List of Middle-earth roads

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This is a list of roads mentioned by name in J. R. R. Tolkien's stories of Middle-earth. Many roads in Middle-earth were dirt tracks, but paving was also used and in some cases stone causeways were built.

Ancient Dwarf roads[edit]

Great East Road[edit]

The Great East Road (also known as the East Road, the East-West Road or the Great Road) was an ancient Dwarven route passing from western Beleriand, over the Ered Luin, across Eriador, and to the Misty Mountains. Travellers could cross the Misty Mountains by using the High Pass, and continue their journey through Rhovanion (Wilderland) to the distant Dwarf lands in the East by using the Old Forest Road. The Great East Road passed through lands that would become Arnor, the northern kingdom of Men, and later, the Shire of the Hobbits.

The Great East Road was originally laid by the Dwarves during the First Age before the first rising of the Sun, probably during the last Age of Stars. It is assumed that the Great East Road was built as a western extension of the Old Forest Road, which ran from the Iron Hills through Rhovanion and ended at the Misty Mountains near the High Pass. The Great East Road gave the Dwarves a route across Eriador to the Ered Luin, and then on into Doriath in Beleriand. The westernmost parts of the road were built to facilitate the passage of companies of dwarf craftsmen (and later, their armed escort) across eastern Beleriand, before the sack of Doriath by the dwarves of Nogrod ended their trade.

At the end of the First Age, the War of Wrath destroyed Beleriand and most of it fell into the sea, taking the western part of the Great East Road with it. Once the longest road in Middle-earth, the now shorter Great East Road would lose that title to the North-South Road. In the new geography of the region, the Great East Road would now stretch from the Grey Havens in the west to the vicinity of the newly founded Rivendell in the east, on the western side of the Misty Mountains. It should be noted that, contrary to the map of western Middle-earth published in The Lord of the Rings, the Great East Road did not lead to (or through) Rivendell. Rivendell was maintained as a hidden valley[1] away from the road to the High Pass.[2]

When the Númenórean realm in exile of Arnor was founded, the Arnorians took over the maintenance of the Great East Road, and built several fortresses on or near it (including Weathertop), and expanded or created bridges over the rivers Baranduin and Mitheithel. After Arnor was partitioned in T.A. 861, the Great East Road formed part of the boundary between two of its successor states, Cardolan and Arthedain. In T.A. 1601 the Shire was founded, and its Hobbits were tasked with maintaining the mid-west section of the Great East Road.

While it was once a major thoroughfare of Arnor, travel on the road declined after the last remnants of the northern kingdom fell in T.A. 1974. By the end of the Third Age, only the portion of the Great East Road within the Shire was well used, while the rest carried only a few wanderers and the occasional band of Dwarves. One group of Dwarves who took this road became famous as Thorin & Company, on their quest of Erebor in The Hobbit.

Old Forest Road[edit]

The Old Forest Road (also known as the Dwarf Road or Men-i-Naugrim[3]) was the main route through the great forest originally known as Greenwood the Great and latterly as Mirkwood. The Old Forest Road originally ran from the Iron Hills through Rhovanion and ended at the Misty Mountains near the High Pass. Where the Road crossed the Great River, there was originally a stone bridge, but by the later years of the Third Age the bridge had been lost and the river was crossed by the Old Ford. From there, a traveller following the Road east would cross some miles of open country before plunging into the depths of the forest. The Road then ran directly east from one side of the forest to the other, covering more than two hundred miles beneath the canopy of trees before it emerged by the banks of the River Running.

Of the origins of the Road we know little for certain. We can be sure that it existed before the end of the Second Age, because a record exists of the stone bridge being specially strengthened to carry the armies of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. A strong clue to its origins is presented in its Sindarin language name, Men-i-Naugrim, meaning 'Way of the Dwarves'. The Dwarves had a tradition of road-building dating back to before the First Age, and it seems that they must have built the Forest Road to carry traffic between their western and eastern clans. It's particularly notable that the old bridge over the Anduin at the Road's western end lay almost exactly halfway between the ancient Dwarvish meeting-place at Gundabad to the north, and Durin's mansions of Khazad-dûm to the south. It is assumed that the western end of the road had been built by the dwarves of Khazad-dûm in the Misty Mountains. Khazad-dûm's inhabitants, the Longbeard dwarves, continued to grow in power and influence, and their trading needs meant that the road from the Iron Hills that travelled through Mirkwood to their gates became widely known.

By the middle of the Third Age, several Dwarf kingdoms had fallen and travel on the Forest Road dwindled. By the end of the Third Age, the Old Forest Road had become overgrown and portions of the road east of Mirkwood had become impassable.

North-South Road[edit]

The North-South Road was the longest terrestrial road in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth. It ran from the lost realm of Arnor in the north to the city of Minas Tirith in the south. Before the breaking of Beleriand in the War of Wrath, the Great East Road was the longest road in Middle-earth. After Beleriand sank beneath the waves, the Old South Road had supplanted it. In the early Third Age, the road served as the main linkage between Gondor and Arnor. The road was the lifeline between the two kingdoms, and existed well throughout Tolkien's legendarium.

The road began at Fornost Erain, the ancient capital of Arnor. From here the road ran 100 Númenórean miles south to the ancient crossroads of the Great East Road at Bree. Below Bree, the road became known as the Greenway as it had become overgrown with grass due to its waning use in the Third Age. The road passed through the Andrath and met with the road out of the Southfarthing from Sarn Ford. It then ran southeast through the desolate wastes of Minhiriath to the ruined city of Tharbad on the Gwathló. At Tharbad the road crossed the Greyflood along a series of causeways and a massive stone bridge over the river. From Tharbad, the road continued southeast through the deserted land of Enedwaith and entered Dunland just west of the Misty Mountains. In southern Dunland, the road turned due east and crossed the Fords of Isen, where it entered the Gap of Rohan between the Ered Nimrais and Hithaeglir. Upon crossing the River Isen, the road entered the Kingdom of Rohan and became known as the West Road. The road then travelled eastward and a little south, skirting the northern foothills of the Ered Nimrais on its way to Edoras and then to the Mering Stream, where the road entered the Kingdom of Gondor. In Gondor the road continued to the end of the Ered Nimrais to Minas Tirith. By the end of the War of the Ring, there were plans in place by King Elessar to restore the ancient royal road.

Towards the end of the Third Age, as mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, there was an upsurge in activity on the North-South Road's isolated stretches north-west of the Isen. In 'July' 3018, Gandalf took this route from Bree to get to Isengard after receiving Saruman's urgent summons. Whilst Gandalf was held captive in Saruman's tower of Orthanc, Boromir travelled along the road in the opposite direction, on his journey from Minas Tirith to Rivendell; he lost his horse in the ford at Tharbad. In 'September' of that year, Boromir was unwittingly followed by the Nazgûl (and an associated party of Men[4]), who were travelling north in search of the One Ring. Gandalf (after escaping from Orthanc) was close behind the Nazgûl.

In the following year (3019) shipments of pipe-weed from the Shire's Southfarthing were transported along the road, to Isengard in the south. In return, the Shire received Saruman's ruffians in increasing numbers. Saruman himself followed his henchmen later in the year; on 28th 'August' he and Gríma Wormtongue were overtaken on the North-South Road in Dunland by five members of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Elves still with them.

Greenway[edit]

Part of the North-South Road, especially the sections north and south of Bree, was known as the Greenway because, by the end of the Third Age, it was little used and had become covered with grass.[5] The Greenway (but not the North-South Road) possibly extended west from Fornost Erain to Annúminas.[6]

Old South Road[edit]

Old South Road - A Third Age name in Eriador for the section of the North-South Road from approximately Tharbad southwards. Much of the roadwork had disappeared by the time of The Lord of the Rings, with only remnants of the causeways still extant in the fens of Minhiriath.

The same term was also used to describe a road in Beleriand in the First Age which ran from the Pass of Sirion, past Doriath, and down to Nargothrond.

Gondorian roads[edit]

The roads of the kingdom of Gondor were largely built by its Númenorean founders. In addition to the following list of named roads, there were also significant unnamed roads such as the highway that ran south from Minas Tirith to the kingdom's southern fiefs.

Causeway (Osgiliath)[edit]

The raised highway that ran from the east gate of Rammas Echor (the great outer wall of the Pelennor Fields) and over the river-flats of the Anduin to Osgiliath on the river's shores. The Causeway featured its own walls, and its gate in the Rammas was guarded by battlemented towers, known as the Causeway Forts.[7]

Not to be confused with the Shire's Causeway, which was smaller but longer.

Cross-roads[edit]

A junction of major roads in central Ithilien. The west-east road was the Morgul-road from the Causeway and Osgiliath to Minas Morgul. The longer north-south road came from the Morannon, passed through the Cross-roads, and then became the Harad Road.

The Cross-roads featured a ring of vast trees which centred upon the junction and dominated the landscape. The trees were described as very ancient by the time of the War of the Ring;[8] however it's not clear whether the stand of trees preceded the Númenoreans of Gondor, who constructed their roads to meet at this location, or whether they planted the trees there. The Gondorians were certainly responsible for another feature of the Cross-roads: a large statue of one of the Kings of Gondor, seated on a carved throne right next to the road-meeting.

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins paused at the Cross-roads on his quest. Eight days later, Aragorn and the Host of the West also halted there, on their way to the Battle of the Morannon.

The spelling Cross-roads predominates and seems to be correct, although punctuation variations appear (mainly in isolated instances) even in the same editions of The Lord of the Rings where Cross-roads also occurs: Cross-Roads,[9] Cross Roads[10] and Crossroads.[11] Cross-roads is preferred in works by Tolkien scholars such as The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, The Atlas of Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.

Great West Road[edit]

An old road of the kingdom of Gondor passing along the northern end of the Ered Nimrais from Minas Tirith to the Fords of Isen. From there it led towards the North-South Road.

Harad Road[edit]

The long road that ran southward from the Cross-roads in central Ithilien. It soon passed through a gap between the Emyn Arnen and the Mountains of Shadow before traversing the main part of South Ithilien. The road then forded the Poros and crossed South Gondor. Beyond a ford on the Harnen it led on into the far southern lands named Harad.[12]

This was the road that was used by Sauron to bring large numbers of Southron soldiers from Harad during the War of the Ring. Faramir ambushed a contingent of these Southrons going further north, but most of them were deployed in the Siege of Minas Tirith.

Lampwrights' Street[edit]

Also known as Rath Celerdain, a street in the first tier of the city of Minas Tirith.[13] Peregrin Took met Bergil at the Old Guesthouse in Lampwrights' Street during the War of the Ring.

Rath Dínen[edit]

Rath Dínen (the Silent Street), also called the Hallows, was the necropolis of the city of Minas Tirith, and was located on the saddle between the city and Mount Mindolluin. It was accessed by a door in the Sixth Level of the city. This gateway to Rath Dínen was kept locked (except for authorized funerary use), and hence called Fen Hollen (the Closed Door).

The tombs in Rath Dínen included the mausoleums of the Kings of Gondor and their Stewards. In the War of the Ring, Denethor II (the last Ruling Steward of Gondor) committed suicide in the Stewards' mausoleum.

Shire roads[edit]

In addition to the Great East Road that passed through the Shire, meeting a branch of the Old South Road at Waymeet, the Shire was also known for its English-style country lanes.[14] At least some of the Shire's numerous local roads had been originally built before Hobbits settled the Shire: namely by the kingdom of Arnor, which "once had many farms" in the area.[15]

Bagshot Row[edit]

The small road and the smials it served at the foot of the Hill below Bag End in Hobbiton-across-the-Water. Bag End's gardeners, the Gamgees, were one of the families living in these smials. Daddy Twofoot lived next-door to the Gamgees.

During the War of the Ring, Bagshot Row was demolished by Saruman's ruffians, who turned it into a quarry. After the war it was restored, and renamed New Row; it also acquired a nickname – Sharkey's End – in reference to Saruman meeting his death nearby.

Bywater Road[edit]

A tree-lined road in the Westfarthing. It ran north-west from the Great East Road through Bywater and Hobbiton. The road was the location of the last battle of the War of the Ring, the Battle of Bywater. In Bywater itself, the road further on was called the Hobbiton Road.[16]

The road's trees were hacked down by Saruman's ruffians during the War of the Ring; Sam Gamgee beheld a vision of this in the Mirror of Galadriel. After the war, the avenue of trees was very quickly restored by Sam using some of the miraculous dust that had been gifted to him by Galadriel.

Causeway (Marish)[edit]

A road raised above the low-lying Marish in the Eastfarthing; it ran parallel to the west bank of the Brandywine river. Farmer Maggot used the Causeway when assisting Frodo Baggins to elude Black Riders in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Not to be confused with Gondor's Causeway, which was much grander, although shorter in length.

Stock Road[edit]

A narrow road along the northern Green Hill Country in the central Shire. It followed one of Middle-earth's ancient Elvish pilgrimage routes.

The Stock Road began in Tuckborough in Westfarthing, cut across the northern tip of Southfarthing and entered the Eastfarthing, where it eventually by-passed Woody End and went down into the lowlands of the Yale before reaching Stock, where it met the Marish's Causeway. The Stock Road ran roughly parallel to the Great East Road, which lay several miles to the north.

The section of the Stock Road to the Woodhall turn-off was part of a pilgrimage route for the High-Elven Noldor travelling across Eriador.[17] This route was ancient, possibly dating back to the primeval Great Journey of the Elves in the First Age.[18]

Nevertheless the Stock Road was a quieter road, not even in great use by the Shire-folk. For this reason Frodo Baggins chose this route when setting out on his quest in The Fellowship of the Ring. He had travelled this road at least once before, and when he re-encountered the road on his quest, it reminded him of Bilbo and his poem The Road Goes Ever On.[19]

But Frodo's choice of the Stock Road was fortunate and not merely a nostalgic boost. For on this road he met Gildor and a party of Elves on pilgrimage; this enabled Frodo to evade the Black Riders who were in close pursuit of the One Ring he was carrying.

After the War of the Ring, Frodo again met a procession of High Elves on the Stock Road: Galadriel, Elrond, Gildor again, and many others. Frodo joined them on their journey to the Grey Havens and their final departure from Middle-earth.

Dark roads[edit]

Elf-path[edit]

A track through the northern part of Mirkwood in Wilderland. Constructed by the Mirkwood Elves,[20] it ran from the Elvenking's halls on the east of Mirkwood to the Forest Gate on the western eaves. Where the path crossed the Enchanted River, a small boat was moored to enable the river to be crossed safely. It's not clear why the elves took the trouble to make this rarely-used path all the way across Mirkwood.

On the advice of Beorn, Thorin Oakenshield and his company of Dwarves and Bilbo Baggins took this route on their quest in The Hobbit. The film adaption The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug depicts the path as rather more circuitous and less gloomy than in the book.

Morgul-road[edit]

The main road associated with the Morgul Pass, which was the only way over the Mountains of Shadow into Mordor. The Morgul-road, also known as the Morgul-way[21] and the wraith-road,[22], commenced in Osgiliath on the east banks of the Anduin, led through the Cross-roads to Minas Morgul, and eventually passed near the Tower of Cirith Ungol at the top of the Pass, then it led down over the Morgai and onto the plains of Gorgoroth. On the western side of the mountains it more or less followed the course of the Morgulduin.

The only alternative route over the Morgul Pass was via the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, but that path was only viable for pedestrians, and only those prepared to brave Shelob (or ignorant of her).

Stretches of the Morgul-road glowed eerily in the dark, notably in the Morgul Vale.[23] By the time of the War of the Ring, the road was frequently used and patrolled by Sauron's forces.[24]

Most if not all of this road had originally been constructed by the Númenoreans of Gondor,[25] but their name for it is not known. It acquired an evil ambience (reported by Frodo Baggins[26]) and the names Morgul-road etc. after Minas Ithil was captured by the Nazgûl and renamed Minas Morgul.

Frodo took the One Ring along part of the road in The Lord of the Rings, but by-passed most of it by taking the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.

Orc-road[edit]

A term used for the road from Angband to Tol Sirion used by the Orcs in the First Age.[27]

Paths of the Dead[edit]

Qalvanda[edit]

The road of death, leading to the Halls of Mandos.[28]

Sauron's Road[edit]

A road in Mordor from Sauron's citadel of Barad-dûr to Sammath Naur, his Chamber of Fire on Mount Doom.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.3 p.47; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
  2. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.18 p.248 to ch.19 p.249 [Bilbo returns over the High Pass road and enters Rivendell from the south]; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
  3. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Disaster of the Gladden Fields, ISBN 0-395-29917-9 
  4. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 1 ch.9 pp.165,167-168, ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  5. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 1 ch.9 p.162, ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  6. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 6 ch.7 p.273, ISBN 0 04 823047 2.
  7. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 5: ch.1 p.22, ch.4 p.91 & ch.10 p.159; ISBN 0 04 823047 2.
  8. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 4 ch.7 p.310; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  9. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), p.11 (Contents), ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  10. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 5 ch.10 pp.160-162, book 6 ch.3 p.212, and Appendix B p.374 (9th 'March' 3019), ISBN 0 04 823047 2.
  11. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), Index p. 430, ISBN 0 04 823047 2.
  12. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. "The West of Middle Earth at the End of the Third Age". In Christopher Tolkien. Unfinished Tales (2nd ed.). Harper Collins. 
  13. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Minas Tirith, ISBN 0-395-08256-0 
  14. ^ David Bratman (1999), 'Tolkien and the Counties of England', in Mallorn no. 37, the journal of The Tolkien Society (U.K.).
  15. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), Prologue p. 14; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  16. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 6 ch.8 p. 285; ISBN 0 04 823047 2.
  17. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1968), The Road Goes Ever On, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1978), Notes and Translations, A Elbereth Gilthoniel, p.73; ISBN 0-04-784011-0.
  18. ^ Karen Wynn Fonstadt (1981), The Atlas of Middle-earth, HarperCollins (1994 paperback edition), section 'The First Age' § 'The Great march' p.17; ISBN 9780261102774.
  19. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Fellowship of the Ring, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 1 ch.3 pp.82-83; ISBN 0 04 823045 6.
  20. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.9 p.148; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
  21. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 6 ch.2 p.200; ISBN 0 04 823047 2. The name Morgul-road appears a number of times in The Return of the King, but is not mentioned in The Two Towers.
  22. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 4 ch.8 p.319; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  23. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 4 ch.8 pp.313(x3) & 319; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  24. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 4 ch.7 p.306; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  25. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 5 ch.10 p.160, ISBN 0 04 823047 2. They would have extended this road east of Minas Ithil to build and supply their Tower of Cirith Ungol.
  26. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 4 ch.7 p.306; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  27. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1986), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Shaping of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, The Earliest 'Silmarillion', ISBN 0-395-42501-8 
  28. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales 1, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, The Hiding of Valinor, ISBN 0-395-35439-0 
  29. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Mount Doom, ISBN 0-395-08256-0