As I understand, life in Arda was brought forth either by Eru Directly, or after the rough draft, Eru gave the go-ahead for that form of life to be legitimatized by giving it the Flame Imperishable.

Now we know Morgoth sought the Flame Imperishable to create life of his own without the old thumbs up from Eru, but only ever managed to twist beings that had already been given the Flame to create beings with actual free will, he was never able to create them from scratch.

But what of Ungoliant? She gave birth to Shelob, who in turn mothered the giant spiders of Mirkwood, but this seems like she created a race, namely the race of spiders. Are all spiders bound to the will of Ungoliant because they do not have the Flame Imperishable, so they are little more than puppets to her? Did spiders receive the Flame Imperishable from Eru? (if so, why?) Are they excluded or some how exempt from this, because they are in fact descendants of Ungoliant, and not a creation of hers?

  • 5
    You don't need to have The Flame to have children.
    – Plutor
    Aug 8, 2017 at 16:19
  • but the flame is present in intellegent beings, which the spiders are. in the hobbit, bilbo sneaks upon them talking to eachother, meaning they are intellegent enough to speak
    – Gothmog
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:18

2 Answers 2


    I suspect that whole thing about Flame Imperishable is that Melkor wanted to create new sentient species from scratch, something completely unrelated to Eru's work. If we talk in today's terms, Melkor certainly had ability to take DNA of existing species, mutate it and create something different. But maybe he wanted to create life that does not use DNA at all, beings of metal and stone for example.

    Melkor certainly had ability to craft things from what ever material he choose. So, he could create bodies of his beings, just like Aulë created Dwarfs. But, just like Aulë, he could not make them independent of his thought. For that, divine Flame Imperishable is needed.

    What about natural procreation ? In Tolkien's legendarium sentient beings have fëa and hröa, soul and body. Soul comes directly from Flame Imperishable, body comes from parents. If a procreation is natural, Eru established a mechanism by which soul inhabits the body. So Ungoliant had natural ability to create offspring with spider-like bodies, and looks like Eru sanctioned this because he allowed somewhat sentient soul of Shelob and other spiders to inhabit their bodies (they could speak in their own language). This is somewhat contentious point (some consider spiders to be non-sentient).

     Therefore, to answer question - spiders did recieve Flame Imperishable from Eru, but only as their souls, not as tool to create new separate species - power that Melkor wanted.


Did spiders receive the Flame Imperishable from Eru?

No. The Ainulindale is quite clear on what Ilúvatar did with the Flame Imperishable after creating the world:

And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be...

...because they are in fact descendants of Ungoliant, and not a creation of hers?

Absolutely, yes; the Giant Spiders of the First Age are explicitly stated to be descendants of Ungoliant in the Silmarillion chapter Of the Flight of the Noldor:

For other foul creatures of spider form had dwelt there since the days of the delving of Angband, and she mated with them, and devoured them; and even after Ungoliant herself departed, and went whither she would into the forgotten south of the world, her offspring abode there and wove their hideous webs.

Note that it does not however say what those "other foul creatures of spider form" are, but there seems no reason to support that they're anything other than dumb beasts.

For the Giant Spiders of later ages, these are stated in the Lord of the Rings chapter Shelob's Lair to be offspring of Shelob:

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.

This does not, of course, exlude the possibility of other surviving offspring of Ungoliant into the Second and possibly even early Third Ages, but that's all beside the point:

There is no reason given to suppose anything other than natural procreation for the origin of the Giant Spiders.

  • In the hobbit, bilbo is able to hear the spiders in mirkwood chittering to eachother, and indeed when he is close enough while wearing the ring, he is able to understand them. this means that these giant spiders are intelligent enough to speak. If the "other foul creatures of spider form" are simply dumb beast, than this intelligence would have been descended of ungoliant, meaning either she had some form of the Flame, or eru bestowed it upon her children, which seems unlikely. Otherwise this intelligence must have come from the "other foul creatures of spider form", which also seems unlikely
    – Gothmog
    Aug 8, 2017 at 18:27
  • @Gothmog Since Ungoliant has intelligence it is reasonable to assume that her children would have intelligence also. Her origin is unknown, but is almost certainly not from Eru, so it seems likely then that the spiders have intelligence of a sort independent of the Flame Imperishable.
    – Daishozen
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:52
  • @Daishozon I agree, I just thought it odd that an entire family of creatures exists in arda that apparently contain some equivalence of the Flame, but do not in fact have the Flame. I thought that only creatures(non-valar/maiar) with the flame were intelligent
    – Gothmog
    Aug 8, 2017 at 20:01
  • @Gothmog I believe that the general rule of thumb is that without the Flame they do not have intelligence, but there are a couple of examples of things of unknown origin that, without further explanation, might be exceptions to this rule. It is possible that Eru created Ungoliant, but given that she devours light and turns it into darkness, and is essentially evil given physical form, I doubt very much that he did. She seems to be intelligent without the Flame, so perhaps there is a source within the void of intelligence as well (pardon my heresy on that as there is no evidence just a thought.
    – Daishozen
    Aug 8, 2017 at 20:14
  • "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it. Moulded by it." Aug 9, 2017 at 9:04

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