The Dark History of Witch King ~ Lord of the Nazgûl
Here in you may read a Dark History, collected from many sources, about the greatest of the Ringwraiths.
The Dark History of the Lord of the Nazgûl
Dread Servant of the Dark Lord
Chief and greatest among the Nazgûl was the Witch King of Angmar; to him was given the first of the nine Rings of Power. Writings discovered among Saruman’s papers declare that the Rings given to Men were, alone of all the Rings of Power, silver, set with a single amber stone, but those worn by the Nazgûl were withered in size, and the amber stone was red, like an eye. Alone of the them, the Witch-kings was of silver and gold, to reflect his elevated status, and the stone was of untaited amber.
The Lord of the Nazgûl was Sauron’s most dreadful servant. He was once a Man who became corrupted by one of the Nine Rings of Power. He established the realm of Angmar and became known as the Witch-king, and though Angmar was defeated it was foretold that the Witch-king would not fall by the hand of man. During the War of the Ring, the Witch-king led the hunt for the Ring-bearer and he commanded the forces at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields where at last he met his doom.
Nothing is known about the Lord of the Nazgûl’s original identity. It is said that three of the Nine Nazgûl were originally great lords of the Numenorean race, and though it seems likely that the Lord of the Nazgûl would be one of these, it cannot be stated for certain.
Sauron had deceived Celebrimbor and the Elven-smiths of Eregion and had taken part in creating the Nine Rings of Power in the 1500’s of the Second Age. Then Sauron created the One Ring for himself to rule the others and the Elves realized they had been betrayed. Sauron attacked Eregion in 1697 and seized the Nine Rings.
Sauron gave the Nine Rings to Men, who proved easily corrupted. The Men used the Rings to claim power and wealth for themselves, but over time they became wraiths enslaved by the will of Sauron.
Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thralldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron’s. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death. The Silmarillion: “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” p. 289 The Nine first appeared in the form of Nazgûl around 2251 of the Second Age. The most powerful of them became the Lord of the Nazgûl. In 3434, the Elves and Men of the Last Alliance marched to war against Sauron in Mordor and at last in 3441, Sauron was overthrown and the One Ring was taken by Isildur. The Nazgûl vanished into the shadows.
Sauron returned in secret around 1050 of the Third Age and built a stronghold on the edge of Mirkwood at Dol Guldur. Around 1300, the Nazgul reappeared. The Lord of the Nazgul went north to Eriador and established the realm of Angmar on both sides of the Misty Mountains. The Witch-king’s stronghold was Carn Dûm in the northernmost peak. He gathered a force of evil Men, Orcs, and other creatures.
The Witch-king had chosen to establish his realm in the north because while Gondor remained strong in the south, the North-kingdom of Arnor was in disarray. Arnor had been divided into Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur in 861 and there was dissension among the three kingdoms. The Witch-king took advantage of this disunity to further his own plans of conquest.
Rhudaur was the first to fall under the Witch-king’s power. There were few Dunedain remaining in Rhudaur and an evil lord of the Hill-men in league with the Witch-king seized power. In 1356, King Argeleb I of Arthedain claimed rule of all of Arnor. Rhudaur objected and waged war on Arthedain and King Argeleb was killed in battle.
In 1409, the Witch-king sent forth a great host from Angmar. Cardolan was overrun and ravaged, though some of the Dunedain took refuge in the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest and continued to resist. The Dunedain of Rhudaur were utterly defeated and evil Men who practiced sorcery and were subjects of the Witch-king occupied the land.
The Witch-king’s forces surrounded Weathertop. The Tower of Amon Sul was destroyed, but the Dunedain managed to rescue the palantir. King Arveleg I of Arthedain was slain and the Dunedain were defeated and retreated to Fornost. Arveleg’s young son Araphor prevented the Witch-king from taking Fornost. He was helped by a force of Elves from Lindon led by Cirdan, and Elrond also brought Elves from Rivendelland Lothlorien. The Witch-king’s plan to conquer all of Arnor was halted.
The remnants of the Dunedain in Cardolan perished during the Dark Plague of 1636. The Witch-king then sent evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur to occupy the mounds of the Barrow-downs and these spirits became known as the Barrow-wights.
By 1974, the Witch-king had risen to power again. In the winter, he sent a force to invade Arthedain and he captured Fornost. King Arvedui sent word to Gondor for aid and resisted for a time in the North Downs, but at last he was forced to retreat and later perished at sea. Arvedui’s sons and the remainder of the Dunedain retreated across the River Lune.
The Witch-king took the throne in Fornost and filled the city with his evil minions. In 1975, a force from Gondor led by Earnur arrived to challenge him. With Earnur came horsemen from the Vales of the Anduin and princes of Rhovanion. Cirdan summoned a force of Elves from Lindon to join them, and Glorfindel led a company from Rivendell. It is said that the Hobbits of the Shire sent a company of archers as well.
The Witch-king rode out to meet his enemies clad in black robes and a black mask and mounted on a black horse. There was a great battle on the plain between the North Downs and Lake Evendim. The forces of Angmar were defeated and the Witch-king tried to retreat to Carn Dum but he was pursued by Earnur and his cavalry. The Witch-king was filled with hatred for Earnur and rode to confront him. Earnur tried to stand his ground but his horse fled in terror and the Witch-king laughed. Then Glorfindel approached and the Witch-king vanished into the shadows. Glorfindel counselled Earnur not to pursue him, saying:
“Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.”
Appendix A: “Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion,”
The realm of Angmar was ended and all the Orcs and Men of the Witch-king’s forces were killed or driven from Eriador. The Witch-king returned to Mordor in 1980 and he gathered the other eight Nazgûl to him. There they began to prepare for Sauron’s return.
In 2000, the Nazgûl besieged Minas Ithil and in 2002 they captured it and claimed it as their stronghold. It was renamed Minas Morgul, the Tower of Black Sorcery. The Witch-king became the Lord of Morgul and his second-in-command was Khamul. The palantir called the Ithil-stone was claimed by the Nazgûl and was later given to Sauron.
Earnur became King of Gondor in 2043. The Witch-king challenged his adversary to single-combat, mocking him for his failure to stand and fight at the Battle of Fornost. Mardil, the Steward of Gondor, convinced Earnur to refuse the Witch-king, but seven years later the challenge was renewed and Earnur accepted. He rode with a small company of knights to Minas Morgul and they were never seen again. Earnur was believed to have died in torment in Minas Morgul. He left no heir, and it was from that time that the Stewards began to rule Gondor in absence of a King.
The Watchful Peace began in 2063 after Sauron went into hiding when Gandalf the Grey came to Dol Guldur. The Nazgûl remained quiet in Minas Morgul during this time, but they continued to build the forces of Mordor including a race of black Uruks of great strength, which the Nazgûl may have bred.
The Watchful Peace ended in 2460 when Sauron returned to Dol Guldur. In 2475, a host of black Uruks issued from Mordor and attacked Osgiliath. The bridge was destroyed and the city was ruined and no one dwelled there afterwards. Boromir, the son of Denethor I, resisted fiercely and even the Witch-king feared him. Boromir reclaimed Ithilien for Gondor but he received a Morgul-wound that shortened his life. (Note: This Boromir is not the same as Boromir of the Fellowship.)
Sauron returned in secret to Mordor in 2942 and in 2951 he declared himself openly. He sent Khamul and one or two other Nazgûl to Dol Guldur while the Witch-king remained in Minas Morgul with the others.
In 3017, Sauron extracted information from Gollum that the One Ring was in the possession of a person named Baggins in the Shire. Gollum deceived Sauron into thinking that the Shire was in the Vales of the Anduin. Sauron decided to send his most loyal servants the Nazgûl to hunt for the Ring. It is believed that he kept their Nine Rings in his possession, and since they were enslaved to his will through their Rings, they would be compelled to bring the Ruling Ring back to him.
In order to disguise the purpose of the mission, Sauron launched an assault on Osgiliath on June 20, 3018, as a feint. The Witch-king led the attack and the Men of Gondor could not withstand his presence. Boromir, son of Denethor II, led the defense of Osgiliath along with his brother Faramir. They cast down the bridge and held the western shore against the Enemy’s forces, but they did not realize that the Nazgûl had secretly crossed the Anduin.
The Nazgûl traveled unseen in wraith form to Sarn Gebir, where they received horses and were clothed in black robes. They continued north to the Field of Celebrant where they met the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur led by Khamul. Khamul told the Witch-king that there was no trace of a land called “the Shire” in the Vales of the Anduin. The Witch-king decided to continuing searching along the river anyway, but they found nothing.
In September, the Nazgûl returned south empty-handed. Messengers from Mordor brought them word of Sauron’s wrath and the Witch-king was filled with fear and dismay. The Nazgûl were told to proceed to Isengard to discover what the Wizard Saruman knew of the One Ring.
Accounts of the meeting between the Nazgûl and Saruman differ. According to one version, Saruman told the Witch-king that he did not know where the Shire was but that Gandalf did; the Nazgûl later encountered Grima from whom they learned the location of the Shire and that Saruman had lied. In a different version, Saruman revealed the location of the Shire himself.
The Nazgûl sped northwards to Eriador in search of the Shire. They encountered a squint-eyed Southerner who was one of Saruman’s agents and the Witch-king questioned him. The Southerner had maps of the Shire and information that a Hobbit named Baggins lived in the town of Hobbiton. The Witch-king sent the squint-eyed Southerner to Breeto keep watch for travelers leaving the Shire.
The Nazgûl reached Sarn Ford on the Brandywine on September 22 and found it guarded by Rangers. The Rangers held the ford for a while, but after nightfall the Witch-king swept through their ranks, killing some and causing the rest to scatter. The Witch-king sent four Nazgûl into the Shire, including Khamul who went to Hobbiton. The other four Nazgûl were sent to guard the Greenway.
The Witch-king himself proceeded to the Barrow-downs to rouse the Barrow-wights to be on the watch for trespassers crossing their land. The Barrow-wights captured Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, on September 28 but he escaped with the help of Tom Bombadil.
In the early hours of September 30, the Nazgûl in the Shire attacked Frodo’s house at Crickhollow. Two other Nazgûl had entered Bree and learned that their agent the squint-eyed Southerner and his cohort Bill Ferny had seen Frodo vanish into thin air at the Prancing Pony. The inn was attacked during the night, but Frodo and his companions were kept safe by Aragorn.
The Nazgûl brought news of their failure to capture Frodo to the Witch-king, who was waiting south of Bree. He was filled with wrath and led the Nazgûl to Weathertop where they found Gandalf on October 3. The flashes of light and fire from their battle could be seen for miles around. At dawn the next day, Gandalf escaped and four of the Nazgûl pursued him for a while.
On October 6, the Witch-king and the other four Nazgûl found Frodo and his companions on Weathertop. The Nazgûl attacked their camp in the night and in their presence Frodo was compelled to put on the Ring. He perceived the Nazgûl in their true forms as wraiths. They had white faces and keen, merciless eyes and grey robes.
The Witch-king was the tallest of them, and he had long, gleaming hair and a crown on his helm. He advanced on Frodo with a sword and a Morgul-knife. Frodo slashed the Witch-king’s robe with his sword and invoked the name of Elbereth, one of the Valar, and the Witch-king cried out at the sound of her name. He stabbed Frodo in the shoulder with his Morgul-knife and a sliver of the blade broke off in Frodo’s shoulder and began working its way to his heart. Although the sliver was later removed, the wound continued to trouble Frodo for as long as he remained in Middle-earth.
Aragorn came out of the darkness armed with flaming brands. The Witch-king and the Nazgûl withdrew, for they believed the Ring to be within their grasp. They continued their pursuit eastward toward Rivendell. On October 11, Glorfindel drove three of the Nazgul off the Last Bridge and then encountered two more. These five were later rejoined by the four who had pursued Gandalf.
On October 20, the Nine Nazgûl pursued Frodo to the Ford of Bruinen. Glorfindel’s horse Asfaloth bore Frodo across the river, but Frodo felt compelled to stop. The Nazgul commanded him to give up the Ring, but Frodo refused, saying, “By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!” (FotR, p. 226-7) The Witch-king advanced into the river and raised his hand. Frodo’s sword broke and he could not speak.
Then the waters of the Bruinen rose at the command of Elrond, assisted by Gandalf. The Witch-king and the other Nazgûl were swept away by the flood. Eight of the horses and a black cloak were later found downstream, but no trace of the Nazgûl was found. Without their horses and their guises, the Nazgûl returned to Mordor empty and shapeless.
In Minas Morgul, the Witch-king prepared for the main assault against Minas Tirith. On March 10, 3019, a red signal came from Mordor and Minas Morgul responded with a livid flash of blue flame. There was a terrible cry and the gates opened and out came a great host led by the Witch-king, who was clad in black with a helm like a crown on his head.
Frodo was in the Morgul Vale, and when he saw the Witch-king the wound in his shoulder ached. The Witch-king stopped and seemed to sense his presence. Frodo’s hand reached for the Ring but he clasped the Phial of Galadriel instead. The Witch-king turned away and led his host in haste to the Anduin. As they crossed Ithilien the Morgul-host was joined by regiments of Haradrim from the South.
Terror of the Witch-king spread before him and even his own forces feared him. The Morgul-host won the river crossing on March 12. Faramir, who was leading the defense, retreated with his men to the Causeway Forts and tried to prevent the retreat from turning into a rout, but they were outnumbered ten to one. The Rammas Echor encircling Minas Tirith was breached and the Morgul-host overran the Pelennor Fields.
The Witch-king sent out other Nazgûl mounted on flying Fell Beasts, though he did not yet come forward himself. As the Nazgûl descended on them, the retreating Men of Gondor panicked and fled before them. Faramir came in contact with their Black Breath and he was struck down by an arrow. A sortie led by Prince Imrahil came to the aid of Faramir and his men and brought them back to the City.
The Morgul-host surrounded Minas Tirith and laid siege to the City. The Witch-king was cunning and it was his intention to fill his adversaries with fear and despair. Catapults hurled shot that burst into flame by some secret art, and then the severed heads of the Men of Gondor who had died in the assault were flung over the walls to rain down among their comrades. The Winged Nazgûl circled overhead and their cries filled the City with horror.
When he perceived that the people of Minas Tirith were disheartened and afraid, the Witch-king launched his full assault on the City. The great battering ram Grond was drawn to the Gate of Minas Tirith. The Witch-king himself appeared on a black horse and raised his sword. A stillness fell over the battlefield. Then the Witch-king cried words of terror and power in an ancient tongue three times, and each time Grond was hurled against the Gate. The third time, the Gate was destroyed.
The Witch-king rode through the Gate which no enemy of Gondor had ever passed through before. All fled before him except Gandalf who denied the Witch-king entrance to the City.
The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.
“Old fool!” he said. “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!” And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.
The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor”
Then the dawn came and the horns of the Rohirrim sounded on the Pelennor Fields. The Witch-king turned away from the Gate to meet the assault. He mounted a Fell Beast and descended onto the field wielding a black mace, bringing ruin and despair to his foes. He bore down upon King Theoden of Rohan and pierced the King’s horse Snowmane with a black dart, and the horse fell and crushed Theoden beneath him.
Then a young Rider of Rohan challenged the Witch-king and commanded him to leave Theoden in peace.
A cold voice answered: “Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”
A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”
The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields,” p. 116
But the Rider was not a man, it was Eowyn of Rohan, the King’s niece. The Witch-king regarded her with malice and doubt. She slew his Fell Beast with one swift stroke. The Witch-king was enraged and he swung his mace at her, shattering her shield and her shield-arm. He raised his mace to deliver the death blow.
But then the Hobbit Merry Brandybuck came up from behind and pierced the sinew of the
Witch-king’s knee with his sword. Ordinary blades could not harm the Witch-king, but Merry had a sword of Westernesse that had been made for the war against Angmar long ago, and it broke the spell that knit the Witch-king’s sinews together. The Witch-king stumbled forward and Eowyn drove her sword into the space between his crown and mantle. The crown and mantle fell empty to the ground and the Witch-king passed away.
… a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.
The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields”
Thus it was that the words spoken by Glorfindel after the Battle of Fornost came to pass, and the Witch-king met his doom at the hands of a woman and a Hobbit.
On March 25, the One Ring was consumed in the fires of Mount Doom and Sauron and the eight remaining Nazgul were destroyed. The power of the Nine Rings was lost and so was any chance that the Witch-king and the other Nazgul could ever return to Middle-earth.