In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, Mordor (pronounced [ˈmɔrdɔr]; from Sindarin Black Land and Quenya Land of Shadow) is the realm and base of the arch-villain Sauron. It was located in the southeast of northwestern Middle-earth, east of the great river Anduin. Mount Doom, a volcano in Mordor, was the goal of the Fellowship of the Ring (and later Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee) in the quest to destroy the One Ring.
|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
Flag displaying the Red Eye of Sauron, Lord of Mordor (based on a design by Tolkien)
|First appearance||The Lord of the Rings|
|Type||Realm and base of operations of Sauron.|
(later ruled by his freed slaves)
|Notable locations||Barad-dûr (the Dark Tower), Mount Doom, the Ash Mountains, the Mountains of Shadow (Ephel Dúath), the Black Gate, Cirith Ungol, Gorgoroth, the Sea of Nurnen, Udûn|
|Other name(s)||the Land of Shadow, the Black Land, the Nameless Land|
|Location||East of Gondor|
|Lifespan||Second Age – Fourth Age|
Mordor had three enormous mountain ranges surrounding it, from the north, from the west and from the south. The mountains both protected the land from an unexpected invasion by any of the people living in those directions and kept those living in Mordor from escaping. Tolkien was reported to have identified Mordor with the volcano of Stromboli off Sicily, in terms of geographic equivalency with the real world.
Commentators have noted that Mordor was influenced by Tolkien's own experiences in the industrial Black Country of the English midlands, and by his time fighting in the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War. Others have observed that Tolkien depicts Mordor as specifically evil, and as an vision of industrial environmental degradation, contrasted with either the homely shire or the beautiful elvish forest of Lothlorien.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Formation
- 3 History
- 4 Languages and peoples
- 5 Naming
- 6 Influences
- 7 Allusions in other works
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
- 11 External links
Mordor was roughly rectangular in shape, with the longer sides on the north and south. Three sides were defended by great mountain ranges: the Ered Lithui (translated as 'Ash Mountains') on the north, and the Ephel Dúath on the west and the south. The lengths of these ranges are estimated to be 498 miles, 283 miles and 501 miles respectively, which gives Mordor's area as roughly 140,000 square miles (362,600 km²); thus the Black Land (Mordor) is comparable in size to the Black Sea.
Mordor was strategically located where four of Middle-earth's great regions approached each other: Gondor, Wilderland, Rhûn and Harad. Adjacent to Mordor were: to the west, the narrow land of Ithilien (a province of Gondor); to the northwest, the Dead Marshes and Dagorlad; to the north, Wilderland; to the northeast and east, Rhûn; to the southeast, Khand; and to the south, Near Harad.
The Black GateEdit
In the northwest, where Mordor's two ranges met, the pass of Cirith Gorgor led into the enclosed plain of Udûn. Sauron built the Black Gate of Mordor (the Morannon) across the pass, adding to earlier fortifications: the Towers of the Teeth, guard towers which had been built by Gondor to keep a watch on this entrance. The passage through the inner side of Udûn into the interior of Mordor was guarded by another gate, the Isenmouthe.
Outside the Morannon lay the Dagorlad or Battle Plain.
The Mountains of ShadowEdit
The Ephel Dúath (literally, "Fence of Shadow") defended Mordor on the west and south. The main pass led through the Ephel Dúath; its western entrance was guarded by Minas Morgul (earlier Minas Ithil), a city originally built by Gondor.
A higher, more difficult pass, Cirith Ungol, lay just to the north of the Morgul pass. It was guarded by a tower at the top of the pass; this tower too had been originally built by Gondor. This pass, "the pass of the spider", was also guarded by Torech Ungol, the lair of the giant spider Shelob.
Inside the Ephel Dúath ran a lower parallel ridge, the Morgai, separated from the Ephel Dúath by a narrow valley that Frodo and Sam followed northward after escaping from Cirith Ungol. Water trickled into this vale from the Ephel Dúath, and the text describes it as a "dying land not yet dead". The vegetation included "low scrubby trees", "coarse grey grass-tussocks", "withered mosses", "great writhing, tangled brambles", and thickets of briars with long, stabbing thorns. David Day describes the "Brambles of Mordor" as "hideous, with foot-long thorns as barbed and sharp as the daggers of Orcs". The fauna included maggots, midges, and flies marked with "a red eye-shaped blotch".
The fortress Durthang lay in the northern Ephel Dúath above Udûn.
The interior of Mordor was composed of three large regions. The core of Sauron's realm was in the northwest: the arid plateau of Gorgoroth, with the active volcano Mount Doom located in the middle. Sauron's main fortress Barad-dûr was located on the center of the north side of Gorgoroth, at the end of a spur extending from the Ash Mountains. Gorgoroth's volcanic nature was inhospitable to life: Mordor's mines, forges, and garrisons were located there. Núrn, the southern part of Mordor, was less arid and more fertile. Streams here fed the salt Sea of Núrnen. While somewhat dry, its fields were rich in volcanic nutrients, and Sauron's slaves farmed this region to support his armies. To the east of Gorgoroth lay the dry plain of Lithlad.
In The Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad assumed that the lands of Mordor, Khand, and Rhûn lay where the inland Sea of Helcar had been, and that the Sea of Rhûn and Sea of Núrnen were its remnants. This assumption stemmed from a First Age world-map drawn by Tolkien in the Ambarkanta, where the Inland Sea of Helcar occupied a large area of Middle-earth between the Ered Luin and Orocarni, with the western end being close to the head of the Great Gulf (later the Mouths of Anduin). The atlas was however published before The Peoples of Middle-earth, in which the Sea of Rhûn and Mordor exist already in the First Age.
Mordor was a relic of the devastating works of Morgoth, apparently formed by massive volcanic eruptions. It was given the name Mordor before Sauron settled there, because of its volcano and its eruptions. However, only Shelob had settled there before Sauron did.
Sauron settled in Mordor 1,000 years after the end of the First Age of Middle-earth, and it remained the pivot of his evil contemplations for the rest of the Second Age (and throughout the Third Age). In the northwestern corner of this land, near the volcano Mount Doom (Orodruin), Sauron built his great stronghold Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower. After this time, Sauron was known as the Dark Lord of Mordor.
In about S.A. 1600 Sauron forged the One Ring in Orodruin. He then set about conquering Middle-earth. In 1697 he launched an attack upon Eriador (a region far to the west of Mordor), and in particular the Elves of Eregion. Initially he conquered most of Eriador, but in S.A. 1700 he was eventually repelled by the Men of Númenor, an island kingdom far to the west of Middle-earth. Sauron returned to Mordor, which continued to dominate the surrounding lands.
Over a thousand years later, in S.A. 3261, the Númenóreans under Ar-Pharazôn sailed to Middle-earth to challenge Sauron's claim to the title of "King of Men". Sauron realized that they would overthrow him if he decided to fight, so he let them capture him and take him back to Númenor, where he eventually caused its destruction in S.A. 3319 (see Akallabêth). Immediately after Númenor's destruction, Sauron returned to Mordor as a spirit (the last of his living being having been bound to the One Ring) and resumed his rule.
The Last Alliance and Third AgeEdit
Sauron's rule was interrupted yet again when his efforts to overthrow the surviving Men of Númenor and the Elves failed, and they formed a Last Alliance of Elves and Men whose army advanced on Sauron's land. A great battle took place on the Dagorlad in which Sauron's forces were destroyed and the Black Gate was stormed. Barad-dûr was then besieged by the Alliance's forces. After seven years of siege, Sauron broke out and was defeated in a final battle on the slopes of Orodruin. Sauron fled into the far East, Barad-dûr was leveled, and the Kingdom of Gondor built great fortresses at the entrances to Mordor to prevent Sauron's return.
Sauron's defeat initiated the Third Age. For over a thousand years, Mordor was guarded by Gondor and remained desolate, although the watch gradually lessened.
Casualties from the Great Plague, during the reign of King Telemnar, were so high that the fortifications guarding Mordor were abandoned as the troops were called back to Gondor's cities. As the guard slackened, Mordor began to fill with evil things again. The Ringwraiths took advantage of Gondor's defeat in T.A. 1856 to re-enter Mordor and the final fortresses held by Gondor were abandoned and fell into ruin sometime after T.A. 1944. In 2002 Minas Ithil was conquered by the Nine Ringwraiths; and the fortifications that were supposed to defend Gondor from the menace inside Mordor were turned into a means of shielding Mordor.
By the time Sauron returned into Mordor after his false defeat in Dol Guldur (in the events that took place at the time of Bilbo Baggins's quest in T.A. 2941), Mordor was protected too well to be captured by any military might that was available in Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age. In the north of Mordor were the great garrisons and forges of war, while surrounding the bitter inland Sea of Núrnen to the south lay the vast fields tended for the provision of the armies by hordes of slaves brought in from lands to the east and south. Mordor was thus well positioned when Sauron commenced the War of the Ring in earnest in T.A. 3019.
War of the RingEdit
In the War of the Rings, Sauron's forces attacked the Free Peoples on a number of fronts. His main army besieged Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, but was defeated in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The victors, the Men of Gondor and Rohan, then sent their Host of the West to the Black Gate. In the Battle of the Morannon, Sauron sent forth another army to destroy the Host of the West, but then Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring and Mordor fell. The Dark Tower, the Black Gate and the Towers of the Teeth were destroyed. Mount Doom exploded, clearing the sky over Mordor. Both Sauron and his Ringwraiths were apparently destroyed.
This ultimate defeat of Sauron heralded the Fourth Age. Much of Mordor, especially Gorgoroth, became empty again as the Orcs inside it fled or were killed. However although crippled by thousands of years of abuse and neglect, the land of Núrn was capable of sustaining life, and was given to Sauron's freed slaves.
Armour and emblemsEdit
The armies of Mordor bore upon their armour and shields the red Eye of Sauron on a black field. This was also flown on the banner that accompanied the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr when he confronted the emissaries of Gondor.[T 1]
Languages and peoplesEdit
At the time of the War of the Ring, Sauron had gathered great armies to serve him. These included Easterlings and Haradrim, who spoke a variety of tongues, and Orcs and Trolls, who usually spoke a debased form of the Common Speech. Within Barad-dûr and among the captains of Mordor (the Ringwraiths and other high-ranking servants such as the Mouth of Sauron), the Black Speech was still used, the language devised by Sauron during the Dark Years of the Second Age. In addition to ordinary Orcs and Trolls, Sauron had bred a stronger strain of Orcs, the Uruk-hai, and very large Trolls known as Olog-hai who could endure the sun. The Olog-hai knew only the Black Speech.[T 2]
Mordor had two meanings: "Black Land" in Sindarin, and "Land of Shadow" in Quenya. The root mor ("dark", "black") also appeared in Moria, which meant "Black Pit". Dor ("land") also appeared in Gondor ("stone-land"), Eriador, and Doriath ("fenced land"). The Quenya word for Shadow was "mordo".
A proposed etymology out of the context of Middle-earth is Old English morðor, which meant "mortal sin" or "murder". (The latter meaning was descended from the former.) It was not uncommon for names in Tolkien's fiction to have had relevant meanings in several languages, both languages invented by Tolkien, and actual historical languages. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon, and his word roots tended to be Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, or Germanic.
The name Mordor was translated as 魔多 (mó duō), meaning "[a place where] demons are many" in the traditional Chinese versions of the novel and films. The simplified Chinese version of the film was translated as "魔都" (mó dū), which meant "the capital of the demons".
An art exhibition entitled "The Making of Mordor" at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2014) claims that the steelworks and blast furnaces of the West Midlands inspired Tolkien's vision of, and his name Mordor. This industrialized area has long been known as "the Black Country". Philip Womack, writing in The Independent, likens Tolkien's move from rural Warwickshire to urban Birmingham as "exile from a rural idyll to Mordor-like forges and fires", The critic Chris Baratta notes the contrasting environments of the well-tended leafy Shire, the home of the hobbits, and "the industrial wastelands of Isengard and Mordor." Baratta comments that Tolkien clearly intended the reader to "identify with some of the problems of environmental destruction, rampant industrial invasion, and the corrupting and damaging effects these have on mankind."
The New York Times on the other hand related the grim land of Mordor to Tolkien's personal experience in the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War. Jane Ciabattari, writing on the BBC culture website, calls the hobbits' struggle to take the ring to Mordor "a cracked mirror reflection of the young soldiers caught in the blasted landscape and slaughter of trench warfare on the Western Front." In Womack's view the 2019 biopic Tolkien explicitly connects Mordor to trench warfare: "riders become bloody knights; smoke billows and turns into the form of dark kings." In one of his letters in 1960, Tolkien himself wrote that "The Dead Marshes [just north of Mordor] and the approaches to the Morannon [an entrance to Mordor] owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme".
The critic Lykke Guanio-Uluru sees Mordor as specifically evil, marked by Sauron: a land that is "dying, struggling for life, though not yet dead", evil being able to disfigure life but not to destroy it completely. It is contrasted, writes Guanio-Uluru, with the beauty of Lothlorien, and marked by negative adjectives like "harsh, twisted, bitter, struggling, low, coarse, withered, tangled, stabbing, sullen, shrivelled, grating, rattling, sad".
Allusions in other worksEdit
In Chapter 10 of Outlaw Platoon (2012), his war memoir describing his service in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell observes: "Looks like we're at the gates of Mordor out here", which inspired the chapter's title "The Gates of Mordor".
In July 2015 NASA published photographs taken as the New Horizons space probe passed within 7000 miles of Pluto. A photo of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, shows a large dark area near its north pole. The dark area has been unofficially called Mordor Macula.
- This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Ch. 10, The Black Gate Opens: "a single banner, black but bearing on it in red the Evil Eye", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Kilby, Clyde S; Plotz, Dick (1968). "Many Meetings with Tolkien: An Edited Transcript of Remarks at the December 1966 TSA Meeting". Niekas. Niekas Publications, New Hampshire, United States (19): 39–40. Referred to at tolkienguide.com and by another publication of the Niekas editor.
- Fonstad, Karen Wynn (1992), The Atlas of Middle-earth, HarperCollins, appendix p. 191; ISBN 0 261 10277 X
- Day, David. A Tolkien Bestiary. p. 49. ISBN 0753704595.
- Day, David (1993). Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia. Simon and Schuster. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-684-83979-0.
- Fonstad, Karen Wynn (1991). The Atlas of Middle-earth (revised ed.). Houghton Mifflin. p. 16. ISBN 0-395-53516-6.
- Wilton, Dave (1 December 2002). "Old English in LoTR". Wordorigins.org.
- "Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Words and Influences". The Tolkien Society.
- Jeffries, Stuart (19 September 2014). "Mordor, he wrote: how the Black Country inspired Tolkien's badlands". The Guardian.
- Womack, Philip (4 May 2019). "Why is Tolkien's work so successful, and why did the new film leave out his Christianity?". The Independent.
- Baratta, Chris (15 November 2011). Environmentalism in the Realm of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 31–45. ISBN 978-1-4438-3542-8.
- Ciabattari, Jane (20 November 2014). "Hobbits and hippies: Tolkien and the counterculture". BBC.
- Loconte, Joseph (30 June 2016). "How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front". The New York Times.
- Guanio-Uluru, Lykke (2015). Ethics and Form in Fantasy Literature: Tolkien, Rowling and Meyer. Springer. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-1-137-46969-4.
- Greene, Andy (13 December 2012). "Ramble On: Rockers Who Love 'The Lord of the Rings' | A look back at Middle Earth in rock & roll, from Led Zeppelin to Rush and beyond". Rolling Stone.
- Sean Parnell (2012). "10: The Gates of Mordor". Outlaw Platoon.
- The New York Times, July 15, 2015
- ""Mordor" bez tramwajów. Modernizacja Marynarskiej" ["Mordor" without trams. Modernisation of Marynarska]. Wawa Love (in Polish). Warsaw. 18 August 2016.
"Mordor" without trams. Modernisation of Marynarska
- Oliphant, Roland (6 January 2016). "Google apologises after labelling Russia 'Mordor'". The Daily Telegraph.