Battle of Cirith Ungol

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Cirith Ungol refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Cirith Ungol (disambiguation).
Battle of Cirith Ungol
Conflict: War of the Ring
Date: 14 March T.A. 3019
Place: Tower of Cirith Ungol
Outcome: Tower emptied, Frodo Baggins liberated

Orcs of Cirith Ungol

Orcs of Minas Morgul




  • More than 80 Orcs, including an unknown number of bowmen

All Orcs save Shagrat and Snaga

All Orcs

The Battle of Cirith Ungol was a battle fought between the Orc-garrison of Cirith Ungol, and a company of Orcs of Minas Morgul.

Cause[edit | edit source]

On 10 March, Frodo Baggins and his servant Samwise Gamgee passed Minas Morgul.[1] This was noticed by the Two Watchers, but a patrol led by Gorbag was not sent out until the 11th or 12th. On the 13th, a message also reached the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Shagrat, commander of the Tower and the Pass, set out. About an hour later, they met Gorbag's company, and quarrelled shortly. It was then that they found the body of Frodo, who had been paralyzed by Shelob. Although they realized there had to be more than one intruder (described by the Orcs as a "great Elf-warrior"), they took Frodo to the tower via the Under-way, which led them into Shelob's Lair for a short time.[2]

Battle[edit | edit source]

Frodo was stored in the topmost chamber of the tower, as Shagrat did not trust all of his troops, and none of Gorbag's. When the prisoner was stripped and searched, Shagrat and Gorbag fought over possession of the artefacts: a Mithril shirt, an Elvish cape, and a Barrow-blade. Gorbag especially wanted the mithril shirt. A fight ensued, which soon involved all present in the Tower. Shagrat was stabbed by Gorbag, but Shagrat managed to slay the other orc. Gorbag's troops reached the gate first, and shot Lagduf and Muzgash, along with all of the others. Shagrat killed Radbug, and threatened to do the same to Snaga if he continued to flout him. Snaga did, and Shagrat chased him. Snaga was saved when Shagrat realized Gorbag was not dead. As Shagrat choked Gorbag, Snaga went to the top of the turret.[3]

Consequences[edit | edit source]

Directly in the wake of the battle, Sam passed the Silent Watchers and found most of the Orcs dead. Sam met Snaga upon the stairs, causing the Orc to flee upwards. After Shagrat had killed Gorbag he ran down the stairs with a bundle of Frodo's possessions. Encountering Sam, Shagrat fended off the hobbit and continued on his way out of the Tower. In the meantime, Sam ascended the Tower and killed Snaga when he whipped Frodo. After Sam had rescued Frodo the two hobbits were able to continue their mission to Mount Doom.[3]

News of the hobbits' capture did not reach Barad-dûr until 15 March. Unfortunately for Shagrat, so did news of their escape. On 17 March, upon bringing the tokens to Sauron,[1] Shagrat was slain in anger.

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

The tower's name is incorrectly referred to as "Sirith Ungol". Sam battles the tower's heavy gates. In front of the door, he miraculously finds both the Ring, the elven cloak and Sting; the movie does not depict Shelob or Frodo's capture. Sam enters through Shelob's Lair. The Battle is only depicted as two Orcs fighting (one with a morning star, the other with a scimitar), until the Ring urges Sam to go on without Frodo. When Sam comes back (because of simple "Hobbit sense"), he walks past the Watchers with the Phial of Galadriel. Passing the Watchers sets of an alarm, but few are left to attack the "Great Elf-warrior". Strangely, one remaining Orc on the steps knows what a Hobbit is. After slaying the very last Orc - who is flogging Frodo - Sam rescues Frodo.

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

The book is followed almost to the letter; Gorbag and Shagrat fight, and take the whole tower with them. When Sam arrives, only Shagrat, Gorbag, and three unknown Uruks are left alive, and Sam kills the latter three "for Frodo", "for the Shire" and "for my old Gaffer", before stabbing Gorbag from behind with Sting. In the Extended edition, a short shot of Shagrat escaping with the mithril shirt is added.

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

In the video game adaptation of the movie, Sam enters the Tower of Cirith Ungol in the middle of the battle instead of during the aftermath. As a result, the tower is infested with Orcs and Uruks fighting each other, and Sam has to kill a multitude of them until they fall back to the higher levels, where Frodo can be found.
After using a mounted crossbow to bombard a bridge full of fighting Orcs, Sam reaches the top where Shagrat and Gorbag are fighting over the Mithril shirt, and the latter knocks the former unconscious. During this fight, Sam fights Gorbag by throwing javelins to disarm him and then hacking at him with his sword. After Gorbag is killed, Frodo is rescued by Sam, and Shagrat covertly escapes the Tower with the Mithril shirt.