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When Gandalf describes his titanic battle with the Balrog of Moria, Durin's Bane, he mentions encountering ancient creatures that gnaw at the earth, older than Sauron:

Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he.

What are they? Primordial spirits possibly from the same realm Ungoliant is thought to have come from?

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We don't know

Gandalf's very next line is (emphasis mine):

Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.

The Two Towers Book III Chapter 5: "The White Rider"

And that's all Tolkien has to say about that.

In his blog, noted Tolkien fan Michael Martinez engages in a little speculation on the subject, but there's not a lot he can say; he suggests three possible explanations:

  1. Aboriginal spirits (that is, spirits created by Ilúvatar to inhabit Arda extremely early in its creation) like Tom Bombadil
  2. Úmaiar, evil spirits aligned with Morgoth who later went wild
  3. Creatures created by Morgoth before Sauron's rebellion

I'm going to quote Martinez briefly, because he concisely states the only thing we can say definitively about them:

To say that they are older than Sauron implies that they existed in Middle-earth (Arda) before Sauron arrived.

"Valaquenta" seems to imply that the Maiar did not join the Valar until after the Valar began shaping Arda; Manwë called upon them to help drive Melkor off into other regions of the universe. But Arda was at this time still in a very fiery state. It seems unlikely to me there was anything living there. Tom Bombadil and other "aborigines" of Arda must have been created by Ilúvatar after Arda had cooled and become a habitable place. This would explain why Bombadil thought of Melkor as coming "from the outside".

"What Are the Nameless Things?" Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog by Michael Martinez

But we don't know anything definitively.

  • 2
    Itd be awesome if more was known about them,they'd have a epic tale of their own. – turinsbane Aug 29 '15 at 17:20
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    @turinsbane Some ambiguity is good. Learning about the nameless things would be like learning whether it was a lady or a tiger. – Rogue Jedi Aug 30 '15 at 2:06
  • I'd kind of like to know if it was the lady or the tiger, though. – tbrookside Oct 18 '18 at 21:01
-2

In The Hobbit, Bilbo says

Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.
from The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party chapter"

We don't know if these Were-worms could be related to the subterranean horrors that Gandalf encounters under Moria, but it is possibly the closest reference that we have.

In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies movie, they are depicted as giant worms not very different from the Sandworms from Frank Herbert's Dune, but this is a fictional depiction without any basis on Tolkien writings.

enter image description here

  • I don't see how these two things could possibly relate at all? Especially given these Wyrms were around before the conception of the idea of the Lord of the Rings. – Edlothiad Dec 19 '17 at 22:09
  • 1
    This is just pure speculation by me, the depiction of these creatures from the movie seems to borrow from both the quote from Gandalf and the one from Bilbo. Granted, it is a very feeble tie, but maybe it can offer a possible way to a personal interpretation. – Sekhemty Dec 19 '17 at 22:18

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