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
Origins
One of those Men ensnared by Sauron's Nine Rings
Race
Originally a Man
Order
Settlements
Ruled Angmar from Carn Dûm, and later captured and dwelt in Minas Morgul
Titles

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  • Updated 27 October 2019
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Wraith-king

One of the many titles given to the Lord of the Nazgûl

A title given to the powerful nameless servant of Sauron who was the Lord of the Nazgûl. His origins are obscure, except that we know he was born near the beginning of the third millennium of the Second Age. In his early life he may have been a king in Middle-earth or a lord of Númenor, and he appears to have had sorcerous powers. He was tempted by Sauron to use one of the Nine Rings, and thus his will fell under the dominion of the Dark Lord. His life stretched by the power of the Ring, he served Sauron for more than a thousand years, until the time of the War of the Last Alliance that brought Sauron's rule to an end and sent the Ringwraiths into the shadows.

A further thousand years passed after Sauron's defeat before the Dark Lord began to take a new form, and with his return the Nazgûl also re-emerged. The Lord of the Nazgûl was given the task of destroying the divided North-kingdom of the Dúnedain, and to this end he established a realm in the northern Misty Mountains on Arnor's eastern border. Whether he had once been a king in his former life, now he became one in truth, ruling his new mountain realm of Angmar as the Witch-king or Wraith-king.

Over the following centuries, the Wraith-king came close to succeeding in his war against the old lands of Arnor. Indeed, within little more than a century he had subverted the hill people of Rhudaur and overwhelmed Cardolan, sending evil spirits to inhabit the old barrows of that land. These were the beings that would later be known as Barrow-wights.

The last of the three northern kingdoms of the Dúnedain, Arthedain, proved more resilient. Its Kings and people resisted the Wraith-king's attacks for more than five centuries until, in III 1974 Angmar's forces finally broke Arthedain's defences. The capital of Fornost was captured, and King Arvedui fled his city into the northern wilds.

The Wraith-king's victory, however, proved to be short-lived. An immense force from Gondor landed in Lindon and, though too late to save their sister kingdom of Arthedain, they took revenge on the occupying forces. Angmar's armies were scattered and destroyed, and the Wraith-king himself was forced to flee into the south, back to his master's stronghold of Mordor. It was at this time that the Elf Glorfindel prophesied the Wraith-king's fate, foreseeing that he would not fall by the hand of man.

Fewer than thirty years passed after the Wraith-king's return to Mordor before he emerged to menace the Dúnedain once again. In the year III 2000, he led a force to besiege the Gondorian tower of Minas Ithil on the western borders of the Dark Land. The Moontower stood against the siege for two years, but eventually it fell to the Nazgûl. From that time, the Wraith-king ruled from his new city, which became known as Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery.

The Wraith-king would not meet his fate until the War of the Ring, a thousand years later. In that War, he led a great force out of Minas Morgul to besiege Minas Tirith, the chief city of his enemies. Battle erupted on the Pelennor Fields beneath the city, but the Wraith-king faced his enemy knowing of Glorfindel's prophecy that he could not fall by the hand of man. On the field of battle, he encountered a warrior of Rohan named Dernhelm, but this proved to be no man, but the Lady Éowyn in disguise. Aided by the Hobbit Meriadoc Brandybuck, Éowyn slew the Wraith-king. Thus the prophecy was fulfilled - though in a manner none had foreseen - and the Wraith-king's long life came to an end after more than four thousand years of service to the Dark Lord.


Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 27 October 2019
  • This entry is complete

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