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Nan Dungortheb

Revision as of 12:59, 24 May 2013 by (Talk)

Nan Dungortheb was the dreadful valley in northern Beleriand that ran west to east between the haunted mountains of the Ered Gorgoroth and the enchanted northern marches of Doriath.[1]



After Ungoliant fled Lammoth and the Balrogs of Morgoth she made her way to the valley below the Ered Gorgoroth. There she bred such horrors that the valley was given the name Nan Dungortheb. After she had departed the land was infested with her offspring.[2] Waters that spilled into the valley from the Ered Gorgoroth were defiled, filling the hearts of those that drank of them with madness and despair. All living things other than the spiders avoided the valley, including the Ñoldor who would only cross it by paths nearest to Doriath.[3]

When Aredhel, daughter of Fingolfin, attempted to ride eastward across Nan Dungortheb her party was separated by the shadows. While she succeeded in reaching Himlad her companions could not find her and were chased away by the spiders. Returning to Gondolin they reported her as lost to Turgon.[4]

Beren, sorely pressed by the forces of Morgoth who sought for him in Dorthonion, passed over the Ered Gorgoroth and crossed Nan Dungortheb from north to south. He never spoke of his journey through this land lest the horror of it return to his mind.[5]


The name Nan Dungortheb is difficult to translate. The direct translation is "Valley of the Horrid West" in Sindarin (from nan = "valley", dûn = "west", and gortheb = "horrible"). However, Tolkien translates the name as "Valley of Dreadful Death", though neither of the Sindarin words for "death" (gurth) or "dreadful" (goeol) are apparent. This may indicate a mistake on Tolkien's part, or an extremely prosaic translation of the name.

Other versions of the legendarium

In The Book of Lost Tales, the land was identified as Nan Dumgorthin, the "Land of the Black Idols". Instead of being inhabited by the offspring of Ungoliant (who never ventured to Middle-earth in this version), it is populated by strange Men that worshiped mysterious deities.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beleriand and its Realms"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Maeglin"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"