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Join date : 2011-03-28
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PostSubject: Tolkien's Monsters   Tolkien's Monsters Icon_minitimeThu Jun 16, 2011 2:09 pm

This was my term paper for Tolkien Class

Tolkien’s Monsters
Nathaniel Thomas Battaglia
Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings
Linda Trumbo
April 12, 2011

For millennia, monsters have been the go-to for all things evil. If an author needed something to steal his princess, for his hero to vanquish, or even just to dash through his tale at a random time, then he either created a monster or used one already in existence. Among all the volumes in the Mythology of Middle Earth that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien fabricated, he brilliantly stashed all sorts of monsters, both ones spawned from his own imagination, such as Balrogs, and those of classical mythologies, such as Giant Spiders and Dragons. Tolkien indulged his more fanatical readers with histories of these bestial races.
Among Tolkien’s bestiary lurk the Balrogs: the fell servants of the wicked Morgoth. These terrible creatures inspired fear in both friend and foe alike. Originally, they were of the Maiar (spirits of lesser stature than the Valar), brethren of Olórin and Curumo (later known as Gandalf and Saruman, respectively) and of Sauron. When the Balrogs joined Morgoth, they became tangible monsters, wielding both flame and shadow. Their numbers are thought to be few, some estimate around seven. Winning infamy for themselves, two Balrogs are distinguished by name or title from the others: one being their captain, Gothmog, and the other, who terrorized the Misty Mountains, became known as Durin’s Bane. Gothmog, known as the High-Captain of Angband and Lord of Balrogs, wielded great power in the First Age, under only Sauron and his master Morgoth. He was felled in battle with the Elf-lord Ecthelion near the end of the First Age. Durin’s Bane was unintentionally awakened from a hidden slumber by Durin VI, a highly esteemed king of the once-prominent Dwarvish city, Khazad-dûm. Many years later, Gandalf the Grey threw him off the side of the mountain Zirakzigil and slew him after an extended chase through the long-deserted tunnels of Moria. Durin’s Bane’s defeat and death marked the last known appearance of a Balrog in Middle Earth.
At the very beginning of conflict in Tolkien’s world there spawned the race of Giant Spiders. In the days when Morgoth’s power waxed, he allied himself with Ungoliant, possibly a former Maiar. When Ungoliant joined with Morgoth, she had formed her evil spirit into that of a spider. Exacting revenge upon the Valar, Morgoth stabbed both of the Trees of the Valar and Ungoliant drank their sap and injected her own “poison of Death” (Silmarillion 76) into them. Even after consuming all the sap from the Trees, Ungoliant still thirsted, and thus also drank from the Wells of Varda until they were dry, and she “swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor (Morgoth) was afraid” (Silmarillion 76). After this, Morgoth betrayed Ungoliant, and his Balrogs drove her away to Ered Gorgoroth where she mated with foul spiders and then feasted on them. Ungoliant’s death is not recorded specifically, but in The Silmarillion it states that, “some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last” (Silmarillion 81). Only one of Ungoliant’s children is labeled by name, Shelob, “last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world” (Two Towers 707). She lived during the time of the War of the Ring in the mountains surrounding the land of Mordor. Little is known of her deeds before the War of the Ring but that she watched her tunnels and protected that entrance to Mordor far better than any garrison could have. When Frodo the Ringbearer entered her tunnels, tricked by Gollum, she attacked and poisoned him. However, before she could take him away deep into her tunnels, Samwise Gamgee courageously stood against her and wounded her several times with the Elvish sword Sting (which many years ago earned its name in battle against Shelob’s children in the forests of Mirkwood). Her death at that time is uncertain, as the only information we have after she retreated from Sam is this statement: “Whether she lay long in her lair…and in slow years of darkness healed herself…this tale does not tell” (Two Towers 713).
Finally, Tolkien included the most recognizable monster of all mythology: the Dragon. Four named Dragons populate Middle Earth, among many other unnamed ones. Glaurung, “the first of the Urulóki (Elvish word meaning ‘fire-serpent’)” (Silmarillion 116), issued forth from the mountain Angband as a young Dragon in the year 260 in the First Age, revealing his existence to the Elves (much to his breeder Morgoth’s annoyance). After a few years, when Glaurung had grown to full weight, he headed several battles and assaults for his master against the Noldor, and finally was slain by Túrin, son of Húrin in FA 499. Later, another dragon rose. Ancalagon the Black, “mightiest of the dragon-host” (Silmarillion 252), fought in the Great Battle that ended the First Age. Eärendil son of Tuor cast him from the skies, and his fall broke the towers of Angband, Morgoth’s fortress. Of the final two named Dragons, Scatha the Worm and Smaug the Golden, only Smaug enjoys much credit. Little is known of Scatha but that he possessed great wealth, and died by the hand of Fram of Éothéod (Foster 437) circa Third Age 2000. Smaug the Golden is the final recognized Dragon in Middle Earth. In TA 2770 he ravaged the Dwarven mountain-city Erebor and the nearby Dale and took up residence there. Glorying in his treasure for nearly two hundred years, Smaug finally rose up, angered by Thorin Oakenshield and his company (who had come to slay Smaug) and attacked the nearby city of Men, Esgaroth. Brave Bard the bowman defended the city against Smaug and shot him in a chink of his scale armor, killing him. Many other Dragons are mentioned as existing in Middle Earth, but no more are named.
For meticulous readers, these sets of histories add much to the believability and intrigue of Tolkien’s stories. The most alluring aspect of his work, to some extremely devoted acolytes, is his masterful weaving of the chronologies of his monsters into his books, including the beginnings of their respective races, notable entities, and the deeds performed by them. Overall, shown through these archives of the Balrogs, Spiders, and Dragons, is the amazing depth of the world of John R. R. Tolkien. Whether the monsters turned out to be his own creations or adaptations from previous works, they all enjoyed stunning detail written by this great author.

Works Cited:

Foster, Robert. The Complete Guide to Middle Earth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1971. Print.

Tolkien, John R. The Silmarillion. Second ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Print.

Foster, Robert. A Guide to Middle-Earth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1977. N. pag. Print.

The Encyclopedia of Arda. Ed. Mark Fisher. N.p., 1997. Web. 10 Mar. 2011. <http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/default.asp>.

Tolkien, John R. The Lord of the Rings. 1994th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. Print.

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