The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Not known: possibly related to Dragons
'Were' probably comes from the Old English wír, 'man'. 'Worm' in this context is more likely to mean 'dragon' than 'worm' in its modern sense.


About this entry:

  • Updated 5 August 1998
  • This entry is complete


Mysterious denizens of the Last Desert

"Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert."
Bilbo Baggins,
in The Hobbit 1: An Unexpected Party

Creatures of an unknown kind, possibly mythical and presumably related to dragons, that were said to dwell in the Last Desert.

Tolkien only ever mentions were-worms once, in the quote given above, so we know almost nothing about them. We cannot even be certain that they actually existed - the Hobbits had a rich folklore peopled with fantastic beings, and were-worms quite possibly fall into that category.

If they did exist, the name 'were-worm' suggests a shapeshifting creature like a werewolf - a being that could take the form of either a Man or of a Dragon. Any discussion of the form or habits of the were-worms, though, must remain in the realms of speculation.

The image conjured by the phrase 'wild Were-worms in the Last Desert' is remarkably resonant of the giant sandworms of Arrakis in the Dune novels. It's appealing to think that this may have had a small part in inspiring Frank Herbert's writing, though of course there is no way we can know whether this is the case.

See also...

Last Desert

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