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Dol Guldur (IPA: [ˈdɔl ˈɡʊldur]) (Sindarin: "Hill of Sorcery")[1] was Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood in the fictional world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. It is first mentioned (as "the dungeons of the Necromancer") in The Hobbit.[2][3] The hill itself, rocky and barren, was the highest point in the southwestern part of the forest. Before Sauron's occupation, it was called Amon Lanc ("Naked Hill").[4] It lay near the western edge of the forest, across the Anduin from Lothlórien. In a passage that appears to apply the name Dol Guldur principally to the fortress rather than the barren hill it rose from, the company of the Ring first catch sight of it from Cerin Amroth in Lórien.[5]

Dol Guldur
J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
TypeBarren hilltop later occupied by Sauron and Nazgûl
Fortified stronghold
Other name(s)Amon Lanc
Locationsouth-west Mirkwood
LifespanCirca T.A. 1100 – T.A. 3019

In the Second Age, before Sauron occupied the hill, Silvan Elves of the Woodland Realm under Oropher, father of Thranduil, populated the area of Rhovanion around Amon Lanc, but they withdrew northward, evidently to avoid conflict with Lórien and Moria.[6] Various Elf-lords and wizards perceived evil growing there early in the Third Age, starting about T.A. 1100.[7] During the latter part of the Third Age, Sauron used this fortress as a base to attack Lothlórien and the surrounding area.[8] Tolkien suggests that Sauron settled on Dol Guldur as the focus for his rise during the period before the War of the Ring in part so that he could search for the One Ring in the Gladden Fields just up the river.[9]


According to Unfinished Tales, Dol Guldur was originally known in Tolkien's fictional language of Sindarin as Amon Lanc ("naked hill", from amon "hill" and lanc "bare" or "naked").[10] After Sauron came to reside there, it became known instead as Dol Guldur "Hill of Sorcery", acquiring a connotation of corruption and evil. The word dol strictly means "head" in elvish, but is frequently applied to hills or mountains in Tolkien's work, as in Dol Amroth and Dol Baran.[11] The word guldur signifies "black magic": gûl means "sorcery, magic", from the stem ngol or nólë meaning "long study, lore, knowledge"; and dûr means "dark".[11]

Fictional settingEdit


Dol Guldur appears on the maps published with The Lord of the Rings. The hill rose above the River Anduin across from Lórien within the great forest east of the River. Sauron's influence caused a great shadow of sickness and death to fall over the forest, which became known as Mirkwood.[12]

To the northeast on the other side of the forest lay Thranduil's kingdom and Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. Further north was Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains, where the Dwarves once prospered.

According to the Appendices of the book, at a meeting in the forest after the defeat of Sauron, Celeborn and Thranduil renamed the forest Eryn Lasgalen, "The Wood of Greenleaves".[13] Thranduil claimed the northern regions of the forest as far south as the mountains in the centre of the forest (the Emyn Duir), and Celeborn took the southern part of the forest below the Narrows, calling it East Lórien.[13]


The Battle under the Trees.

The fictional history of Dol Guldur is laid out across several of Tolkien's works, including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. Sauron's history at the site begins in the Third Age, around the year 1100.[7] Due to its situation inside Mirkwood and east of Lórien, Dol Guldur was a key stronghold in Sauron's return to power.

After Sauron was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance, he retreated to Amon Lanc and built a fortress, where he hid in secrecy while recovering his strength. As the evil force residing there became apparent to the outside world, it was named "the Necromancer".[14] It was not known at first that Sauron had regained physical form and power; it was believed that a Nazgûl dominated the tower and land.[7] But as the power grew in strength, Gandalf the Grey became suspicious and in T.A. 2063 travelled to Dol Guldur to investigate.[14][15] Sauron anticipated his coming and withdrew to the East to remain hidden in secrecy.[14][15] Thus began what later became known as The Watchful Peace, which lasted until T.A. 2460, when Sauron finally returned to Dol Guldur after years of hiding.[16] The Wise (various Elf-lords and Wizards, including Gandalf the Grey) formed the White Council in T.A. 2463 to determine whether Sauron was alive and regaining strength.

In T.A. 2845, Thráin II, King of Durin's folk, the last bearer of one of the seven Rings of Power given to the Dwarves, was captured by Sauron's forces and was kept at Dol Guldur, where he yielded his ring to Sauron under torture.[17][18] Gandalf went again to Dol Guldur in T.A. 2850 to investigate his suspicions of the power that was rising, learned that this was indeed Sauron, and found Thráin in the dungeons close to death.[17] Thráin had forgotten his own name, but gave Gandalf a map and key to the Lonely Mountain for Thráin's son, Thorin Oakenshield.[19]

The following year Gandalf pressed the White Council for an attack on Sauron. Saruman, the head of the Council, who had become corrupted by desire for Sauron's One Ring, spoke against this move, reassuring them that without the Ring Sauron could not regain his full strength.[14][20][21] Saruman put the Council off by suggesting that the Ring had most likely been lost in the River Anduin and had been carried out to the sea.[20] But in fact, Saruman was himself seeking the One Ring, and in this pursuit secretly betrayed the Council.[22] He believed the Ring lay hidden in the Gladden Fields not far from Dol Guldur, and was searching for it there. For Isildur had perished in the Gladden Fields when his army was ambushed by orcs after the defeat of Sauron – and it was Isildur who had taken Sauron's Ring and was its last known bearer. Saruman therefore did not want Sauron disturbed, hoping that if Sauron continued searching, the Ring might reveal itself while trying to reach Sauron, its one true master.[14][21]

Sauron thus was left to his devices. Gandalf remained troubled by Sauron's presence, and at the White Council in T.A. 2941 he once again argued that an attack on Dol Guldur was inevitable and necessary for the security of Middle-earth and its peoples.[14][20] Saruman agreed this time, but only because he had learned two years earlier that Sauron too was searching for the One Ring in the Gladden Fields.[23] Saruman hoped too that with Sauron and his servants out of the way, he himself might have more leisure to continue the search.[24] The Council gathered its strength and drove Sauron from Dol Guldur.[14] But the victory was hollow: Sauron had foreseen and prepared in advance for the assault, and he travelled in secret to Mordor to rebuild Barad-dûr to be his new sanctuary – and Dol Guldur was shortly reoccupied by Nazgûl sent by Sauron from Mordor.[14][25][26] Khamûl (one of the Nazgûl) commanded the fortress in Sauron's absence.[27] In March of T.A. 3018, scouts from Dol Guldur became aware that Gollum had been brought to Mirkwood and was being held prisoner by Thranduil.[28] On 20 June T.A. 3018, orcs from Dol Guldur attacked the Elves who had imprisoned Gollum; in the chaos, Gollum escaped and disappeared.

In March, T.A. 3019, during the final days of the War of the Ring, Dol Guldur sent forces against Lothlórien and Thranduil's realm in what came to be known as the Battles of Lothlórien and Mirkwood: three attacks on Lórien (March 11, 15, and 22) and one, "The Battle under the Trees", against Thranduil (March 15). All were fiercely fought, but the power of Galadriel and the strength of the Elves proved too great for Dol Guldur to overcome. After the defeat of Sauron on March 25, Celeborn marched on Dol Guldur and overthrew it. Galadriel then destroyed the fortress so that the forest was free from the shadow of the tower. (These battles are all described in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, under the entries for the dates involved, and after the entry for March 25.)


Book cover: Fall of the Necromancer

Several portrayals of Dol Guldur are included in the Games Workshop game The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, appearing prominently in the "Fall of the Necromancer". A number of enemies are listed, including Spider Queens,[29] Castellans of Dol Guldur, Sauron the Necromancer, Wild Warg Chieftain, and their respective armies. Giant Bats are also included in the game.[30] The entire set of game figurines is featured on the Games Workshop website; these are similar in many ways to those from the Warhammer franchise.[citation needed]

Dol Guldur has been featured in many of the game adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, including the Iron Crown Enterprises portrayal, which contains scenarios and adventures for the Middle-earth Role Playing game[31] In the strategy battle game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, Dol Guldur appears as an iconic building.[32][33] The campaign-scenario called "Assault on Dol Guldur" appears as the final part of the good campaign.[34][35]

Released in 1996, the music album Dol Guldur from the black metal band Summoning features the name Dol Guldur.[36]

Canadian artist John Howe has portrayed Dol Guldur in several of his sketches and drawings.[37] Howe drew these for Electronic Arts.[38] In Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe, Howe includes Dol Guldur among other fortresses of Middle-earth, such as Dol Amroth[39] In addition, Howe created many drawings for Peter Jackson during the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand, worked for Tolkien Enterprises, and also drew for Iron Crown Enterprises' collectable Middle-earth card game, which mentions Dol Guldur on Gandalf's card.[40][41]

Mirkwood was added to the MMORPG The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar in the expansion pack entitled Siege of Mirkwood, released on December 1, 2009, and depicting the southern area of Mirkwood and Dol Guldur. The storyline depicts a small Elven assault upon the fortress of Dol Guldur (not to be confused with the subsequent Siege of Dol Guldur, led by Lady Galadriel herself). Making a bold strike deep into enemy territory, the Elves of Lothlorien then prepare to regroup and quickly move back to the west shore of Anduin before the Enemy can retaliate in force. While most participants are unaware of the true purpose of the assault, it is eventually revealed to be a ploy to draw Sauron's attention away from Lothlorien and allow the Fellowship to safely depart it and travel down the river Anduin.

Dol Guldur is depicted in Peter Jackson's 2012-2014 film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit. The first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, shows Dol Guldur as a massive castle in ruins, heavily overgrown with menacing brambles and thorny trees, situated on a hill. It is visited by the wizard Radagast, who has a brief skirmish with the shade of the Witch-king of Angmar before encountering the Necromancer and then fleeing to tell Gandalf what he has discovered. The second part of the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, depicts Gandalf himself entering Dol Guldur, where he discerns that a spell of illusion hangs over the entire fortress, making it appear abandoned even though a growing army of Orcs is amassing there. Gandalf encounters the Necromancer and engages in a magical duel with him but is ultimately overpowered when the Necromancer unveils his true strength and identity as Sauron. In the third film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman enter Dol Guldur, where they rescue the wounded Gandalf, and battle the Nazgûl. Radagast takes Gandalf out of Dol Guldur to recover, and Galadriel uses her power to force Sauron out of Dol Guldur.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Silmarillion, Index, p. 324.
  2. ^ The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party", p. 34.
  3. ^ Nelson, Charles W. "6: The sins of Middle-earth, Tolkien's use of Allegory". J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. Greenwood Press. p. 86.
  4. ^ Unfinished Tales, "Disaster of the Gladden Fields", p. 280, note 12.
  5. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "Lothlórien", p. 366.
  6. ^ Unfinished Tales, "Disaster of the Gladden Fields", p. 280, note 14.
  7. ^ a b c The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 1100.
  8. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, entries for 11, 15, and 21 March T.A. 3019.
  9. ^ See for example, The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", p. 302.
  10. ^ Unfinished Tales, Index, p. 418.
  11. ^ a b The Silmarillion, Appendix on Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names.
  12. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue, 1. Concerning Hobbits, p. 12.
  13. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, after the entry for 25 March, T.A. 3019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 244.
  15. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2063.
  16. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2460.
  17. ^ a b The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 261.
  18. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2845.
  19. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A.2850.
  20. ^ a b c The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", pp. 258-259.
  21. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2851.
  22. ^ Rutledge, Fleming (2004). The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-8028-2497-4.
  23. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2939.
  24. ^ The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", p. 301–2.
  25. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2941 & 2951.
  26. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past", p. 42: "It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor ..."
  27. ^ Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", p. 338, p. 352 (note 1).
  28. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 247
  29. ^ Games Workshop Online. "Scourges of Mirkwood: Converting unique Spider Queens". Games Workshop Online. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  30. ^ Games Workshop Online. "Denizens of Dol Guldur: Dol Guldur Miniatures Gallery". Games Workshop Online. Archived from the original on 2008-07-06. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  31. ^ MERP 2014 Dol Guldur Archived November 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ McGregor, Georgia Leigh. Architecture, space and gameplay in World of Warcraft and Battle for Middle Earth 2, ACM International Conference Proceeding Series; Vol. 223, Murdoch University, 2006 ISBN 0-86905-901-7
  33. ^ "Architecture, Space and Gameplay in BFME2 and WOW" (PDF). University of New South Wales. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
  34. ^ The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II. EA Games, 2006. See detailed map. EAN 5030930050368.
  35. ^ "Achievement Guide". pp. Pg. 1. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  36. ^ Summoning, Dol Guldur, retrieved 2008-06-01
  37. ^ "John Howe Dol Guldur portfolio". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  38. ^ "Electronic Arts design". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  39. ^ Howe, John; Peter Jackson, Alan Lee, Ian McKellen, Robert Holdstock, Robin Hobb... (3 December 2001). Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe. Harper Collins. p. 144. ISBN 0-00-710795-1.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  40. ^ Tolkien Enterprises (1996). "Middle-earth collectable card game". John Howe. Iron Crown Enterprises. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  41. ^ "Gandalf". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19.