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John Howe - Barrow-Wights.jpg
"Barrow-Wights" by John Howe
General Information
LocationsThe Barrow-downs
Physical Description
DistinctionsShadowy figures with a pale, icy light gleaming from their eyes; icy touch; deep, hollow and cold voice
GalleryImages of Barrow-wights

The Barrow-wights were a kind of undead-like creatures, dead bones animated by evil spirits.[1]


[edit] History and Characteristics

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil part 4 by Richard Svensson

The Barrow-wights were evil spirits, although their true nature is unknown; it is not known if they were perverted Maiar (Úmaiar) or spirits of Orcs, fallen Avari, or evil Men.

The Witch-king of Angmar sent them to the Barrow-downs, in order to prevent a resurrection of the destroyed Dúnedain kingdom of Cardolan. The spirits stirred the dead bones in the mounds and haunted them.[2][3][4]

The Barrow-wights appeared as shadowy figures with a pale, icy light gleaming from what would be their eyes. They could speak, with deep, hollow and cold voices, and likewise their touch was icy.[5][6] They were furthermore infamous for carrying rattling gold-rings on their bony fingers.[4][7]

According to Hobbit verse, Tom Bombadil escaped a Barrow-wight on some occasion, using his enchanting incantations.[6] Perhaps his authority was sourced by the inherent power he had on this region of the world, not the spirits themselves.

During the War of the Ring (September 3018) the Black Riders entered Cardolan hunting for the One Ring. Their chief visited the Barrow-downs where he stayed for some days in order to rouse the Barrow-wights.[8]

Frodo Baggins and company were trapped in the Barrow-downs by the spells of the Barrow-wights, and were nearly slain by the creatures.[5] They were saved in the last minute by Tom, who seemed to have had complete authority over them.

[edit] Other names

According to Elrond, the Elves knew the Barrow-wights by many names.[9] While these names are not recorded (except for the general denomination "evil spirits"), the creatures were also called "Barrow-dwellers" in Hobbit lore.[6] Often, they were also referred to by the shortened form "Wights".[1][10]

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

Due to his inspiration from Hrómundar saga Gripssonar, during the writing of The Lord of the Rings (see The History of The Lord of the Rings) Tolkien at first foresaw a link between the wights and the Ringwraiths, initially describing the Black Riders as horsed Wights, but the suggestion that they were the same kind of creatures was dropped in the published work. In the final work there remained a link between them: the wights were now spirits sent by the Witch-king.

[edit] Other writings

The character Tídwald, appearing in Tolkien's poem "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son", accuses Torhthelm of fancying "barrow-wights and bogeys".[11]

[edit] Portrayal in Adaptations

Barrow-wights in adaptations
"Barrow-wight Stalker" in The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game  

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Remnants haunting their own tombs, the Barrow Wights are a type of greater Undead Beings. They draw energy from living beings, sacrificing their victims.[12]

2001-2007: The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game:

Although the Barrow-wights did not appear in The Lord of the Rings films, Decipher did produce a card depicting a Barrow-wight.

2001: The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

The voice of the barrow-wight that temporarily imprisons Frodo and his three companions is provided by Vladimír Jedľovský.

2002-5: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game:

Barrow-wights (not to be confused with the ghost-type wights appearing in the same game) are corpses of Men animated by evil spirits.[13]

2007-: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Sambrog is a Wight-lord of the Barrow-downs. Barrow Wights are not just confined to the Barrow Downs, but have risen in many parts of Middle-earth mainly around the decaying ruins of Arnor. Wights can be found haunting the darkest corners of Mirkwood to even the Elven ruins which dot Ered Luin. A clan of warriors in Dunland has even gone as far as trying to raise their own undead army.

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

Eradan, Andriel, and Farin encounter Barrow-wights during their trek through the Barrow-downs. The boss battle of the level is the Barrow-wight Lord.


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, passim
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil", p. 194
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Fog on the Barrow-downs"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Bombadil Goes Boating"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(ii) Other Versions of the Story"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  10. The use of a capital "W" for the short form was noted by Jerome S. Colburn in Elfling message 19711 (24 November 2002); compare "They are Elvish wights", in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Passing of the Grey Company"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, "II. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son"
  12. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012), p. 124
  13. Scott Bennie, Mike Mearls, Steve Miller, Aaron Rosenberg, Chris Seeman, Owen Seyler, and George Strayton (2003), Fell Beasts and Wondrous Magic, pp. 14-15