- "Dreary and wearisome. Cold, clammy winter still held sway in this forsaken country. The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy surfaces of the sullen waters. Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long forgotten summers."
- —from Passage of the Marshes, The Two Towers
The marshes predated the battle, but were not named until after. The Dead Marshes were part of the ancient battlefield of the Battle of Dagorlad between the Last Alliance and the forces of Mordor, where many of the fallen were laid to rest. Over time, the battlefield became marshes, which swallowed up the dead, though their bodies could still be seen floating in the water (although, according to Gollum, they are not physically there, and only appear as visions).
During Gondor's war with the Wainriders, King Ondoher's army was caught by surprise and he and his men were driven into the Dead Marshes and defeated. When Eärnil II became king, he avenged the earlier defeat at the Battle of the Camp in TA 1944, and the Wainriders were defeated and driven into the marshes where most perished.
The War of the Ring
During the quest to destroy the One Ring, Gollum led Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee through the marshes. They entered the Dead Marshes at Dawn on the 1st of March. The Passage was marked by lights that danced about and candles which Gollum called "candles of corpses"; it is likely that those who become entranced by these lights and attempt to touch the bodies drown in the water and go down to join the dead. It seems that the bodies only appear in the water when the lights are lit. At the Mere of Dead Faces, Frodo became entranced by these lights and tried to reach out and touch the faces of the dead at the bottom of the marshes, though Sam broke him out of his trance. Gollum told them that the dead could not be touched, suggesting that he had once tried to eat them. While passing through the marshes, a Black Rider on a Fell beast passed overhead, terrifying Gollum enough that he started to slip back into his old speech-habits, which he had somewhat given up after swearing to "serve the master of the Precious." They exited the Marshes on the morning of March 2, 3019.
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's The Two Towers
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Dead Marshes are shown as foggy ponds with jets of fire rather than the misty candle-flames described in the book. Frodo actually falls into a marsh, in which ghostly figures surround and reach for him before Gollum pulls him out.
Behind the Scenes
- In the Journeys of Frodo atlas by Barbara Strachey, the Dead Marshes are depicted as an eastward extension of the swamps of Nindalf (Wetwang), although on The Lord of the Rings map they appear separate.
- In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien speculated that the description of the Dead Marshes may have been based on his personal experience in World War I, specifically, the Battle of the Somme, in which he saw dead men who were lying in the mud where they were killed.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||мёртвыя Балоты|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Мъртвите блата|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||死亡沼澤|
|French||Marais des Morts|
|Greek||Βάλτοι των Νεκρών|
|Gujarati||ડેડ ભેજવાળી જમીન|
|Irish Gaelic||Riasca Marbh|
|Kurdish||Mirî Avzêl (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||мртвите блата|
|Manx||Claddeeyn Marroo ?|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||үхсэн элбэгтэй|
|Norwegian||Daumyrene (Werenskiold tr.)|
Daudemyrene (Bugge Høverstad tr.)
|Portuguese||Pântanos Mortos (Brazilian Portuguese)
Pântanos dos Mortos (Portugal)
|Serbian||Мртве баруштине (Cyrillic) Mrtve Baruštine (Latin)|
|Spanish (Spain and Latin America)||Ciénaga de los Muertos|
|Tagalog||Poso ng mga patay|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Деад Марсҳес|
|Uzbek||Деад Марсҳес (Cyrillic) O'lik Botqoqliklar (Latin)|
|Vietnamese||đầm lầy chết|
Forests & Mountains:
The rest of Arda: