Mirkwood

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The name Mirkwood refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Mirkwood (disambiguation).
Mirkwood
Forest
J.R.R. Tolkien - Mirkwood.jpg
"Mirkwood" by J.R.R. Tolkien
General Information
Other namesTaur-nu-Fuin, Taur-e-Ndaedelos, Eryn Galen, Eryn Lasgalen, Greenwood the Great
LocationEast of the Misty Mountains, south of Ered Mithrin
TypeForest
DescriptionDeep, thick, dark forest
RegionsEast Lórien, Narrows, Woodland Realm
Major townsAmon Lanc (later Dol Guldur), Elvenking's Halls, Rhosgobel
People and History
InhabitantsSpiders, Silvan Elves (Elves of Mirkwood, Galadhrim), Northmen (Woodmen, Beornings), Orcs, Olog-hai, Nazgûl
EventsBattle under the trees, Fall of Dol Guldur
GalleryImages of Mirkwood
"Well, here is Mirkwood! [...] Greatest of the forests of the Northern world. I hope you like the look of it."
Gandalf in The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"

Mirkwood (S: Taur-nu-Fuin) or the Forest of Great Fear (S: Taur-e-Ndaedelos) was a great forest east of the river Anduin in Rhovanion. It was previously called Greenwood the Great (S: Eryn Galen) until the Shadow of the influence of Sauron fell on it. It was named the Wood of Greenleaves (S: Eryn Lasgalen) when the shadow was lifted after the defeat of Sauron.

Geography[edit]

Mirkwood seems to have had much the same boundaries as it did at the end of the Third Age for most of its history. It was roughly rectangular in shape: stretching from the foothills of the Grey Mountains in the north to the North Undeep in the south, and from the east edge of the vale of Anduin to Erebor.

It was bisected by the ancient Old Forest Road. Later, when this road became unusable, a second path through the forest was made to the north. Between the two paths lay the Mountains of Mirkwood. The Forest River cut through the forest's northern end from its source in the western Grey Mountains, joined in the centre by the Enchanted River which flowed north from the Mountains of Mirkwood.

Map of Wilderland by J.R.R. Tolkien showing the northern part of Mirkwood.

South of the Old Forest road the East Bight created the Narrows of the Forest, only one hundred miles across. South and west of the narrows was the a hill called Amon Lanc.

History[edit]

Originally called Greenwood the Great, the forest may have once formed part of the vast primeval woodland which covered most of Middle-earth during the Years of the Trees, possibly linked to Lothlórien across the Anduin.[1] The Eldar passed through the area on their journey to Valinor and it was first populated at this time by the Nandor. Unwilling to cross the Misty Mountains, these Elves settled also in the wooded valleys of the river Anduin. They multiplied and were joined by wandering Avari, becoming known as Silvan or Wood-elves.

The Old Forest Road was constructed very early in Greenwood's history by the Longbeard Dwarves to carry traffic between their territory in the Misty Mountains to Erebor, and the Iron Hills.This road would be later abandoned as the Orcs of the Misty Mountains and Grey Mountains took Gundabad and the surrounding region, cutting off communication between Khazad-dûm and the Iron Hills and Erebor.[2]

Second Age[edit]

In around the year S.A. 750, the Sinda prince, Oropher, removed from Lindon to Greenwood where he was taken by the Silvan Elves as their lord. This forested region to the east of the Anduin is where Silvan Elves, of Nandor descent and the Avari, lived.[3] Oropher built his halls at Amon Lanc and was accepted as the leader of the Wood-elves of Greenwood, later the Elves of Mirkwood, forming the Woodland Realm.

Third Age[edit]

The first millennium of the Third Age probably saw the creation of the East Bight by men living in the eastern eaves of the forest. These men may have formed part of the Kingdom of Rhovanion led by Vidugavia. Men, such as the Éothéod, and Hobbits also lived in the vale of Anduin and were likely responsible for the retreat of the forest's western border.

At the beginning of the Third Age, Thranduil replaced Oropher as king of the Woodland Realm. Probably as a result of massive losses at the Battle of Dagorlad the Silvan population of Greenwood was diminished and became mainly concentrated in the hills then known as Emyn Duir. At the beginning of the second millennium of the Third Age, a mysterious being came to Amon Lanc in the south of Greenwood the Great, and there built the stronghold known as Dol Guldur; "hill of sorcery." This was the magician known as the Necromancer, who was later revealed to be none other than Sauron himself, and from his fortress tower a shadow of nightshade began to spread across the woodlands. The story of Sauron's darkening of Greenwood the Great mirrors events in the First Age, when he occupied the highland forests of Dorthonion, north of Beleriand. That region, too, fell under his shadow, and was also known as Taur-nu-Fuin. From that time on, the Elves came to refer to the Greenwood as Taur-nu-Fuin, the forest under nightshade, rendered into the Mannish tongue as 'Mirkwood'.

Around the same time as the Great Plague devastated Gondor and Eriador, the Shadow grew deep in Greenwood and evil things reappeared. Later the wise noted this coincidence and considered it a sign of Sauron's return.[4]

Indeed, by the time of Cirion (c. T.A. 2500), Dol Guldur controlled the Balchoth, a tribe of Easterlings who dwelt east of Mirkwood; often they made raids through the forest up to the Vales of Anduin, until they were all but deserted, until defeated.[5]

The Elvenking's Gate by Alan Lee

Sauron's arrival caused a darkening of Greenwood, and at this point it became known as Mirkwood. The children of Shelob, giant spiders, as well as bats and orcs in Dol Guldur's service occupied the forest and it became thicker, darker and covered in cobwebs.[6]

This caused Thranduil to lead the Silvan population of Mirkwood to migrate north for the las time, north of the forest river. The Wood-elves specifically dwell apparently exclusively in the Elvenking's Halls at the eastern end of the Forest River. The ancient Old Forest Road was abandoned by men and Dwarves alike, with a new but seldom used path being made further from Dol Guldur and the Hobbits near the forest's eastern border migrated away.

Mirkwood remained a place of fear throughout the Third Age, though the kingdoms of Erebor and Dale flourished briefly in the time of the Kings under the Mountain. This prosperity was ended by the arrival of the Dragon Smaug who brought yet further desolation to the area north-eastern Mirkwood. Small homesteads of 'Woodmen' are also recorded as living in the western edge of the forest south of the old road in 2941.[7]

In 2850, Gandalf visited Mirkwood and entered Dol Guldor, this time in secret. The Grey Pilgrim discovered that the Necromancer was none other than Sauron, who had regained his powers, millennia after the Battle of Dagorlad.[8]

Galadriel casts down the walls of Dol Guldur

In T.A. 2941, as Thorin and Company, were going on the Quest of Erebor, the shadow over Mirkwood was lifted, albeit temporarily. While Thorin and Company were journeying to Erebor, the White Council, prompted by the Wizard Gandalf's discovery of the true identity of Sauron drove him from Dol Guldur. Gandalf also planned the successful Quest of Erebor, which resulted in the slaying of Smaug in the same year. The combination of these two events allowed the re-established kingdoms of Erebor and Dale and the flourishing of the Woodland Realm and of a confederacy of Woodmen led by the Beornings. The Darkness of Mirkwood was lifted for a while.

Only ten years after these events in T.A. 2951 Sauron, now based in Mordor, sent Khamûl and two other Nazgûl to reoccupy Dol Guldur.[9]

On 21 March 3018, Aragorn who had captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes arrived with Gollum in Mirkwood.[10]

Two days later, on 23 March 3018, Gandalf arrived in Mirkwood[11] and began to interrogate Gollum.[12]

On 29 March 3018, Gandalf left Mirkwood.[11]

On 20 June, Orcs attacked the Elves of Mirkwood and Gollum was able to escape from his captivity.[13] Afterwards Legolas leaves Mirkwood to travel to Rivendell to attend the Council of Elrond and to report that Gollum has escaped.[14]

On 11, 15 and 22 March 3019,[15] forces from Dol Guldur assaulted the realm of Lórien, but they were repulsed each time because of the valor of the Elves of Lórien and by the power of Galadriel, but the woods on the borders of Lórien were seriously damaged.[16]

On 15 March 3019, the day of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in front of Minas Tirith,[17] forces from Dol Guldur invaded the realm of Thranduil in Mirkwood. Thranduil defeated the forces of Dol Guldur in a long battle under the trees during which there was great damage through by fire.[16]

On 28 March 3019,[18] the host of the Elves of Lórien led by Celeborn crossed the Anduin in boats and conquered Dol Guldur. Galadriel destroyed the walls of Dol Guldur and uncovered its pits and the forest was cleansed.[16]

On 6 April 3019,[19] Celeborn and Thranduil met in the middle of Mirkwood and gave it the new name Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. They divided the forest between them so that the realm of Thranduil encompassed the northern part of the wood down to the Mountains of Mirkwood and that the realm of Celeborn encompassed the southern part of the wood south of the Narrows of the Forest, which was named East Lórien by Celeborn. Thranduil and Celeborn gave all the wide forest between the Mountains of Mirkwood and the Narrows of the Forest to the Beornings and the Woodmen.[16]

Fourth Age[edit]

Though initially they prospered as the darkness was lifted, the elves of the Wood of Greenleaves were destined either to depart for Valinor or fade into rustic forest spirits. The forest probably then ultimately fell under the dominion of Men, the descendants of the Beornings and the men of Dale.

Etymology[edit]

Mirkwood is an English name, which means "gloomy wood". It is a combination of "mirk" and "wood".[20]

Other names[edit]

Eryn Galen is a Sindarin name, which means "Greenwood". Paul Strack suggests that it is a combination of eryn ("wood") and the lenited form galen of calen ("green").[21]

Taur e-Ndaedelos is a Sindarin name,[22] which means "forest of the great fear".[23] Paul Strack suggests that it is a combination of taur ("forest"), en ("of the") and daedelos ("horrible fear").[22]

Taur-nu-Fuin is a Sindarin name, which means "Mirkwood" or "Forest under Night(shade)". Paul Strack suggests that it is a combination of taur ("forest"), nu ("under") and fuin ("night" or "nightshade").[24]

Eryn Lasgalen is a Sindarin name,[25] which means "Wood of Greenleaves".[26] Paul Strack suggests that it is a combination of eryn ("wood"), lass ("leaf") and the lenited form galen of calen ("green").[25]

Inspiration[edit]

Mirkwood is the Anglicized form of the Norse name Myrkviðr or mirkiwidu, originally hailing from Eddaic poems. Myrkviðr was the name of a "dark boundary-forest ... the great forest that divided the land of the Goths from the land of the Huns".[27] In a letter to his grandson Michael, Tolkien wrote that the name "Mirkwood was not his invention but was probably the Primitive Germanic name of the great mountainous forest regions that anciently formed a barrier to the south of the lands of Germanic expansions and in some traditions became used especially for the boundary between Goths and Huns. He then continues to discuss the origin of the name in very early German mirkiwidu writings.[20]

Projected into Old English, the term appears as Myrcwudu in Tolkien's The Lost Road, as a poem sung by Ælfwine:[28]

Sea-danes and Goths, Swedes and Northmen,
Franks and Frisians, folk of the islands,
Swordmen and Saxons, Swabes and English,
and the Langobards who long ago
beyond Myrcwudu a mighty realm
and wealth won them in the Welsh countries
where Ælfwine Eadwine's heir
in Italy was king. All that has passed.

The name Mirkwood was also used by William Morris in his novel The House of the Wolfings (1888).[29]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit]

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

Mirkwood is the setting of two large chapters of the game: the first one involves rescuing of Dwarves from the Spiders, while the second covers the Halls of King Thranduil and subsequent escape.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Several missions of both good and evil campaigns take place in Mirkwood. In the Evil campaign, the Witch-King is reclaiming Dol Guldur for Sauron, while in the Good campaign Legolas and elven archers pursue the escaped Gollum.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Mirkwood is one the battlefields for the non-storyline engagements.

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

Mirkwood makes appearance in both Good campaign and non-storyline skirmishes, in both cases the map is very different from the one in the first game.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Southern Mirkwood and Dol Guldur are the setting of the game's second expansion, The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood. In its storyline, Celeborn and Galadriel organize a military campaign against Dol Guldur while the Fellowship still resides in Lothlorien (not to be confused with the later battle during the War of the Ring). The announced goal is to saw chaos into Orc forces by destroying as many of their troops, weapons and supplies as possible, to delay an inevitable assault upon Lothlorien. The true purpose, however, is to distract the Eye of Sauron from the company departing down the shores of Anduin. An assault by the Golden Host of the Galadhrim is successful despite minor losses and after establishing multiple camps throughout southern Mirkwood arrives at the walls of the fortress itself. However, without the White Lady they do not have the means of bringing down the walls, so the Elves prepare to swiftly fall back beyond Anduin before the main forces of the Enemy arrive.

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

Mirkwood is the setting of one the missions in the game, where Eradan, Farin and Andriel have to rescue Radagast the Brown from a giant spider.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

Mirkwood is featured in the second Hobbit film, with its scenes being shot both on set in the studio and on location.

See also[edit]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" p. 252
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VI. The Tale of Years of the Second Age"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion", "The Stewards"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Map of Wilderland"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2850, p. 1088
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2951, p. 1089
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(ii) Other Versions of the Story"
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(ii) Other Versions of the Story" note 6
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(ii) Other Versions of the Story" and note 4
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3018, June 20, p. 1093
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 255
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019, March 11, March 15 and March 22, pp. 1093-1094
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", p. 1094
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019, March 15, p. 1094
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age", entry for the year 3019, March 28, p. 1095
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age", entry for the year 3019, April 6, p. 1095
  20. 20.0 20.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 289, (dated 29 July 1966)
  21. Paul Strack, "S. Eryn Galen loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 25 November 2022)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Paul Strack, "S. Taur e-Ndaedelos loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 25 November 2022)
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation", p. 1134
  24. Paul Strack, "S. Taur-nu-Fuin loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 25 November 2022)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Paul Strack, "S. Eryn Lasgalen loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 25 November 2022)
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", p. 1094
  27. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, pp. 131, 227-8, 372
  28. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings: "The Lost Road: (iii) The unwritten chapters": King Sheave and note to line 150
  29. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 13
Route of Thorin and Company
Bag End · Green Dragon · The Shire · Lone-lands · Last Bridge · Trollshaws · Trolls' cave · Rivendell · High Pass · Front Porch · Goblin-town · Goblin-gate · Eagle's Eyrie · Carrock · Beorn's Hall · Wilderland · Forest Gate · Elf-path · Mirkwood · Elvenking's Halls · Forest River · Lake-town · Long Lake · River Running · Desolation of the Dragon · Ravenhill · Back Door · Lonely Mountain · Great Hall of Thráin