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Thread: Horror in Middle-earth

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Tolkien was a wiz at putting a lot of meaning into few words. He rarely went into great detail about the horrific and menacing things that happened but what he did say was quite spine chilling.

From the Silmarillion : Of Beren and Luthien....

...but Luthien ws stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgorth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for a while, and taking secret pleasure in his thought.....

One dreads to think what evil design he conceived......

And Nienor and Turin.....

Thereat Glaurung stirred for the last time ere he died, and he spoke with his last breath, saying : 'Hail, Nienor, daughter of Hurin. We meet again ere the end. I give thee joy that thou hast found they brother at last....... But the worst of all his deeds thou shalt feel in thyself.'

Not a pleasant subject.

What's the worst horror you've read in Tolkien's work? Torture? Human sacrifice...... ?

I would ask that sensitive subjects are treated sensitively. Please.
Maybe this one which befell Elrond's wife, Celebrian

In 2509 Celebrian wife of Elrond was journeying to Lorien when she was waylaid in the Redhorn Pass, and her escort being scattered by the sudden assault of the Orcs, she was siezed and carried off. She was pursued and rescued by Elladan and Elrohir, but not before she had suffered torment and had received a poisoned wound. She was brought back to Imladris, and though healed in body by Elrond, lost all delight in Middle Earth, and the next year went to the Havens and passed over the Sea.

Tolkien cleverly uses the word torment to let our imaginations conjure a host of dark thoughts. By letting the reader imagine their own personal torments, the effect is stronger than if he had tried to describe a few of them.

Hurin's fate at the hands of Melkor was also terrible.

Therefore Hurin was brought before Morgoth, for Morgoth knew that he had the friendship of the King of Gondolin, but Hurin defied him and mocked him. The Morgoth cursed Hurin and Morwen and their offspring, and set a doom upon them of darkness and sorrow; and taking Hurin from prison he set him in a chair of stone upon a high place of Thangorodrim. There he was bound by the power of Morgoth, and Morgoth standing beside him cursed him again; and he said: "Sit now there; and look out upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom thou lovest. Though hast dared to mock me and to question the power of Melkor, Master of the fates of Arda. Therefore with my eyes thou shalt see, and with my ears thou shalt hear; and never shalt thou move from this place until all is fulfilled unto its bitter end."

Being forced to watch all of the terrible things which then happened to his wife and children, and have them amplified by the lies of Morgoth, must have been terrible. I'd hate to have to sit and watch my children suffer.
Most of the worst deeds done by evil are more mental than physical...the one Val mentiond about Hurin, Sauron's tormenting of the guy who betrayed Barahir by fooling him with an illusion of his dead wife, Glaurung telling Turin he has accidentaly married his sister, etc. I think he is right in that such horrors can be greater than physical pain or disfigurement - e.g. Turin and Nienor are driven to kill themselves by Glaurungs words.

He can do the gory as well though: the orcs kill Gwindor's brother by chopping him into pieces in front of Fingon's army, provoking a disasterously rash response...though even here there is cunning and malice at work rather than mere brutality.
The Return of the King - The Siege of Gondor:

All about the streets and lanes behind the Gate it tumbled down, small round shot that did not burn. But when men ran to learn what it might be, they cried aloud or wept. For the enemy was flinging into the City all the heads of those who had fallen fighting at Osgiliath, or on the Rammas, or in the fields. They were grim to look on; for though some were crushed and shapeless, and some had been cruelly hewn, yet many had features that could be told, and it seemed that they had died in pain; and all were branded with the foul token of the Lidless Eye. But marred and dishonoured as they were, it often chanced that thus a man would see again the face of someone that he had known, who had walked proudly once in arms, or tilled the fields, or ridden in upon a holiday from the green vales in the hills.
But the worst of all his deeds thou shalt feel in thyself.
You could stab me in the guts with a dagger of ice and I would feel better than I do when I read this. It kills me to read it.. Sad Smilie

Tolkien knows how to paint both the most gruesome and the most beautiful images in our heads.
You both found excellent quotes! Thanks, it's always good to be reminded about the best bits of Tolkien, even if they are about a grim subject.
I "like" the one where Morgoth pins that guy....umm....memory lapse....onto the mountain to watch all his evil in progress. You know the one....
That would be Hurin and the quote is in Val's above post.
Ah yes Grondy , i see Elf With a Big Grin Smilie . Iv been under a lot of stress because my exams.
I "like" the one where Morgoth pins that guy....umm....memory lapse....onto the mountain to watch all his evil in progress. You know the one....

That would be Hurin and the quote is in Val's above post.

It could also refer to Maedhros who was bound by the right hand to the mountain until Fingon was able to rescue him.
Yes - some of Tolkien's horrors decidedly can make one sick. For me, one of the worst is that song sung by the goblins in "The Hobbit":
Bake and toast'em, fry and roast'em!
till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;
till hair smells, and skins crack,
fat melts, and bones black
in cinders lie
beneath the sky!

Another scary bit is that short poem "The Mewlips" from "The Tolkien reader.
you mean this from 'The ADventures of Tom Bombadil and other stories?'


The shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

you sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.

Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.

Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool's borders without wind or tide,
moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.

The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.

Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish falp-flip,

As they sidle to the door.

They eep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they've finished, in sack
Kyour bones they take to keep.

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and the gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed.

Doesn't exactly end on a pleasant note, does it?

Even THE SPOTTED DAISY doesn't feel that great.
Dear Loni,
Who are the Mewlips??? Wary Smilie They sound a bit evil...
Who are the Mewlips???
And the answer is:
According to the lore of hobbits, an evil race of cannibal spirits called the mewlips settled in certain marshlands of Middle-earth. Hoarding phantoms very like the dreaded barrow-wights they seemed, but they made their homes in foul and dank swamps. Travellers in their lands always walked in peril, for many were said to be waylaid by these beings.
The poem Loni quoted is by Professor Tolkien and can be found in The Tolkien Reader.
Dear Grondmaster,
Thanks for the info on the mewlips. Imagine one of those in the real world today? Pixie Smilie
Today they are more commonly known as 'Traffic Wardens'.

Wiggle Smilie
I found the death of Turin one of the most powerful moments in middle-earth. also, the casting of the silmarils into the seaa and fire poignant for some reason, the fall of gondolin and numenor, and the strife of the teleri coming across the ice tomiddle -earth.... theres so much. fforgive any errors, very slightly inebriated and tired.........
Yes..i agree with Durin. There is so much to choose from.. Tolkien is apt to descripbe anything into detail, the light,good & beautifull, as well as the dark,evil & terrible.
Imagine being nurtured by Ioreth in the Houses of Healing and be forced to listen to her eulogies about every gossip running around the White City.

Now that is real horror! No wonder Lady ’owyn ran off with Faramir so quickly...
haha, how rich that is dear Vir.I must say she made me want to scale a tall building and leap off. That is why I am one of those females that hates talking on the phone. argh, or hanging out at the mall with the girls, aaaaaaaaaah, or even at the gym. you begin to wonder if all knowledge and wisdom and common sense has passed forever from this city anyway. Smile Smilie(not to mention the horrendous t hings I have bought under pressure!)
Yes there are so many moments. All of the above mentioned hurt me so much. And Gollum's sneaking into windows and looking for cradles. Poor poor innocent babies. The terror of his face, the pain.The poor mothers and fathers, their never ending grief.
And the way all living things went quite mad at the approach of the Witch king and the other eight.That growing horror, all that sniffing.It makes you feel weak.
Perhaps it has already been mentioned but what about Celebrimbor being slain and then filled with arrows and used as a banner by the Orcs.
The cradles thing doesn't bother me too much. I mean you cannot expact Gollum to live exclusively off raw fish. A nice bit of fried baby would go down a treat for him I should think. Some sacrifices have to be made if your trying to stay alive - babies are easy meat - survival of the fittest and all thats.
Its far worse in the Natural World. A male lion or gorilla would kill its infant if it came too close.
The reason Tolkien put in that bit about snatching babies from their cradles is because it IS horrible. In the wild, animals follow their instinct on how to survive--sometimes doing things that we do not understand. But humans are supposed to act with reason, and so the very thought of losing a child is this manner is repulsive. Tolkien thought so, or he would not have used it in this fashion. Gollum cannot be excused, because he knew better at one time, though his morals were deeply buried by later events. So we should not speak of "survival of the fittest," since that is not what this is about at all.
By the time we are refering to I think the Ring had robbed Gollum of any morals left. And I must admit if I were in his exact place, starving, corrupted, very few, if any morality left and hearing the sound of fresh white meat crying only a little way off I wouldn't pass up the opputunity if it meant death was the alternative. Though I must admit I would have to cook the meat first. I couldn't handle it raw. Very Big Grin Smilie
Well it's a good thing that you are not Gollum Elf Sticking Tounge Out Smilie
The fact that Gollum might be starving--highly doubtful--is not an excuse for Gollum to kill babies to eat. Tolkien was indicating Gollum's wickedness, not his lack of food.
And besides Gollum had never read Jonathan Swift's essay, A Modest Proposal.

He also would never have cooked the babies prior to eating them: 'Stew the babies!' squealed Gollum in dismay. 'Spoil beautiful meat Sm’agol saved for you, poor hungry Sm’agol!What for, silly hobbit? They are young, they are tender, they are nice. Eat them, eat them!'
Shocked Elf Smilie
In the wild, animals follow their instinct on how to survive--sometimes doing things that we do not understand.

That's a good point. Gollum is more like a talking snake than a person. The snake doesn't care if it is eating a "ugly" rat or a "cute" squirrel. Or a kitten. Meat is meat. Gollum had been eating fish and orc children for a looooooooong time, it's not so strange that he kept eating fish and children after he left the cave. The Ring had made him primitive.
Glad someone agrees.
I agree with Gandalf that since Gollum had once lived amongst people and hence should know better, his baby-eating is inexcusable. He is not some kind of Jungle Book figure who was raised by animals and hence purely learnt to act by instinct.

Gollum became deprivated, this is true, but he always kept his wicked human intelligence - just look at the game of riddles he played with Bilbo. He simply buried all his morals, he never became an animal.
Gollum lived 500 hundred years or so. He had the Ring for most of that time and it became his ONLY concern. When the Ring was lost to him therefore he had to revert back to surviving in the wild trying to find it, something he hadn't done for hundreds of years and no doubt had mostly forgot.
You can hardly expect him to remember what morals even are let alone to distinguish between them. Even setting aside the Ring's hold on him I very much doubt he would remember much of anything about the outside world after those hundreds of years unless it was connected to the Ring in some way (for example his old life by the River when he found the ring etc).
I should elaborate a bit I think. What I mean is that he didn’t take the babies to say "look at me! I am evil!" But he had been (and been exposed to) evil for so long that such a horrible act was a logical thing to do. Deep down Gollum/Smeagol knows this is bad, which is what seperate him from animals. Even if his humanity is reduced and buried, it is still there.
If you have lost a Watch in your house, you know its there but you can never find it, does that mean you can still tell the time with it?
ungoliant is one of the horrers of middle earth aswell
I think the biting off of Frodo's finger is also quite frightening. Mutilation is always nasty.
Well that doesn't sound frightening? he lost only one of the 10 fingers so its not a great loss.
As regards Smeagol and the eating of babies, he was a Hobbit and therefore knew right from wrong. He chose to do evil acts presumably because of the effect the ring had on him, as it had started to have on Bilbo and Frodo. But he still knew what was right and what was wrong. The ring, filled with the essence of Sauron was an evil thing itself and brought out the evil, or selfish part of one's nature. Even Gandalf was loth to touch it, so Smeagol, already a murderer before he ever wore the ring, stood little chance of not being corrupted by it.
I think Gollum's life is a quite a sad story and not to mention he is ugly and mental because of the ring. He killed his best friend for it(pretty nasty) and made the least of his life. He'd been banished for killing Deagol and lived for five hundred years he lived in the tunnels of the Misty Mountains eating raw fish(Eew) and living in a Goblin tunnel. He is quite crazy in the head you know.And then Bilbo got the ring(a disaster for gollum and his "Preciouss") and then he had been wondering around and got captured by the enemy, tortured until he said "Shire" "Baggins" then he got captured by Aragon locked up in a tree escaped, and hid in the mines of Moria. He had been acting as guide for them, not to mention having a split mind bit off Frodo's fingerand died in the Cracks of Doom. Not a nice story is it?

The Hill of Slain for me was pretty horrific.  to think of how many bodies it would require to build such a massive mound.  Again Tolkien manages to meter this tragedy with a spark of light, the grass grew greener here than anywhere else...  Or something to that effect.

i so agree with Vir. There is no excuse ever ever ever for killing and eating infants. To see the helpless infant scream, to tear it's little body. The minute I read that , all the sorrow and empathy I ever had for that creep drained away, like sand through a sieve. He was given life and he chose to rob it from the most vulnerable of creatures.

Haudh-en-Ndengin. The Hill of Slain. As Brego mentioned is, to me, an awe filling sight that caused me to ponder it for a long time. Creating a picture in my mind and also looking at Ted Nasmith's wonderful description of it in his painting with Morwen grieving beside it. Such an awful, heart-wrenching sight. Yet, in it's own way, so meaningful. I imagine new, green, living grass coming up among the rusty, blood splattered armor, swords, bones, and stones. Saddening, but overflowing with hidden meaning and new life after the dead. So dreadful though. I am grieving along with Morwen.

Here is a link to Ted Nasmith's painting. The vultures, the bones, the blood, the little bits of green and Morwen standing solemnly weeping.

Great link Wen. Truly Horrific. The thought of Rian's grief at the site of it and the fact that upon seeing it laying down on the huge hill of death to die is astounding. In this chapter I believe tha JRRR is forcing us to see the true humility of war.

These are such excellent examples of the devastating effect in which Tolkien uses even the most subtly  crafted phrases. I got chills rereading these excerpts.

We should also remember the devastation caused to the Shire by Saruman. His spite and hatred took effect over such a small amount of time. A whole community all but destroyed, while the locals stood by a watched. Many lessons here, again with many real examples probably lived through during the early part of last century by JRRT. Truly wars effects last a long time after it ends.... True tangible horror reflected around the world, even today.

Mewlips:Tolkie's zombies.

In terms of saying very little, but leaving the readers imagination to fill in the gaps, the barrow wights show Tolkien's mastery of the craft. Chilling.     

One sigle word can describe horror in middle earth: Balrogs.