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.
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.
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.
Portrayal in adaptations
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
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.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, the names "Cirith Ungol" and "Minas Morgul" are falsely used interchangeably to describe a single fortress.
- In the Return of the Kingvideo game, the player may play as Sam who has to kill 80 Orcs and then may progress to the tower, to fight Gorbag and rescue Frodo.
- Cirith Ungol is a playable region in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, featuring the fortress of Dârz-Gurum.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Кіріт Унгол|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Кирит Унгол|
|Danish||Cirith Ungol ("Edderkoppens Pas")|
|Kazakh||Кіріт Ұнгол (Cyrillic) Kirit Ungol (Latin)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Кирит Унгол|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Кирит Унгол|
|Serbian||Кирит Унгол (Cyrillic) Kirit Ungol (Latin)|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Кіріт Унґол|
- The Atlas of Middle-earth, Regional Maps, "Mordor (and Adjacent Lands)"
- The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "The Path of Cirith Ungol"
- The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. VIII: "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. IX: "Shelob's Lair"
- The Silmarillion, Index, entry for Cirith Thoronath
- 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