We all know what the stereotypes of vampires and werewolves are in our modern fiction. They’re based off a combination of Bram Stokers’ Dracula and old European folktales. Tolkien, however, didn’t have brooding, humanoid, mysterious vampires or werewolves in his work. Here, I shall cover the brief mentions of Tolkien’s version of vampires and werewolves and give my analysis of what we can guess about their races.
There is only one vampire and two werewolves named. They are Thuringwethil the vampire and the werewolves Draugluin and Carcharoth. They all appear in the story, Of Lúthien and Beren and the poem, The Lay of Leithian. Here follows a summary of the sections of the story relating to vampires and werewolves.
Huan and Lúthien were trying to cross a bridge into Sauron’s (called “Thû” in The Lay of Leithian) stronghold, when Sauron sent a werewolf to kill them. Huan killed the werewolf easily. “Then Sauron sent Draugluin, a dread beast, old in evil, lord and sire of the werewolves of Angband” (S 174).
A mightier shadow slowly filled
the narrow bridge, a slavering hate,
an awful werewolf fierce and great:
pale Draugluin, the old grey lord
of wolves and beasts of blood abhorred,
that fed on flesh of Man and Elf
beneath the chair of Thû himself.
Draugluin and Huan fought for a long time, ’til finally Draugluin was injured and fled. Draugluin ran to Sauron and told him, “Huan is there!” and died at Sauron’s feet. Sauron skinned Draugluin and wore his pelt to the bridge to kill Huan and capture Lúthien, whose voice he recognized. Lúthien fainted at the sight of Sauron in werewolf form, but Huan fought Sauron and forced him to give up his strong hold or “be stripped of his raiment of flesh.”
And immediately [Sauron] took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, blood dripping from his throat upon the trees, and came to Taur-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror.
The next mention of them is when Beren and Lúthien are on a mission to bring back the Silmarilli to Thingol. Huan brings them disguises so they can sneak into Angband unnoticed.
[Huan] took thence the ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil. She was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in Vampire’s form to Angband; and her great fingered wings were barbed at each joint’s end with an iron claw.
Lúthien wears the skin of a vampire. In The Silmarillion, the vampire whose skin they stole is actually named Thuringwethil, and she seems more like a trusted servant than a nameless messenger. In The Lay of Leithian, the vampire is a nameless messenger, and Thuringwethil is the name Lúthien calls herself in the disguise.
[T]he other was a batlike garb
with mighty fingered wings, a barb
like iron nail at each joint’s end-
such wings as their dark cloud extend
against the moon, when in the sky
from Deadly Nightshade screeching fly
In both versions, the enemy doesn’t seem to care much about Lúthien’s choice in disguise, while Beren’s causes them problems. Beren dons Draugluin’s skin.
[A] wolfhame huge-its savage fell
was long and matted, dark and spell
that drenched the dreadful coat and skin,
the werewolf cloak of Draugluin;
When they get to Morgoth’s stronghold, Angband, they are met by Carcharoth, a particularly strong descendant of Draugluin, a werewolf raised for the purpose of killing Huan.
Then Morgoth of Huan’s fate bethought
long-rumoured, and in dark he wrought.
Fierce hunger-haunted pack he had
that in wolvish form and flesh were clad,
but demon spirits dire did hold;
and ever wild their voices rolled
in cave and mountain where they housed
and endless snarling echoes roused.
From these a whelp he chose and fed
on fairest flesh of Elves and Men,
till huge he grew and in his den
no more could creep, but by the chair
of Morgoth’s self would lie and glare,
nor suffer Balrog, Orc, not beast
to touch him. Many a ghastly feast
he held beneath that awful throne,
rending flesh and gnawing bone.
There deep enchantment on him fell,
the anguish and the power of hell;
more great and terrible he became
with fire-red eyes and jaws aflame,
with breath like vapours of the grave,
than any beast of wood or cave,
than any beast of earth or hell
that ever in any time befell,
surpassing all his race and kin,
the ghastly tribe of Draugluin.
Him Carcharoth, the Red Maw, name
the song of Elves. Not yet he came
disastrous, revenging, from the gates
of Angband. There he sleepless waits;
where those great portals threatening loom
his red eyes smoulder in the gloom,
his teeth are bare, his jaws are wide;
and none may walk, nor creep, nor glide,
nor thrust with power his menace past
to enter Morgoth’s dungeon vast.
Then Morgoth recalled the doom of Huan, and he chose one from among the whelps of the race of Draugluin; and he fed him with his own hand upon living flesh, and put his power upon him. Swiftly the wolf grew, until he could creep into no den, but lay huge and hungry before the feet of Morgoth. There the fire and anguish of hell entered into him, and he became filled with a devouring spirit, tormented, terrible, and strong. Carcharoth, the Red Maw, he is named in the tales of those days, and Anfauglir, the Jaws of Thirst. And Morgoth set him to lie unsleeping before the doors of Angband, lest Huan come.
Carcharoth figures out right away that they can’t be who they claim to be, as Draugluin’s death is well-known. He refuses them entrance, so Lúthien sings him to sleep with a Song of Power.
So, what can we glean from this story?
Werewolves are not humanoid in appearance, neither can they change shape. We can deduce that werewolves might be Maiar from these lines of The Lay of Leithian: “Fierce hunger-haunted pack he had / that in wolvish form and flesh were clad, / but demon spirits dire did hold[.]” However this seems doubtful, with the many mentions of being Draugluin’s descendants and pack suggesting that they were bred, and it is impossible to add to the numbers of Maiar. Therefore, I guess that Draugluin was a weak Maia who, with Morgoth’s help, clothed himself in the body of a huge wolf, and interbred with wolves to make powerful servants of Morgoth. They also could just be big wolves bred and trained to be intelligent and evil.
Vampires, however, we know are winged, batlike messengers Sauron liked to use. They seemed more expendable than the werewolves, as Sauron got angry enough at the loss of Draugluin to appear before Huan and Lúthien himself, but no one seems to put up a fuss about Lúthien’s disguise. Vampires are probably just big bats, given enough intelligence to relay Sauron’ messages. We don’t even know if vampires drink blood. It seems likely, seeing what Tolkien called them, but we honestly don’t know.
Tolkien’s werewolves and vampires aren’t like Dracula’s, Anne Rice’s, Twilight’s, Buffy’s or Vampire Hunter D’s. In all reality, we don’t need modern fiction’s version of dark, mysterious, immortal enigmas. Tolkien already has provided us with them. Do you recall a group of Elves so thirsty for vengeance that they murdered other Elves in the holy land of Aman and turned their backs on the Valar? They were thrown out of Aman and given the title “Kinslayers” and forced to go to Middle-earth. I am, of course, referring to the Noldor. Think of their coming to Middle-earth. When they arrived they didn’t tell anyone they had been banished from Aman, leaving King Thingol rather confused by their arrival, and furious when he discovered what had happened. Their impact on the primitive human and Elven populations of Middle-earth was vast; they brought a highly advanced culture, technology, and a long war with Morgoth with them. If you want an immortal enigma, use a Noldorin Elf. However, that is only my opinion on the matter.
- (L) The Lays of Beleriand By Tolkien, The Lay of Leithian
- (S) The Silmarillion By Tolkien, Of Beren and Lúthien