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"Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert."
Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"

Were-worms were creatures of an unknown kind, possibly mythical and presumably related to the Dragons, that were said to dwell in the Last Desert.[1]


[edit] History

The Were-worms were only mentioned once so almost nothing is known about them. It is not even certain that they actually existed — the Hobbits had a rich folklore full of fantastic creatures, and Were-worms quite possibly fall into that category.

[edit] Etymology

The element "were-" is a Germanic term that refers to male humans. It suggests a shapeshifting creature like the werewolf of modern-day folktales. In Middle-earth, "Werewolves", such as Draugluin, did not shapechange and the name perhaps refers to the size and intelligence.[source?]

Thus Were-worms, if they did exist, could be a man-like type of Dragon, though this must remain in the realm of speculation.

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

In the earliest fragment of The Hobbit, Bilbo offered to walk to the "Great Desert of Gobi and fight the Wild Wire worms of the Chinese".[2] In a slightly later version J.R.R. Tolkien made this "the last desert in the East and fight the Wild Wireworms of the Chinese".[3] "Wireworms" in real life is the name for crop pests, click beetle (Elateridae) larvae.[4][5]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

Images of were-worms in adaptations

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Were-worms are depicted as a very unusual breed of legless, wingless dragon, capable of altering their shapes. They are divided into two varieties: Sand-drakes, animalistic beasts that can mimic the characteristics of objects they touch, and true were-worms, intelligent beings who use sorcery to take on the forms of other things.[6]

2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

Azog's forces use giant worms to tunnel underground towards the city of Dale, which Azog calls "earth eaters". When the creatures appear during the Battle of Five Armies, Gandalf identifies them as "were-worms". In the film, they are depicted as absolutely gigantic, with Weta Digital stating that they are 400 feet long, and 75 feet in diameter. Apparently they are only used for tunneling, not fighting, because they do not take part in the ensuing battle.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The First Phase, "The Pryftan Fragment", p. 9
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The First Phase, "The Bladorthin Typescript", p. 40
  4. "Wireworms", Purdue University Field Crops Entomology (accessed 4 September 2020)
  5. "Elateridae", Tree of Life web project (accessed 4 September 2020)
  6. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
Legendary Races of Arda
 Animals:  Dumbledors · Gorcrows · Hummerhorns · Pards · Swans of Gorbelgod · Turtle-fish
Dragon-kind:  Sea-serpents · Spark-dragons · Were-worms
Evil Races:  Ettens · Giants · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Two-headed Trolls
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless Things · Spectres
Individuals:  The Hunter · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim · White cow