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I think I read somewhere there were vampires in Middle-earth. Does anyone have any knowledge of these vampires and any noteworthy events in history they were a part of?

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Not much is known about them, but Vampires in Tolkien's mythology seem to be bat-like creatures under the service of Morgoth and Sauron. They don't play a major role in any of the stories, and seem to be quite distinct from the tuxedo-wearing Dracula archetype. It's generally assumed that Tolkien used the name simply because it evoked the idea of a "bat-monster," rather than bringing along all the common tropes of vampires, like crosses and wooden stakes.

One vampire is named in Tokien's world (Thuringwethil), and Sauron took the form of a vampire at least once. While they are normally described as bat-like, they were at least somewhat humanoid, as Thuringwethil is described as a "woman of shadow" (emphasis mine).

However, there is no mention of Vampires after the First Age ended, and they presumably became extinct after the destruction of Morgoth.

It's possible that these are the "bats bred for war" shown briefly in the Battle of Five Armies film, although a quote from The Hobbit book implies that the war-bats are merely similar to vampires, not vampires themselves:

"There a host of Wargs came ravening and with them came the bodyguard of Bolg, goblins of huge size with scimitars of steel. Soon actual darkness was coming into a stormy sky; while still the great bats swirled about the heads and ears of elves and men, or fastened vampire-like on the stricken."

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    "There a host of Wargs came ravening and with them came the bodyguard of Bolg, goblins of huge size with scimitars of steel. Soon actual darkness was coming into a stormy sky; while still the great bats swirled about the heads and ears of elves and men, or fastened vampire-like on the stricken" - The Hobbit – Valorum May 15 '15 at 17:26
  • @Richard Interesting. So that quote would seem to imply that they aren't vampires, just similar to them. I'll add that to the answer. – Nerrolken May 15 '15 at 17:28
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    Sauron was probably dripping blood from his throat because Huan had wounded him there, not because he was a vampire. "But no wizardry nor spell, neither fang nor venom, nor devil's art nor beast-strength, could overthrow Huan of Valinor; and he took his foe by throat and pinned him down. Then Sauron shifted shape, from wolf to serpent, and from monster to his own accustomed form; but he could not elude the grip of Huan without forsaking his body utterly." – Shamshiel May 15 '15 at 21:16
  • @Shamshiel Fair enough. – Nerrolken May 15 '15 at 21:26
  • The Middle-earth themed MMO The Lord of the Rings Online features beings that are likely based on Thuringwethil, resembling a literal cross between women and bats, and are called Merrevail (singular Morreval) in-game. Fittingly, they are first encountered in Angmar. – maguirenumber6 May 18 '15 at 17:38
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"Vampire" appears to be a blanket term for messengers of Sauron in the First Age, who took the form of monstrous bats. Two characters are identified as having used this shape:

  • Thuringwethil, Sauron's messenger. She never actually appears in the narrative, but Lúthien borrows her form first to reach Beren in the forest of Taur-nu-Fuin, and then again in an attempt to infiltrate Morgoth's fortress of Angband (emphasis mine):

    And [Beren] sang aloud, caring not what ear should overhear him, for he was desperate and looked for no escape.

    But Lúthien heard his song, and she sang in answer, as she came through the woods unlooked for. For Huan, consenting once more to be her steed, had borne her swiftly hard upon Beren's trail. Long he had pondered in his heart what counsel he could devise for the lightning of the peril of these two whom he loved. He turned aside therefore at Sauron's isle, as they ran northward again, and he took thence the ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil. She was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband; and her great fingered wings were barbed at each joint's end with and iron claw. Clad in these dreadful garments Huan and Lúthien ran through Taur-nu-Fuin, and all things fled before them.

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 19: Of Beren and Lúthien

  • Sauron himself takes a vampire's form at least once, to escape from Lúthien and Huan (emphasis mine):

    Then Sauron yielded himself, and Lúthien took the mastery of the isle and all that was there; and Huan released him. And immediately he took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees, and came to Tar-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror.

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 19: Of Beren and Lúthien

The Lay of Leithian suggests that there are more of these creatures:

Then up that doorward slowly stood
eyes shining grim with evil mood,
uneasy growling: 'Drauglin,
if such thou be, now enter in!
But what is this that crawls beside,
slinking as if 'twould neath thee hide?
Though winged creatures to and fro
unnumbered pass here, all I know.
I know not this. Stay, vampire, stay!
I like not thy kin nor thee.

History of Middle-earth III The Lays of Beleriand Chapter III "The Lay of Leithian" Canto XII

And an earlier section of the Lay indicates that this shape is characteristic of Sauron's (still named Thu at this early stage) messengers:

the other was a batlike garb
with mighty fingered wings, a barb
like iron nail at each joint's end -
such wings as their dark cloud extend
against the moon, when in sky
from Deadly Nightshade screeching fly
Thu's messengers.

History of Middle-earth III The Lays of Beleriand Chapter III "The Lay of Leithian" Canto XI

  • "By the counsel of Huan and the arts of Lúthien he was arrayed now in the hame of Draugluin, and she in the winged fell of ThurIngwëthil. Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him." - Silmarillion – Valorum May 15 '15 at 17:43

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