|Other names||Dark Land, Nargûn (K)|
|Location||Within Ered Lithui and Ephel Dúath|
|Major towns||Minas Morgul, Carchost, Narchost, Cirith Ungol, Durthang|
|Regions||Nurn, Gorgoroth, Lithlad, Udûn|
|Population||Orcs, Trolls, Nazgûl, Men, other creatures of Evil|
|Language||Westron, Black Speech, Orkish|
|Governance||Gondor (until the Great Plague)|
later ruled by his freed slaves
|Established||c. S.A. 1000|
|Nazgûl return||T.A. 1980|
|Sauron returns||T.A. 2941|
|Gallery||Images of Mordor|
- "In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie."
- ― Ring Verse
Mordor was a land in the south-east of the Westlands east of Gondor. During most of the Second and Third Ages it was ruled by Sauron and it was his dwelling and base from which he attempted to conquer Middle-earth.
Mordor was surrounded by three enormous mountain ridges from the North, from the West and from the South, protecting it from an unexpected invasion by any of the Free peoples.
Only a few times in history did the free peoples have anything to do with Mordor; the Last Alliance broke into the land to fight Sauron, and millennia later Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee infiltrated that land to destroy the One Ring.
Mordor was protected from three sides by mountain ranges, arranged roughly rectangularly: Ered Lithui in the north, and Ephel Dúath in the west until turned to the east, forming a southern range. A narrow pass led through Ephel Dúath and the city of Minas Morgul (earlier Minas Ithil) was guarding that; an even more difficult pass was guarded by the giant spider Shelob and the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Another known fortress was Durthang in northern Ephel Dúath.
In the north-west corner of Mordor the deep valley of Udûn was the only entrance for large armies, and that is where Sauron built the Black Gate of Mordor. In front of the Morannon lay the Dagorlad. Sauron's main fortress Barad-dûr was at the foothills of Ered Lithui. To south-west of Barad-dûr lay the arid Plateau of Gorgoroth and the volcanic Mount Doom (also called Orodruin); to the east lay the plain of Lithlad. The land in the western parts of Mordor were largely infertile, producing only sparse brambles.
The southern part of Mordor, Nurn, was slighly more fertile, and moist enough to carry the inland sea of Núrnen. Nurn was made somewhat fertile because the ash blown from Mount Doom left its soil nutrient rich, thus allowing dry-land farming. Unfortunately, the inland sea of Núrn was salty, not freshwater.
Melkor created Mount Doom in the First Age, and the name "Mordor" may have been given to the land before Sauron settled there because of its eruptions. Also in the First Age, the Drúedain migrated westward, and historians in Gondor believed that they came through lands south of Mordor and, after turning northward into Ithilien, became the first Men to cross the Anduin.
The first being known to occupy the mountains of Mordor was Shelob, fleeing from the War of Wrath in Beleriand at the end of the First Age. She fed herself on Elves and Men living or passing nearby until these became scarce.
Sauron settled in Mordor around S.A. 1000. In the north-western corner of this land stood Mount Doom, where he had forged the One Ring. Near Orodruin he built his stronghold Barad-dûr. After this time, Sauron was known as the Dark Lord of Mordor.
For two and a half thousand years, Sauron ruled Mordor uninterruptedly. It was from Mordor that he made war against the Elves of Eregion and came to dominate most of Eriador in a period known as the Dark Years. That was until he was repelled by the High Men of Númenor. Retreating to Mordor, Sauron then directed his power over the far south and east of Mordor conquering and dominating the savage tribes of the Easterlings and the Haradrim. Almost a thousand years later, Sauron was captured by the Númenóreans and brought to their island kingdom, eventually causing its destruction. Sauron returned to Mordor as a spirit and resumed his rule.
The Last Alliance and Third Age
Sauron's rule was interrupted yet again when his efforts to overthrow the surviving Men and Elves failed, and they fought their way back to their foe's domain. After several months of siege in the Battle of Dagorlad, forces of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men came into Mordor. Sauron was defeated in a final battle and the Dark Tower was leveled to the ground, but Mordor was not settled by Men because of the dreadful memory of Sauron, and Orodruin.
The Kings of Gondor built watchtowers and fortresses around Mordor, such as the mountain fortress of Durthang, the Towers of the Teeth at the Morannon, and the Tower of Cirith Ungol, in order to prevent Sauron's servants from returning to Mordor.
However, Gondor had failed in the long run; during the Great Plague, the population was so diminished that troops were recalled and the fortresses abandoned. Deprived of guard, Mordor began to fill with evil things again, and it is said the first shadow was the Lord of the Nazgûl (T.A. 1980) who summoned the other Ringwraiths, first appearing since the War of the Last Alliance, to prepare the return of Sauron. Minas Ithil was conquered by the Ringwraiths in T.A. 2002; other fortifications that were supposed to defend Gondor from the menace inside Mordor were captured and turned into a means of shielding Mordor. Sauron resided in Dol Guldur, until the White Council attacked it in T.A. 2941, forcing Sauron to flee.
Meanwhile Mordor had been long prepared for him, and declaring himself openly he returned to Mordor in T.A. 2951, where he finished reconstructing his Dark Tower. By that time Mordor was protected too well to be captured by any military might that was available to the Free Peoples; in the north of Mordor during the War of the Ring were the great garrisons and forges of war, while surrounding the bitter inland Sea of Núrnen to the south lay the vast fields tended for the provision of the armies by hordes of slaves brought in from lands to the east and south.
War of the Ring
During the War of the Ring, Sauron gathered all his forces to Mordor. After the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a Host of the West went to the Black Gate. Sauron sent his army to destroy the Men of Gondor and Rohan, but then Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring and Mordor fell. The Dark Tower, the Black Gate and the Towers of Teeth collapsed to ruin. Mount Doom exploded. Both Sauron and his Ringwraiths were apparently destroyed.
After the ultimate defeat of Sauron, Mordor became mostly empty again as the Orcs inside it fled or were killed. Crippled by thousands of years of abuse and neglect, but capable of sustaining life, the land of Mordor was given to the defeated foes of Gondor as a consolation, as well as to the freed slaves of Nurn who were formerly forced to farm there to feed the armies of Mordor.
Other versions of the legendarium
The first ever reference to Sauron's land is mentioned without a name, in the story of the Fall, written in the 1930s, as an inner land far from the sea, over the mountains. There Thû had a fortress, and "Amroth" assailed him. The name Mordor, the Black Country, appears first time in the second version of that text, along with Elendil and Gil-galad (both of them mentioned first time).
It is not uncommon for names in Tolkien's fiction to have relevant meanings in several languages, both those invented by Tolkien, and "real" ones, but this of course happens with any two languages.
- A proposed etymology is Old English morðor, which means "mortal sin" and later "murder".
- Mordor is also a name cited in some Nordic mythologies referring to a land where its citizens practice evil without knowing it, imposed on themselves by the society long created for that purpose.
In The Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad assumed that the lands of Mordor, Khand, and Rhûn lay where the inland Sea of Helcar had been, and that the Sea of Rhûn and Sea of Núrnen were its remnants. The atlas was however published before The Peoples of Middle-earth, where it turned out that the Sea of Rhûn existed already in the First Age, notwithstanding that Mordor, due to the creation of the volcanic Mount Doom, could have been uplifted from the Sea of Helcar during this time.
The close proximity of Mount Doom and Barad-dûr in The Lord of the Rings (film series) is non-canonical.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XIII. Last Writings", p. 390 (note 14).
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Drúedain", "Further notes on the Drúedain", pp. 339-340.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Realms in Exile", "The Southern Line: Heirs of Anarion"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", T.A. 1640
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion", "The Stewards"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954), paragraph about the Black Speech
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", entries mor, dôr
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXV. The Mines of Moria, Notes", note 39, p. 466
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part One: II. The Fall of Númenor, (ii) The first version of The Fall of Númenor"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part One: II. The Fall of Númenor, (iii) The second version of The Fall of Númenor"
- Clyde S. Kilby, Dick Plotz (1968), "Many Meetings with Tolkien: An Edited Transcript of Remarks at the December 1966 TSA Meeting", Niekas (Niekas Publications, New Hampshire, USA) (19): 39–40 Referred to at tolkienguide.com and by another publication of the Niekas editor. Referred to at tolkienguide.com and by another publication of the Niekas editor.