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Dunharrow is a fictional place from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. Aldor, third king of Rohan, established it as a refuge of the Rohirrim hidden in the White Mountains and fortified against attack. Dunharrow had been used as a refuge by the Middle Men of the White Mountains during the Second Age — many millennia before Rohan.

J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
First appearanceThe Two Towers, The Return of the King, Unfinished Tales
TypeCliff-top refuge of the Rohirrim
Other name(s)The Hold, Dunberg
LocationHidden in the White Mountains above Harrowdale
FounderMen of Twilight

Natural and cultural featuresEdit

Dunharrow was a cliff-top overlooking Harrowdale, the valley of the river Snowbourn. Access to the refuge was only possible by a winding path known as the Stair of the Hold. This path was lined with statues known as the Púkel-men — statues originally carved by the Men of the White Mountains, in the likeness of the Drúedain. After the stair was the "Firienfeld", a large grassy area for the encampment of soldiers and refuge-seekers.[1]

Large carved stones marked the entrance to the Dimholt, a natural amphitheatre, which led into the Paths of the Dead. This subterranean complex, haunted by the Dead Men of Dunharrow, led all the way under the White Mountains.

As with other names in the language of the Rohirrim, Tolkien derived the name "Dunharrow" from the Old English language. He explained in his "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" that the name was "A modernization of . . . Dûnhaerg 'the heathen fane on the hillside,' so-called because [it] was on the site of a sacred place of the old inhabitants (now the Dead Men)." [2]

Tolkien drew several detailed sketches of Dunharrow as he developed his concept of the location. Some of these sketches, including a colour drawing, are published in J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator.[3]

Middle-earth narrativeEdit

Dunharrow is the main setting of 'The Muster of Rohan': chapter 5 of The Return of the King (volume 3 of The Lord of the Rings); the chapter describes the location in detail. The characters Théoden (King of Rohan) and Merry Brandybuck arrive in Dunharrow to camp, and are greeted by Éowyn and a large contingent of Rohan's cavalries. During the night, Théoden is visited by an errand-rider bearing the Red Arrow, a high-level request from Gondor seeking urgent aid. The next morning Théoden and his cavalries set out from Dunharrow to Edoras and onwards to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a ride that took six full days.

Earlier in The Return of the King, Dunharrow had been visited by Aragorn and the Grey Company on their way to the Paths of the Dead. However their focus was on the Gate of the Dead, and the Paths beyond.


  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Muster of Rohan", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
  2. ^ A Tolkien Compass, ed. Jared Lobdell, p. 183 (Open Court Press, Chicago, 1975).
  3. ^ Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (1995), J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, Harper Collins, plates 165 & 166, pp. 170-172(text); ISBN 0-261-10322-9