From Tolkien Gateway
Horse (Mearas)
"Shadowfax" by John Howe
LocationRohan; Gondor
Physical Description
RaceHorse (Mearas)
Hair colorgrey
GalleryImages of Shadowfax

Shadowfax was a mighty horse of Rohan, the chief of the Mearas, noted for his speed, "like an arrow".[1]


In September T.A. 3018, Gandalf was in Rohan and Théoden reluctantly gave him any horse of his choosing. At first the horse did not allow him to come near, and Gandalf had to follow him far over the fields for two days before he tamed him,[2] chasing him for over twenty miles.[3] Shadowfax was said to be much faster than the horses of the Nazgûl, and carried Gandalf for about 620 miles from 23 to 28 September.[4] When they reached Weathertop, Gandalf was followed and attacked by the Nazgûl on the night of 3 October.[5] Shadowfax then carried Gandalf far into the north to distract the Ringwraiths from chasing the Ring-Bearer.[6]

In February of the next year, Shadowfax returned to Edoras.[7]

Shadowfax came alone to Gandalf in the outskirts of the Fangorn Forest and he introduced the horse to the Three Hunters. Hasufel and Arod recognised him as their chieftain. Shadowfax carried Gandalf and Gimli to Edoras.[8] The horse was able to run from Edoras to Minas Tirith almost without stopping, and his ground speed rivaled the flying speed of the fell beasts of the Nazgûl.[9] Shadowfax was at the Grey Havens with Gandalf when he sailed on the White Ship.[10] Shadowfax, as one of the line of Nahar, presumably was with him when sailing for the West.[11][12]

Shadowfax also possessed extraordinary courage. He was the only free horse in the world capable of standing before the Lord of the Nazgûl during the Siege of Gondor instead of fleeing.[1][note 1]

Appearance and abilities

Shadowfax was described to have a silvery-grey coat which was only visible by day, and seldomly visible by night. He was capable of understanding human speech. As chief of the Mearas, and by extension all horses, he possessed unrivaled speed, strength, intelligence, and endurance, capable of running faster than the wind in comparison to all other steeds, outrunning the Nazgul's horses and equaling the speeds of the winged Fell Beasts, as well as outrun an arrow in flight, and travel over great distances almost entirely without need for rest, and as mentioned above, he had immensely strong willpower and courageousness, enough so to stand up to The Witch-King of Angmar before the gate of Minas Tirith.




It is an anglicized form of Old English Sceadu-fæx 'having shadow-grey mane (and coat)'. It does not actually occur in Old English. Fax is an obsolete English word, meaning "hair".[13]

Portrayal in adaptations

Shadowfax in adaptations
Shadowfax in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Shadowfax in The Lord of the Rings Online

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Shadowfax is not named in the film, but is implied to be Gandalf's horse while riding with the Three Hunters to Edoras, and later appearing with Gandalf riding him again during the Battle of the Hornburg.

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

Shadowfax appears as Gandalf's steed, but is depicted wearing a full harness as opposed to being ridden bareback and without bridle.

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

Because of alterations to the story, Gandalf rides Shadowfax in pursuit of Éomer and other banished soldiers of the Rohirrim, rather than seeking survivors of the Battle of the Fords of Isen or riding to Isengard. Gandalf also rides him into battle alongside Éomer's company, rather than in the company of Erkenbrand and other men of Rohan on foot.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Gandalf's confrontation with the Witch-king, during which he falls from Shadowfax's back in the film, takes place higher in Minas Tirith, rather than at the gate as in the novel. Gandalf also rides him not only into Silent Street, but into house of the Stewards itself in order to rescue Faramir.

2012: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Shadowfax accompanies Gandalf since his return as Gandalf the White.


  1. This reference excludes horses used by the forces of Sauron such as the horses ridden by the Nine Riders.