Hell on Middle Earth

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Estel Underhill 21/Nov/2006 at 06:49 AM
Youth of Bree Points: 12176 Posts: 7851 Joined: 31/Jul/2004

As always when I open any thread in the Lore Forums, Iíll apologise in advance if this has already been discussed!

While lying in bed last night I couldnít sleep and got to thinking about a dream I had had the previous night...about Hell (donít ask). But then I got to thinking about Tolkien. Growing up as a Catholic myself I know the importance the Church puts on Hell, how bad it is and how to avoid it, which can be very scary as a kid. And no matter what, you canít really shake a lot of the things you learn as a child. I donít consider myself a Catholic anymore, but in the back of my mind Iíd still like to avoid going to Hell, itís still there, probably always will be.

As Tolkien was a Catholic, do you think he had the idea of Hell in his head when thinking about Mordor? A dark, fiery pit, where there is nothing but suffering for those unfortunate to find themselves there.

Cigfa 21/Nov/2006 at 07:01 AM
Scavenger of Mordor Points: 488 Posts: 112 Joined: 24/Sep/2006
It is possible that Mordor represented Hell, or rather the entrance to Hell...as I believe that Mount Doom could have also symbolized the descension into Hell itself. Udun, as I recall, served as a source for the power of the Balrogs, and perhaps even the source of the One Ring’s powers (Sauron too). As far I know, Mordor only symbolizes the path to corruption and the Sammanth Naur being the complete road to destruction and accepting Evil to it’s fullest.
Eorl Boarhelm 21/Nov/2006 at 07:12 AM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1920 Posts: 2348 Joined: 27/Jul/2004
The closest any palce in ME has come to Hell is Utumno, what with all its underground pits. I vaguely remember that while reading HoME V, hell is used as a metaphor for this fortress. Or is it Angband?
Cigfa 21/Nov/2006 at 07:17 AM
Scavenger of Mordor Points: 488 Posts: 112 Joined: 24/Sep/2006
I believe it’s Utumno, which also refers to Udun as a source of power. More than most likely it can also be Angband, because as I recall while reading the Unfinished Tales (under Beren and Luthien) how Beren traversed through paths ’roaring with flame and rooms shrouded in deceit’ (well, sorta). Anyways, there’s a map of Angband in the atlas of Middle Earth I believe....that shows the descent from the ground and into the subterranean levels to reach Morgoth’s throne room.
Eorl Boarhelm 21/Nov/2006 at 07:25 AM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1920 Posts: 2348 Joined: 27/Jul/2004
Cifga- Actually ’Udun’ is just the Sindarin translation of the Quenya ’Utumno’. It means’ The Pit’. It’s not a seperate place or entity. And it is certainly not the ’source of power’ of anything, other than the fact that it served as a home base Morgoths’ army.
geordie 21/Nov/2006 at 09:31 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
Angband means ’Iron Prison’ - another name for Angband is ’Hells of Iron’.

There is an explicit use of the word Hell in another of Tolkien’s M-e works: In The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, poem no.14 ’The Hoard’ is said to have been composed using knowledge of the First Age; probably gained from Rivendell. It seems to have echoes of Turin, and of Mim the Dwarf. [note: this is the _first time ever_ that the name Mim appears - Tolkien doesn’t explain what the tale of Turin and Mim might be, in his lifetime. The tale is first published in The Silmarillion, after Tolkien’s death!]

From ’The Hoard’

’Ere the pit was dug or Hell yawned
ere dwarf was bred or dragon spawned,
there were Elves of old...’

Tolkien used a lot of his old poetry in ATB - ’The Hoard’ is the latest version of a poem first published under the name ’Iumonna Golde Galdre Bewunden’ in ’The Gryphon’, the journal of Leeds University, in January 1923! There we have the line

’Ere hell was digged, ere the dragon’s brood
Or the dwarves were spawned in dungeons rude’.

The poem was reprinted under the same name, but with revisions, in The Oxford Magazine [March 4th, 1937]: a significant year! Tolkien also had published in the O.M. that year ’The Dragon’s Visit’ and the precursor of The Mewlips - here called ’Knocking at the Door’ The latter of which is signed ’Oxymore’.

As for your original question - I don’t know much about the Catholic idea of Hell - is it like that portrayed in Dante’s Inferno, with different levels? At any rate, I don’t think that Tolkien had Hell in mind when he wrote of Mordor. For one thing, Orodruin [the fiery mountain] and its environs only occupied a portion of he northern part of that country. In the south, there was Lake Nurnen, with its slave-worked fields, which were used to feed the armies of Mordor. After the War of the Ring, King Elessar freed the slaves, and gave them the lands to work for themselves, and to dwell there.

No, I don’t think that Mordor = Christian Hell. I don’t think Tolkien put a Christian idea of Hell into any of his writings. Any resemblance is purely coincidental, in my [informed] opinion
Rochir Mumakdacil 21/Nov/2006 at 01:08 PM
Standard Bearer of Minas Tirith Points: 12971 Posts: 8262 Joined: 13/Jun/2005

The word ’Hell’ is used several times in the Silmarillion - and why not, with Morgoth being the Devil to Illuvatar’s God?
staying Fingon’s hand he took him up, and bore him to the face of the rock where Maedhros hung. But Fingon could not release the hell-wrought bond upon his wrist, nor sever it, nor draw it from the stone.

he took up his abode in the endless dungeons of Angband, the Hells of Iron, for in the War of the Powers the Valar, in their haste to overthrow him in his great stronghold of Utumno, did not wholly destroy Angband nor search out all its deep places.

while Angband was besieged and its gates shut there were green things even among the pits and broken rocks before the doors of hell.


Then Celegorm arose amid the throng, and drawing his sword he cried: ’Be he friend or foe, whether demon of Morgoth, of Elf, or child of Men, or any other living thing in Arda, neither law, nor love, nor league of hell, nor might of the Valar, nor any power of wizardry, shall defend him from the pursuing hate of FŽanor’s sons, if he take or find a Silmaril and keep it. For the Silmarils we alone claim, until the world ends.’

Swiftly the wolf grew, until he could creep into no den, but lay huge and hungry before the feet of Morgoth. There the fire and anguish of hell entered into him, and he became filled with a devouring spirit, tormented, terrible, and strong. Carcharoth, the Red Maw, he is named

Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.


However, there is a big difference between Angband/Utumno and the Christian Hell. Angband is not place of eternal torment for the souls of the departed - it the abode and fortress of the Evil One, which serves as a prison and torture chamber of living captives. Sauron himself spoke of setting Gorlim ’free’ when he put him to death. I am aware of no concept within Tolkien’s Middle-earth that the souls of evil-doers belong to Morgoth after death. Elves who have done wrong have to wait indefinitely in the Halls of Mandos (a kind of purgatory, I suppose) and the fate of Men after death is kept a mystery.

Jinniver Thynne 21/Nov/2006 at 02:18 PM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 994 Posts: 424 Joined: 28/Jan/2006

Mordor, Angband and Utumno were all very real, earthly places, whereas Hell in the classical sense is an otherworldly place. Tolkien’s ’Hells’ were all realms of the living, where people lived and breathed, whereas Hell is a place for the dead only. Tolkien used the incredibly powerful word Hell though to describe certain physical attributes of his darker realms, a clever move as it resonates strongly with all readers.

I find it interesting though, that as a Catholic, there seems to be no Hell in Tolkien’s creation. Where is it? The only thing close to it affects not the dead, but the living. This to me is one of the strongest arguments against those who claim the book for a Christian allegory (aside from the fact that Tolkien said it wasn’t one, of course  ). Even if we argue Melkor is a Satan figure (and I’d argue he isn’t, but I’ll leave that one for now) then where is his realm? It ceratinly isn’t an otherworldly place, but a real one. Punishment in this life, not the next?

Maegolfin 21/Nov/2006 at 08:18 PM
Defender of Imladris Points: 941 Posts: 222 Joined: 16/Oct/2006

As a Catholic, I can see where Tolkien was probably thinking about the Hell parallels.  Most of you are right in saying there is no Hell in Middle-earth, or anywhere in Arda for that matter.  But the Christian view of Hell is not a physical place, but in another dimension.  In Ea, there is a big mystery about where Men go after they die.  But I think Tolkien’s underlying idea was that it would be the same place that he believed we go (as his ME history is an early history of the real world).  So, in my opinion:

Halls of Eru = Heaven, where good men go after departing from the Western shores.

The Void where Morgoth is thrown = Hell, where bad men go, and join Morgoth’s army until he is ready to attack at the Dagor Dagorlad, and where they will ultimately return.

My assumptions have been made off of my own beliefs, which were also Tolkien’s.  But I think it a pretty fair guess to assume that this was about what he had in mind.

Battlehamster 23/Nov/2006 at 02:08 PM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1401 Posts: 515 Joined: 10/Nov/2006

In the Lay of Leithan, in Canto VII:

The stricken orcs now shriek and yell/ like lost things deep in lightless hell"

But I guess there’s probably a lot of references to hell in Tolkien’s books, if only because it’s such a culturally known thing, so anyone can understand what he’s talking about and it’s a pretty vivid image.

The closest thing that I can think of is Mandos, but I think the only torture was long millenia of boredom.  But in terms of Angband, plenty of the things in it seem like Hell or Hades, like Caracharoth and Cerberus, for one (only with more heads)