Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

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Havard
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Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Havard » Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:05 am

So, from what I understand, most of Middle-earth's Giant Spiders are descended from Ungoliant, a primordial spider shaped creature, who gained immense power when she helped Melkor drain the Trees of Valinor. Shelob was among her offspring, but I am guessing she had other spawn as well? Then there are the Spiders of Mirkwood which are offspring of Shelob.

I do seem to recall seeing some man/spider (centaur-like) creatures in one of the video games or something, but I guess that was more of a fan interpretation?

Apparently one of the video games also gave Shelob shape shifting abilties, allowing her to appear in the form of a seductive woman, but again this was a 3rd party interpretation that was heavily criticized.

Are there other known Giant Spiders in Middle-earth? What are some other regions where such creatures might be encountered?

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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Big Mac » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:50 pm

Havard wrote:Are there other known Giant Spiders in Middle-earth? What are some other regions where such creatures might be encountered?
The One Wiki to Rule Them All has a http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Great_Spiders article and that actually says that Giant Spiders are on of three types of Great Spiders. (The other two are called Umaiar spiders and the Spawn of Ungoliant.)

That article also says that some Lord of the Rings video games feature Great Spiders, so you might be able to find some websites that have a run down on some computer game spiders that you can add into your tabletop game.
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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Havard » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:25 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:Are there other known Giant Spiders in Middle-earth? What are some other regions where such creatures might be encountered?
The One Wiki to Rule Them All has a http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Great_Spiders article and that actually says that Giant Spiders are on of three types of Great Spiders. (The other two are called Umaiar spiders and the Spawn of Ungoliant.)
That is interesting. The Umaiar Spiders are the race that Ungoliant was part of. I didn't realize that there were an entire race of those god-like spiders.

Also, I assumed the Giant Spiders of Mirkwood were also Spawn of Ungoliant?

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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Falconer » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:49 pm

All Great Spiders are the spawn of Ungoliant (or the spawn of the spawn, of course). Ungoliant is the only one we know of that is a primordial being. Presumably she is an Ainu (a Maia or Umaia), though that is never stated by Tolkien, that I am aware of. Those categories in the wiki seem to me false distinctions.
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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Tolwen » Sat Jun 09, 2018 4:16 pm

Havard wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:05 am
So, from what I understand, most of Middle-earth's Giant Spiders are descended from Ungoliant, a primordial spider shaped creature, who gained immense power when she helped Melkor drain the Trees of Valinor. Shelob was among her offspring, but I am guessing she had other spawn as well? Then there are the Spiders of Mirkwood which are offspring of Shelob.
[...]
Are there other known Giant Spiders in Middle-earth? What are some other regions where such creatures might be encountered?
Shelob and Ungoliant are the only ones named by Tolkien. As you said, technically they aren't (oversized) spiders, but evil spirits in a form similar to that of a spider. Tolkien mentions other - unnamed - offspring of Ungoliant in the context of the War of the Jewels in Nan Dungortheb, but this is to my knowledge never further elaborated upon.
An interesting footnote by Tolkien by Tolkien concerns the final fate of Ungoliant. It is clear that she fled Beleriand well before its end and vanished somewhere in the South. He is a bit ambiguous on her end by stating that "some believe she consumed herself in the utmost famine". This leaves room for various interpretations.
Both MERP and TOR named the major offspring of Shelob that haunt Mirkwood. If you're interested, I can look that up.

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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Havard » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:56 pm

Tolwen wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 4:16 pm
Havard wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:05 am
So, from what I understand, most of Middle-earth's Giant Spiders are descended from Ungoliant, a primordial spider shaped creature, who gained immense power when she helped Melkor drain the Trees of Valinor. Shelob was among her offspring, but I am guessing she had other spawn as well? Then there are the Spiders of Mirkwood which are offspring of Shelob.
[...]
Are there other known Giant Spiders in Middle-earth? What are some other regions where such creatures might be encountered?
Shelob and Ungoliant are the only ones named by Tolkien. As you said, technically they aren't (oversized) spiders, but evil spirits in a form similar to that of a spider. Tolkien mentions other - unnamed - offspring of Ungoliant in the context of the War of the Jewels in Nan Dungortheb, but this is to my knowledge never further elaborated upon.
Fascinating. I assume that the offspring of these creatures would also be consdiered (lesser) evil spritis?

An interesting footnote by Tolkien by Tolkien concerns the final fate of Ungoliant. It is clear that she fled Beleriand well before its end and vanished somewhere in the South. He is a bit ambiguous on her end by stating that "some believe she consumed herself in the utmost famine". This leaves room for various interpretations.
That has the potential for basing a whole campaign around it!

Both MERP and TOR named the major offspring of Shelob that haunt Mirkwood. If you're interested, I can look that up.
Yes, that would be very helpful!

Are the publishers of TOR allowed to reference material created for MERP? My guess would be no, but that seems to have been the case when WEG had the lisence for Star Wars...


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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by willpell » Mon Jun 11, 2018 6:46 pm

Presumably the blood of Ungoliant is what allows them to circumvent the Square Cube Law....

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Re: Giant Spiders of Middle-earth

Post by Tolwen » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:25 pm

Havard wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:56 pm
Shelob and Ungoliant are the only ones named by Tolkien. As you said, technically they aren't (oversized) spiders, but evil spirits in a form similar to that of a spider. Tolkien mentions other - unnamed - offspring of Ungoliant in the context of the War of the Jewels in Nan Dungortheb, but this is to my knowledge never further elaborated upon.
Fascinating. I assume that the offspring of these creatures would also be consdiered (lesser) evil spritis?
Probably. But the topic of the procreation of Ainur (or similar beings) is a very tricky subject in Tolkien's universe and not fully developed. Lúthien is of course the primary example - on the side of the Free Peoples.
If that is extrapolated and used as a general model (for a lack of other ones) the offspring of such an Ainu with an incarnated creature (e.g. man or elf or any other non-Ainu being) would inherit mainly the nature of the non-Ainu parent, but be of great power and majesty (for good or bad) due to the parentage from the Ainu side. This works acceptable for the Free People, but for the Enemies there is the issue that the Ainur by nature do not procreate and Eru has to "sanction" such a union to produce offspring (at least if the offspring is meant to have a soul - a fëa. While being an acceptable thought for the case of Melia & Thingol, it is harder to swallow for the Enemies. Of course you might argue that he has a deeper intent with this that fits to his plan at some point, and is beyond reasonable comprehension for the Incarnates (Elves, Men, Dwarves).
It is easier if such beings have no fëa, but then they would be of about the same status as animals (and of like intelligence/ability). Overall it is not easy to decide.
Havard wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:56 pm
An interesting footnote by Tolkien by Tolkien concerns the final fate of Ungoliant. It is clear that she fled Beleriand well before its end and vanished somewhere in the South. He is a bit ambiguous on her end by stating that "some believe she consumed herself in the utmost famine". This leaves room for various interpretations.
That has the potential for basing a whole campaign around it!
Indeed it has, but as far as I know it has not been fully developed. Only the "Dawn of Unlight" touches on it, but the scale is quite modest IMO and does it not really justice.
Havard wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:56 pm
Both MERP and TOR named the major offspring of Shelob that haunt Mirkwood. If you're interested, I can look that up.
Yes, that would be very helpful!

Are the publishers of TOR allowed to reference material created for MERP? My guess would be no, but that seems to have been the case when WEG had the lisence for Star Wars...
For the latter question I have no knowledge based on facts, but my guess is a clear 'no'. The IP for MERP reverted to MEE when they forced ICE out of business and has stayed there - probably in a well-locked vault ;)
The problem revolves around IP. In these days, the 'Tolkien' and/or 'Middle-earth' franchise is associated with huge amounts of money. The legal situation who may use what is somehow tricky and as both sides (the Tolkien Estate and mEE) are known to get along with each other not too well, especially the Estate is keen to make sure that MEE does not overstep its license. Therefore MEE on its own makes sure that its licensees very strictly adhere to the licensed stuff (to avoid legal troubles themselves).
And here MERP comes into play. Back in its day, the authors for MERP products regularly overstepped their license. But - and this is my personal opinion - as it was only a niché product back in the day and no big money associated with it (and thus no feud between the Estate and MEE existed), nobody really cared. Nowadays, to make use of that material, MEE would have to weed out all the "problematic" stuff, and for some modules you would almost have to write them anew then ;)
IMO they see no point to invest that much work for little return and thus MERP stays where it is and TOR builds a new game canon step by step.

And for the question of names, these ar ethe ones that are used:
TOR has Tauler, Tyulqin and Sarqin as the three ancient spider-like creatures and direct spawn of Shelob. They are the most dangerous antagonists in this regard, each with a specific strength and weakness. Overall they are truly fearsome opponents, and in the TOR system, a direct attack on any one of them (lest several combined) will likely result in a TPK (certainly, if there is more than one present) - regardless of skill level of the group.
MERP has Enna San Sarab as the primary Mirkwood spawn of Shelob. In ths canon, she resides in Dol Guldur, providing Sauron with a similar functionality as Shelob on the border of Mordor. In a way it's a mini-Shelob and basically the same idea.

OH, Issue 31/32 has an article names "The Great Spiders", and this is of course based on the MERP canon.

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Tolwen
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