Archive Home > The Books
Endril 21/Dec/2006 at 09:42 PM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
In The Hobbit Tolkin talks about a certain necromancer that inhabited some part of the land. I dunno if he was refering at Sauron or not, I don’t remember. Maybe someone can tell me that too.

But the main concern is another. I am interested about what really necromancy means. I heard about necromancers in different fantasy related things and the fact that they were practicing necromancy. From what I know the necromancy was the art of raising and controlling the bodies and souls of the dead ones?      But the source is not accurate. (just a game, RPG tipe).

So can someone answer?
Oin 21/Dec/2006 at 09:47 PM
Architect of Erebor Points: 11372 Posts: 8807 Joined: 14/Feb/2004

While I have no knowledge regarding exactly what necromancy would be in terms of Tolkien and his writings, the Necromancer was certainly Sauron. He had returned to Dol Guldur after the Watchful Peace and he was originally thought to be one of the Nazgul by the Wise, although both Gandalf (publically) and Saruman (privately) believed that it was Sauron returned. That is why Gandalf went into Dol Guldur the second time - he left the Dwarves and Bilbo shortly after their departure from Beorn’s house - to learn the truth. Sure enough, it was Sauron returned, and Gandalf finally convinced the White Council to move against Dol Guldur, and when they did, Sauron was driven out.

The Necromancer being identified as Sauron was one of the pieces of the Hobbit storyline that needed to be reconciled with the Lord of the Rings in order for the two books to make sense together.

Blackrose Bugg 21/Dec/2006 at 10:01 PM
New Soul Points: 21505 Posts: 30286 Joined: 19/Jan/2003

Necromancy is the art of raising the dead to secure information - interrogate them about things that only the dead would know, in other words.  The suffix mancy indicates divination-or "seeing".   There are many other types of ~mancies - bibliomancy for example.  That is using a passage chosen at random from a book in order to get information or "foretell the future."  Chiromancy is the 98 cent name of plain old palm reading.  And lithomancy is telling the future through stones.

The modern references to necromancy as raising the dead to be slaves to the will of the person performing the rite is not the classical meaning of the word in the least.  The necromancer raises the spirit - asks his questions, then allows the spirit to return.  Forcing the dead to animate and serve someone’s will- that’s zombies- something totally different.

Why Tolkien chose the term Necromancer is something that I have never quite figured out - I don’t recall any passages where Sauron got information from the dead...even those in the Dead Marshes.   Perhaps that is an unwritten piece?

TobiasFalco 21/Dec/2006 at 10:07 PM
Stablemaster of the Mark Points: 697 Posts: 328 Joined: 05/Nov/2006
Since Óin was kind enough to answer your questions about Sauron, I will attempt to explain what a necromancer/what necromancy is; though I can not say if this is exactly what Tolkien was writing about.

Necromancy is the art of a spiritual person almost like a shaman who raises spirits from the dead for various purposes, including wisdom and protection. A Necromancer before medieval times was considered a high spiritual position until the Christian Church in the Medieval Ages called it a dark art and practice of the devil/black magic.

Various religions mention necromancy, even in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Outside of occultists such as those who practice voodoo or witchcraft you may recognize offshoots of this practice like seances.

Hope this helped.
Endril 21/Dec/2006 at 10:09 PM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
I don’t know for sure but the borrow wights were under the command of the dark will of Sauron? Maybe that’s what Tolkien wanted to say when calling him a necromancer. Yet there were no burrow wights in the time of the hobbit, and that was the time in which he used the word. Maybe he wanted to make Sauron look evil and scarry by giving him this name.

Varda:I like the answer a lot. Very convincing. The think with interogating the spirits seems like today modern reunions in which people recall that they can do that. Isn’t that right. Dunno exactly how it’s called. And bout the concept of necromancy as raising bodies and souls of the dead for fighting, armies or other purposes, that’s usualy found in certain RPG’s as I said.
halfir 21/Dec/2006 at 11:22 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

The following is excerpted from my thread:

Tolkien’s Later Writings on the Necromancer

The Necromancer’ and Morgoth’s Ring – HOME 10

A necromancer is –generally- a sorcerer or wizard who communicates with the dead and has dealings with them.

{The OED defines ‘necromancy’ as:

‘The pretended art of revealing future events, etc. by means of communication with the dead; more generally, magic, enchantment, conjuration.’}

(Tolkien, who was a contributor to the New English Dictionary (the earlier name for the OED) often disagreed with their definitions of words, and would probably have disagreed with this one!)

In Morgoth’s Ring – The Later Quenta Silmarillion (11) Of Re-Birth and Other Dooms of Those that Go To Mandos CT – acting as his father’s editor – finally let’s us in on the secret that has been teasing us since The Hobbit was first published.

Morgoth’s Ring was published in 1993 – The Hobbit in 1937 (revised edition 1966). So, 56 years on the ‘Necromancer’ and his secrets were finally revealed. Yet, given the restricted circulation of HOME 10 it is highly probable that millions of Tolkien fans do not yet know quite what Tolkien meant by ‘the Necromancer’ other than its more general sorcerous application.

In Morgoth’s Ring the story finally unfolds!

1. To understand the unfolding we have firstly to become familiar with two terms: fea (pl. fear) and hroa (pl.hroar) or hron / hrondo (pl. hroni)

2. fea (pl. fear) soul, indwelling spirit , of an incarnate being

3. hroa (pl.hroar) or hron / hrondo (pl. hroni) body (of an incarnate being)

4. We also need to understand that the fea (spirit) is unable to be coerced or forced. Thus it cannot be made to go to Mandos even if it has been properly summoned. The summons may be refused.

5. Those fear (spirits) that refuse the summons and remain in ME wander homeless in the world- they have no personal hroa (body) or hroar (bodies) to inhabit. Many haunt trees, or springs, or hidden places that they once knew.

6. Not all of those who refuse the summons are kindly – many are stained by the Shadow. Indeed, the refusal of the summons is in itself a sign of taint.

7. The Valar who rule Arda have thus forbidden the living to commune with the Unbodied, though the latter may desire it, particularly the more evil sort.

8. Some of the Unbodied are filled with envy, bitterness, and grievance and some of these were enslaved by Sauron, and even though he is gone, they still do his work.

9. They do not speak truth or wisdom and for the living to call on them is perilous.

10. Attempting to master them and binding them to one’s will is wicked . They are the practices of Morgoth, and the necromancers who do this are followers of Sauron.

11. The evil Unbodied will possess the hroa (body) of a living person if possible. So communing with them is doubly perilous as it could involve the loss of one’s hroa (body)

12. The evil Unbodied, if given friendship by the living may seek to eject the fea (spirit) of the living person and occupy their hroa (body). The resultant battle can either cause grave injury to the living person’s body, or result in its actual possession by the Unbodied, and the dispossession of the living person’s fea or spirit.

13. The Unbodied may try and plead for shelter, and if allowed to enter the hroa (body) of a living person will seek to enslave and use both the fea ( spirit) and hroa (body) of the living person for its own purposes, ultimately probably expelling the original fea (spirit)

14. Sauron is said to have done these things, and to have taught his followers how to achieve them- hence his name ‘Necromancer’

Battlehamster 22/Dec/2006 at 07:55 AM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1401 Posts: 515 Joined: 10/Nov/2006
That explains a lot. Actually, it makes a lot of sense with that part in the Lay of Leithan where it has " glamoury/ that necromancer held his hosts/ of phantoms and of wandering ghosts..." I had wondered about that part, because until then the only thing that I had heard of Sauron doing that was sort of like necromancy was with the Nazgul, which isn’t exactly necromancy because they never really died..
Endril 22/Dec/2006 at 03:17 PM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
Battlehamster: The nazgul part was more of a control thing than necromancy. The nazguls were under the control of Sauron through the 9 rings of power. I don’t know certainly if they were dead, but I think so. They had no bodies, they were spirits.
Tin the wizard 23/Dec/2006 at 07:55 AM
Master of Isengard Points: 238 Posts: 28 Joined: 23/Dec/2006

But because theyd ben spirits they were unable to have bodies,they would be dea and the rings kepped them alive. So actally it is some kind of necromancy,But i have a guestion,so nazguls were controled with the rings.  But if someone else haved ring could he controll nazgul?

P.S.Sorry for misspleking,I am from Croatia and dont know english very much

Alcarináro 23/Dec/2006 at 08:09 AM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
The Nine had real physical bodies, Legolas Fireblade. Their bodies were invisible, yes, but still physically present, just as the body of Frodo or Bilbo was still there when the Ring was put on.
Tin the wizard, Sauron, at the time of the War of the Ring, still held power over the Nazgul with the Nine Rings, which he held. Someone like Frodo could not, even if he figured out how, use the One Ring to wrench control from Sauron. But we could imagine that someone with far greater power could use the One Ring in such a way. To use the Ring in that way, however, would certainly corrupt the individual to evil.
elvenpath 23/Dec/2006 at 10:18 AM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2310 Posts: 2270 Joined: 28/Apr/2004
Legolas Fireblade, the nine were not dead for sure - Eowyn was able to KILL the Witch King :) They were ’living’ in the Unseen World, or better said existing....They were not part of the Seen World anymore...
Tin the wizard 23/Dec/2006 at 11:52 AM
Master of Isengard Points: 238 Posts: 28 Joined: 23/Dec/2006
But if Sauron was necromancer why he couldnt controll the undead in the last book
Blackrose Bugg 23/Dec/2006 at 11:57 AM
New Soul Points: 21505 Posts: 30286 Joined: 19/Jan/2003

Necromancers do not control the dead.  They talk to them.  And then they send them back.  The dead army was something quite different- they were cursed to remain here until they fulfilled their oaths.  That had nothing to do with Sauron.

HE controlled the Nazgul through the RING- not through necromancy.  The Nazgul were not zombies- their condition was something unique to Middle Earth.

geordie 23/Dec/2006 at 12:02 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
Hallo Tin the Wizard. I don’t know - though mind you, they were’nt called the undead; they were the Dead; or, to give them their full name, the Dead Men of Dunharrow. I suppose it’s because Isildur was the one who had cursed the men of Dunharrow in the first place; and the prophecy of Malbeth the Seer said that they would answer to Isildur’s heir. I don’t know if Sauron the Necromancer could have had any effect on them; nor if he’d want to. He had enough of his own to be going on with. Besides; Aragorn had to go to where the Dead were, in order to use them. There’s nothing to say that Sauron could control them remotely as it were.

Welcome to the Plaza by the way.
geordie 23/Dec/2006 at 12:03 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
Tin the wizard 23/Dec/2006 at 12:23 PM
Master of Isengard Points: 238 Posts: 28 Joined: 23/Dec/2006

Thank you geordie,I understand now


Alcarináro 23/Dec/2006 at 01:04 PM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
BB, werewolves are shape-shifters, vampires are of human-shape, and a wizard could be anyone praticing magic. But not in Tolkien’s world.
halfir has already mentioned the evidence from Morgoth’s Ring that shows Sauron, as the Necromancer, did far more than summon and converse with departed spirits. He enthralled them and re-incarnated them (not in an ’undead’ sense, but still a return to a corporeal form). It is the sense in which Tolkien used the term that matters, and he used it past the literal combining of the meaning of the stems.
Blackrose Bugg 23/Dec/2006 at 01:14 PM
New Soul Points: 21505 Posts: 30286 Joined: 19/Jan/2003

Odd- that was not how I read halfir’s post.  Necromancers were those that called up and conversed with the unbodied- something perilous, as the contact could lead to what could be called "possession" the original fea cast out and the evil one implanted...but it was not the necromancers that caused the switchover- it was the evil fea themselves.

When we get to the last two lines of halfir’s post, I read this as Sauron, as an Unbodied took over living persons- in his various returns from shadow form after a defeat.  He, himself did not control the dead-  he used the power to possess the living.  A whole ’nother thing.

13. The Unbodied may try and plead for shelter, and if allowed to enter the hroa (body) of a living person will seek to enslave and use both the fea ( spirit) and hroa (body) of the living person for its own purposes, ultimately probably expelling the original fea (spirit)

14. Sauron is said to have done these things, and to have taught his followers how to achieve them- hence his name ‘Necromancer’


Alcarináro 23/Dec/2006 at 01:26 PM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
Then I return to the source.

For the Unbodied, wandering in the world, are those who at the last have refused the door of life and remain in regret and self-pity. Some are filled with bitterness, grievance, and envy. Some were enslaved by the Dark Lord and do his work still, though he himself is gone. They will not speak truth or wisdom. To call on them is folly. To attempt to master them and to make them servants of one own’s will is wickedness. Such practices are of Morgoth; and the necromancers are of the host of Sauron his servant.
-HoME X: Morgoth’s Ring, The Later Quenta Silmarillion (II), Laws and Customs of the Eldar, Of Re-birth and Other Dooms)

The next paragraph goes into the Houseless desiring bodies, seeking shelter, and ultimately attempting to eject or dominate the native fea. Sauron, himself, was not Houseless. In my opinion, the passage makes more sense if it means that Sauron did these things through the Houseless that it has been established the paragraph before were under his will. Therefore, entrallment and re-incarnation.