The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
First seen c. II 2250; went 'into the shadows' II 3441; reappeared in Middle-earth c. III 1300; finally destroyed in III 3019
Race
Divisions
Various, including some Númenóreans
Meaning
Uncertain1
Other names
Titles

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About this entry:

  • Updated 11 April 2008
  • This entry is complete

Úlairi

A name for the Ringwraiths

Sauron's Ringwraiths were unusual in that they were normally referred to by their name in Sauron's Black Speech - Nazgûl - rather than being given an Elvish name. In fact they are given no Elvish name at all in the published Lord of the Rings2. Perhaps the people of Middle-earth were unwilling to use the Elven-tongue to name these monsters, but though it was rarely used, an Elvish name did indeed exist: Úlairi.


Notes

1

No explanation of the name Úlairi is ever given, and its intended meaning is very uncertain. One possibility derives from the use of ul- as meaning 'monstrous, horrible' (as for example in the name Uldor). On this model, the final element -airi is perhaps related to Quenya aira, 'eternal, unending', so that Úlairi would mean something like 'undying monsters' (a fair description of the Nazgûl).

This is far from a sure interpretation, and others could be invented. Another possibility would be based on ú- 'not' and lairë 'summer', suggesting that these were creatures of darkness and misery, but that interpretation seems a little too contrived to be very plausible.

2

In fact the name Úlairi does appear in various drafts for the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, but these references were removed before publication.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 11 April 2008
  • This entry is complete

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