- "A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way within the valley's arms, high on a rocky seat upon Ephel Dúath, stood the walls and towers of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the light welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing."
- —The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
Minas Morgul was once a fortress of Gondor, called Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon. As the easternmost fortification in the kingdom of Gondor, Minas Ithil safeguarded the eastern borders of the realm and protected the capital Osgiliath from the forces of Mordor during the early part of the Third Age. As Gondor's power weakened, it was then taken by the forces of Mordor, and used as a base to attack Gondor and in the process, decayed into the dark fortress and was renamed as a result.
Minas Morgul was located in the upland valley known as the Morgul Vale at the feet of the Mountains of Shadow. It overlooked the region of Ithilien and controlled the only passes through the mountains that led into Mordor, the Morgul Pass and the Pass of Cirith Ungol.
In its heyday, Minas Ithil was described as a beautiful sight, with light filling its inner courts with silver moonlight and causing its walls to gleam silver and white. It was a walled city of white marble built on a high shelf of rock. Within the walls, there were white houses and a tall tower. The walls and the tower had many windows, and the top of the tower revolved slowly back and forth. The Morgul-road ran from Osgiliath on the Anduin through Ithilien to the city and crossed the Mountains of Shadow into Mordor via the pass.
Minas Ithil was built by the Faithful Númenóreans, who escaped Númenor's destruction in the Second Age, as a defense against Mordor, and was the dwelling of the family of Isildur. Minas Ithil housed a palantír, the Ithil-stone and the first White Tree of Gondor.
In SA 3429, Sauron sent a great army against Minas Ithil in a surprise attack. The city was captured and the White Tree was burned (Isildur fled with a seedling and planted it in Minas Anor in TA 2). However, in SA 3430, Anárion recaptured the city, which was then held by the sons of Isildur for the duration of the War of the Last Alliance. After Sauron was defeated in SA 3441, a watch was kept at Minas Ithil to prevent the return of evil to Mordor. Most of the city's population perished in the Great Plague, leaving it deserted, save for a garrison.
The Nazgûl, led by the Witch-king of Angmar, the most fearsome of Sauron's minions, returned to Mordor in TA 1980 to prepare for Sauron's return. In TA 2000, the forces of the nine Nazgûl laid siege to Minas Ithil. In TA 2002 after two years of siege, the city fell and was transformed into a bastion of evil, with its palantír falling into the hands of Sauron. As a result, it came to be called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery. In TA 2050 King Eärnur was challenged by the Witch King and rode to Minas Morgul with a small escort, never to return.
With the ending of the Watchful Peace terror and war were directed at Gondor from Minas Morgul until Osgiliath was finally ruined and Ithilien became deserted.
In fashion Minas Morgul seems to have been much like Minas Tirith, only corrupted. Originally the city's walls glowed with pale moonlight, but under the control of the Ringwraiths it became a city of horror, where the minds of living men would run to madness if they remained too long. The topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, and the walls were illuminated by a pale luminous sickly glow.
The city had a strange watchfulness about it, and intruders to Morgul Vale were always noted. Most who approached the city could not stand to set eyes on it, and felt watched.
In the War of the Ring, the main army that attacked Minas Tirith set out from Minas Morgul, commanded by the Witch-king of Angmar, observed by Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Later, Aragorn and Gandalf broke the bridge outside the city gates and set the fields around the city on fire to keep any force from passing that way to the Cross-roads.
After the war, Aragorn (as King Elessar) counseled Faramir to make his abode in Emyn Arnen southeast of Minas Tirith, in Ithilien, and decreed that Minas Ithil in the Morgul Vale, despoiled by its years as Minas Morgul, be completely destroyed, for 'although it might in time come to be made clean, no man might dwell there for many long years'.
Portrayal in adaptations
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Minas Morgul is shown as a spectral fortress on the other side of a moat. Frodo is drawn to it by the power of the One Ring, but Sam and Gollum hide him just as the city fires a column of green fire into the sky. Afterward, the Morgul army of Orcs leave the city and pass the group; the Nazgûl on their mounts are not seen, except for the Witch-king who leaves the fortress on his Fellbeast. It also makes a brief appearance in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Ringwraiths (mounted on horses) are shown exiting the fortress en-route to the Shire far away.
The gates of the city open inward in the first film and outward in the third.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
The video game Middle-earth: Shadow of War features Minas Ithil throughout the game, and depicts its transformation into Minas Morgul after being besieged by the Nazgûl. In the game, the main character, Talion, aided by the wraith of the Elf-smith Celebrimbor, attempts to hold back the siege only to be betrayed from within. The city falls into the hands of Sauron and becomes Minas Morgul. After Talion is betrayed by Celebrimbor and takes possession of one of the Nine Rings of Power, he recaptures the city as his stronghold. Decades later, Talion finally succumbs to the power of the Ring and becomes one of the Nine, and Minas Morgul once again falls back under the control of the Witch-king until his fall.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Мі́нас Мо́ргул (Minas Morgul)
Мінас Ітыль (Minas Ithil)
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Минас Моргул (Minas Morgul)
Минас Итил (Minas Ithil)
|Catalan||Minas Mórgul (Minas Morgul)
Minas Íthil (Minas Ithil)
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||米那斯魔窟 (Minas Morgul)
米那斯伊希爾 (Minas Ithil)
|Greek||Μίνας Μόργκουλ (Minas Morgul)
Μίνας Ίθιλ (Minas Ithil)
|Hebrew||מינאס מורגול (Minas Morgul)
מינאס איתיל (Minas Ithil)
|Japanese||ミナス・モルグル (Minas Morgul)
ナス・イシル (Minas Ithil)
|Kazakh||Мінас Моргұл (Cyrillic) Minas Morgul (Latin)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Минас Моргул|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Минас Моргул|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Минас Моргул|
|Persian||میناس مورگول (Minas Morgul)
میناس ایتیل (Minas Ithil)
|Serbian||Минас Моргул (Cyrillic) Minas Morgul (Latin)|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Минас Моргул|
|Thai||มินัสมอร์กูล (Minas Morgul)
มินัสอิธิล (Minas Ithil)
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Мінас Морґул (Minas Morgul)
Мінас-Ітіль (Minas Ithil)
|Uzbek||Минас Моргул (Cyrillic) Minas Morgul (Latin)|
Forests & Mountains:
The rest of Arda:
- The Atlas of Middle-earth, Regional Maps, "Mordor (and Adjacent Lands)"
- The Silmarillion, Akallabêth (Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth
- The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter V: "The Steward and the King"