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"Its name was Cirith Ungol, a name of dreadful rumour."
The Two Towers, "The Black Gate is Closed"

Cirith Ungol was a pass or cleft through the Ephel Dúath located near Minas Morgul. At its heart was an Orc stronghold, near the caves of Shelob's lair.


Under Gondor

Cirith Ungol passed through the western mountains of Mordor and paralleled the Morgul-road into Gondor to some degree. It was guarded by the Tower of Cirith Ungol, which was built by the Men of Gondor after the War of the Last Alliance was fought. It is not known whether the pass and the tower were called Cirith Ungol when the Men of Gondor held it, though it is likely since Shelob "...was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr" was laid, and Cirith Ungol meant 'Spider's Cleft' in Sindarin.

Cirith Ungol by Alan Lee

The pass was reached by several sets of steep stairs leading from close by Minas Morgul up the north cliff-face of Morgul Vale and through a tunnel high in the mountains, with other steep stretches that lacked stairs. Eventually, the path ran straight into Shelob's lair, though many side-tunnels had been carved by Orcs and Men to get past her webs.[1][2][3]

The cleft as seen in Peter Jackson's third film

Under Sauron

Gondor occupied the tower guarding the pass until TA 1636 when the Great Plague killed much of Gondor's population. After the Plague, Gondor again occupied Cirith Ungol but they were eventually distracted by the Wainriders, and evil was allowed to return to Mordor. The tower was likely occupied by evil forces before Minas Ithil was besieged in TA 2000.

In the Quest of the Ring, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were led to this pass by Gollum to the lair of the ancient spider Shelob. At this time, there were also three-headed statues that "watched" the gateway into the keep of Cirith Ungol which could not be passed by mortals. Only through use of the Phial of Galadriel could the ring-bearer and his servant break these entities' will and enter.[4][5]


Cirith Ungol is Sindarin for "Spider's cleft", from cirith ("cleft, pass")[6] and ungol ("spider")[7].

Portrayal in adaptations

Cirith Ungol as depicted in the 1980 film

Rankin/Bass' Return of the King

In The Return of the King film created by Rankin/Bass, the Cirith Ungol is based similar to Tolkien's description. It has the Two Watchers, resembling their description from the book, but instead of their dreadful stare prohibiting access, they had an invisible gate that was controlled by them. When Frodo and Sam left Cirith Ungol the gates of the tower collapse very much so to that in the book; with even a Nazgûl coming in to perch on top the ruins.

Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films

The Cirith Ungol model used in the Jackson Films

Cirith Ungol appears in Peter Jackson's third movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, first from a distant right before Frodo is attacked by Shelob. Later the inside of the tower is shown when the Orcs fight over the Mithril Shirt and Sam makes his way in to save Frodo from Gorbag.

The films crew built a model of Cirith Ungol based on Tolkien's description, however, the scene with the Two Watchers is altered different from in the book; as Sam is able to pass through with ease with no alarm setting off.

Cirith Ungol as it appears in Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Video games


Foreign Language Translated name
Arabic سيريث اونغول
Armenian Կիրիտհ Օնգոլ
Belarusian Cyrillic Кіріт Унгол
Bengali সিরথ আনগোল
Bulgarian Cyrillic Кирит Унгол
Burmese ခစ်ရစ်အန်ဂေါလ်
Catalan Cirith Úngol
Chinese 西力斯昂哥
Danish Cirith Ungol ("Edderkoppens Pas")
Georgian კირით უნგოლი
Greek Κιριθ Ονγολ
Gujarati સિરિથ અનગોલ
Hebrew קירית אונגול
Hindi किरिथ उङोल
Japanese シリスアンゴル
Kazakh Кіріт Ұнгол (Cyrillic) Kirit Ungol (Latin)
Kannada ಸಿರಿತ್ ಉಂಗೋಲ್
Korean 키리스 웅골
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Кирит Унгол
Latvian Kirit Ungola
Marathi क्रिथ उंगोल
Mongolian Cyrillic Кирит Унгол
Nepalese सर्क्रि अनगोल
Persian کیریت آنگول
Russian Кирит Унгол
Serbian Кирит Унгол (Cyrillic) Kirit Ungol (Latin)
Sinhalese සිරිල් අන්ගෝල්
Tamil சிரித் அன்கோல்
Telugu సిరిత్ అన్గోల్
Thai คิริธอุงโกล
Ukrainian Cyrillic Кіріт Унґол
Yiddish כּיריטה ונגאָל


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Atlas of Middle-earth, Regional Maps, "Mordor (and Adjacent Lands)"
  2. The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "The Path of Cirith Ungol"
  3. The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  4. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. VIII: "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
  5. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. IX: "Shelob's Lair"
  6. The Silmarillion, Index, entry for Cirith Thoronath
  7. Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, J.R.R. Tolkien's unfinished index for The Lord of the Rings, pg. 490