Tolkien Gateway


Revision as of 04:10, 5 June 2015 by Gamling (Talk | contribs)
"Who told you, and who sent you?" — Gandalf
This article or section needs more/new/more-detailed sources to conform to a higher standard and to provide proof for claims made.
This article is about the location in Middle-earth. For the website, see
Barrow Downs
Paul Raymond Gregory - Fog on the Barrow Downs.jpg
General Information
Other namesTyrn Gorthad
LocationCentral Eriador, borders the Old Forest
Reunited Kingdom
People and History
InhabitantsMen, then Barrow-wights
EventsWar of the Elves and Sauron

Barrow-downs or Tyrn Gorthad were a series of low hills east of the Shire, behind the Old Forest, and southwest of the village of Bree.[1] Many of the hills were crowned with megaliths and barrows, whence their name.



The Barrow-downs were first inhabited by Men related to the Edain in the First Age, together with the Hills of Evendim to the north. They fled east as Easterlings invaded Eriador and passed on to Beleriand, but after these had left or been killed in the War of Wrath the Edain returned to their old homes.

During the Second Age they were fairly numerous, and when they met with the Númenóreans the Barrow-downs were the first places where the Dúnedain emigrees from Númenor settled. The Downs were revered because of theιρ Great Barrows. When Elendil returned to Middle-earth, the Barrow-downs were incorporated in the kingdom of Arnor.

After the split of Arnor the Barrow-downs became the capital of Cardolan. After Rhudaur fell to Angmar in T.A. 1409, the Dúnedain of Cardolan entrenched themselves here, but eventually the realm fell. Around T.A. 1636[2] the Witch-king sent the Barrow-wights that haunted the hills, preventing any resettlement; after Arthedain once again claimed the kingship over all of Arnor the Dúnedain tried to recolonize Cardolan, but this failed because of the Barrow-wights.

During the War of the Ring Frodo Baggins and company were trapped in the downs by a wight, probably in the same cairn which held the grave of the last prince of Cardolan. They were rescued by Tom Bombadil, and there got their swords.


In topography, a "down" is a low-lying hill, from the Anglo-Saxon dún meaning "hill".[3] In the United Kingdom, a down is a gently-rolling chalk hill in Southern England (seen especially in the North and South Downs).[4]

A "barrow" (or "berrow"; from English beorg, berg, 'hill, mound') not to be confused with the wheeled vehicle, is a tumulus or other prehistoric grave-mound.[5]

The name therefore would represent an earlier Old English form Beorga Dune "downs of barrows".[6]

Tyrn Gorthad was the Sindarin name of the Barrow-downs. Tyrn Gorthad is a compound of torn ("down") and gorthad ("of buried").[7] In one manuscript, the name Tyrn Goerthaid was used by Tolkien.[8] Goerthaid seems to be the plural of gorthad with lenited vowels.

Portrayal in adaptations

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Hobbits' passage through the Barrow-downs is represented by a respective level.
View of the Barrow-downs at night (The Lord of the Rings Online).

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

The Barrow-downs are a divided into North and South Barrows, depicted as a series of mounds crowned with megaliths. The region is inhabited by wights, recently stirred by the passage of the Nazgul. The largest and oldest barrow is called Othrongroth.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

After Halbarad sends Eradan, Andriel and Farin to warn Aragorn in Bree, the three heroes travel through the Barrow-downs as a short cut.[9] On their way, they have to save two Dunedain Rangers named Luin and Kilaran. In the whole level fog hangs above the ground.[10]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age" [map]
  2. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
  3. Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, "DÚN" at An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (accessed 12 October 2010)
  4. Oxford Dictionaries, "down" (accessed 12 October 2010)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 766
  6. David Salo, "Hobbitish Place-names" dated 23 November 1998, Elfling (accessed 30 November 2021)
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 116
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil"
  9. Offical Xbox Magazine Online, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, dated 28 April, 2011 (accessed at 7 July, 2011)
  10. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North's Official Site, Videos, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Dev video: Art Direction Process, dated 11 May, 2011 (accessed 14 September, 2011)