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An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

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An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Tue May 27, 2014 11:52 am

Icarus has asked me to post some non-canonical documentation on Great Spiders that I wrote. And so I have!

Note: This is not information that your average character would know. Great Spiders rarely ally with other races directly and are a very private species, making their culture a mystery to most. While Great Spiders can speak, only the most unfortunate of humans are likely to have heard them converse. Most humans who have fought such creatures, or know of them through adventurers' tales, would only know that they are monstrous in size and actions, can spin webs are strong as rope, have terrifying insect-like eyes (as opposed to spider-like eyes, a distinction from the lesser creatures of their race), and can inflict upon their victims a paralyzing venom.



The Great Spiders of Mirkwood


"There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode. The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service."
- The Silmarillion



Ungoliant, the Mother of the Great Spiders

Ungoliant is most infamous for aiding the evil Vala Melkor in his attack upon the Two Trees of Valinor, draining them of their sap after Melkor had injured them, and extinguishing the source of light for the world. She also consumed the reserves of light from the wells of Varda. Afterward, the light of the trees persisted only within the Silmarils of Fëanor. Ungoliant helped Melkor evade the Valar by shrouding them both in her impenetrable darkness, causing blindness and confusion amongst the hosts of the Valar that attempted to intercept them.

Melkor had promised Ungoliant that he would yield anything she wished in return for her aid, but betrayed this promise by attempting to withhold the Silmarils from her. This angered Ungoliant, who, having grown immensely powerful from ingesting the life force of the Two Trees, trapped Melkor in her webs. At this point he gave out a cry of such fear and intensity that it was heard in the depths of Angband, and the Balrogs rushed to the aid of their master, scourging Ungoliant with their whips of flame.

Ungoliant fled to the Ered Gorgoroth in Beleriand. At some point she gave birth to Giant Spiders, including the character Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. In The Silmarillion, it is stated that when she went into hiding, and her hunger was such that she would mate with spiders only to devour them later, with her offspring to be used as food once they were fully grown. Few of her off-spring survived, and Ungoliant herself is believed by some to have eventually died of starvation. Some even believe that her hunger grew so ravenous, that she devoured herself in despair. As a primordial being, however, Ungoliant's spirit is much like Sauron's and the Maiar; she can never truly die, though few in Middle-Earth would understand such a concept.


Lineage

Giant Spiders were a sentient race of Great Spiders that lived in Middle-Earth. They lived in the South of Middle-Earth in the First Age, but by the Third Age they had spread to other areas including Mirkwood. They were descended from the spider-creatures of the Ered Gorgoroth (Mountains of Terror); there, Ungoliant mated with the non-sentient giant spiders of the region and gave birth to a new, sentient race of giant spiders. The descendants of these Great Spiders infested the great forest of Greenwood the Great after the shadow of Sauron fell upon it and it became known as Mirkwood.

Of all of Ungoliant's children, only Shelob is known to have survived throughout the ages. Like Ungoliant, Shelob would devour as many of her own children as she could, and was an extremely powerful creature immune to age and natural mortality. The Great Spiders of Mirkwood, their power lessened over thousands of years, can trace their lineage back to Shelob and Ungoliant.



Culture

The Great Spiders are sentient creatures capable of speech. Unlike most spiders, which tend to be individualist hunters, the Great Spiders of Mirkwood are collaborative in their lifespan. They live in colonies, where they serve a Queen Spider by carrying out specific roles meant to ensure the survival and propagation of their race. Spider Queens are oftentimes much more ancient than the majority of the race, and thus closer to their demon lineage and more powerful. The most capable Great Spiders are allowed to mate with the Queen if she deems them worthy, but all spiders mate frequently with one another; because finding enough food to feed a whole colony of Great Spiders is a constant challenge, most newborn are eaten, and only the strongest of a new brood are allowed to live. In this way, reproduction serves as a major source of food for colonies.



Societal Roles

The Queen of a colony acts as its spiritual leader. She passes on her take of the story of the race to her servants, instructs them on how to deal with outside threats, and enforces brutal punishment upon any in the colony that grow strong-willed enough to act or speak against her rule. All Great Spiders that live to see their tenth year are given a name by the Queen; these names usually reflect the Queen's level of respect for the creature, as well as its role in the colony.

Hunters seek out food sources to bring back to the colony. Because Great Spiders have an incredible, maddening appetite, Hunters tend to be the strongest and most clever of the brood. They are able to choose the best mates, and the strongest Hunters are often chosen to mate with the Queen herself. Despite their voracious appetites, Great Spiders are wise about selecting their prey; they will eat any living creature, but are wary to pose too much of a threat to nearby civilizations. Many stories have been told about the fates of reckless colonies that have fallen upon a tiny village, only to be rallied against and destroyed by the armies of men.
Small groups of travelers, solitary hunters, wargs, orcs, and beasts make up the bulk of the Great Spiders' prey. Though most Hunters tend to be male, there are plenty of female Hunters as well; strength and cunning is valued in this role, and gender is unimportant.

Breeders are female members of the colony that are not deemed fit for other roles within the society. They have a heirarchy of their own as they churn out brood after brood; the Breeders who prove to lay the most eggs are the highest in value, due to the increased food supply they offer. After that, the Breeders who prove to give birth to the strongest children are deemed the next most valuable; oftentimes, the oldest Breeders fall into this category, as the strength of the Great Spiders' demonic heritage threatens to wane with each passing generation.

Weavers are the builders of a colony's infrastructure, and are respected second only to the Queen. Like Breeders, Weavers rarely fight, unless a colony is directly attacked. Instead, Weavers tend to wounded Great Spiders and decide whether or not a creature is worth attempting to save. Weavers also build elaborate webbed structures in and around the colony. There are several purposes to these structures; they serve to make breeding a large number of eggs an organized matter, they serve to mark a colony's territory as it expands to keep out threats, they serve to prepare traps and fortifications to protect a colony and its Queen, and they serve the Great Spiders' simple religious beliefs. While Hunters and Breeders are necessary for the sustenance and survival of the colony's most basic needs, the Weavers are the most intelligent (and often, oldest) spiders within a colony. Their work is the most obvious proof that Great Spiders have more of a culture than other beasts, and in some ways are not so different than the more primitive races of Man.



Religion

Great Spiders share common beliefs that are passed down through their Queen in a tradition of programming. They believe that the Dark Mother, Ungoliant, is a Goddess that created their race to spread across the world. Because Great Spiders do actually contain Ungoliant's tainted blood, they cannot stand by the light of day (it causes them maddening pain), but are fascinated with it. They create webbed structures to block out daylight both for rational reasons, and as an homage to Ungoliant's devouring of the Two Trees of Valinor. Most of the world is not seen as habitable to the Great Spiders, and they largely avoid wide open swathes of wilderness with little cover.

However, all Great Spiders believe that one day, Ungoliant will return from death and be born again. This re-birth will signal the start of a new era, where Ungoliant will once again extinguish all light in the world, and her children will inherit it without fear. In this idyllic, utopian future for the Great Spiders, they believe that the other races will be nothing more than cattle under their rule.

Each colony's Queen tells different stories of what tasks must be completed by the colony to help bring about the prophetic resurrection of the Dark Mother. In this way, many Queens (some who may have even been grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of Ungoliant herself) use this basic religion to control the actions of a colony and to fortify her own strength.



The Mirkwood Colonies

Though it's likely that smaller colonies of Great Spiders are inhabiting Mirkwood, there are two major colonies. Colonies are most often named after their Queen, and the two largest colonies in Mirkwood are no different.

Narkuumat (the "Never-Dying") is the Queen of the largest colony of Great Spiders in known Middle-Earth. The colony dominates much of the region of Mirkwood Forest south of the Old Road and north of Dol Guldur, though the spiders avoid the Eastern Bigh entirely as it offers little cover from daylight. Narkuumat, the Queen of the colony, claims that she is the daughter of Ungoliant; this is a lie (though her Mother's Mother's Mother's Mother is Shelob, the daughter of Ungoliant, and she is quite ancient). She professes that the time of Ungoliant's rebirth has come. She believes that Ungoliant's spirit has come to Dol Guldur, and speaks to her in her dreams; when the colony of Narkuumat has appeased the spirit enough, Ungoliant will take form once more and devour all of the light in the world. Because of this, Narkuumat's followers are zealous in following her commands.

The truth is that Narkuumat does believe what she professes, and the ancient Spider Queen is given dark dreams. But it is not Ungoliant's spirit in Dol Guldur; the Necromancer has cast a powerful spell over the Queen and her progeny, and uses their beliefs to manipulate them. For this reason, the Great Spiders of Narkuumat tend to speak less often, and more monotonously when they do speak. They are single-minded, and their unwitting servitude to the Necromancer grows stronger yearly. Though Great Spiders do not form armies, the southern colony of Narkuumat is one of the Necromancer's greatest tools right now in Middle Earth.

Meanwhile, Burzumlub (the "Daughter of Darkness") is the Queen of the colony north of the Elf Path in the most northern regions of Mirkwood Forest. While this colony is not as efficient, or quite as large as Narkuumat's, the Necromancer's influence has not yet fallen upon Burzumlub. Burzumlub is, other than Shelob herself, the most ancient of the Great Spiders; she is Shelob's only known living daughter. Because of the relative purity of her demonic heritage, Burzumlub is an incredibly powerful creature. Over four-hundred years ago, she haunted Rhovanion near the town of Angost; her hunger became too great, though, and she was driven into hiding within Moria by an angry mob of villagers and Gondorian Knights. There, in Moria, a tribe of orcs came to worship Burzumlub, and called themselves the Crimson Arms of Burzumlub. A vain creature, the Queen reveled in the orcs' worship, and dwelt deep within the ancient dwarvish ruins until she eventually stirred the ire of the Balrog that lived there. Burzumlub and the Balrog battled, and Burzumlub was injured. Again she fled, this time to Mirkwood. Aware of the Necromancer, she settled north in the region; she had tasted true power in Moria, and had no desire to be bent to Sauron's dark will.

Burzumlub's colony is independent and loyal only to its queen. The Great Spiders of the colony are more social than the creatures of Narkuumat, though they still believe in the prophecy of Ungoliant's resurrection. Burzumlub professes to them that she, herself, is the vessel for Ungoliant's return. Should the colony grow great enough, and should enough sacrifices and food be heaped upon Burzumlub, she will transform into Ungoliant and devour all of the light in the world. Because of these teachings, the colony reveres Burzumlub as something like a Goddess. This zealotry alone has, so far, kept the Necromancer's will from dominating the northern colony of Great Spiders in the way that it has many of the other creatures living beneath the boughs of Mirkwood Forest.
Last edited by Songweaver on Thu May 29, 2014 2:57 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Tiamat » Wed May 28, 2014 5:01 pm

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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Khamul » Wed May 28, 2014 6:56 pm

A few notes:

I seem to recall that Ungoliant didn't starve to death; rather, she fled into the desert, and was so hungry that she devoured herself.

Tolkien's world doesn't really have a concept of demons. Yes, Ungoliant was (almost certainly) one of the maiar, but... there's a difference between spirits and demons, and the maiar aren't exactly spirits either.

Is there any particular reason you suggest we use such a highly-evolved society for the spiders? If we presume that the forebears were more intelligent, we don't really have anything to indicate that *any* of the spiders were especially intelligent. Ungoliant, the greatest of them all, ate herself, after all. And given that even 'social' spiders are one of the less elaborately-structured creepy-crawly societies.

I also don't believe the spiders have any knowledge of Ungoliant, given that they're incapable of writing, and that was many ages ago. I also suspect that even if they did know of such things, they would not attempt to block the light deliberately. I'm fairly certain Ungoliant got rid of the light simply because she was hungry.

As such, I am currently leaning to say we don't need Narkuumat, or the return of Burzumlub... and that humans and orcs at this point likely have very little idea what the spiders are trying to accomplish, if they're even trying to accomplish anything... because people who go in the area tend to get wrapped up in webs or eaten, or kill small groups of spiders instead. There isn't much conversation going on, really.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Wed May 28, 2014 8:27 pm

A few responses, Khamul.

First, what are we talking about when we talk about Great Spiders? Here's a good introductory article, but Middle Earth Xenite has written numerous research/opinion articles on this subject that you can look up. Can't stress how great this blog is. Read it.

I seem to recall that Ungoliant didn't starve to death; rather, she fled into the desert, and was so hungry that she devoured herself.


Ungoliant's fate is not known, canonically. It's pure speculation. She could have devoured herself (one theory), she could have starved to death -- she could even still be alive. As a Maiar, she can't truly die anyways (at least, not her spirit). However, Tolkien doesn't give us a definitive answer here.

Tolkien's world doesn't really have a concept of demons. Yes, Ungoliant was (almost certainly) one of the maiar, but... there's a difference between spirits and demons, and the maiar aren't exactly spirits either.


Not to disagree with you here, but Tolkien does write about demons. He mentions them a lot, in particular when dealing with the First Age. Typically, these demons are lesser Maiar, or powerful off-spring of lesser Maiar. He uses the term frequently enough. Tolkien used many words to describe the same type of creature, frequently. Demon was a word that he used to describe many of the most powerful servants of Melkor.

Is there any particular reason you suggest we use such a highly-evolved society for the spiders? If we presume that the forebears were more intelligent, we don't really have anything to indicate that *any* of the spiders were especially intelligent. Ungoliant, the greatest of them all, ate herself, after all. And given that even 'social' spiders are one of the less elaborately-structured creepy-crawly societies.


Well, we do have evidence of intelligence in Spiders in this area at this time. Particularly, they co-operate with one another, build intricate webbed structures and have the ability to speak in The Hobbit; this all point towards their being intelligent and co-operative. They seem at least as intelligent and cunning as goblins in The Hobbit. The idea of them actually having a culture is just the more interesting way to extrapolate that information, imo.

I also don't believe the spiders have any knowledge of Ungoliant, given that they're incapable of writing, and that was many ages ago. I also suspect that even if they did know of such things, they would not attempt to block the light deliberately. I'm fairly certain Ungoliant got rid of the light simply because she was hungry.


There is no POV writing to tell us what the Spiders do and do not know about Ungoliant. I attempted to design an interesting sort of spirituality for them, based on what we do know. Tolkien did state, however, that spiders were driven to hate the light as Ungoliant, but desired to devour it as well (see my original link in this response for more info). He wrote that about the Great Spiders. And as we know Great Spiders don't die of old age, the oldest of them (Shelob, Burzumlub, etc) would be capable of passing down tradition and history to their broods. You don't need to write to have religions that last thousands of years; look to the Native Americans and other primitive cultures.

As such, I am currently leaning to say we don't need Narkuumat, or the return of Burzumlub... and that humans and orcs at this point likely have very little idea what the spiders are trying to accomplish, if they're even trying to accomplish anything... because people who go in the area tend to get wrapped up in webs or eaten, or kill small groups of spiders instead. There isn't much conversation going on, really.


I did mention in the note at the beginning of my original post that humans would have no idea what Spiders are up to. I wasn't suggesting that there's an active dialogue between Spiders and humans.

With all of that said, I was told to write some documentation for Great Spiders, and attempted to do so by using what little canonical information exists, extrapolating, and building it out with a creative story. Even if all of the points above are supported, I'm not an RPA; you guys don't need to use any of it. Icarus asked for documentation, and I wrote it.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Jeshin » Wed May 28, 2014 9:03 pm

Whenever possible giving players clear guidelines that have depth is the optimal way of presenting documentation. These player written docs have a very strong theme to them, very simple guidelines, and a lot of depths open to players should they ever play a Great Spider. I would encourage the RPA's to strongly consider these wholesale or as a base to tweak and create a finalized doc from.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Khamul » Wed May 28, 2014 9:28 pm

I've seen the term 'umaiar' used in reference to Tolkien's writing quite a bit; he himself didn't use it often at all, however, and I don't think he ever used it in his fiction writings themselves. Demons he does mention, yes. He calls balrogs demons, and, in poetic form, he does the same to werewolves. I don't view them as demons in the standard sense even so, but I suppose that can be open to interpretation.

Ungoliant's fate is not known, canonically. It's pure speculation.


He says that it's not told of in any tale, and then says specifically that some say she ate herself. So yes. It is, technically, unknown, but the fact that he put that specifically forward is strongly suggestive. And... technically, she's not dead, but usually the Valar help people back into their bodies. I imagine Ungoliant won't have much luck with that.

And... sure, they have some intellect, we know this. But they seem to be entirely distracted from the dwarves by an insulting song, and in spite of their ability to fill the area with webbing... well. Yes, 'The Hobbit' was written for children and probably shouldn't be taken without some payment (in the form of salt, clearly), but my point is that while they're minimally intelligent, their actual actions seem based more upon instinct and "animal cunning," if you will... the conversations seem very much on the same level as Bert, Bill, and Tom.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Wed May 28, 2014 9:50 pm

Balrogs and the original were-wolves (Sauron himself was one) were referred to as both Demons and Maiar by Tolkien, many times in The Silmarillion and several of his books of epic First Age poems, including The Lays of Beleriand. He also describes Ungoliant as "a demon in spider form" in The Silmarillion. I don't suggest an Anglo-Saxon view of "demons" in my documentation; I'm merely using dramatic language that Tolkien used himself.

And the Valar aren't the only ones that help the Maiars' spirits take form again. See: Sauron. That said, even if the Great Spiders in my documentation believe that Ungoliant will return to devour all light in the world, that doesn't mean that Ungoliant will actually return. It seems unlikely to me, as well.

As far as The Hobbit goes, in terms of whether or not it's canon ... well, I can't argue with it being a children's book, though I don't think that that makes its fiction any less "canon". The Staff can decide whether or not it's canon for SOI, of course; I just assumed that since the setting/region of our game is so close to that in The Hobbit (they will intersect in 5 RL years), that it would be a source to draw upon. And so, for the purposes of this documentation, I've assumed The Hobbit to be canon.

I'm not suggesting these Spiders are brilliant; but certainly, I think that it seems likely that they are intelligent enough to have a very rudimentary culture, just as orcs and trolls do.

Like I said, I wrote this non-canonical documentation for Icarus. I based it in as much canon as is really possible, and then elaborated from there to make Spiders more interesting, and give some meaning to their actions. It doesn't have to be used.

But it's there, if you want to use it! I enjoyed writing it, either way.
Last edited by Songweaver on Wed May 28, 2014 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby krelm » Wed May 28, 2014 10:20 pm

I also don't believe the spiders have any knowledge of Ungoliant, given that they're incapable of writing


Just because a people aren't capable of writing, doesn't mean they can't keep history. Look at Norse mythology, for example, which managed to be passed by word-of-mouth for years before being written down by Christians. Same of most Native American cultures. While no doubt a lot of the history was lost due to its oral nature, a lot of it survived.

Let's not forget that the earliest forms of human writing are only 6000 or so years old, and the human race, as far as Homo Sapiens go, has been around for about 200,000, give or take. Of course, most of that is lost to us, and you're right, the reason most of that is lost to us is because it isn't written down, but that doesn't mean it can't or didn't exist, or couldn't have existed for a long time (see Vikings and Native Americans, above).

And, in tying this in with the discussion at hand, we're not talking about some random spider here-- we're talking about a being so powerful that she had Melkor on the ropes before he called his croonies in to pull her off. I mean someone, somewhere, is going to remember that, and if anyone, it'd probably be her offspring.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Khamul » Thu May 29, 2014 10:56 am

The main point, however, was that referring to something as a half-demon is probably not a good thing to do, for a number of reasons. One, it draws to a number of minds the ideas of half-demons, which are a familiar thing to people who play any number of tabletop RPGs or computer games, neither of which I think is something we should be drawing on. Second, as has been discussed elsewhere, when two different things have children, Tolkien, in almost all cases, tends to make the child one or the other with faint traces of the other, rather than a true half-creature. Elves and men (as mentioned in the thread discussing half-orcs), elves and maiar (Luthien was an elf, not a half-maiar)... and the wargs, which are most likely descended from certain werewolves, are not part-demons, they're evil wolves with a modicum of intelligence. Which is really what I'm getting at, with that: a difference of terminology.

No, it doesn't. The events of 'The Hobbit' most certainly happened, or there wouldn't have been a ring for Smeagol to destroy. I'm just pointing out that in-game, it's probably more reasonable for incidents more similar to Tolkien's works to happen: combat, running for one's life, and escaping being eaten are not inherently funny situations. Given that the red book was the work of hobbits, that's not inexplicable.

And that's the purpose of these posts: To figure out why some parts are written the way they are. It's unlikely to be used as is, but bits and pieces of it may be, and the work is appreciated.

As for the details of spider culture that may or may not exist... players will probably need to find that out in-game, if they can avoid being eaten. :twisted: (Of course, that isn't to say that there may or may not be books with theories in them lying around some places. These books may also be correct... or not.)


Krelm... note also that a lot of the Norse myth we have comes from the eddas, which aren't entirely even self-consistant, to say nothing of whether they agree with one another or not. Also, they were created by people, whereas in this case, it seems highly likely that Ungoliant's children, rather than worshipping her, often did their best to stay as far away from her as possible.

In the real world, colony behaviour happened long after spiders developed, several times. As neither Shelob nor Ungoliant seems to have been a colony creature, but those in Mirkwood are, it seems likely that that is also the case with the spiders of Mirkwood. It's also worth noting that Shelob is never seen speaking (which isn't necessarily to say that she couldn't, simply that she didn't), so the origin of such stories, if we do use them, is questionable.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Thu May 29, 2014 11:40 am

The main point, however, was that referring to something as a half-demon is probably not a good thing to do, for a number of reasons.


Edited: I've removed the single use of the word half-demon, though technically, it would be true; I agree with you that it was a confusing way to name Shelob.

Overally, my suggestion was that their demonic heritage grew weaker over generations, just as the blood of other ancient races have (see: wargs, Numenoreans, etc). This non-canonical idea that I presented is simply consistent with other examples in Tolkien.

That's the thing with something like this. It may not work with the design that you're doing behind the scenes, but since it's non-canonical and I did my homework, it's just one possible interpretation of what things could be like based on the facts that we are presented. Your interpretation, Khamul, is obviously different. That's totally cool.

Krelm... note also that a lot of the Norse myth we have comes from the eddas, which aren't entirely even self-consistant, to say nothing of whether they agree with one another or not. Also, they were created by people, whereas in this case, it seems highly likely that Ungoliant's children, rather than worshipping her, often did their best to stay as far away from her as possible.


Religion's a funny thing. Small idealogical splits in mythology are common in ancient religions.

I did what I could to capture and make an example of what you are talking about in the quote above, by taking two separate colonies and showing how their similar ideaologies differed at a key, fundamental level. This is purposefully similar to breaks in common Native American mythologies when comparing different tribes; I used Native American mythology as more of a root for my documentation here than Nordic.

If you folks have your own documentation and storylines for Great Spiders already, and this doesn't jive with that, that's great! Wish someone had told me before I wrote mine, but it was still a fun exercise and extension of similar work that I did for my Northlands and Moria spheres back in the day.

If you'd like to put any sort of (even summarized) Great Spider teaser into the documentation that Tiamat and I have been working on to replace mine, feel free to send it my way. I was under the assumption that you guys didn't have any documentation on this from what Icarus said, which is why this post exists.
Last edited by Songweaver on Thu May 29, 2014 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Khamul » Thu May 29, 2014 2:06 pm

That's... not entirely true, but if it wasn't intended, then we probably could have cut out a fair amount of this conversation. :lol:

Like Ungoliant, Shelob would devour as many of her own children as she could, and was an extremely powerful half-demon creature immune to age and natural mortality.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Thu May 29, 2014 2:07 pm

Khamul wrote:That's... not entirely true, but if it wasn't intended, then we probably could have cut out a fair amount of this conversation. :lol:

Like Ungoliant, Shelob would devour as many of her own children as she could, and was an extremely powerful half-demon creature immune to age and natural mortality.


Edited: I've removed the single use of the word half-demon, though technically, it would be true; I agree with you that it was a confusing way to name Shelob.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Icarus » Thu May 29, 2014 2:10 pm

I'm reviewing this ;)

Let me ponder and mull for a few and decide on the course I want to take it, yah?
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Octavius » Thu May 29, 2014 2:32 pm

Khamul wrote:Tolkien's world doesn't really have a concept of demons. Yes, Ungoliant was (almost certainly) one of the maiar, but... there's a difference between spirits and demons, and the maiar aren't exactly spirits either.


That seems to do her a disservice. Ungoliant is not mentioned as a Maiar -- less than the the Valar -- but perhaps as something wholly different. Here's the quote from the Silmarillion:

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode. The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.


At least, that's how I always read it. From the "darkness that lies about Arda" implies that she is not part of the creation of this world, but from the void beyond. And "corrupted to his service" implies he did not create her.

Without getting hung up on the word "demon" and its meaning - this text above is more evocative.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby Songweaver » Thu May 29, 2014 2:51 pm

There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode. The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.


It is great prose. I could probably use it as a quote at the top section of the OP.

I agree. Ungoliant is just such a uniquely powerful and interesting creature from the First Age (and before). Like Isildur left his shadow on the fate of Man, and Melkor left his shadow in the tainting of all creatures' hearts, and Sauron left his own shadow ... Ungoliant's shadow should be huge. Though her progeny are geographically isolated for most of their existence, they play incredibly important roles in several of Tolkiens' most epic stories.

Exploring them further, in one way or another, is very interesting to me. Especially since they just sort of fit right into this region, and this time period, so perfectly.

Icarus wrote:I'm reviewing this ;)

Let me ponder and mull for a few and decide on the course I want to take it, yah?


Got it, Gov'ner.
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Re: An In-Depth Look: Great Spiders

Postby GreenRiver » Fri May 30, 2014 5:01 am

Octavius wrote:
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode. The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.




This is an incredibly interesting passage. I can't help reading it as Melkor's envy being itself the gateway for Ungoliant's passage into the world. That they were then bound together in events so fateful to the whole history of Arda, (the killing of the Trees and theft of the Silmarils) events which themselves were born of Melkor's envy, adds a further slant to this. And of course, although Melkor could not have achieved these aims without Ungoliant's help, that help came at a price:

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion:
But Ungoliant had grown great, and he less by the power that had gone out of him; and she rose against him, and her cloud closed about him, and she enmeshed him in a web of clingling thongs to strangle him. Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry that echoed in the mountains. Therefore that region was called Lammoth; for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, and all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a clamour as of voices in anguish. The cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful that was ever heard in the northern world; the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder.


Not many could have that effect on Morgoth, and it was only the Balrogs which saved him.
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