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Giant, sapient spiders, also known as the Children of Ungoliant, lived in particularly dark and perilous places in Middle-earth. Those who spoke were vicious and malevolent creatures, and their presence was typically considered 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 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.


Ungoliant was the progenitor of giant spiders

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 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 Baggins and Samwise 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 Spider (1977)

The Hobbit (1977 animated film)

In The Hobbit (1977), the Dwarves and Bilbo are captured by giant Mirkwood spiders. Unlike in the books, these spiders can speak plainly without Bilbo putting on the Ring. They are voiced by Jack DeLeon. Also, Thorin Oakenshield is captured as well by spiders (as also in The Hobbit trilogy), while in the book Thorin is captured instead by Thrauduil's Elves after the Dwarves intruded on the third and final feast.

The Lord of the Rings (1978) & The Return of the King (1980)

In the animated films of 1978 and 1980, Shelob is not shown; she is only mentioned briefly by Gollum towards the end of the The Lord of the Rings (1978).

Mirkwood spiders in The Hobbit films

The Hobbit film trilogy

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.

Frodo stalked by Shelob, as depicted in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

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.

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 bearing Sauron's mark on their back.

The Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod

In The Lord of the Rings Minecraft mod, spiders are 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 Marii Păianjeni
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 Arda
Free Folk:

Ainur | Dwarves | Elves | Ents | Great Eagles | Hobbits | Huorns | Men | Petty-dwarves | Skin-changers (Beornings)

Servants of the Shadow:

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