In the Lord of the Rings novel, in the chapter The Fog on the Barrow-downs, the Hobbits fall asleep on the downs next to a white standing stone. There are some passages that I personally interpret as implying that the stone may have some significance, evil purpose, or is magical in some way. Firstly:

In the midst of it there stood a single stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow. It was shapeless and yet significant: like a landmark or a guarding stone, or more like a warning.

then immediately following this there is some implication that its coolness is in some way unnatural:

But they were now hungry, and the sun was still at the fearless noon; so they set their backs against the east side of the stone. It was cool, as if the sun had no power to warm it; but at that time this seemed pleasant

Then finally there is the vague insinuation that the stone may in fact have been the cause of their unintended sleep (the emphasis on the word perhaps below is mine)

Riding over the hills, and eating their fill, the warm sun and the scent of turf, lying a little too long, stretching out their legs and looking at the sky above their noses: these things are, perhaps, enough to explain what happened. However, that may be: they woke suddenly and uncomfortably from a sleep they had never meant to take.

As I read this chapter, those references suggest to me that the stone is in some way evil but this is never mentioned again or explained later in the text. I was wondering if the stone is mentioned in any other of Tolkien's novels or notes and references, or if the subtle hints and implications are intentional such that the reader has to make up their own mind about the nature of the stone??

  • 5
    The barrows themselves were not evil: they were the graves of the Kings, but had later become inhabited by evil wights. My guess would be that the standing stone was part of the graveyard.
    – TRiG
    Nov 24, 2012 at 17:22
  • I always thought that the wights were the dead warriors buried in the mounds (not necessarily kings) who were some how corrupted either before or after death. If the wights were instead an infestation, so to speak, where did they come from? Widipedia says evil spirits were send to there by the Witch-king of Angmar. Is that cannon? If so, I have not read it that I recall.
    – Ron Smith
    Jan 5, 2013 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


From LotR Appendix A:

...and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there.

It is said that the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad, as the Barrowdowns were called of old, are very ancient, and that many were built in the days of the old world of the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain, before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand, of which Lindon is all that now remains. Those hills were therefore revered by the Dunedain after their return; and there many of their lords and Kings were buried. [Some say that the mound in which the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.]'

This implies that the stone itself is neither magical nor evil, but it (or at least the barrow it's on) is certainly ancient. At least 1600 years old, and possibly as much as 7000 years.

What is, on the other hand, both magical and evil are those evil spirits that the Witch King sent out of Angmar. If there was any influence causing the Hobbits to sleep, aside from warm sun and full bellies, they're where we must look.

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