Ungoliant

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Ungoliant is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth 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.

Contents

Name

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

Biography

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. She also drained the wells of Varda, extinguishing the source of light for the world. Afterward this light 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.

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 culture

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.

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