The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Very uncertain, but known to have declined after about III 20001
Race

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 7 August 1999
  • This entry is complete

Long-worms

Scatha and his kind

Encyclopedia of Arda Timeline
Years of the Trees First Age Second Age Third Age Fourth Age and Beyond

A type of dragon found in the northern parts of Middle-earth, and perhaps elsewhere. The most famous long-worm (and in fact the only one that Tolkien explicitly identifies) was Scatha of the Ered Mithrin, who preyed on the Dwarves and Men of the Grey Mountains, and was slain by Fram of the Éothéod.

Though Tolkien gives almost no clues about long-worms in the text of The Lord of the Rings, his illustrations of dragons give us some further hints. Tolkien's dragons tend to be sinuous, serpentine creatures, having the appearance almost of a winged snake rather than the more traditional dragon-form. This would explain the term 'long-worm' easily. It's interesting to note that Tolkien gave this form to another northern dragon, Smaug, which strongly suggests that he, too, was one of the long-worms.


It should be noted that Tolkien doesn't conclusively refer to long-worms as a 'type' of dragon, and it is just possible that 'long-worm' is simply another word for 'dragon'. This doesn't seem very likely, though: if all worms are long, why call them 'long-worms'? Of course, if we assume that long-worms are a 'subspecies' of dragon, there must be other, less long, types.

Notes

1

Fram slew the long-worm Scatha in (very approximately) the year 2000 of the Third Age, and Tolkien tells us that 'the land [of the Éothéod] had peace from the long-worms afterwards' (The Lord of the Rings Appendix A II The House of Eorl). This is a little ambiguous - we've taken it to imply that the long-worms continued to exist, but the Éothéod were free from them. An alternative reading would be that Scatha was the last of the long-worms, and Fram's people had peace because that race of dragons was extinct. It seems unlikely that Tolkien wouldn't be more definite about such an important fact, though.

As for the long-worms' origins, we've assumed on the timeline that they dated back to the First Age, as did dragons as a whole. In fact, there is no direct textual evidence of their existence before the Third Age, but it is hard to explain their origins if not in the pits of Angband.

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

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd.

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