Nan Dungortheb

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Nan Dungortheb
Peter Xavier Price - Aredhel Escapes Nan Dungortheb.jpg
Aredhel Escapes Nan Dungortheb by Peter Xavier Price
General Information
Other namesValley of Dreadful Death
LocationBeleriand, north of Doriath, south of Dorthonion
DescriptionHaunted valley of dread
People and History
InhabitantsSpawn of Ungoliant
DestroyedF.A. 587, Destruction of Beleriand
EventsF.A. 464: Beren's Journey to Doriath
GalleryImages of Nan Dungortheb

Nan Dungortheb was the dreadful valley in northern Beleriand that ran west to east between the haunted mountains of the Ered Gorgoroth and the enchanted northern marches of Doriath.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

After Ungoliant fled Lammoth and the Balrogs of Morgoth she made her way to the valley below the Ered Gorgoroth. There she bred such horrors that the valley was given the name Nan Dungortheb. After she had departed the land was infested with her offspring.[2] Waters that spilled into the valley from the Ered Gorgoroth were defiled, filling the hearts of those that drank of them with madness and despair. All living things other than the spiders avoided the valley, including the Noldor who would only cross it by paths nearest to Doriath.[3]

When Aredhel, daughter of Fingolfin, attempted to ride eastward across Nan Dungortheb, her party was separated by the shadows. While she succeeded in reaching Himlad, her companions could not find her and were chased away by spiders. Returning to Gondolin, they reported her as lost to Turgon.[4]

Beren, sorely pressed by the forces of Morgoth who sought for him in Dorthonion, passed over the Ered Gorgoroth and crossed Nan Dungortheb from north to south. He never spoke of his journey through this land lest the horror of it return to his mind.[5]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The name Nan Dungortheb is translated as "Valley of Dreadful Death",[6] containing the word nan ("valley"), and gor ("horror")[7]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

In The Book of Lost Tales, the land was identified as Nan Dumgorthin, the "Land of the Dark Idols" "(dum ‘secret, not to be spoken’, dumgort, dungort ‘an (evil) idol’)". Instead of being the dwelling place of the offspring of Ungoliant (who never ventured to Middle-earth in this version), it was a dark forested land that was located to the east of Artanor where a collection of "evil tribes of renegade men" made sacrifices to gods whose idols were hidden upon a wooded mountain.[8]

In the Lay of the Children of Húrin, Túrin and Flinding came upon Nan Dumgorthin in the dim twilight after the accidental murder of Beleg. It is described as dark and unholy; a grey valley where shrines are hidden in secret places for the worship of nameless gods older than both Morgoth and the Valar. The inhabitants here were said to be "ghostly dwellers" whose laughter was "harsh and hallow" like a mockery of demons with a lingering echo. They did not harm Túrin and Flinding nor did they hinder their course, yet their mere presence was enough to cause them both to walk "with creeping flesh and quaking limb".[9]