Ungoliant

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Ungoliant
Tolkien's legendarium character
Aliases Delduthling, Wirilomë, Gwerlum
Book(s) The Silmarillion (1977)

Ungoliant is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, described as an evil spirit in the form of a spider. She is mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings, and plays a supporting role in The Silmarillion. Her origins are unclear, as Tolkien's writings don't explicitly reveal her nature, other than that she is from "before the world". She is one of a few instances, along with Tom Bombadil and the Cats of Queen Berúthiel, where Tolkien does not provide a clear background for an element of his fiction.

Name[edit]

Ungoliant means "dark spider" in the Sindarin language. It is a loan word from Quenya: Ungwë liantë. She is also known as Gloomweaver (Sindarin: Gwerlum, Quenya: Wirilomë).

Internal history[edit]

Ungoliant aided the evil Vala Melkor in his attack upon the Two Trees of Valinor, draining them of their sap after Melkor had injured them, extinguishing the source of light for the world. She also consumed the reserves of light from the wells of Varda. Afterward the light of the trees persisted only within the Silmarils of Fëanor. Ungoliant helped Melkor evade the Valar by shrouding them both in her impenetrable darkness, causing blindness and confusion amongst the hosts of the Valar that attempted to intercept them.[1]

Melkor had promised Ungoliant that he would yield anything she wished in return for her aid, but betrayed this promise by attempting to withhold the Silmarils from her. This angered Ungoliant, who, having grown immensely powerful from ingesting the life force of the Two Trees, trapped Melkor in her webs. At this point he gave out a cry of such fear and intensity that it was heard in the depths of Angband, and the Balrogs rushed to the aid of their master, scourging Ungoliant with their whips of flame.[2]

Ungoliant fled to the Ered Gorgoroth in Beleriand. At some point she gave birth to Giant Spiders, including the character Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. In The Silmarillion, it is stated that when she went into hiding her hunger was such that she would mate with spiders only to devour them later, with her offspring to be used as food once they were fully grown.

According to The Silmarillion, Ungoliant's unremitting hunger drove her to devour herself, although an alternative sketch of Eärendil's voyage suggests that he slew her in the south.

In popular media[edit]

Ungoliant has been the subject of several heavy metal music songs. Her conflict with Morgoth over the Silmaril was the subject of Blind Guardian's song "Into the Storm", from their 1998 album Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Austrian black metal band Summoning had a song called "Ungolianth" on their 1995 album Minas Morgul. On their 2006 album The Morrigan's Call, the Irish Celtic metal band Cruachan featured a song "Ungoliant" as well as one named after Shelob.[3]

Ungoliant is the name of a monster on the MMORPG Ragnarok Online, which has the spawn rate of a boss while not being a boss itself. It is also the name of a boss of a dungeon in Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second, in which it devours monsters called Shelobs to recover a small amount of health.

Ungoliant is the namesake of Nemesia ungoliant, a species of Nemesiidae spiders which was described in 2007.[4]

Ungoliant is mentioned in the first film (2012) of Peter Jackson's filmic trilogy of The Hobbit, when the wizard Radagast the Brown conjectures on the origin of malevolent giant spiders.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "Of the Darkening of Valinor", ISBN 0-395-25730-1 
  2. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "Of the Flight of the Noldor", ISBN 0-395-25730-1 
  3. ^ "The Morrigan's Call – Cruachan". Allmusic. 
  4. ^ Platnick, Norman I. "Fam. Nemesiidae". The World Spider Catalog, Version 12.0. American Museum of Natural History.