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Dead faces

From Tolkien Gateway
Dead Faces by John Howe

The tricksy lights. Candles of corpses, yes, yes. Don't you heed them!

The dead faces, or candles of corpses, were apparitions of ghostly faces of dead Elven, Mannish, and Orcish warriors in the Mere of Dead Faces in the Dead Marshes. The faces, rotting and twisted, with weed caught in their hair, appeared in dark waters being lit by pale and fell lights, as from unseen candles.[1]

Gollum told Frodo and Sam that there was a great battle long ago in which Men, Elves and Orcs fought for months at the Black Gates and that the marshes had expanded since the battle and had swallowed up the graves of the warriors who fell in the battle. How the dead warriors came to be transformed into such undead beings is unknown. Sam said that the Dead cannot be really there, because the battle was an age ago and asked if the presence of dead Men, Elves and Orcs in the marshes was some "devilry hatched in the Dark Land", likely referring to Sauron's dark arts in the nearby Mordor.[2]


A corpse candle is defined as a "luminous appearance, resembling the flame of a candle, sometimes seen in churchyards and other damp places, superstitiously regarded as portending death".[3][4]

For a poem, Tolkien created the Qenya phrase ve kaivo-kalma, meaning "as a corpse-candle".[5]

Portrayal in adaptations

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Corpse Candles and Corpse lanterns are seen as two variants of the same basic type of creature. The latter are said to be more powerful and intelligent, capable of a "more alluring web".[6] A related creature are the corpse-lights, which haunt underground areas of the Shire.[7]

1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Cards depicting these creatures include "Corpse-candle" and "Wisp of Pale Sheen".

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

While Frodo in the book only claims to have seen the dead faces, Peter Jackson's film version includes a dramatic twist: Frodo falls into the water as under a spell from the dead.

2002-5: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game:

The faces of the dead are classified as phantoms, a subdivision of ghosts.[8]

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Corpse-candles are a form of the Dead, floating balls of light that haunt marshes and grave-sites, swarming around the player.

External links