Giant, sapient spiders, also known as the Children of Ungoliant, lived in particularly in dark and perilous places (affected by the power of evil) in Middle-earth. Those who spoke were vicious and malevolent creatures, and their presence was typically seen as a blight.
They lived in the south of Middle-earth in the First Age, having descended from spider-creatures of the Ered Gorgoroth, but by the Third Age they spread to other areas far away. After the shadow of Sauron fell upon Greenwood the Great, many spiders came and lived there, and the forest became known as "Mirkwood".
The first Dark Lord, Melkor, used Ungoliant to help him destroy the Two Trees of Valinor and steal the Silmarils. Ungoliant, who had an insatiable desire to devour light, demanded the Silmarils. Melkor refused and she attempted to kill him. Ungoliant was subsequently driven off by Melkor's Balrogs, and she ultimately wandered across Middle-earth, consuming anything that gave light such as gemstones; and often mated with other large spiders. Her offspring were a great bane on the world in later years. She was described as surrounded by "an aura of darkness". Her fate is unknown, but it is said that, always hungry, Ungoliant ended by devouring herself.
The hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his thirteen Dwarf companions encountered giant spiders in Mirkwood on their Quest to the Lonely Mountain. They managed to capture and entangle in webs each of the thirteen Dwarves. Only Bilbo's magic ring and his Elven blade (Sting) allowed them to escape from being eaten.
Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee encountered the lone, giant spider Shelob in her lair, within caves near Cirith Ungol, as they were trying to enter Mordor in their quest to destroy the One Ring. Frodo was ambushed by her twice, and paralyzed by her poison on the second encounter. Sam used Sting to attack Shelob and wound her, which caused her to flee. Her fate is unspecified.
Influence of spiders in Tolkien's life
Contrary to popular belief, the reason that Tolkien featured spiders so prominently in his stories was not because he was bitten by a tarantula when he was young, but rather because his son was afraid of them. From this they are portrayed negatively, always appearing as antagonists.
Portrayal in adaptations
- The capture of Frodo by Shelob and her battle with Sam are depicted in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
- Giant spiders appear briefly in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where they are seen attacking Radagast's home in Rhosgobel, only to retreat back into the forest, seemingly repelled by his magic. Radagast later tells Gandalf that they came from Dol Guldur.
- In The Desolation of Smaug, the spiders capture the Dwarves in Mirkwood. As in the book, the spiders are capable of speech that Bilbo can understand when he is wearing the One Ring. They were voiced by Brian Sergent and Peter Vere-Jones in the film.
- Giant spiders appear in many Lord of the Rings video games, including The Return of the King.
- In The Battle for Middle-earth II and its expansion pack, Spiderlings are a unit that can be trained by the Goblins faction; Shelob also appears as a hero for the Goblins. The Goblins have a "spiderling lair" fortress extension that spawns smaller spiders which attack nearby enemies.
- For The Hobbit video game three spiders were invented named Wicked, Wild, and Wrath. These three spiders are the queens of the Spiders of Mirkwood and are three of the bosses of the Flies And Spiders level.
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North features a giant spider named Saenathra, who took Radagast captive, and must be defeated to free him. Like the Mirkwood spiders from the Hobbit, she has the ability to speak.
LEGO: The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Albanian||Marimanga të mëdha|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||вялікія павукі|
|Bengali||গ্রেট মাকড়সা ?|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Големи паяци|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||巨形蜘蛛|
|Hmong||Zoo kawg thiab kab laug sab.|
|Irish Gaelic||Damháin alla mór|
|Kazakh||Ұлы өрмекшілер (Cyrillic) Ulı örmekşiler (Latin)|
|Korean||큰 거미 ?|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||големи пајаци|
|Marathi||ग्रेट कोळी ?|
|Serbian||Велики Пауци (Cyrillic) Veliki Pauci (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Буюк ўргимчаклар (Cyrillic) Buyuk o'rgimchaklar (Latin)|
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow:
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter VIII: "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter IX: "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
- The Hobbit, Chapter VIII: "Flies and Spiders"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. IX: "Shelob's Lair"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Ch. X: "The Choices of Master Samwise"