View Full Version : Barrow-Wights

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-09-2001, 11:33 PM
What exactly is a Barrow-Wight?

If you don't mind me asking. smilies/wink.gif

[ October 10, 2001: Message edited by: Gwaihir the Windlord ]

10-10-2001, 03:19 AM
Hmm. I don't think I've ever really considered the question. They seem to only exist at the Downs, having been sent there by the Witch King. I think this could be significant. In Master of Middle Earth, the author, Paul Kocher, says
The wights must be the ghosts of the evil attackers from Carn Dm.
He goes on to compare them to the Dead Men of Dunharrow. It partly makes sense because the men of Carn Dm were followers of the Witch King who attacked the Dnedain of Cardolan. The wights however, seem to be much more powerful than the Dead of Dunharrow. Maybe the spirits of the evil men were somehow enhanced by the Witch King?

10-10-2001, 08:31 AM
I find it hard to believe that they could be Mannish spirits. As we all know, no one but Iluvatar can keep the spirit of a Man from leaving Ea after the body has died. The Dead Men of Dunharrow had taken an oath to follow Isildur (definitely a Good Guy in Iluvatar's mind) in a battle against Sauron and they didn't keep it - which apparently was enough for Iluvatar to keep the Mannish spirits in Ea until they fulfilled their oath. But evil Men of Carn Dum under the command of the Witch-King? Why would Iluvatar let them stay in Ea?

Instead, I believe that the Barrow-Wights were Elvish spirits. Morgoth's Ring (HoMe X) talks about Elves and their spirits after the death of the body. It says that a dead Elf is summoned to Mandos - but the Elf doesn't have to go. An evil Elf of Middle-Earth (such as one whose will has been broken by Melkor/Sauron) may stay in Middle-Earth if he so wishes, but there he can not reincarnate (reincarnation is possible only in Mandos and with Manwe's approval). These free Elven-spirits, Tolkien says, desire to have a form again and are always seeking bodies whose control they can wrestle away from the natural owner of the body. Necromancy (as practiced by Sauron and his followers) in Middle-Earth is based on communicating and cooperating with these "houseless" Elves, and we know that Witch-King was Sauron's most powerful servant - thus it makes sense to assume that the Witch-King had managed to call upon the spirits of dead evil Elves and send them to inhabit the Barrow-Downs.

What do you think of my theory? smilies/smile.gif

10-10-2001, 02:16 PM
But try and think of as many evil elves as you can, there aren't any that I can think of, in fact there are only a few that would even come close.

And I have no clue as to what men do after they die. Maybe they stick around for a little bit, maybe not. I mean many people today think that there are ghosts, but at the same time they think that there is an after life.

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-10-2001, 11:39 PM
There were evil elves. Maeglin was one. Eol was pretty bad as well. And the houseless ones don’t have to be evil. They could be simply rebellious, hated the Valar. Probably these were mainly Nolor.

I like your theory, Elenhen (good to meet you). The wights could, of course, be Maiar; but I doubt it. They do not seem powerful enough.

’They are Elvish wights. Leave them alone.’
Remember that quote? The Men of the White Mountains said that to one another when the Grey Company rode through. This indeed suggests that wights were Elvish.

But where would the Witch-King get the houseless Elves from? Perhaps the sons of Feanor. That only makes seven. Some rebellious elves no doubt existed, which shunned the Valar and refused to go to Mandos; some outcasts of Elvish society also, perhaps. Maybe they were those houseless elves of which you speak.

10-11-2001, 07:19 AM
Sauron's alias before the war of the Ring was the Necromancer, meaning one who enchants the dead. HoME (Morgoth's Ring I think) states that when Elves die, they are summoned to Mandos, but that Morgoth (possibly through Sauron) made a counter-summons seeking to capture Elven spirits. These were presumably put to use by Morgoth (and later Sauron). To some extent, Mannish spirits might also be subject to capture. The Dead of Dunharrow evidence this possibility though that was not Sauron's work.

After receiving their Rings, the Men who later became Ringwraiths became sorcerors. Some of their powers and instruction likely came from Sauron, the Necromancer. Thus it is not surprising that the Witch King possessed necromantic skills. The Barrow Wights were probably dead bodies re-animated by the spirits of captured Elves or Men captured or co-opted by Sauron or his servants.

The Barrow-Wight
10-14-2001, 08:52 AM
Not to complicate the issue, but could the wights possibly have alse included Orcish spirits? Or Dwarven? Hobbit? If the Witch-King was able to bind the spirits of Elves and Men to Arda, then he could have also entrapped the others. Right? I think it would have pleased the WK to force a poor hobbit spirit to spend an eternity of barrow-life without a hankerchief.

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-16-2001, 11:37 PM

I wouldn't have thought that Morgoth could bind Men to Earth. Or Hobbits (as has been earlir discussed, a 'subspecies' of Man and so sharing the same fate). Illuvitar would not allow it; no one can interfere with Man's journey to heaven. Not even Morgoth, most powerful (at first) of the Valar.

Dwarves, though, yes. Possibly. It is said that they too go to Mandos, in halls set apart. If they could be persuaded by a Necromancer to stay, then I am sure that the said Dwarf could be captured by him and returned to Arda.

10-17-2001, 01:06 AM
Then how do you explain the dead men of dunharrow, Gwaihir?

10-17-2001, 07:08 AM
Then how do you explain the Dead Men of Dunharrow, Gwaihir?

In addition, in the most famous case Beren was allowed to return to ME after his death, temporarily avoiding "The Doom of Men".
And the idea of men returning as ghosts was apparently not unknown, as the men of Brethil, seeing Trin when they thought him dead
.....gave back in terror, believing it was his unquiet spirit, and the women wailed and covered their eyes.

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-17-2001, 11:41 PM
Then how do you explain the Dead Men of Dunharrow, Gwaihir?

As has been before mentioned, Illuvitar (and the Valar) obviously considered Isildur enough of a good guy to let his curse take effect; and of course the Men were serving Sauron, making them not just cowards but evil cowards, too (the very worst kind of evil bastard). Porobably the voice of Illuvitar spoke to Isildur inside his head, perhaps subconciously, telling him that he had the power to curse the Dead Men so.

As for Beren, Inzil, I'd have expected you to know better. He wedded an Elf. There was a fate set apart for such Men. And since Beren had to pass through Mandos on his way to heaven, he obviously resisted as much as he could and tarried there a while, so as to be with Luthien. The Valar took pity on him and sent him back. They had the power to do that, I believe, with Illuvitar's authority.

.....gave back in terror, believing it was his unquiet spirit, and the women wailed and covered their eyes.

Unquiet spirits... we believe in them, don't we? ME unquiet spirits, those of Men, mean, probably could resisit for a while. Not for long though. not more than a few days.

10-18-2001, 01:00 PM
I know Beren's situation was special, But you'd said, G
...no one can interfere with Man's journey to heaven.

I probably shouldn't have taken you to mean literally no one, not even Ilvatar. Sorry, I was tired. smilies/wink.gif
I still wonder why it is that wights are apparently only found in Eriador, at the Barrow Downs. It seems odd that they would have been 'tailor made' for occupying the Downs and not seen anywhere else.

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-18-2001, 11:32 PM
S'pose I should've been more distinct.

Eriador was a bit wild in places, after the fall of Gondor. I suppose this enabled the Witch-King to lodge the wights in the barrows of the Downs.
I couldn't imagine wights in Gondorian graves, for example, or Rohan. They would be immediately hunted out an killed.

10-19-2001, 01:04 PM
The wights would be killed? :P

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-21-2001, 11:29 PM
Yeah, their borrowed corpses anyway. Destroyed. Not killed. You know what I mean...

10-22-2001, 01:18 PM
Hmmm. I thought I had already posted this, but it seems to have dissapeared (it probably happened when I accidentally posted it twice and then deleted a copy of it) My crazy theory on the wights is that (if one follows the idea of orcs being elves twisted and corrupted by Morgoth) they are the "missing link" between elves and orcs. They are still elves, so they had the choice whether or not to go on after they died, and they are orcs, so they wanted to stay and cause evil. This of course is just my crazy theory, but, well, whaddyanow, some of ya'll might actually like it.

[ October 22, 2001: Message edited by: Eldar14 ]

Gwaihir the Windlord
10-22-2001, 11:27 PM

Firstly, nice sig (although I can't fathom it, or where it's motives came from smilies/smile.gif).

Second, the crazy theory. I doubt it, friend. Nice thinking though. There would only have been a handful of such Orc-Elves before Morgoth got the hang of breeding them. Also, they would not have had such power; your average Elf wouldn't anyway, and if it's half orc, then certainly not.

[ October 23, 2001: Message edited by: Gwaihir the Windlord ]

01-16-2002, 07:10 PM
I hope you don't mind me digging this post up, no pun intended. smilies/cool.gif I believe that the Barrow-Wights were not actually inhabited by spirits, human or otherwise. I think that through the power of the ring(s) the Witch King, and possibly the other Nazgul, were able to reanimate the bodies of the dead and bend them to their will. Much like the dwarves when Aule first created them, merely pupits under his power.

[ January 16, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]

01-17-2002, 11:51 AM
While Eru does take the good side e.g. Isildur, he doesn't make it easy for them. Maybe letting the Witch-King bind mortal spirits to the downs was his way of making things tougher for the people of Arnor. Remember that Melkor used up much of his original power twisting the peoples of ME to his own control, I find it hard to believe that a Numenorean wraith could keep mortal spirits from Mandos against the will of Eru.

01-17-2002, 12:27 PM
I believe that the Barrow-Wights were not actually inhabited by spirits, human or otherwise. I think that through the power of the ring(s) the Witch King, and possibly the other Nazgul, were able to reanimate the bodies of the dead and bend them to their will. Much like the dwarves when Aule first created them, merely pupits under his power.
Very good point, Thingol. I agree with you.

01-17-2002, 02:46 PM
Originally posted by Thingol:
<STRONG> I believe that the Barrow-Wights were not actually inhabited by spirits, human or otherwise. I think that through the power of the ring(s) the Witch King, and possibly the other Nazgul, were able to reanimate the bodies of the dead and bend them to their will. Much like the dwarves when Aule first created them, merely pupits under his power.

[ January 16, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]</STRONG>

There could be some truth to this, but if the relationship was in fact strictly puppetish, when the hobbits were captured they would have been, in essense, The witch king's prisoners. While Gandalf thought this episode was Frodo's most dangerous moment, it doesn't seem that it was as dangerous as being in the Witch King's possession. perhaps I am reading your puupet comparison too strongly though. Frodo's danger could have come from the fact that he almost put on the ring, and in the wight's presence that might have been equal to Frodo jumping up and down right in front of the witch kings face. But if the wight's are basically an extension of the Witch King, he would have known of the Hobbits and the ring whether Frodo put it on or not.

Another question, along these lines, what can wights do? If the serve the witch king, he would know what region they (the wights) were in, and the nazgul themselves were in that region searching for Hobbits, wouldn't it be beneficial to them to enlist the full force aid of their servants? What are their boundaries, and why?

01-17-2002, 03:20 PM
I can't really answer that one but in UT it says that the WK established a camp at Andrath where the Greenway passes in a defile between the Barrow-downs and the South Downs. From there some others were sent to watch and patrol the eastern borders, while he himself visited (it sounds like a package holiday doesn't it?-Fenrir)the Barrow-downs. He stayed there for some days, and the barrow-wights were roused, and all things of evil spirit, hostile to elves and men, were on the watch with malice in the old forest and the barrow-downs.

01-17-2002, 05:21 PM
I always thought that the Wights were limited by the power of the Witch King. The quote from the UT and the fact that Gandalf says that being imprisoned by the Wights was the most dangerous moment makes me believe they were servants of the Witch King. Maybe the puppet analogy is too strong. Maybe he just animated their bodies with his power and inhabited them with his will to do evil.

*This is my 50th post smilies/smile.gif I'm really enjoying this discussion board, you all really make new comer’s feel welcome and are very open to other ideas and opinions.

[ January 17, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]

01-20-2002, 07:29 AM
The point about the chief of the Nazgul's tarrying in the Barrow-downs, emphasizes a point about the Barrow-wights that is implied in the The Fellowship of the Ring: They are junior-league versions of the Nazgul.

Between the Necromancer's and the Witch-King's power, they took men of Carn Dum (the Evil Hill Men of Rhudaur or others) who they had corrupted, and gave them something that turned them eventually into the haunting, life-lusting spirits that inhabited and terrorized the barrows, which were originally the graves of noble, clean men of the First and Third ages. But the aura of these graves, cursed by the power of Angmar it what sustains the wights.

The wights were sent from Angmar, as one more way to infest Eriador.

If you doubt the power of the Witch-King to do this, think of the Morgul-knife. It's part of a theme in Book I.

The Barrow-wights were of course no where near as capable, nor as mobile, as the Nazgul. But the Nazgul were originally much greater men to be sure, and they were ruined by no less then a great Ring of Power, while Sauron would not have gone to such trouble for the sake of various spooks, even if he knew anymore how to make rings like the Nine.

The Barrow-wights could not have been hobbits, because then the Witch-King would have been familiar with them, whereas he is not, even though he was involved in Eriador for centuries.

Orc spirits! If that were an Orc-like arm that Frodo slashed then I think that would have been noted.

I don't feel it would have been possibl to have made an Elf evil enough to become a wight, even if their spirit could be so enslaved.

The wights are NOT like the Dead Men of Dunharrow, who are simply human spirits trapped for longer than they should by the power of their oath to Isildur, who was no slouch.

No, the wights are like the Nazgul. Their inner spirit had been totally destroyed and voided by the corrupting power. They thus become phantoms lurking in "the Unseen" world. Because the wights are maintained by the spell that Angmar put on the Barrow, the opening of it and the exposing of its treasure breaks the spell. This destroys them much as the Witch-King was unraveled by Merry and Eowyn. At that point they simply vanish into the void.


"For he seemed to think that the Riders and the Barrow-wights had some kind of kinship and undestanding" [HoME, VI, VII]

[ January 20, 2002: Message edited by: Man-of-the-Wold ]

01-20-2002, 10:50 AM
Originally posted by Man-of-the-Wold:
<STRONG>They are junior-league versions of the Nazgul.</STRONG>
Hm. The Nazgul were Men, whose spirits were bound to their bodies (which faded). The Barrow-wights were spirits which came and inhabited dead bodies.

<STRONG>Between the Necromancer's and the Witch-King's power, they took men of Carn Dum (the Evil Hill Men of Rhudaur or others) who they had corrupted, and gave them something that turned them eventually into the haunting, life-lusting spirits that inhabited and terrorized the barrows, which were originally the graves of noble, clean men of the First and Third ages.</STRONG>
You have to admit that there is little in the texts which suggests this. I can't think of anything except for a Ring of Power which could separate a Man from his body and still keep the spirit in Arda.

<STRONG>If you doubt the power of the Witch-King to do this, think of the Morgul-knife. It's part of a theme in Book I.</STRONG>
The Morgul-knife would have made Frodo a lesser Wraith, similar to the Nazgul. The Ring-Wraiths were not able to leave their bodies and inhabit other bodies themselves, but they (for example) needed Sauron's help to reform after the incident at the Fords of Bruinen.

<STRONG>Orc spirits! If that were an Orc-like arm that Frodo slashed then I think that would have been noted.</STRONG>
Orc spirits. The Barrow-wights inhabited Mannish bodies, be they Orc-spirits or Man-spirits or Elf-spirits.

<STRONG>I don't feel it would have been possibl to have made an Elf evil enough to become a wight, even if their spirit could be so enslaved.</STRONG>
I wrote you more about evil Elves, and specifically Orc-spirits, in the 'What was Sauron' thread, so I'll let this matter rest in this one.

<STRONG>Because the wights are maintained by the spell that Angmar put on the Barrow, the opening of it and the exposing of its treasure breaks the spell. This destroys them much as the Witch-King was unraveled by Merry and Eowyn. At that point they simply vanish into the void.</STRONG>
Huh? Barrow-wights vanishing to the Void? First of all, I don't even believe that the Witch-King was finally killed by Eowyn or Merry, much less that he vanished to the Void! Only Melkor was sent there.

I agree with you on the role of the treasures of the barrows, though. When the treasure is scattered, the spell of the Witch-King is broken and the tormented Wight is released - to go to Mandos or the place where Men go when they die or to roam in Middle-earth as a bodiless spirit. They do not go to the Void, or at least Tolkien never suggested that.

01-21-2002, 06:18 AM
Well, thanks. Boy, sorry if saying the wrong things.

Nevertheless, I think the texts seem to support plenty of connection between the Men of Carn Dum (based on what Sam, Merry or Pippin recalls) and the Barrow-wights. Who they had been exactly and so forth is all speculation. I was merely offering one plausible scenario, which I don't see as refuted by the texts.

In comparing the Wights to the Nazgul, I was operating at a literary level not a literal one. They could have been willingly corrupted men in ways similar to the Nazgul, who desired not to die. Still, there could be qualitative, as well as quantitative differences between Nazguls and Wights.

In a sense I see the Nazgul as not really having bodies any longer in the material world of light, and their human spirits had been transformed into something alien and altogether evil: no longer going where the spirits of (at least saintly) men go, when finally offed. Whether this (non)bodily aspect worked exactly the same for the Wights or not, is beside the point. Again, I'm dealing with metaphorical similarities, not a set of definitions for various ghouls.

Also, I was unaware that Wights were necessarily human bodies inhabited or "possessed" by some other spirits. Is there a clear indication of that somewhere? Perhaps, that's one definition of "wight," but I thought it is was just a generic type of ghost, and by dictionary is not handy.

I'm not saying the possession point is out of the question. But what Frodo sees is not necessarily an undead body, but could be something (disembodied arm) visible only in the strange light of the Barrow, but still more of a Nazgul-like (but in many ways different) spirit, operating out the Unseen world. Again, I only know that some of the "barrows" are inhabited by Wights, not that the Wights are corpses inhabited by '?'.

As for Orc and Elf spirits, and the penchant to do good and evil, I still hold to the literary perspective of what I see the various races representing among real human traits and eternal ideals.

The basic life-force of the Orcs was derived from tortured Elves, because Morgoth could not create totally new life, but Orcs were in no way Elves, in any way, shape or form, nor subject to redemption, but evil demons, consistent with the origins of the word.

Good and Evil as epitomized between those two races (Elves and Orcs), with other less cardinal tendencies shown through Dwarves, Hobbits, Ents, Dunedain, and other men, is not simply a matter of appearance, personality, political organization or even behavior in all cases, but rather it is a question of what was or could be in the hearts of those various peoples.

The same thinking about literary device and philosophical points might apply to how the members of each race are supposed to be governed and (in an at least relative way) bound to the fate, destiny or natural order of Arda, as well as to what extent and in what way dooms, curses, consequences, and so forth might ensue when those members deviate or try to deviate from that order, or from the tenets of just action.

It is only through language that Tolkien, I feel, provides a consistent indication of each race's deepest and truest tendencies. And the Orc-speech or sentiments may not sound too bad to us in our uncouth societies, but for Tolkien, he might have been presenting abomination.

As for Sauron, Saruman, Balrogs, and yes, in my opinion, the Nazgul and Wights, their disappearing into the "void" is not necessarily the same "void" as where Morgoth goes until the end, but rather it is utter nothingness. Gandalf's and others' statements to them, as well as the images of their various passings are what suggest this to me.

[ January 21, 2002: Message edited by: Man-of-the-Wold ]

01-21-2002, 10:46 AM
Heres the way I see it:

The men who were slain were placed in the Barrow Wights, and their fea (spirits) left Middle Earth forever. They the proceed to go to the halls of Illuvitar. The chief difference between the Nazgul and the Barrow Wights is that the Nazgul were never slain. There spirits never made it to the halls of Illuvitar because their life was unnaturally prolonged via their rings. The Barrow Wights on the other hand died before becoming Barrow Wights. It is not possible that the Witch King could bring back the spirits of men considering Manwe could not do it to Beren without asking Illuvitar. As for the Barrow Wights being inhabited by elf or orc spirits, this seems unlikely to me. Tolkien never mentioned an elf or orc Fea inhabiting another being in any of his works. I agree with what Man of the Wold said that orc or elf fea inhabiting the bodies of men does not sem consistent with the style of Tolkien's works. In my opinion it makes much more sense that the bodies of the men in the Barrow Wights were reanimated through the considerable power of the 9 rings. This is also consistent with the practice of necromancy. I've always thought of necromancy as the reanimation of the dead to create undead monsters (ex: skeletons and zombies). It is not the ressurection of the soul and the restoration of the body into its original form. Necromancy is merely the reanimation of a body; with the body being transformed into a hideous form and placed under the control of a powerful necromancer.

01-21-2002, 11:47 AM
Here's a quote from the Tolkien Bestiary. It should be quite reliable.

"Barrow-Wights: West of the Brandywine River beyond the Old Forest were the Barrow-Downs, the most ancient burial ground of Men in Middle-earth. There were no trees or water there, but only grass and turf covering dome-shaped hills that were crowned with monoliths and great rings of bone-white stone. These hills were the burial mounds that were made in the First Age of Sun for the Kings of Men. For many ages the Barrow-downs were sacred and revered, until out of the Witch-kingdom of Angmar many terrible and tortured spirits fled across Middle-earth, desperately searching to hide from the ravening light of the Sun. Demons whose bodies had been destroyed looked for other bodies in which their evil spirits could dwell. And so it was that the Barrow-downs became a haunted and dread place. The demons became the Barrow-wights, the Undead, who animated the bones and jewelled armour of the ancient Kings of Men who had lived in this land in the First Age of Sun.

The Barrow-wights were of a substance of darkness that could enter the eye, heart and mind, or crush the will. They were form-shifters and could move from shape to shape and animate whatever life-form they wished. Most often a Barrow-wight came on the unwary traveller in the guise of a dark phantom whose eyes were luminous and cold. The voice of the figure was at once horrible and hypnotic; its skeletal hand had a touch like ice and a grip like the iron jaws of a trap. Once under the spell of the Undead the victim had no will of his own. In this way the Barrow-wight drew the living into the treasure tombs on the downs. A dismal choir of tortured souls could be heard inside the Barrow as, in the green half-light, the Barrow-wight laid his victim on a stone altar and bound him with chains of gold. He draped him in the pale cloth and precious jewellery of the ancient dead, and then ended his life with a sacrificial sword.

In the darkness these were powerful spirits and they could be held at bay only with the spell of strong incantations. They could be destroyed only by exposure to light, and it was light that they hated and feared most. The Barrow-wights were lost and tortured spirits and their last chance to remain on Middle-earth depended on the dark security of the burial vaults. Once a stone chamber was broken open, light would pour in on the Barrow-wights and they would fade like mist before the sun and be gone for ever.


01-21-2002, 11:55 AM
When was The Tolkien Bestiary published, and is it by Tolkien? I've never heard of it, but it sounds pretty interesting.

Keeper of Dol Guldur
01-21-2002, 12:14 PM
The wight Frodo and the hobbits encountered was said maybe to be the last prince of Cardolan-in body, but a good necromancer like the witch-king, since he was part of the physical and spiritual world may have been able to "grab" a spirit as it left the body. The term "fell spirits from Angmar" which came and inhabited these places implies maybe dead dwarves, since Carn Dum could have been an ancient dwarven fortress corrupted by one of the seven rings. Maybe the witch-king or Sauron when they ruined this place, put up a barrier and trapped the spirits within so they could corrupt them over time. Indeed Sauron was a master of fell spirits-like the werewolves, which he bred and inhabited with "fell spirits", and the nazgul which he turned into wraithes. My guess is that through the teachings of Aule he learned how to build a hall for spirits, not unlike but lesser to the halls of Mandos, and trapped spirits for his uses.

02-09-2002, 03:18 AM
Yea, I see now. The last two posts were very constructive. The original Bestiary was a favorite of mine as a kid, although it makes mistakes, like equating the Silvan Elves with the Avari, even though the back of the Silmirillion clearly indicates them as Nandorin. I mean, really!

But I guess the bodies of Cardolan nobility were inhabited in a sense, and indeed a LotR appendix does note Frodo's Barrow as that of the last prince. Whether that means the body was the Prince's body is not definite. But still, there bodies were just a shell, taken over by spirits issuing out of Angmar in some form, presumably in the time between the Great Plague and the overthrow of Fornost.

I think that everyone agrees that these are not elf, orc or hobbit spirits. The dwarf idea is interesting, since between Gundabad and other places, Angmar certainly conquered some Dwarfish settlements, but I think not in that Tolkien says plainly in reference to the seven rings that Dwarves could not be reduced to shadows.

No, I think those spirits, which to one degree or another may have animated and possessed the newer Barrow corpses, were either minor Maiar spirits long corrupted by Morgoth, and somehow revived for the service of the Witch-King. Or, they are the spirits of corrupted Men of Carn Dm, whose bodies have died, but through evil spells have lost their ticket beyond the Circles of the World. This in a sense is different from the Nazgl or the Voice of Sauron, who are men whose bodies have simply withered away or been refashioned in some way.

How's that sound?

02-09-2002, 07:09 AM
Morgoth's Ring (HoMe 10), Laws and Customs of the Eldar, under the header "Of re-birth and other dooms of those that go to Mandos":

(This is a bit lengthy quote, but I think it's very informative as well)
The fea [of an Elf who has died] is single, and in the last impregnable. It cannot be brought to Mandos. It is summoned; and the summons proceeds from just authority, and is imperative; yet it may be refused. Among those who refused the summons (or rather invitation) of the Valar to Aman in the first years of the Elves, refusal of the summons to Mandos and the Halls of Waiting is, the Eldar say, frequent. It was less frequent, however, in ancient days, while Morgoth was in Arda, or his servant Sauron after him; for then the fea unbodied would flee in terror of the Shadow to any refuge - unless it were already committed to the Darkness and passed then into its dominion. In like manner even of the Eldar some who had become corrupted refused the summons, and then had little power to resist the counter-summons of Morgoth.
But it would seem that in these after-days more and more of the Elves, be they of the Eldalie in origin or be they of other kinds, who linger in Middle-earth now refuse the summons of Mandos, and wander houseless in the world,* [A footnote: For only those who willingly go to Mandos may be re-born...] unwilling to leave it and unable to inhabit it, haunting trees or springs or hidden places that once they knew. Not all of these are kindly or unstained by the Shadow. Indeed the refusal of the summons is in itself a sign of a taint.

It is therefore a foolish and perilous thing, besides being a wrong deed forbidden justly by the appointed Rulers of Arda, if the Living seek to commune with the Unbodied, though the houseless may desire it, especially the most unworthy among them. For the Unbodied, wandering in the world, are those who at the least 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's will is wickedness. Such practices are of Morgoth; and the necromancers are of the host of Sauron his servant.

Some say that the Houseless desire bodies, though they are not willing to seek them lawfully by submission to the judgement of Mandos. The wicked among them will take bodies, if they can, unlawfully. The peril of communing with them is, therefore, not only the peril of being deluded by fantasies or lies: there is peril also of destruction. For one of the hungry Houseless, if it is admitted to the friendship of the Living, may seek to eject the fea from its body; and in the contest for mastery the body may be gravely injured, even if it be not wrested from its rightful inhabitant. Or the Houseless may plead for shelter, and if it is admitted, then it will seek to enslave its host and use both his will and his body for its own purposes. It is said that Sauron did these things, and taught his followers how to achieve them.

What is JRRT saying here?
* An Elf may refuse summons to Mandos and stay in Arda without a body
* Some of these dead Elven spirits are evil, servants of Morgoth
* Sauron and his followers' necromancy is about calling upon dead Elves
* The Houseless may wrestle the control of bodies of other beings
* Sauron taught his followers how to help the Houseless get bodies

I think that this explains the Barrow-wights perfectly. I also think that this also explains the werewolves. They were both evil Elven spirits with possessed bodies.

I think it's very unlikely that the Barrow-wights are Dwarves. First of all, Dwarves can't have been corrupted by Rings of Power. The Rings could only make them more greedy, but they could not be subjugated, turned into wraiths or be otherwise influenced. The Dwarves were also the most resistant race in Middle-earth.

The same impregnability which applies to Elvish and Mannish spirits probably applies to Dwarves: nothing can force the spirit to escape its destiny. An Elf may be corrupted by evil, but evil can not make the Elf to refuse the summons to Mandos. A Man might be spell-bound, evil and willing to cling to life, but after he has died nothing can keep him in Arda against the will of Iluvatar.

It is of course possible that the Barrow-wights are minor Maiar, but I think that the Elf-idea is more likely.

02-09-2002, 08:41 AM
I would like to thank Fenrir for quoting the Beastiary. That has been the most helpful! smilies/smile.gif

02-09-2002, 03:44 PM
I suppose that this point of Fea (sing.?, elven spirits) who refuse the summons of Mandos is not inconsistent with the Barrow-wights, but why would such spirits need to or want to inhabit the graves, armor and (to some extent) bodies of dead men?

No, the maliciousness, sacrificial and other imagery of the wights just doesn't feel right in the context of an elvish spirt, however, corrupted and trapped in the [Unseen] world of Middle-Earth. I think that Elven spirits might not have been so easily dismissed by Tom Bombadil, who would not have thought twice of wayward Human spirits, or even necessarily of Maia spirits, long since degraded and lost and now inferior to someone of his purity. Again, in someways Bombadil and the Wights may be offered as sort of equivalent opposites.

No, I would still see it as more meaningful [this being a world of fiction not fact] that the wights are really spirits derived from Men, who through sins and spells have been forced into a kind of eternal damnation (akin to the Nazgul) on earth, which has disrrupted the otherwise prevailing power of Eru to draw their spirits beyond the Circles of Arda. What happened to the bodies of these Men of Carn Dm is not necessarily relevant.

Arguably the Dead Men of Dunharrow would never have been given leave of this world without the "opportunity" to right their wrong, which arose from an oath administered and witnessed by simply another man, Isildur. They, of course, wanted to leave, were repentent, performed penance and were not maliciously evil, in not requiring of sacrifices.


"Yes, the Dead ride behind. They have been summoned,"

02-11-2002, 10:32 PM
I think Elinhan has it. Sounds more plausible.