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Tower of Cirith Ungol

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The Tower of Cirith Ungol
General Information
LocationEphel Dúath
DescriptionBlack tower
RegionsGondor (? - T.A. 1636) /Mordor (T.A. 1980 - T.A. 3019)
People and History
EventsQuest of the Ring, Battle of Cirith Ungol

The Tower of Cirith Ungol (Sindarin, "Spider's cleft") was a bastion in Mordor. It is the main location in the first chapter of Book VI, The Tower of Cirith Ungol.


The Tower of Cirith Ungol was originally a watchtower of Gondor guarding the high pass over the Ephel Dúath. Its principal purpose was to defend Ithilien from attacks from Sauron's remaining servants. It also served to stop Sauron's servants from returning to Mordor.

Gondor occupied the fortress until T.A. 1636 when the Great Plague killed large parts of Gondor's population. After the plague, Gondor never again manned the Tower of Cirith Ungol and evil was allowed to return to Mordor. Similar fates suffered the mountain fortress of Durthang in northwestern Mordor, and the Towers of the Teeth at the Morannon.

During the War of the Ring, Orcs from the Tower, under the command of Shagrat, brought Frodo there for questioning after finding his unconcious body in the Pass below. Only after overhearing their conversation did Sam realize that Frodo had been paralyzed by Shelob, and not killed as he first thought.

When the orcs searched Frodo, they found the shirt of mithril mail he was wearing. A contingent of orcs from Minas Morgul led by Gorbag was also present at the tower, and Gorbag and Shagrat fought for possession of the mithril. The fighting spread throughout the tower, and most of the orcs on both sides were killed, making it possible for Sam to enter the tower and rescue Frodo.


The Tower stood against the mountainface, pointing East, into Mordor. It was made by the Gondorians some time after the Siege of Barad-dûr. It was made of black stone, possibly the same material as Orthanc and the Stone of Erech.

The lower section of the Tower consisted of three tiers, with a sharp angle pointing East. The lowest tier was protected by a 30 feet high wall, and the main gate was guarded by the Two Watchers. These were made by Sauron, not by the Gondorians. The Watchers spun a web of magic that denied passage to the fortress.

On top of the three tiers stood a round turret, visible from Shelob's Lair. Tolkien made three drawings of the Tower were only the turret is visible (TAI 171, 172, 173), and one with the entire bastion (TAI 174). This last picture depicts the Tower in an earlier stage of writing, with four tiers.