Meaning: She-spider (Lob is an old English word for spider)
Location(s): Cirith Ungol
Race/Species: Beasts & Monsters
Dates: Prior to II 1000* - IV
Children: Spiders of Mirkwood
*"But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness....
A little way ahead and to his left he saw suddenly, issuing from a black hole of shadow under the cliff, the most loathly shape that he had ever beheld, horrible beyond the horror of an evil dream. Most like a spider she was, but huger than the greatest hunting beasts, and more terrible than they because of the evil purpose in her remorseless eyes. Those same eyes that he had thought daunted and defeated, there they were lit with a fell light again, clustering in her out-thrust head. Great horns she had, and behind her short stalk-like neck was her huge swollen body, a vast bloated bag, swaying and sagging between her legs; its great bulk was black, blotched with livid marks, but the belly underneath was pale and luminous and gave forth a stench. Her legs were bent, with great knobbed joints high above her back, and hairs that stuck out like steel spines, and at each leg's end there was a claw.
As soon as she had squeezed her soft squelching body and its folded limbs out of the upper exit from her lair, she moved with a horrible speed, now running her creaking legs, now making a sudden bound."
Book 4, Ch 9, Shelob's Lair, TTT, LOTR
On her usefulness to Sauron:
...as for Sauron: he knew where she lurked. It pleased him that she should dwell there hungry but unabated in malice, a more sure watch upon that ancient path into his land than any other that his skill could have devised. And Orcs, they were useful slaves, but he had them in plenty. If now and again Shelob caught them to stay her appetite, she was welcome: he could spare them. And sometimes as a man may cast a dainty to his cat (his cat he calls her, but she owns him not) Sauron would send her prisoners that he had no better uses for: he would have them driven to her hole, and report brought back to him of the play she made.
So they both lived, delighting in their own devices, and feared no assault, nor wrath, nor any end of their wickedness. Never yet had any fly escaped from Shelob's webs...
(LotR: TTT: Book Four: Chapter IX: Shelob's Lair)
On her fate:
...Sam still stood upon his feet, and dropping his own sword, with both hands he held the elven-blade point upwards, fending off that ghastly roof; and so Shelob, with the driving force of her own cruel will, with strength greater than any warrior's hand, thrust herself upon a bitter spike. Deep, deep it pricked...
No such anguish had Shelob ever known, or dreamed of knowing, in all her long world of wickedness. Not the doughtiest soldier of old Gondor, nor the most savage Orc entrapped, had ever thus endured her, or set blade to her beloved flesh...
...she gathered herself for another spring - this time to crush and sting to death: no little bite of poison to still the struggling of her meat; this time to slay and then to rend.
Even as Sam himself crouched, looking at her, seeing his death in her eyes, a thought came to him, as if some remote voice had spoken. and he fumbled in his breast with his left hand, and found what he sought: cold and hard and solid it seemed to his touch in a phantom world of horror, the Phial of Galadriel.'
...As if his indomitable spirit had set its potency in motion, the glass blazed suddenly like a white torch in his hand. It flamed like a star that leaping from the firmament sears the dark air with intolerable light. No such terror out of heaven had ever burned in Shelob's face before. The beams of it entered into her wounded head and scored it with unbearable pain, and the dreadful infection of light spread from eye to eye. She fell back beating the air with her forelegs, her sight blasted by inner lightnings, her mind in agony. Then turning her maimed head away, she rolled aside and began to crawl, claw by claw, towards the opening in the dark cliff behind.
...Shelob was gone; and whether she lay long in her lair, nursing her malice and her misery, and in slow years of darkness healed herself from within, rebuilding her clustered eyes, until with hunger like death she spun once more her dreadful snares in the glens of the Mountains of Shadow, this tale does not tell.
(LotR: TTT: Book Four: Chapter X: The Choices of Master Samwise)
Both lob [as in Shelob] and cob [as in cobwebs] are words for "spider." Lob comes from the Old English loppe, lobbe; Middle English loppe, lop(p), lob. Cob is rare as a separate word and is probably taken from cobweb (Middle English coppe-web). In The Princess and the Goblin, however, George Macdonald used cob as a word for goblin.
(The Annotated Hobbit, Annotated by Douglas A. Anderson, Ch 8, Flies and Spiders, Note 16)
Do you think Shelob is a good name for a monstrous spider creature? It is of course only 'she + lob' (= spider), but written as one, it seems to be quite noisome.....
(The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 70 to Christopher Tolkien, 21 May 1944)
Lyllyn 1.19.03; added etymology: Elena Tiriel 5.24.04; added Tolkien quote: ET 5.31.04; ~Nessime 6/02/04 (additional quotes); updated Etymology: ET 6.8.04