Mûmakil (known more familiarly as Oliphaunts) were large creatures resembling elephants, often used in battle by the Haradrim. To most cultures, the Mûmakil were creatures of great size, as fearsome as dragons, and to them were ascribed all kinds of strange powers.
Oliphaunt was the name given to them by the Hobbits.
Mûmakil resemble elephants, except that they are somewhat larger and have more tusks.
Presumably, they were able to coerce it into kneeling or lying down so that a team could haul the tower into place, tying it under the belly of the beast. Hanging from the harness were ropes that the Haradrim used to climb up into the frame and take up their positions on the platforms. Their elevated position allowed them to target an otherwise hidden enemy and gave their arrows and spears a greater range.
In South Harad during the Third Age there lived beasts of vast bulk that are thought to be ancestors of elephants. Yet the elephants that now inhabit the world are much smaller in size and might than their great ancestors. According to the Red Book, they were between 40 and 50 feet (12 and 15 meters) tall with four gigantic tusks and two lesser ones. The Haradrim often used war paint on their Mûmakil, to make them more fearsome.
In the years of the War of the Ring, the fierce warriors of Harad came north to Gondor at the call of Sauron, and with their legions they brought the great mûmakil, which they used as beasts of war. The twenty Mûmakil that the Haradrim brought to Pelennor were harnessed with the gear of war: red banners, bands and trappings of gold and brass, and on their backs great war towers from which archers and spearmen fought. They had a natural blood-lust, and many foes were crushed beneath their feet. With their trunks they struck down many foes, and their tusks were red with the blood of their enemies. They could not be fought effectively by mounted men, for horses refused to go near them, nor by footmen, who were quickly crushed or shot from above. In war, they would frequently stand as towers that could not be captured; shield walls broke before them and armies were routed around them.
These thick-skinned beasts were almost invulnerable to arrows; their eyes were vulnerable, however, as Mûmakil could be blinded or even killed by arrows released with great force. When blinded they went into a rage of pain, often destroying masters and foes alike in their rampages. The tendons in their legs seem to be a vulnerable point however, as several had been taken down by being hamstrung during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Very few Mûmakil were seen after the War of the Ring outside of Far Harad, their natural habitat. It is presumed wild Mûmakil still roamed in Far Harad and that some still were kept by the Haradrim.
The word Oliphaunt is a variant spelling of the archaic word oliphant meaning "elephant", "ivory", "elephant-tusk", "musical horn made of an elephant tusk", or "a musical instrument resembling such a horn". It appears in Middle English as olifant or olifaunt, and was borrowed from Medieval French olifanz. The French word owes something to both Old High German olbenta "camel", and to Latin elephantus "elephant", a word of Greek origin. OHG olbenta is a word of old Germanic origin; cf. Gothic ulbandus also meaning "camel". However, the form of the OHG and Gothic words suggests it is also a borrowing, perhaps indeed directly or indirectly from Greek elephas "ελεφας" Greek for ivory, though apparently with some confusion as to the animal the word referred to. The word survives as the surname Oliphant found throughout the English-speaking world. Olifant is also the Dutch word for elephant.
The most famous use of the oliphant is in The Song of Roland "The oliphant is set to Roland's Lips;" Roland fails to call for help at the Battle of Roncevaux in 778 until it is too late for him and his comrades. The oliphant is echoed in The Lord of the Rings by Boromir's Horn of Gondor and counterpoised by Helm's horn and the horns of Buckland.In Middle-earth, the Men of Gondor called an oliphaunt a mûmak (plural mûmakil). The word "Oliphaunt" is only used by hobbits.
- Grey as a mouse
- Big as a house
- Nose like a snake
- I make the earth shake
- As I tramp through the grass
- Trees crack as I pass
- With horns in my mouth
- I walk in the South
- Flapping big ears
- Beyond count of years
- I stump round and round
- Never lie on the ground
- Not even to die
- Oliphaunt am I
- Biggest of all
- Huge, old, and tall
- If ever you'd met me
- You wouldn't forget me
- If you never do
- You won't think I'm true
- But old Oliphaunt am I
- And I never lie
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
The Lord of the Rings film trilogyEdit
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, virtually the Haradrim managed to attach the great bamboo and canvas war harness to its back. The bands of bamboo spikes seen on several Mûmakil during the battle.
In Return of the King's Pelennor Fields level, you have to kill 2 to a multitude of Mûmakil (depending on how much you are able to damage the Witch-king each round). They cannot be damaged by melee means, and have to be taken out with arrows or thrown spears. There is also one featured in the Southern Gate level.
In Battle for Middle-earth 1 and 2, the Mordor faction can build 'Mûmakil'. Mûmakil can be considered the strongest regular unit, with their powers only overshadowed by a few heroes and summoned units.The Mûmak is highly resilient against melee attacks, can easily kill most humanoid units, including heroes, by walking over them and has the ability to initiate short sprints, which trample everything in its path. Another useful ability is that ranged units, such as Orc Achers and Haradrim Spear throwers can mount the Mûmak and fire while it is moving. While seemingly invincible, the Mûmak in these games still has a few weaknesses. It can be easily defeated from a distance by archers equipped with flaming arrows and is heavily damaged when attempting to walk over spearmen
In The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, three Oliphaunts must be killed before they reach the defense zone. In the Pelennor Fields level of the War of the Ring campaign, they can be killed easily with a catapult or by sabotage. They can be controlled on the Rise of Sauron level Weathertop or in the Pelennor Fields level (in Instant action) (Team Deathmatch mode only).
In The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, Mumakil are enemies in Pelennor Fields in Good Mode and are playable in Pelennor Fields Evil Mode.
Uncanonical to Lord of the Rings, the game Rome: Total War includes a cheat entered as "Oliphaunt," which creates a unit of "Yubtseb Elephants," massive elephants who greatly resemble Mûmakil. Their name is "Best Buy" spelled backwards, and are said to be the offspring of the fictional god "G'nitek'ram, The God of Shiny Objects Man Does Not Need but Desires Anyway," G'nitek'ram being "marketing" spelled backwards.
The game Rome; Total War does include a mod of the Lord of the Rings called "The Lord of The Rings: Total War", and the Mûmakil are a unit for the Haradrim army and another unit called the greater Mûmakil are a used as a bodyguard for the general.