The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Apparently died in c. I 4681
Race
Presumably a Maia2
Pronunication
thuri'ngwethil
Meaning
'Woman of Secret Shadow'

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About this entry:

  • Updated 23 July 2008
  • This entry is complete

Thuringwethil

The ‘Woman of Secret Shadow’

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Years of the Trees First Age Second Age Third Age Fourth Age and Beyond

Sauron's vampire messenger, bat-winged and iron-clawed, who carried out his errands between Tol-in-Gaurhoth and Angband.

Little is known for sure about Thuringwethil, but all the indications are that she was a lesser Maia, probably one of the many brought into the service of Melkor during the early ages of the World. Though she is associated with Vampires, she is never explicitly said to be one (instead, she merely took on their form to carry her messages). It's equally unclear whether these 'Vampires' referred to undead monsters or merely to the bats of that name.

Whatever her origins, Thuringwethil's fate is well established. Caught at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, her winged form was taken by the enchantress Lúthien, and in Thuringwethil's shape she made her way with Beren to Angband. There they achieved the Quest of the Silmaril, and stole one of the Three Jewels from Morgoth's Iron Crown.

Thuringwethil wasn't the only one of Morgoth's servants who could take on Vampire-form: Sauron used the same form to make a desperate escape from Huan the Hound of Valinor. Far later in history, Sauron once again used Winged Messengers to carry out his errands across Middle-earth: Nazgûl whose airborne steeds were perhaps inspired by Sauron's Vampire servant of the First Age.


Notes

1

I 468 is the approximate date of the destruction of Sauron's Isle of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, in which Thuringwethil seems to have perished, or at least been robbed of her physical form.

2

We have no detailed information about Thuringwethil's nature or origins, but we are told that she was '...wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband' (Quenta Silmarillion 19, Of Beren and Lúthien). If Thuringwethil could change her shape, as this suggests, then she was very likely a Maia or some similar being.

Actually, it's entirely plausible that Tolkien himself wouldn't have been able to identify Thuringwethil's particular origins. Her character dates back all the way to the very early Lost Tales, in which Tolkien was more concerned with building a series of poignant and resonant myths than with building a completely explained and coherent fictional world. Because of this, these early stories often introduce new characters and creatures without clear explanation, and Thuringwethil seems to belong to this class of mysterious beings.

See also...

Vampires

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