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The oldest being to hold this title was the Vala Oromë, potentially dating the title back into the Years of the Trees or even beyond
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  • Updated 21 May 2010
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The Great

The mightiest of their kind

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A title referring to those who were great of size, stature or power. 'The Great' is sometimes used as a general title for the wise and lordly, but it was also applied to many individual beings, places and items that had different claims on being 'great' among their own kind. By far the most common of these were the Anduin (the Great River of Middle-earth) and the Dark Lord Sauron, but there were many other less common cases.

Several geographic uses of the title occur: not only the immensely long Anduin the Great (very commonly just called 'the Great River'), but also Belegaer the Great and Greenwood the Great (the forest that later became known as 'Mirkwood').

As in more modern times, 'the Great' was also often applied to powerful or preeminent kings and lords. Sauron was often referred to as 'Sauron the Great' (most often by his own followers, but not exclusively so). Among others that were given this title were the Vala Oromë, and Tar-Atanamir the thirteenth Ruler of Númenor. Gollum also daydreamed of himself holding the Ring and being proclaimed 'Gollum the Great' (though of course this title was never used outside his imagination).

There were even more 'Greats' in Middle-earth. The Red Ring Narya, the marvellous horse Shadowfax, and the huge spider Shelob were all known at times as 'the Great'. Less flattering was the title as applied to Lalia Clayhanger of the Shire, who was known formally as 'Lalia the Great', but less formally as 'Lalia the Fat', giving a clue to the true meaning of her 'greatness'.

Anduin the Great Commonly called the Great River, the Anduin was the longest of the rivers of Middle-earth, running more than a thousand miles from its sources in the far north to its wide Mouths on the Bay of Belfalas.
Belegaer the Great An occasional title for Belegaer, the ocean into which the River Anduin flowed. The name of this sea actually includes beleg, the Elvish word for 'great', and it reflects the more common form of its name among Men, which was 'Great Sea'.
Gollum the Great A title dreamed of by Gollum himself as he imagined the power he hoped to gain from the Ring, and plotted how to recover it from Frodo during their journey to the Black Land.
Greenwood the Great The ancient name used for the vast forest that grew to the east of the Vales of Anduin. In about the year III 1050, the dark fortress of Dol Guldur was founded in its southern parts, and a shadow began to grow within the Forest. From that time its old name fell out of use, and Greenwood the Great became commonly known as Mirkwood.
Lalia the Great The widow of Thain Fortinbras II of the Shire, who ruled the Took clan after his death. She was known as 'the Great' (and less politely as 'the Fat') due to her extraordinary girth.
Narya the Great The Red Ring, one of the Three Rings of the Elves created by Celebrimbor, which was held by Gil-galad and then Círdan before being passed to Gandalf, who bore it through the latter part of the Third Age. Narya's title 'Great' seems merely to imply that it was one of the Great Rings1.
Oromë the Great The Huntsman of the Valar, one of the Powers of Arda, who discovered the newly awakened Elves and brought many of them into the West. He was also one of the great warriors among the Valar, fighting Melkor in the years even before the first Elves appeared. When Théoden led the Rohirrim into the Battle of the Pelennor he was described as being 'like a god of old, Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar...' (The Return of the King, V 5, The Ride of the Rohirrim).
Sauron the Great The second Dark Lord, who first gained power of his own during the Second Age after the defeat of his master Morgoth. He was defeated in turn at the end of that Age, but arose once again and came close to subjugating Middle-earth, until he was finally overcome by the destruction of his Ring. It is unsurprising that Sauron was frequently called 'Sauron the Great' by his own servants and messengers, but the title was also sometimes used by his enemies, in recognition of the true power that Sauron held.
Shadowfax the Great A title used by Gandalf for the magnificent steed Shadowfax, lord of the mearas and the greatest horse alive in Middle-earth at the time of the War of the Ring. A great bond formed between Shadowfax and Gandalf during that War, and it seems that Shadowfax even travelled across the Great Sea with Gandalf when he returned into the West aboard the White Ship.
Shelob the Great The immense spider, the offspring of Ungoliant, who made her lair in the Ephel Dúath on the western borders of Mordor. She is described as 'Shelob the Great' simply because of her huge size.
King Tar-Atanamir the Great Thirteenth of the twenty-five Rulers of Númenor, who held the Sceptre in the later second millennium of the Second Age. He acquired the title 'Great' due to his power and riches, and in pursuit of these he levied large tributes from the Men of Middle-earth. It was said that in Tar-Atanamir's time the Shadow first fell on Númenor that would eventually lead to its Downfall.

Notes

1

Of the Three Rings, Nenya is referred to as the chief, and Vilya as the mightiest. On that circumstantial basis, it seems that Narya was probably the least powerful of the Three, despite acquiring the title 'Great'.

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