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Glittering Caves

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"Immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-Zaram in the starlight"
Gimli in The Two Towers, chapter 8: The Road to Isengard
The Glittering Caves
Ted Nasmith - The Glittering Caves of Aglarond
Place in Arda
Aliases Aglarond
The Hornburg
Helm's Deep
Súthburg (Southern Burg)
Caverns of Helm's Deep
Summary Guarding the Gap of Rohan
Built by Gondor
Realm Gondor
later Rohan
Capital {{{place_capital}}}
Lord Marshal of the West-mark / Lord of the Glittering Caves
Type Fortress
Lifespan Third and Fourth Ages

Glittering Caves, also known as AglarondSúthburg, and the Caverns of Helm's Deep was the cave system located behind the Deeping Wall of Helm's Deep.


The Glittering Caves was an immense, beautiful looking, heavily ore-filled, cave system that extended deep down into the White Mountains for many miles and consisted of many different paths, tunnels, and chambers. A small stream ran down through the The Narrows of Helm's Deep and into the caves and was its source of water. Gimli's poetic description of the caves to Legolas in The Two Towers is considered by some to be Tolkien's most beautiful writing in the trilogy.[1]


Glittering Caves was one of the two fortresses built by Númenóreans guarding the Fords of Isen, Angrenost (later Isengard) being the other. Like Angrenost to the north it was initially well guarded, but as the population of Calenardhon (the later Rohan) dwindled it was increasingly less supplied and deemed unimportant, until it was only ruled by a hereditary small guard who intermarried much with Dunlendings.

When Cirion, Steward of Gondor, gave Calenardhon to the Éothéod, the Glittering Caves was transferred into Rohirrim care, who named it Súthburg (southern burg) in their language. The Gondor guard was merged with that of Angrenost to the north, which remained in the keep of Gondor. Guard duty of the Fords was initially shared between Gondor and Rohan, but later maintained only by the Rohirrim.

During the reign of Helm Hammerhand, Dunlendings attacked from Isengard and across the river Isen Rohan. Edoras was taken, and Helm and much of his people retreated to Súthburg. Because Helm always blew a great horn before riding out to fight the beleaguering Dunlendings, the keep was renamed Hornburg.[2]

War of the Ring and afterwardsEdit

During the War of the Ring, the Hornburg was the refuge of the Rohirrim as they fought the Battle of the Hornburg. After the war, Gimli the dwarf, who had fought mightily in that battle, established a colony of Durin's folk there, leading a host of Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain (Erebor) and became the first Lord of the Glittering Caves. From this stronghold, after it had been carefully constructed, Gimli forged a new gate for Minas Tirith made of Mithril and Steel. Gimli and Legolas made a pact of friendship, that when the wars of their age ended, that Gimli should walk in the deep woods of Fangorn and that Legolas should behold the jeweled-splendour of the Glittering Caves. The Glittering Caves lay in front of a huge and very beautiful cave system which proved irresistible to him. Gimli became known as 'the Lord of the Glittering Caves', although this new realm was presumably under the overlordship of Thorin Stonehelm, his kinsman and heir of the lordship of all Durin's Folk. The Dwarves of Glittering Caves restored the Hornburg following the War of the Ring, and it became a shared fortress between them and the Rohirrim.

Behind the ScenesEdit

The Glittering Caves is one of very few locations in Tolkien's work that we can associate with a real place. They were inspired by the caves of Cheddar Gorge, in the southern English county of Somerset.

Dwarven Realms of Middle-earth throughout the Ages
Years of the Trees & First Age Bar-en-Nibin-Noeg | Belegost | Khazad-dûm | Mount Gundabad | Nogrod | Nulukkizdîn | Orocarni
Second Age Khazad-dûm | Mount Gundabad
Third Age Grey Mountains | Iron Hills | Khazad-dûm | Lonely Mountain | Northern Blue Mountains
Fourth Age Glittering Caves | Khazad-dûm | Lonely Mountain


  1. The Atlas of Middle-earth pgs. 132-3
  2. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth

External linkEdit

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