As the title says, I am interested in the old history of the lands of Mordor. I know a fair amount of its history ever since Sauron took up residence there, but very little from before that point.

Am I right in thinking that Morgoth created the mountain ranges that surround this land? Was Mordor like Utumno or Angband?

Shelob is said to have lived in her lair long before Sauron settled in Mordor. Is there any particular reason why she chose this place in particular? Has she always been in Mordor, did Ungoliant give birth to Shelob there, or did Shelob travel there? (And if so, what brought her to this place?)

Was Mordor at any point, before Sauron settled there, a "normal" place instead of a land associated with darkness and evil creatures?

What is known of Mordor's history prior to Sauron's arrival?

  • I think there might be a reference to Mordor in The Silmarillion. It gives an almost complete history to the Lord of the Rings. Do check out the book for further information . Dec 14, 2016 at 16:33
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    All references to Mordor in the published Silmarillion are from after Sauron's initial settlement; precisely what the OP is not looking for Dec 14, 2016 at 16:38
  • Well, here you go! (sarcasm) Dec 15, 2016 at 9:16
  • I thought the dwarven stuff from the hobbit plays in mordor geographically ? East from the other lands ? or is that another east ? Dec 15, 2016 at 10:20
  • I always thought Mordor was desolate from the start, so there really wouldn't be many people who would want to live there and make history. Dec 20, 2016 at 21:45

5 Answers 5


There is no known history of Mordor before Shelob's arrival. From her introduction in The Two Towers we can imagine there being a time when Elves and Men travelled that way more frequently, suggesting it wasn't always a place of terror and dread, though Sauron moving in rather ruined the neighbourhood:

How Shelob came there, flying from ruin, no tale tells, for out of the Dark Years few tales have come. But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness.


[L]ong now had she been hungry, lurking in her den, while the power of Sauron grew, and light and living things forsook his borders; and the city in the valley was dead, and no Elf or Man came near, only the unhappy Orcs.

The Two Towers Book IV Chapter 9: "Shelob's Lair"

This passage also suggests that Shelob wasn't born there, but came from somewhere else; most likely she came from Nan Dungortheb or the Ered Gorgoroth, where her mother Ungoliant dwelt in the First Age.

That being said, you're likely right that the land was a remnant of Morgoth's destructive influence; though there's no evidence that he specifically shaped the land or raised either the Ephel Dúath or the Ered Lithui, Christopher Tolkien, at least, believes that the volcano was Morgoth's doing:

Orodruin and its eruptions - which were not made by Sauron but were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age.

The History of Middle-earth XII The Peoples of Middle-earth Chapter XIII: "Last Writings" Notes

There is the possibility that people lived in Mordor prior to Sauron taking over; we're told that there are fertile areas around Nurn, suitable for growing crops:

Neither [Sam] nor Frodo knew anything of the great slave-worked fields away south in this wide realm, beyond the fumes of the Mountain by the dark sad waters of Lake Núrnen

Return of the King Book VI Chapter 2: "The Land of Shadow"

If anyone lived in Mordor, presumably they would have lived there; that's a big "if", of course, and we have no evidence that anyone other than Sauron's slaves did live there.

But that's really all we can say; the history of Middle-earth in the First Age is almost exclusively concerned with Beleriand, and we don't get much of a history of the more easterly lands until after the War of Wrath.


I can find no account of how the landscape of Mordor was created, nor of it's history before Sauron. Sauron's arrival there is described in Unfinished Tales.

The building of the chief city of Eregion, Ost-in-Edhil, was begun in about the year 750 of the Second Age [the date that is given in the Tale of Years for the founding of Eregion by the Noldor]. News of these things came to the ears of Sauron, and increased the fears that he felt concerning the coming of the Númenóreans to Lindon and the coasts further south, and their friendship with Gil-galad; and he heard tell also of Aldarion, son of Tar-Meneldur the King of Númenor, now become a great shipbuilder who brought his vessels to haven far down into the Harad. Sauron therefore left Eriador alone for a while, and he chose the land of Mordor, as it was afterwards called, for a stronghold as a counter to the threat of the Númenórean landings [this is dated c. 1000 in the Tale of Years]. When he felt himself to be secure he sent emissaries to Eriador, and finally, in about the year 1200 of the Second Age, came himself, wearing the fairest form that he could contrive.

Unfinished Tales Part Two, Chapter 4: The History of Galadriel and Celeborn

From this we learn that Sauron moved to Mordor sometime after year 750 of the Second Age. We also learn that the land was not called Mordor ("black land") until after Sauron moved there, suggesting that the land may not have had a bad reputation until then. Of course Mordor contains Mount Doom (where Sauron would forge the One Ring), which might have influenced his choice of where to base himself.

In a letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien describes Sauron's empire after the destruction of Eregion.

Sauron became thus almost supreme in Middle-earth. The Elves held out in secret places (not yet revealed). The last Elf-Kingdom of Gilgalad is maintained precariously on the extreme westshores, where are the havens of the Ships. Elrond the Half-elven, son of Earendil, maintains a kind of enchanted sanctuary at Imladris (in English Rivendell) on the extreme eastern margin of the western lands. But Sauron dominates all the multiplying hordes of Men that have had no contact with the Elves and so indirectly with the true and Unfallen Valar and gods. He rules a growing empire from the great dark tower of Barad-dûr in Mordor, near to the Mountain of Fire, wielding the One Ring.

The Letters of JRR Tolkien Letter 131

This doesn't tell us anything for certain about the earlier history of Mordor, but the fact that it is the center from which Sauron dominates the hords of Men that have had no contact with the Elves might suggest that there were men living in Mordor at the time.


The sole statement about the early (pre-Sauron) history of Mordor is a note in History of Middle-earth 12, "Last Writings" section (note 14), which notes that the name was:

Maybe already an Elvish name for that region, because of its volcano Orodruin and its eruptions - which were not made by Sauron but were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age.

Karen Wynn Fonstad, in the Atlas of Middle-earth, speculates that Mordor was in the First Age beneath the Inland Sea of Helkar, but there is no textual evidence for this and the statement in HoME 12 (i.e. that Mordor existed in the First Age) makes it at best unlikely.

  • Fonstad says that Mordor was created during the War of Wrath, which ends the First Age but is still in it. It's tenuous, but there is no discrepancy.
    – isanae
    Dec 22, 2016 at 20:49

I do not think Tolkien provided any further accounts of the history of Mordor before Sauron settled there in the Second Age of the Sun. There is certainly nothing in his finished works, nor do I remember anything else from the History of Middle Earth. Prior to the War of Wrath, most of Tolkien's writing was about the realms and Aman and Beleriand.

Checking Tolkien Gateway, the only fact it mentions about Mordor's history prior to the advent of Sauron is that Shelob had already settled there before the dark lord's arrival. And even that probably occurred not so long before Sauron claimed the land; she probably arrived in the early Second Age, after the destruction of Beleriand, having previously dwelt in the mountains of Ered Gorgoroth.


Mordor was just another countryside with a mountain. Saruman controlled Sauron and others after the creation of The Ring. The Ring was a threat to Saruman because of its universal power contained within it. Saruman was, understandably, fearful of it because it meant that his own power would be lost if the Ring was destroyed in his own kingdom.

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    Who is Saromon? Do you have any evidence to support this? Dec 15, 2016 at 20:06
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    The first sentence is the only one even relevant to the question. The rest is unintelligible, rooted in your confusion about Saruman and Sauron.
    – chepner
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:12

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