- "In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie."
- ― "Verse of the Rings" - The Fellowship of the Ring
|Other names||Dark Land|
|Location||Within Ered Lithui and Ephel Dúath|
|Major towns||Minas Morgul, Carchost, Narchost, Cirith Ungol, Durthang|
|Regions||Nurn, Gorgoroth, Lithlad, Udûn|
|Population||Orcs, Trolls, Nazgûl|
|Language||Westron, Black Speech, Orkish|
|Established||c. S.A. 1000|
|Nazgûl return||T.A. 1980|
|Sauron returns||T.A. 2941|
Mordor was a land in the south-east of the Westlands east of Gondor. During most of the Second and Third Ages it was ruled by Sauron and it was his dwelling and base from which he attempted to conquer Middle-earth.
Mordor was surrounded by three enormous mountain ridges from the North, from the West and from the South, protecting it from an unexpected invasion by any of the Free Peoples.
For but a few times in history, the Free Peoples had anything to do with Mordor; the Last Alliance broke into the land to fight Sauron, and millennia later Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee infiltrated that land to destroy the One Ring.
Mordor was protected from three sides by mountain ranges, arranged roughly rectangularly: Ered Lithui in the north, and Ephel Dúath in the west until turned to the east, forming a southern range. A narrow pass led through Ephel Dúath and the city of Minas Morgul (earlier Minas Ithil) was guarding that; an even more difficult pass was guarded by the giant spider Shelob and the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Another known fortress was Durthang in northern Ephel Dúath.
In the north-west corner of Mordor the deep valley of Udûn was the only entrance for large armies, and that is where Sauron built the Black Gate of Mordor. In front of the Morannon lay the Dagorlad. Sauron's main fortress Barad-dûr was at the foothills of Ered Lithui. To south-west of Barad-dûr lay the arid Plateau of Gorgoroth and Mount Doom; to the east lay the plain of Lithlad. The land in the western parts of Mordor were largely infertile, producing only sparse brambles.
The southern part of Mordor, Nurn, was slighly more fertile, and moist enough to carry the inland sea of Núrnen. Nurn was made somewhat fertile because the ash blown from Mount Doom left its soil nutrient rich, thus allowing dry-land farming. Unfortunately, the inland sea of Núrn was salty, not freshwater.
Mordor was apparently formed by massive volcanic eruptions. It was given the name Mordor already before Sauron settled there, because of its volcano Orodruin and its eruptions. The first being known to occupy the mountains of Mordor was Shelob, fleeing the War of Wrath in the beginning of the Second Age, and fed herself on Elves and Men living or passing nearby, until these became scarce.
Sauron settled in Mordor around S.A. 1000 and it remained the pivot of his evil contemplations for most of his existence in Middle-earth. In the north-western corner of this land stood Mount Doom or Orodruin, where he had forged the One Ring. Near Orodruin he built his stronghold Barad-dûr. After this time, Sauron was known as the Dark Lord of Mordor.
For two and a half thousand years, Sauron ruled Mordor uninterruptedly. Having being betrayed by the Elves of Eregion, it was from there that he launched the War against them and dominated most of the Westlands in a period known as the Dark Years. That was until he was repelled by the High Men of Númenor and Sauron directed his power over the far south and east of Mordor conquering and dominating the savage tribes of the Easterlings and the Haradrim.
Almost a thousand years later he was captured by the Númenóreans and brought to their island kingdom, eventually causing its destruction. Sauron returned to Mordor as a spirit and resumed his rule.
 The Last Alliance and Third Age
Sauron's rule was interrupted yet again when his efforts to overthrow the surviving Men and Elves failed, and they fought their way back to their foe's domain. After several months of siege in the Battle of Dagorlad, forces of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men came into Mordor. Sauron was defeated in a final battle. For about a thousand years, Mordor was guarded by Gondor in order to prevent any evil forces from breaking out.
However Gondor had failed in the long run as during the Great Plague the population was so diminished that troops were recalled and the fortresses abandoned. Deprived of guard, Mordor began to fill with evil things again. Minas Ithil was conquered by the Nine Ringwraiths in T.A. 2002; other fortifications that were supposed to defend Gondor from the menace inside Mordor were captured and turned into a means of shielding Mordor. Sauron resided in Dol Guldur, until the White Council attacked it in T.A. 2941, forcing Sauron to return to Mordor, where he finished reconstructing his Dark Tower. By that time Mordor was protected too well to be captured by any military might that was available to the Free Peoples; in the north of Mordor during the War of the Ring were the great garrisons and forges of war, while surrounding the bitter inland Sea of Núrnen to the south lay the vast fields tended for the provision of the armies by hordes of slaves brought in from lands to the east and south.
 War of the Ring
During the War of the Ring, Sauron gathered all his forces to Mordor. After the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a Host of the West went to the Black Gate. Sauron sent his army to destroy the Men of Gondor and Rohan, but then Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring and Mordor fell. The Dark Tower, the Black Gate and the Towers of Teeth collapsed to ruin. Mount Doom exploded. Both Sauron and his Ringwraiths were apparently destroyed.
After the ultimate defeat of Sauron, Mordor became mostly empty again as the Orcs inside it fled or were killed. Crippled by thousands of years of abuse and neglect, but capable of sustaining life, the land of Mordor was given to the defeated foes of Gondor as a consolation, as well as to the freed slaves of Nurn who were formerly forced to farm there to feed the armies of Mordor.
The term Mordor translates to "The Black Land" or "The Dark Land" in Sindarin. mor = "dark, black", dôr = "land" (The Silmarillion, Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names). Mordor is also coincidentally Quenya for "shadows" (plural), though the direct calque of Sindarin Mordor was Morinórë or Morinor, a name also used for the Dark Land.
It is not uncommon for names in Tolkien's fiction to have relevant meanings in several languages, both those invented by Tolkien, and "real" ones, but this of course happens with any two languages.
- A proposed etymology is Old English morðor, which means "mortal sin" and later "murder".
- Mordor is also a name cited in some Nordic mythologies referring to a land where its citizens practice evil without knowing it, imposed on themselves by the society long created for that purpose.
In The Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad assumed that the lands of Mordor, Khand, and Rhûn lay where the inland Sea of Helcar had been, and that the Sea of Rhûn and Sea of Núrnen were its remnants. The atlas was however published before The Peoples of Middle-earth, where it turned out that the Sea of Rhûn and Mordor existed already in the First Age.
The close proximity of Mount Doom and Barad-dûr in The Lord of the Rings (film series) is non-canonical.
 See also
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Realms in Exile", "The Southern Line: Heirs of Anarion"
- ↑ Clyde S. Kilby, Dick Plotz (1968), "Many Meetings with Tolkien: An Edited Transcript of Remarks at the December 1966 TSA Meeting", Niekas (Niekas Publications, New Hampshire, USA) (19): 39–40 Referred to at tolkienguide.com and by another publication of the Niekas editor. Referred to at tolkienguide.com and by another publication of the Niekas editor.