believe this statement was cut simply due to Rayner Unwin's suggestion. Tolkien's footnote in the Prologue concerning The Tale of Years is interesting here:

'Represented in much reduced form in Appendix B as far as the end of the Third Age'.

So Tolkien tells us that the 'real' Tale of Years has been reduced for the modern English version in his book, which actually is true of the external scenario as well!

On the subject of translations, is it possible that there is no real word or phrase to separate "man" or "a man?"

This brings up an interesting matter, as we know that Glorfindel could not have possibly uttered these words in English.

Glorfindel could have been using Westron in any event, which I think is a likely case here, about which little is known however.

Hm, so it seems the intention all along was the double entendre. It's meant to refer BOTH to females AND other races. Since it was....Earnur(?) who tried to challenge the WK. If I recall he actually came pretty close but his horse panicked in terror which prevented him from giving the final blow.

So considering he is both A man that's OF men, the prophecy came true in both interpretations even before the deeds of Merry and Eowyn. Another little hint from Tolkien that elven prophecies are never what they seem (ie having it exclusively refer to someone not of the race of men is too obvious). In this thread we've assumed it means one or the other, when I think it was SUPPOSED to refer to both. If it was just Merry, he wouldn't have even be able to cut the tendon. If it was just Eowyn, she might not have been able to deliver that "final" blow. Thus, it was "by the hand" of both a female and someone of a race other than Man.

Also another interesting point I read on another forum was the prophecy says nothing about the death of the WK, only his "fall." This could then be interpreted as the event that set in motion a chain of events to help destroy the ring and thus ultimately defeat the WK. So maybe the prophecy actually refers to Frodo (or even Gollum) destroying the ring. That falls more in line with the immediate interpretation of "not by the hand of man will he fall."

Agreed re death versus downfall Balrogs. I believe that until The One Ring was destroyed, the minor rings would endure and the spirits of those who wore the minor rings would also, even if their bodies were crippled or destroyed. So even after his seeming destruction via Merry and Eowyn, the Witch Kings spirit probably drifted, possibly back to Sauron until their ultimate destruction along with The One Ring.

What happened to The Nazgul after that I guess is final death with their long suffering spirits being finally able to go to The Halls of Men with Illuvatar via Mandos's judgement. This of course is a whole other discussion along with what would have happened to The Maia Sauron.

I think Sauron shared the same fate as Saruman. That is that they both were left powerless not being ble to take physical form again. Although I think Sauron would've been cast out of middle earth into the void. But all this is just speculations.

Indis, I really enjoyed reading that article. Thanks for that

No problem, the article is great, isn't it?

Oh, the prophecy. I believe it is a pure JRRT's genius.

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

The most amazing thing for me is that no matter how you look at Witchking's slain - the prophecy will always be true. I believe it took both of them to kill the Witchking of Angmar - both of them and the blade. But no matter which point of view are we talking about - the prophecy is true. Another 'eucatastrophe' created by Tolkien - it all just has to happen, the hobbits are needed and they are there by accident, Eowyn is needed even if she's not supposed to be on the Pelennor Fields, the blade is needed and they happen to find it somehow. I love how it all comes together in different places, at different times and finally the prophecy is fulfilled. This is the beauty of the story.

Personally I find the idea of Sauron and Morgoth rejoining forces in the void actually quite terrifying. After all, it is believed the end of days will be when Morgoth finds a way to enter back into the world from the void.

So having Sauron at his side might expedite that process, if not just slightly...