No fictional enemy is more fearsome than the Nazgul, the nine Ring-wraiths of Middle-Earth. Invisible creatures of shadow in black cloaks with the ability to arouse terror in the most stalwart of men, these evil undead creatures are without equal. Interestingly enough, we also know less about them than just about any other big bad in fiction.
As a matter of fact, for a universe as fleshed out as Middle-Earth it is somewhat surprising that we don’t actually know the names of more than one (or possibly two) of the Nazgul. The only Nazgul named for certain in any of Tolkien’s writings is Khamul the Easterling, the second-in-command of the Nazgul. Even their Captain, the Witch-King of Angmar, is only given a title.
Now, it is possible that a second Nazgul is named in The Return of the King. Gothmog, the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul, is mentioned a single time in the entire series, as leading Mordor’s armies after the death of the Witch King. Gothmog’s race is never actually stated, leading most people to think he was an orc. This rendition was the one portrayed in The Lord of the Rings films. However, it seems rather unlikely that a mere orc should have been given a role of such power. Even Saruman didn’t trust orcs enough to make them his guards. It is more likely that Gothmog was a Black Numenorean or a Nazgul.
Now, all that being said, we still have nothing from Tolkien on the identities of the other seven Black Riders. It fell to various game developers to pick up the slack. So here I would like to list a few of the interesting identities given to the Nine over the years.
Iron Crown Enterprises, the makers of MERP (The Middle-Earth Roleplaying System) developed the Nazgul to a large degree, giving each of them names and titles, as well as favorite weapons, pets, comfort foods, etc.
First, they named the Witch-King as Er-Murazor, also known as Tindomul, of Numenor. Tindomul was the second son of Tar-Ciryatan and younger brother of Tar-Atanamir the Great, both kings of Numenor. Being the second son, Tindomul was denied the kingship, so he set about to earn himself an empire of his own. Setting sail for Middle-Earth, Tindomul crowned himself the King of Umbar in 1882 of the Second Age, but only reigned for a year before his father sent orders for him to return to Numenor. He refused his father’s orders and was exiled, but quickly found a new master in Sauron, who called him to Barad-Dur and granted him the first of the Rings of power.
Khamul the Easterling was the second to receive a ring. He was originally a half-elf of Rhun, half Easterling and half Avari elf, and the eldest son of King Hionvor Mul Tanul of Laeg Goak, near the Red Mountains east of Rhun. Khamul was fostered by an elf-king of the Avari, Dardarien of Helkanen, who had already been corrupted by Sauron. Upon reaching adulthood, Khamul became King of the Womaw, and ruled from Laeg Goak like his father before him. Before long the Numenoreans began to harass his borders, demanding tribute. In response Khamul allied with Mordor, and was given the second of the Rings of power.
Next up was Dendra Dwar, the son of a fisherman of Waw, to the south of Harad. Among the Nazgul Dwar was unique in that he was born to the lowest class. However, his low stature did not save him from the dangers of politics, and at an early age he watched as his village was burned to the ground and his father murdered by the soldiers of the neighbouring country of Hent. Dwar swore to avenge his father, and joined the Wolim military as a tracker. He rose in the ranks, and within a decade had become a general, known for his use of trained war-dogs in battle. Now, finally, he was able to take his revenge upon Hent. He assaulted and captured the fortress of Alk War, and used it as his base of operations against Hent, until he was offered a position with Sauron’s army and one of the Rings of power.
Indur Dawndeath, the Cloud-Lord, was born Ji Indur in the city of Korlan in 1955 of the Second Age as heir to one of the most powerful families of the country of Koronande. Koronande was south of Harad. Indur used his family’s influence to be elected one of the youngest governors in the history of Koronande, and later, to its Assembly of Merchant-Lords. Using conflict with Numenor as a stepping stone he then crowned himself king of Korlan, holding even the support of the local elves, who feared the growing hatred of the Numenoreans. After accepting the offer of one of the Rings of power and service to Sauron Indur was able to conquer most of the southern archipelago, and held it until the arrival of Ar-Pharazon the Golden in 3262 of the Second Age.
Fifth of the Nazgul was Akhorahil of Numenor, Cousin-Son of Tindomul. His father Ciryamir was king of a colony of Numenor in south-eastern Harad. Envious of his father’s power, Akhorahil traded his eyes to a pagan priest for two magical gems, which he used to make his father commit suicide. For this Akhorahil became known as the Blind Sorceror. He then assumed the throne and set out to conquer Far Harad. This brought him to the attention of Sauron, who offered him a ring of power with the promise of immortality and all knowledge. Akhorahil accepted.
Hoarmurath of Dir was born in a matriarchal tribe to the far north of Middle-Earth. However, Hoarmurath travelled and made friends in the south, where he learned that in most places men ruled kingdoms. He became envious of his sister, who had recently assumed the chieftainship, so he killed her and took her seat as chief of their tribe. He then made war with the Avari elves in the area, and thus came to the attention of Khamul the Easterling, who at Sauron’s bidding brought him the sixth Ring of Power.
Adunaphel the Quiet of Numenor was unique among the Nazgul as the only human woman to hold one of the Rings of Power. Adunaphel helped to spearhead the anti-Eldar movement in Numenor. However, she desired further power, and finally followed Tindomul’s steps, sailing to Umbar and setting herself up as a queen of Vamag to the northwest of Harad. She then rebelled against the king of Numenor, and called upon Sauron for aid. Learning of her overwhelming hatred for the elves, Sauron quickly offered her one of the Rings of power, which she quickly accepted for the promise of immortality.
Ren the Unclean, the Fireking, was born to a family of illusionists, and looked set to follow in their footsteps until he was stricken with the plague, and went mad from his illness. He began to see visions of grandeur, and claimed that a nearby volcano had promised him power. Gathering a cult of followers, Ren declared himself the King of Chey, to the southeast of Mordor, and conquered all the tribes within that country. Sauron offered Ren one of the Rings of Power, which he quickly accepted, and Ren set out to obliterate anyone who did not worship the Dark Lord.
The last of the Nazgul was Uvatha the Horseman of Khand. Uvatha was the son of an exiled Variag Prince of Upper Khand, and grew up in extremely hard conditions, always in hiding. At the age of eighteen, however, Uvatha led his father’s army against the usurpers and restored his family to the throne. However, his father died in the battle and his uncle claimed the throne. To protect his claim Uvartha’s uncle tried to have him executed. Uvartha was able to escape to Lower Khand, however, and became a warlord there, where he was able to finally assume the throne and reconquer Upper Khand, becoming the first to unite all of Khand. When Sauron offered him a Ring of power, he accepted, and became one of the most politically powerful of the Nazgul, or indeed of any of Sauron’s servants.
Though the most in-depth description of each Nazgul, MERP does not offer the only one. Games Workshop’s The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game offers another. In addition to the Witch-King and Khamul, they also name the others as follows.
First is the Dark Marshal, cruelest of the Nazgul. His name is a symbol of misery. His men fight harder in his presence, fearing that he will be disappointed and have them all killed. He is believed to be one of the three Numenorean Nazgul.
The Undying had possibly the strongest will of any of the Nazgul, succumbing to the power of the One Ring last of all of them, and also retaining his humanity the longest. Now he has mastered the dark arts, and sucks the magic of those around him to make himself more powerful.
The Tainted was the only one of the Nazgul to freely give up his will to Sauron. As such, the earth itself revolts at his presence, the vegetation withering and animals falling sick at his approach.
The Knight of Umbar was the third of the Numenorean Nazgul after the Witch-King and the Dark Marshal. He had been a ruler of Harad before falling to the influence of the Ring.
The Dwimmerlaik is hated fiercely by the Rohirrim, and he returns the sentiment strongly, ever trying to destroy the Riddermark.
The Shadow King was originally the king of a small and virtually unknown kingdom. As such, his pride is all he has, so he wears it about him like a cloak.
The Betrayer is the lowest of the Nazgul, for he betrayed all of Harad to Sauron. As such he despises himself above all, and even Sauron dares not put his full trust in him.
Of course, considering that everything in this list is a title, you could technically throw them together a little bit. For example, you could identify the Dwimmerlaik as Hoarmurath of Dur, and make up some interesting story for why Hoarmurath might hate Rohan so much.
There are of course still more names and versions of the Nazgul, such as Morgomir of Angmar from The Battle For Middle Earth II: Rise of the Witchking, but none have as detailed a list as the examples I have set forth here.
If you know of another detailed list that strikes your fancy, or have fan fiction you would like to share about the Nine, feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you. Have a great weekend!