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- "But still, she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness."
- —The Two Towers
During the Third Age she lived in Mordor and was known to feed indiscriminately, preying on Orcs, Men, Elves, and Dwarves alike. She was encountered by Frodo and Sam in their quest to destroy the One Ring.
Shelob's early history is completely unknown, save for the assumption that she was born in the Ered Gorgoroth during the early First Age. By the Second Age, she often feasted on her own children, and that at some point after fleeing from Beleriand, yet long before Sauron took the land of Mordor for himself--even before the first stone of Barad-dûr was placed--she spun a dark lair in Ephel Duath (Mountains of Shadow), near Cirith Ungol in the passes above Minas Morgul. For hundreds of years, she resided in this mountainous region, making a labyrinth of webs within a network of caves to better trap her prey, which included all creatures great and small. She feasted primarily on those who wandered into her webs, although if a particularly juicy morsel was available, she would silently pursue and kill it.
Sauron was aware of Shelob's presence in the mountains and allowed her to dwell there, for she made an excellent, if incidental, guard for the passage of Cirith Ungol. Sauron was known to be somewhat fond of her, and in a rare show of humor, was even known to refer to her as his cat. Like a pet cat, Sauron would sometimes give her food in the form of prisoners that he had no more use for or servants who had displeased him. Reports of the massacre made by Shelob would be carried back to Barad-Dur to further please the Dark Lord's humor. She would also eat the Orcs that manned the tower of Cirith Ungol fairly regularly. However, as she was a more effective guard for the pass than they, Sauron never made any serious attempt to stop her, though the Orcs would occasionally try to barricade her lair with stones.
At one point after being set free from Mordor, Gollum stumbled into her lair while attempting to escape the barren country. She caught him, but he survived his encounter with Shelob by promising to bring her tastier meats than he. The Orcs in Cirith Ungol had seen him on several occasions, and believed somewhat jokingly that he was too thin and wiry for Shelob to bother eating.
Gollum would attempt later to fulfill this promise by leading Frodo and Sam into her lair and abandoning them. His hope was that once Shelob finished consuming the two hobbits, she would throw away the Ring with the other parts of the hobbits that she could not eat, allowing Gollum to retrieve it. The two hobbits eventually happened upon a passageway that was too choked with Shelob's dark cobwebs to proceed, but as fortune would have it, Frodo's sword Sting, being of Elvish make, was able to slice through them. Using the Phial of Galadriel, they managed to fend her off the first time. Earendil's Star the Light from the Phial, caused unbearable stabbing pain to Shelob's darkened senses,but she returned to attack Frodo poisoning him with her stinger in a surprise attack just as they had reached the exit of the cave on the Mordor side.
Sam then assaulted the creature using Sting in order to save his master, who lay poisoned after Shelob's surprise attack. In a pitched battle, Sam managed to stab one of her great eyes, injure her leg, and pierce her great belly, the most grievous wound. Sam was lucky indeed as Shelob caused this wound herself, when she tried to stab him with the venomous stinger in the underside of her abdomen. None had ever wounded her so badly before.
It is not known if Shelob recovered from the battle, or if she succumbed to her wounds, as the book specifies that her fate will remain unknown to the people of Middle-earth. The last time she is mentioned is when Sam wears the one ring, and hears Shelob "bubbling" in her misery faraway, as his sense of hearing is vastly improved by wearing the Ring.
While Shelob's ultimate fate was unknown, her offspring (which were lucky enough to escape her hunger) continued to produce new generations of spiders. Nests of these spiders are known to have existed in Mirkwood. At some point after Men took dominion over all the world, however, the great Spiders disappeared. If Shelob did survive her encounter with Samwise and Frodo, she was the last of her kind in Middle-earth.
Like most spiders, Shelob had spindly legs, multiple eyes, and venomous chelicerae. She usually immobilized her prey with her paralyzing sting that enabled her to feed on her victims at her leisure, but could also crush her prey to death by swiftly dropping on them. Her head was cris-crossed with scars and she had a number of missing eyes. The Orcs comment she usually would paralyze her victims and trap them in webs, keeping them alive for some time before killing them.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
Ralph Bakshi versionEdit
Gollum gives an indirect mention of Shelob near the end of the film, saying that "she might help us...", but she doesn't appear.
Lord of the Rings film trilogyEdit
Unlike the books, Shelob makes her first appearance in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King, rather than The Two Towers, explained as that, if she had appeared in The Two Towers, there would be very little for Frodo and Sam to do in the final film. In this adaptation, Shelob appears as a CGI animated creature, roughly eight feet in length and seventeen feet across.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Edit
Shelob is set to appear in the upcoming Shadow of War video game. Unlike any other portrayals of Shelob, this version of the character is capable of assuming a human form, taking on the guise of a dark-haired woman with green eyes and wearing shadowy black robes. In the game's trailers, she is also shown to grant visions and fighting the Nazgul in their ethereal forms.
Translations around the WorldEdit
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||屍羅|
|French||Arachne (first translation)
Araigne (second translation)
|Kurdish||سههلۆب (Arabic script) Shelob (Latin)|
|Serbian||Схелоб (Cyrillic) Shelob (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Челоб (Cyrillic) Chelob (Latin)|