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Places in Middle-earth


Type: Cities, Towns, Settlements

Region: Rohan

Meaning: Irongarth, fortress of iron

Other Names
Treegarth of Orthanc

Location: Isengard is in Nan Curunír, in the west of the valley, sixteen miles or more from the mouth of the valley. It is close to the foot of the mountain, having been described as under the mountain-side.

Description: For any ... policy of power and warlike strength Isengard was well placed, being the key to the Gap of Rohan. This was a weak point in the defences of the West, especially since the decay of Gondor. Through it hostile spies and emissaries could pass in secret, or eventually, as in the former Age, forces of war. ... [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 7

... Isengard with its position and its great strength, natural and by craft, was of utmost importance. The line of the Isen, between the pincers of Isengard and the Hornburg, was a bulwark against invasion from the East (whether incited and guided by Sauron, or otherwise), either aiming at encircling Gondor or at invading Eriador.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix

Beneath the mountain's arm within the Wizard's Vale through years uncounted had stood that ancient place that Men called Isengard. Partly it was shaped in the making of the mountains, but mighty works the Men of Westernesse had wrought there of old; and Saruman had dwelt there long and had not been idle.
This was its fashion, while Saruman was at his height, accounted by many the chief of Wizards. A great ring-wall of stone, like towering cliffs, stood out from the shelter of the mountain-side, from which it ran and then returned again. One entrance only was there made in it, a great arch delved in the southern wall. Here through the black rock a long tunnel had been hewn, closed at either end with mighty doors of iron. They were so wrought and poised upon their huge hinges, posts of steel driven into the living stone, that when unbarred they could be moved with a light thrust of the arms, noiselessly. One who passed in and came at length out of the echoing tunnel, beheld a plain, a great circle, somewhat hollowed like a vast shallow bowl: a mile it measured from rim to rim. Once it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake. But no green thing grew there in the latter days of Saruman. The roads were paved with stone-flags, dark and hard; and beside their borders instead of trees there marched long lines of pillars, some of marble, some of copper and of iron joined by heavy chains.
Many houses there were, chambers, halls, and passages, cut and tunnelled back into the walls upon their inner side, so that all the open circle was overlooked by countless windows and dark doors. Thousands could dwell there, workers, servants, slaves, and warriors with great store of arms; wolves were fed and stabled in deep dens beneath. The plain, too, was bored and delved. Shafts were driven deep into the ground; their upper ends were covered by low mounds and domes of stone, so that in the moonlight the Ring of Isengard looked like a graveyard of unquiet dead. For the ground trembled. The shafts ran down by many slopes and spiral stairs to caverns far under; there Saruman had treasuries, store-houses, armouries, smithies, and great furnaces. Iron wheels revolved there endlessly, and hammers thudded. At night plumes of vapour steamed from the vents, lit from beneath with red light, or blue, or venomous green.
To the centre all the roads ran between their chains. There stood a tower of marvellous shape.
A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars. …
All about them now, as if there had been a sudden flood, wide pools of water lay beside the road, filling the hollows, and rills went trickling down among the stones.
But the doors lay hurled and twisted on the ground. And all about, stone, cracked and splintered into countless jagged shards, was scattered far and wide, or piled in ruinous heaps. The great arch still stood, but it opened now upon a roofless chasm: the tunnel was laid bare. and through the cliff-like walls on either side great rents and breaches had been torn; their towers were beaten into dust. If the Great Sea had risen in wrath and fallen on the hills with storm. it could have worked no greater ruin.
The ring beyond was filled with steaming water: a bubbling cauldron, in which there heaved and floated a wreckage of beams and spars, chests and casks and broken gear. Twisted and leaning pillars reared their splintered stems above the flood. but all the roads were drowned. Far off, it seemed, half veiled in winding cloud, there loomed the island rock. Still dark and tall, unbroken by the storm, the tower of Orthanc stood. Pale waters lapped about its feet.
TTT, Book III, Ch 8, The Road to Isengard

They passed through the ruined tunnel and stood upon a heap of stones, gazing at the dark rock of Orthanc, and its many windows, a menace still in the desolation that lay all about it. The waters had now nearly all subsided. Here and there gloomy pools remained, covered with scum and wreckage; but most of the wide circle was bare again, a wilderness of slime and tumbled rock, pitted with blackened holes, and dotted with posts and pillars leaning drunkenly this way and that. At the rim of the shattered bowl there lay vast mounds and slopes, like the shingles cast up by a great storm; and beyond them the green and tangled valley ran up into the long ravine between the dark arms of the mountains.
TTT, Book III, Ch 10, The Voice of Saruman

Some 5 months later, after Sauron's defeat:
...they rode to Isengard, and saw how the Ents had busied themselves. All the stone-circle had been thrown down and removed, and the land within was made into a garden filled with orchards and trees, and a stream ran through it; but in the midst of all there was a lake of clear water, and out of it the Tower of Orthanc rose still, tall and impregnable, and its black rock was mirrored in the pool.
For a while the travellers sat where once the old gates of Isengard had stood, and there were now two tall trees like sentinels at the beginning of a green-bordered path that ran towards Orthanc; and they looked in wonder at the work that had been done, but no living thing could they see far or near.
RotK, Book VI, Ch 6, Many Partings

[Note that, although Isengard lay in Rohan, it was owned by Gondor and controlled by the Stewards:]
... the Stewards retained under their own rule the Tower of Orthanc and the Ring of Isengard (Angrenost); the keys of Orthanc were taken to Minas Tirith, the Tower was shut, and the Ring of Isengard remained manned only by an hereditary Gondorian chieftain and his small people ... And to Isengard the emissaries from Minas Tirith came ever more seldom, until they ceased; it seemed that amidst their cares the Stewards had forgotten the Tower, though they held the keys.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix


[August 2510, Cirion and Eorl define the borders of Calenardhon (Rohan):]
The bounds of the realm of Eorl were to be: in the West the river Angren from its junction with the Adorn and thence northwards to the outer fences of Angrenost, and thence westwards and northwards along the eaves of Fangorn Forest ...

In all these regions Gondor still retained under its own command only the fortress of Angrenost, within which was the third Tower of Gondor, the impregnable Orthanc where was held the fourth of the palantíri of the southern realm. In the days of Cirion Angrenost was still manned by a guard of Gondorians, but these had become a small settled people, ruled by an hereditary Captain, and the keys of Orthanc were in the keeping of the Steward of Gondor. The "outer fences" named in the description of the bounds of the realm of Eorl were a wall and dyke running some two miles south of the gates of Angrenost, between the hills in which the Misty Mountains ended; beyond them were the tilled lands of the people of the fortress.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Cirion and Eorl

[2710, Dunlendings occupy Isengard:]
... Déor had no power to storm or besiege Isengard, and for many years the Rohirrim had to keep a strong force of Riders in the north of Westfold....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix

[2759, after the Invasion of Rohan from West and East:]
Fréaláf expels the Dunlendings from Isengard
Saruman invited to Isengard
All thought [Saruman] a welcome guest. Soon after he took up his abode in Isengard. For this, Beren, Steward of Gondor, gave him leave, for Gondor still claimed Isengard as a fortress of its realm, and not part of Rohan. Beren also gave into Saruman's keeping the keys of Orthanc. That tower no enemy had been able to harm or to enter.

... at first he held Isengard as a lieutenant of the Steward and warden of the tower. But Fréaláf was as glad as Beren to have this so, and to know that Isengard was in the hands of a strong friend. A friend he long seemed, and maybe in the beginning he was one in truth.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: The House of Eorl

[2953, Saruman seizes and fortifies Isengard:]
... in the end he turned to evil and became an enemy; and yet the Rohirrim, though they had warnings of his growing malice toward them, continued to put their main strength in the west at the Fords [of Isen]....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix

[2-3 March 3019, Ents destroy Isengard:]
"I saw iron posts and blocks of masonry go rocketing up hundreds of feet, and smash against the windows of Orthanc. ...

... the Ents broke the dams and poured all the gathered waters through a gap in the northern wall, down into Isengard."

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 9, Flotsam and Jetsam

[22 August 3019, Aragorn regains the keys of Orthanc:]
[Said Gandalf,] '... the Tower of Orthanc now goes back to the King, to whom it belongs.'

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Many Partings

Etymology of Angrenost

anga 'iron', Sindarin ang, in Angainor, Angband, Anghabar, Anglachel, Angrist, Angrod, Anguirel, Gurthang; angren 'of iron' in Angrenost, plural engrin in Ered Engrin.

os(t) 'fortress' in Angrenost, Belegost, Formenos, Fornost, Mandos, Nargothrond (from Narog-ost-rond), Os(t)giliath, Ost-in-Edhil.

The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names

Contributors: Lyllyn 6-18-03
added Name: Elena Tiriel 13Jul04
added quotes: ET 15Aug04, 19Dec04
added Etymology: ET 5Jan05
added History: ET 12Jan05

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