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What Is Watcher in the Water


Watcher in the Water is one of many shady creatures populating Tolkien’s Legendarium. Nobody knows where it came from, what its intents or even basic nature are. Even its appearance is unknown: the only thing it ever revealed were the tentacles, while the Watcher itself stayed underwater.

The Watcher first appeared in TA 2989., when it killed Oin and blocked the escape route of Balin’s expedition. In TA 3019., it attacked the Fellowship of the Ring as they attempted to enter the mines. It is not known where it came from, though Gandalf speculates that it crept up from the waters underneath the mountain.

Watcher might have been an unfortunate creature, but that is unlikely as it appears to have singled out Frodo in the attack. This might have been an accident, as Frodo was the closest to the water. What was not an accident was the Watcher blocking the Western entrance and trapping the Fellowship within Moria. Overall, the Watcher appears to have intelligence, and may even be drawn in by the One Ring.

There is also this quote by Gandalf to consider: “We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin’s folk, Gimli son of Gluin. Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dym: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.”. To be older than Sauron – at least in his incarnated form – these nameless things should have been created during the making of the world, almost certainly as a result of Morgoth including discord into the Music of the Ainur. Another possibility is that these are fallein Ainur, much like Sauron himself, Ungoliant and the Balrog.

It is unlikely however that the Watcher was created by either Morgoth or Sauron. Evil creatures of Morgoth avoid water and fear it, while the Watcher dwells in it. Ulmo also had a much more active involvement in the affairs of the Middle Earth, and as far as is known none of his Maiar joined Morgoth. Lastly, water is a symbol of purity – the reason why Morgoth’s creatures fear it – so a spawn of Satan would not have dwelt there. Ulmo himself rivalled Manwe in power, and he even has two named Maiar – Uinen and Osse – implying that his Maiar are also extraordinarily powerful. On the other hand, Morgoth and Sauron both had displayed the ability to corrupt water and make it unclean.

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