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The most infamous of Ungoliant's children lived far to the south and east of the Ered Gorgoroth, on the borders of the land of [[Mordor]]. This was [[Shelob]], who haunted a network of tunnels watching the pass of [[Cirith Ungol]], making a living on hapless [[Orcs]] and anyone else who happened to come down the passage. She had offspring of her own, smaller than she but with a cruel intelligence, that spread throughout the [[Ephel Dúath]] and north into [[Mirkwood]]. The [[Sauron|return of evil]] seems to have emboldened the spiders' hungry tendencies. It was creatures like these that [[Bilbo Baggins]] encountered in ''[[The Hobbit]]'', and after fighting them he gave his sword its name [[Sting]].
 
The most infamous of Ungoliant's children lived far to the south and east of the Ered Gorgoroth, on the borders of the land of [[Mordor]]. This was [[Shelob]], who haunted a network of tunnels watching the pass of [[Cirith Ungol]], making a living on hapless [[Orcs]] and anyone else who happened to come down the passage. She had offspring of her own, smaller than she but with a cruel intelligence, that spread throughout the [[Ephel Dúath]] and north into [[Mirkwood]]. The [[Sauron|return of evil]] seems to have emboldened the spiders' hungry tendencies. It was creatures like these that [[Bilbo Baggins]] encountered in ''[[The Hobbit]]'', and after fighting them he gave his sword its name [[Sting]].
  
Tolkien says of Shelob, "Most '''like''' a spider she was," [emphasis added], and the offspring of Ungoliant differed from normal spiders in respects beyond their enormous size.  Bilbo sees the Mirkwood spiders' eyes as "Insect eyes,"<ref>{{H|8}}</ref> and Shelob's eyes are "clustered" and "many-windowed", with "a thousand facets", like insects' compound eyes.<ref>{{TT|IV9}}</ref>  However, normal spiders do not have compound eyes.  Tolkien may not have been over-concerned with the difference between spiders and insects, as in the same chapter of ''The Hobbit'' he refers to spiders as "hunting and spinning insects". Another difference is that when spiders grow, they moult their skins, but Shelob's hide was "ever thickened from within with layer on layer of evil growth."<ref name=Rateliff>John Rateliff. 2007. ''The History of the Hobbit: Mr. Baggins'', volume 1.  Harper-Collins, p. 322</ref>
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Tolkien says of Shelob, "Most '''like''' a spider she was," [emphasis added], and the offspring of Ungoliant differed from normal spiders in respects beyond their enormous size.  Bilbo sees the Mirkwood spiders' eyes as "Insect eyes,"<ref>{{H|8}}</ref> and Shelob's eyes are "clustered" and "many-windowed", with "a thousand facets", like insects' compound eyes.<ref>{{TT|IV9}}</ref>  However, normal spiders do not have compound eyes.  Tolkien may not have been over-concerned with the difference between spiders and insects, as in the same chapter of ''The Hobbit'' he refers to spiders as "hunting and spinning insects". Another difference is that when spiders grow, they molt their skins, but Shelob's hide was "ever thickened from within with layer on layer of evil growth."<ref name=Rateliff>John Rateliff. 2007. ''The History of the Hobbit: Mr. Baggins'', volume 1.  Harper-Collins, p. 322</ref>
  
 
Shelob is consistently described as "stinging" and having a "sting".<ref>{{TT|IV9}}</ref><ref>{{TT|IV10}}</ref><ref>{{RK|VI9}}</ref> That has been taken to mean a sting like that of some insects, which normal spiders do not have.<ref name=Rateliff/>  However, in the quotation from "Letter 163" in the "Inspiration" section below, Tolkien used the verb "sting" in the rare sense of a spider's bite.  Thus all his references to Shelob's stinging may mean biting.
 
Shelob is consistently described as "stinging" and having a "sting".<ref>{{TT|IV9}}</ref><ref>{{TT|IV10}}</ref><ref>{{RK|VI9}}</ref> That has been taken to mean a sting like that of some insects, which normal spiders do not have.<ref name=Rateliff/>  However, in the quotation from "Letter 163" in the "Inspiration" section below, Tolkien used the verb "sting" in the rare sense of a spider's bite.  Thus all his references to Shelob's stinging may mean biting.
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==Inspiration==
 
==Inspiration==
Tolkien made inconsistent comments on his feelings about spiders.  In a letter to [[W. H. Auden]] (quoted more completely below), he wrote, "I do not dislike spiders particularly, and have no urge to kill them. I usually rescue those whom I find in the bath!"
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Tolkien made inconsistent comments on his feelings about spiders.  In a letter to W. H. Auden (quoted more completely below), he wrote, "I do not dislike spiders particularly, and have no urge to kill them. I usually rescue those whom I find in the bath!"
  
 
However, in an interview with [[Jan Broberg]] in 1961, Tolkien said, as translated by John-Henri Holmberg, "I don't like spiders. It's not a pathological fear, but I rather won't have anything to do with them.<ref>Quoted by {{webcite|author=[[Christina Scull]] and [[Wayne G. Hammond]]|articlename=Addenda and Corrigenda to ''The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide'' (2006), Vol. 2: Reader's Guide: Arranged by Date|dated=Dec. 23, 2010|articleurl=https://www.hammondandscull.com/addenda/guide_by_date.html|website=hammondandscull.com}}</ref>
 
However, in an interview with [[Jan Broberg]] in 1961, Tolkien said, as translated by John-Henri Holmberg, "I don't like spiders. It's not a pathological fear, but I rather won't have anything to do with them.<ref>Quoted by {{webcite|author=[[Christina Scull]] and [[Wayne G. Hammond]]|articlename=Addenda and Corrigenda to ''The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide'' (2006), Vol. 2: Reader's Guide: Arranged by Date|dated=Dec. 23, 2010|articleurl=https://www.hammondandscull.com/addenda/guide_by_date.html|website=hammondandscull.com}}</ref>
  
Likewise the writer Richard Lupoff asked Tolkien whether the giant spiders in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books had inspired Shelob, and Tolkien replied in a [[Letter to Richard Lupoff|letter]],
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Likewise Richard Lupoff asked Tolkien whether the giant spiders in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books had inspired Shelob, and Tolkien replied in a [[Letter to Richard Lupoff|letter]],
  
 
{{quote|Source hunting is a great entertainment but I myself do not find it particularly useful. I did read many of Edgar Rice Burroughs' earlier works, but I developed a dislike for his Tarzan even greater than '''my distaste for spiders'''.  Spiders I had met long before Burroughs began to write, and I do not think he is in any way responsible for Shelob.  At any rate I retain no memory of the Siths or the Apt.|[[Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure]]}}
 
{{quote|Source hunting is a great entertainment but I myself do not find it particularly useful. I did read many of Edgar Rice Burroughs' earlier works, but I developed a dislike for his Tarzan even greater than '''my distaste for spiders'''.  Spiders I had met long before Burroughs began to write, and I do not think he is in any way responsible for Shelob.  At any rate I retain no memory of the Siths or the Apt.|[[Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure]]}}

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