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.


These spiders could speak to one another, as shown in The Hobbit. Like Orcs and Goblins, they detested the light, yet thirsted for it and sought to devour it.

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".

Shelob, in Mordor, was their relative.


The first Dark Lord, Melkor, used Ungoliant to help him destroy the Two Trees of Valinor and steal the Silmarils.[1] 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.[2]

The Mirkwood spiders

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.[3]

Frodo caught in Shelob's web, as depicted in the third film

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.[4] Sam used Sting to attack Shelob and wound her, which caused her to flee.[5] 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

Mirkwood Spiders crawling over Radagast's home


The giant spider Saenathra, from the War in the North game adaptation

Video games

LEGO: The Lord of the Rings

In LEGO The Lord of the Rings, the player must go through Shelob's Lair and kill at least six small spiders with Sauron's mark on their back.

The Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod

In the Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod, spiders can be found in Mirkwood and Nan Ungol. There are three delineations:

  1. Mordor spider
  2. Mirkwood spider
  3. Utumno Ice spider


Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Groot spinnekoppe
Albanian Marimanga të mëdha
Amharic ታላላቅ ሸረሪዎች
Arabic العناكب
Azerbaijani Böyük Hörümçəklər
Belarusian Cyrillic вялікія павукі
Bengali গ্রেট মাকড়সা ?
Bulgarian Cyrillic Големи паяци
Catalan Grans Aranyes
Cebuano Dakong kaka
Chinese (Hong Kong) 巨形蜘蛛
Croatian Veliki Pauci
Czech Velicí Pavouci
Danish Store edderkopper
Dutch Grote Spinnen
Esperanto Grandaj Araneoj
Finnish Suuret Hämähäkit
French Grandes Araignées
Galician Grandes Arañas
German Riesenspinnen
Georgian დიდი ობობები
Greek Μεγάλη αράχνη
Gujarati ગ્રેટ કરોળિયા
Hausa Babban gizo-gizo
Hebrew עכבישים ענקיים
Hindi महान मकड़े
Hmong Zoo kawg thiab kab laug sab.
Hungarian Nagy Pókok
Indonesian Laba-laba besar
Irish Gaelic Damháin alla mór
Italian Randi Ragni
Japanese すごいクモ類
Kazakh Ұлы өрмекшілер (Cyrillic) Ulı örmekşiler (Latin)
Korean 큰 거미 ?
Latin Magna Aranearum
Latvian Liels Zirnekļi
Laotian ແມງມຸມທີ່ຍິ່ງໃຫຍ່ ?
Lithuanian Didžiosios Vorai
Macedonian Cyrillic големи пајаци
Malay Labah-labah Gergasi
Marathi ग्रेट कोळी ?
Maltese Brimb Kbira
Norwegian Stor edderkopper
Pashto لوی ماډلونه
Persian عنکبوت ‌ها
Polish Wielkie Pająki
Portuguese Grandes Aranhas
Romanian Păianjenii mari
Russian Гигантские пауки
Serbian Велики Пауци (Cyrillic) Veliki Pauci (Latin)
Sinhalese මහා මකුළුවන්
Slovak Veľké pavúky
Slovenian Super pajki
Spanish Grandes arañas
Swahili Buibui Kubwa
Swedish Stora spindlar
Tamil கிரேட் சிலந்திகள்
Thai แมงมุมที่ยิ่งใหญ่
Turkish Büyük Örümcekler
Urdu عظیم مکڑیاں
Uzbek Буюк ўргимчаклар (Cyrillic) Buyuk o'rgimchaklar (Latin)
Welsh Corynnod mawr
Yiddish גרויס ספּידערס
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Free Folks:

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Servants of the Shadow:

Barrow-wights | Demons | Dragons (Fire-drakes) | Giants | Goblins | Ogres | Orcs | Spiders | Trolls | Úvanimor | Vampires | Wargs | Werewolves | Were-worms


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