HASA Resources

Places in Middle-earth

Ring of Isengard

Type: Fortresses, Towers, Defenses

Region: Rohan

Other Names
Circle of Isengard
Circle of Angrenost
Treegarth of Orthanc
stone-circle

Location: The mile-diameter black stone wall surrounding the tower of Orthanc in the Nan Curunír valley, at the foot of Methedras, the southernmost peak of the Misty Mountains.

Description:

'But Isengard is a circle of sheer rocks that enclose a valley as with a wall, and in the midst of that valley is a tower of stone called Orthanc. It was not made by Saruman, but by the Men of Númenor long ago.... It cannot be reached save by passing the circle of Isengard; and in that circle there is only one gate.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

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....

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....

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....

To the centre... stood a tower.... It was fashioned by the builders of old, who smoothed the Ring of Isengard....

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 8, The Road to Isengard

The Isen flowed down from its sources along the eastern wall of the Ring, and as it went on southwards it was still a young river that offered no great obstacle to invaders, though its waters were still very swift and strangely cold. But the Great Gate of Angrenost opened west of Isen, and if the fortress were well manned enemies from the westlands must be in great strength if they thought to pass on into Westfold.

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


History
10 July 3018, Gandalf's imprisonment in Isengard:

'Late one evening I came to the gate, like a great arch in the wall of rock; and it was strongly guarded. But the keepers of the gate were on the watch for me and told me that Saruman awaited me. I rode under the arch, and the gate closed silently behind me, and suddenly I was afraid, though I knew no reason for it.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

18 September 3018, Nazgûl arrive in Isengard to confront Saruman:

[The] Lord of Morgul halted before the Gate of Isengard.... But [Saruman] was wary and cunning still, and he had ordered Isengard against just such an evil chance. The Circle of Isengard was too strong for even the Lord of Morgul and his company to assail without great force of war. Therefore to his challenge and demands he received only the answer of the voice of Saruman, that spoke by some art as though it came from the Gate itself.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Of the Journey of the Black Riders

3 March 3019, Destruction of Isengard by Ents:

'As soon as Saruman had sent off all his army, our turn came. Treebeard... went up to the gates, and began hammering on the doors, and calling for Saruman. There was no answer, except arrows and stones from the walls.

'When Treebeard had got a few arrows in him, he began to warm up.... An angry Ent is terrifying. Their fingers, and their toes, just freeze on to rock; and they tear it up like bread-crust....

'They pushed, pulled, tore, shook, and hammered; and clang-bang, crash-crack, in five minutes they had these huge gates just lying in ruin; and some were already beginning to eat into the walls, like rabbits in a sand-pit.'

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

4 March 3019, Ents flood Isengard:

'It must have been about midnight when the Ents broke the dams and poured all the gathered waters through a gap in the northern wall....

'We took refuge in that guardroom over there; and we had rather a fright. The lake began to overflow and pour out through the old tunnel, and the water was rapidly rising up the steps. We thought we were going to get caught... but we found a winding stair at the back of the store-room that brought us out on top of the arch. It was a squeeze to get out, as the passages had been cracked and half blocked with fallen stone near the top.'

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

5 March 3019, Parley with Saruman in Isengard:

The king and all his company sat silent on their horses, marvelling, perceiving that the power of Saruman was overthrown; but how they could not guess. And now they turned their eyes towards the archway and the ruined gates. There they saw close beside them a great rubble-heap; and suddenly they were aware of two small figures lying on it at their ease, grey-clad, hardly to be seen among the stones.

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 8, The Road to Isengard

[Said Pippin,] 'Will you have [a meal] here, or in more comfort in what's left of Saruman's guard-house — over there under the arch?'....

The hobbits led the way; and they passed under the arch and came to a wide door upon the left, at the top of a stair. It opened direct into a large chamber, with other smaller doors at the far end, and a hearth and chimney at one side. The chamber was hewn out of the stone; and it must once have been dark, for its windows looked out only into the tunnel. But light came in now through the broken roof....

'I lit a bit of fire,' said Pippin.... '[There] is a great draught in the chimney: it seems to wind away up through the rock, and fortunately it has not been blocked.'....

Aragorn and his companions sat themselves down at one end of a long table, and the hobbits disappeared through one of the inner doors. 'Store-room in there, and above the floods, luckily,' said Pippin, as they came back laden with... food of various sorts.

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

22 August 3019, Travellers reach Isengard:

From Deeping-coomb 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....

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 presently... there came Treebeard striding down the path to greet them....

'Welcome to the Treegarth of Orthanc!' he said.

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

Contributors: Elena Tiriel 5Feb05, 14Feb05, 10Dec07

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