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|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
A shield displaying the moon of Minas Morgul
Artist´s depiction of Minas Ithil
|First appearance||The Return of the King|
|Type||Fortified city of the Nazgûl,|
Former eastern city of Gondor
|Ruler||Witch-king of Angmar|
|Other name(s)||Minas Ithil|
|Location||Ithilien, on the edge of Mordor|
|Lifespan||Ca. S.A. 3320 – T.A. 3020|
After the destruction of Númenor, the escapees landed in Middle-earth where they founded realms-in-exile. The sons of Elendil (Isildur and Anárion) landed in Gondor, and Isildur was assigned its eastern province of Ithilien. There he built the city of Minas Ithil on the south side of a pleasant valley in the mountains bordering Mordor. At the same Anárion built the city of Minas Anor further west across the Anduin. Isildur planted a sapling of the White Tree of Gondor, outside his home in Minas Ithil, and one of the seven palantíri was kept in the tower. The city's white marble walls, buildings, and tower were designed to catch and reflect the moonlight, and shone with a soft silver luminescence.
Sauron had survived Númenor's destruction, but his return to Mordor was not known until he attacked the exiles of Númenor. The Dark Lord's forces first struck and captured Minas Ithil in S.A. 3429. Though the White Tree was burned, Isildur and his family managed to escape down the Anduin with a seedling, seeking his father Elendil. The city was later retaken, and Elendil, Isildur, Anárion proceeded north to assault Mordor via the Morannon. In the meantime Isildur's younger sons Aratan and Ciryon were left to garrison Minas Ithil, in order to intercept Sauron if he attempted to escape from Mordor to the west.
When the Last Alliance defeated Sauron in S.A. 3441, Minas Ithil was restored as a city. Isildur elected not to replant the White Tree at Minas Ithil, instead he planted the seedling of the White Tree at Minas Anor in memory of his brother Anárion, who had been slain during the War. Then Isildur departed to take up the rule of his father's kingdom in Arnor. Minas Ithil and the rest of Gondor was now under the rule of Anárion's son, Meneldil.
Little is mentioned of Minas Ithil until the Great Plague of T.A. 1636 which killed most of the city's population. The city continued to be held by Gondor until the Nazgûl returned to Mordor and attacked it in T.A. 2000, the city only falling after a two-year siege. From then on it became a dark place of dread and was renamed Minas Morgul. In response, Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith.
The last King of Gondor, Eärnur, and a few chosen knights rode into Minas Morgul to challenge the Witch-king of Angmar, and never returned. Minas Morgul remained a menace to Gondor for the rest of the age, being the main base for attacks on Ithilien and Osgiliath until Sauron returned to Mordor and rebuilt Barad-dûr.
The War of the Ring and the Fourth Age
During the War of the Ring, Minas Morgul continued to act as the base of operations for the Witch-king and was a major garrison and forward base for Sauron's forces. The army of Uruk-hai that attacked Osgiliath and besieged Minas Tirith issued from Minas Morgul.
As the Army of the West made their way past Minas Morgul to their last stand at the Morannon, they destroyed the bridge leading to the Morgul Vale and set its fields aflame. Aragorn's forces met no opposition from the Tower as the city's entire garrison had been killed at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth had proposed to attack Mordor via Minas Morgul but others feared that the evil in the valley would drive the men of Gondor mad. Gandalf also reasoned that Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, would go through the Morgul Vale to reach Mount Doom, thus it was preferable not to draw attention to that route by attacking it.
After the War of the Ring, when Aragorn was crowned as King Elessar, he made Faramir the Prince of Ithilien. Faramir made his abode in the Emyn Arnen, southeast of Minas Tirith, and ruled from there with his new bride, Éowyn. At his coronation, King Elessar also decreed that Minas Ithil in the Morgul Vale be utterly destroyed and cleansed, and no man would be allowed to live there for seven years, and maybe more, depending on the evil influence of the haunted city. It has not been made known whether Minas Ithil and Osgiliath were ever rebuilt, as the major population of Ithilien became based around Emyn Arnen.
Portrayal in adaptations
The city appeared in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, most prominently in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the Nazgûl can be seen exiting from Minas Morgul as they ride towards the Shire to pursue the One Ring. The Staircase and Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Shelob's Lair were all designed by John Howe, with the Morgul road using forced perspective into a bluescreened miniature.
Unlike Minas Tirith, official artwork of Minas Morgul is rare and inconsistent, which gave Howe considerable liberty in designing the city for the film. Howe's design of Minas Morgul was inspired from the experience of having wisdom teeth pulled out: in the same way, the Orcs have put their twisted designs on to a former Gondorian city.
Cirith Ungol was based on Tolkien's design, but Richard Taylor felt it was "boring", and redesigned it with more tipping angles. The interior set, like Minas Tirith, was built as a few multiple levels that numerous camera takes would suggest composed a larger structure. The miniature was sprayed with phosphorescent paint and lit from below with black lights to create its unearthly glow.
Minas Morgul appears in the 2017 video game set in the world of Arda, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, but with a somewhat different layout and design.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. 2 pp257-258; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- Christopher Tolkien (1977, editor), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, pp. 341 and 359 (gúl); ISBN 0 04 823139 8
- "Minas Ithil". Encyclopedia of Arda. Mark Fisher. 23 October 2004. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Book IV Ch. 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol: "Two liveries Sam noticed, one marked by the Red Eye, the other by a Moon disfigured with a ghastly face of death", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Big-atures (Special Extended Edition documentary) (DVD). New Line Cinema. 2004.
- Russell, Gary (2004). The Lord of the Rings: The Art of the Return of the King. Harpercollins. ISBN 0-00-713565-3.
- Designing and Building Middle-earth (Special Extended Edition documentary) (DVD). New Line Cinema. 2004.
- "Fortresses & Towers". the Thain's Book.