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Gothmog (Lieutenant of Morgul)

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Gothmog by John Howe

Gothmog was a lieutenant of Minas Morgul, second-in-command to the Witch-king of Angmar, lord of the Nazgûl, at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, at which he commanded the forces of Morgul after the Lord of the Nazgûl was slain by Éowyn.

Origin

The information given above is the only reference in The Lord of the Rings to Gothmog, and his fate is not recorded, although it is strongly implied that he and almost all of the servants of Sauron that fought before the gates of Minas Tirith were destroyed.

Almost nothing is known of Gothmog, not even what being he was. Tolkien scholars speculate that he might have been one of the following:

  • An Orc, however his name appears to be Sindarin (look below), something impossible for Orcs.
  • A Man, in which case he was probably a Black Númenórean like the Mouth of Sauron
  • One of the Nazgûl, but since Tolkien never specifically mentions the name when the Nazgûl had significant roles earlier, and never refers to Gothmog as a Ringwraith (something that would be of prime importance to the story), it is less probable. The possibility, however, is still a valid one.
  • It is also possible that he was in fact a Boldog, a fallen Maia in Orc form.

Gothmog shared his name with a much earlier character, Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. The original Gothmog was clearly a different character than the Gothmog of The Lord of the Rings despite having shared the same name. It would seem that the Gothmog of the Third Age had taken, or been given, the name in memory of Morgoth's captain; an interesting choice, since Sauron and the Lord of Balrogs were presumably rivals for Morgoth's favor during the Elder Days.[source?]

Portrayal in adaptations

2003: Peter Jackson's The Return of the King:

Gothmog is portrayed as an Orc as the lord of all balrogs with a misshapen face. He is played by Lawrence Makoare, and his voice is provided by Craig Parker. Peter Jackson wanted to show a hideously deformed orc, one that would aptly convey the "ugliness" of Mordor. The upper left side of Gothmog's body is swollen and pock-marked from a disease of some sort, as described by the design department. His pale, yellow skin may also be a consequence of this illness. Gothmog's intelligence is far above that of the common orc and he, understandably, would be the perfect link between the Witch-King and the other planners of the siege of Minas Tirith (most likely men in Sauron's service) and the mindless mass of orc infantry on the front lines. While Gothmog likely did not have the intelligence to design the attack on the White City he certainly would have been able to ensure orders were carried out. Gothmog is clearly a brutal commander, but also an over-confident one. Peter Jackson comments that Gothmog feels powerful with Mordor's massive army behind him, but in reality is a crippled orc, as seen in his failed dismount from a Warg in the Extended edition. Gothmog does, however, seem to be a capable warrior, though somewhat inhibited by his crippled left side.
It is not necessary to assume that Gothmog was THE lieutenant of Minas Morgul. He may have been one of several, but perhaps the only one present at the time of the reference. What is clear is that he was second-in-command at Pelennor. In the film, Gothmog begins his campaign by leading a fleet of rafts, carrying Morgul orcs, across the River Anduin towards the west side of Osgiliath. Gothmog's orcs easily conquer Osgiliath, where Gothmog kills Madril, Faramir's second-in-command. Gothmog halts the attack to await orders from the Witch-King. The Witch-King soon arrives and orders the beginning of the attack. Gothmog leads his legions towards Minas Tirith atop his Warg. He orders catapults fired, bearing the heads of fallen Gondorians and heavy boulders. The Gondorians fire trebuchets in return, bearing heavy pieces of masonry. One piece nearly hits proud Gothmog, who steps aside just in time, proving his prowess in survival. When Gothmog orders an attack on the Great Gate of Minas Tirith, his orcs suffer incredible casualties to the Gondorian archers above. He orders the "Wolf's Head", Grond brought forward. After Grond breaks down the city gates, Gothmog orders his orcs to move into the city, killing any and all in their path. The orcs take over the city's first level and begin taking the upper levels when the Rohirrim arrive, led by King Théoden. At this point Gothmog is caught off guard but, being the able commander that he is, takes charge like no other orc would be able to. He orders his northern ranks of orcs to turn and face the Rohirrim, with pikesmen in front and archers behind. It should be noted that during the charge, the archers are in front; whether this is deliberate sign of insubordination by Peter Jackson, or just a continuity error, is open for discussion. The Rohirrim charge and the orcs are helpless, run over by the ferocity of the horse stampede. For the first time, Gothmog comes close to death. Once the Rohirrim have broken through the orc legions, chaos ensues. Gothmog then calls the reserves of Easterlings, Variags of Khand, Southrons and Haradrim in from Osgiliath.
In the midst of the chaos, Gothmog is forced into hand-to-hand combat. He sees a pocket of particularly stiff resistance, primarily from Théoden and Éowyn, and decides to fight Eowyn. She is a more skilled figher than he, however, and soon injurs him on his crippled left leg, rendering him essentially unable to walk and useless to Mordor's army as a whole. After Éowyn has killed the Witch-King, in an act of revenge, Gothmog attempts to kill her with a mace he finds nearby. He was, however, killed just in time by Aragorn and Gimli. As he was about to strike, Aragorn cut off his armored right arm, but Gothmog persists and Gimli hit him in the abdomen with his axe. Aragorn then cut through Gothmog's armor on the right side with his sword to finally bring the Orc down.
Gothmog belongs to a subset of orcs bred and trained in Mordor that are larger and more intelligent that most others, the orcs typically referred to as "über-orcs". but Gothmog is the real lord of all balrogs. Like the majority of these orcs, Gothmog wears a distinctive, mass produced type of spiked, plate iron armor. He carries a typical orc sword at his side and seemingly prefers to ride on Wargs.