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Ungoliant

Sind.: ungol ... 'spider', from

Quenya: ungwe ... 'spider's web', but in the Etymologies (stem: UG) it is defined as 'gloom'.


Brief Description

The Great Spider who aided Melkor in the destruction of the TwoTrees of Valinor.

Ungoliant demanded all the treasures that Melkor had stolen from Formenos, including the Silmarils, but Melkor, with the help of his Balrogs, drove her off and she fled to a valley beneath EredGorgoroth, which was lateron called NanDungortheb. There she mated with other foul spider-creatures and it is said, that she devoured herself in the end.

Shelob was Ungoliant's offspring.

Also called Gloomweaver, Ungweliant and Wirilm.


Notes on Ungoliant's Origin and Nature

Ungoliant is often referred to as a spirit of the Ainur (and thus considered a Maia). But this is - IMO - highly questionable. In his earliest tales, Tolkien had envisaged her as a primeval spirit of a doubtful origin:

...for here dwelt the primeval spirit Mru whom even the Valar know not whence or when she came, and the folk of Earth have given her many names. Mayhap she was bred of mists and darkness on the confines of the Shadowy Seas, in that utter dark that came between the overthrow of the Lamps and the kindling of the Trees, but more like she has always been; and she it is who loveth still to dwell in that black place taking the guise of an unlovely spider, spinning a clinging gossamer of gloom that catches in its mesh stars and moons and all bright things that sail the airs.
'The Book of LostTales I - The Theft of Melko

It should be noted that this was written long before the conception of Maiar had taken their final shape in Tolkien's mind (Maiar in their final form do not appear in Tolkien's writings before "The Annals of Aman", which were probably written somewhen in the 1950s).

But even in the published Silmarillion, Ungoliant's origin remains somewhat doubtful and is only indirectly explained:

The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manw, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.
The Silmarillion - Of the Darkening of Valinor

And though the description of Ungoliant's origin had undergone several changes (...out of the darkness of Ea..., and ...from the Outer Darkness, maybe, that lies in Ea beyond the walls of the World...), I don't think there is an instance where it is stated that Ungoliant came from outside E (the creation, or the world).

-- ChW


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