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John Howe - Sam and Shelob.jpg
Biographical Information
Other namesHer Ladyship
Created/bornPossibly early in the First Age
RealmNan Dungortheb (First Age); Cirith Ungol (Second Age onwards)
Physical Description
AppearanceAs a large spider

Shelob was a great spider-like creature descended from the demonic entity known as Ungoliant.


[edit] History

Shelob was a huge creature in spider form, apparently the spawn of Ungoliant and some lesser spider of Arda and was akin to those of Nan Dungortheb in Beleriand.[1] She dwelt high in the mountains of Mordor, having established her lair there before Sauron claimed Mordor as his own. Her offspring were to be seen in Ephel Dúath and Mirkwood.[1]

Shelob spent her early days feeding off Elves and Men, but as these became scarce in the area, she fed upon orcs. Sauron would sometimes send her captured prisoners for whom he had no further use and amuse himself watching how she played with her prey. Even though they did not communicate, Sauron and Shelob understood each other. Shelob was like a pet to Sauron, and she served as a secure guardian of the pass of Cirith Ungol to prevent any intruders from entering the dark land.

Eytan Eylul Guler - Shelob and Sam

While looking for the One Ring, Gollum was trapped by her, but he managed somehow to communicate with her and promised to bring her more food if she released him. Indeed, Gollum (whom the orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol call "Shelob's Sneak") brought Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins near her Lair while seeking Mount Doom.

While put off by the Phial of Galadriel in the tunnels, she intercepted them again outside and attacked Frodo, stinging him into a death-like coma. Sam managed to defeat her by letting her impale herself upon Sting when she tried to crush him under her massive body. Wounded, she fled to her lair and was never seen again.

Thinking Frodo dead, Sam took the One Ring from him and left his body behind, but discovered by listening to a party of Orcs that Shelob's venom was not intended to kill its victims but only to render them unconscious and keep their meat fresh.

Shelob may have eventually died of starvation caused by her inability to hunt while blind.[1]

[edit] Etymology

The name Shelob is derived from "lob", an archaic English word for spider. A variation, "cob" is the derivation of the word "cobweb". The first element, "she", simply mentions the spider's gender.[2]

Robert Foster mistakenly classified the name as Sindarin, failing to provide a translation.[1]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Shelob was voiced by Jenny Lee. Lee had no dialogue, but hissed to convey Shelob's menace, then made a bubbling noise to suggest the passing of her poison into Frodo. Finally, she made a roaring sound during her fight with Sam to convey her pain when Sam's thrusts found their mark.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Shelob can be seen to have a retractable venomous sting at the rear end between the spinnerets, resembling a wasp's sting. This is very much unlike real spiders which inject venom with their fangs but accurate relative to the novel. Shelob also appears to have a gaping mouth, whereas real spiders can ingest only liquid.
In the book, on the other hand, "clusters" of eyes are mentioned, which may suggest compound eyes like those of insects; the Shelob in the movie does not have compound eyes, which is appropriate. A hunting spider of the family Lycosidae,[source?] which Shelob most closely resembles, would have two large eyes facing forward, and a few smaller ones almost hidden below. The only spiders that can reasonably be said to have "clustered" eyes (though not true compound eyes) are the daddy long-legs spiders of the family Pholcidae, but Shelob does not resemble these rather spindly and fragile spiders in other aspects of her physique.

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 353, entry "Shelob"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 70, (dated 21 May 1944)

[edit] See also