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Places in Middle-earth

Dunharrow

Type: Fortresses, Towers, Defenses

Region: Rohan

Meaning: the heathen fane on the hillside

Other Names the Hold

Location: The refuge of Dunharrow is located south of Edoras in Harrowdale; the hold lies hundreds of feet above the valley floor, in the White Mountains between three peaks: Starkhorn, Írensaga, and Dwimorberg.

Description:

The road now led eastward straight across the valley... in front on the far side of the dale Merry saw a frowning wall, a last outlier of the great roots of the Starkhorn, cloven by the river in ages past....

On all the level spaces there was great concourse of men.... [Stretching] away into the distance behind there were ordered rows of tents and booths, and lines of picketed horses, and great store of arms, and piled spears bristling like thickets of new-planted trees. Now all the great assembly was falling into shadow, and yet... no fires were lit. Watchmen heavily cloaked paced to and fro.

Merry wondered how many Riders there were. He could not guess their number in the gathering gloom, but it looked to him like a great army, many thousands strong. While he was peering from side to side the king's party came up under the looming cliff on the eastern side of the valley; and there suddenly the path began to climb, and Merry looked up in amazement. He was on a road the like of which he had never seen before, a great work of men's hands in years beyond the reach of song. Upwards it wound..., boring its way across the sheer slope of rock.... At each turn of the road there were great standing stones that had been carved in the likeness of men, huge and clumsy-limbed, squatting cross-legged with their stumpy arms folded on fat bellies.... The Púkel-men they called them, and heeded them little....

After a while he looked back and found that he had already climbed some hundreds of feet above the valley....

At last the king's company came to a sharp brink, and the climbing road passed into a cutting between walls of rock, and so went up a short slope and out on to a wide upland. The Firienfeld men called it, a green mountain-field of grass and heath, high above the deep-delved courses of the Snowbourn, laid upon the lap of the great mountains behind: the Starkhorn southwards, and northwards the saw-toothed mass of Írensaga, between which there faced the riders, the grim black wall of the Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain rising out of steep slopes of sombre pines. Dividing the upland into two there marched a double line of unshaped standing stones that dwindled into the dusk and vanished in the trees. Those who dared to follow that road came soon to the black Dimholt under Dwimorberg, and the menace of the pillar of stone, and the yawning shadow of the forbidden door.

Such was the dark Dunharrow, the work of long-forgotten men. Their name was lost and no song or legend remembered it. For what purpose they had made this place, as a town or secret temple or a tomb of kings, none could say. Here they laboured in the Dark Years, before ever a ship came to the western shores, or Gondor of the Dúnedain was built; and now they had vanished, and only the old Púkel-men were left, still sitting at the turnings of the road.

Merry stared at the lines of marching stones: they were worn and black; some were leaning, some were fallen, some cracked or broken; they looked like rows of old and hungry teeth. He wondered what they could be, and he hoped that the king was not going to follow them into the darkness beyond. Then he saw that there were clusters of tents and booths on either side of the stony way; but these were not set near the trees, and seemed rather to huddle away from them towards the brink of the cliff. The greater number were on the right, where the Firienfeld was wider; and on the left there was a smaller camp, in the midst of which stood a tall pavilion.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 3, The Muster of Rohan


Etymology
Dunharrow. A modernisation of Rohan Dunhaerg 'the heathen fane on the hillside', so-called because this refuge of the Rohirrim at the head of Harrowdale was on the site of a sacred place of the old inhabitants (now the Dead Men). The element haerg can be modernised in English because it remains an element in place-names, notably Harrow (on the Hill). The word has no connection with harrow the implement. It is the Old English equivalent of Old Norse hörgr (modern Icelandic hörgur), Old High German harug.

"Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
from A Tolkien Compass, compiled by Jared Lobdell
Chicago: Open Court Pub Co, June 1975

Contributors: Lyllyn 8.26.03
added Etymology: Elena Tiriel 22Dec04

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