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Name Giants
Dominions Middle-earth, North Moors Misty Mountains
Languages Unknown; most likely none
Height Gigantic; more than 12'
Skin Color None
Hair Color None
Lifespan Unknown
Distinctions Thick, rocky, massive, powerful, ancient
Hobbit-VFX-before-after 121202233145-275x275

A stone giant, before and after visual effects in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Giants were a mysterious race that lived in the Misty Mountains and North Moors of Middle-earth. There are at least two known subspecies described as what seem to be generic fairy tale giants (human-like), the stone-giants of the mountains, and the Tree-men (who may be regular giants, or possibly Ents or Huorns).


The origins of Giants are unknown, as is the exact time they began appearing in the Middle-earth; however, it seems that they entered the history of the peoples of Middle-earth in the Third Age.

In The HobbitEdit

"All was well, until one day they met a thunderstorm—more than a thunderstorm, a thunder-battle. You know how terrific a really big thunderstorm can be down in the land and in a river-valley; especially at times when two great thunderstorms meet and clash. More terrible still are thunder and lightning in the mountains at night, when storms come up from East and West and make war. The lightning splinters on the peaks, and rocks shiver, and great crashes split the air and go rolling in tumbling into every cave and hollow; and darkness is filled with overwhelming noise and sudden light. Bilbo ... saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang ... they could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides."
Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter IV: "Over Hill And Under Hill"

In The Hobbit, Stone-giants are described as hurling rocks at one another as in a game, during a violent thunderstorm. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the thirteen Dwarves, if they actually saw them, were the only ones Tolkien mentioned as ever having seen them. Their physical form was not described, nor was much else about them.

Gandalf used to tell stories to Bilbo when he was young at parties about dragons, goblins, giants, and rescue of princesses, and the luck of widow's sons. During the riddle game Bilbo thought of all the giants and Ogres he had heard of in tales.

At one point Bilbo saw a rock in a stream, and wondered if it had been cast miles into the plain by some giant among giants.[1] He also compared being struck like the crash of battering-rams made of forest oaks and swung by giants.[citation needed]

Gandalf later remarked that he would like to find 'a more or less decent giant' to block several of the orc caves.[2]

In The Lord of the RingsEdit

Giants were only witnessed by Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves who were passing that way, and this information could only be found in the Red Book of Westmarch. Giants were also mentioned in passing at the beginning of chapter 3 of The Fellowship of the Ring. Said to be wandering in the North Moors  described as Tree-men, and being as tall as an elm tree or even taller. Sam imagined himself meeting giants that were taller than trees on the journey. There are stories by men that in the far-off glory days of Gondor the sea-kings built the Hornburg with the hands of giants. Gondor is described poetically as not appearing to have been built but carved by giants out of the bones of the earth. Pippin is also later described as a young giant with a loud voice when he returned to the Shire (for he had grown large).

One of the riders of the Mumaks the mighty warrior was a giant among the Swertings (although this may only be poetic description).

Frodo thinks he sees giants when he sees the outlines of the Argonath but confirms they are only statues as he moves closer to them down the river.[3]

Earlier versionsEdit

In some of Tolkien's earliest writings giants were among the Uvanimor, or monster-folk, that were bred in the earth by Melkor (called Melko in the early tales) along with monsters, Nauglath (wicked dwarves), and ogres.

Two Giants were given names in Tolkien's earlier Book of Lost Tales Part 2: Gilim and Nan. In addition some of his other material there is Wade (who may be or have been based on a sea-giant of legend) and Noroth, said to be a giant.[4]

During the development of the Hobbit, an early draft described more traditional human-like giants;

...rescued so many princesses, earls, dukes, widow’s sons and fair maidens from unlamented giants...

Though this was edited to Gandalf telling stories of '...giants and the rescue of princesses' in the final published version.

In a letter by Tolkien, it was mentioned that a Giant was to be included in the Lord of the Rings. Further information discussed in the History of Middle-earth series confirms that the giant later became the basis for Treebeard (early the character was going to be named "Fangorn Treebeard" or the Giant Treebeard), . These prototypical giants were a Big Folk only far bigger and stronger than Men the [?ordinary] Big Folk. Elements of these giants are still mentioned and referenced in relation to the Tree-men description by the hobbits. Which may have become 'tree-giants' before becoming the Ents. Bergrisland (a prototype for Ettenmoors) was derived from "Berg-rise", a word which is found in Old Norwegian and Swedish, which means "hill-giant". (Rise can, however, mean "troll" as well.) During the writing of LOTR, Tolkien also toyed with the difference between Trolls and Ents, in that Trolls were stone inhabited by a goblin-spirit. Thus trolls were stone-giants, and Ents were the tree-giants. 

There may be a loose connection between the giants described in Farmer Giles of Ham and references to generic fairy tale giants mentioned in Hobbit tales. Farmer Giles giants are described as rude and uncultured folk, and troublesome at times, and being as large as elms and stupid.[5] In Tolkien's earliest drafts for LOTR, he wrote;

'Trolls and giants were abroad, of a new and more malevolent kind, no longer dull-witted but full of cunning and wizardry.'

In the published editions, the words 'and giants' were removed.

Christopher Tolkien and John Rateliff speculate that some of the various references to giants by J.R.R. Tolkien are inspired by giants from various mythology, such as fire-giants, frost-giants, hill-giants, sea-giants, and storm-giants.

Portrayal in adaptationsEdit

The Hobbit film trilogy Edit

Giants appear in the the first of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.These stone giants were depicted as fighting each other as well as throwing rocks. They appeared as hewn from stone, and as the size of mountains - indistinguishable from a cliff-face when still. This is somewhat reminiscent of the more tree-like design of the Ents in the previous trilogy, with the giants appearing more inspired by nature than by humanoid appearance.

Video gamesEdit

  • In The Hobbit video game, they are represented as humanoid creatures made out of stone, who throw stones at Bilbo and unwittingly help him escape.
Mountain giant in bfme

Mountain giant in BFME II

  • They appear in Battle for Middle-earth II, as the Goblins can recruit them. They seem to have a reddish tinge to them and throw the largest boulders in the game, being the ultimate Goblin long-range siege engines.Though normally content in their dangerous pursuits (though only dangerous to non-Mountain Giants) and often neutral towards other species, a few had an unusual alliance with the Goblin king Gorkil, who promised them more interesting 'targets' for the boulders which they hurled.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, there three different races of giants. Two races live in the Misty Mountains. The most human-like race lives in the Misty Mountains and one can be found in the High Moor between Rivendell and Eregion. Another is found north-west of Bree in the woods. Stone-giants appear in Misty Mountains (in a fellowship instance). Finally are the Jorthkyn who are in the North Downs, Lone-lands, and the edge of Angmar.

Behind the scenesEdit

Tolkien's giants were probably based on the Jotun of Norse mythology which are similar in strength and bestial.

John Rateliff notes in The History of the Hobbit;

...‘ent’ simply means ‘giant’ in Old English... The Book of Lost Tales had referred to giants as one of the Úvanimor, or monster-folk (BLT I.75), a thoroughly traditional touch on Tolkien’s part; giants have a long, long tradition in folklore of being extremely dangerous if not downright wicked... Ents are one of the five Free Peoples; giants one of those races which may be called the Children of Morgoth... The stone-giants of The Hobbit do not seem to be aware of the presence of the travellers, but then again there’s no indication that they would have behaved any differently had they known; in short, they are portrayed as a perilous but almost impersonal force, rather like the thunder-storm itself... By contrast, a much more traditional view surfaces in the next chapter – when Bilbo is trying to think of the answer to Gollum’s last riddle (‘This thing all things devours’), his mind is filled with ‘all the horrible names of all the giants and ogres he had ever heard told of in tales’ (p. 158). Here we can plainly see the echoes of such traditional tales as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and ‘Jack the Giant Killer’, with their murderous, man-eating giants...Yet not all giants can be such monsters, for a chapter later Bladorthin casually suggests finding ‘a more or less decent giant’ to block up the goblins’ front gate in the mountain pass. It seems, then, that giants occupy a neutral ground, neither good nor evil as a race but varying from individual to individual. Dangerous, certainly – but as Gandalf points out in speaking of Treebeard, powerful and perilous is not the same thing as evil...



  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, 'The Hobbit','QUEER LODGINGS'
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, 'The Hobbit','OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN INTO THE FIRE'
  3. The Lord of the Rings
  4. The Book of Lost Tales 2
  5. Tolkien, J. R. R. (2011-05-03). Tales from the Perilous Realm: Roverandom and Other Classic Faery Stories (Kindle Locations 1389-1393). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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