Shelob

From Tolkien Gateway
Shelob
Spider
John Howe - Sam and Shelob.jpg
"Sam and Shelob" by John Howe
Biographical Information
Other namesHer Ladyship, She
LocationNan Dungortheb (First Age)
Cirith Ungol (from Second Age)
AffiliationSauron
BirthFirst Age
Notable forAttacking Frodo and Sam
Family
ParentageUngoliant
ChildrenSpiders of Mirkwood
Physical Description
RaceSpider
GenderFemale
Weaponrybeak, sting, claws
GalleryImages of Shelob

Shelob was a great spider-like creature akin to those of Nan Dungortheb in Beleriand, the last offspring of the demonic Ungoliant.

Appearance[edit]

Shelob had an out-thrust head with two great clusters of many-windowed eyes[1] and great horns and a short stalk-like neck.[2] Her head had a beak that dribbled venom.[3] She had a huge body that looked like a bloated bag. Her body was black and blotched with livid marks with a pale and luminous belly. She had bent legs with great knobbed joints that were located high above her back. Her legs had hairs that stuck out like steel spines and had a claw at each of their lower ends.[2] Shelob also had a sting. Her skin was so thick that it could not be penetrated with the strength of a man, Elf or Dwarf, because it consisted of many layers of growth. Her eyes were the only softer spot.[3]

History[edit]

Shelob was born as the last child of the spider-like demon Ungoliant[4], who had mated with and devoured other creatures of spider form in the valley of Nan Dungortheb in the mountains of Ered Gorgoroth in Beleriand in the Elder Days.[5]

Shelob fled from ruin (apparently from the drowning of Beleriand in the War of Wrath). It is not known how she came to the Ephel Dúath. However, she had already established her lair high in Ephel Dúath in Mordor before Sauron claimed that land as his own and before he started to build the Barad-dûr around S.A. 1000[6]. She mated with her offspring which she slew, and her smaller descendants spread from valley to valley from the Ephel Dúath to the eastern hills, to Dol Guldur and to Mirkwood.[4][7]

Shelob fed off all living things, such as Elves and Men. As the power of Sauron grew, people left the borders of Mordor and Minas Ithil was conquered by the forces of Sauron. Elves and Men no longer came near to her lair and Shelob had to resort to hunt for Orcs, which according to Gollum, she considered to be poor food.[4] Sauron knew that Shelob lived in hear lair, but allowed her to dwell there, because she was an excellent guard of the pass of Cirith Ungol that led to Mordor and because he could spare the Orcs that she occasionally caught. He even sometimes had prisoners driven to her hole and ordered to report to him how she played with them and referred to her as his cat.[8]

Eytan Eylul Guler - Shelob and Sam

In T.A. 2980[9] while looking for the One Ring, Gollum encountered Shelob. He had bowed to her and promised to bring her food.[4] Shagrat, the captain of the Orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol supposed that Gollum was not good to eat for Shelob and it seemed to him that Gollum had an understanding with her.[10] At some time between the years T.A. 3009 and 3017 Gollum went to Mordor and was captured by Sauron.[11] It is possible that he entered Mordor through the pass of Cirith Ungol. When Gollum was released from Barad-dûr in T.A. 3017 [12], the Orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol had been ordered to let him pass and Shagrat knew that Gollum had used the Stairs of Cirith Ungol once or twice since then and referred to Gollum as Shelob's Sneak.[10]

Indeed, Gollum slipped away while Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins were resting after they had climbed the Stairs of Cirith Ungol on their way to Mount Doom[13] and visited Shelob again on 11 March T.A. 3019.[14] On the next day on March 12 T.A. 3019.[15] Gollum led Sam and Frodo into the tunnels of Shelob's Lair and abandoned them in the dark.[16]. He planned that Shelob would eat Sam and Frodo so that he could find the One Ring among the bones and clothes, which Shelob usually left behind.[4]

After Frodo had used the Phial of Galadriel as a source of light and he and Sam were able to see two great clusters of many-windowed eyes of Shelob. When Frodo drew his sword and advanced on Shelob holding the phial up in the air, Shelob fled from the brightness of the phial.[17] Frodo and Sam were able to flee from the tunnel to the outside to the pass of Cirith Ungol,[18] but Shelob caught up with Frodo and stung him in the neck with her venomous sting, which caused a death-like coma.[19] Sam managed to defeat her by letting her impale herself upon Sting when she tried to crush him under her massive body and using all power of the Phial of Galadriel to blind her. Wounded, she fled to her lair and was not seen for the remainder of The Lord of the Rings.[20]

Legacy[edit]

Thinking Frodo was dead, Sam took the One Ring from him and left his body behind, but discovered later that Shelob's venom was not intended to kill its victims but only to render them unconscious to keep their meat fresh.[21]

It is not known if Shelob lay for years in her lair to heal herself from within and to rebuild her eyes until with hunger like death she was able to hunt again in the valleys of the Ephel Dúath.[22] She may also have eventually died of starvation caused by her inability to hunt while blind.[7]

Etymology[edit]

Shelob is a Westron name, which means "female spider".[23] It is a combination of the English word "she" (a "female")[23] and the dialectal English word[24] "lob" ("spider").[24][23][25]

Robert Foster mistakenly classified the name as Sindarin, failing to provide a translation.[7]

Genealogy[edit]

 
 
Ungoliant
fl. Y.T. 1495
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SHELOB
fl. T.A. 3019
 
Spiders of Nan Dungortheb
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spiders of Mirkwood
 
 
 
 
 


Other versions of the legendarium[edit]

In an earlier unpublished version of the chapter that would later have the title Shelob's Lair the description of the great spider-like creature was almost identical,[26] but its name was Ungoliant[27] or Ungoliante[28].

Inspiration[edit]

It has been considered that the giant spider which a hero fights is similar to creatures that appear in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but Tolkien explicitly denied a direct influence.[29]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit]

Shelob in adaptations
Shelob as a woman in Middle-earth: Shadow of War  

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Shelob was voiced by Jenny Lee. Lee had no dialogue, but hissed to convey Shelob's menace, then made a bubbling noise to suggest the passing of her poison into Frodo. Finally, she made a roaring sound during her fight with Sam to convey her pain when Sam's thrusts found their mark.

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

Shelob can be seen to have a retractable venomous sting at the rear end between the spinnerets, resembling a wasp's sting. This is very much unlike real spiders which inject venom with their fangs but accurate relative to the novel. Shelob also appears to have a gaping mouth, whereas real spiders can ingest only liquid.
In the book, on the other hand, "clusters" of eyes are mentioned, which may suggest compound eyes like those of insects; the Shelob in the movie does not have compound eyes, which is appropriate. A hunting spider of the family Lycosidae,[source?] which Shelob most closely resembles, would have two large eyes facing forward, and a few smaller ones almost hidden below. The only spiders that can reasonably be said to have "clustered" eyes (though not true compound eyes) are the daddy long-legs spiders of the family Pholcidae, but Shelob does not resemble these rather spindly and fragile spiders in other aspects of her physique.

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

Shelob is a playable hero for the Goblins faction, and appears in the fifth level of the Evil Campaign, "Mirkwood", where she has apparently joined the Mouth of Sauron on his mission to take the Old Forest Road. During the level, Shelob can be used to recruit the Spiders of Mirkwood, as they are her children, and will obey her if she is sent to their nest. She also appears during the final mission, "Rivendell", alongside the other villains.

2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Though unseen, Shelob is identified in the Appendices as the mother of the Ungol spiders that are encountered throughout Mordor. She is also referred to as the Spider Queen, a title that wasn't given to her in the book. An artefact, a "Crushed Ungol Egg", shows that Shelob initially lived in Mordor itself with Sauron and his servants, until it became apparent that Shelob would disobey Sauron, so he banished her to the pass of Cirith Ungol, and forbade her from laying any more eggs on his land. According to the "Ungol" article in the Appendices, Shelob has taken an interest in the recent events occurring in Mordor, though it is unclear to what extent.

2017: Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Shelob is voiced by Pollyanna McIntosh, and plays a prominent role early in the game. This portrayal of Shelob is unique in that she is able to assume a fair form, as a raven-haired woman in a black dress. She can also project visions of the future into a person's mind. She ensnares the wraith of Celebrimbor and holds him prisoner at the start of the game. She releases him after Talion surrenders their newly-forged Ring of Power to her. After Minas Ithil is conquered by Sauron's forces, the Ringwraiths are sent to seize the Ring from her. After the Nine are driven away, she gives the Ring back to Talion and tells him to forge an army to conquer Mordor.
Reading her memories, which are found throughout Mordor, reveals a number of details of her life, including a romantic relationship she once had with Sauron.

2019: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Shelob is known to Elves as "Ungwetári" and Lord Celeborn had hunted her down in the early years of the Third Age, to no avail. Shelob has a mental link to her children and after being stabbed by Samwise she summons all of her children to her side for nourishment and protection. Places formerly infested with spiders such as Mirkwood become empty as whole nests of them travel south to the call of their mother. Shelob herself is depicted as much larger than other giant spiders, which are encountered in the game on numerous occasions. Shelob herself is the last boss in the main raid of the Minas Morgul expansion.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", p. 720
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", p. 725
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", pp. 728-729
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", p. 723
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age", entry for the year c. 1000, p. 1083
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 353, entry "Shelob"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", p. 724
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", enty for the year 2980, p. 1090
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", p. 738
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 3009, p. 1090
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 3017, p. 1090
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol", p. 713
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019, March 11, p. 1093
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019, March 12, p. 1093
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", p. 719
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", pp. 720-721
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair", pp. 722-725
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", p. 730
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", pp. 728-729
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", pp. 731-740
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise", p. 729
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
  24. 24.0 24.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, entry Shelob, p. 763
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 70, (dated 21 May 1944)
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Ring, "Part Two: The Ring Goes East", "VIII. Kirith Ungol", p. 196
  27. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Ring, "Part Two: The Ring Goes East", "VIII. Kirith Ungol", pp. 196, 199, 200, 205, 211
  28. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Ring, "Part Two: The Ring Goes East", "VIII. Kirith Ungol", p. 199
  29. Letter to Richard Lupoff