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Giants were one of the mysterious races of Middle-earth, mentioned only fleetingly.



Giants are beings shrouded in mystery. Gandalf the Grey was known for telling stories about "dragons and goblins and giants"[1] and Bilbo had heard of "horrible names of" the giants in tales,[2] but none of these tales survive and the origin and history of the giants are obscure. Presumably, all giants were not evil, as Gandalf seems to have convinced "a more or less decent giant" to block the entrance to Goblin-town at the top of the High Pass in the Misty Mountains.[3][4]

However, what is known is that stone-giants lived in the Misty Mountains during the late Third Age. Upon coming, they drove out the majority of the bears that lived there.[5] They found a sport in throwing rocks at each other, and then into the depths below them to hear them shatter trees.[6]

A local legend among the indigenous people of Gondor told of giants making the White Mountains, to keep Men out of their lands by the Sea. One of them, Stiff-neck, tripped, and broke his neck. The other giants did not clean up his body, which became incorporated in the land instead. The giant's neck became Tarlang's Neck, his head Dol Tarlang, and the stones he was carrying Cûl Veleg and Cûl Bîn.[7]

Other versions of the Legendarium

Giants originally had a larger part in the legendarium. It is quite possible that their appearance in The Hobbit is a relic from those days. They were originally counted among the Úvanimor, servants of Melko,[8] but John D. Rateliff argued that they might have become "free agents"; not wicked, but simply not aware of their surroundings.[4] In the early writings, two giants are named: Nan and Gilim.[9][10] Gilim is Gnomish for "winter", and Nan was said to be like an Elm-tree.

The above makes the connection between Giants and Ents within Tolkien's imagination clear;[4] "Ent" comes from an Old English word for "giant",[11] seen at various points in Beowulf, for example line 2717, enta geweorc, "the work of giants".[12] Giants were the wicked precursors of Ents: it was the Giant Treebeard who held Gandalf captive, not Saruman, in early versions.[13]


An early Root for "giant" is given as NOROTH. This yields Quenya norsa.[14] A discarded Quenya word was hanaco, from a root KHAN-AK.[15]

Other Fiction

A giant troubles Farmer Giles' land, who chases him off with his blunderbuss.[16]

Portrayal in adaptations

1982: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Several divisions and races of giants are described and given statistics, such as Stone Giants[17], Ice Giants[18], Giants of the Southern Misty Mountains[19], and Red Giants[20].
File:Thunder's Companion.jpg
Thunder's Companion by Nicholas Jainschigg for MECCG

1989: The Hobbit (graphic novel):

Giants are displayed as bearded gigantic men with regular leather attire.

1995: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Giants, called Thunder's Companions, are one of the Hazard Creatures.

2003: Sierra's The Hobbit:

Stone-giants are golem-like creatures that appear in the fourth level, hurling rocks at Bilbo as he tries to travel along a mountain path. They are completely made of stone, and their stones are dangerous.[21]

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

"Mountain Giants" are large and powerful beings in the Goblin faction. They can hurl stones.

See Also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, "Goblins", "(iii): The Giants", page 143-5
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings, omitted entry quoted in Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pages 536-7
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "Gilfanon's Tale: The Travail of the Noldoli and the Coming of Mankind"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto V (Lúthien's captivity in Doriath)" (verse 1497)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Tale of Tinúviel"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford, Note on the Entish Lands"
  12. Howell D. Chickering, Jr., "Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition", page 212-3
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Third Phase (3): To Weathertop and Rivendell"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies" (cf. Root NOROTH)
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part One" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 45, November 2003 (pp. 3-39, esp. 21)
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham
  17. Carl Willner (1985), Goblin-gate and Eagle's Eyrie (#8070)
  18. Randy Maxwell (1997), The Northern Waste (#2025)
  19. Randell E. Doty (1987), Dunland and the Southern Misty Mountains (#3600)
  20. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  21. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Over Hill and Under Hill"
Legendary Races of Arda
 Animals:  Dumbledors · Gorcrows · Hummerhorns · Pards · Swans of Gorbelgod · Turtle-fish
Dragon-kind:  Great glow-worms · Sea-serpents · Spark-dragons · Were-worms
Evil Races:  Giants · Gongs · Half-trolls · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Two-headed Trolls
Fairies:  Dryads · Mermaids · Sprites · Sylphs · White cow
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless Things · Spectres
Individuals:  The Hunter · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim