Cirith Ungol as depicted in Peter Jackson's trilogy
|Place in Arda|
|Aliases||Morgul Pass, Pass of the Spider, Spider's Cleft|
|Summary||Dark Fortess of Mordor, former fortress of Gondor|
|Built by||Men of Gondor|
|Realm|| Ephel Duath|
|Lord|| Men of Gondor (formerly)
Nazgul (very briefly)
Cirith Ungol passed through the western mountains of Mordor and paralleled the Morgul-road into Gondor to some degree. It was guarded by the Tower of Cirith Ungol, which was built by the Men of Gondor after the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was fought. It is not known whether the pass and the tower were called Cirith Ungol when the Men of Gondor held it, though it is likely since Shelob "...was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr" was laid, and Cirith Ungol meant 'Spider's Cleft' in Sindarin.
The pass was reached by several sets of steep stairs leading from close by Minas Morgul along the north cliff-face of Morgul Vale and through a tunnel high in the mountains, with other steep stretches that lacked stairs. Eventually, the path ran straight into Shelob's lair, though many side-tunnels had been carved by Orcs and Men to get past her webs.
Gondor occupied the tower guarding the pass until TA 1636 when the Great Plague killed much of Gondor's population. After the Plague, Gondor again occupied Cirith Ungol but they were eventually distracted by the Wainriders, and evil was allowed to return to Mordor. The tower was likely occupied by evil forces before Minas Ithil was besieged in TA 2000.
During the Quest of the Ring, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were led to this pass by Gollum to the lair of the ancient spider Shelob. At this time, there were also three-headed creatures (statues?) that "watched" the exit into Mordor and which could not be passed by mortals. Only through use of the Phial of Galadriel could the ring-bearer and his servant break these entities' will and enter Mordor proper.
The term Cirith Ungol is Sindarin for "Spider's cleft", from cirith ("cleft, pass") and ungol ("spider").
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth videogame series the denominations Cirith Ungol and Minas Morgul are falsely used interchangeably to describe a single fortress.
- In Return of the King video game, you may play as Sam who has to kill 80 orcs and then may progress to the tower where you fight Gorbag and rescue Frodo.
- Nan Ungol, far south of Cirith Ungol in a corner of Mordor
- The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair"
- The Atlas of Middle-earth pgs. 90-3 & 143-5