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"Nay", they said, "not if the Nameless One himself should come, not even he could enter here while we yet live." But some answered: "While we yet live? How long? He has a weapon that has brought low many strong places since the world began. Hunger. The roads are cut. Rohan will not come."
The Lord of The Rings, The Return of The King - The Siege Of Gondor

From other fantasy works (Askir, Discworld series has a version of him too), I know the Nameless One as the "evil" god that is the pattern of all thieves, assailants and up-to-no-goods, the antagonist of all other gods.

In some religious systems, his name was banished by a collaborative effort of all other gods (similar to how names of Roman Emperors were banished).

Who is the Nameless One and why is he called that way?

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    This can't be the case with the Tolkien Legendarium. Why not? You are referencing other works that have nothing to do with Tolkien's, where this name seems to imply a trickster God rather than an evil one, but even in Arda there was a "supreme evil" God that could easily be acknowledged as "Nameless One": Morgoth.
    – Sekhemty
    Sep 12 '17 at 21:37
  • @Sekhemty Haven't thought of that!
    – Narusan
    Sep 12 '17 at 21:51
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    @Edlothiad I disagree with it being a duplicate: The list never goes on and explains the origins of any of the names.
    – Narusan
    Sep 12 '17 at 21:52
  • Are you implying that the Nameless one in all these works is the same character?
    – eshier
    Sep 12 '17 at 22:13
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    No, I am not. I am implying that he is based on similar ideas, (banishment of name, antagonist of other gods, yet vital for the world to function as such) in multiple works. It's not the same character, but they share many common treats. And it is a well known fact that Tolkien has influenced and founded the Fantasy genre. So I was wondering whether this was based on him (by finding out why the Nameless One is called that way)
    – Narusan
    Sep 12 '17 at 22:14
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They are referring to Sauron

Sauron has a great many names. You can see a list of references to him in this answer.

In the Hobbit, Sauron is referred to as The Necromancer.

You may also find this article useful.

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    I'd like to see more evidence that using Sauron's name attracts his attention. The "Nameless One" epithet seems unique to Gondor and, though he does have a lot of epithets, his "actual" (which isn't his original name but never mind) name is the most commonly-used one Sep 12 '17 at 21:44
  • But all nicknames have a reason and a small element of truth. Why was he called the Nameless One?
    – Narusan
    Sep 12 '17 at 21:52
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    @Narusan I don't know why Gondor chose that particular name for him. It could be a form of deliberate dishonour, or some ancient custom. There doesn't seem to be a particular reason.
    – Tim
    Sep 12 '17 at 22:00
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    I'd believe it if you told me that Gondor believed his name had that power, but I'd still want you to prove it. But, as @Tim points out, there are other possibilities, and merely stating one as fact with no justification does not a quality answer make Sep 12 '17 at 22:12
  • @JasonBaker Fair point. I had that idea in my mind for some reason, but I can't find anything to support it. I've removed that statement.
    – Tim
    Sep 12 '17 at 22:59
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I think that we can safely speculate that, given the negative connotation that is really clear by the tone of the sentence, it is a name given to an enemy. The most probable options, in my opinion, are:

  • Sauron

    This is the most probable option; The Tolkien Gateway reports that amongst his names there is a pretty similar Nameless Enemy (The Encyclopedia of Arda does not list his names).
    Furthermore, form the passage that you quote, we know that the people speaking are the men guarding the walls of Minas Tirith; it is implied that the interlocutors know who this Nameless One is without the need to explain further, a sign that it is a know and established thing amongst them. They were soldiers, not scholars or savants, so it is safe to assume that this great enemy that they are afraid even to pronounce the name is the one that is the closest to them, that is Sauron.

  • Morgoth

    Another less plausible option is that they are referring to the arch-enemy of the whole Arda, a name that could be fearful in itself even if not the most immediate threat. Neither The Tolkien Gateway nor The Encyclopedia of Arda explicitly report this name referred to Morgoth, but we can assume that if Sauron was feared to the point of being scared to speak aloud his name, even his former Master could be rightfully considered at least equally terrifying.


The reason why speaking out loud the name of an Evil (Demi)God was considered a bad thing is that in a magical world like Arda, Words are not just part of the language, but they have a magical connotation, in a sense they act as spells themselves1.
Explicitly pronouncing the name of the powerful enemy that you are fighting was something that the people of Gondor aren't eager to do: in a certain sense is like summoning him, invoking his name. Even in the real world mythologies, the true name of a God is a powerful Word, one that if pronounced can give you control over Him and His creations. The concept is similar.

Or you might even consider a superstitious concept that we have here in Italy (I'm not really sure how much this thing is international), called Scaramanzia, that basically means that there are certain words, phrases and gestures that can inherently cause good or bad luck, like if you say a certain thing, that thing is not going to happen; in example, if you say "I'm certain that today I would have a great day", you are scaring away all your luck and you will end in having a terrible one.


1 - As an example, you can read about the power of the name Elbereth in this article, or you can find a more general and detailed analysis about the whole subject from an essay by Stephanie Ricker, called The Power and Purpose of Names and Naming in Tolkien's The Children of Hurin (direct link to PDF).

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