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  • Updated 3 November 2018
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The Morannon, the immense Black Gate of Mordor, had been built by Sauron during the Second Age to guard the northwestern entrance to his land. Where the mountains of the Ered Lithui and Ephel Dúath came together, they formed a narrow pass into Mordor known as Cirith Gorgor. This was the weakest point in the mountainous western defences of Mordor, and the Black Gate was constructed across the pass to guard against Sauron's enemies. After the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance that brought the Second Age to an end, the Gondorians took steps to secure his stronghold of Mordor. They built watch-towers to guard all the passes into the Black Land, and two of these towers were raised to guard the Black Gate.

The Watch-towers were individually named Narchost and Carchost, and often collectively known as the Towers of the Teeth. Each was a tall1 structure of dark stone, and each stood on its own bare hill on either side of the Morannon. The towers had many windows looking out northward, eastward and westward to guard against any servants or allies of Sauron that might seek to return to his Black Land. They were served by a long road running out of Ithilien, which in those early days fell securely under the power of Gondor.

Over the centuries of the Third Age, the power of Gondor east of Anduin waned, and the watch on Mordor lessened. We know that the Watch-towers were still held by the Gondorians at the time of the Battle of the Camp in III 1944, but at some point after that they were abandoned. We don't know exactly when this happened; it may have been as late as III 2901 when Ithilien was finally deserted, though circumstantially it appears to be rather earlier than this. Regardless of the exact date, the Gate of Mordor was long left unguarded as the Watch-towers of the Morannon fell into decay.

In III 2942 Sauron returned in secret to Mordor. This was the very event that the Watch-towers had been built to prevent, nearly three thousand years beforehand, but by this time they were deserted and ruinous. They did not remain so for long: the Dark Lord soon repaired the towers and filled them with watchers of his own. From this time, the Watch-towers were under the power of Sauron, and having failed to prevent his return, they now guarded his Black Gate against the enemies of Mordor.

During the War of the Ring, the Captains of the West gathered their army before the Morannon to challenge Sauron, and so they stood under the shadow of the Watch-towers. The eastern tower had concealed an army in the mountains behind it, and Orcs charged from the tower to attack Aragorn and his allies. As events then unfolded, this would be the last part the Watch-towers would play in history. As the armies faced each other, the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom, and the convulsions of the land caused both of the high Watch-towers of the Morannon - and the Morannon itself - to fall into rubble.


Notes

1

It seems that the Watch-towers must have been remarkably tall. We're told that a light at the top of one of the towers could be seen by a traveller passing westward from the Black Gate until they turned southward and the Mountains of Shadow cut off the view. That would mean that the towers could be seen from about thirty miles away, which in turn implies that each stood about 150 metres (or about 500 feet) above the plain. Of course, the fact that the towers stood on hills would account for some of that height, but nonetheless it seems that the towers themselves must been several hundred feet from base to crown.

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About this entry:

  • Updated 3 November 2018
  • Updates planned: 2

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