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The Shadow is a very broad and abstract term that seems to be used in reference to the darkening of the minds of people as a result of the Marring of Arda. It was usually applied to societies of races that were under the sway of the corrupting power of Morgoth or Sauron; such groups were said to be "under the Shadow" or to have "fallen under the Shadow". An example of this usage is that of the realm of Númenor; 2,000 years after its founding "the Shadow fell upon" it when its people became restless and began to envy the immortality of the Elves.

A few kindreds of Dwarves also fell under the Shadow, especially among those clans that lived in the mountains to the far east of Middle-earth. Some Dwarves fought on Sauron's side during the Last Alliance.

Though the Shadow was less evident among populations of the Elves, the Shadow of the Kinslaying lay upon the kindred of the Noldor.

The term is also a euphemism that alludes to the seduction of Men by Morgoth in the beginning of their history: "Men came forth in the East of the world; but they fell under the shadow of the Enemy". This usage is similar to the other examples above, but is more far-reaching in that all Men living at that time were said to have succumbed to Morgoth's power.

In more general apllications, "Shadow" is a term that apparently refers to the bewilderment and darkness accompanying certain enchantments. Sauron's tower of Barad-dûr was surrounded by Shadow, and the word is also associated with the land of Lórien and with the Ents.