- "Immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-Zaram in the starlight"
- —Gimli in The Two Towers, chapter 8: The Road to Isengard
The Glittering Caves was an immense, beautiful looking, heavily ore-filled, cave system that extended deep down into the White Mountains for many miles and consisted of many different paths, tunnels, and chambers. A small stream ran down through the The Narrows of Helm's Deep and into the caves and was its source of water. Gimli's poetic description of the caves to Legolas in The Two Towers is considered by some to be Tolkien's most beautiful writing in the trilogy. According to the The Atlas of Middle-earth, it extended some 4,000 feet into the mountain.
Before the War of the Ring
Glittering Caves was one of the two fortresses built by Númenóreans to guard the Fords of Isen, Angrenost (later Isengard) being the other. Like Angrenost to the north it was initially well guarded, but as the population of Calenardhon (the later Rohan) dwindled it was increasingly less supplied and deemed unimportant, until it was only ruled by a hereditary small guard who intermarried much with Dunlendings.
When Cirion, Steward of Gondor, gave Calenardhon to the Éothéod, the Glittering Caves was transferred to the Rohirrim who used it for refuge during war, strife, and the storage of provisions, but guard duty of the Fords was initially shared between Gondor and Rohan. The fortress then underwent repair with help from the masons of Gondor. The Gondor guard was merged with that of Angrenost to the north, which remained in the keep of Gondor. The shared garrisoning of the fortress continued for a time until soon it was solely part of Rohan and maintained only by the Rohirrim.
During the reign of Helm Hammerhand, the Dunlendings attacked from Isengard and across the river Isen conquering parts of Rohan. Edoras was overran and sacked, and King Helm was forced to lead much of his people into the caves where they remained during the Long Winter of TA 2758 and TA 2759. Because Helm always blew a great horn before riding out to fight the beleaguering Dunlendings, the keep was renamed Hornburg.
War of the Ring and afterwards
During the War of the Ring, the Hornburg was the refuge of the Rohirrim during the Battle of the Hornburg after being driven back by the Host of Saruman. After the war, Gimli the Dwarf, who had fought mightily in that battle, was allowed to settle a colony of Durin's folk there, leading a host of Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain and became the first Lord of the Glittering Caves. From this stronghold, after it had been carefully constructed, Gimli forged a new gate for Minas Tirith made of Mithril and Steel. Gimli and Legolas made a pact of friendship, that when the wars of their age ended, that Gimli should walk in the deep woods of Fangorn and that Legolas should behold the jeweled-splendour of the Glittering Caves. The Glittering Caves lay in front of a huge and very beautiful cave system which proved irresistible to him. Gimli became known as the 'Lord of the Glittering Caves', although this new realm was presumably under the overlordship of Thorin Stonehelm, his kinsman and heir of the lordship of all Durin's Folk. The Dwarves of Glittering Caves restored the Hornburg following the War of the Ring, and it became a shared fortress between them and the Rohirrim.
Behind the Scenes
The Glittering Caves is one of very few locations in Tolkien's work that we can associate with a real place. They were inspired by the caves of Cheddar Gorge, in the southern English county of Somerset.
Translations around the world
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Portuguese (Brazil)||Cavernas Cintilantes|
|Dwarven Realms of Middle-earth throughout the Ages|
|Years of the Trees & First Age:||Bar-en-Nibin-Noeg | Belegost | Khazad-dûm | Mount Gundabad | Nogrod | Nulukkizdîn | Iron Hills | Blue Mountains|
|Second Age:||Khazad-dûm | Belegost | Nogrod | Mount Gundabad | Blue Mountains | Iron Hills|
|Third Age:||Grey Mountains | Iron Hills | Khazad-dûm | Lonely Mountain | Blue Mountains | Dunland|
|Fourth Age:||Glittering Caves | Khazad-dûm | Lonely Mountain | Blue Mountains | Grey Mountains | Iron Hills|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "Helm's Deep"
- ↑ The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, V: "The Battles of the Fords of Isen" Notes
- ↑ The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
- ↑ Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, V: "The Battles of the Fords of Isen"
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands), "The Third Age"
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter VII: "Helm's Deep"