Sunday, May 22, 2016

Monsters and Evil Things in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Prompt from the Tolkien SocietyCarefully read the book you want to work from if you have not already done this. Note down and think about all creatures that are 'nassty precious'! What is it that makes them scary? Does the place where they live make them more scary? What is the best defense against them? Is there any?

I will be analyzing the following in this essay: trolls, goblins, the spiders of Mirkwood, Smaug, Nazgul, the Balrog, and Shelob.

First up, the trolls of The Hobbit.  The trolls are almost a comical present--arguing about how to cook the Dwarves and Hobbit with their funny accents--but they are still scary for the simple fact they have captured Bilbo and the Dwarves and are about to eat them!  They are nomadic trolls, and move all around.  The best defense against the trolls is out-smarting them.  Their greatest weakness is daylight, so if you can just keep them occupied until then--like Gandalf does--you'll be able to escape without harm.

food, pot, chef

Second, the goblins also from The Hobbit.  These creatures have strength in numbers.  I can just imagine how disgusting it must have been to have all of the little goblins running around and creeping everywhere.  The place where they live--namely the tunnels beneath the Misty Mountains--definitely adds to the fear factor.  The tunnel brings images of worms, slugs, and all manners of nasty creatures to mind, as well as keeps our protagonists away from the Sun and their source of hope.  They feel hopelessly lost in the winding tunnels with no sense of escape.  The best defense against goblins is to simply outrun them.  Both times Bilbo and co. escape, they are right in their grasp but are able to escape just in time--either by falling out of their pathway and into Gollum's cave, or being rescued by Eagles.

The third group is the spiders of Mirkwood.  These spiders are so scary because many children--myself included!--are frightened of the eight little eyes and eight spindly legs of big spiders on our walls at night.  Since we are already scared of the creepy-crawlies, big versions of them are especially unsettling!  They live in twisty, sticky, webs high in the trees of dark Mirkwood forest.  I think this makes them more scary because you feel trapped amid their treacherous webs and it is very easy to get stuck and be left to their mercy (or lack thereof!).  The best defense against spiders we see is magic rings that keep you invisible, taunting them by singing rude songs, and generally just evading them.

nature, animal, fog

The fourth scary creature is Smaug the magnificent.  Smaug is terrifying because--well, he explains it best:  “My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”  Just the very being of Smaug is enough to invoke fear in the stoutest of Hobbits, the bravest of Dwarves, and the most fearless of Men.  At his name the surrounding villagers tremble.  He lives amid the ruins of a Dwarf city, in their dark halls which once were filled with light.  I think the large area and haunting sense of death and destruction must have added to Bilbo's fear as he went deep into the passageway.  The best defense against Smaug is--of course--black arrows, which are very rare.  If you don't happen to have a black arrow handy when Smaug attacks, you may be in significant trouble.

From The Lord of the Rings, the Nazgul are truly terrifying.  They are frightening because we don't get that much information about them, and they are the first scary creatures we encounter at the beginning of the story.  Gandalf gives us a bit of exposition, but we don't get a very good description or many details concerning them.  They are shrouded in mystery which contributes to the fear factor.  They live in Mordor which is certainly scary, but we never actually encounter them there.   The best defense against Nazgul is stealthy evasion as demonstrated by Frodo and friends and encouraged by Gandalf, fire which was utilized by Aragorn defending the Hobbits, and Elvish magic which was used by Glorfindel as the group passed over the Bruinen.

landscape, nature, forest

Next, the Balrog.  Durin's Bane is a terrifying monstrosity of literal fire and death.  His physical being is very scary and only made more horrendous by the fact he lives in a dark cavern, bereft of all light and life.  The best weapon to fight the Balrog is bravery and a hint of magic.  Gandalf is surely the only one of the Fellowship who had any hope of defeating him.  They are just lucky they had a wizard with them!

Finally, Shelob is a creepy creature from The Lord of the Rings.  She lurks in the tunnels in the mountains separating Minas Morgul from Mordor.  She spins her webs all about in order to trap and poison her prey.  Her dark surroundings are similar to both the spiders of Mirkwood and also the goblin tunnels.  The best defense against this monster is the light of Earendil and the strength you can only find within a brave and loving Hobbit.

Tolkien is great at demonstrating different ways to make his creations scary: from making their physical beings truly frightening, to placing the creatures in terrifying surroundings, and even keeping key things about the creatures secret in order to keep mystery and suspense at play.  These are great examples of how we all can use these methods in our own writing.  Good luck!


  1. *Shudders* The Nazgul and the Spiders are the worst for me: Shelob and the Spiders because they're the stuff of my nightmares, and the Nazgul because they're so inately evil, creepy, and dead without being truly gone. Worse- they won't just kill, you, they'll make you one of them! 0_0

    1. Oh, to imagine being a Nazgul for the rest of your--unnaturally long--life, formless and empty...yeesh. Good thing they don't exist in our universe--right? :0

    2. Right! Way worse than zombies, if you ask me. Nazgul are smart.