White deer

From Tolkien Gateway
This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
Tales of the Hunt by Pascal Yung
"Suddenly on the path ahead appeared some white deer, a hind and fawns as snowy white as the hart had been dark."
The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"

White deer were a type of deer found in the forest of Mirkwood. Along with two fawns, such a hind surprised Bilbo and the Dwarves on the Quest of Erebor when they first entered Mirkwood forest.[1]

Other writings[edit | edit source]

An encounter with a white doe occurs in "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun", preceding Autrou's meeting with a witch.

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

Magical animals of white colour were common in Celtic and Welsh mythology. The legends of King Arthur include a story about the pursuit of a large, white deer, leading to the arrival at the magical Sir Pellinore's well.[2]

Douglas A. Anderson has noted that the appearance of white deer in The Hobbit forebodes the approach by Bilbo and company to the Wood-elven area of Mirkwood, as "[i]n Celtic tradition, encounters with white animals (especially white deer) usually prefigure an encounter with beings from the Otherworld (Faërie)".[3]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

The White Hart is the largest breed of deer found in northwestern Middle-earth (rumoured to have Faerie blood). The suggested Sindarin name of this type of deer was Nimfiara in the early publications from MERP, later revised to Nimmerais (sing. Nimmaras).[4][5]

2013: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:

The Extended Edition includes a scene in which a white deer appears as the dwarves try to cross the river in Mirkwood. Thorin tries to shoot it down with an arrow but he misses. The deer later flees.

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  2. Lars Noodén, "Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology" (paper for Religion 375 at the University of Michigan, 22 November 1992; accessed 12 March 2011)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, pp. 200-1
  4. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  5. Wesley J. Frank, et al. (1997), Arnor: The Land (#2023) (linguistic contributions by David Salo and Arden R. Smith)