Building Middle Earth - Mirkwood

category image "By the afternoon they had reached the eaves of Mirkwood, and were resting almost beneath the great overhanging boughs of its outer trees. Their trunks were huge and gnarled, their branches twisted, their leaves were dark and long. Ivy grew on them and trailed along the ground.
"Well, here is Mirkwood!' said Gandalf "The greatest of the forests of the Northern world. I hope you like the look of it. Now you must send back these excellent ponies you have borrowed.'"
- The Hobbit, pp. 134-135

Dominating Rhovanion is the forest of Mirkwood itself. Once called Greenwood the Great, it is all that remains east of the Misty Mountains (S. Hithaeglir) of a vast, largely-coniferous forest that covered much of northern Middle-earth in ancient times. Now it is dense with oak and beech as well as innumerable varieties of evergreens. The forest of Mirkwood is over 400 miles long and 200 miles across at its widest point, where the old Forest Road cuts west to east from the Anduin to the River Running (S. Celduin). The trees provide shelter to man and beast and stand as a natural barrier to sweeping invasions from the East. After all, in the heart of Mirkwood, the hollows and wide valleys are lined with tall oaks standing almost trunk to trunk. The Emyn-nu-Fuin (S. "Mountains of Mirkwood") provide an ideal locale for adventure. Girdled by stands of tall conifers, these giant, bald, rugged hills rise 3-4,000 feet out of the sea of trees. They are covered by various grasses, scrub trees, and bushes in the higher reaches, where high winds, shallow soil, and tortuous inclines have prevented more extensive growth. Here lie the sources of the Gûlduin and Emynen, substantial springs fed by generous rains and considerable groundwater. Despite The Necromancer's dehydrating enchantments that sap strength from the forest, these streams make this one of the wettest parts of Rhovanion. These mountains dominate much of Mirkwood and command the north-central section of the forest. The once bustling Men-i-Naugrim lies like a ribbon in their southern shadow. The uplift's strategic value, together with a generous offering of mineral deposits, make it an important target for forces seeking to control Wilderland.

Dol Guldur stands a day's walk into the forest; yet its harsh, black, jagged fingers of rock threaten the heavens from such heights that the mountain can be seen for scores of miles. To the far-sighted Elves, there is no place along the Anduin River valley—not until they pass beyond the South Undeeps, not until they cross the Great River along the Silverlode into Lórien—where their view of the bright blue southern Rhovanion sky isn't punctuated by the needle-sharp crags and crevices of the Hill of Sorcery. Once called Amon Lanc, the "Naked Hill," Dol Guldur was at one point an active volcano. All that remains today is a frightful empty cone, a circle of sharp edges jutting up into the sky. Iron-clad fortress walls weave in and out around the heights halfway up the mountain, making the threatening summit seem even more insurmountable than in its natural state. This bastion is shrouded in foul clouds, as if a perpetual storm engulfed the hill. Behind this omnipresent facade is the lair of the Necromancer.

To travellers unschooled in the secrets of this awful abode, the dense gloom of Mirkwood appears almost cheerful compared to the imposing, impenetrable heights of this cruel peak. Magic is thick in the air here, defying all explanation. For those foolish enough to embark on (and lucky enough to survive) a visit to the Naked Hill, it is a place of mystery. To someone peering down into its depths, it appears abandoned, but rumors suggest that a ruthless band of Orcs led by an evil Mage called the Necromancer make the rotting fortress their home. Cracks in the fortress walls and rotting timbers in the scaffolding visible from the outer rim make the ancient mountain citadel appear vulnerable, although this outer appearance of decay is merely a deception, a ruse created by the Dark Lord from deep within the cinder-cone. The thick, sometimes choking clouds and occasional rumblings from deep within the earth under Dol Guldur have made Elves and Men steer clear of the stern peak. Even those who believe it is deserted stay away from the hill and the open ground nearby. Now, few dare sing of the primeval spirit that fashioned those jagged mountain peaks in times long past. While a source of ballads in the past, songs about Dol Guldur are so frightening that they scar the dreams of children. This music came to be sung less and less during the last century, and today has been all but forgotten.

cover image The forest of Mirkwood is the greatest woodland in Middle-earth so sticking a few short trees on a bright green static grass mat just won't just. This guide is for making a 4' by 4' board that is made up of 1' by 1' tiles so it can be arranged in may ways creating a maze like woodland realm.


cover image An ancient Numenorean mausoleum within the eaves of the forest of some long forgotten lord now serves as the Lair of the Spiderqueen. Games Workshop in the Fall of the Necromancer had a terrain guide to build a lair, but this article takes it to a better and more detailed standard.