Tolkien Gateway

Cirith Ungol

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Cirith Ungol by Rob Alexander

Cirith Ungol ("Spider's Cleft" in Sindarin) was the pass through the western mountains of Mordor and the only way towards the land from the west.

It was guarded by the Tower of Cirith Ungol, built by the Men of Gondor after the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was fought.

Its principal purpose was to defend Ithilien from attacks from Sauron's remaining servants. For that reason its two bastions were directed to the north- and southeast. It also served to stop Sauron's servants from returning to Mordor.

Gondor occupied the fortress until Third Age 1636 when the Great Plague killed large parts of Gondor's population. After the plague, Gondor never again occupied Cirith Ungol and evil was allowed to return to Mordor. The fortress was associated with the mountain fortress of Durthang in northwestern Mordor, and the Towers of the Teeth at the Morannon.

During the War of the Ring, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were led to this pass by Gollum to the lair of the giant spider Shelob who dwelt there.

It is not known whether the pass and the tower were called Cirith Ungol when the Men of Gondor held it since Shelob could not have inhabited the cavernous entrance of the pass at that time.