Dol Guldur

Dol Guldur
Place from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium
Dol guldur.jpg
An artist's rendition of Dol Guldur
Other names Amon Lanc
Description Barren hilltop later occupied by Sauron and nazgûl
Location Mirkwood
Lifespan Circa. T.A. 1100 – T.A. 3019
Founder Sauron
Lord Sauron

Dol Guldur (Sindarin: "Hill of Sorcery")[1] was Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood in the fictional world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. It is first mentioned (as "the dungeons of the Necromancer") in The Hobbit.[2][3] The hill itself, rocky and barren, was the highest point in the southwestern part of the forest. Before Sauron's occupation it was called Amon Lanc "Naked Hill".[4] It lay near the western edge of the forest, across the Anduin from Lothlórien. In a passage that appears to apply the name Dol Guldur principally to the fortress rather than the barren hill it rose above, the company of the Ring first catch sight of it from Cerin Amroth in Lórien.[5]

In the Second Age, before Sauron occupied the hill, Silvan Elves of the Woodland Realm under Oropher, father of Thranduil, populated the area of Rhovanion around Amon Lanc, but they withdrew northward, evidently to avoid conflict with Lórien and Moria.[6] The Wise perceived evil growing there early in the Third Age, starting about T.A. 1100.[7] During the latter part of the Third Age, Sauron used this fortress as a base to attack Lothlórien and the surrounding area.[8] Tolkien suggests that Sauron settled on Dol Guldur as the focus for his rise during the period before the War of the Ring in part so that he could search for the One Ring in the Gladden Fields just up the river.[9]



According to Unfinished Tales, Dol Guldur was originally known in Tolkien's fictional language of Sindarin as Amon Lanc ("naked hill", from amon "hill" and lanc "bare" or "naked").[10] After Sauron came to reside there, it became known instead as Dol Guldur "Hill of Sorcery", acquiring a connotation of corruption and evil. The word dol strictly means "head" but is frequently applied to hills or mountains in Tolkien's work, as in Dol Amroth and Dol Baran.[11] The word guldur signifies "black magic": gûl means "sorcery, magic", from the stem ngol or nólë meaning "long study, lore, knowledge"; and dûr means "dark".[11]

Fictional setting


Dol Guldur appears on the maps published with The Lord of Rings. The hill rose above the River Anduin across from Lórien within the great forest east of the River. Sauron's influence caused a great shadow to fall over the forest, which became known as Mirkwood.[12]

To the northeast on the other side of the forest lay Thranduil's kingdom and Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. Further north was Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains, where the Dwarves once prospered.

According to the Appendices of the book, at a meeting in the forest after the defeat of Sauron, Celeborn and Thranduil renamed the forest Eryn Lasgalen, "The Wood of Greenleaves".[13] Thranduil claimed the northern regions of the forest as far south as the mountains in the centre of the forest (the Emyn Duir), and Celeborn took the southern part of the forest below the Narrows, calling it East Lórien.[13]


The fictional history of Dol Guldur is laid out across several of Tolkien's works, including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. Sauron's history at the site begins in the Third Age, around the year 1100.[7] Due to its situation inside Mirkwood and east of Lórien, Dol Guldur was a key stronghold in Sauron's return to power.

After Sauron was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance, he retreated to Amon Lanc and built a fortress, where he hid in secrecy while recovering his strength. As the evil force residing there became apparent to the outside world, it was named the Necromancer.[14] It was not known at first that Sauron had regained physical form and was nursing himself to health; it was believed that a Nazgûl dominated the tower and land.[7] But as the power grew in strength, Gandalf the Grey became suspicious and in T.A. 2063 travelled to Dol Guldur to investigate.[14][15] Sauron anticipated his coming and withdrew to the East to remain hidden in secrecy[14][15] Thus began what later became known as The Watchful Peace, which lasted until T.A. 2460, when Sauron finally returned to Dol Guldur after years of hiding.[16]

In T.A. 2845, Thráin II, King of Durin's folk, the last bearer of one of the seven Rings of Power given to the Dwarves, was captured by Sauron's forces and was kept at Dol Guldur, where he yielded his ring to Sauron under torture.[17][18] Gandalf went again to Dol Guldur in T.A. 2850 to investigate his suspicions of the power that was rising, learned that this was indeed Sauron, and found Thráin in the dungeons close to death.[17]Thráin had forgotten his own name, but gave Gandalf a map and key to the Lonely Mountain for Thráin's son, Thorin Oakenshield.[19] Again anticipating the Wise, Sauron left Dol Guldur for Mordor in T.A. 2941.[20] Ten years later, when Sauron declared himself openly in Mordor, he sent three nazgûl back to reoccupy Dol Guldur.[21] Khamûl (one of the three) commanded the fortress in Sauron's absence.[22] In March of T.A. 3018, scouts from Dol Guldur became aware that Gollum had been brought to Mirkwood and was being held prisoner by Thranduil.[23] On 20 June T.A. 3018, orcs from Dol Guldur attacked the Elves who had imprisoned Gollum; in the chaos, Gollum escaped and disappeared.

The Battle under the Trees - illustration by Tom Loback.

In March, T.A. 3019, during the final days of the War of the Ring, Dol Guldur sent forces against Lothlórien and Thranduil's realm in what came to be known as the Battles of Lothlórien and Mirkwood: three attacks on Lórien (March 11, 15, and 22) and one, "The Battle under the Trees", against Thranduil (March 15). All were fiercely fought, but the power of Galadriel and the strength of the Elves proved too great for Dol Guldur to overcome. After the defeat of Sauron on March 25, Celeborn marched on Dol Guldur and overthrew it. Galadriel then destroyed the fortress so that the forest was free from the shadow of the tower. (These battles are all described in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, under the entries for the dates involved, and after the entry for March 25.)


Tolkien described how, in the history of Dol Guldur, Sauron's growing activity and power increased the tensions among Sauron's enemies. The Wise (various Elf-lords and Wizards — including Gandalf the Grey) had sensed an evil power growing in Dol Guldur, and they tried to determine whether Sauron was alive and regaining strength. Tolkien had portrayed the war fought by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men against Sauron at the end of the Second Age as a devastating struggle,[14][24] one the Wise hoped not to have to repeat. In response to the growing threat at Dol Guldur, they formed the White Council in T.A. 2463, shortly after Sauron's return to the fortress. Much later, in T.A. 2850, Gandalf infiltrated the area to probe Dol Guldur, and discovered that the evil presence whose identity he had long suspected was indeed Sauron.[14][19] The following year he pressed the White Council for an attack on Sauron.

But Saruman, the head of the Council, who had become corrupted by desire for Sauron's One Ring, spoke against this move, reassuring them that without the Ring Sauron could not regain his full strength.[14][24][25] Saruman put the Council off by suggesting that the Ring had most likely been lost in the River Anduin and had been carried out to the sea.[24] But in fact, Saruman was himself seeking the One Ring, and in this pursuit secretly betrayed the Council.[26] He believed the Ring lay hidden in the Gladden Fields not far from Dol Guldur, and was searching for it there. For Isildur had perished in the Gladden Fields when his army was ambushed by orcs after the defeat of Sauron — and it was Isildur who had taken Sauron's Ring and was its last known bearer. Saruman therefore did not want Sauron disturbed, hoping that if Sauron continued searching, the Ring might reveal itself while trying to reach Sauron, its one true master.[14][25]

Sauron thus was left to his devices. Gandalf remained troubled by Sauron's presence, and at the White Council in T.A. 2941 he once again argued that an attack on Dol Guldur was inevitable and necessary for the security of Middle-earth and its peoples.[14][24] Saruman agreed this time, but only because he had learned two years earlier that Sauron too was searching for the One Ring in the Gladden Fields.[27] Saruman hoped too that with Sauron and his servants out of the way, he himself might have more leisure to continue the search.[28] The Council gathered its strength and drove Sauron from Dol Guldur.[14] But the victory was hollow: Sauron had foreseen and prepared in advance for the assault, and he travelled in secret to Mordor to rebuild Barad-dûr to be his new sanctuary — and Dol Guldur was shortly reoccupied by nazgûl sent by Sauron from Mordor.[14][29][30] It was not until the War of the Ring, when Saruman was unmasked and Sauron fell, that the Wise finally purged the dark influence from Dol Guldur.[31]


In Tolkien's universe, Mirkwood is populated predominantly by elves,[32] and has included King Oropher and his son Thranduil and grandson Legolas.[32][33][34][35] However, the race of Silvan Elves are the dominant dwellers of Mirkwood.[36] Their homes lie deep in the forest (as recollected by Aragorn and Legolas when the Company of the Ring reached the Silverlode) in the Fellowship of the Ring.[36][37] Sauron however secretly built a stronghold in the region and slowly took the southern regions of the land from the elves without battle over time.[32] As a result, the forest began to host Orcs, Nazgûl, and giant spiders.[32]

The elves from Lothlórien led by Galadriel and Celeborn crossed the Anduin river to reclaim Amon Lanc after the defeat of Sauron, and the fortress was destroyed. Celeborn renamed the land "East Lórien", and the Silvan Elves prospered in what had formerly been Mirkwood.[38]


Book cover: Fall of the Necromancer

Several portrayals of Dol Guldur are included in the Games Workshop game, The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, appearing prominently in the "Fall of the Necromancer". A number of enemies are listed, including Spider Queens,[39] Castellans of Dol Guldur, Sauron the Necromancer, Wild Warg Chieftain, and their respective armies. Giant Bats are also included in the game.[40] The entire set of game figurines is featured on the Games Workshop website; these are similar in many ways to those from the Warhammer franchise.[citation needed]

Dol Guldur has been featured in many of the game adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, including the Iron Crown Enterprises portrayal, which contains scenarios and adventures for the Middle-earth Role Playing game[41] In the strategy battle game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, Dol Guldur appears as an iconic building.[42][43] The campaign-scenario called "Assault on Dol Guldur" appears as the final part of the good campaign.[44][45]

Released in 1996, the music album Dol Guldur from the black metal band Summoning features the name Dol Guldur.[46]

The Canadian artist John Howe has portrayed Dol Guldur in several of his sketches and drawings.[47] Howe drew these for Electronic Arts.[48] In Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe, Howe includes Dol Guldur among other fortresses of Middle-earth, such as Dol Amroth[49] In addition, Howe created many drawings for Peter Jackson during the filming of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in New Zealand, worked for Tolkien Enterprises, and also drew for Iron Crown Enterprises' collectable Middle-earth card game, which mentions Dol Guldur on Gandalf's card.[50][51]

Mirkwood was added to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar in the expansion pack entitled the Siege of Mirkwood, released on December 1, 2009 and depicting southern area of Mirkwood and Dol Guldur. The storyline is depicting a small Elven assault upon the fortress of Dol Guldur (not to be confused with the subsequent Siege of Dol Guldur, lead by Lady Galadriel herself). Making a bold strike deep into enemy territory, the Elves of Lothlorien then prepare to regroup and quickly move back to the west shore of Anduin before the Enemy can retaliate in force. While most participants are unaware of the true purpose of the assault, it is eventually revealed to be a ploy to draw Sauron's attention away from Lothlorien and allow the Fellowship to safely depart it and travel down the river Anduin.

See also


  1. ^ The Silmarillion, Index, p. 324.
  2. ^ The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party", p. 34.
  3. ^ "The sins of Middle-earth, Tolkien's use of Allegory". Chapter 6. Greenwood Press. pp. 86. 
  4. ^ Unfinished Tales, "Disaster of the Gladden Fields", p. 280, note 12.
  5. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "Lothlórien", p. 366.
  6. ^ Unfinished Tales, "Disaster of the Gladden Fields", p. 280, note 14.
  7. ^ a b c The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 1100.
  8. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, entries for 11, 15, and 21 March T.A. 3019.
  9. ^ See for example, The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", p. 302.
  10. ^ Unfinished Tales, Index, p. 418.
  11. ^ a b The Silmarillion, Appendix on Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names.
  12. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue, 1. Concerning Hobbits, p. 12.
  13. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, after the entry for 25 March, T.A. 3019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 244.
  15. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2063.
  16. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2460.
  17. ^ a b The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 261.
  18. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2845.
  19. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A.2850.
  20. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2941.
  21. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2951.
  22. ^ Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", p. 338, p. 352 (note 1).
  23. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 247
  24. ^ a b c d The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", pp. 258-259.
  25. ^ a b The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2851.
  26. ^ Rutledge, Fleming (2004). The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 100. ISBN 9780802824974.,M1. 
  27. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2939.
  28. ^ The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", p. 301–2.
  29. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, T.A. 2941 & 2951.
  30. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past", p. 42: "It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor ..."
  31. ^ The Return of the King, Appendix B, discussion after 25 March, T.A. 3019.
  32. ^ a b c d Errigo, Angie. The Rough Guide to the Lord of the Rings: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know .... Rough Guides. pp. 196, 197. ISBN 9781843532750.,M1. 
  33. ^ J.R.R., Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings. "'One only of us is an Elf, Legolas from the Woodland realm in distant Mirkwood. But we have passed through Lothlórien, and the gifts and favour of the Lady go with us...'" - Aragorn upon meeting the Riders of Rohan.. pp. 422. ISBN 0-00-714913-1. 
  34. ^ "The King of the Golden Hall". The Two Towers. pp. 111. 
  35. ^ "Tuckborough Quotes". The Thain's Book. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  36. ^ a b Tolkien, J.R.R.. "Lothlórien". The Lord of the Rings. "'Here is Nimrodel!' said Legolas. 'Of this stream the Silvan Elves made many songs long ago, and still we sing them in the North [of Mirkwood], remembering the rainbow on its falls, and the golden flowers that floated in its foam...'". pp. 329. 
  37. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R.. "Lothlórien". The Lord of the Rings. "'It is long since any my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago,' said Legolas, 'but we hear that Lórien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power here that holds evil from the land. Nevertheless its folk are seldom seen, and maybe they dwell now deep in the woods and far from the northern border.'
    'Indeed deep in the wood they dwell,' said Aragorn, and sighed as if some memory stirred in him...'"
    . pp. 329.
  38. ^ Appendix B. pp. 1069. 
  39. ^ Online, Games Workshop; Games Workshop. "Scourages of Mirkwood: Converting unique Spider Queens". Games Workshop. Games Workshop Online. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  40. ^ "Denizens of Dol Guldur: Dol Guldur Miniatures Gallery". Games Workshop Online. Games Workshop Online. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  41. ^ MERP 2014 Dol Guldur
  42. ^ McGregor, Georgia Leigh. Videogames, Virtual Worlds & Architecture, ACM International Conference Proceeding Series; Vol. 223, Murdoch University, 2006 ISBN 86905-901-7
  43. ^ "Architecture, Space and Gameplay in BFME2 and WOW" (PDF). University of New South Wales.,%20Space%20and%20Gameplay%20-%20Georgia%20Leigh%20McGregor.pdf. Retrieved 2008-08-21. 
  44. ^ Battle for Middle-earth II, EA Games The Lord of the Rings; EA Games. EA Games. ed. EA Games Adaptation. EA Games. See detailed map. ISBN 5-030930-050368. 
  45. ^ "Achievement Guide". pp. Pg. 1. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  46. ^ "". Amazon. pp. Pg. 1. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  47. ^ "John Howe Dol Guldur portfolio". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  48. ^ "Electronic Arts design". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  49. ^ Howe, John; Peter Jackson, Alan Lee, Ian McKellen, Robert Holdstock, Robin Hobb... (3 December 2001). Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe. Harper Collins. pp. 144. ISBN 0-00-710795-1. 
  50. ^ "Middle-earth collectable card game". John Howe. Iron Crown Enterprises. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  51. ^ "Gandalf". John Howe. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 

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