Paths of the Dead
|Paths of the Dead|
|"The Paths of the Dead" by Darrell Sweet|
|Other names||Dwimorberg Pass|
|Location||White Mountains, Dwimorberg|
|Description||Tunnelled pass through the mountains|
|People and History|
|Events||Death of Baldor|
Passing of the Grey Company
|Gallery||Images of the Paths of the Dead|
- "The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes. The way is shut."
- ― The Return of the King, "The Muster of Rohan"
The northern entrance to the Paths of the Dead was marked by lines of ancient unshaped standing stones that led from the wide upland of the Firienfeld in Dunharrow to the Dimholt, a wood of black trees, at the foot of the Dwimorberg. In a hollow stood a single threatening mighty stone, like a finger of doom, before a sheer rock wall with the Dark Door in the wall. Here the path began in earnest, in a pitch-dark tunnel emanating fear. Within the tunnel could be heard a continuous whisper of voices in an unknown language. The wide road stretched on until it entered a great empty space. Within this cavern lay the skeleton of a man, richly garbed, with a golden helm. Before him were a stone door, shut fast where the man once attempted to enter; his notched, broken sword lay near and his bony hand still clutched at the cracks. The road continued past this point until finally the tinkle of water could be heard and led beside a rill of water through a broad high-arched gateway into a deep and narrow chasm between sheer cliffs. From this opening the path fell steeply down until it finally it issued sharp as a crack in a wall into the great Blackroot Vale where the river Blackroot went down beside the path over many falls.
In S.A. 3320 the realm of Gondor was founded. At that time Isildur set upon the crown of the hill of Erech a black stone and called upon the King of the Mountains to swear allegiance to him, which he did. However, when Sauron attacked Gondor in S.A. 3429 and Isildur called upon the Men of the Mountains to honour their oath, they refused. Isildur then cursed them and their king, proclaiming that they would have no rest until the oath was fulfilled.
The Men of the Mountains fled before Isildur's wrath, hid in the mountains away from other men, and dwindled away. Thereafter their haunts, the hill of Erech and the Paths of the Dead, became places of terror to living men. After the migration of the Rohirrim from the vales of Anduin to Rohan the living no longer used the Paths of the Dead.
In T.A. 2569 Prince Baldor of Rohan, celebrating the completion of the great hall of Meduseld, vowed to traverse the Paths of the Dead. He never returned and his father, King Brego, died of grief a year later. Baldor was probably wounded by the last living remnants of Men of Darkness beyond the Dark Door and left there to die.
Over the land there lies a long shadow,
westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
doom approaches. The Dead awaken;
for the hour is come for the oathbreakers:
at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again
and hear there a horn in the hills ringing.
Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them
from the grey twilight, the forgotten people?
The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
From the North shall he come, need shall drive him:
he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.
On 8 March 3019, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and the Grey Company took the Paths of the Dead. A few days before Aragorn had told his two companions that he had used the Orthanc-stone and seen a grave threat to Gondor coming from the South. From Elrond Aragorn had received a reminder concerning the paths of the dead, and he related to them the prophecy of Malbeth.
Before the Door, only Aragorn's strength of will enabled his companions to overcome their fears and enter the Paths of the Dead. They found a skeleton in the central cavern, which they left behind as Aragorn summoned the Dead to follow him. Stumbling onward in the dark, Aragorn and the others emerged from the Paths above Erech, where they hurried to the Stone.
At the Stone of Erech, at midnight, Aragorn unfurled his banner, declared himself the heir of Isildur, and commanded the Dead to aid him. They obeyed and defeated the armies of the Corsairs of Umbar who were attacking the landings in southern Gondor. When those foes were defeated and Aragorn could claim the black ships of the Corsairs for his own, he declared that the curse was lifted and the dead departed forever.
The Paths of the Dead are called Fui ’Ngorthrim in Sindarin. The meaning of the name Fui ’Ngorthrim is not glossed, but Paul Strack suggests that it means "Paths of the Dead" and that the initial element fui is the plural of an otherwise unattested noun fû ("path") and that the second element is the lenited class-plural of gorth ("dead (person)").
Portrayal in adaptations
- In the film the battle with the Corsairs occurred off-screen and the Army of the Dead accompanied Aragorn to Minas Tirith to defeat Sauron's orcs, after which Aragorn declared their curse lifted.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Muster of Rohan", p. 786
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Passing of the Grey Company"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl", "The Kings of the Mark"
- Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, "The Last Debate"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Last Debate"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Unfinished index for The Lord of the Rings", in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 526
- Paul Strack, "S. Fui ’Ngorthrim loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 7 February 2022)