If you love high fantasy but haven’t read J.R.R. Tolkien, then you don’t love high fantasy. His masterful world-building made Middle-earth one of the first and best fantasy worlds ever created. Tolkien is so detailed about everything in his universe, including the map, and the landscape – he even wrote completely new languages.
However, nothing compares to all the phenomenal beings and creatures. They make you want to live in Middle-earth at one moment and shiver in fear the next. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate ranked list of the thirty most powerful creatures in The Lord of the Rings universe, not including the Ainur, Illuvatar, and other world-creating beings. Enjoy!
30. Common Orcs
Orcs are artificially created creatures, primarily made to be slaves and servants to the Dark Lord. They are one of the lowest intelligent life forms in Middle-earth, usually just serving the purpose they were created for until they die.
While there are some more advanced Orcs, such as the Uruk-hai, who are strong and intelligent warriors, most Orcs are weak, dumb creatures that serve as cannon meat – it’s about quantity, not quality for these dudes. An above-average Man warrior can slice through a group of common Orcs without breaking a sweat.
Trolls are also creatures that were initially created by the forces of evil, although they didn’t turn out as planned, per se. They aren’t really intelligent, but they are huge, with the largest of the species reaching up to 50 feet (around 15 meters). We’ve seen the three Troll brothers in The Hobbit movie, trying to earth the Dwarves and Bilbo Baggins.
Luckily, Bilbo knew about their one major weakness. When Trolls are exposed to sunlight, they turn into stone. Sauron tends to use Trolls as power punchers, door breakers, or equipment carriers, but only when it’s nighttime, due to their particular weakness. If you see a Troll out on the battlefield when it’s daytime, it’s not a Troll anymore. More on that later, though.
Ogres are about as equally as powerful as Trolls, but I’ve put them one spot above for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are – or at least seem to be – a bit more intelligent than Trolls. Second of all, they are solid warriors. And third, they don’t have the sunlight weakness – they won’t get turned into stone during daytime.
That being said, ogres are much smaller than their Troll brethren. Don’t get me wrong; they are bigger than Orcs and tougher to kill. They just don’t grow 50-feet tall. We’ve seen some Ogres in The Hobbit trilogy. Azog and Bolg used them more often than Trolls, as they moved faster and didn’t mind some tanning.
Men in Tolkien’s Middle-earth are basically the same as men in our real world. That being said, they don’t have superpowers, nor are they particularly dangerous compared to some other creatures ranked higher on this list. That being said, there are exceptions.
Some Men are Kings. Some are exceptional warriors. There are even specific groups or races of people with special gifts, such as the Dunedain, which were granted a prolonged lifespan by the Valar. Isildur and Aragorn came from a long line of Dunedain Kings of Gondor and Arnor, some of which lived for over 300 years.
Still, despite some obvious exceptions, most Men are just Men – not even particularly good warriors. Therefore, as creatures of Middle-earth, they simply can’t be ranked any higher.
Many fans of The Lord of the Rings think that Goblins and Orcs are the same thing. However, that’s not really true. While they are “related” to Orcs – being created for various evil purposes, the two species are actually separate. Orcs have several sub-species among themselves (like the intelligent Uruk-hai), and so do Goblins.
Goblins are usually smaller, thinner, and have pointier extremities. One might say that Orcs somewhat resemble humans more, whereas Goblins resemble Elves more. Goblins are also smarter than common Orcs and have an affinity towards technology, engineering, developing weaponry, etc.
While they are usually quite small, the Goblin King was a huge creature (the under chin guy who trapped Thorin and the Dwarves in The Hobbit., albeit not that powerful due to his fat, inert body.
I’d like to point out that Tolkien sometimes used the terms Orcs and Goblins interchangeably, so Goblins can be considered as a sub-species to the Orcs, but Peter Jackon’s films made a distinct separation between the species.
The Uruk-hai are the pinnacle of the Orc species. While common Orcs are virtually quite dumb and serve as expendable goods, the Uruk-hai are much bigger, more muscular, and more intelligent. They are also better warriors, capable of planning, and strategizing instead of just marching ahead, or chopping wood in Isengard.
Their leader’s name was Ugluk, and he was a horrifying beast. He was the captain of the Uruk-hai group that ambushed the Fellowship of the Ring and captured Merry and Pippin. However, he wasn’t the one who filled Boromir with arrows.
That was Lurtz, the strongest Uruk-hai warrior, who later got his head chopped off after impaling himself on Aragorn’s sword.
Wargs are those hideous creatures that Orcs and Goblins usually ride. They look like giant wolves, and their size and head shape allows a distinction between the species. Wargs are quite intelligent, which allows them to be saddled like horses, unlike their wolven relatives.
The species is incredibly muscular, heavy, and strong, with sharp teeth and a brain that allows them to attack on command, not just hunt for food. We’ve seen them in The Fellowship of the Ring when they attacked the group near Moria, and in The Two Towers, when they attacked the convoy retreating from Edoras to Helm’s Deep.
They also appeared briefly during The Siege of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King, most notably at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Finally, we’ve seen wargs in battle during The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when Azog and his Orc army used wargs to push Gandalf, Thorin, and the Dwarves to the edge of a cliff, and up the trees.
I’ve mentioned that Trolls can only be active during the night because sunlight turns them into stone. But, we’ve seen Trolls in The Siege of Minas Tirith, happening during the day, and they weren’t turned to stone, right? Well, not quite. Those aren’t Trolls, but Olog-hai. Basically, what the Uruk-hai are for Orcs, the Olog-hai are for Trolls.
They are advanced Troll sub-species created by Sauron to be more useful and effective, not just in combat, but also as labor workers. Basically, the main difference between common Trolls and Olog-hai is that their main weakness has been removed – they can walk underneath the sun without getting turned into stone.
22. The Mearas
The Mearas are known as the leaders of all horses, the best of the best. They are faster, stronger, more durable, and more intelligent than any other horse. In fact, they seemingly have slight supernatural abilities, as seen in The Two Towers, when Gandalf whistles, and Shadowfax appears, seemingly out of nowhere.
Shadowfax is the “Lord of all horses,” according to Gandalf, as he is a direct descendant of the most powerful horse to ever exist, Felarof. The Mearas are loyal, cunning, and infinitely brave, charging into combat whenever they are needed, even if the odds are stacked against them.
Elves are a gifted humanoid species that have been granted immortal life by the Valar for their goodness, loyalty, and help in the battle against Melkor, aka Morgoth, the initial Dark Lord, and Sauron’s boss. In the Third Age, they lived almost exclusively in Rivendell, but before, their land was called Eldamar.
Elrond, Arwen’s father, was their leader before they took the ships to the Immortal Lands. The most famous Elf among The Lord of the Rings fans is Legolas. Elves are gifted with incredible sight, and hearing which works almost like a sixth sense. Their gifts make them incredibly precise, creating the perfect foundation for the Elves to become Middle-earth’s greatest archers.
20. Carcharoth & Draugluin
Carcharoth and Draugluin are werewolves in Tolkien’s universe. Now, they aren’t really the same as the traditional depiction of werewolves – howling at the moon, changing forms when it’s the full moon, etc. Instead, Morgoth created Draugluin as the first of its kind. Draugluin was a wolf that the Dark Lord merged with an evil spirit, creating the first werewolf.
Now, Draugluin was powerful, but Carcharoth was a new step in Morgoth’s creation. He was a direct descendant of Draugluin, fed with magically-enhanced living flesh, and enraged all the time to be as vile and as aggressive as possible. Carcharoth’s diet caused him to grow to an enormous size, and always be hungry for flesh and blood.
The werewolf had glowing eyes, teeth infused with poison, and was really a beast to be reckoned with. Aragorn’s ancestor, Beren Erchamion, learned that from the first hand, when, ironically, Carcharoth bit off his entire hand with a single snap of its giant jaws.
19. Azog & Bolg
Azog the Defiler was the pale, scarred Orc captain that we saw hunt down Thorin, Bilbo, and the Dwarves in the Hobbit. He’s recognizable for the scratch marks across the body and face, as well as an arm replaced with a metal spike. Bolg was his son, who was also an Orc captain.
Although Azog was probably physically stronger, Bolg surpassed his father in several categories, especially strategy and army-leading, as well as one-on-one combat. Still, Azog was more intimidating, if you ask me. I chose to put them above other Orcs, including the Uruk-hai, as they presented better cognitive capabilities and incredible combat skills.
Beorn was a man who had the ability to transform into a huge, mighty bear that struck fear into the bones of entire Orc squadrons. The official name for such a creature – or person, if you will – is a skin-changer.
Beorn had incredible strength, speed, and agility, much more powerful than the average bear despite his colossal size. He is above Azog and Bolg on the list because he was the one to destroy Bolg after walking through his entire Orc army like it was butter.
Beorn hates Wargs, Orcs, and Goblins, but has a deep respect for all other creatures of Middle-earth, despite being a loner and preferring life in isolation.
The Ents are my favorite species from Tolkien’s lore. You probably remember their leader, Treebeard, who encountered Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers. Ents are the guardians of the forest – one might call them living trees, although Treebeard was always adamant about not being a tree, but an Ent. When they are asleep, though, you can’t really tell the difference.
Ents can walk, talk, think, fight, and live for hundreds of years. They stay away from conflict unless somebody hurts the forest. That’s when things get serious. When Treebeard and the Entmoot (the Ent council) saw what Saruman was doing to the woods near Isengard, they completely decimated Isengard by flooding it, trapping the wizard in his tower.
Now, it’s not even 100% clear if Were-Worms actually exist in Tolkien’s source material, or if they were mistaken for wingless dragons (which will also appear later on this list). Nevertheless, the Hobbits called the creatures Were-Worms, and they lived in the deserts east of the Shire. Peter Jackson included the beasts in The Hobbit and The Battle of Five Armies.
Were-Worms looked like, well, giant worms, with maws so powerful they could plow through earth and stone as it were butter. They would certainly be among the most powerful, and most dangerous creatures in Middle-earth, but they hardly ever leave the underground and their tunnels, so the interaction between them and other species is very limited.
Azog used them to dig tunnels between Erebor and Gundabad, but they were never really a part of the battle.
These creatures are usually known as Mûmakils in Tolkien’s writings, but you probably know them under the name Oliphaunts, which Legolas calls them when they first appeared in The Two Towers, and subsequently in The Return of the King. Mûmakils are virtually giant, highly-intelligent elephants with two sets of tusks, growing up to a staggering 90 feet.
They are essentially only used in battle by a certain race of Men, the Haradrim, who were a part of Sauron’s evil army. The Oliphaunts can decimate an entire cohort of horsemen with a single swipe of their long, powerful tusks, which are usually equipped with spikes or barbed wire. They are truly menacing creatures, as their skin is so strong you can hardly harm them.
Spiders in the Lord of the Rings – and Tolkien’s work generally – are nightmare-inducing. Imagine seeing a black widow. Pretty scary, right? Now, imagine seeing one that’s, like, five times your size. That’s Shelob, a giant spider living in the tunnels known as Torech Ungol, a passageway to Mordor above Minas Morgul, leading to Cirith Ungol.
The tunnels are an impossible labyrinth in which Shelob hunts down and eats anything that tries to pass through them. Frodo was lucky that she likes to “play” with her food before eating it, keeping them alive and the heart beating as she devours them. That gave Samwise enough time to save Frodo and force Shelob back into her tunnels.
Interestingly, Shelob is a direct descendant of Ungoliant, a spider that was much larger, and unmeasurably more powerful, but I’ll get to that later.
Many casual fans are mistaken when they think the Nazgul and the Fellbeasts are the same thing. In reality, the Nazgul are the faceless, hooded wraiths that ride Fellbeasts. The creatures have distinct physical attributes, such as long, skin-covered wings, elongated necks, huge teeth, and a terrifying screech that shakes Middle-earth when it’s heard.
Although they usually do the bidding of the Nazgul, their masters, Fellbeasts are actually quite powerful on their own. They are agile, strong, fast, and insanely good at hunting. They would probably be even higher on this list if they didn’t have one simple weakness – sunlight.
No, they don’t turn to stone like Trolls, but Fellbeasts are affected – even hurt – by direct sunlight, as seen when Gandalf marched towards them and projected beams of light towards them in front of Minas Tirith.
12. The Watcher In The Water
There are many mysterious creatures lurking in Middle-earth, but above all, the Watcher in the Water stands alone as the most mysterious one. We’ve never seen another specimen of the being than the one lurking in the waters in front of the entrance to the Mines of Moria. The creature resembles a Kraken, with over twenty tentacles.
The creature, or the species, doesn’t really have a name – it’s only known as the Watcher in the Water. It grabbed Frodo as the Fellowship arrived in Moria, and the entire group barely saved their butts by entering the Mines and fleeing.
If we knew more, the Watcher would probably be ranked even higher, but maybe the mystery around the Watcher gives the creature another layer of awesomeness.
11. The Eagles
Now, I won’t go into the “why didn’t Gandalf summon the Eagles earlier” debate because real fans already know the answer. However, I am going to explain the heritage of the Great Eagles and the significance of the species itself.
The Great Eagles are giant, sentient Eagles that fought on the good side throughout the history of Middle-earth. They could grow up to a whopping 180 feet wingspan (55 m), although only one Great Eagle in history reached that size – Thorondor, the king of Great Eagles.
He was so powerful and large that he fought the largest dragon Middle-earth had ever seen, called Ancalagon. Thorondor’s son, Gwaihir, was also crucial for the victory in the War of the Ring, as he first rescued Gandalf after his fight with the Balrog, Frodo and Sam after they destroyed the Ring on Mount Doom, and fought off Fellbeasts and Nazgul several times.
Now, the Eagles might not be the most powerful among Fellbeasts, and dragons, but they are by far the fastest, which they knew how to use to their advantage.
10. The Nazgul
The Nazgul, aka the Black Riders, aka the Ring Wraiths, were Sauron’s evil servants, army captains, and probably the most powerful weapon in his arsenal. They are called the Ring Wraiths because all Nazgul had Rings of Power in the past. The powers corrupted them, slowly turning them into evil spirits instead of living, breathing beings.
The leader of the Nazgul is the Witch-king of Angmar, and they are almost impossible to kill or defeat. The Nazgul ride on the backs of Fellbeasts and are probably the most menacing creatures in the entire Lord of the Rings universe.
9. The Giants
If the Giants were aggressive creatures that care about petty little arguments among other living things, they would certainly be number one on this list. I’m not even sure if the Giants can be killed, or even hurt. Basically, when they lay down and sleep, the Giants are just huge mountains that you’d never guess were even alive.
However, we’ve seen two Giants in the Hobbit, goofing around, throwing colossal boulders at one another – big enough to crush a small village on a whim. They aren’t really that well-represented in Tolkien’s writings, and he imagined the Giants to be no more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) tall.
However, Peter Jackson reimagined them for The Hobbit, being as big as real mountains, and having no interest in Bilbo and the Dwarves passing by them whatsoever.
8. The King of the Dead
There was this group of Men who promised the King of Gondor help in a fight against the Dark Lord. However, instead of helping, they were cowards, who abandoned Gondor and the King, and fled into the mountains, where they lived in exile, and eventually died. They were cursed, never to rest until they fulfilled their oath to the King of Gondor.
Aragorn went into the dreadful mountains to get them to fulfill their oath, and although they wanted to deny him at first, Aragorn got the King of the Dead to agree, answering to the King of Gondor. They helped during the Siege of Minas Tirith, swarming Sauron’s armies and taking them down like they were nothing. After the battle, Aragorn released them of their curse.
The King of the Dead and his army are so high on this list because they are among the most powerful beings ever to fight in any of the wars of Middle-earth. First, you can’t hurt them, as they are already dead. Second, they’re ghosts, so they can pass through anything and just decimate until there’s nothing – or no one – left to kill.
7. The Balrogs
Believe it or not, the almighty Balrogs aren’t the most powerful creatures Tolkien has created, although they are right up there. So, Balrogs were actually Maiar, just like Gandalf and other wizards – they were angelic beings created by the Valar to keep the balance between good and evil intact.
However, some Maiar were corrupted by Morgoth, turning them from angels to demons. By the time the War of the Ring took place, there were very few Balrogs left, but one was lurking in the Mines of Moria. Durin’s Bane, the Balrog Gandalf fought in the Fellowship of the Ring, got his name from slaying the infamous Dwarven king.
The demon slept for years in the depths of Moria, but the Dwarves were greedy and dug too deep, awakening the beast that Gandalf ultimately barely defeated. Despite Durin’s Bane’s incredible might, there were Balrogs that could eat him for breakfast.
Balrogs are unfathomably powerful. The Lord of all Balrogs is something way, way worse. Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs in the First Age, was Morgoth’s High Captain of Angbard – meaning, he had the same title as Sauron during the time Morgoth was the Dark Lord.
Durin’s Bane killed a Dwarven king, whereas Gothmog destroyed two High Kings of the Noldor Elves. The creature is insanely powerful, wielding a flaming whip, and a colossal black ax, and was so mighty that they eventually broke free of Melkor and claimed Angbard as their own. The most powerful Balrog ever, Gothmog, certainly deserves a special spot on this list.
In Tolkien’s world, dragons are probably the most powerful creatures to ever exist – and also the vilest and most devious. There were a whole lot more of them during the First Age, but by the Third Age, Smaug was considered the last of the great dragons to exist. They could breathe mist and fire, and decimate cities in a single flight.
Dragons are divided into winged, and non-winged dragons, who appeared slick and slender, but huge, like giant lizards, if you will, called Long-worms. They were highly intelligent and could speak, had an incredibly strong love for power and wealth, amassing huge piles of gold and treasure.
It’s hard to say which were more powerful, as both types of dragons were almost impossible to kill.
Just look at Smaug – he wasn’t the largest, smartest, or strongest of his kind, but had it not been for the missing scale in his armor, and some spectacular shooting from Bard, it’s highly likely that nothing could stop Smaug on his fiery rampage. Throughout history, Scatha the Worm was probably the Long-worm equivalent to Smaug, power-wise, and wealth-wise.
That being said, neither were the most powerful of their kind. Here are those who were.
Ancalagon the Black was a dreadful creature, so evil that he served as Morgoth’s mightiest weapon. He was by far the largest winged dragon ever to exist- It’s unclear exactly how large that was, but all you need to know is that, when he died and fell from the skies, his body leveled an entire mountain range. Not a mountain – an entire range.
Ancalagon led Morgoth’s army of fire Drakes into the War of Wrath, a battle against Valar – Melkor’s kin before he became corrupted. In all his might, Ancalagon was eventually defeated by the Great Eagles and their king, Thorondor, with huge help of Eärendil, the one who carried the Silmaril.
What Ancalagon the Black is to winged dragons, Glaurung the Great Worm is to Long-worms. He was the largest, most powerful, deadliest non-winged dragon to ever exist. In fact, he was the only dragon that could ever beat Ancalagon. You see, Glaurung was Morgoth’s first attempt at creating the ultimate weapon – and boy, did he succeed.
Melkor spent a millennium in Angbard, trying to create such a weapon, and eventually, Glaurung was born. Morgoth and Glaurung flattened countless cities, but even Melkor couldn’t predict what kind of bloodlust and thirst for complete destruction of all life the Great Worm would have. That’s why Morgoth held him locked up in Angbard in between battles.
Glaurung could not only spit fire and mist, and decimate cities with his sheer size – he could also control minds, erase memories, and cast spells, simply by looking you into the eyes. The Dragon King ruled for years over Long-worms before eventually passing in the depths of Angbard.
The Ungoliant is the most powerful creature to ever exist. The incredibly mighty giant spider that Frodo encountered – Shelob – is a direct descendant of the Ungoliant. However, when it comes to size, power, bloodlust, or hunger, Shelob is nowhere near the mother of spiders.
The Ungoliant is not just a typical giant spider. It’s speculated that it’s a creature made out of pure darkness, with incredible, insatiable hunger, and light as her favorite food source. The Ungoliant was so hungry that she was easily manipulated with “food,” which is essentially how Melkor used the spider to devour the Two Trees of Valinor.
Even after that, the Ungoliant lived for nothing than feasting endlessly. I don’t think anybody could ever kill the creature, until one day, the hunger became so insatiable that the Ungoliant literally devoured itself.
1. Tom Bombadil
You might’ve noticed I’ve written the Ungoliant is the most powerful creature to ever exist in Tolkien’s lore, but still, it’s on the number two spot on the list. That’s because there is someone – or something – so mysterious, unknown, yet so powerful, that it has to be the number one spot on the list of the most powerful creatures in The Lord of the Rings universe.
Nobody really knows what Tom Bombadil is, or what he’s capable of. In one moment, he appears as a bearded old man, living a quiet, peaceful, happy life in the Old Forest. In another moment, we learn that he could’ve destroyed the One Ring himself on a whim – he just didn’t care about the fight whatsoever.
Tom wore the Ring, and it didn’t affect him in the slightest. He saw Frodo completely normally, even when the Hobbit wore the One Ring. Nobody knows the true extent of his powers.
However, knowing he could’ve destroyed the One Ring himself when not even the flames of the almighty Ancalagon could do it, it’s safe to assume that he could probably destroy Sauron himself, and not even break a sweat. If only Tommy cared for anything but his peace, and his wife, Goldberry.