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Khamûl

Other Names:
the Black Easterling
the Shadow of the East

Location(s):
Minas Morgul
Dol Goldur

Race/Species: Man

Type/Kind: Men of Shadow

Title(s):
the Second Chief

Dates:
II 2250 - III 3019

Description:

One of the nine Nazgûl, second-in-command to the Witch-king of Angmar; lived in Dol Goldur with another Nazgûl after Sauron returned to Mordor in 2951 of the Third Age.
2251
... About this time the Nazgûl or Ringwraiths, slaves of the Nine Rings, first appear.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Second Age

2951
Sauron declares himself openly and gathers power in Mordor. He... sends three of the Nazgûl to reoccupy Dol Guldur.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

[When] Osgiliath was taken... Sauron stayed the assault, and the Nazgûl were ordered to begin the search for the Ring.... Now at that time the Chieftain of the Ringwraiths dwelt in Minas Morgul with six companions, while the second to the Chief, Khamûl the Shadow of the East, abode in Dol Guldur as Sauron's lieutenant, with one other as his messenger. 1

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring

In version B it is noted that the Black Captain did not know whether the Ring was still in the Shire; that he had to find out. The Shire was too large for a violent onslaught...; he must use as much stealth and as little terror as he could.... Therefore he sent some of the Riders into the Shire, with orders to disperse while traversing it; and of these Khamûl was to find Hobbiton..., where "Baggins" lived, according to Saruman's papers.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring

From notes recounting in detail the movements of the Black Riders in the Shire it emerges that it was Khamûl who came to Hobbiton and spoke to Gaffer Gamgee, who followed the hobbits along the road to Stock, and who narrowly missed them at the Bucklebury Ferry.... The Rider who accompanied him, whom he summoned by cries on the ridge above Woodhall, and with whom he visited Farmer Maggot, was "his companion from Dol Guldur."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 1

[Of] the Rider (who was in fact Khamûl of Dol Guldur...) seen on the far side of Bucklebury Ferry just after the Hobbits had crossed (The Fellowship of the Ring I 5) it is said that "he was well aware that the Ring had crossed the river; but the river was a barrier to his sense of its movement and that the Nazgûl would not touch the "Elvish" waters of Baranduin. But it is not made clear how they crossed other rivers that lay in their path....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring

Of Khamûl it is said here that he was the most ready of all the Nazgûl after the Black Captain himself, to perceive the presence of the Ring, but also the one whose power was most confused and diminished by daylight.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 1

About the twenty-second of July [3018] they met their companions, the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur, in the Field of Celebrant. There they learned that Gollum... had vanished. They were told also by Khamûl that no dwelling of Halflings could be discovered in the Vales of Anduin, and that the villages of the Stoors by the Gladden had long been deserted. But the Lord of Morgul, seeing no better counsel, determined still to seek northward....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring

And as [the Host of the West] stood they saw all the Nazgûl gathered together, hovering above the Towers of the Teeth like vultures; and they knew that they were watched.

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

Straight down upon the Nazgûl [the Eagles] bore....

But the Nazgûl turned and fled, and vanished into Mordor's shadows, hearing a sudden terrible call out of the Dark Tower; and even at that moment all the hosts of Mordor trembled....

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 4, The Field of Cormallen

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own..., the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken....

At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 3, Mount Doom

Fire belched from [Orodruin's] riven summit. The skies burst into thunder seared with lightning. Down like lashing whips fell a torrent of black rain. And into the heart of the storm, with a cry that pierced all other sounds, tearing the clouds asunder, the Nazgûl came, shooting like flaming bolts, as caught in the fiery ruin of hill and sky they crackled, withered, and went out.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 3, Mount Doom


Commentary
Khamûl is the only one of the Nazgûl to be specifically named by Tolkien. The exact meaning of the name is uncertain. It may or may not have been his original name; it is unknown if Sauron renamed the Nazgûl when they became his servants.

Most of what is known about his career can be found in the Unfinished Tales chapter, "The Hunt for the Ring". It is probably safe to assume that the Nazgûl who sniffed for the Hobbits cowering beneath the road was Khamûl, for it is stated that he was "confused and diminished" by daylight. It is not certain if he was involved in the attacks at Bree and Weathertop.

However, there are some curious facts about Khamûl which need to be addressed:
After the death of the Witch-King, it is Gothmog, Lieutenant of Minas Morgul, who assumes command. Why he would do so and not the second-ranked Nazgûl is a mystery, until one considers that Lórien was under siege at the same time. It is possible, therefore, that Khamûl was in charge of that operation, and that command subsequently fell to Gothmog. Many scholars believe Gothmog was also a Nazgûl; if so he cannot have been higher than third in command.

The actual death date for Khamûl is, therefore, also problematic. If he was in Mordor at the time of the Ring's destruction, he was almost certainly killed at that time. If, however, he was at Lórien, he may have survived for a short while — at least until Dol Guldur was destroyed.

Commentary by Khazar


Notes
1According to the entry in the Tale of Years for 2951 Sauron sent three, not two, of the Nazgûl to reoccupy Dol Guldur. The two statements can be reconciled on the assumption that one of the Ringwraiths of Dol Guldur returned afterwards to Minas Morgul but I [Christopher Tolkien] think it more likely that the formulation of the present text was superseded when the Tale of Years was compiled; and it may be noted that in a rejected version of the present passage there was only one Nazgûl in Dol Guldur (not named as Khamûl, but referred to as "the Second Chief (the Black Easterling)"), while one remained with Sauron as his chief messenger.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 1

Contributors:
Khazar, 12Nov03
Elena Tiriel 26Feb07

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