A Brief History of Wargs


All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl. It was answered by another away to the right and a good deal nearer to them; then by another not far away to the left. It was wolves howling at the moon, wolves gathering together!
-The Hobbit; Ch. 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
Goblins are bad . . . nobody quibbles about that; but goblins plus wolves? That's more than most anybody can handle. Even old Gandalf scrambled up a tree to get away from a pack of these fiendish beasts. Because these aren't just any old, garden-variety wolves . . . these are Wargs, sinister wolves that live in the shadows of the Misty Mountains and have long been allies of the goblins and orcs.

But just what exactly is a warg, anyways? Where did they come from and why--unlike most animals in Middle-Earth--are they servants of the Shadow? Read on past the break to find out!

As with most things in Middle-earth, the history of the Wargs is largely a mystery . . . evil creatures like orcs, trolls and wargs don't exactly keep detailed journals; however, there are a few things we can glean from sources like the Silmarillion and elsewhere.

Many of the evil creatures that infest Middle-earth in the Third Age are descended even fouler beasts that plagued the Elves during the First Age. For example, the Great Spiders in Mirkwood (and even Shelob in Mordor) were descended from the massive monster Ungoliant, who for a short time aided Sauron's master Morgoth. It's possible that just like the Mirkwood spiders, the Wargs of the Misty Mountains have their roots way back in the First Age.
Tol-in-Gaurhoth by Htogrom

During the long war between the High Elves and Morgoth, Sauron (when he was still just a lieutenant) capture the elven fortress Minas Tirith (no, not that Minas Tirith) on the isle of Tol Sirion. After the fortress' defenders were destroyed, Sauron made Tol Sirion his new base of operations and renamed the island Tol-in-Gaurhoth or Isle of Werewolves. And it was a fitting name, because not only could Sauron assume the form of a great wolf, but his fortress became the den of many werewolves. Now, generally when we think of werewolves we imagine creatures that are half-man, half-wolf in shape . . . but the Old English word "wir" (which is where our word "were" comes from) just means "man", so it's possible that Sauron's werewolves were actually just vicious wolves that could think and speak like a man.

A "vampire" and "werewolf" by Ted Nasmith
After the fall of Morgoth, the werewolves and the warg descendants would have scattered across Middle-earth just like the rest of Morgoth's evil creations. Eventually these wargs settled in the Misty Mountains, and have been preying on Men and Elves ever since.

By the end of the Third Age wargs ranged up and down the Misty Mountains, terrorizing lone travelers and often working in concert with orcs and goblins to launch lightning-fast raids on the isolated settlements of Men along the borders of Mirkwood.

Mountain Warg by beastofoblivion
In form, wargs resemble large wolves, though it is unknown just how closely related wargs are to their smaller (distant) relatives. Unlike wolf packs (which usually number no more than twenty individuals), warg packs can be huge. The pack that attacked Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves numbered in the hundreds:
They left guards at the foot of the tree in which Dori and Bilbo were, and then went sniffling about till they had smelt out every tree that had anyone in it. These they guarded too, while all the rest (hundreds and hundreds it seemed) went and sat in a great circle in the glade;
––The Hobbit; Ch. 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
 Just like normal wolves, wargs have a keen sense of smell, which is what allowed the goblins to track Bilbo and his comrades down the slopes of the Misty Mountains. This powerful sense makes escaping from wargs almost impossible.

The size of normal wolf packs is limited by how well the animals can communicate. Wargs, on the other hand, have the advantage of language:
Warg and Goblin Rider by Justin Gerard
. . . in the middle of the circle was a great grey wolf. He spoke to them in the dreadful language of the Wargs. Gandalf understood it. Bilbo did not, but it sounded terrible to him, and as if all their talk was about cruel and wicked things, as it was. Every now and then all the Wargs in the circle would answer their grey chief all together, and their dreadful clamour almost made the hobbit fall out of his pine-tree.
––The Hobbit; Ch. 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
 As dangerous and bloodthirsty as the wargs may seem, they are at their most terrifying when teamed up with their allies, the goblins (or orcs, take you pick). Wargs and goblins will fight side-by-side, and at times the wargs will even permit goblins to ride on their back, creating a potent, fast-moving raiding force that can over as much area as a group of mounted human soldiers.


In summary, the wargs are a deadly threat to Bilbo, Thorin and the other dwarves . . . one that will harry them all the way to the Lonely Mountain.

5 comments:

  1. I have a soft spot in my heart for wargs after playing LOTRO. Nothing like stalking people all across the Ettenmoors. I love the scary black furred, glowing eyed creatures in the scroll. They look more dreadful than normal wolves, but not the ugly hyenas of before. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but they talk about wargs hunting the group in the new Empire article. Scans can be found here:

    http://s574.photobucket.com/albums/ss190/lotr66/magazine%20articles/Empire%20Sept%202012%20Hobbit%20Feature/

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    1. Thanks for the link! I have to admit, I really enjoyed the wargs in TT (though it sounds like I might be the only one in the world . . .) but I am glad to see that TH wargs look a bit more wolf-like.

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    2. I actually grew up with the wargs of Lord of the Rings, and the following games, so I always will prefer them to the new ones, even though they are hyena like and wolf like. Because when you say warg I imagine a hybrid of wolf and beast and that's exactly what the hyena like wargs are. The new ones look too much like direwolfs. I hope at least some of the old ones are in the pack.

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    3. I actually agree with you Valentin . . . I really kinda liked the wargs in TTT; however . . . from what I've seen so far of the Hobbit wargs, I like them even better.

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  2. It is also interesting to note that Gandalf mentions werewolves as servants of Sauron in Third Age:

    ,,Not all his servants and chattels are wraiths! There are orcs and trolls, there are wargs and werewolves; and there have been and still are many Men, warriors and kings, that walk alive under the Sun, and yet are under his sway. And their number is growing daily’" So he distinguishes wargs and werewolves as separate groups hmm.

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