White Mountains (Middle-earth)
The White Mountains are a fictional mountain range in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, where they lie primarily in the Kingdom of Gondor, but partly also in the Kingdom of Rohan. The name White Mountains is a loose translation of Ered Nimrais, meaning "mountains of white horns" in Sindarin, one of the languages created by Tolkien. The mountains are named after the glaciers and snowcaps of their highest peaks.
|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
|Notable locations||Dunharrow, Helm's Deep, Minas Tirith, Mount Mindolluin, the Paths of the Dead|
|Other name(s)||Ered Nimrais|
|Location||Boundary between north-west Gondor and southern Rohan; west of the Anduin|
The range lies mostly East-West, but also has a northern section, which is separated from the main line of the Misty Mountains by the Gap of Rohan. Even at the temperate latitude of Gondor and Rohan, the White Mountains bear snow even in summer, suggesting they are extremely high. Tolkien equated the latitude of Minas Tirith, which lay at the eastern end of the mountains, with that of Florence (43° 47' N). This suggests an approximate snowline of 3,000 metres.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter "Lothlórien," Legolas tells the other members of the Fellowship that the elf-maiden Nimrodel "was lost far in the South, in the passes of the White Mountains" but we have no information about those passes. Tolkien at one point considered having Aragorn lead a force of the Rohirrim to the relief of Gondor over the "Scada Pass", and marked that pass on the map. But he rejected the idea in favour of the Paths of the Dead and erased the pass from the map.
The watershed of the White Mountains forms much of the north-west boundary of Gondor and the southern boundary of Rohan.
The notable peaks of the White Mountains include Irensaga "Iron Saw" and Starkhorn. Between these two lies the Dwimorberg, entrance to the Paths of the Dead. The massive triple-peaked Thrihyrne rises above Helm's Deep.
Mount Mindolluin towers at the eastern end of the range. At its feet, the city of Minas Tirith is carved into the mountain's shoulder. The Warning beacons of Gondor were placed on high foothills running back west from Minas Tirith on both sides of the range. The beacons seen in The Lord of the Rings were those on the north, namely Amon Dîn, Eilenach, Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad and Halifirien.
Rivers and streamsEdit
Numerous rivers and streams rise in the White Mountains. The river Adorn and the Deeping-stream (tributaries of Isen) had their sources in the north-western part of the range. The other rivers arising on the north side of the mountains were tributaries of the Entwash (itself a tributary of Middle-earth's great river, Anduin): the Snowbourn, the Mering Stream, and many "swift streams" between Edoras and Helm's Deep.
The watercourses on the south side of the White Mountains all eventually flowed into the Bay of Belfalas. From east to west these were: the Five Rivers of Lebennin (three of these were tributaries of Anduin); the Ringló, Ciril and Morthond (which all entered the Bay of Belfalas at Edhellond near Dol Amroth); and the Lefnui of the Anfalas region.
At the eastern end of the White Mountains, "many rills" flowed across the Pelennor Fields and into Anduin.
Peoples and historyEdit
In the Second Age the White Mountains were dominated by the Men of the Mountains, a people related to the Dunlendings. Their rulers were styled King of the Mountains, and the centre of their civilization was their temple-complex at the place later called Dunharrow. The constructions there included the Stair of the Hold (which scaled a northern face of the White Mountains), and a subterranean complex later known as the Paths of the Dead, which extended right through the mountain-range to its south side.
In the Dark Years the Men of the Mountains fell under the dominion of Sauron. However in S.A. 3320, refugees from Númenor founded their own kingdom, Gondor, effectively claiming the whole of the White Mountains. They established one of their great cities, Minas Tirith, at the eastern end of the White Mountains; later it became Gondor's capital. Sauron retreated for a time, and the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to Isildur, the regent of Gondor, but the King of the Mountains and many of his people subsequently betrayed Isildur and were cursed.
In the Third Age, as Gondor's control increased, the Men of the Mountains dwindled. In the central White Mountains they became known as the Dead Men of Dunharrow. The last living representative of the ancient peoples of Dunharrow, an elderly man who had been "tall and kingly" in his prime, died in the reign of Brego, second king of Rohan (from T.A. 2545 to 2570).
Rohan had been established in T.A. 2510, when Gondor ceded Calenardhon to its allies, the Rohirrim; Calenardhon included the north-west White Mountains. Most of the Rohirrim settled close to the White Mountains.
Elsewhere in the White Mountains, some of the original peoples survived by intermarriage with the Gondorians. Their descendants are described favourably as "a hardy folk"; they were typically "short and swarthy" in appearance. When travelling about their mountainous home they typically used hiking poles. These were made from the wood of the lebethron tree, which appears to have been indigenous to the White Mountains.
The only known attempt to traverse the White Mountains aboveground ended in tragedy. Nimrodel, an Elf-maid of Lothlórien (a land far to the north of the White Mountains), fled her home when it was threatened by the Balrog, but perished in the White Mountains in T.A. 1981.
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.
It has been suggested that for parts of the White Mountains, Tolkien found inspiration in the Malvern landscape which he had viewed from his childhood home in Birmingham and his brother Hilary's home near Evesham. He was introduced to the area by C. S. Lewis, who had brought him here to meet George Sayer, the Head of English at Malvern College. Sayer had been a student of Lewis, and became his biographer, and together with them Tolkien would walk the Malvern Hills. Recordings of Tolkien reading excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were made in Malvern in 1952, at the home of George Sayer. The recordings were later issued on long-playing gramophone records. In the liner notes for J.R.R. Tolkien Reads and Sings his The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Ring, George Sayer wrote that Tolkien would relive the book as they walked and compared parts of the Malvern Hills to the White Mountains of Gondor.
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. 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)." 
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, George Allen & Unwin, no. 292 (12 December 1966), p. 376; ISBN 0-04-826005-3
- The War of the Ring (The History of Middle-earth, vol VIII.), ed. Christopher Tolkien, (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1990), pp. 243-44, 251-53
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 3 ch. 7 p. 131; ISBN 0 04 823046 4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 5 ch. 3 p. 71; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 5 ch. 1 p. 22; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
- Duriez, Colin (July 1992). The J.R.R. Tolkien handbook: a comprehensive guide to his life, writings, and world of Middle-earth. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. p. 253. ISBN 0801030145.
- Sayer, G: J.R.R. Tolkien Reads and Sings his the Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring Caedmon 1979 (based on an August, 1952 recording by George Sayer)
- Humphrey,C. 1977 Tolkien: A Biography New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-04-928037-6
- 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
- A Tolkien Compass, ed. Jared Lobdell, p. 183 (Open Court Press, Chicago, 1975).