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Barad-dûr (pronounced [bʌrʌˈduːr]), also called the Dark Tower, is a fictional place in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings and is described in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and other works. It is an enormous fortress of the Dark Lord Sauron, whence he rules the volcanic and barren land of Mordor. Located in northwest Mordor, near Mount Doom, the Eye of Sauron keeps watch over Middle-earth from its highest tower.[1] The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr is the Mouth of Sauron, who acts as an ambassador and herald for Mordor and Sauron.

J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
TypeVast fortress and tower of Sauron
Other name(s)the Dark Tower (of Mordor)
Lugbúrz (Black Speech)
LocationAt the end of an offshoot of the Ash Mountains in Mordor
LifespanSecond Age c. 1600 to Third Age 3019

Barad-dûr was completed by Sauron in 1600 of the Second Age. It was destroyed following the victory of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men at the end of the age. Rebuilding began in the Third Age, 67 years before the War of the Ring. As the Dark Tower is held together by Sauron's magic, it collapses upon the destruction of the One Ring.


In the Elvish language Sindarin, Barad-dûr translates barad "tower" and dûr "dark" – this is rendered into English as "the Dark Tower". Barad-dûr was called Lugbúrz in the Black Speech of Mordor, which also translates as "the Dark Tower"; it is composed of lug "tower" and búrz "dark".[2] The Black Speech (created by Sauron) was one of the languages used in Barad-dûr. The soldiers there used a debased form of the tongue.[3] In The Lord of the Rings "Barad-dûr," "Lugbúrz," and "the Dark Tower" are occasionally utilized as metonyms for Sauron.[4]


The Dark Tower stood at the end of a south-western offshoot of the Ash Mountains, the mountain range that ran eastwards from the Black Gate of Mordor. Barad-dûr was above the arid valley of Gorgoroth,[5] and lay south-east of Udûn and the Black Gate.

From the fortress's east entrance a road went north then west to the Isenmouthe.[6][7] Frodo and Sam travelled part of this route on their way south to Mount Doom. A second route "Sauron’s Road" went from the west gate of Barad-dûr westwards across Gorgoroth to Mount Doom's "Chambers of Fire." This road ran from Barad-dûr between two smoking chasms and then reached the causeway that led to the mountain.[8] Strachey's Journeys of Frodo estimates Mount Doom was probably no more than 10 miles west of Barad-dûr because Sauron's Road from Barad-dûr to the causeway was only a league (about 3 miles) long.[9] However, the Thain's Book website estimates the total distance was about 30 miles.[10] From Mount Doom the road went southwest to Minas Morgul.


In The Two Towers Barad-dûr is described as:

"...that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power..."[11]

The same paragraph goes on to say the Dark Tower had 'immeasurable strength'. The fortress was constructed with many towers and was hidden in clouds about it:

"...rising black, blacker and darker than the vast shades amid which it stood, the cruel pinnacles and iron crown of the topmost tower of Barad-dûr."[8]

It could not be clearly seen because Sauron created shadows about himself that crept out from the tower.[12] In Frodo's vision on Amon Hen, he perceived the immense tower as:

"...wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant... Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron."[13]

"Tower of adamant" is probably intended to suggest the tower was composed of extremely hard material.[1] There was also an incredibly high look-out post, called the "Window of the Eye" at the top of the Dark Tower. This window was visible from Mount Doom where Frodo and Sam had a terrible glimpse of the Eye of Sauron.[14]

Barad-dûr's west gate is described as "huge" and the west bridge as "a vast bridge of iron."[8] This spanned a deep abyss and carried Sauron's Road from the gate to Mount Doom.

In The Return of the King, Sam Gamgee witnessed the destruction of Barad-dûr:

"... towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant..."[15]

Depiction in adaptationsEdit

Barad-dûr and Mount Doom in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, just moments before their destruction

For Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003), Richard Taylor and his design team built an 18 ft (5 m) high miniature ("big-ature") of Barad-dûr.[16] Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King movie (2003) showed Barad-dûr as clearly visible from the Black Gate of Mordor, which is not the case in Tolkien's book. Some of the maps of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy were altered from those in Tolkien's The Return of the King so that the inner mountain ridges of Udûn were not shown and therefore did not obstruct the view.

Like the other strongholds of evil in the novel, i.e. Isengard, Minas Morgul and the Black Gate, Jackson portrayed Barad-dûr in "an exaggerated Gothic fashion" using black metallic structures.[17]

In the Black Gate scene, having Barad-dûr visible from the gate meant that Aragorn's army could see the Eye of Sauron staring at them. This was done because of the deleted "Aragorn versus Sauron" scene. Originally there would be a "blinding light" and Aragorn would see Annatar (Sauron's pleasant appearance that he had used to deceive the Elves in the Second Age), who would then become Sauron and attack. However, the filmmakers decided that this deviated too far from the books, so instead the blinding light scenes were used to depict a "staring contest" between Aragorn and the Eye of Sauron. Again another deleted scene in the extended edition of The Return of the King (2003) appeared to reinforce this view as it showed Sauron standing atop his tower and briefly being observed by Aragorn.

Furthermore, in the films, the Eye of Sauron was portrayed as a gigantic eye on top of the topmost tower of Barad-dûr. This took a literal interpretation of the descriptions of the Eye in J. R. R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. However, there are other interpretations of what Tolkien meant by the Eye and the portrayal in the films proved different to that of some Tolkien readers. This is partly because Tolkien described Sauron in a letter in 1963 in the following way:

"The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic."[18]

According to Tolkien's descriptions in The Lord of the Rings, the Eye was within the "Window of the Eye" in the topmost tower, not floating above the tower as shown in Jackson's film trilogy. In the films the Eye was located between two horn-like spires that curved upwards from the tower top; these spires were an invention of the films.[19]


The Second AgeEdit

Sauron began to stir again and chose Mordor as a stronghold in which to build his fortress in c. 1000. Barad-dûr was built by Sauron from c. 1000 to c. 1600.[20] It was strengthened by the power of the One Ring, which was also forged around 1600. Gandalf described the Ring as being the " of Barad-dûr..."[21]

In 3262 Sauron was challenged by a mighty host from Númenor. He submitted to their king and was taken captive to Númenor. He returned to Mordor a year after the downfall of Númenor in 3320.

In 3429 Sauron attacked Gondor, which resulted in Elendil and Gil-galad forming the army of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. The host entered Mordor and besieged Barad-dûr from 3434–3441. During the siege, Elendil's son Anárion was slain by a stone flung from the fortress.[22] In 3441 Sauron himself came forth from the Dark Tower and fought against Elendil and Gil-galad. Though they were killed in combat, Sauron was also cast down. Anárion's brother Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand and Sauron was overthrown. Sauron's armies were defeated and Barad-dûr was captured and levelled to the ground. However, the foundations could not be removed while the Ring still existed.

The Third AgeEdit

Sauron had been exiled from Mordor which was under the guard of the men of Gondor for a time. He subsequently built the fortress of Dol Guldur in Greenwood the Great. Due to the Great Plague, Gondor was unable to continue to man its forts, and Mordor was left unguarded from 1640.

In 2000 Minas Ithil was besieged by the Nazgûl, and fell in 2002 and was renamed Minas Morgul. Its palantír was seized and was later taken to Barad-dûr sometime after it had been rebuilt.[23][24]

In 2941 Dol Guldur was attacked by the White Council. Sauron withdrew and the following year returned secretly to Mordor.

In 2951 Sauron began rebuilding Barad-dûr. The fortress was able to be rebuilt more quickly, probably because the foundations were still in place.[1]

Barad-dûr was destroyed for the final time on 25 March 3019 when Gollum took the Ring from Frodo and fell into the Cracks of Doom. The Ring was destroyed and Sauron was defeated.

Concept and creationEdit

In J. R. R Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, the Dark Tower is described as being composed of iron, being black in colour and having battlements and gates.[13] In the painting the walls are of mainly grey stone and brick, and battlements, gates and towers are not visible. The notes accompanying a painting in Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien describe it as follows:

"The painting shows a door on the eastern side of the fortress with Mount Doom to the westward."[25]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "Barad-dûr". The Encyclopedia of Arda. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  2. ^ Allan, J. (1978). "The Black Speech". In Allan, J. (ed.). An Introduction to Elvish (reprinted 2002 ed.). Helios: Bran’s Head Books. p. 167. ISBN 0905220102.
  3. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "Appendix F," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 410), ISBN 0048230464.
  4. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). "Index: III Persons, Places, and Things". The Lord of the Rings (2009 Kindle ed.). London: Harper Collins Publishers. p. location 25260. ISBN 0007322593.
  5. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," Tolkien, C. (ed.), The Silmarillion, London: Harper Collins Publishers, (2013 EBook Edition), (p. 303), ISBN 9780007322565
  6. ^ In Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien there is a picture of Barad-dûr which shows the entrance on the east side of the Dark Tower. Tolkien, J.R.R. (1979), "Picture 30 Orodruin and Barad-dûr," Foreword and Notes by Tolkien, C. Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien, (Hardback ed.) London: George Allen & Unwin, ISBN 0047410035
  7. ^ Map 47 in Barbara Stratchey’s Journeys of Frodo shows a road going from the east entrance to the Isenmouthe. Strachey, B. (1981), "Map 47," Journeys of Frodo: An Atlas of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, London: Unwin Paperbacks (Reprinted 1984), ISBN 0049120115
  8. ^ a b c Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). "Mount Doom". The Return of the King (1978 (Hardback) Impression ed.). London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers. p. 219. ISBN 0048230464.
  9. ^ Strachey, B. (1981), "Map 48," Journeys of Frodo: An Atlas of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, London: Unwin Paperbacks (Reprinted 1984), ISBN 0049120115
  10. ^ "Barad-dûr, The Dark Tower". The Thain’s Book, An Encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Númenor. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  11. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), "The Road to Isengard," The Two Towers, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 161), ISBN 0048230464
  12. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "Mount Doom," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 214), ISBN 0048230464
  13. ^ a b Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954). "The Breaking of the Fellowship". The Fellowship of the Ring (1978 (Hardback) Impression ed.). London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers. p. 417. ISBN 0048230464.
  14. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). "Mount Doom". The Return of the King (1978 (Hardback) Impression ed.). London: George Allen and Unwin. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0048230464.
  15. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "Mount Doom," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 224), ISBN 0048230464
  16. ^ Mathijs, Ernest; Pomerance, Murray (2006). From hobbits to Hollywood : essays on Peter Jackson's Lord of the rings. 3. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 208. ISBN 9789042020627. ISSN 1572-3070.
  17. ^ Woodward, Steven; Kourelis, Kostis (2006). "Urban Legend: Architecture in The Lord of the Rings". In Mathijs, Ernest; Pomerance, Murray (eds.). From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. Rodopi. p. 203. ISBN 978-9-04201-682-8.
  18. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981). "#246". The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (2006 ed.). London: Harper Collins. p. 332. ISBN 0261102656.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Further information on the form of Sauron in the Third Age and the Eye of Sauron can be found within the Sauron Appearance section, and the Sauron and Barad-dûr pages at the Thain's Book website (see External Links below). For a fuller discussion of the portrayal of Sauron in Jackson's film trilogy see the Sauron Adaptations section.
  20. ^ Foster, Robert (1978). A guide to Middle-earth. New York: Ballantine. p. 21. ISBN 9780345275479.
  21. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "The Last Debate," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 155), ISBN 0048230464
  22. ^ "Anárion," The Thain’s Book,, Retrieved 18.00 Monday 5 January 2015
  23. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "Appendix A," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 336-337), ISBN 0048230464
  24. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), "Appendix B," The Return of the King, London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers (1978 (Hardback) Impression), (p. 365), ISBN 0048230464
  25. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1979). "Picture 30: Orodruin and Barad-dûr". In Tolkien, C. (ed.). Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien: Foreword and Notes by Tolkien, C. (1979 (Hardback) ed.). London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0047410035.

External linksEdit