An extract from the Two Towers - The Choices of Master Samwise

At this point Sam began to listen more attentively and pressed his ear against the stone.

'Who cut the cords she'd put round him, Shagrat? Same one as cut the web. Didn't you see that? And who stuck a pin into Her Ladyship? Same one, I reckon. And where is he? Where is he, Shagrat? '

Shagrat made no reply.

`You may well put your thinking cap on, if you've got one. It's no laughing matter. No one, no one has ever stuck a pin in Shelob before, as you should know well enough. There's no grief in that; but think-there's someone loose hereabouts as is more dangerous than any other damned rebel that ever walked since the bad old times, since the Great Siege. Something has slipped.'

What is this "Great Siege" the two orcs are talking about?

  • 11
    Sounds like the Siege of Barad-dur in the War of the Last Alliance, but I don't know for sure. Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 17:05
  • 3
    That's the only siege that's occurred in Mordor, as far as I can remember. Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 17:06
  • 5
    If they refer to the Siege of Barad-Dur, it would mean either that Gorbag and Shagrat are very old or that they are taught a fairly extensive history. Either would be at odds with the "conventional" view of orcs. Gorbag and Shagrat being thousands of years old means their typical lives would have been far less violently precarious than what we see in LotR. The history lessons would mean strong communication, which is quite different from the description of orcs as poor communicators. Food for thought... Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 2:06
  • 4
    @La-comadreja the Trojan horse is still referenced to this day (indeed a type of computer virus is named after it)
    – user46509
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 17:46
  • 4
    @La-comadreja There is the very significant difference that despite the 3,000-year gap, several of the entities (I hesitate to say ‘people’) at the top of Gorbag and Shagrat’s chain of command—namely Sauron himself and the Ringwraiths, if not others—were actually there at the Great Siege they're talking about. Most 10-year-olds in our world have heard of Odysseus and Trojan horses, even though it's basically irrelevant to our lives, so it's hardly surprising that even Orcs would know of such a vital event in their own lord general’s history. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


The Siege Of Barad-Dúr

The siege that ended the War of the Last Alliance, and the Second Age, was called The Great Siege and is also explicitly referenced as such by Tolkien:

"the Second Age ends with the Last Alliance (of Elves and Men) and the great siege of Mordor"

Letter 131

I would say it's safe to conclude that this is the Great Siege of old that is being spoken about. The siege started in SA 3434 and ended in SA 3441 along with the Second Age. This conversation was in TA 3019, meaning the siege was 3026 years before.

  • So this happened like several thousand years ago?
    – vap78
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 18:03
  • 2
    @vap78: yes, the siege basically ended when Gil-galad and Isildur's father defeated Sauron and the ring was cut from Sauron's finger.
    – Yorik
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 18:40
  • 1
    @vap78 - about 3,000 years.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:29

Mordor was besieged for 7 years during the Last Alliance. It was after this that the tower of Cirith Ungol was built by the men of the west to guard Mordor.

As he gazed at it suddenly Sam understood, almost with a shock, that this stronghold had been built not to keep enemies out of Mordor, but to keep them in. It was indeed one of the works of Gondor long ago, an eastern outpost of the defences of Ithilien, made when, after the Last Alliance, Men of Westernesse kept watch on the evil land of Sauron where his creatures still lurked.

The Return of the King: The Tower of Cirith Ungol

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