In Hollin, after attempting to traverse the Misty Mountains via the pass of Caradhras, the Fellowship is attacked during the night by a pack of wargs. The Fellowship defeats them. Here is what is described of the aftermath:

When the full light of the morning came no signs of the wolves were to be found, and they looked in vain for the bodies of the dead. No trace of the fight remained but the charred trees and the arrows of Legolas lying on the hill-top. All were undamaged save one of which only the point was left.

How is it possible that the bodies disappeared? If they had been carried by other wargs, Legolas would obviously not have recovered his arrows, still in the bodies. The bodies weren't consumed by Gandalf's magic, otherwise the arrows would have burnt too.

The only explanation therefore is that the bodies simply vanished. However, it would be a very strange event to happen to bodies of simple “animals”.

Gandalf says this following this description:

'It is as I feared,' said Gandalf. 'These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness.

Does Gandalf say that these weren't normal wargs (which might explain the vanishing of their bodies)? Or that they were but weren't looking for food? Or that they were wargs and not wolves which would be different species?

What happened to the bodies of the wargs?


3 Answers 3


They were probably inhabited by evil spirits

I want to acknowledge that this answer draws liberally from the answer by Rand al'Thor to one of the linked questions, and the answer by user8719 to another linked question.

Wargs, wolves and werewolves

The August 1967 draft of a reply to "Mr. Rang" includes a note on the origin of the word "warg" that identifies them as "an evil breed of (demonic) wolves"

The word Warg used in The Hobbit and the L.R. for an evil breed of (demonic) wolves is not supposed to be A-S specifically, and is given prim. Germanic form as representing the noun common to the Northmen of these creatures.

The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Letter 297

In The Hobbit, Tolkien tells us that "Wargs" is a name of "evil wolves". As the book is aimed at children, this may be a simplified explanation.

But even the wild Wargs (for so the evil wolves over the Edge of the Wild were named) cannot climb trees.

The Hobbit Chapter 6: Out of the Frying-pan into the Fire

In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf implies that wargs and werewolves are different creatures.

‘Because these horses are born and bred to the service of the Dark Lord in Mordor. 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.’

The Lord of the Rings Book 2, Chapter 1: Many Meetings

The term "werewolf" does not appear in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, (except the quote shown above) but it does appear in The Silmarillion where they are associated with Sauron and their Sindarin name is given as "gaurhoth":

Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment. He took Minas Tirith by assault, for a dark cloud of fear fell upon those that defended it; and Orodreth was driven out, and fled to Nargothrond. Then Sauron made it into a watchtower for Morgoth, a stronghold of evil, and a menace; and the fair isle of Tol Sirion became accursed, and it was called Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves.

The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 18: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

Later in The Silmarillion, werewolves are described as being "fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits" that Sauron "had imprisoned in their bodies"

Therefore an army was sent against him under the command of Sauron; and Sauron brought werewolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies.

The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 19: Of Beren and Lúthien

Tolkien (as narrator) identifies the creatures that attack the Fellowship in Hollin as "Wargs"

A great host of Wargs had gathered silently and was now attacking them from every side at once.

The Lord of the Rings Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark

Gandalf appears to identify them as "gaurhoth". First, he refers to their captain as "Hound of Sauron"

Gandalf stood up and strode forward, holding his staff aloft. ‘Listen, Hound of Sauron!’ he cried.

The Lord of the Rings Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark

Secondly, the spell he uses against them mentions "gaurhoth"

Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!

The Lord of the Rings Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark

How do these terms relate to each other

  • I see no reason to assume that "wolf" refers to anything other than the ordinary wolf that is found in the wild today.
  • The "gaurhoth" or "werewolves" of the First Age presumably are ordinary wolves that Sauron caused to be inhabited by "dreadful spirits".
  • The "Wargs" that attack the Fellowship are identified by Gandalf as "gaurhoth". However, Gandalf has also implied that wargs and werewolves are different. This suggests that wargs and gaurhoth are different but related in some way.

So why did the bodies of the Wargs disappear

I don't think that simply identifying Wargs as werewolves (as the term is used in popular culture) explains the dissapearance. Disappearing is not one of the features of a werewolf.

I think a reasonable in-universe explanation is that Third Age Wargs are descended from First Age gaurhoth. Out of universe, it is possible that Tolkien changed his mind about the names. In that case, Wargs are probably also inhabited by dreadful spirits and that is what allows them to disappear.

  • Great answer that required a lot of bread crumbs :)
    – Tjafaas
    Dec 9, 2016 at 16:51
  • That's a damn impressive answer! I will award the bounty once I can, assuming no one answers something better in the meantime, which I doubt.
    – Fatalize
    Dec 9, 2016 at 21:15

What Tolkien calls "werewolves" = gaurhoth = Wargs, but instead of what we call werewolves (human beings who change into wolf shapes), these had to be illusory wolf shapes formed and assumed by some kind of demons. Wounds that would be lethal to a real wolf evidently could break the demon's control over the shape ("the leaping shape thudded to the ground; the Elvish arrow had pierced its throat"), but did not dissolve the shape itself. The sunlight must have done that, just as sunlight dissolved the Morgul-knife. When they dissolved, the arrows lodged in them were left (only the point of the one that had caught fire).

  • Do you have a source for this. I distinctly recall the Morgul-blade dissolving as soon as Frodo was stabbed. Interesting theory none the less.
    – Edlothiad
    Dec 17, 2017 at 7:27
  • @Edlothiad - I'm not Jerome S Colburn, but it's from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 12, Flight to the Ford: "Dawn was growing in the sky, and the dell was filling with grey light, when Strider at last returned. ... He stooped again and lifted up a long thin knife. There was a cold gleam in it. As Strider raised it they saw that near the end its edge was notched and the point was broken off. But even as he held it up in the growing light, they gazed in astonishment, for the blade seemed to melt, and vanished like a smoke in the air, leaving only the hilt in Strider’s hand."
    – Lesser son
    Mar 28, 2022 at 20:31

Wargs and werewolves are the same thing in the books, contrary to the film's depiction of wargs in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), where they are depicted as large, fantastical, mangy hyena-esque hounds, but these are strictly non-canonical movie inventions that do not appear in the books.

Because of this, it is safe to assume that they left on their own, and that the fellowship went looking for the bodies on the assumption that they were wolves, until Gandalf reveals his confirmed suspicion that they weren't ordinary wolves, after all, but wargs/werewolves.


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