A Stinking Bog on the Edge of the Dagorlad

“On either side and in front wide fens and mires now lay, stretching away southward and eastwards into the dim half-light.
Mists curled and smoked from dark and noisome pools.


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The Dead Marshes had crept eastward encroaching on the battle plain before the Black Gate of Mordor and many that were Dead became restless in it’s fetid waters. It is unclear when the Dead Marshes were formed, for it was a slow creeping process over many years. Perhaps fed by waters flowing down off the Emyn Muil and nursed by the Nindalf or Wetwang from the West, which itself was fed by the delta of the Entwash, that divided the Anduin into many channels and formed marshlands to the east of the Great River. At some point these creeping waters moved east forming their own shape and boundaries, as they slithered into the western reaches of the Dagorlad.

As these fetid and foul waters began to cover parts of the Dagorlad, they disturbed those buried in the wastes. Elves, Men and Orcs all fell in the countless battles before the Black Gate during the War of the Last Alliance and by the last days of the Third Age these stinking waters had been given a name… The Dead Marshes.

DeadMarshes1As Frodo, Sam and Gollum made their way out of the last gullies of the Emyn Muil, before them they saw a shadowy silent world of curling mists.

Over the last shelf of rotting stone the stream gurgled and fell down into a brown bog and was lost. Dry reeds hissed and rattled though they could feel no wind.
On either side and in front wide fens and mires now lay, stretching away southward and eastwards into the dim half-light. Mists curled and smoked from dark and noisome pools. The reek of them hung stifling in the still air. Far away, now almost due south, the mountain-walls of Mordor loomed, like a black bar of rugged clouds floating above a dangerous fog-bound sea.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Passage of the Marshes’


As Frodo and Sam were guided through these noxious and dangerous waters by Gollum, they found that they were not alone in the Marshes.

Presently it grew altogether dark: the air itself seemed black and heavy to breathe. When lights appeared, Sam rubbed his eyes: he thought his head was going queer. He first saw one with the corner of his left eye, a wisp of pale sheen that faded away; but others appeared soon after: some like dimly shining smoke, some like misty flames flickering slowly above unseen candles; here and there they twisted like ghostly sheets unfurled by hidden hands. But neither of his companions spoke a word.
At last Sam could bear no longer. ‘What’s all this Gollum?’ he said in a whisper. ‘These lights? They’re all around us now. Are we trapped? who are they?’
Gollum looked up. A dark water was before him, and he was crawling on the ground, this way and that, doubtful of the way. ‘Yes, thy are all around us,’ he whispered. ‘The tricksy lights. Candles of the Corpses, yes, yes. Don’t you heed them! Don’t look! Don’t follow them! Where’s the master?’
Sam looked back and found that Frodo had lagged again. He could not see him. he went some paces back into the darkness, not daring to move far, or to call in more then a whisper. Suddenly he stumbled against Frodo, who was standing lost in thought, looking at the pale lights. His hands hung stiff at his sides; water and slime were dripping from them.
‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ said Sam. ‘Don’t look at them! Gollum says we mustn’t. Let’s keep up with him and get out of this cursed place as quick as we can – if we can!’
‘All right,’ said Frodo, as if returning out of a dream.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Passage of the Marshes’


DeadMarshes2Then it was Sam’s turn to look in the ghostly meres of the marshes.

“Hurrying forward again, Sam tripped, catching his foot in some old root or tussock. He fell and came heavily on his hands, which sank deep into the oozs, so that his face was brought close to the surface of the dark mere.
There was a faint hiss, a noisome smell went up. the lights flickered and danced and swirled. For a moment the water below him looked like a window, glazed with grimy glass, through which he was peering. Wrenching his hands out of the bog, he sprang back with a cry. ‘There are dead things, dead faces in the water,’ he said with horror. ‘Dead faces!’
Gollum laughed. “The Dead Marshes, yes, yes: that is thier name,’ he cackled. ‘You should not look in when the candles are lit.’
‘Who are they? What are they?’ asked Sam shuddering, turning to Frodo, who was now behind him.
‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. ‘But I have seen them too. In the pools when the candles were lit. They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water. I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad. Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them.’ Frodo hid his eyes in his hands. ‘I know not who they are; but I thought I saw there Man and Elves, and Orcs beside them.’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Gollum. ‘All dead, all rotten. Elves and Men and Orcs. The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Smèagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came. It was a great battle. Tall Men with long swords, and terrible Elves, and Orcses shrieking. They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates. But the Marshes have grown since then, swallowed up the graves; always creeping, creeping.’

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Passage of the Marshes’


‘So after a brief rest they set out again and were soon lost in a shadowy silent world, cut off from all view of the lands about,
either the hills that they had left or the mountains that they sought.’


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 Posted by at 9:28 am