Home > Animals > Wolves index > Wolves


by Irmo-(Valar)
October 4, 2011. Updated Oct. 5, 2011.
Written for the 14th Anniversary of the Valar Guild

    Normal Wolves
    Corrupted Wolves
Intelligent Forms of Life
    Wolfhounds of Valinor

Wolves play a notable role in the works of Tolkien. The party of Bilbo and Thorin is perpetually harassed by wargs allied with goblins in The Hobbit, where warg-riders are also mentioned to appear in the final Battle of Five Armies. There are the wolves that attack the Fellowship of the Ring between Caradhras and Moria (The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. "A Journey in the Dark"). Aragorn I is said to have been slain by wolves, "which ever remained a peril in Eriador" (The Return of the King, Appendix A). There are the fell winter wolves who invade the Shire in the year 2911 (The Return of the King, Appendix B, also The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue). There are wolves mentioned as being the companions of Saruman's wolf-riders  (The Two Towers, Ch. "The Riders of Rohan", but more extensively in Unfinished Tales, pp. 263-272, where the wolf-riders are co-responsible for the death of Theodred). And then of course there are the werewolves - e.g. Draugluin and Carcharoth - and their counterparts, the wolfhounds of Valinor, whose epigone is Huan. These three names feature in The Silmarillion, Ch. Of Beren and Luthien, and in The Lay of Leithian, an epic poem, one of the many works that underlie and are summarized in The Silmarillion.

Questions have often been asked about the nature of wolves and the relations between the examples mentioned above. Wolves should be categorized like this:

I Animals

I A Normal wolves.

Wolves are predators, and hostile to other animals and mankind. Yet they are not evil. They can be aggressive, especially when wintery conditions make them hungry. Under this category should for instance the fell wolves of winter be mentioned who invaded the Shire in 2911. Hungry, mean and aggressive yes. But not evil or unnatural.

I B Corrupted Wolves.

Wolves can be trained by Orcs and Goblins to fight at their side. But higher spirits as e.g. Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman have both the ability and inclination to actually corrupt the natural state of beings. Tolkien generally tends to describe the result of wolf-corruption as wargs, but also as wolves. They appear for instance when attacking the Fellowship at the foot of Caradhras. These are not normal wolves. Gandalf calls their leader "Hound of Sauron", but that is probably a poetic liberty, for no doubt these wargs were in the service of Saruman. Another predominant role is played by wargs and warg-riders in the slaying of Theodred, son of Theoden (Unfinished Tales, The Battles of the Fords of the Isen). This also, was at the bidding of Saruman.

It has been suggested that wargs are intelligent creatures, having Fëar (spirit). I don’t find enough evidence to sustain that suggestion, probably caused by confusing wargs with werewolves.

II Intelligent forms of life

II A Wolfhounds of Valinor

These are technically not wolves, but should be mentioned here for completeness. The hounds of Oromë were born in Aman and are creatures of light and high moral sense. Only one of them came to Middle-earth. His nature and great adventures are described in the article on Huan.

II B Werewolves

These are creatures of Morgoth, probably created as twisted counterparts for the hounds of the Valar. They fight alongside the forces of evil in the battles of Beleriand.  There is no mention of werewolves after the First Age. Two of them are known by name, Draugluin and Carcharoth. Also, Sauron had the ability to shapechange himself into the form of a werewolf, but probably not his master's ability to actually create them.

Draugluin (also reference for Sauron-Werewolf)

The name is Sindarin, meaning Blue (luin) Wolf (draug). We should not take "blue" too literally. Originally he is described as being pale and grey in The Lays of Beleriand. He was the first and foremost of all the werewolves. He is called sire of the werewolves of Angband.

In the 5th century of the First Age we find Draugluin as lieutenant of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the great tower of werewolves led by Sauron. Once known as Tol Sirion, the great watch-tower built by Felagund, it had turned into a place of darkness and despair. Felagund has just been slain by a werewolf, and Beren is the last surviving prisoner in the Tower. When Sauron hears the song of Luthien, seeking her lover in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, he sends Draugluin to take her captive. But Huan is there to protect her. "The battle of Huan and Draugluin was long and fierce. Yet at length Draugluin escaped, and fleeing back to the tower he died before Sauron's feet; and as he died he told his master 'Huan is here'".

The fate of the Hound of the Valar was foretold: he would not be slain but by the mightiest werewolf who ever walked the earth. Sauron - seeking to fulfill the prophecy himself - shapechanges into a werewolf, "the mightiest that had yet walked the earth". And thus befell the battle of Huan of Valinor and Wolf-Sauron. But Huan beats Sauron and Luthien takes over command of the tower.

Later Huan goes back to the tower and takes from there the hame of Draugluin, and also the winged fell of Thuringwethil, the great vampire.  He tells Luthien and Beren that their fate lies in passing the Black Gate to Angband, and disguises them to that end in the hame and fell.

Thus it is that when Beren and Luthien reach the gates of Angband they appear as Draugluin and Thuringwethil.


More and more Morgoth had learned about great deeds of his enemies, and every time the name of Huan kept occurring in the messages of his allies. And Morgoth knew the fate of Huan. So he had elected one of the offspring of Draugluin, and fed that werewolf himself (it is said in The Lay of Leithian: "on fairest flesh of Elves and Men"), and put his power upon him. Ever that wolf lay at the feet of Morgoth, and the anguish of hell entered into him.  Carcharoth literally means Knife-claw, but "Carcharoth, the Red Maw, he is named in the tales of those days, and Anfauglir, the Jaws of Thirst". And Carcharoth grew both in body and spirit, "surpassing all his race and kin, the ghastly tribe of Draugluin" (Lay of Leithian).

Thus it came to pass, that when Beren - dressed as Draugluin - and Luthien - clad as the vampire - reach at last the gate of Angband on their long quest, they are met by Carcharoth, who is suspicious, for he has heard rumours of the death of Draugluin. On that occasion Carcharoth is enchanted by Luthien, commanding him to sleep: "O woe-begotten spirit, fall now into dark oblivion, and forget for a while the dreadful doom of life".

But he is quite awake when later Luthien and Beren try to escape Angband, and he bites off Beren's hand wearing the Silmaril they took from Morgoth's crown. Swallowing hand and stone, Carcharoth is overtaken by rage and madness. Then Carcharoth indeed becomes the mightiest wolf that ever walked the earth. And of all the terrors that ever came to Beleriand he was the worst, for the power of the Silmaril was within him.

Carcharoth kills all and everything in his path, and threatens even the outskirts of Doriath. King Thingol then orders the Hunt of the Wolf, and he himself rides out together with Mablung, Beleg, Beren and Huan. But Luthien stays in Menegroth, filled with forebodings of doom. The party find Carcharoth in a valley by the falls of Esgalduin, and there Carcharoth is finally slain by Huan, but before his death he mortally wounds both Beren and Huan.

Mablung knifes open the belly of Carcharoth and retrieves the Silmaril, which he gives to Beren, who with his last breath donates it to Thingol. And thus the fates of many were fulfilled.


1.     It has been suggested that the werewolves - especially Draugluin - were Maiar. There seems to be insufficient evidence to either sustain or falsify that idea. But Draugluin, Carcharoth, and Huan were foretold in the the Music of Making (if not actually part of the choir) and thus their fates were fixed and intertwined. In this sense they were unfree creatures of magic.

2.     The tale of Carcharoth biting off the hand of Beren - as part of the Lay of Leithian one of Tolkien's earliest concepts - might well have been inspired by the Eddalieder, where Fenris the Wolf bites off the hand of Tyr.


JRR Tolkien:     The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
                         The Lays of Beleriand

                         The Hobbit
Chr. Tolkien:      Silmarillion
                          Unfinished Tales