The Great Spiders, also known as the Children of Ungoliant, were a race of over-sized and sapient arachnids that lived in Middle-earth, particularly in dark and perilous places affected by the power of evil.


The Great Spiders could speak to one another, though only those imbued with the power of (or derived from) the Ainur could understand them. Like Orcs and Goblins, Great Spiders were known to detest light, yet they thirsted for it and sought to devour it. Great Spiders comprise three separate known species.

Giant SpidersEdit

Giant Spiders were a sentient race of Great Spiders that lived in Middle-earth. They lived in the South of Middle-earth in the First Age, but by the Third Age they had spread to other areas. They were descended from the spider-creatures of the Ered Gorgoroth. Giant Spiders infested the great forest of Greenwood the Great after the shadow of Sauron fell upon it and it became known as Mirkwood.

Umaiar spidersEdit

The Umaiar spiders, a subspecies of Umaiar (and by extension a sub-subspecies of Maiar), included Ungoliant. They were Maiar who took the form of giant spiders upon joining Morgoth. Apart from Ungoliant (who died by devouring herself), the fate of this race is unknown.

Spawn of UngoliantEdit

The Spawn of Ungoliant are the third race of Great Spiders. This race was borne by Ungoliant after she fled to the South. She mated with and devoured the mortal giant spiders who lived there. Because they were half Umaiar, these spiders were immortal; they were bigger, stronger and smarter than their mortal kin.


The first Dark Lord, Melkor, used Ungoliant to help him destroy the Two Trees of Valinor and steal the Silmarils.[1] Ungoliant, who had an insatiable desire to devour light, asked for the Silmarils to be given to her. Melkor refused and she attempted to kill him. Ungoliant was subsequently driven off by Melkor's Balrogs, and she ultimately wandered across Middle-earth, consuming anything that gave off light, such as gemstones; and often mated with other large spiders. Her offspring were a great bane on the world in later years. She was described as surrounded by "an aura of darkness". Her fate is unknown, but it is said that, always hungry, Ungoliant ended by devouring herself.[2]

Spiders Mirkwood

The Mirkwood spiders

The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and his thirteen Dwarf companions encountered giant spiders in Mirkwood forest on their Quest to the Lonely Mountain. Only Bilbo's magic ring and an Elven blade (Sting) allowed them to escape being eaten.[3]


Frodo caught in Shelob's web, as depicted in the film

Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee encountered Ungoliant's daughter, Shelob, in her lair as they were trying to enter Mordor during their quest to destroy the One Ring. Frodo was ambushed by the spider twice, and was paralyzed by her poison on the second encounter.[4] Sam used Sting to attack Shelob and wound her, which caused her to flee the scene.[5] It is unknown whether she died from her wounds.

Influence of spiders in Tolkien's lifeEdit

Contrary to popular belief, the reason that Tolkien featured spiders so prominently in his stories was not because he was bitten by a tarantula when he was young, but rather because his son was afraid of them. Because of his son's arachnophobia, they are portrayed negatively, always appearing as antagonists.

Portrayal in adaptationsEdit


Mirkwood Spiders crawling over Radagast's home



The giant spider Saenathra, from the War in the North game adaptation

Video gamesEdit

LEGO: The Lord of the RingsEdit

In LEGO The Lord of the Rings, the player must go through Shelob's Lair and kill at least six small spiders with Sauron's mark on their back.

The Lord of the Rings Minecraft modEdit

In the Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod, spiders can be found in Mirkwood and Nan Ungol. There are several species:

  1. Mordor spider
  2. Mirkwood spider
  3. Utumno Ice spider


Translations around the worldEdit

Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Groot spinnekoppe
Albanian Marimanga të mëdha
Amharic ታላላቅ ሸረሪዎች
Arabic العناكب كبيرة
Azerbaijani Böyük Hörümçəklər
Belarusian Cyrillic вялікія павукі
Bengali গ্রেট মাকড়সা ?
Bulgarian Cyrillic Големи паяци
Catalan Grans Aranyes
Cebuano Dakong kaka
Chinese (Hong Kong) 巨形蜘蛛
Croatian Veliki Pauci
Czech Velicí Pavouci
Danish Store edderkopper
Dutch Grote Spinnen
Esperanto Grandaj Araneoj
Finnish Suuret Hämähäkit
French Grandes Araignées
Galician Grandes Arañas
German Riesenspinnen
Georgian დიდი ობობები
Greek Μεγάλη αράχνη
Gujarati ગ્રેટ કરોળિયા
Hausa Babban gizo-gizo
Hebrew עכבישים ענקיים
Hindi महान मकड़े
Hmong Zoo kawg thiab kab laug sab.
Hungarian Nagy Pókok
Indonesian Laba-laba besar
Irish Gaelic Damháin alla mór
Italian Randi Ragni
Japanese すごいクモ類
Kazakh Ұлы өрмекшілер (Cyrillic) Ulı örmekşiler (Latin)
Korean 큰 거미 ?
Latin Magna Aranearum
Latvian Liels Zirnekļi
Laotian ແມງມຸມທີ່ຍິ່ງໃຫຍ່ ?
Lithuanian Didžiosios Vorai
Macedonian Cyrillic големи пајаци
Malay Labah-labah Gergasi
Marathi ग्रेट कोळी ?
Maltese Brimb Kbira
Norwegian Stor edderkopper
Pashto لوی ماډلونه
Persian عالی عنکبوت‌ها
Polish Wielkie Pająki
Portuguese Grandes Aranhas
Romanian Păianjenii mari
Russian Гигантские пауки
Serbian Велики Пауци (Cyrillic) Veliki Pauci (Latin)
Sinhalese මහා මකුළුවන්
Slovak Veľké pavúky
Slovenian Super pajki
Spanish Grandes arañas
Swahili Buibui Kubwa
Swedish Stora spindlar
Tamil கிரேட் சிலந்திகள்
Thai แมงมุมที่ยิ่งใหญ่
Turkish Büyük Örümcekler
Urdu عظیم مکڑیاں
Uzbek Буюк ўргимчаклар (Cyrillic) Buyuk o'rgimchaklar (Latin)
Welsh Corynnod mawr
Yiddish גרויס ספּידערס
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Free Folks:

Ainur | Dwarves | Ents | Hobbits | Men | Elves | Great Eagles

Servants of the Shadow:

Dragons | Orcs | Wargs | Werewolves | Spiders | Trolls


  1. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter VIII: "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  2. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter IX: "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  3. The Hobbit, Chapter VIII: "Flies and Spiders"
  4. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter IX: "Shelob's Lair"
  5. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter X: "The Choices of Master Samwise"