The Entrance into the Land of Shadow

“This was Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass. The entrance to the land of the Enemy.”


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TolkienCanon3The Black Gate of Mordor. The Morannon was partially built by Gondor after the first fall of Sauron, when Isildur cut the Ring from the hand of the Dark Lord. Two great towers, Carchost to the east and Narchost to the west were built to guard the entrance into the Black Land. However, the vigilance of men failed and darkness crept back into Mordor. When the Dark Lord fled from Dol Guldur and openly declared himself in Mordor, he reinforced the towers and created the Black Gate across the span between them. No one entered the Land of Shadow without feeling the bite of Teeth of Mordor!

“But as these ranges approached one another, being indeed parts of one great wall about the mournful plains of Lithlad and Gorgoroth, and the bitter inland sea of Núrnen amid most, they swung out long arms northward; and between these arms was a deep defile.”
“This was Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass. The entrance to the land of the Enemy.”
“None could pass the Teeth of Mordor without feeling their bite, unless they were summoned by Sauron, or knew the secret passwords that would open the Morannon, the Black Gate of his land. The two hobbits gazed at the towers and the wall in despair.”

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Black Gate is Closed’


When Gollum brought the hobbits, Frodo and Sam before the entrance of the Black Gate, they looked on in horror across the devastation of the Dagorlad to the towering might of Mordor and knew despair. They could see uruk guards marching back and forth across the span of the gate and patrols moving about at it’s feet. Smoke and fumes rose up behind the gate as if large fire were burning there.

“High cliffs lowered upon either side, and thrust forward from its mouth were two sheer hills, black-boned and bare. Upon them stood the Teeth of Mordor, two towers strong and tall.”
“The watch-towers, which had fallen into decay, were repaired, and filled with arms, and garrisoned with ceaseless vigilance. Stony-faced they were, with dark window-holes staring north and east and west, and each window was full of sleepless eyes.”
“Across the mouth of the pass, from cliff to cliff, the Dark Lord had built a rampart of stone. In it there was a single gate of iron, and upon its battlement sentinels paced unceasingly. Beneath the hills on either side the rock was bored into a hundred caves and maggot holes; there a host of orcs lurked, ready at a signal to issue forth like black ants going to war.”

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Black Gate is Closed’


The three wanderers, crept up to the Black Gate and lay hid in a hollow upon a low hill. They looked down upon a large trench-like valley which lay between them and the Black Gate. As dawn broke over the Ered Lithui, they witnessed the change of the Guard upon the towering gate.

“Day came and the fallow sun blinked over the lifeless ridges of the Ered Lithui. Then suddenly the cry of brazen-throated trumpets was heard; from the watchtowers they blared, and far away from hidden holds and outposts in the hills came answering calls; and further still, remote but deep and ominous, there echoed in the hollow land beyond, the mighty horns and drums of Barad-dûr. Another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor; and the night-guards were summoned to their dungeons and deep halls, and the day-guards, evil-eyed and fell, were marching to their posts. Steel gleamed dimly on the battlement.”

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Black Gate is Closed’


The day dragged on as they waited for night to fall so the the could creep unseen westward on their new course to the hidden stair. Suddenly they heard the sound of iron shod feet marching below. They hugged the side of the wall in the small dell in which they hid, sure they had been spotted.

“Gollum rose slowly and crawled insect-like to the lip of the hollow. Very cautiously he raised himself inch by inch, until he could peer over it between, to broken points of stone.”
“More Men going to Mordor, we have not seen Men like this before, no Smeagol has not. They are fierce. They have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears; yes lots of beautiful gold.”
“Very cruel wicked men they look”
“Always more people coming to Mordor. One day all the peoples will be inside”

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Black Gate is Closed’


When the Armies of the West marched on the Black Gate to challenge the might of Mordor, they had no hope of victory. They marched forth to draw the eye of Sauron and so afford the ringbearer free passage to the Cracks of Doom. A silence fell as they waited before the Black Gate of Mordor.

“Sauron sprang his trap. Drums rolled and fires leaped up. The great doors of the Black Gate swung back wide. Out of it streamed a great host as swiftly as swirling waters when a sluice is lifted.”
“Dust rose smothering the air, as from nearby there marched up an army of Easterlings that had waited for the signal in the shadows of the Ered Lithui beyond the further Tower. Down from the hills on either side of the Morannon poured Orcs innumerable. Sauron had taken the proffered bait in jaws of steel.”
“And out of the gathering mirk the Nazgûl came with their cold voices crying words of death; and then all hope was quenched.”

From The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the chapter ‘The Black Gate Opens’


The Dark History of the Morannon ~ The Black Gate

The gate that guards the northwestern entrance to Mordor

The Black Gate of Mordor is often thought to have been a gate built by the Númenóreans, to shield the forces of Mordor from exiting. It was, infact built by Sauron, to prevent invasion at the gap between the Ered Lithui and the Ephel Dúath. The Towers of the Teeth, Carchost and Narchost, however were built by the Men of Gondor as a guard towers after Sauron’s first defeat. The construction of Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon and Cirith Ungol were also built for the same purpose.

However, during the aftermath of the Kin-strife in Gondor, the watchfulness of the guards in these strongholds relaxed. Thus the Ringwraiths and Orcs re-entered Mordor, eventually overrunning the garrisons for themselves. It was at this time, that the tower of Minas Ithil was taken by the Nazgûl and it’s name was changed to Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery.

During the War of the Ring, the Armies of the West, numbering some 6,000 men, arrived at the Black Gate with the intention of drawing the Eye of Sauron away from Mount Doom, to allow Frodo the Ringbearer to cast the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom. This they achieved and the Ring was destroyed in the fires of Orodruin, the Black Gate and the Towers of Teeth immediately collapsed upon themselves to the ruin of the armies of Mordor.


Cirith Gorgor ~ the entrance into Mordor.

Cirith Gorgor was the pass between the Ash Mountains and the Mountains of Shadow at the northwestern corner of Mordor. Narchost and Carchost, the Towers of the Teeth, stood on hills on either side of Cirith Gorgor. The Black Gate was built across the span of these two hills of rock. Behind Cirith Gorgor was the enclosed valley of Udûn. Another pass called the Isenmouthe stood on the opposite end of the vale of Udûn from Cirith Gorgor, and beyond was the vast plain of Gorgoroth.

Names & Etymology:

Also called the Haunted Pass. Cirith Gorgor means “haunted pass.” The word cirith means “pass,” from kir meaning “cut, cleave.” The word gor means “horror, dread.”


Towers of the Teeth: Narchost & Carchost

Towers flanking the Black Gate of Mordor. The Towers of the Teeth stood on either side of Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass between the Mountains of Shadow and the Ash Mountains at the northwest corner of Mordor. The Black Gate barred the pass between the two towers. The towers were tall and strong and had window-holes that faced north, east, and west.

The Towers of the Teeth were built by the Men of Gondor after the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age in order to guard against the possibility of the Dark Lord’s return to Mordor. The towers were still in the control of Gondor as late as 1944 of the Third Age, when King Ondoher of Gondor was slain in battle against the Wainriders before the Black Gate. At some point after that, the Towers of the Teeth were deserted. In 2942, Sauron returned to Mordor and the Towers of the Teeth came under his control. Sauron filled the towers with garrisons of armed guards who kept ceaseless watch on the Black Gate.

On March 5, 3019, Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee were led to the Black Gate by their guide Gollum. When they saw the towers and the gate that guarded the Dark Lord’s realm they despaired, for it seemed impossible to enter Mordor that way. It was then that Gollum told them of a secret way into Mordor through the Pass of Cirith Ungol, and Frodo agreed to trust him.

The Host of the West led by Aragorn came to the Black Gate on March 25. There they saw the Nazgûl on Fell Beasts hovering above the Towers of the Teeth like vultures. When the Ring was destroyed, the Towers of the Teeth collapsed and the Black Gate fell and Gandalf declared that the realm of Sauron was ended.

Names & Etymology:

Also called the Teeth of Mordor, the Towers of the Black Gate, and the Watch-towers of the Morannon. Carchost means “Fang Fort.” The word carch means “tooth, fang” and ost means “fortress.” Narchost means “Fire Fort.” The element nar means fire.


Udûn~ Valley in Mordor.

The Vale of Udûn was located in the northwestern corner of Mordor, where the Mountains of Shadow met the Ash Mountains. At one end of the valley was the Black Gate across Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass, flanked on either side by the Towers of the Teeth. At the opposite end was the narrow pass called Isenmouthe, which was barred by a fence of pointed iron posts, an earthen wall, and a trench spanned by a narrow bridge. A road ran through Udûn from the Black Gate to Isenmouthe and then branched into two roads, one to Cirith Ungol and the other to Barad-dûr.

There were many Orc-holds, armories, and tunnels in the mountains on either side of Udûn. These were used by the troops guarding the Black Gate. The castle of Durthang was on the western side of the valley upon a high ridge, and there were other forts and towers on either side of the Isenmouthe.

In late March of 3019, troops came from all across Mordor and gathered in Udûn, preparing to face the Men of Gondor and Rohan who were approaching the Black Gate. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee – who were disguised as Orcs – were forced to join a troop heading for Udûn on March 18 but managed to escape the next day.

On March 25, the Black Gate opened and Sauron’s forces came forth from Udûn, and they fought the Men of the West in the Battle of the Morannon. Then the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom and Sauron was utterly defeated. His forces scattered, and Mordor fell into ruin. The Black Gate at the entrance to Udûn was hurled down, and the Towers of the Teeth collapsed.

Names & Etymology:

The name Udûn means “Hell.” It is the Sindarin form of the Quenya Utumno, which was the name of Morgoth’s terrible underground stronghold in ancient times. The name Utumno is derived from tum or tumbo meaning “deep valley under or among hills.”


There is no historical record before the end of the Second Age that mentions the Morannon specifically, so it isn’t possible to state precisely how long it had existed. However, there is a reference in Akallabêth that tells us that Sauron ‘…had fortified the land of Mordor and had built there the Tower of Barad-dûr… between about II 1000 and II 1600. It seems reasonable to consider the Morannon as part of this fortification, which would mean that it stood for most of the Second Age, as shown in the timeline above. At the very least, we know it was in place by the end of that Age, because it is mentioned in accounts of the War of the Last Alliance.

It is not known what happened to the Morannon during the Third Age, before its final destruction in the War of the Ring. It may have been destroyed after the War of the Last Alliance, or incorporated by the Gondorians into their own defence of Mordor. An account of the Battle of the Camp in Unfinished Tales mentions the Morannon several times – this took place in III 1944, so the balance of evidence seems to favour the idea that it remained in place during the Third Age. Whether Sauron needed to rebuild it or not, it was certainly in place and under his control at the time of the War of the Ring.

Some of the information above comes from the The Encyclopedia of Arda and The Thain’s Book


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