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The Barrow-downs, or Tyrn Gorthad, was an area of low hills located to the east of the Shire and the Old Forest, and west of the village of Bree. They were made by men in the First Age, and served as resting places for the men of the north, as well as Dúnedain, until evil spirits called Barrow-wights came and began to inhabit their barrows.

The downs lay within the region of Cardolan in the region of Eriador.


Before the Great Years

Tyrn Gorthad was first made and inhabited by "forefathers" of the Edain in the First Age.[1] They fled when Eriador was invaded by Easterlings, but when they disappeared after the War of Wrath the Middle Men returned to the region.

By the Second Age as the Númenóreans began to establish colonies in Middle Earth the Barrow-downs were where the Dúnedain emigrants from Númenor first came to reside. When Elendil came to Middle-earth around SA 3320, the Barrow-downs were incorporated into his northern kingdom of Arnor.

The ancient center of Cardolan

When Arnor was sundered into three realms in TA 861, Tyrn Gorthad became part of the realm of Cardolan. When Cardolan fell to Angmar in TA 1409, the Dúnedain of Cardolan took refuge in Tyrn Gorthad until the Great Plague wiped out the survivors. The Witch-king unleashed apparitions known as "Barrow-wights" upon Tyrn Gorthad to haunt its great tombs of men, for over a millenia. In TA 1851 King Araval of Arthedain attempted to resettle Cardolan, but the settlers were driven off or killed by the terror and power of the wights.

Frodo's encounter

The Hobbits at the Barrow-downs

Fleeing the Black Riders in September of TA 3018, Frodo Baggins and his three companions came and were ensnared by a wight in one of the numerous barrows. The four were separated from one another in a dense fog, and, all captured, ended up in the same barrow. Three of the Hobbits seemed under a spell, but Frodo, almost succumbing to the wight, was able to call out to Tom Bombadil, whose house was near the place of the Barrow-downs. Hearing Frodo, Tom came with haste to the barrow and dispelled the evil spirit from the tomb. He had told the hobbits earlier to pass by the barrows on the western side, but the hobbits stopped for lunch on what must have been a barrow, and promptly fell asleep in the shade on the east side. After their rescue, the hobbits each took from the spoils of the tomb a finely crafted Dúnedain knife, and continued their journey towards Bree.[2]

Appearances in adaptations

The Barrow-downs appear in the video games The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Rise of the Witch-king, The Lord of the Rings Online, LEGO The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

The Rise of the Witch-king

In Electronic Arts' The Battle for Middle-earth II expansion, The Rise of the Witch-king, the Barrow-downs are a circular open map with many Wight lairs. In a skirmish, up to eight armies can play there.

The Lord of the Rings Online

In The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, the Barrow-downs are split into separate regions, "North Barrows" and "South Barrows". Many wights dwell throughout. The oldest and largest of the barrows is named "Othrongroth".


A possible real-life inspiration of this place for J.R.R. Tolkien was the Barrow Downs of Warwickshire, near the village of Long Compton.



Foreign Language Translated name
Danish Dyssehøje
Dutch Grafheuvels
Finnish Hautakerot
French Hauts des Galgals/Coteaux des Tertres
German Hügelgräberhöhen
Hebrew (Barrow-downs) ארץ הכוכים

(Tyrn Gorthad) טירן גורתאד

Italian Tumulilande
Persian بارو-داونز
Polish Wzgórza Kurhanów
Portuguese Colinas dos Túmulos (Brazil Portuguese)

Colinas das Antas (Portugal)

Russian Могильники
Slovenian Gomilne vesine
Slovak Mohylové vrchy
Spanish (Spain and Latin America) Quebradas de los Túmulos
Swedish Kummelåsarna
Thai เขาสุสา่น
Turkish Höyük Yaylalar


  1. The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, I: "The Númenórean Kings", iii. "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", "The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain", pg. 1041 (50th Anniversary One-Volume Edition
  2. The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Ch. VIII: "Fog on the Barrow-downs"