Tough Traveling: EVIL LAIRS


Tough Traveling is an interesting and thought-provoking meme started by Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn: each week Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynn Jones, and challenges everyone to come up with a list of books featuring that trope.

This week’s theme is EVIL LAIRS
The evil lair is where a great fantasy villain will spend the plurality of his or her time. (Topic provided by Christopher Scott Hand).

When considering villains and their evil lairs, I feel no need to look further than my beloved Tolkien’s Middle Earth, where such beings and their dark dwelling places abound.

A good starting place would be Utumno (the Pit), carved deep in the bowels of the earth, riddled by dark, endless tunnels and fire craters, peopled by evil creatures. Its master, Melkor (later called Morgoth) was the eldest of the Ainur, the quasi-angelic beings whose music shaped the world: he rebelled against his creator in a Lucifer-like show of defiance and was cast out by the Valar.  Utumno is a hellish vision worthy of Dante’s Inferno, a place of horrors and unspeakable torment.

“And in Utumno he gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them”  (The Silmarillion)

And what about Mordor, a deserted, barren and bleak land defended by natural fortifications?  Here Sauron, Morgoth’s chief servant who walked in his master’s footsteps, built himself a stronghold in the fortress of Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, where he harnessed the powers of the fires in Orodruin, later known as Mount Doom. From this seat of power, Sauron expanded his power throughout Middle Earth, sending forth the hordes of his servants.

“Still far away, forty miles at least, they saw Mount Doom, its feet founded in ashen ruin, its huge cone rising to a great height, where its reeking head was swathed in cloud. Its fires were now dimmed, and it stood in smouldering slumber, as threatening and dangerous as a sleeping beast. Behind it there hung a vast shadow, ominous as a thunder-cloud, the veils of Barad-dûr that was reared far away upon a long spur of the Ashen Mountains thrust down from the North.”  (LOTR)

In the depths of the mines of Moria, the Dwarves  delved too deeply for the precious mithril and awakened from its long sleep the Balrog, the fire demon dwelling in the bowels of the Earth, and came to release it to wreak havoc for the forces of evil.

“Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror.”   (The Silmarillion)

The passes of the Mountains of Terror in Beleriand were infested by a race of giant spiders who did the bidding of Morgoth, drinking the blood of all unfortunate creatures who encroached on their territory, and Ungoliant was the greatest and cruelest of them. When Beleriand was submerged by the sea, only Shelob escaped, lone survivor of Ungoliant’s brood, and came to build its lair under the Mountains of Shadow. Sauron tolerated Shelob’s preying on his stray Orcs because the spider guarded his land well.

“…She served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness.”  (LOTR)

When the fire dragon Smaug exterminated almost all the Dwarves in Erebor, he took possession of their hoard of riches under the Lonely Mountain, where he sat slumbering over the huge heap of gold and jewels for a long time.

“There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him […] lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.”  (The Hobbit)

At the bottom of a dark lake on the borders of Moria, the Fellowship of the Ring encountered the Watcher in the water, a monstrous squid-like creatures and the bane of all unwary travelers.

“…the groping tentacles writhed across the narrow shore and fingered the cliff-wall and the doors. One came wriggling over the threshold, glistening in the starlight.  […] Many coiling arms seized the door on either side, and with horrible strength swung them round.”  (LOTR)

In the Barrow-Downs, low hills east of the Shire crowned with ancient stone circles and dotted with burial mounds (the Barrows), there were stone chambers where noble men of old were laid to rest. And here also dwelled the Barrow wights: evil spirits that could take possession of the bodies of the dead.

“Suddenly a song began: a cold murmur, rising and falling. […] grim, hard, cold words, heartless and miserable. The night was railing against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the warmth for which it hungered.”   (LOTR)

And finally, a well-known creature, Gollum, the wretch living deep in the roots of the Misty Mountains where he spent his long but miserable, lonely existence as the One Ring took hold of his mind, twisting it beyond repair while granting him a long life span.

“…there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty, furtive eating and resentful remembering” […] He hated the dark, and he hated the light more.”  (LOTR)


6 thoughts on “Tough Traveling: EVIL LAIRS

  1. LOTR was such a great source for this week’s topic (not that it isn’t great for other topics!). Barrow-Downs and Gollum’s cave are cool picks – I only thought of the fortresses!


  2. Oh, I love that you went with a theme and great choices! Mines of Moria is a good one and I just realized there are a lot of locations in LOTR that I’m not even that familiar with. Heh heh heh, these Tough Traveling themes would be so hard if we weren’t allowed to use JRR Tolkien! ^_^


  3. Tolkien was really really good at creating some dark, very scary places. The quote about Shelob is perfect and terrifying – she is definitely the scariest thing in LOTR.


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