The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien


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  • Updated 24 February 2008
  • Updates planned: 1


Writhing creatures of the Dark Lord

Cold-blooded and limbless reptiles, serpents are often seen in the emblems and banners of Middle-earth, but rarely actually appear themselves. Indeed, the only literal serpent described anywhere in Tolkien's published writing is Sauron's serpent-form that he took on fleetingly during his fight with Huan. It seems that serpents are related, at least symbolically, to the Dragons: for example, Elvish Urulóki, usually interpreted as 'Fire-drakes', literally translates as 'fire-serpents'.

In a symbolic form, however, serpents recur frequently in Middle-earth. Perhaps most famously, the badge of the House of Finarfin featured two serpents beneath a crown of flowers. That badge appeared on the ring of Finrod Felagund that he granted to Barahir in the First Age, and was kept as an heirloom by Barahir's descendants throughout the Second and Third Ages, including Aragorn himself.

At the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, one of the great chieftains of the Haradrim also bore a serpent as his badge, in black against a field of red. That chieftain, known from his badge as the 'Black Serpent' was slain by a spear cast by Théoden. His banner was not the only serpent on the field of the Pelennor that day: the sword later used by Merry Brandybuck to attack the Witch-king also had red and golden serpentine forms decorating its blade.

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