Dunharrow was a refuge of the Rohirrim hidden in the White Mountains and fortified against attack. Dunharrow was a clifftop overlooking Harrowdale, the valley of the river Snowbourn.
In order to reach the refuge, a winding path had to be used, known as the Stair of the Hold leading to the "Firienfeld", a large grassy area for the encampment of soldiers and refuge-seekers.
Large carved stones marked the entrance to the Dimholt, a natural amphitheater, which led into the Paths of the Dead.
Dunharrow had been used as a refuge sacred place by the Pre-Númenórean Middle Men of the White Mountains during the Second Age — nearly three millennia before the establishment of the Kingdom of Rohan.
Those Men of the White Mountains had lined the winding path with statues known as the Púkel-men — statues originally carved in the likeness of the Drúedain.
When the Rohirrim came to the region, the recognized the "heathen fane" and they used it as a refuge.
Tolkien made Dunharrow the Modern English form of Rohirric (Old English) Dūnhaerg, meaning "the heathen fane on the hillside".
Tolkien notes that he modernized the element haerg since harrow exists as an element in English place-names.
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 750-781