The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Species
More then twenty species, mostly in the family Accipitridae1
Settlements
The Silent Watchers of the Tower of Cirith Ungol had heads carved like those of vultures
Meaning
From Latin vultur2

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About this entry:

  • Updated 19 September 2022
  • This entry is complete

Vultures

Birds of prey adapted for a scavenging lifestyle, often showing a hooked beak and a head naked of feathers. No vulture is explicitly described as existing in Middle-earth, but the Winged Nazgûl are compared to them, flocking over a battlefield as vultures gather above the dead or dying. Vultures - or, at least, the heads of vultures, appeared in a more physical form at the gates of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. These gates were guarded by the Two Watchers: stone guardians carved with three heads looking in different directions, with each of these heads in the form of a staring vulture.


Notes

1

There is no single group of related birds called 'vultures'; rather, the English word is used for a wide variety of unrelated carrion feeders that happen to share a similar lifestyle and general appearance. Tolkien presumably had in mind the common griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) of Eurasia and north Africa, whose range would have fitted with the geography of Middle-earth.

2

The origins of the Latin word vultur are unclear, except that it derived from an earlier form voltur. Some sources suggest a derivation from the verb vellere, 'to pluck, tear, stretch out', based on the bird's feeding habits.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 19 September 2022
  • This entry is complete

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