An Evil Race of Wild Wolves
“So here you all are still! … Not eaten up by Wargs or goblins or wicked bears yet I see”
The Hobbit C7
The Wargs of Middle-earth were said to be in kind, like wolves but much larger, more cunning and imbued with an evil nature. Some say the Wargs were a breed of demonic wolves, suggesting that they were inhabited by evil spirits. The origin of the breed is unknown, but it is likely they were among the creatures bred by Morgoth in the Elder Days. Wargs were sentient and had their own tongue, the “dreadful language of the Wargs” as is stated in the Red Book of Westmarch.
The first wargs are likely decedents of the evil wolf-creature known as Carcharoth, who was bred from the foul breed of Draugluin, the first Werewolf, and fed with elvish and mannish flesh by Morgoth himself. Carcharoth was the greatest and most powerful of the Werewolves and the he sentient Wargs almost certainly have the blood of Carcharoth flowing in their veins.
For the most part Wargs were seen mainly in the Third Age of Middle-earth and inhabited the region of Rhovanion, between the dark forest of Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. They were often allied with the Goblins, who used them as mounts in raids upon the Woodmen of the region. The greater part of the Wargs of the North were slain during the Battle of the Five Armies and like the Orcs disappeared from that region for many decades afterwards. However, during the last years of the Third Age, leading up to the War of the Ring, Wargs and Orcs multiplied and once more troubled the region of Rhovanion. The Wargs eventually crossed over the Misty Mountains and hunted the lands of Eregion also.
It is recorded in the Red Book of Westmarch, the a pack of Wargs attacked the Fellowship of the Ring near the West Gate of Moria and pursed them until they took cover under the mountain. Gandalf told the company that these Wargs were Servants of Shadow under the will of Sauron. It is also written that wolf-riders plagued the men of Rohan in their wars with Saruman and were seen in the deepening comb of Helms Deep. They were likely a breed of Warg used as mounts for the Orcs of Isengard and bred in the pits of Orthanc.
There in no mention of Wargs in other parts of Middle-earth including Mordor in the Red Book of Westmarch. However, many believe that orcs were seen in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and were also at the battle of the Black Gate. The Wargs of Mordor would have been bred from stock found in Mirkwood and Dol Guldur, much like their northern brethren from Rhovanion. The Wargs of Isengard however, were said to be a breed apart, that were mixed with strange creatures from the South Lands and like the Uruk-hai were bigger and more fierce than other Wargs.
In the Red Book of Westmarch the company of dwarves along with Gandalf and Bilbo were waylaid by Wargs and later the Goblins that pursed them after the killing of the Great Goblin, for orcs were said to travel great distances to avenge a fallen leader.
After what seemed ages further they came suddenly to an opening where no trees grew. The moon was up and was shining into the clearing. Somehow it struck all of them as not at all a nice place,
although there was nothing wrong to see.
All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl. It was answered by another away to the right and a good deal nearer to them; then by another not far away to the left. It was wolves howling at the moon, wolves gathering together!
There were no wolves living near Mr. Baggins’ hole at home, but he knew that noise. He had had it described to him often enough in tales. One of his elder cousins (on the Took side), who had been a great traveler, used to imitate it to frighten him. To hear it out in the forest under the moon was too much for Bilbo. Even magic rings are not much use against wolves — especially against the evil packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you!
“What shall we do, what shall we do!” he cried. “Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!” he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say “out of the frying-pan into the fire” in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.
From The Hobbit in the chapter ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire’
Just at that moment the wolves trotted howling into the clearing. All of a sudden there were hundreds of eyes looking at them. Still Dori did not let Bilbo down. He waited till he had clambered off his shoulders into the branches, and then he jumped for the branches himself. Only just in time! A wolf snapped at his cloak as he swung up, and nearly got him. In a minute there was a whole pack of them yelping all round the tree and leaping up at the trunk, with eyes blazing and tongues hanging out.
But even the wild Wargs (for so the evil wolves over the Edge of the Wild were named) cannot climb trees. For a time they were safe. Luckily it was warm and not windy. Trees are not very comfortable to sit in for long at any time; but in the cold and the wind, with wolves all round below waiting for you, they can be perfectly miserable places.
This glade in the ring of trees was evidently a meeting-place of the wolves. More and more kept coming in. They left guards at the foot of the tree in which Dori and Bilbo were, and then went snuffling about till they had smelt out every tree that had anyone in it. These they guarded too, while all the rest (hundreds and hundreds it seemed) went and sat in a great circle in the glade; and in the middle of the circle was a great grey wolf. He spoke to them in the dreadful language of the Wargs. Gandalf understood it. Bilbo did not, but it sounded terrible to him, and as if all their talk was about cruel and wicked things, as it was. Every now and then all the Wargs in the circle would answer their grey chief all together, and their dreadful clamour almost made the hobbit fall out of his pine-tree.
I will tell you what Gandalf heard, though Bilbo did not understand it. The Wargs and the goblins often helped one another in wicked deeds. Goblins do not usually venture very far from their
mountains, unless they are driven out and are looking for new homes, or are marching to war (which I am glad to say has not happened for a long while). But in those days they sometimes used to go on raids, especially to get food or slaves to work for them. Then they often got the Wargs to help and shared the plunder with them. Sometimes they rode on wolves like men do on horses. Now it seemed that a great goblin-raid had been planned for that very night. The Wargs had come to meet the goblins and the goblins were late. The reason, no doubt, was the death of the Great Goblin, and all the excitement caused by the dwarves and Bilbo and the wizard, for whom they were probably still hunting.
In spite of the dangers of this far land bold men had of late been making their way back into it from the South, cutting down trees, and building themselves places to live in among the more pleasant woods in the valleys and along the river-shores. There were many of them, and they were brave and well-armed, and even the Wargs dared not attack them if there were many together, or in the bright day. But now they had planned with the goblins’ help to come by night upon some of the villages nearest the mountains. If their plan had been carried out, there would have been none left there next day; all would have been killed except the few the goblins kept from the wolves and carried back as prisoners to their caves.
This was dreadful talk to listen to, not only because of the brave woodmen and their wives and children, but also because of the danger which now threatened Gandalf and his friends. The Wargs were angry and puzzled at finding them here in their very meeting-place. They thought they were friends of the woodmen, and were come to spy on them, and would take news of their plans down into the valleys, and then the goblins and the wolves would have to fight a terrible battle instead of capturing prisoners and devouring people waked suddenly from their sleep. So the Wargs had no intention of going away and letting the people up the trees escape, at any rate not until morning. And long before that, they said, goblin soldiers would be coming down from the mountains; and goblins can climb trees, or cut them down.
Now you can understand why Gandalf, listening to their growling and yelping, began to be dreadfully afraid, wizard though he was, and to feel that they were in a very bad place, and had not yet
escaped at all. All the same he was not going to let them have it all their own way, though he could not do very much stuck up in a tall tree with wolves all round on the ground below. He gathered the huge pine-cones from the branches of the tree. Then he set one alight with bright blue fire, and threw it whizzing down among the circle of the wolves. It struck one on the back, and immediately his shaggy coat caught fire, and he was leaping to and fro yelping horribly. Then another came and another, one in blue flames, one in red, another in green. They burst on the ground in the middle of the circle and went off in coloured sparks and smoke. A specially large one hit the chief wolf on the nose, and he leaped in the air ten feet, and then rushed round and round the circle biting and snapping even at the other wolves in his anger and fright.
The dwarves and Bilbo shouted and cheered. The rage of the wolves was terrible to see, and the commotion they made filled all the forest. Wolves are afraid of fire at all times, but this was a most
horrible and uncanny fire. If a spark got in their coats it stuck and burned into them, and unless they rolled over quick they were soon all in flames. Very soon all about the glade wolves were rolling over and over to put out the sparks on their backs, while those that were burning were running about howling and setting others alight, till their own friends chased them away and they fled off down the slopes crying and yammering and looking for water.
From The Hobbit in the chapter ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire’
It is also written that the Fellowship of the Ring was beset by Wargs as the Ring went south through Eregion. The wild Wargs had traveled over the Misty Mountains into the west.
They heard the wind hissing among the rocks and trees, and there was a howling and wailing round them in the empty spaces of the night.
Suddenly Aragorn leapt to his feet. ‘How the wind howls! ‘ he cried. ‘It is howling with wolf-voices. The Wargs have come west of the Mountains! ‘
‘Need we wait until morning then? ‘ said Gandalf. `It is as I said. The hunt is up! Even if we live to see the dawn, who now will wish to journey south by night with the wild wolves on his trail? ‘
‘How far is Moria? ‘ asked Boromir.
`There was a door south-west of Caradhras, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, and maybe twenty as the wolf runs,’ answered Gandalf grimly.
‘Then let us start as soon as it is light tomorrow, if we can,’ said Boromir. ‘The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.’
`True!’ said Aragorn, loosening his sword in its sheath. `But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.’
`I wish I had taken Elrond’s advice,’ muttered Pippin to Sam. `I am no good after all. There is not enough of the breed of Bandobras the Bullroarer in me: these howls freeze my blood. I don’t ever remember feeling so wretched.’
‘My heart’s right down in my toes, Mr. Pippin,’ said Sam. ‘But we aren’t etten yet, and there are some stout folk here with us. Whatever may be in store for old Gandalf, I’ll wager it isn’t a wolf’s belly.’
For their defence in the night the Company climbed to the top of the small hill under which they had been sheltering. it was crowned with a knot of old and twisted trees, about which lay a broken circle of boulder stones. In the midst of this they lit a fire, for there was no hope that darkness and silence would keep their trail from discovery by the hunting packs.
Round the fire they sat, and those that were not on guard dozed uneasily. Poor Bill the pony trembled and sweated where he stood. The howling of the wolves was now all round them, sometimes nearer and sometimes further off. In the dead of the night many shining eyes were seen peering over the brow of the hill. Some advanced almost to the ring of stones. At a gap in the circle a great dark wolf-shape could be seen halted, gazing at them. A shuddering howl broke from him, as if he were a captain summoning his pack to the assault.
Gandalf stood up and strode forward, holding his staff aloft. ‘Listen, Hound of Sauron! ‘ he cried. `Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.’
The wolf snarled and sprang towards them with a great leap. At that moment there was a sharp twang. Legolas had loosed his bow. There was a hideous yell, and the leaping shape thudded to the ground; the elvish arrow had pierced its throat. The watching eyes were suddenly extinguished. Gandalf and Aragorn strode forward, but the hill was deserted; the hunting packs had fled. All about them the darkness grew silent, and no cry came on the sighing wind.
The night was old, and westward the waning moon was setting. gleaming fitfully through the breaking clouds. Suddenly Frodo started from sleep. Without warning a storm of howls broke out fierce and wild all about the camp. A great host of Wargs had gathered silently and was now attacking them from every side at once.
`Fling fuel on the fire!’ cried Gandalf to the hobbits. `Draw your blades, and stand back to back!’
In the leaping light, as the fresh wood blazed up, Frodo saw many grey shapes spring over the ring of stones. More and more followed. Through the throat of one huge leader Aragorn passed his sword with a thrust; with a great sweep Boromir hewed the head off another. Beside them Gimli stood with his stout legs apart, wielding his dwarf-axe. The bow of Legolas was singing.
In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder.
`Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!’ he cried.
There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light. The swords and knives of the defenders shone and flickered. The last arrow of Legolas kindled in the air as it flew, and plunged burning into the heart of a great wolf-chieftain. All the others fled.
Slowly the fire died till nothing was left but falling ash and sparks; a bitter smoke curled above the burned tree-stumps, and blew darkly from the hill, as the first light of dawn came dimly in the sky. Their enemies were routed and did not return.
`What did I tell you, Mr. Pippin? ‘ said Sam, she/thing his sword. `Wolves won’t get him. That was an eye-opener, and no mistake! Nearly singed the hair off my head!’
From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the chapter ‘A Journey in the Dark’