HASA Resources

Places in Middle-earth

Stairs of Cirith Ungol, The

Type: Roads, Lanes, Ways

Region: Mordor/Allies

Location: The path to Shelob's Lair, cut into the rock of the Ephel Dúath on the north rim of the Morgul Vale; the Straight Stair is on the lower (western) section of the path, and the Winding Stair is on the higher (eastern) section.

Description:

Not far from the near bank of the stream there was a gap in the stone-wall beside the road. Through this they passed, and Sam saw that they were on a narrow path that gleamed faintly at first, as the main road did, until climbing above the meads of deadly flowers it faded and went dark, winding its crooked way up into the northern sides of the valley. ...

They had now climbed up to the top of a great hump of bare rock. Ahead of them there was a bay in the valley-side, and round the head of this the path went on, no more than a wide ledge with a chasm on the right; across the sheer southward face of the mountain it crawled upwards, until it disappeared into the blackness above. ...

Across the narrow valley, now almost on a level with his eyes, the walls of the evil city stood ...

They ... followed [Gollum] on to the climbing ledge. ... Soon the path reached a rounded angle where the mountain-side swelled out again, and there it suddenly entered a narrow opening in the rock. They had come to the first stair that Gollum had spoken of. ...

Frodo and Sam at first felt easier, having now a wall on either side, but the stairway was almost as steep as a ladder....

At length, just as they felt that they could endure no more, they saw Gollum's eyes peering down at them again. ... 'First stair's past. ... Just a few more little steps and that's all, yes.'

... They were in a deep dark passage that seemed still to go up before them, though at a gentler slope and without steps. ...

'There's another stair still,' [Gollum] said. 'Much longer stair.' ...

'But not so difficult. Hobbits have climbed the Straight Stair. Next comes the Winding Stair.' ...

The passage seemed to go on for miles.... They only knew that they had come to the end, when suddenly they felt no wall at their right hand. ... They seemed to have climbed up many hundreds of feet, on to a wide shelf. A cliff was on their left and a chasm on their right. ...

For the present they were no longer climbing, but the ground was now more broken and dangerous in the dark, and there were blocks and lumps of fallen stone in the way. ...

[Once] more a stairway opened before them. Again ... they began to climb. ... Here ... the path ... wound to and fro.... At one point it crawled sideways right to the edge of the dark chasm, and Frodo ... saw below him ... the great ravine at the head of the Morgul Vale. Down in its depths glimmered ... the wraith-road from the dead city to the Nameless Pass. ...

Still on and up the stairway bent and crawled, until at last with a final flight, short and straight, it climbed out again on to another level. The path had veered away from the main pass in the great ravine, and it now followed its own perilous course at the bottom of a lesser cleft among the higher regions of the Ephel Dúath. Dimly the hobbits could discern tall piers and jagged pinnacles of stone on either side, between which were great crevices and fissures blacker than the night ... Still far ahead, and still high above, Frodo ... saw ... the very crown of this bitter road. ... [A] cleft was outlined in the topmost ridge, narrow, deep-cloven between two black shoulders; and on either shoulder was a horn of stone. ...

The horn upon the left was tall and slender.... He saw now: it was a black tower poised above the outer pass. ...

In a dark crevice between two great piers of rock they sat down ...

'There's a wicked feeling about this place.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 4, Ch 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

They passed on..., up the long ravine between the piers and columns of torn and weathered rock ... Some way ahead, a mile or so, perhaps, was a great grey wall, a last huge upthrusting mass of mountain-stone. ... [Steadily] it rose as they approached, until it towered up high above them....

'Ugh! That smell!' [Sam] said. 'It's getting stronger and stronger.'

Presently they were under the shadow, and there in the midst of it they saw the opening of a cave. 'This is the way in,' said Gollum softly. 'This is the entrance to the tunnel.' He did not speak its name: Torech Ungol, Shelob's Lair.

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 4, Ch 9, Shelob's Lair

Contributors: Elena Tiriel 15Aug06

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