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Established before c. II 1000;1 survived until at least the end of the Third Age2
In Ephel Dúath, in the pass of Cirith Ungol
Lay close to the Tower of Cirith Ungol
Shelob is probably pronounced 'shee'lob'3
Shelob means 'she-spider'
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 22 May 2022
  • Updates planned: 1

Shelob’s Lair

The dark tunnels of Cirith Ungol

Plan of Shelob's Lair
The general layout of Shelob's Lair4
The general layout of Shelob's Lair4

A partial English translation of Torech Ungol, the name of the black, mazelike lair of Shelob in the pass of Cirith Ungol.



We don't know exactly when Shelob made her lair in the Mountains of Shadow, but we do know that she found her way to Cirith Ungol before Sauron had begun building the Barad-dûr. The building of the Dark Tower began in about the year II 1000, so Shelob had haunted Cirith Ungol since before that date (and perhaps as early as the beginning of the Second Age).


We know that Shelob was still present in her lair at the time of the War of the Ring, at least 5,400 years after she had first settled there. Whether she survived there much longer after the War is unknown, but it seems more than plausible that the new King Aragorn would have made efforts to deal with the menace on his eastern borders.


Shelob's name comes from a compound 'she-lob' (that is, 'she-spider'), so the first syllable is almost certainly pronounced like the English word 'she'. Following the rules of Elvish pronunciation, it would have a short 'e' sound, something like 'sheh', but those rules do not appear to hold in this particular case.


This map is based on a rough plan by Tolkien reproduced in volume VIII of The History of Middle-earth. A similar, but rather less detailed, second map also appears in the same volume. The fact that these maps are not identical shows that Tolkien was experimenting with different layouts when he drew these plans, and so they should by no means be taken as absolutely precise.

One peculiarity of the original sketch map is that is marked with an unconventional compass rose, showing 'W' and 'E' in their usual positions, but with 'N' and 'S' reversed. It's hard to be sure what Tolkien intended by this (strictly speaking, this arrangement should be impossible, unless the plan was drawn as if looking up from underground, which hardly seems likely). More plausibly, Tolkien drew the original map as if the cleft lay westward of the tunnels, but then realised that it should be to the east, and reversed the directions on the compass rose to indicate this. The map shown here therefore rotates the original so that the cleft and the Under-way point eastward rather than westward, though other valid orientations might be imagined.


About this entry:

  • Updated 22 May 2022
  • Updates planned: 1

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