Report from the front: Amon Sul

Nazgul: “Lord Sauron, this is one of your Nazgul reporting from the front lines. Five us of encountered the Ring Bearer at Amon Sul.”

Sauron: “Excellent work, you shall be rewarded. Bring me the Ring at once!”

Nazgul: “Well sir, we don’t exactly have the ring”

Sauron: “Ahhh. The Ringbearer must have been accompanied by and protected by an Elflord, or perhaps even Gandalf or Elrond ?”

Nazgul: “Uh, no sir, no elves nor wizards…”

Sauron: “I don’t understand. Was it Tom Bombadil?”

Nazgul: “Well sir, the Ringbearer is a halfling, as you told us. He had, uh, three other halfings with him, and”

Sauron: “WHAT??? Four halflings and FIVE of you? What are you telling me? FOUR HALFLINGS AND FIVE OF YOU???”

Nazgul: “Well sir, there was also this man who came out with a sword and a torch…”

Sauron: “I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe. Five of you and four HALFLINGS and ONE MAN!!!?? Why didn’t two of you spar with him and the other three take the Ring??”

Nazgul: “Well, sir, he did have a torch. You know how we feel about fire”

Sauron: “God you guys are PATHETIC! Really pathetic. Did the halflings at least have torches too?”

Nazgul: “No sir. They had little knives. But very sharp-looking.”

Sauron: “I WANT MY RING!!!”

Nazgul: “Sir, we did manage to stab the Ringbearer with a Morgul blade sir, so he should succumb to that fairly soon.”

Sauron: "You stabbed him? If you stabbed him, why didn’t you just kill him?

Nazgul: “Well sir, we didn’t think of that, I guess.”

Sauron: “Why, oh why, couldn’t I have given those nine rings to mortal men who had at least some BRAINS!! I had the chance to give one to a mad scientist, but Murazor said, ‘no me, give it to me’ and I stupidly went along. And there was this Black Numenorean fellow, really had it on the ball, but Adunaphel promised great service. And look where it’s got me. Five of you against one man and FOUR HALFLINGS!! I mean, one of my orcs can kill a halfling. And you are Nazgul, do you understand, NAZGUL! You are undead and have great powers!”

Nazgul: “Yessir, we’re Nazgul”

Sauron: “Sigh. I just can’t believe. I won’t believe it.”

Nazgul: “They’re heading for Imladris sir. We’re gathering all nine of us. We’re sure to take him before he crossed the river.”

Sauron: “Yes, clearly against four halflings you’d better have all nine of you. Let’s just hope a hedgehog doesn’t join them before you encounter them.”

Nazgul: “Er, yes sir. MIghty nasty beasts, hedgehoges”



That’s some funny stuff right there!

“suspension of disbelief”

Fun books. Enchanting movies. But even my huge civil service would have found a way to bury the damn thing in enough forms and acronyms to have even Sam call it quits on the way to Mordor. Kafka is hilarious, alas, he’s many decades old and we’ve improved so much since…

I’m all for suspension of disbelief and I’m pretty good at it :slight_smile: But the Amon Sul scene has always stood out as an absurdity to me. It seems like a big oversight on the part of JRRT to not realize how absurd it is that the five Nazgul didn’t just overpower Aragorn and just take the ring, or at least snatch up Frodo and ride off with him.

However, I found this post on the web which is interesting.

I myself always had a big problem with the Weathertop confrontation. Why did the five Nazgul run off so easily? It just didn’t make any sense to me. Then I later read many of Tolkien’s notes and letters on that scene , where he better explained what was going on.

Firstly, the wraiths were already in a bad state, having spent a previous night fighting Gandalf (the wizard took them all on single handedly but was ultimately forced to run away). Second , they are wary of the fire being wielded by the great warrior Aragorn. Thirdly, Frodo cries out to Elbereth - aka Varda, Queen of the Valar and beloved “goddess” of the Elves. This makes the Witch King panic. Ordinary Mortals do not utter this name, Frodo must be in league with the hated and powerful Eldar. The hobbits were already seen in company of Gildor . Fourth, Frodo is wielding a barrow knife. We know that these are dangerous to the Nazgul, having been designed to make them vulnerable .

All of this makes the Witch King panic and run off. This was supposed to be an easy mission to kill a few pathetic mortals , but he’s had to fight a wizard and now these hobbits are fighting back with Aragorn.

He then decides there is no need to make another attack , as he has managed to stab Frodo with a Morgul knife, it will soon turn Frodo into a wraith. Except … it doesn’t . Again , he underestimates Frodo, who holds onto life and light and resists being turned into a lesser wraith. The Witch King waits too long and then Glorfindel turns up . After that, he is unwilling to risk another attack until all nine Nazgul are there, but by then , they are too close to Rivendell and Elrond intervenes.

So, that’s food for thought.


It seems to me that at the time of the rumble at Amon Sul Sauron is still gathering his strength so the Nazgul are relatively weak. As Sauron gains in strength so do the Nazgul.

This might be thread necromancy and the humour topic isn’t really the place but still…

The Nazgul are mostly bogie men in Tolkien’s writings. Only the Witch King appears as an actually powerful figure who kills a King. I think in the canon it’s very legit that Aragorn chases them away and Glorfindel staves them off at the river.

Now on the other hand we have the wonderful MERP material from ICE, that the pbm is based on. In this scenario the Nazgul got names and individual power. It’s not Tolkien canon, but it works much better for games.

  • Mikko

That’s an interesting bit from Tolkien (Is it an interview? If so, where did you find it?). The Weathertop confrontation also bothered me with hindsight. The nazgul are afraid of a man bearing a torch? Even with the explanation cited above, the nazgul are afraid of a hobbit proclaiming “Elbereth - aka Varda”???

This makes the Witch King panic? No, I don’t think so. Witch Kings don’t panic over such things, not when the One Ring is right there, basically within his grasp.

I have a feeling this scene is a “writer’s problem” and not a narrative problem. He wrote the scene; then he wrote later scenes, building and building up towards the final confrontation outside Minas Tirith (final for the Witch King) and under Mount Doom.

Then he realized too late that a scene written to fit Return of the King doesn’t make much sense retrospectively when we read the Fellowship. Often Tolkien created drama for the sake of telling a gripping tale, even though in retrospect the stuff doesn’t seem to fit well.

(Why didn’t Smaug light up the entire place with dragon fire when he smelled and spoke with that Baggins thief?)

Smaug is entirely different from the nazguls.
Ofcourse there is literary elements for drama that we might not agree with, but the case with the nazgul really is different. They were scary, but that’s it. They never did anything really to think they should overwhelm the company at Weathertop. Maybe they are cowards?
Witch King is the only nazgul to ever have really done anything except bloodhounding in canon.

  • Mikko