Mirkwood – or Taur-nu-fuin (S) is known as the greatest forest of Middle-earth, east of the Misty Mountains, originally called Greenwood the Great. It is also the dwelling place of Legolas and Thranduil.
Table of Contents
- Elves in Mirkwood before the Third Age
- The White Council
- The Quest of Erebor (The Hobbit)
- LOTR/Post LOTR
This forest existed in the beginning of the days of Arda. Elves passed through it from Cuíviénen on their way to Valinor, when the Woodland Elves were present.
After the Siege of Angband, Finrod and his sons had bore the brunt most heavily, and he escaped and went south to Nargothrond. Barahir was the lord of the folk of Bëor, taking the forest and the highlands of Dorthonion.
“Therefore it was after called by the Gnomes Taur-na-fuin, which is Mirkwood, and Deldúwath, Deadly Nightshade.” (HoME # 5, “Quenta Silmarillion”)
However, the name Mirkwood was not adopted until later in the Third Age:
After the settlement of the Shire, it was revealed the earliest tales of the Hobbits. There, the earliest tales seem to glimpse “a time when they dwelt in the upper tales of Anduin, between the eaves of Greenwood and the Misty Mountains…Their own accounts speak of the multiplying of Men in the land, and of a shadow that fell on the forest, so that it became darkened and its new name was Mirkwood.” (LOTR Prologue)
Elves in Mirkwood before the Third Age
Elves had passed again right before Sauron started another war when his spirits arose after the Fall of Númenor.
The Númenoreans who were saved from destruction fled eastward, with the chief of these being Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion – with Elendil to Lindon, and his sons borne away southwards to a land later called Osgiliath.
Elendil would take counsel with Gil-galad, as they had perceived that Sauron would go too strong. Isildur had claimed the ring for his own, and then Sauron was vanquished. This began the Third Age.
However, Sauron the Dark Lord will arise in Mirkwood once more. By then, the name was changed when evil things were discovered:
“…after many years, when well nigh a third of that age of the world had passed, a darkness crept slowly through the wood from the southward, and fear walked there in shadowy glades; fell beasts came hunting, and cruel and evil creatures laid there their snares.
Then the name of the forest was changed and Mirkwood it was called, for the nightshade lay deep there, and few dared to pass through, save only in the north where Thranduil’s people still held the evil at bay. Whence it came few could tell, and it was long ere even the Wise could discover it. It was the shadow of Sauron and the sign of his return.
For coming out of the wastes of the East he took up his abode in the south of the forest, and slowly he grew and took shape there again; in a dark hill he made his dwelling and wrought there his sorcery, and all folk feared the Sorcerer of Dol Guldur, and yet they knew not at first how great was their peril.” (Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power”)
The White Council
When the first shadows were felt in Mirkwood, there were the Istari – whom Men called the Wizards.
Mithrandir was the most vigilant and he doubted the darkness in Mirkwood. Out of Radagast, Curunír and himself – Mithrandir was closest in counsel with Elrond and the Elves. (Cúrunir was Saruman the White.) – this would later be known as the White Council, or Council of the Wise.
Gandalf had feared the first shadow of Sauron returning, and went to Dol Guldur. There was finally some peace for a while, however the Shadow returned and power increased, for a second time.
By then, the Council of the Wise had occurred consisting of Mithrandir and Curunír, along with Galadriel, Círdan and Elrond and other lords of the Eldar.
Additionally, Saruman had started learning about the Rings of Power, and the history.
As the shadow grew, the hearts of Elrond and Mithrandir had darkened. They realize that Sauron himself had taken shape again and was growing and trying to gather all the Rings to his hand.
Gandalf figured that with more power he could master the Enemy.
The Wise were troubled – but none were as perceived by Saruman the White – who went against the swift deeds to master Sauron suggested by Gandalf.
By then, Curunír had turned to dark thoughts and became a traitor. He did not want anyone finding the Great Ring, and started envying Sauron and wanting the Ring.
Mithrandir spoke to the council after a while – saying:
“It is not needed that the Ring should be found, for while it abides on earth and is not unmade, still the power that it holds will live, and Sauron will grow and have hope. The might of the Elves and the Elf-friends is less now than of old. Soon he will be too strong for you, even without the Great Ring; for he rules the Nine, and of the Seven he has recovered three. We must strike.”
JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion “Of the Rings of Power”
Curunír assented – desiring Sauron to be thrust from Dol Guldur. He aided the council for the last time and Dol Guldur was assailed. But it was too late, and Sauron had seen it.
The Quest of Erebor (The Hobbit)
Shortly before The Hobbit, Gandalf found out the Necromancer was Sauron there.
Bilbo and his companions – Thorin and Company – went to Mirkwood to reclaim Lonely Mountain from Smaug. Bilbo ended up climbing the tree to see the forest. There he found spiders, they seemed to be ‘black-emperors’ – who would capture twelve of the dwarves. The dwarves were impatient, waiting for him to get down.
Bombur woke up the next morning telling the others that he was dreaming of a giant feast – and later they would see a feast much like it.
Bilbo would throw the stones to scare off the spiders in order to free the dwarves after having killed a spider with his sword.
“He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.
‘I will give you a name,’ he said to it, ‘and I shall call you Sting.’” (The Hobbit, “Flies and Spiders”)
After the riddle game, they find that Thorin was missing – as he had been captured by the Wood-elves – which they later found were the feasting people in Mirkwood.
By 2941 of the Third Age (Quest of Erebor), it is known that in Mirkwood dwelt a bunch of Wood-elves.
Wood-elves “[were the feasting people, and] are not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic is strong, even in those days they were wary.” (The Hobbit, “Flies and Spiders”)
They were different from the High Elves – being more dangerous and less wise. The Light and Deep Elves dwelt in the Faerie of the West, though the Wood-elves mainly dwelt in the Wide World – most often dwelling in the edges of the woods where they would hunt, or ride and run over the open lands.
However, they still remained Good People – and in the east side of Mirkwood there was their greatest king – who lived in his palace in the cave. This was also “the strong place of his treasure, and the fortress of his people against their enemies.” (The Hobbit, “Flies and Spiders”)
This darkness was lifted from there after the conclusion of the Third Age. While many of the Elves had sailed west by this time, some who chose to remain for a while longer dwelt in Mirkwood for the time being.