Barrow-downs

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This article is about the location in Middle-earth. For the website, see barrowdowns.com.
The Barrow-downs
Hills
Fog on the Barrow Downs by Paul Raymond Gregory
"Fog on the Barrow Downs" by Paul Raymond Gregory
General Information
Other namesTyrn Gorthad
LocationCentral Eriador, south of the East Road and Bree, on borders the Old Forest
TypeHills
InhabitantsMen, then Barrow-wights
GalleryImages of the Barrow-downs

The Barrow-downs or Tyrn Gorthad were a series of treeless hills east of the Shire, behind the Old Forest, and south-west of the village of Bree.[1] They were called the Barrow-downs, because many of the hills were crowned with barrows (burial mounds). Standing stones stood on some of the green mounds. The Barrow-downs were a treeless country that was covered with grass and turf.[2]

History[edit]

In the First Age the ancestors of the Edain built many of the barrows in the Barrow-downs before they migrated west to Beleriand.[3]

In the Second Age many Men that were descended from the ancestors of the Edain, primarily from the Folk of Beor and partly from the Folk of Hador lived near Lake Evendim, in the North Downs, in the Weather Hills and in the land between.[4] It is not known if they lived as far south as the Barrow-downs at that time. During the Dark Years Men who were related to the Dunlendings had migrated from the valleys of the White Mountains to the empty lands as far north as the Barrow-downs.[5]

When Elendil escaped to Middle-earth from the Downfall of Númenor and established the Realms in Exile in S.A. 3320[6] the Barrow-downs became a part of the kingdom of Arnor.[7] The Barrow-downs were revered by the Dúnedain of Arnor, because many of the barrows had been built by their forefathers in the First Age, and they buried their lords and Kings there.[3]

After the division of the kingdom of Arnor into the kingdoms of Arthedain, Rhudaur and Cardolan in T.A. 861[8] the Barrow-downs became a part of the kingdom of Cardolan.[9]

In T.A. 1409,[10] a large army from the kingdom of Angmar invaded the kingdom of Cardolan. The Dúnedain of Cardolan were defeated and Cardolan was ravaged, but a part of the Dúnedain of Cardolan defended the Barrow-downs or fled into the safety of the Old Forest. The forces of Angmar were eventually defeated by Elves from Lindon, Rivendell and Lothlórien and subdued for a while.[11]

Around T.A. 1636[12] the Great Plague spread to Cardolan from the South-west and most of the population of Cardolan died. The Witch-king sent[13] evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur to the Barrow-downs, which inhabited the deserted barrows.[3] It is possible that the terror of the Barrow-wights prevented any attempt to resettle the Barrow-downs.[14]

Around September 24 T.A. 3018 the Black Riders entered Cardolan.[15] Their chief, the Witch-king, moved to Andrath, visited the Barrow-downs, roused the Barrow-wights to be on the watch[13] in order to trap the Ring-bearer and left on September 27[15].

On 28 September T.A. 3018[16] Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry were trapped in the downs by a wight, probably in the same mound which contained the grave of the last prince of Cardolan[3] (it is likely that Merry saw his last memories in his dreams, because he mentioned the "men of Carn Dûm").[15] They were rescued by Tom Bombadil, who amassed the barrow’s mighty hoard and gave them four special swords. Tom took a brooch set with blue stones for Goldberry and said that it was long ago worn by a fair woman on her shoulder and that he and Goldberry would not forget her.[2] It is possible that the brooch had belonged to the wife of or a woman from the familty of the last prince of Cardolan, because it was in the barrow that contained his grave.[17]

Etymology[edit]

A "barrow" (or "berrow"; from English beorg, berg, 'hill, mound') not to be confused with the wheeled vehicle, is a tumulus or other prehistoric grave-mound.[18]

In topography, a "down" is a low-lying hill, from the Anglo-Saxon dún meaning "hill".[19] In the United Kingdom, a down is a gently-rolling chalk hill in Southern England (seen especially in the North and South Downs).[20]

The name therefore would represent an earlier Old English form Beorga Dune "downs of barrows".[21]

Tyrn Gorthad was the Sindarin name of the Barrow-downs. Tyrn Gorthad is a compound of the plural[22] tyrn of torn ("burial mound") and gorthad ("wraith, spirit of dead").[23] In one manuscript, the name Tyrn Goerthaid was used by Tolkien.[24] Goerthaid seems to be the plural of gorthad with affected vowels.

Other versions of the legendarium[edit]

In the earlier versions of the story, the barrows were said to belong to the men that “fought against the evil foes” when “the world was still young”. The cairn where the Hobbits were trapped was said to be the barrow of a prince of this kingdom that died during the war (the identification of the buried prince with the last prince and the occurrence of Cardolan, Angmar and Carn Dûm are only in subsequent versions).[25][26]

Also, in the earlier versions of Tom Bombadil’s statement regarding the blue-jewelled brooch he took for Goldberry, and the mysterious lady that once wore it, he mentioned that “they shall not forget” the kings, the warriors, the children and the fair maidens of the past, suggesting they were interred there and Bombadil had met them long ago.[27]

In an earlier version of what would later become Appendix A King Araval of Arthedain tried to resettle Cardolan, but the Barrow-wights terrify anybody who attempt to live near the Barrow-downs.[14]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit]

Barrow-downs at night in The Lord of the Rings Online

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Hobbits' passage through the Barrow-downs is represented by a respective level.

2006: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king:

In his campaign against the former kingdom of Arnor the Witch-king dispatches his men lead by Hwaldar to claim the royal barrows to enrage Cardolan and lure out their forces to destroy their army and lay Cardolan bare for his attacks, while unintentionally slaying a prince of Cardolan. Later he attacked the Barrow-downs a second time to desecrate the barrows to create a plague to weaken the rest of Arnor and to demotalize the Dúnedain of Cardolan by using the barrows as the plague's ground zero. In the resulting battle Carthaen, a general of Cardolan, was slain and Cardolan's sent army was destroyed.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

The Barrow-downs are a divided into North and South Barrows, depicted as a series of mounds crowned with megaliths. The region is inhabited by wights, recently stirred by the passage of the Nazgûl. The largest and oldest barrow is called Othrongroth.

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

After Halbarad sends Eradan, Andriel and Farin to warn Aragorn in Bree, the three heroes travel through the Barrow-downs as a shortcut.[28] On their way, they have to save two Dúnedain Rangers named Luin and Kilaran. Throughout the whole level fog hangs above the ground.[29] Upon reaching Rivendell, the three heroes can talk to Frodo about their escapades in the Barrow-downs. Even though Frodo and the Hobbits were never shown to venture into the Barrow-downs in the movies, he will mention his own encounters there. However, he refuses to go into detail about what happened there.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age" [map]
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Fog on the Barrow-downs", pp. 136-142
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", The North-kindom and the Dúnedain, entry for King Argeleb II, p. 1041
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Men", p. 1130
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age", entry for the year 3320, p. 1084
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", p. 1039
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 861, p. 1085
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", The North-kindom and the Dúnedain, entry for the time after King Eärendur, p. 1039
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 1409, p. 1086
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", The North-kindom and the Dúnedain, entry for King Arveleg I, p. 1040
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 1636, p. 1086
  13. 13.0 13.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(ii) Other Versions of the Story"
  14. 14.0 14.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil", manuscript C, The Northern Line of Arnor: the Isildurioni, 23. Araval
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, "Fog on the Barrow-downs", p. 145
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3018, September 28, p. 1091
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VII. The Barrow-wight", p. 128
  18. 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, entry , Barrow-downs, p. 766
  19. Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, "DÚN" at An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (accessed 12 October 2010)
  20. Oxford Dictionaries, "down" (accessed 12 October 2010)
  21. David Salo, "Hobbitish Place-names (1.21)" dated 23 November 1998, Elfling (accessed 23 September 2022)
  22. Paul Strack, "S. Tyrn Gorthad loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 5 March 2022)
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 116
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil", manuscript C with corrections and expansions, The Northern Line of Arnor: the Isildurioni 20. Argeleb II, p. 194
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VII. The Barrow-wight", pp. 127-128
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "III. The Fourth Phase (2): From Bree to the Ford of Rivendell", p. 37
  27. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VII. The Barrow-wight", p. 128
  28. Offical Xbox Magazine Online, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, dated 28 April, 2011 (accessed at 7 July, 2011)
  29. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North's Official Site, Videos, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Dev video: Art Direction Process, dated 11 May, 2011 (accessed 14 September, 2011)