Best Ominous Description

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Brandywine74 10/Dec/2006 at 04:00 AM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1291 Posts: 562 Joined: 20/Apr/2006

While reading the chapter ’The Taming of Smeagol’ I was struck by the ominous description of the landscape. The moon now rode high and clear. Its thin white light lit up the faces of the rocks and drenched the cold frowning walls of the cliff, turning all the wide looming darkness into a chill pale grey scored with black shadows. p 267 TTT.

Really makes the place sound creepy!  This is one of my favourites and Tolkien always describes the landscape in an interesting way.  I was wondering if people have any favourite eerie descriptions from Tolkien that they would like to share?

merrypip03 14/Dec/2006 at 08:38 AM
Farmer of the Shire Points: 322 Posts: 141 Joined: 13/Jan/2004
I love the description of the Barrow-wight’s song. "Suddenly a song began: a cold murmur, rising and falling. The voice seemed far away and immeasurably dreary, sometimes high in the air and thin, sometimes like a low moan from the ground. Out of the formless stream of sad but horrible sounds, strings of words would now and again shape themselves: grim, hard, cold words, heartless and miserable. The night was railing against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the warmth for which it hungered." FOTR Ch. 8 Fog on the Barrow-Downs
nEUroTIc 15/Dec/2006 at 07:47 AM
Defender of Imladris Points: 815 Posts: 157 Joined: 23/Aug/2006

personally there are two of them...both by the lady galadriel..
1>It is what will come to pass, If you should fail. The Fellowship is breaking, it has already begun. He will try to take the Ring, you know of whom I speak. One by one, it will destroy them.

2>In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair!

Nibs Twiggins 15/Dec/2006 at 01:51 PM
Chef of the Shire Points: 4935 Posts: 2298 Joined: 04/Jul/2006
 One my Favourite eaire passages is the one of Minas Morgul. A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way within the vally’s arms, high on a rocky seat upon the black knees of the Ephel Duath, stood the walls of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler inded than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing.(The Two Towers: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol)
Magradhaid 16/Dec/2006 at 10:40 PM
Imp of Umbar Points: 7957 Posts: 8204 Joined: 13/Sep/2008
This isn’t a place description, but it is certainly disgusting/creepy: "For there was an altar of fire in the midst of the temple, and in the topmost of the dome there was a louver, whence there issued a great smoke. And the first fire upon the altar Sauron kindled with the hewn wood of Nimloth, and it crackled and was consumed; but men marveled at the reek that went up from it, so that the land lay under a cloud for seven days, until slowly it passed into the west. Thereafter the fire and smoke went up without ceasing; for the power of Sauron daily increased, and in the temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he might release them from Death. And most often from among the Faithful they chose their victims; yet never openly on the charge that they would not worship Melkor, the Giver of Freedom, rather was cause sought against them that they hated the King and were his rebels, or that they plotted against their kin, devising lies and poisons. These charges were for the most part false; yet those were bitter days, and hate brings forth hate." [Silm] This disgusting sort of Númenórean Holocaust (though not on the same scale) shows how much power Sauron had over the people, and the depths of what he was willing to go through in order to obtain revenge for what had been done to him under Tar-Minastir. He did not desire to govern, but went from captive to high priest of Melkor, using his Ring and seductive arts, to corrupt the Land of Gift and her people. Sauron "taught the making of many things powerful and wonderful, and they seemed good" [LR], but he was "cooler and more capable of calculation... He thus was often able to achieve things...which his master [Melkor]did not or could not complete in the furious haste of his malice" [MR].
ElendilTheFair 16/Dec/2006 at 11:07 PM
New Soul Points: 18587 Posts: 10144 Joined: 14/Jul/2005

For me one of Tolkien’s best qualities is to build suspense bit by bit, never giving you the full brunt of a scene without first creating immense tension without the reader even realizing it.  As an example, from A Journey in the Dark in FotR.

"It was green and stagnant, thrust out like a slimy arm towards the enclosing hills. Gimli strode forward undeterred, and found that the water was shallow, no more than ankle-deep at the edge. Behind him they walked in file, threading their way with care, for under the weedy pools were sliding and greasy stones, and footing was treacherous. Frodo shuddered with disgust at the touch of the dark unclean water on his feet.

As Sam, the last of the Company, led Bill up on to the dry ground on the far side, there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water. Turning quickly they saw ripples, black-edged with shadow in the waning light: great rings were widening outwards from a point far out in the lake. There was a bubbling noise, and then silence. The dusk deepened, and the last gleams of the sunset were veiled in cloud."


"Stumps and dead boughs were rotting in the shallows, the remains it seemed of old thickets, or of a hedge that had once lined the road across the drowned valley."


Bit by bit Tolkien adds in elements of suspense, finally culminating with a tentacle grabbing Frodo’s ankle and the mad dash into Moria.

Jinniver Thynne 17/Dec/2006 at 11:07 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 994 Posts: 424 Joined: 28/Jan/2006

The scariest line in Tolkien’s work?

What the Witch-King says to Eowyn:

He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye

And as a close run second choice, is the following vile passage from The Rivers And Beacon Hills Of Gondor, published in the journal Vinyar Tengwar:

The Men of Darkness built temples, some of great size, usually surrounded by dark trees, often in caverns (natural or delved) in secret valleys of mountain-regions; such as the dreadful halls and passages under the Haunted Mountain beyond the Dark Door (Gate of the Dead) in Dunharrow. The special horror of the closed door before which the skeleton of Baldor was found was probably due to the fact that the door was the entrance to an evil temple hall to which Baldor had come, probably without opposition up to that point. But the door was shut in his face, and enemies that had followed him silently came up and broke his legs and left him to die in the darkness, unable to find any way out.

I love finding out these horrific passages in Tolkien’s work. While his descriptions of beauty and grace are well known and stick in the mind, his grasp of Horror and Gothic was equally powerful. Or maybe it just takes a mind with a taste for the gruesome to find these out...sometimes I feel I could write a book on Tolkien’s use of Horror.  

geordie 17/Dec/2006 at 12:10 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
Neurotic - surely these are movie quotes? Well, the second one sounds like a movies version of a real quote, but I reckon quote 1 is a PJ thing. Isn’t it?
Battlehamster 17/Dec/2006 at 12:35 PM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1401 Posts: 515 Joined: 10/Nov/2006

I’m pretty sure that #1 is from the movies because I remember when I first watched it I was surprise that she was so obviously suspicious of Boromir.  And then wondering why exactly they made her look all weird and have her voice go strange when she was saying #2.

I’d have to say that Tyrhael’s first one is the creepiest one.  It reminds me of this one account I read in Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the US about a guy that killed his wife in her sleep and then salted and ate her, though I’m not quite sure why it does.

Miriath 21/Dec/2006 at 02:43 PM
Counsellor of the Mark Points: 12524 Posts: 8617 Joined: 10/Feb/2004
I don’t have a description; but the whole bit in the Return of the King before the battle of Minas Tirith when they’re about to get ready for battle, and Faramir has already turned wounded. I think that the air that Tolkien creates to the reader is wonderful - it makes the reader fill with dread as if they are really there and getting ready for the battle.
Oin 21/Dec/2006 at 09:07 PM
Architect of Erebor Points: 11372 Posts: 8807 Joined: 14/Feb/2004

geordie/Neurotic: Here’s the actual quote (the second one - the first is made up):

"In the place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!" (FotR, The Mirror of Galadriel)

As we can see, PJ took the bare bones of the quote and condensed it a bit... I personally like Tolkien’s passage far better than what PJ edited it down to...

Battlehamster 22/Dec/2006 at 08:02 AM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1401 Posts: 515 Joined: 10/Nov/2006
Definitely. Would it have killed him to include 24 more words, in the interest of having it sound way better? Hey, if he had cut out the whole "dwarf-tossing" joke and "not the beard" it would have freed up plenty of time for the whole passage.
This isn’t really a quote, but the part where they’re in Moria and Gandalf finishes reading about the fate of Balin and co. and then they hear the drums in the deep. Gave me nightmares when I was little.