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Glittering Caves

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Ted Nasmith - The Glittering Caves of Aglarond
Glittering Caves
Background Information
Type Underground Fortress, Underground Dwarven City/Realm
Location Under the White Mountains behind the Deeping Wall of Helm's Deep[1]
Realms Rohan
Founded/Built Late Second Age?
Ruler Marshal of the West-mark, then Lords of the Glittering Caves
Other Information
Summary Known for its jeweled radiance and beauty and for being a refuge of the Rohan during war, and later for being a Dwarven realm founded by the Dwarf hero Gimli.
Other names Aglarond, Caverns of Helm's Deep[2]Glæmscrafu[3]
Inhabitants Rohirrim (during times of war), Dwarves of Durin's Folk
Spoken Languages Westron/Rohirric, then Khuzdul
Lifespan Late Second Age - Fourth Age

"Immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-Zaram in the starlight"
The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers Book Three, Chapter VIII: "The Road to Isengard"

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


The Glittering Caves was an immense, beautiful, and ore-laden 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. According to the The Atlas of Middle-earth, it extended some 4,000 feet into the mountain.[1]


Before the War of the RingEdit

Glittering Caves was one of the two fortresses built by Númenóreans to guard the Fords of Isen, Angrenost (later Isengard) being the other.[4] 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 to the Rohirrim who used it for refuge during war, strife, and the storage of provisions, but guard duty of the Fords was initially shared between Gondor and Rohan. The fortress then underwent repair with help from the masons of Gondor. The Gondor guard was merged with that of Angrenost to the north, which remained in the keep of Gondor. The shared garrisoning of the fortress continued for a time until soon it was solely part of Rohan and maintained only by the Rohirrim.[5]

During the reign of Helm Hammerhand, the Dunlendings attacked from Isengard and across the river Isen conquering parts of Rohan. Edoras was overran and sacked, and King Helm was forced to lead much of his people into the caves where they remained during the Long Winter of TA 2758 and TA 2759.[6] Because Helm always blew a great horn before riding out to fight the beleaguering Dunlendings, the keep was renamed Hornburg.

War of the Ring and afterwardsEdit

During the War of the Ring, the Hornburg was the refuge of the Rohirrim during the Battle of the Hornburg after being driven back by the Host of Saruman.[7] After the war, Gimli the Dwarf, who had fought mightily in that battle, was allowed to settle a colony of Durin's folk there, leading a host of Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain 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.


In Sindarin, it is called Aglarond, which means "Caves of Glory" or "Caves of Light". It comes from the words aglar ("glory, light") and rond ("cave").[8][9] It is called Glæmscrafu, the "Caves of Rodiance", in Rohirric,which in actuality was an Anglo-Saxon word.[3]

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.[citation needed]

Translations around the worldEdit

Foreign Language Translated name
Portuguese (Brazil) Cavernas Cintilantes
Czech Třpytivé jeskyně
Hungarian Csillogó Barlangok
Norwegian Glitrende Huler
Romanian Cetatea Cornului


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "Helm's Deep"
  2. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
  3. 3.0 3.1 Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, V: "The Battles of the Fords of Isen" Notes
  4. The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
  5. Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, V: "The Battles of the Fords of Isen"
  6. The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands), "The Third Age"
  7. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VII: "Helm's Deep"
  8. Parma Eldalamberon, Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  9. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies"

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