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Angus McBride - Giants.jpg
"Giants" by Angus McBride
General Information
Other namesstone-giants[1]
LocationsMisty Mountains[2]
Possibly White Mountains[3]
LanguagesPossibly Westron
MembersPossibly Tarlang[4]
Physical Description
Average heightLarge
GalleryImages of Giants

The Giants were one of the mysterious races of Middle-earth, mentioned only fleetingly.

History[edit | edit source]

Giants are mainly beings of legend. Gandalf the Grey was known for telling stories about dragons and goblins and giants[5] and Bilbo had heard of giants in tales,[6] but none of these tales survive and the origin and history of the giants is obscure.[7]

A local legend among the indigenous people of Gondor told of giants living in the lands by the Sea, north of the Bay of Belfalas; they made the White Mountains, to keep Men out of their lands. One of them, Tarlang, tripped, and broke his neck. The other giants did not clean up his body, which became incorporated in the land instead. The giant's neck became Tarlang's Neck, his head Dol Tarlang, and the stones he was carrying Cûl Veleg and Cûl Bîn.[4] The city of Minas Tirith, as stood on Amon Tirith, seemed to have been "carved" by giants out of the rock.[8]

The Ettenmoors owed their name to some gigantic creatures of that land, although these were perhaps merely some kind of trolls.[9][10]

Some say that Beorn is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came.[source?]

The stone-giants lived in the Misty Mountains during the late Third Age. Great bears lived there before the Giants came.[1] They found a sport in throwing rocks at each other, and then into the depths below them to hear them shatter among the trees.[2]

Presumably, not all giants were savage or evil, as Gandalf hoped to convince a more or less decent giant to block the Front Porch to Goblin-town, to make the High Pass in the Misty Mountains safe again.[11]

Commentary[edit | edit source]

"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
This article or section needs expansion and/or modification. Please help the wiki by expanding it.

Giants are mentioned as creatures mainly in the early legendarium written by young J.R.R. Tolkien, and there are some references to them in the drafts of The Lord of the Rings that were removed later; their only definite appearance is in The Hobbit. Other than that, they notably never appear anywhere else among the creatures and races of Arda, nor do they participate in any of the wars. Their origin, and even their existence, is not mentioned in the Valaquenta or the Long List of the Ents; nor do they appear in the wars of the Elder Days, and neither does Sauron use them as he did with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains.

It is quite possible that their appearance in The Hobbit is a relic from this early phase of the legendarium. John D. Rateliff has argued that they might have become "free agents"; not wicked, but simply not aware of their surroundings.[7]

This led some Tolkienists to assume that giants are maybe a fleeting idea of Tolkien while writing The Hobbit but never considered again to incorporate them in his developing legendarium. Robert Foster comments that the stone-giants "may be no more serious than Golfimbul".[12]

Other theories attempt to include the giants among the known races of Arda. For example they might be a large race of Men (like Hobbits are a small race of Men), or Trolls, or simply "nature spirits" more or less like Tom Bombadil.[13] Furthermore, Douglas A. Anderson's annotations in The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition express the opinion that stone-giants are a variety of Troll.[14]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

The Book of Lost Tales and associated writings[edit | edit source]

Giants originally had a larger part in the legendarium. In one early manuscript, the giants are counted among the úvanimor, servants of Melko.[15] In another manuscript, the giants are counted among the Earthlings, and are divided between the "wood-giants" (Qenya ulbandi) and "mountainous-giants" (Qenya taulir).[16] And in other early writings, two giants are named: Nan (said to be like an Elm-tree) and Gilim (whose name is Gnomish for "winter").[17][18].

Giants and Ents[edit | edit source]

Giants were the wicked precursors of Ents. The elm-like features of the Giant Nan, and that in early versions of The Lord of the Rings it was the Giant Treebeard who held Gandalf captive, not Saruman,[19] makes the connection between Giants and Ents within J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination clear.[7]

An early name for the Ettenmoors was called "Entish Lands". As Christopher Tolkien notes, "Ent" comes from an Old English word for "giant",[20] and was used before Tolkien conceived the later benevolent Ents of The Two Towers. The word is seen at various points in Beowulf, for example line 2717, enta geweorc, "the work of giants".[21]

Giants as a subgroup of Men[edit | edit source]

In a draft for what would become the chapter The Shadow of the Past from The Fellowship of the Ring, it is mentioned that the Necromancer was rallying his forces and causing wars and devastation from his stronghold in Mordor, and that giants were said to be among those forces. There, the giants were described as "a Big Folk only far bigger and stronger than Men the [?ordinary] Big Folk, and no stupider, indeed often full of cunning and wizardry."[22]

Other names and etymologies[edit | edit source]

An early root for "giant" is given as NOROTH. This yields Quenya norsa,[23] and Noroth (likely supposed to be a Noldorin word[24]). A discarded Quenya word was hanako, from a root KHAN-AK.[25]

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

In Germanic mythology names for the giants were jotun (Norse) and eoten (Old English). From the latter word Tolkien derived the name "etten".

In the Return of the King it is noted that Minas Tirith "seemed to have been not builded but carven by giants out of the bones of the earth".[8] Hammond and Scull have suggested that this notion derives from Old English mythology, in which giants were often portrayed as builders of ancient structures.[26]

Other fiction[edit | edit source]

In Farmer Giles of Ham, a giant troubles Farmer Giles' land, who chases him off with his blunderbuss.[source?]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Giants in adaptations
Thunder's Companion by Nicholas Jainschigg for MECCG  

Films[edit | edit source]

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Stone-giants are seen throwing rocks and crashing into each other as Thorin and Company travel over the Misty Mountains. In the film, they are interpreted as literally being colossal stone entities.

Games[edit | edit source]

1982: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Several divisions and races of giants are described and given statistics, such as Stone Giants[27], Ice Giants[28], Giants of the Southern Misty Mountains[29], and Red Giants[30].

1995: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Giants, called Thunder's Companions, are one of the Hazard Creatures.

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

Stone-giants are golem-like creatures that appear in the fourth level, hurling rocks at Bilbo as he tries to travel along a mountain path. They are completely made of stone, and their stones are dangerous.[31]

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

"Mountain Giants" are large and powerful beings in the Goblin faction, with brown scaly skin. They can hurl stones at great distance, and serve as the faction's artillery units.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Several tribes of giants appear in the game, including Stone-giants, Ogres (also called Jorthkyn or Earth-kin), and Ice-giants. While some are enemy creatures, others remain neutral and can be befriended by the player.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

A renegade Stone-Giant named Bargrisar appears in the game, serving as a boss character. Swayed by Sauron to serve him, he becomes the leader of a large party of Orcs and Trolls. Backed by his army, Bargrisar seeks to destroy the nests of the Great Eagles and plunder the North for riches. Similar to the portrayal in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, he is a being composed entirely of stone.

2014: Lego The Hobbit: The Video Game:

Multiple stone-giants appear as the main conflict in the level Over Hill and Under Hill, in which their fighting poses a threat to the party.

Other[edit | edit source]

1989: The Hobbit (comic book):

Giants are displayed as bearded gigantic men with regular leather attire.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings, omitted entry quoted in Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 536-7
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 536-7
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Goblins", "(iii): The Giants", pp. 143-5
  8. 8.0 8.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith"
  9. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 183
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Flight to the Ford"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  12. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 366
  13. Steuard Jensen, "What were the giants?", Tolkien Meta-FAQ (accessed 28 September 2023)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, p. 104
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "X. Gilfanon's Tale: The Travail of the Noldoli and the Coming of Mankind"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Qenya and The Valmaric Script", in Parma Eldalamberon XIV (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 9
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto V (Lúthien's captivity in Doriath)" (verse 1497)
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "I. The Tale of Tinúviel"
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Third Phase (3): XXI. To Weathertop and Rivendell"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford, Note on the Entish Lands"
  21. Howell D. Chickering, Jr., "Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition", pp. 212-3
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Second Phase: XV. Ancient History", p. 253
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies" (cf. the root NOROTH)
  24. Roman Rausch, "Essekenta Endamarwa - Names from The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard and The War of the Ring" dated 23 December 2006, Sindanórie (accessed 8 October 2011)
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part One" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 45, November 2003, p. 21
  26. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 514
  27. Carl Willner (1985), Goblin-gate and Eagle's Eyrie (#8070)
  28. Randy Maxwell (1997), The Northern Waste (#2025)
  29. Randell E. Doty (1987), Dunland and the Southern Misty Mountains (#3600)
  30. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  31. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Over Hill and Under Hill"
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 · Half-trolls · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Two-headed Trolls
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless things · Spectres
Individuals:  Talking Gurthang · Talking purse · The Hunter · Lady of the Sun · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim · Tom · White cow