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The Thain's Book
An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor

The Nazgul

Important Dates
Names & Etymology

The Nazgul, or Ringwraiths, were Sauron's most terrible servants. They were originally mortal Men. Sauron gave them the Nine Rings of Power in order to enslave them to his will and they became Wraiths.


Nazgul uncloakedLittle is known of the original identities of the Nazgul. Three were said to be great lords of Numenor. One was an Easterling named Khamul. He is the only one whose name is known.

At first the Men who received the Nine Rings used them to gain power and wealth for themselves. They became great kings, sorcerers, and warriors. The Nine Rings made the Men invisible and prolonged their lives.

But eventually, the Men bearing the Nine Rings fell completely under the control of Sauron. They could not disobey him and no longer had wills of their own. Some of the Men were quickly enslaved, while others who had greater native strength or goodness took longer.

The Nazgul were condemed to exist only in the Wraith-world. Their lives were stretched out until their very existence was torture. They were permanently invisible except when they wore black robes to give themselves a visible shape. Sauron and anyone who wore the One Ring could see them in their Wraith forms, as pale figures with burning eyes, grey hair, grey and white robes, and silver helms.

The Nazgul perceived the Unseen world, but much of what they saw were phantoms and delusions created by Sauron. They could not see well in the physical world of light, and in the noonday sun they could see nothing. They saw people as shadows. However they could see one another clearly even in daylight and from far away. In the darkness they were most dangerous because they could perceive things that ordinary people could not.

Their sense of smell was acute. They could smell the blood of living things, which they envied. They could also sense the One Ring, and they could see the person wearing it even though he was invisible to others. In turn the Ring sensed the Nazgul. Frodo Baggins was tempted to put on the Ring when the Nazgul were near so that the Ring could return to Sauron.

The Nazgul were able to speak to people using the Common Speech, though their voices sounded strange and unpleasant. They called to one another with piercing, blood-curdling cries. They could hear one another across great distances.

Nazgul with swordThere was a sense of fear and dread around the Nazgul and the air around them felt cold. People could feel the presence of Nazgul without even seeing them. In fact, the feeling of fear was strongest when the Nazgul were invisible, without their black robes. The terror was also greatest in the darkness and when all nine of the Nazgul were together.

Terror was the main weapon of the Nazgul. Few people had the willpower to stand against them. The Nazgul exuded a miasma known as the Black Breath which caused illness and even death in those who were exposed to it.

Animals were also terrified of the Nazgul. The black horses that the Nazgul rode were trained to endure them. The horses were born in Mordor, but they may have been bred from stock stolen from Rohan. Later in the War of the Ring, Sauron gave the Nazgul new mounts - terrible winged creatures known as Fell Beasts.

The Nazgul did have some weaknesses. The eight Nazgul excluding the Lord of the Nazgul feared water, and they did not like to cross rivers except over bridges. They could endure the Sun, but the eight lesser Nazgul tended to become confused in daylight when they were alone and their power was diminished. They also hated fire.

Elves were among the few beings the Nazgul feared, particularly the High Elves who had lived in the Undying Lands because they had power in the Unseen world. The Nazgul also feared the Powers known as the Valar, especially Elbereth who created the Stars and was revered by the Elves.

The Nazgul did not have great physical power against those who did not fear them. However, they could not be killed by ordinary means. Most weapons could not harm them, and any blade that touched the Lord of the Nazgul disintegrated.

It took a special sword - forged by the Dunedain and wound with spells - to strike the blow that rendered the Lord of the Nazgul powerless. Flames from the eruption of Mount Doom destroyed the other eight Nazgul. But ultimately it was the destruction of the One Ring to which they were bound that ensured that the Nazgul would never arise again.


The Nine Rings were made by the Elven-smiths of Eregion in the 1500s of the Second Age. Sauron had disguised himself and had tricked the Elves into accepting his help in making the Rings. He then forged the One Ring which he could use to control the others.

Sauron seized the Nine Rings in 1697. He distributed the Rings to nine Men who became the Nazgul. The Nazgul first appeared in the form of Wraiths around 2251 of the Second Age. The Lord of the Nazgul was their leader, and the second-in-command was Khamul.

At some point, Sauron apparently took the Nine Rings back from the Nazgul. It is stated in several accounts that Sauron held the Nine Rings in his possession.* By that time the Nazgul were evidently so subjugated to Sauron's will that they no longer needed to wear their Rings.

Sauron was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age and the One Ring was taken from him. His spirit fled to the East to rebuild his strength, and the Nazgul also went into hiding. Around 1050 of the Third Age, Sauron secretly returned and built the stronghold of Dol Guldur in the great forest that became known as Mirkwood.

The Nazgul reappeared around 1300. The Lord of the Nazgul established the realm of Angmar in the north at that time. His true identity was not known and he was called the Witch-king of Angmar. His intention was to destroy the Dunedain of Arnor. Arnor had been divided into three Kingdoms - Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur - and the Dunedain of the North were no longer united.

The Witch-king waged war against the Dunedain of the North for six centuries. He secretly made an alliance with Rhudaur, which had been taken over by an evil lord of the Hill-men. In 1356, Angmar and Rhudaur attacked Arthedain and King Argeleb I of Arthedain was killed.

The Witch-king launched another attack in 1409. The last prince of Cardolan was killed and the Dunedain there took refuge in the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest. The Dunedain were driven out of Rhudaur, which was occupied by allies of Angmar. King Arveleg I of Arthedain was killed but his son Araphor managed to drive back the forces of Angmar with the help of the Elves of Lindon and Rivendell.

During the Great Plague of 1636, the remnants of the Dunedain in Cardolan perished. The Witch-king then sent evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur to occupy the mounds of the Barrow-downs and these spirits became known as the Barrow-wights.

In 1974, the Witch-king captured Fornost, the capital of Arthedain. The Dunedain of the North and the Elves of Lindon and Rivendell were joined by an army from Gondor led by Earnur. They defeated the Witch-king's forces at the Battle of Fornost in 1975.

Earnur pursued the Witch-king, but when the Witch-king turned to face him, Earnur's horse bolted in terror. The Witch-king mocked Earnur, but he also hated him for his role in defeating the forces of Angmar. The Witch-king fled when he saw Glorfindel, who was one of the High Elves. Glorfindel advised Earnur to let him go, saying: "Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." (LotR, App. A, p. 332)

The Witch-king abandoned Angmar and returned to Mordor around 1980. The other eight Nazgul may have come to Mordor earlier, around 1856. In 2000, the Nazgul besieged Minas Ithil, a stronghold of Gondor on the border of Mordor. They captured Minas Ithil in 2002 and it was renamed Minas Morgul.

Earnur became King of Gondor in 2043 and the Witch-king challenged him to single-combat. Earnur refused, but when the Witch-king renewed his challenge in 2050, Earnur accepted. He rode to Minas Morgul and was never seen again. Earnur left no heir, and the line of Kings in Gondor ended. From that time on, Gondor was ruled by a Steward.

During the Watchful Peace from 2063 to 2460, the Nazgul remained quiet in Minas Morgul. Sauron was in hiding in the East during this time. He had left Dol Guldur when Gandalf came there to investigate. The Watchful Peace ended when Sauron came back to Dol Guldur in 2460.

The Nazgul prepared Mordor for the return of Sauron. In 2475, they sent an army of Uruks to attack Gondor. The Uruks were a kind of black Orc of great strength which had not been seen before. They captured Osgiliath but they were driven back by Boromir, the Steward's son, who was feared by all, even the Witch-king.  (Note: This Boromir is not the same as Boromir of the Fellowship.)

Sauron secretly returned to Mordor in 2942 after Gandalf and the White Council attacked Dol Guldur. He revealed his presence in 2951 and built up his forces. He send Khamul, the second-in-command of the Nazgul, to Dol Guldur along with one or two other Nazgul. The Witch-king and the others remained in Minas Morgul.

In 3017, Sauron learned from Gollum that the One Ring was in the possession of a Hobbit named Baggins in the Shire. Sauron decided to send the Nazgul to retrieve the One Ring. Although the Ring tempted those who came in contact with it, Sauron trusted the Nazgul to bring it back to him
because they were completely under his power.

On June 20, 3018, the Witch-king led an army to attack Osgiliath. The attack was a test of Gondor's defenses, as well a cover for the departure of the Nazgul. The Steward Denethor II's sons Boromir and Faramir defended Osgiliath but they were forced to retreat as the enemy forces captured the eastern half of the city. The defenders felt the terror of the Nazgul's presence and some thought they saw the shadow of a black horseman.

That same day, Orcs attacked Mirkwood, allowing Gollum - who was imprisoned there - to escape. According to one source, some of the Nazgul - probably the Dol Guldur contingent led by Khamul - directed this attack.

On July 1, the Witch-king and the other Nazgul from Minas Morgul crossed the river and began the search for the One Ring. They travelled through Anorien and crossed the Entwash into Rohan. They were unmounted and invisible, but people felt darkness and terror as they passed. The Nazgul received robes and horses on July 17 on the western side of the Anduin, just north of Sarn Gebir.

Meanwhile, Khamul and the Nazgul of Dol Guldur were searching the Vales of the Anduin for the Shire. Gollum had lied to Sauron about the location of the Shire, directing him instead to the region where Gollum's people had lived. Khamul found the deserted villages of Gollum's people along the Gladden but no trace of any Hobbits.

Khamul rendezvoused with the Witch-king in the Field of Celebrant on July 22. Despite Khamul's report, the Witch-king decided to continue searching the Vales of the Anduin as Sauron had ordered. The Nine Nazgul passed between the Misty Mountains and Lothlorien and journeyed northward.

The Nazgul returned to Rohan in September. They were met in the Wold by messengers from Sauron, who was angry that the Nazgul had failed at their task. Sauron ordered the Nazgul to go to Isengard because he believed Saruman knew where the Ring was. As the Nazgul rode through Rohan, many of the Rohirrim fled in terror.

The Nazgul crossed the Fords of Isen on September 18. There are differing accounts of their meeting with Saruman. According to one version, Saruman told them where the Shire was. In a different version, Saruman claimed he did not know, but the Nazgul obtained the information from Grima Wormtongue.

The Nazgul rode swiftly to Eriador where the Shire was located. They divided into pairs, and the Witch-king rode with the fastest pair. As they journeyed northward, people and animals hid from them.

Just before they reached Tharbad, the Nazgul captured a squint-eyed Southerner who was an agent of Saruman. The man had been to the Shire several times to obtain pipe-weed and information for Saruman. He told the Nazgul that a Hobbit named Baggins lived in the village of Hobbiton and he had maps of the Shire. The Witch-king sent the squint-eyed Southerner to Bree to watch for travellers leaving the Shire.

The Nazgul reached the Brandywine River on the southern border of the Shire on September 22. The crossing at Sarn Ford was guarded by Rangers, who were the remnants of the Dunedain of the North. The Rangers tried to stop the Nazgul from entering the Shire, but they could not withstand the Nine Nazgul and when night fell, the Rangers were all slain or driven away.

According to "The Tale of Years" in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, four of the Nazgul entered the Shire while the other five pursued the Rangers eastward and then watched the roads. Gandalf also stated that four Nazgul entered the Shire at the Council of Elrond (FotR, p. 277).

However, in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion there is a much more detailed account of the Nazgul's movements that was prepared by Tolkien. In this account, five Nazgul including Khamul are said to have entered the Shire while the other four including the Witch-king went eastward. The details from that account are given here.

The Witch-king established a camp at Andrath along the Greenway. The three Nazgul who accompanied him patrolled the roads while the Witch-king went to the Barrow-downs. He had sent evil spirits to dwell in the Barrow-downs when he ruled Angmar, and he now called upon them to keep watch for the Ring-bearer. The Witch-king's summons also extended to the Old Forest, where the malicious Old Man Willow lived.

Meanwhile, Khamul and four other Nazgul entered the Shire before dawn on September 23. One Nazgul went north through the Marish to the Brandywine Bridge. Two other Nazgul took the road from Sarn Ford northwestward to Michel Delving on the White Downs. One of these then turned northeastward and crossed the North Farthing.

Khamul and a Nazgul from Dol Guldur went through the central Shire to the Great East Road near the Three Farthing Stone. Khamul's companion traveled eastward to keep watch on the roads. He stationed himself south of Whitfurrows between the Great East Road and the Stock Road. Khamul headed for Hobbiton on the evening of September 23 and questioned Gaffer Gamgee and learned that Mr. Baggins had gone to Buckland.

Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, had left Bag End with his companions that same evening. Khamul pursued him down the Stock Road. He came close to catching Frodo during the day of September 24 but the Hobbits hid from him and Khamul was hesistant and uncertain in the daylight. At twilight, Khamul became more aware of the Ring and he approached Frodo in the Woody End but fled as a company of Elves led by Gildor Inglorion arrived.

The next day on September 25, the Hobbits spotted Khamul on a ridge above them in the woods but they were hidden by the trees. Khamul called out to his companion from Dol Guldur. Khamul then went to Bamfurlong and offered Farmer Maggot gold in exchange for information about Baggins, but Maggot refused.

Nazgul at FerryKhamul sent his companion south along the Causeway toward the Overbourn Marshes while he went north toward the Brandywine Bridge. They both returned to their starting point that night. Khamul saw the Hobbits crossing the Brandywine River on the Bucklebury Ferry but he was unable to cross the deep moving water and the river interfered with his ability to sense the Ring.

Khamul summoned the other three Nazgul who had dispersed across the Shire. The five Nazgul assembled on the morning of September 26. One Nazgul was ordered to watch the Brandywine Bridge, while two others were sent along the Great East Road to report to the Witch-king.

Khamul and his companion from Dol Guldur secretly entered Buckland through the North-gate. He did not want to attract attention so they searched for Frodo slowly and stealthily. They were unsure where to look because Buckland did not appear on the maps of the squint-eyed Southerner.

The two Nazgul sent east by Khamul came to Bree on September 26. One circled north and came down the Greenway while the other came up from the south. They asked about a Hobbit named Baggins at the Prancing Pony, but Barliman Butterbur closed his door on them. They also spoke to the gatekeeper Harry Goatleaf. The two Nazgul reported to the Witch-king on September 27.

The Witch-king suspected the Ring-bearer was heading for Rivendell. He ordered three Nazgul to search the countryside to the east as far as Weathertop and then return west along the Great East Road to Bree. The Witch-king and two other Nazgul patrolled the Greenway.

The Hobbits had entered the Old Forest on September 26. Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took were trapped by Old Man Willow but they were rescued by Tom Bombadil. On September 28, the Hobbits crossed the Barrow-downs and were captured by one of the Barrow-wights roused by the Witch-king, but they were again rescued by Tom Bombadil.

Also on September 28, Khamul found the house in Crickhollow where Frodo had stayed in Buckland. Frodo's friend Fatty Bolger had remained behind in Crickhollow. Khamul kept watch on the house and sent his companion to bring back the Nazgul who had been left guarding the Brandywine Bridge. The three assembled at Crickhollow on the night of September 29.

Frodo Baggins and his companions arrived in Bree on September 29. The same night, the three Nazgul who had been sent to Weathertop and back came to Bree. They left their horses outside town and secretly entered through the South-gate.

In the common room of the Prancing Pony, the Ring slipped onto Frodo's finger and he vanished. This was witnessed by the squint-eyed Southerner and his cohort Bill Ferny, who reported it to the Nazgul. One of the Nazgul was sent to tell the Witch-king but was delayed by the Rangers and did not find him until the next day.

The other two Nazgul encountered Merry Brandybuck who was walking near Bill Ferny's house on the evening of September 29. Merry was overcome by the Black Breath. The two Nazgul attempted to seize him but they were interrupted by the arrival of Nob from the inn.

The two Nazgul planned an attack on the inn in the early hours of September 30. There is some question about whether the Nazgul conducted the attack or whether they had their agents Bill Ferny and the squint-eyed Southerner do it. The notes published in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion say that it was the Nazgul themselves. The attack failed because the Hobbits were hidden by Aragorn and bolsters were put in their beds instead. The two Nazgul left Bree to report to the Witch-king that the Ring-bearer had escaped.

At the same time, Khamul and his two companions attacked the house at Crickhollow, not realizing that Frodo was no longer there. Fatty Bolger fled and raised the alarm. The three Nazgul rode to the North-gate past the guards and out of Buckland. They headed to Andrath to rendezvous with the Witch-king.

The Nine Nazgul gathered at Andrath later on September 30. The Witch-king learned that a Ranger was at the Prancing Pony but did not realize that it was Aragorn. He suspected that the Ring-bearer would head east from Bree and he sent four Nazgul to Weathertop. He led the other four south along the Greenway but found nothing and returned to Bree.

On October 1 shortly after midnight the four Nazgul and the Witch-king broke the gates of Bree and stormed through the town. They rode eastward down the Great East Road. Gandalf had arrived in Bree the previous evening and before dawn on October 1 he went in pursuit of the five Nazgul.

The four Nazgul who had been sent earlier to Weathertop assembled there on October 2. One stayed at Weathertop while the other three went eastward along the Road. The Witch-king and the other four Nazgul rode to Weathertop and realized they were being followed by Gandalf. They hid by the roadside and let Gandalf pass them on October 3.

The Witch-king realized that Gandalf did not have the Ring as he had feared. He suspected that Gandalf might be meeting the Ring-bearer at Weathertop.

On the night of October 3-4, the Nazgul attacked Gandalf on Weathertop. When Gandalf later reported these events, he implied that all Nine Nazgul were present (FotR, p. 277). However, the detailed account of the Nazgul's movements states that only six were present - the Witch-king and the four who accompanied him plus the one who had been guarding Weathertop earlier.

The lights and flames from the battle between Gandalf and the Nazgul could be seen from afar. Gandalf was able to repel the Nazgul and at dawn he escaped and rode north along the Hoarwell to the Ettenmoors. Four of the Nazgul followed him. They eventually broke off their pursuit and headed for the Ford of Bruinen.

The Witch-king and Khamul remained to watch Weathertop. Three other Nazgul were with them. (By the detailed account, these were the three who had gone farther east along the Great East Road who now returned to Weathertop.)

Frodo and his companions arrived at Weathertop on October 6 after taking a circuitous route through the countryside from Bree. From the hilltop they saw five Nazgul on the Great East Road - two coming from the east and three from the west.

After dark, the five Nazgul attacked their camp. Frodo succumbed to the temptation to put on the Ring. He could see the Nazgul in their Wraith-forms, and the Nazgul could see Frodo clearly. Two Nazgul stood on the edge of the dell while three including the Witch-king advanced on Frodo.

The Witch-king stabbed Frodo in the shoulder with his Morgul-knife, and a splinter broke off in the wound. Frodo tried to strike the Witch-king with a sword from the Barrow-downs but only ripped his cloak. Frodo also called out to Elbereth - one of the Valar who was said to listen to the cries of those in need. Then Aragorn approached with flaming brands.

The Nazgul retreated from Weathertop. The sliver of the Morgul-knife began moving toward Frodo's heart and would eventually turn him into a Wraith. The Nazgul therefore believed that Frodo would be under their power soon.

The Witch-king was troubled by what had occurred at Weathertop. He had been shaken by his confrontation with Gandalf and he feared Aragorn. But he was also concerned that the Ring-bearer had resisted him even though he was not a person of great power. He feared that Frodo was in league with the High Elves because he invoked the name of Elbereth.

The Witch-king also recognized that Frodo's sword from the Barrow-downs had been made by the Dundedain for the war against Angmar. He knew that the blow that had narrowly missed him would have been deadly to him. (In fact at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Merry Brandybuck would use the same kind of sword to deal the Witch-king a mortal blow.)

Because of these concerns, the Witch-king failed to observe the withdrawal of Frodo and his companions from Weathertop and he lost track of the Ring. It was not until later on October 7 that he resumed pursuit. He and the other four Nazgul rode down the Great East Road to the Last Bridge over the Hoarwell.

On October 9, Elrond of Rivendell sent the few Elves who were capable of facing the Nazgul out to find the Ring-bearer. Among the searchers was Glorfindel, who was one of the High Elves. Glorfindel found three Nazgul including Khamul at the Last Bridge on October 11 and he drove them off westward. Glorfindel left a green stone on the Last Bridge indicating it was now safe to cross.

Glorfindel then encountered the Witch-king and one other Nazgul coming east on the Road. The Witch-king could not confront Glorfindel in the daylight with only one companion, so the two Nazgul fled southward.

Aragorn and the Hobbits crossed the Last Bridge on October 13. The five Nazgul chased by Glorfindel reassembled on October 14 and resumed their pursuit. The Witch-king and Khamul sensed that the Ring had crossed the bridge but then lost the trail and they spent several days trying to find it again. On October 19, as the five Nazgul approached the Ford of Bruinen, they sensed the Ring nearby.

Nazgul in BruinenOn October 20, the five Nazgul chased Frodo to the Ford. They were joined by the four Nazgul who had pursued Gandalf from Weathertop. The Nazgul could see Frodo and he could see them clearly because of his Morgul-wound. Frodo was mounted on Glorfindel's horse Asfaloth and he made it across the Bruinen but he felt compelled to stop and face the Nazgul, and the Witch-king caused his sword to break.

The Witch-king led Khamul and another Nazgul into the river despite their hatred of moving water because they could not allow the Ring-bearer to escape. But the waters of the Bruinen rose in a flood created by Elrond and Gandalf. The other Nazgul were driven into the river by Glorfindel - who revealed his full power and appeared to glow with a white light - and by Aragorn and the others bearing torches.

The Nazgul were not destroyed but they were temporarily disabled. They lost the robes that gave them shape, and eight of the nine horses were killed. The Witch-king apparently rode the ninth horse back to Mordor, probably arriving there in early December. Help was then sent to the other Nazgul and they returned to Mordor in secret.

The Nazgul were given new mounts to replace their horses. These were terrible winged creatures known as Fell Beasts. Sauron kept the Winged Nazgul east of the Anduin at first. However, on January 9, 3019, an unexplained shadow passed over the Fellowship in Eregion (FotR, p. 299). Some have speculated that this was one of the Winged Nazgul that crossed the river prematurely (HoME VII, p. 365).

According to a timeline published in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, one of the Nazgul met with Grishnakh on the eastern side of the Anduin near Sarn Gebir on January 26. Grishnakh was an Orc from Mordor who had information on the Fellowship's journey.

Grishnakh and a company of Orcs along with a Nazgul attacked the Fellowship on February 23 as they were travelling downriver by boat. Legolas shot and killed the Nazgul's steed with an arrow, but the Nazgul survived. Grishnakh later joined forces with Ugluk of Isengard to attack the Fellowship at Amon Hen and Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took were captured.

Grishnakh met again with one of the Nazgul on February 27. The Nazgul told Grishnakh to pursue Ugluk, who was taking the Hobbits to Isengard. But Grishnakh was killed by the Rohirrim and Merry and Pippin escaped on February 29. That same day, Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee heard the cry of a Winged Nazgul overhead while in the Emyn Muil. It is possible that this was the Nazgul who had been Grishnakh's contact.

On March 2, a Winged Nazgul flew from Mordor over the Dead Marshes and then returned to Mordor. It was seen and heard by Frodo and Sam and their guide Gollum. Sam sensed a change for the worse in Gollum afterwards.

They again felt the presence of a Winged Nazgul - though they could not see it - at dusk on March 4 and after midnight on March 5. Later on March 5, after they reached the Black Gate, Sam saw four Winged Nazgul circling as if searching for something.

A Winged Nazgul was sent by Sauron to investigate what Saruman was up to. This Winged Nazgul passed over Dol Baran around 11:00 on the night of March 5. It was not one of the Nazgul that passed over Frodo and Sam earlier. And although Pippin Took had just spoken to Sauron via the palantir while camping at Dol Baran, this Nazgul was not responding to Pippin's actions because the 600-mile journey from Mordor took about six or seven hours. This Nazgul then flew over Isengard and returned to Mordor.

A second Nazgul was dispatched after Sauron saw Pippin in the palantir. This Nazgul came to Edoras on March 6 and hovered over the roof of Meduseld. Gandalf was there and he advised the Rohirrim to muster their forces at the refuge of Dunharrow to avoid detection.

On March 9, a Winged Nazgul flew over Minas Tirith. Pippin and Beregond sensed it and heard its terrible cry.

March 10 was the Dawnless Day. Sauron sent out a Darkness that covered the sky, in part to enhance the powers of the Nazgul. In the early evening, five Winged Nazgul pursued Faramir and his men across the Pelennor Fields. Gandalf rode out to confront them and shot a bolt of white light at one of them and the Nazgul withdrew.

Also on the evening of March 10, the Witch-king led a great army from Minas Morgul with the purpose of attacking Minas Tirith. He rode a horse and wore a helm like a crown on his head. His departure was observed by Frodo and Sam. The Witch-king seemed to sense something and Frodo was tempted to put on the Ring but he resisted and the Witch-king rode on.

The Witch-king led the Morgul-host to Osgiliath and won the crossing of the Anduin on March 12. As the commander of Sauron's forces, the Witch-king's power was increased, and he evoked terror in his opponents. Faramir, the leader of the resistance, was forced to retreat to the Causeway Forts on the Rammas Echor encircling the Pelennor Fields. His forces were outnumbered ten to one.

On March 13, the Witch-king's forces breached the Rammas Echor and overran the Pelennor Fields. The Witch-king sent Winged Nazgul to attack Faramir's men as they retreated. Faramir was struck by an arrow and was also overcome by the Black Breath of the Nazgul. Gandalf once again drove off the Winged Nazgul while Prince Imrahil and the Knights of Dol Amroth rescued Faramir.

Also on March 13, Shagrat of the Tower of Cirith Ungol received word from Minas Morgul that the Nazgul feared spies were trying to enter Mordor. An Orc named Gorbag from Minas Morgul had been sent out on patrol earlier. Shagrat and Gorbag captured Frodo.

Sam rescued Frodo early on March 15 and as they escaped, a Winged Nazgul descended on the Tower of Cirith Ungol. The Nazgul flew overhead for a time but did not find the Hobbits.

Winged NazgulThe Witch-king's forces besieged Minas Tirith. The Winged Nazgul circled the City, causing fear and despair in its inhabitants. At dawn on March 15, the battering ram Grond was brought to the Gate of Minas Tirith. The Witch-king cried words of terror and power in an ancient tongue and Grond broke down the Gate.

The Witch-king was confronted at the Gate by Gandalf. But at that time the Rohirrim arrived and the Witch-king withdrew from the Gate to meet their assault. He mounted a Fell Beast and descended onto the field wielding a black mace. He pierced King Theoden's horse Snowmane with a dart and the King was crushed beneath his steed and later died.

Eowyn, the King's niece, confronted the Witch-king aided by Merry Brandybuck. Merry used his sword - which had been made by the Dunedain for their war against Angmar - to pierce the sinew of the Witch-king's knee, breaking the spell that held his form together.

Eowyn then thrust her sword into the space between the Witch-king's crown and shoulders, and his spirit dissipated into the air. Thus the words spoken by Glorfindel after the Battle of Fornost came to pass, and the Witch-king met his doom at the hands of a woman and a Hobbit.

One of the Winged Nazgul flew back to Mordor with the news of the Witch-king's demise. Frodo and Sam saw it pass overhead, uttering a cry of dismay. As Frodo and Sam approached Mount Doom, the Nazgul were occupied with following armies of Gondor and Rohan that were marching to the Black Gate.

On March 25, the eight Winged Nazgul circled overhead at the Battle of the Morannon. The Great Eagles tried to attack the Nazgul, but then Frodo claimed the Ring for himself at Mount Doom and Sauron sent the Nazgul to stop him. But Gollum bit the Ring from Frodo's hand and fell into the Cracks of Doom and the Ring was destroyed. Mount Doom erupted and the eight Nazgul were consumed in the flames. When the One Ring was destroyed, the Nine Rings lost their power and the Nazgul were never able to arise again.


Sauron is said to be in possession of the Nine Rings in The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 61 and 382; Unfinished Tales, p. 338 and 343; and Letter #246. However, in The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 263, it says "The Nine the Nazgul keep."

Important Dates:

Second Age:

The Nine Rings are made.

c. 1600
Sauron makes the One Ring to rule the others.

Sauron takes the Nine Rings.

The Nine Nazgul first appear.

The War of the Last Alliance begins.

Sauron is overthrown and the One Ring is taken by Isildur. The Nazgul go into the shadows.

Third Age:

c. 1050
Sauron returns in secret and establishes a stronghold at Dol Guldur.

The Nazgul reappear. The Lord of the Nazgul establishes the realm of Angmar in the north and becomes known as the Witch-king of Angmar.

Angmar and Rhudaur wage war on Arthedain. King Argeleb I of Arthedain is killed.

The Witch-king sends a great host forth from Angmar. Cardolan is occupied though some resistance remains. Rhudaur is overrun by evil subjects of Angmar. King Arveleg I of Arthedain is killed and the Tower of Amon Sul is destroyed. Elves come to the aid of the Dunedain and prevent the Witch-king from overrunning all of Arnor.

The Great Plague comes to Eriador. The Witch-king sends evil spirits to occupy the Barrow-downs.

The other eight Nazgul may have returned to Mordor at this time.

The Witch-king invades Arthedain and captures Fornost. The North-kingdom of Arnor is ended.

The Witch-king's forces are defeated at the Battle of Fornost by the Dunedain of the North, Men of Gondor, and Elves of Lindon and Rivendell. The Witch-king vanishes from the north. Glorfindel speaks a prophecy concerning his doom.

The Witch-king returns to Mordor and gathers the other eight Nazgul to him.

The Nazgul besiege Minas Ithil.

The Nazgul capture Minas Ithil. It becomes their stronghold and is renamed Minas Morgul.

The Witch-king challenges Earnur to single-combat but is refused.

The Witch-king renews his challenge and Earnur accepts. Earnur is never seen again. From this time the Stewards rule Gondor in the absence of a King.

Gandalf investigates Dol Guldur and Sauron goes into hiding. The Watchful Peace begins and the Nazgul remain quiet in Minas Morgul.

Sauron returns to Dol Guldur and the Watchful Peace ends.

Black Uruks invade Ithilien and take Osgiliath. They are driven back by Boromir, son of Denethor I.

Sauron returns in secret to Mordor.

Sauron declares himself openly and begins to build his power in Mordor.

Sauron gains information from Gollum about the One Ring.


June 20: The Witch-king leads the assault on Osgiliath. Khamul may have led an attack on Mirkwood to aid Gollum's escape.

July 1: The Witch-king leads the Nazgul of Minas Morgul across the Anduin in secret.

July 17: The Nazgul receive clothing and horses at Sarn Gebir.

July 22: The Witch-king meets Khamul in the Field of Celebrant. He learns that no place called "the Shire" has been found in the Vales of the Anduin. The Witch-king decides to continue searching along the Anduin but they find nothing.

September: The Nazgul return south and receive word from Sauron to proceed to Isengard.

September 18: The Nazgul cross the Fords of Isen.

September 22: The Nazgul drive away the Rangers guarding Sarn Ford.

September 23: Four Nazgul including the Witch-king pursue the Rangers and then patrol the roads while the Witch-king goes to the Barrow-downs to rouse the Barrow-wights. The other five including Khamul enter the Shire. Khamul goes to Hobbiton and speaks to Gaffer Gamgee.

September 24: Khamul pursues Frodo down the Stock Road.

September 25: Khamul visits Farmer Maggot and sees the Hobbits cross the Brandywine River.

September 26: Khamul sends one Nazgul to guard the Brandywine Bridge. He sends two others east along the Road. These two enter Bree and ask about Baggins at the Prancing Pony. Khamul and his companion enter Buckland. The Hobbits secretly leave Buckland and enter the Old Forest. Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took are trapped by Old Man Willow but are rescued by Tom Bombadil.

September 27: The Witch-king leaves the Barrow-downs. He meets the two Nazgul from Bree and hears their report on the Ring-bearer. He sends three Nazgul across country to Weathertop and back while he and two others patrol the Greenway.

September 28: Frodo Baggins is captured by a Barrow-wight but escapes with the help of Tom Bombadil. Khamul finds Crickhollow and sends his companion to fetch the Nazgul guarding the Brandywine Bridge.

September 29: Khamul and two Nazgul assemble at Crickhollow. The three Nazgul who had been sent to Weathertop return and come to Bree. Bill Ferny and the squint-eyed Southerner see Frodo vanish into thin air at the Prancing Pony and report to the Nazgul. One Nazgul is sent to report to the Witch-king while the other two encounter Merry Brandybuck who is overcome by Black Breath.

September 30: Khamul and two Nazgul attack Crickhollow. The Prancing Pony is also attacked but Aragorn keeps Frodo safe. The Nine Nazgul then assemble at Andrath. Four Nazgul go east to Weathertop and four plus the Witch-king go south. Gandalf arrives in Bree.

October 1: The Witch-king and four Nazgul storm through Bree after midnight. Gandalf pursues them.

October 2: The four Nazgul who were sent ahead gather at Weathertop. Three continue eastward and one stays at Weathertop.

October 3-4: The Nazgul fight with Gandalf on Weathertop. He escapes and leads four of them away.

October 6: The Witch-king and four Nazgul attack Frodo and his companions on Weathertop. The Witch-king stabs Frodo and the tip of his Morgul-knife is lodged in Frodo's shoulder.

October 7: The Witch-king resumes pursuit of the Ring-bearer.

October 9: Glorfindel and other Elves set out from Rivendell to find the Ring-bearer.

October 11: Glorfindel drives three Nazgul including Khamul from the Last Bridge and then encounters the Witch-king and one other.

October 13: Aragorn and the Hobbits cross the Last Bridge.

October 14: The five Nazgul reassemble and resume their pursuit.

October 19: The five Nazgul sense the Ring nearby.

October 20: The five Nazgul pursue Frodo to the Ford of Bruinen and are joined by the other four. All Nine are swept away by a flood created by Elrond and Gandalf. Eight of their horses are killed. The Witch-king rides the ninth back to Mordor.

Early December: The Witch-king arrives in Mordor. Help is sent to the other eight Nazgul.

December 25: The Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell.


January 9: A shadow passes over the Fellowship. Some have speculated that it was one of the Winged Nazgul.

January 26: One of the Nazgul receives a report from Grishnakh near Sarn Gebir about the journey of the Fellowship.

February 23: Legolas shoots and kills a Fell Beast but the Nazgul survives.

February 27: A Nazgul meets with Grishnakh and orders him to pursue Ugluk and Merry and Pippin.

February 29: Grishnakh is killed and Merry and Pippin escape. Frodo and Sam hear the cry of a Winged Nazgul overhead in the Emyn Muil.

March 2: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum see a Winged Nazgul from Mordor fly over the Dead Marshes and then return to Mordor.

March 4: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum feel a Winged Nazgul pass overhead at dusk.

March 5: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum feel a Winged Nazgul passing overhead again after midnight. Later at the Black Gate, Sam sees four Winged Nazgul circling. A Winged Nazgul flies over Dol Baran around 11:00 p.m. and then on to Isengard and then back to Barad-dur.

March 6: Another Winged Nazgul comes to Edoras. Gandalf advises the Rohirrim to muster at Dunharrow.

March 9: Pippin and Beregond sense a Winged Nazgul flying over Minas Tirith.

March 10: The Dawnless Day. Five Winged Nazgul chase Faramir but are driven away by Gandalf. The Witch-king leads the Morgul-host from Minas Morgul.

March 11: The cries of the Nazgul are heard over Minas Tirith but they are not seen.

March 12: The Morgul-host wins the passage of the Anduin and Faramir retreats to the Causeway Forts.

March 13: The Morgul-host overruns the Pelennor. Shagrat receives word that the Nazgul fear intruders. Frodo is captured and taken to the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

March 14: The Morgul-host lays siege to Minas Tirith.

March 15: Frodo and Sam escape and a Winged Nazgul descends on the Tower of Cirith Ungol. The Witch-king is confronted by Gandalf at the Gate of Minas Tirith. The Rohirrim arrive at dawn and the Witch-king departs to the battlefield. Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The Witch-king is vanquished by Eowyn and Merry Brandybuck. Frodo and Sam see a Winged Nazgul flying to Barad-dur with the news of the Witch-king's defeat.

March 18: Aragorn leads sets out with an army for Mordor. The Winged Nazgul monitor their approach.

March 25: The Winged Nazgul circle overhead during the Battle of the Morannon. Frodo claims the Ring and Sauron sends the Nazgul racing to Mount Doom. The One Ring is destroyed and Sauron is defeated. The eight remaining Nazgul are consumed by the fires of Mount Doom. The Nine Rings lose their power.

Names & Etymology:

The word Nazgûl is Black Speech meaning "Ringwraith" from nazg meaning "ring" and gûl meaning "wraith."

The Nazgul were known as the Ringwraiths because they were Wraiths enthralled to the One Ring through their Nine Rings.

The Quenya name for the Nazgul was Úlari. The origin of the word is unclear.

Black Riders
The Nazgul were called Black Riders because of their black robes and horses. They were also called the Nine Riders, the Nine Servants, and simply the Nine.

Winged Nazgûl
When the Nazgul rode the flying steeds known as Fell Beasts they were called Winged Nazgul. They were also called Black Wings, the Winged Messenger, Wraiths on wings, Fell Riders of the air, and Black Riders of the air.

Witch-king of Angmar
The Lord of the Nazgul was known by this title after he established the realm of Angmar around 1300 of the Third Age.

The Names of the Nine Nazgul
Khamûl is the only one of the Nazgul whose personal name is given by Tolkien (UT, p. 352 note 1). The names of the other eight Nazgul are not known.

The following names for the other eight Nazgul were created for a role-playing game by Iron Crown Enterprises: Murazor (the Lord of the Nazgul), Dwar, Ji Indur, Akhorahil, Hoarmurath, Adunaphel, Ren, and Uvatha. However, these names do not appear anywhere in Tolkien's works.


The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Shadow of the Past," p. 60-61; "Three Is Company," p. 78, 83-94; "A Short Cut to Mushrooms," passim; "A Conspiracy Unmasked," p. 109, 112-13, 117-18; "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony," p. 164, 172; "Strider," p. 176-77, 180-81, 185-86; "A Knife in the Dark," p. 188-89, 200-2, 206-8; "Flight to the Ford," passim; "Many Meetings," p. 231-36; "The Council of Elrond," p. 254-55, 258-59, 263, 269-78, 280; "The Ring Goes South," p. 285-92, 299; "A Journey in the Dark," p. 308; "The Great River, p. 403

The Two Towers: "The Riders of Rohan," p. 39; "The Uruk-hai," p. 49, 55; "The White Rider," p. 101; "The Palantir," p. 201, 204-5; "The Taming of Smeagol," p. 213; "The Passage of the Marshes," p. 236-37; 242-43; The Black Gate Is Closed," p. 253; "The Forbidden Pool," p. 301-2; "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol," p. 314-16; "The Choices of Master Samwise," p. 347-48

The Return of the King: "Minas Tirith," p. 19, 38; "The Muster of Rohan," p. 66; "The Siege of Gondor," p. 82-83, 89-97, 101-3; "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 115-20; "The Black Gate Opens," p. 168; "The Tower of Cirith Ungol," p. 192; "The Land of Shadow," p. 193-94, 196; "Mount Doom," p. 215, 223, 224; "The Field of Cormallen," p. 226

Appendix A of The Lord of the Ring: "The North-kingdom and the Dunedain," p. 320-22; "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion," p. 331-33; "The Stewards," p. 333

Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," passim

Unfinished Tales: "The Hunt for the Ring," passim

The Silmarillion: "Akallabeth," p. 267; "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 289, 296-97, 299-300, 302-3

The History of Middle-earth, vol. VII, The Treason of Isengard: "The Great River," p. 365 note 8

The History of Middle-earth, vol. VIII, The War of the Ring: "The Passage of the Marshes," p. 119-20

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letters #156, #210, #212, #246, #297

"Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings," entry for Ring-wraiths

The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull: "Three Is Company," p. 97-99; "A Conspiracy Unmasked," p. 116; "Fog on the Barrow-downs," p. 145; "A Knife in the Dark," p. 164-68, 179-81; "Flight to the Ford," p. 194-96; "The Council of Elrond," p. 241-43; "The Ring Goes South," p. 262-63, 271; "The Great River," p. 346; "The Departure of Boromir," p. 360-61; "The Uruk-hai," p. 378-79; "The Taming of Smeagol," p. 444; "The Passage of the Marshes," p. 454-56; "Minas Tirith," p. 508-9; "The Siege of Gondor," p. 546, 552; "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 562-64; "The Land of Shadow," p. 606

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