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Wraiths was a name for people having been transformed into undead beings.[1] The realm of the wraiths was called the Wraith-world.[2]



In the Elder Days, the wraith of Gorlim appeared in a dream of Beren.[3]

In the Second Age, the Men of the White Mountains broke their oath to Isildur. This crime combined by Isildur's curse turned the Oathbreakers into shades who haunted the mountains[4], until Aragorn II, in the capacity of the Heir of Isildur, released them.[5]

In the Third Age, it was rumoured that the wraith of Helm Hammerhand haunted the enemies of Rohan, killing those who felt fear.[6]

The most famous of the wraiths were the Ringwraiths, Men ensnared by Sauron's Nine Rings.[7] Some of the victims of the Ringwraiths, too, could be transformed into wraiths, albeit lesser and under their command (although no such being is known to have existed).[2] This nearly happened to Frodo Baggins, after having been stabbed by the Morgul blade of the Witch-king.[1]

Etymology and Names

In the Legendarium

The Black Speech/Sindarin word gûl was translated as "wraith(s)" in the Red Book of Westmarch.[7][8][9]


Wraith is a Scottish word meaning "ghost" (of uncertain origin; possibly from Gaelic, Irish arrach "specter, apparition").[10][11]

Other versions of the legendarium

In a draft for The Lord of the Rings Appendices, the Paths of the Dead were said to have been guarded by the "fell wraiths of the Forgotten Men".[12]

In another draft it is said that the Rings of Power transformed their bearers into wraiths, thus creating elf-, goblin-, men-, or dwarf-wraiths.[13]

Portrayal in Adaptations

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

The wraith Gaurithoth, an undead Númenórean lieutenant, serves the Witch-king and haunts a burial mound near the Blue Mountains.[14]

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

Wraiths are the most common of the three type of ghosts (the other being phantoms and wights). The wraith is without a physical, tangible form, and consists only of the soul of a person wishing to fulfil an evil goal after his or her death.[15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Muster of Rohan"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Last Debate"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, passim
  8. 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. 11
  9. Helge Fauskanger, "Orkish and the Black Speech: Base Language for Base Purposes" at Ardalambion (accessed 27 December 2010)
  10. Douglas Harper, "wraith" at Online Etymology Dictionary (accessed 26 December 2010)
  11. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, p. 223
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Making of Appendix A": (ii) "The Tale of Aragorn an Arwen", p. 267
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: III. Of Gollum and the Ring", p. 78
  14. Jessica Ney (ed.; 1990), Angus McBride's Characters of Middle-earth (#8007), pp. 38-39
  15. Scott Bennie, Mike Mearls, Steve Miller, Aaron Rosenberg, Chris Seeman, Owen Seyler, and George Strayton (2003), Fell Beasts and Wondrous Magic, pp. 25-27