I watched a trailer for Shadow of War this morning and in it we see a human woman who, it turns out, is Shelob. I've only read the LOTR trilogy and, as far as I recall, we never see her appear as a human.

Do we ever see Shelob take human form in any other work by Tolkien? The Silmarillion maybe? Can she even do that?

Is this just for the benefit of the game?

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    Wow, the animation in that looks terrible. Just note that Tolkein was very much against any video game adaptations of his work, so using this goes against the will of the author. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:33
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    'cause they are a bunch of Drow fanboys, that's why. It was the only reason to make Shelob a weird mix between a Drow and a Night Elf.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:37
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    @user973810 J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973... I don't think anyone was asking for LOTR pong at the time. Unless you're thinking of Christopher Tolkien?
    – ench
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 19:51
  • If Shelob could assume the Mannish form depicted in the video game, she probably would. But she would not be so benevolent. The Two Towers describes Shelob as a predator of Middle-earth's humanoids, and as preferring the flesh of Men to that of orcs. To Shelob orcs are "poor food and wary...she lusted for sweeter meat." Disguising herself as an attractive woman would be a very effective way for Shelob to infiltrate settlements of Men in Mordor or even Gondor to catch her prey. However, there is no canonical evidence Shelob shapeshifts like this. So we assume she can't. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


The idea behind the creators of the game with Shelob's human form was:

  1. Because a talking spider would've been strange,
  2. They had Shelob interact with Sauron and assume she was this divine god-like spirit that was equal to Sauron,
  3. To "weave the fate" of Thalion in the same way Galadriel guided Frodo, and to do that as a spider would be confusing..

This is all covered in this video interview1 with the VP as well as the actress for Shelob.

Although they claim to have read to works, and have looked into the works, they have still taken liberties with the character. As is well known in the games, the majority of it is non-canon with many non-canon portrayals of characters and creatures. This was taken further with Shelob as they wanted to have this mythical character that is believed to weave the fate of Middle-earth as it is their opinion that (para-phrased) "Shelob is to thank for the destruction of the Ring"

Onto why Shelob can't take human form. As established in this answer here that Shelob is not a Maia but at best something similar to the spirits called to Middle-earth by Yavanna or Manwë. Neither of which are able to take human form. Shelob therefore, canonically, cannot take human form

Another reason why this form of Shelob is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, Shelob is not a force for good, her only intention is to live in the darkness and eat. She has no intention of helping the good and captured Frodo purely for eating purposes. Her role in the books is another obstacle for Frodo to have to get past and a way to show Sam as a hero of sorts.


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    Shelob isn't much like the Ents or Eagles. Those were directly created by Eru Ilúvatar. Shelob is the spawn ("daughter") of Ungoliant, a primordial spirit similar to the Valar that took the form of a great Spider. I would say she's much more like Melkor's Orcs or Aulë's Dwarves (prior to being given free will by Eru), a living entity that doesn't have its own will. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:26
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    I disagree entirely. As the linked answer discusses and I agree, Ungoliant is much more likely to be a spirit Melkor had taken from the Halls of Ëa, in the same way Manwë and Varda called spirits from the Halls of Ëa to inhabit the bodies of the Ents. Shelob is the spawn of Ungoliant in the same way the Entlings were the spawn of Ents. Although stating a canon "origin" for Ungoliant is impossible as one is not specifically known. (Although you seem to insinuate Ungoliant, and the Orcs and no free will, which is easily disproved)
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:58
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    But Orcs do have free will? They do their own things when Sauron is gone, some discuss finding a patch of land after the war. They most definitely have free will. They're just easily dominated. Shelob also has free will? If she doesn't who's controlling her? Animating her, no one
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 10:31
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    Oh no, a spider weaving, we can't have that! Better swap in a sexy lady instead. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 13:31
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    You missed point 4: the game designers were more interested in having a hawt chick in the game than some ugly spider. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 13:52


We have a fairly informative biography of Shelob in the chapter Shelob's Lair in The Two Towers.

There agelong she had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath, and so came to Luthien upon the green sward amid the hemlocks in the moonlight long ago. 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-dur; 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. Far and wide her lesser broods, bastards of the miserable mates, her own offspring, that she slew, spread from glen to glen, from the Ephel Duath to the eastern hills, to Dol Guldur and the fastnesses of Mirkwood. But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.

Some information of her mother, Ungoliant, is also mentioned in The Silmarillion1:

In Avathar, secret and unknown save to Melkor, dwelt Ungoliant, and she had taken spider's form, and was a weaver of dark webs. It is not known whence she came, though among the Eldar it was said that in ages long before she had descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the light in the kingdom of Manwe.

So we can conclude that both were evil "things" in a spider's form. Even if she did have a human form (which is 100% unlikely either way), this is not shown in canon material.

1 There is barely any mention of Shelob in The Silmarillion.


This is an invention for the game, there is nothing in the Tolkiens' (father and son) writings to suggest Shelob had either the ability, desire or complexity of character to shape-shift.

From her bio page on lotr.wikia:

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Shelob is set to appear in the upcoming Shadow of War video game. Unlike any other portrayals of Shelob, this version of the character is capable of assuming a human form, taking on the guise of a dark-haired woman with green eyes and wearing shadowy black robes.

So no, it's only for the game.

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    Why swap out a grotesque monsterous spider for a boring human? What a waste.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 8:51
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    @Daft, because unlike the spider, the woman has T&A, and you want those to sell your game.
    – user73079
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 12:07
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    @Geliormth That's very likely the case... that's pretty sad. I mean, I'm a straight man, I like T&A as much as the next fella, but I'd much rather play a game with a gigantic spider than a generic hot chic.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 13:23
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    @Daft Because it's less exciting when a spider shows a lot of leg. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 13:52
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    @Flater it seems clear they just wanted a sexed up female character, picked Shelob as she was already in Mordor and just re-wrote her from a spider into a hot chic.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:34

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