The Barrow-downs, or Tyrn Gorthad, was an area of low hills to the east of the Shire and the Old Forest, and west of the village of Bree. They were made by men in the ancient days of the Northern Kingdom. Many of the hills were crowned with megaliths and barrows, whence comes their name. They served as resting places for the men of the north, as well as the Dunedain, until evil spirits, sent by the Witch-king of Angmar, began to inhabit them. During the Third Age, the hills lay within the bounds of Cardolan in the region of Eriador.
The Barrow-downs were first inhabited by Men related to the Edain in the First Age, together with men from the Hills of Evendim to the north. They fled as Eriador was invaded by Easterlings, but when they disappeared after the War of Wrath the Edain returned to the region.
During the Second Age, these people were fairly numerous, and when they met with the Númenóreans the Barrow-downs were the first places where the Dúnedain émigrés from Númenor settled. When Elendil returned to Middle-earth, the Barrow-downs were incorporated into the kingdom of Arnor.
After the breaking of Arnor, the area of the Barrow-downs became the capital of Cardolan. After Rhudaur fell to Angmar, the Dúnedain of Cardolan entrenched themselves here, but eventually the realm fell. After the collapse of Cardolan and the flight of the remaining Dúnedain, the area was left empty. To ensure that this place would remain uninhabited by his enemies, the Witch-king of Angmar sent evil spirits, known as Barrow-wights, to haunt the once-great tombs of the ancient men. After Arthedain claimed kingship over all of Arnor, there was an attempt by the Dúnedain to recolonize Cardolan once again; this ultimately failed due to the mysterious power of the barrow-wights.
Fleeing the Black Riders, Frodo and his fellow Hobbits were ensnared by a wight in one of the numerous barrows. The four were separated from one another in a dense fog, and, all captured, ended up in the same barrow. Three of the Hobbits seemed under a spell, but Frodo, almost succumbing to the wight, was able to call out to Tom Bombadil. Tom, hearing his song, came with haste to the barrow and dispelled the evil spirit from the tomb. Tom Bombadil, whose house dwells in the Old Forest near to the Barrow-downs, had told them earlier to pass by barrows on the western side; the hobbits stopped for lunch on what must have been a barrow, and promptly fell asleep in the shade on the east side. After their rescue, the hobbits each took from the spoils of the tomb a finely crafted Dúnedain knife, and continued their journey towards Bree.
Appearances in adaptationsEdit
The Barrow-Downs appear in the video games The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game),The Rise of the Witch-King, The Lord of the Rings Online, LEGO The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North.
A possible real-life inspiration for Tolkien was the Barrow Downs of Warwickshire, near the village of Long Compton.