From Tolkien Gateway
John Howe - Wargs.jpg
"Wargs" by John Howe
General Information
Other namesWild Wolves
LocationsAnduin Vale, Misty Mountains
AffiliationSauron, Orcs
GalleryImages of Wargs
"So here you all are still! ... Not eaten up by Wargs or goblins or wicked bears yet I see"


Wargs or Wild Wolves[2] were a race of evil wolves[3], as called by the Northmen of Rhovanion.[4]

Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Wargs were an evil breed of demonic wolves,[4][5] suggesting that they were inhabited by evil spirits. The origin of the breed is unknown - perhaps they were among the creatures bred by Morgoth in the Elder Days.[6] In any case, Gandalf listed the Wargs among Sauron's servants in the late Third Age.[7]

The Wargs were seen in Rhovanion and they were often allied with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains, and used as mounts. Wargs were clever and used a tongue, the "dreadful language of the Wargs". They feared fire and could not climb trees.[3]

History[edit | edit source]

Ron Walotsky - Wargs

In T.A. 2941, the Wargs appeared once to meet the Goblins and organize a raid to the nearby villages, in order to drive the Woodmen out and capture some slaves. As a pack of Wargs approached east of the Misty Mountains to meet them, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Thorin and Company were escaping the goblins. Gandalf seeing the pack coming, suggested to climb the trees and Dori helped Bilbo in the nick of time.

The Wargs, thinking that the Dwarves are allies of the Woodmen, surrounded the glade and didn't let them descend. Gandalf then used his magic to light up pinecones and hurl them against the Warg until he drove them out. The wolves that had caught fire fled into the forest and had set it alight in several places, since it was high summer, and on this eastern side of the mountains there had been little rain for some time. However the guards left under the trees did not go away. Eventually Goblins showed up and lit the trees the Dwarves were onto, until the Eagles came to rescue them.[3]

The Goblins and the Wargs insisted on looking for the band, since Gandalf had killed the Great Goblin, and also burnt the chief wolf's nose. They went as far as Beorn's homestead, but he caught a pair of them and stuck the goblin's head outside the gate and nailed the warg-skin to a tree just beyond[1]

Wargs appeared once more, ridden by the Goblins, at the Battle of Five Armies.[2] After this, the Wargs had vanished from the woods, so that men went abroad without fear.[8]

A band of Wargs, unaccompanied by Orcs, attacked the Fellowship of the Ring in Hollin.[9]

Etymology and names[edit | edit source]

J.R.R. Tolkien derived the word warg from Old English wearg-, Old High German warg-, and Old Norse varg-r., all of these terms literally translating to strangler, choker.[5][10] The word specifically is understood to be Northern Mannish which "caught on" throughout the Westlands.[11]

While Norse vargr was a common synonym for wolf, Old English wearg was used only for an outlaw or hunted criminal.[12]

In a list of Old English equivalents of Elvish words, Balrog is glossed as having the equivalent Bealuwearg. As noted by Christopher Tolkien, the Old English word contains the elements bealu ("evil"; as in bale(ful)) and wearg ("wolf, outlaw"; whence the Wargs).[13]

Inspiration and influences[edit | edit source]

In Old Norse mythology, wargs (vargr, a synonym for "wolf", ulfr) are in particular the wolf Fenrir and his sons Skoll and Hati.

Tolkien mentioned in a letter that the episode of wargs in The Hobbit was "in part derived from a scene" in S. R. Crockett's novel The Black Douglas.[14]

Tolkien also noted that Gene Wolfe, one of his readers, seems to have picked up his concept of the Wargs, which occurs in Wolfe's science fiction short story "Trip, Trap" (1967): "There was also what looked like a very big wild dog or wolf, a Warg".[4][15] John D. Rateliff has further commented that Tolkien's Wargs were likely influential on the creation of the wolf-like beasts worgs in later literature related to Dungeons & Dragons and in other fantasy worlds.[15]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Radio[edit | edit source]

1968: The Hobbit (1968 radio series):

The Wargs are given fully-voiced dialogue in English, though it's unclear if it's meant to be Westron, or their own language translated for the audience's sake.

Films[edit | edit source]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

Wargs are seen as large wolves ridden by Goblins. They do not have a fear of fire.

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

Wargs appear during the film as cavalry mounted by Orcs and attack Rohan's people en route to Helm's Deep. Rather than being depicted as just demonic wolves as described by Tolkien, the Wargs shown here are comparable in size to horses and seem to superficially resemble hyenas more so than wolves. They are heavily built, with broad, boxy skulls with eyes placed very close to the snout, and thick manes on their necks. They have rather stout limbs and short tails.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

The Wargs are visually more wolf-like than in the preceding The Lord of the Rings films; their builds are overall more slender, with longer limbs and slimmer skulls. Their eyes notably have slit pupils. They are mentioned to be from Gundabad and are ridden by Orcs under Azog who hunt Thorin and Co. Azog himself rides an enormous white-haired Warg.

Games[edit | edit source]

1982-1997: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Classified as Undead Beings, the Wargs are said to be bred from cursed wolves, inhabited by an evil spirit, "being artificially long-lived", and that their "body dissipates when slain". The Wargs are described as being larger, fiercer, and more intelligent than normal wolves.[16][17]

1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Wargs are a Hazard Creature. Different factions of Wargs are the Wargs of the Forochel and the Misty Mountain Wargs, and related minions are the War-warg and The Warg-king.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Wargs are taller and darker than regular wolves, but due to the progression in the game, pose less of a threat; whereas wolves are only encountered by a stick-wielding Frodo, wargs appear only in levels in which the player is Gandalf or Aragorn.

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

Wargs are portrayed as large wolves. They only appear in cutscenes, and are non-fightable.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Wargs, including Wargs ridden by Orcs and Goblins, are a common enemy found throughout the game. "Warg Stalkers" are one of the Monster Player classes available for Player versus Monster Player combat in the Ettenmoors. Monster Player Wargs rely on stealth to ambush players, and some computer-controlled Wargs also demonstrate this ability.
They look and fight rather like Wolves, and both are classified as Beasts, but Wargs are of a distinct type and appearance , being more monstrous than ordinary wolves. Their appearances vary, typically depending on region, and Warg Stalkers can acquire and choose from several such cosmetic appearances.

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 297, (dated August 1967)
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded edition, Letter 290a
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, p. 218
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark"
  10. Douglas A. Anderson, The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, pp. 146-7, note 9
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 250, (dated 1 November 1963)
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, "Appendix C: Old English Poem of Attila", p. 373 (note 37)
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names", p. 209
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 306, (undated, late 1967 - early 1968)
  15. 15.0 15.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, p. 225, note 7
  16. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012), p. 129
  17. Zachariah Woolf (1995), Lake-town (#2016), p. 151

Individuals: Carcharoth · Draugluin · Hound of Sauron · (Wolf-Sauron)
Races: Wargs · Werewolves · White Wolves