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The Barrow-downs
Paul Raymond Gregory - Fog on the Barrow Downs.jpg
"Fog on the Barrow Downs" by Paul Raymond Gregory
General Information
Other namesTyrn Gorthad
LocationCentral Eriador, south of the East Road and Bree, on borders the Old Forest
InhabitantsMen, then Barrow-wights
GalleryImages of the Barrow-downs

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



The Barrow-downs were first inhabited by Men related to the Edain in the First Age,[2] 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 émigrés from Númenor settled.[3] When Elendil returned to Middle-earth, the Barrow-downs were incorporated into the kingdom of Arnor. The Downs were revered because of the Great Barrows by the Arnorians, and buried their lords and Kings there.[4]

After the split of Arnor in T.A. 861 the Barrow-downs became the capital of Cardolan. After Rhudaur fell to Angmar in 1409, the Dúnedain of Cardolan entrenched themselves here, but eventually the realm fell. Around T.A. 1636[5] the Witch-king sent the Barrow-wights that haunted the hills,[4] 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.

When the Black Riders came north in their hunt for the One Ring, the Lord of the Nazgûl stayed in the Barrow-downs for a few days, rousing the Barrow-wights.[6] On 28 September 3018[7] 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 (it's likely that Merry saw his last memories in dreams, for he mentioned the "men of Carn Dûm").[8] [8][9] They were rescued by Tom Bombadil, and there got their swords.[10]


In topography, a "down" is a low-lying hill, from the Anglo-Saxon dún meaning "hill".[11] In the United Kingdom, a down is a gently-rolling chalk hill in Southern England (seen especially in the North and South Downs).[12]

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.[13]

The name therefore would represent an earlier Old English form Beorga Dune "downs of barrows".[14]

Tyrn Gorthad was the Sindarin name of the Barrow-downs. Tyrn Gorthad is a compound of torn ("down") and gorthad ("of buried").[15] In one manuscript, the name Tyrn Goerthaid was used by Tolkien.[16] Goerthaid seems to be the plural of gorthad with affected vowels.

Portrayal in adaptations

Barrow-downs at night in The Lord of the Rings Online

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.

2006: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king:

In his campaign against the former kingdom of Arnor the Witch-king dispatches his men lead by Hwaldar to claim the royal barrows to enrage Cardolan and lure out their forces to destroy their army and lay Cardolan bare for his attacks, while unintentionally slaying a prince of Cardolan. Later he attacked the Barrow-downs a second time to desecrate the barrows to create a plague to weaken the rest of Arnor and to demotalize the Dúnedain of Cardolan by using the barrows as the plague's ground zero. In the resulting battle Carthaen, a general of Cardolan, was slain and Cardolan's sent army was destroyed.

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 Nazgûl. 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 shortcut.[17] On their way, they have to save two Dúnedain Rangers named Luin and Kilaran. Throughout the whole level fog hangs above the ground.[18] Upon reaching Rivendell, the three heroes can talk to Frodo about their escapades in the Barrow-downs. Even though Frodo and the Hobbits were never shown to venture into the Barrow-downs in the movies, he will mention his own encounters there. However, he refuses to go into detail about what happened there.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age" [map]
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Index, Barrow-downs
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Eriador
  9. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, "Fog on the Barrow-downs", pp. 144-5; Index, 'Cardolan, last prince of'
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Fog on the Barrow-downs"
  11. Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, "DÚN" at An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (accessed 12 October 2010)
  12. Oxford Dictionaries, "down" (accessed 12 October 2010)
  13. 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
  14. David Salo, "Hobbitish Place-names" dated 23 November 1998, Elfling (accessed 9 October 2014)
  15. 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
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil"
  17. Offical Xbox Magazine Online, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, dated 28 April, 2011 (accessed at 7 July, 2011)
  18. 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)