The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
The Nazgûl were first seen c. II 2250, so Khamûl must have been born not long before this; they went 'into the shadows' II 3441; reappeared in Middle-earth c. III 1300; finally destroyed in III 3019
An Easterling ensnared by one of the Nine Rings
Probably 'kha'mool'


About this entry:

  • Updated 31 October 2010
  • This entry is complete


The Shadow of the East

"He was tall and black-like, and he stooped over me. I reckon it was one of the Big Folk from foreign parts. He spoke funny."
From Hamfast Gamgee's description of his encounter with Khamûl
The Fellowship of the Ring I 3
Three is Company

A lord of the Easterlings, probably born in the early third millennium of the Second Age. He was one of the Nine seduced by Sauron and given a Ring of Power, through which he was enslaved to Sauron's will, thus becoming one of the Nazgûl. Khamûl is notable as being the only one of the Ringwraiths for whom we are given a personal name.

Among the Nazgûl, Khamûl was one of the most powerful, second in might and authority only to the Witch-king himself. It was said that Khamûl was the most able to sense the presence of the One Ring. While the powers of all of the Nazgûl were to some extent affected by sunlight, Khamûl was the one most susceptible to the effect of the Sun.

Khamûl in the War of the Ring

After Sauron returned to Mordor in the years before the War of the Ring, he sent Khamûl with two other Nazgûl to reoccupy his former stronghold of Dol Guldur. This was in the year III 2951, and Khamûl remained there as commander of the tower for nearly sixty years, but when Sauron learned the names of 'Baggins' and 'the Shire' in connection with his Ring, he elected to send the Nine northwards to seek these out.

Khamûl and his companion departed from Dol Guldur, and travelled to join the other seven Ringwraiths at the nearby Field of Celebrant. From there the Nine began to search for the Shire. Knowing nothing of its true location, they scoured the Vales of Anduin - where Hobbits were known to have lived at one time - but found nothing but deserted ruins.

Sauron was angered at the failure of the Nazgûl to discover the Shire but, correctly suspecting that Saruman had some knowledge of the land, he sent them to Isengard to question the Wizard. Saruman himself was evasive, but the Nazgûl succeeded in capturing one of his spies,2 and thus finally discovered where the Shire lay in Middle-earth.

The Ringwraiths travelled on into the North, and Khamûl himself entered the Shire with others of his kind. At Hobbiton, he questioned Hamfast Gamgee about 'Baggins' as Frodo and his companions were leaving Bag End, but he failed to discover the whereabouts of the Ring. Continuing his search, he travelled down to the Stock Road and nearly caught the Ring-bearer as he escaped across Bucklebury Ferry.

From there, the pursuit continued across Middle-earth. At Bree, Khamûl and the other Nazgûl came close to capturing the Ring, but failed. On Weathertop, they succeeded in wounding Frodo with a Morgul-knife. At the Ford of Rivendell, they seemed certain to achieve their goal, but the power of Elrond and Gandalf caused the river to rise against them, and Khamûl and the others were washed away by the raging waters. From then on, we have no independent account of Khamûl's doings; his fate was tied to that of the other Ringwraiths.



Tolkien never presents any direct linguistic evidence for the origins of Khamûl's name, which is presumably taken from his own alien Easterling language. One feature that stands out is the similarity of its first syllable to the eastern land of Khand, and it's conceivable that there's a connection between the two.

At one point Tolkien describes this Nazgûl with the extended name of 'Khamûl the Shadow of the East' (Unfinished Tales 3 IV, The Hunt for the Ring), which might be taken to imply that his name literally means 'Shadow of the East'. If so, this might even tie in to a connection with the name Khand, but there's precious little evidence on which to base these speculations.


Some sources suggest that this spy was none other than Gríma Wormtongue. Other accounts (perhaps more plausibly, given his knowledge of the northern lands) describe him as a Dunlending messenger and agent. According to the latter account, this Dunlending agreed in terror to spy for the Witch-king, and later made a brief appearance in the narrative of The Lord of the Rings as the 'squint-eyed southerner' mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring I 9.


About this entry:

  • Updated 31 October 2010
  • This entry is complete

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1999, 2001, 2009-2010. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
Discover how DISC fits together with our FREE and comprehensive Complete Introduction to DISC.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry