HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

Black Breath (Nazgûl weapon)

Type: Weapons

Description:

A name for the overwhelming terror caused by the Nazgûl, sometimes associated with breathing or hissing on their victims, sometimes with their fell voices. A heavy exposure can cause the potentially fatal illness known as the Black Shadow:
[The Ringwraiths'] chief weapon was terror. This was actually greater when they were unclad and invisible; and it was greater also when they were gathered together.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

[The Black Riders'] peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 210 to Forrest J Ackerman, June 1958

The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Now few could withstand even one of these fell creatures, and (as Sauron deemed) none could withstand them when gathered together under their terrible captain, the Lord of Morgul.

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

The Witch-king, their leader, is more powerful in all ways than the others....

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 210 to Forrest J Ackerman, June 1958

'For even the Wise might fear to withstand the Nine, when they are gathered together under their fell chieftain. A great king and sorcerer he was of old, and now he wields a deadly fear.'

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

When the black breath blows
and death's shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king's hand lying!

From When the black breath blows
The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 8, The Houses of Healing


Instances of the Black Breath
1975, at the Battle of Fornost:

[The] Witch-king... singled out the Captain of Gondor for the fullness of his hatred, and with a terrible cry he rode straight upon him. Eärnur would have withstood him; but his horse could not endure that onset, and it swerved and bore him far away before he could master it.

Then the Witch-king laughed, and none that heard it ever forgot the horror of that cry.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion

Circa October 3017, when Sauron's messenger threatens Dáin II of Erebor:

'"Find only news of the thief, whether he still lives and where, and you shall have great reward and lasting friendship from the Lord. Refuse, and things will not seem so well. Do you refuse?"

'At that his breath came like the hiss of snakes, and all who stood by shuddered....'

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

20 June 3018, at the Assault on Osgiliath:

'Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman.... Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.'

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

23 September 3018, when Khamûl arrives in Hobbiton and questions the Gaffer:

'There's been a strange customer asking for Mr. Baggins of Bag End.... He seemed mighty put out, when I told him Mr. Baggins had left his old home for good. Hissed at me, he did. It gave me quite a shudder.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 3, Three Is Company

23 September 3018, when the Nazgûl pass thru Bree:

'They had words with Harry at West-gate on Monday.... He was white and shaking when they left him.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 10, Strider

25 September 3018, before the Hobbits stop at Farmer Maggot's:

'"I come from yonder," [the Black Rider] said, slow and stiff-like, pointing back west, over my fields, if you please. "Have you seen Baggins?" he asked in a queer voice, and bent down towards me. I could not see any face, for his hood fell down so low; and I felt a sort of shiver down my back.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 4, A Short Cut to Mushrooms

29 September 3018, at the attack on Merry in Bree:

'[Suddenly] I heard voices by the hedge. One was muttering; and the other was whispering, or hissing.... I did not creep any closer, because I began to tremble all over. Then I felt terrified, and I turned back..., when something came behind me and I... I fell over.'

'I found him, sir,' put in Nob.... 'He seemed to be asleep. "I thought I had fallen into deep water," he says to me, when I shook him. Very queer he was, and as soon as I had roused him, he... ran back here....'

'I am afraid that's true,' said Merry, 'though I don't know what I said. I had an ugly dream, which I can't remember. I went to pieces. I don't know what came over me.'

'I do,' said Strider. 'The Black Breath.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 10, Strider

30 September 3018, when the Nazgûl attack the house at Crickhollow:

A feeling of fear had been growing on [Fatty Bolger] all day, and he was unable to rest...: there was a brooding threat in the breathless night-air. As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees.... Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall....

[He] knew that he must run for it, or perish.... When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. 'No, no, no!' he was crying. 'No, not me! I haven't got it!' It was some time before anyone could make out what he was babbling about.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 11, A Knife in the Dark

6 October 3018, at the Attack on the Camp at Weathertop:

Frodo thought that he heard a faint hiss as of venomous breath and felt a thin piercing chill. Then the shapes slowly advanced.

Terror overcame Pippin and Merry, and they threw themselves flat on the ground. Sam shrank to Frodo's side. Frodo was hardly less terrified than his companions; he was quaking as if he was bitter cold, but his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 11, A Knife in the Dark

20 October 3018, at the Ambush at the Ford of Bruinen:

Fear now filled all Frodo's mind.... No cry came from him.... A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear, as with a last spurt..., the elf-horse... passed right before the face of the foremost Rider.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford

14 March 3019, during the Siege of Minas Tirith:

The Nazgûl came again, and as their Dark Lord now grew and put forth his strength, so their voices, which uttered only his will and his malice, were filled with evil and horror. Ever they circled above the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men's flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, at each new cry. At length even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war, but only of hiding and of crawling, and of death.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor

15 March 3019, after Faramir falls in the retreat over the Pelennor:

'[Faramir] is nearly spent,' said Aragorn.... 'But this comes not from the wound.... This hurt was given by some Southron arrow'...

[Said] Imrahil,... 'It was... just such a dart as the Southrons use. Yet I believed that it came from the Shadows above, for else his fever and sickness were not to be understood.... How then do you read the matter?'

'Weariness, grief for his father's mood, a wound, and over all the Black Breath,' said Aragorn.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 8, The Houses of Healing

25 March 3019, at the Battle of the Morannon:

And out of the gathering mirk the Nazgûl came with their cold voices crying words of death; and then all hope was quenched.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 10, The Black Gate Opens

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 9Sep04, 27Sep04, 22Sep05, 15Jul06, 14Mar08, 13Jan12, 9Feb12

Related Library Entries

Things Search

   

Places

No related places

Go to Places

Full Text Search


Search runs slowly