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Artwork by Angus McBride

Giants were one of the mysterious races of Middle-earth, mentioned only fleetingly.



Giants are beings shrouded in mystery. Gandalf the Grey was known for telling stories about dragons and goblins and giants[1] and Bilbo had heard of them giants in tales,[2] but none of these tales survive and the origin and history of the giants is obscure. Presumably, not all giants were evil, as Gandalf seems to have convinced a more or less decent giant to block the entrance to Goblin-town at the top of the High Pass in the Misty Mountains.[3][4]

However, what is known is that stone-giants lived in the Misty Mountains during the late Third Age. Upon coming, they drove out the majority of the bears that lived there.[5] They found a sport in throwing rocks at each other, and then into the depths below them to hear them shatter trees.[6]

A local legend among the indigenous people of Gondor told of giants making the White Mountains, to keep Men out of their lands by the Sea. One of them, Stiff-neck or Tarlang, tripped, and broke his neck. The other giants did not clean up his body, which became incorporated in the land instead. The giant's neck became Tarlang's Neck, his head Dol Tarlang, and the stones he was carrying Cûl Veleg and Cûl Bîn.[7]


An early root for "giant" is given as NOROTH. This yields Quenya norsa,[8] and Noroth (likely supposed to be a Noldorin word[9] A discarded Quenya word was hanako, from a root KHAN-AK.[10]

Other versions of the Legendarium

Before The Hobbit

Giants originally had a larger part in the legendarium. In one early manuscript, the giants are counted among the Úvanimor, servants of Melko.[11] In another manuscript, the giants are counted among the Earthlings, and are divided between the "wood-giants" (Qenya ulbandi) and "mountainous-giants" (Qenya taulir).[12] And in other early writings, two giants are named: Nan and Gilim.[13][14] Gilim is Gnomish for "winter", and Nan was said to be like an Elm-tree.

It is quite possible that their appearance in The Hobbit is a relic from this early phase of the legendarium. John D. Rateliff has argued that they might have become "free agents"; not wicked, but simply not aware of their surroundings.[4]

Giants and Ents

Giants were the wicked precursors of Ents. The elm-like features of the Giant Nan, and that in early versions of The Lord of the Rings it was the Giant Treebeard who held Gandalf captive, not Saruman,[15] makes the connection between Giants and Ents within J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination clear.[4] "Ent" comes from an Old English word for "giant",[16] seen at various points in Beowulf, for example line 2717, enta geweorc, "the work of giants".[17]


In the Return of the King it is noted that Minas Tirith "seemed to have been not builded but carven by giants out of the bones of the earth".[18] Hammond and Scull have suggested that this notion derives from Old English mythology, in which giants were often portrayed as builders of ancient structures.[19]

Other Fiction

A giant troubles Farmer Giles' land, who chases him off with his blunderbuss.[20]

Portrayal in adaptations

1982: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Several divisions and races of giants are described and given statistics, such as Stone Giants[21], Ice Giants[22], Giants of the Southern Misty Mountains[23], and Red Giants[24].
Thunder's Companion by Nicholas Jainschigg for MECCG

1989: The Hobbit (graphic novel):

Giants are displayed as bearded gigantic men with regular leather attire.

1995: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Giants, called Thunder's Companions, are one of the Hazard Creatures.

2003: Sierra's The Hobbit:

Stone-giants are golem-like creatures that appear in the fourth level, hurling rocks at Bilbo as he tries to travel along a mountain path. They are completely made of stone, and their stones are dangerous.[25]

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

"Mountain Giants" are large and powerful beings in the Goblin faction, with brown scaly skin. They can hurl stones at great distance, and serve as the faction's artillery units.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Several tribes of giants appear in the game, including Stone-giants, Ogres (also called Jorthkyn or Earth-kin), and Ice-giants. While some are enemy creatures, others remain neutral and can be befriended by the player.

See Also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Goblins", "(iii): The Giants", pp. 143-5
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  7. 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, pp. 536-7
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies" (cf. Root NOROTH)
  9. Roman Rausch, "Essekenta Endamarwa - Names from The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard and The War of the Ring" dated 23 December 2006, Sindanórie (accessed 8 October 2011)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part One" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 45, November 2003, p. 21
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "Gilfanon's Tale: The Travail of the Noldoli and the Coming of Mankind"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Qenya and The Valmaric Script", in Parma Eldalamberon XIV (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 9
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto V (Lúthien's captivity in Doriath)" (verse 1497)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Tale of Tinúviel"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Third Phase (3): To Weathertop and Rivendell"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford, Note on the Entish Lands"
  17. Howell D. Chickering, Jr., "Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition", pp. 212-3
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith"
  19. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 514
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham
  21. Carl Willner (1985), Goblin-gate and Eagle's Eyrie (#8070)
  22. Randy Maxwell (1997), The Northern Waste (#2025)
  23. Randell E. Doty (1987), Dunland and the Southern Misty Mountains (#3600)
  24. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  25. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Over Hill and Under Hill"
Legendary Races of Arda
 Animals:  Dumbledors · Gorcrows · Hummerhorns · Pards · Swans of Gorbelgod · Turtle-fish
Dragon-kind:  Great glow-worms · Sea-serpents · Spark-dragons · Were-worms
Evil Races:  Giants · Gongs · Half-trolls · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Two-headed Trolls
Fairies:  Dryads · Mermaids · Sprites · Sylphs · White cow
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless Things · Spectres
Individuals:  The Hunter · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim