The sixth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is entitled Udûn, which is something that may have made some people question until the very last moments of the entire episode when the Southlands were engulfed in a sea of flames that came from a volcanic eruption. As such, it is possible that this episode allowed us to see the birth of Mount Doom and the realm of the Orcs. But what is Udûn, and is it the same as Mordor?
Udûn basically means “hell” in Sindarin Elvish. This is basically a place in Mordor, but it isn’t necessarily Mordor itself. This depressed valley found in the northwest portion of Mordor is where the Black Gate can be found, as Udûn is one of only two places to pass through when entering Mordor.
There are also other different objects that Udûn refers to in the history of JRR Tolkien’s writings, but it is possible that the Orcs were specifically referring to the hell that was about to come during the events of episode 6 of Rings of Power, entitled Udûn. We know for a fact that hell did come when a volcanic eruption devasted the entire land. As such, let’s look at what we know about Udûn.
What Is Udûn?
Episode 6 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power allowed us to see an action-packed series of events that began with the fall of the Elven watchtower to the defensive stand of the villagers of the Southlands against the Orc army led by Adar, who wanted to get his hands on the sword hilt in their possession. Of course, we saw a valiant effort from the Southlanders, as they ended up fighting for their lives before they were eventually overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, the Southlanders saw their salvation in the form of the Númenoreans, whom Galadriel convinced to sail all the way to Middle-Earth from Númenor to rescue the Men of the Southlands and defeat Sauron once and for all so that they could get rid of whatever darkness was still in Middle-Earth. And, of course, they were able to see their victory by defeating the army and capturing Adar and the Orcs that survived that encounter.
Near the end of the episode, the Númenoreans and the Southlanders were rejoicing together in their victory and newfound friendship. On top of that, they basically crowned Halbrand as the long-lost king of the Southlands. But as they were in the middle of celebrating their victory, things didn’t seem right. And those who know a thing or two about the history of JRR Tolkien’s writings would understand that the episode wasn’t going to end on a good note, especially with the title of the episode being Udûn.
While the victors were still celebrating, Waldreg actually had the sword hilt in his possession, as the one that Galadriel and Halbrand retrieved from Adar turned out to be just a simple axe. Waldreg used the sword hilt as a key to turn a mechanism that released heavy waters running through the depths of the Southlands. That was when the ground began shaking as water started to sprout out of the ground, all while the captured Orcs were chanting “Udûn.” So, what is Udûn?
Udûn is actually a Sindarin Elvish term that means “hell” or something related to that. Throughout Tolkien’s writings, there are two major places that are called Udûn, as they are basically hellish places that only the darkest of beings can survive in.
The first Udûn is Utumno, which is Morgoth’s first and greatest fortress. It is often called Utumno, but it is also one of the places that are called Udûn throughout the history of Tolkien’s writings. This fortress was found in the far north of Middle-Earth and was home to monstrous and demonic creatures that joined Morgoth in his war against the Elves and the Valar. Utumno, of course, used to be one of the homes of the Orcs, but it was destroyed when the Valar defeated Morgoth during the Years of the Trees.
Meanwhile, the second Udûn can be found in the northwest area of Mordor. This place is a depressed valley that anyone passing through the Black Gate will pass through. As such, it serves as one of the two areas that anyone who wants to enter Mordor will pass through. The other one is Minas Morgul, which is the lair of the Witch-king of Angmar.
In fact, in the events of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the Orcs marched through Udûn to reach the Black Gate, where the final battle took place. This place eventually sunk into the earth together with the rest of Mordor upon the destruction of the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.
At this point, we don’t know why the Orcs were chanting “Udûn” while the waters were shaking the ground and were about to cause a massive eruption that would change the entire landscape of the Southlands. It is possible, however, that they were referring to Utumno when they were chanting “Udûn” as they were about to see their home rising once more. As mentioned, back in the days of Morgoth, Utumno served as one of the realms of the Orc.
But it is possible that the Orcs were merely chanting “Udûn” in place of chanting “hell.” They knew what was coming, and we are talking about the devastation caused by the eruption of the volcano that would soon be called Mount Doom. As the volcano erupted, it turned the landscape into a literal hell on Middle-Earth, as the Orcs were probably referring to this hell when they were chanting “Udûn.”
Is Udûn Mordor?
We know for a fact that Adar’s goal was to remake the Southlands into a realm that is entirely for the Orcs because of the fact that he wanted his “children” to have a place that they could call home. This place that the volcanic eruption created would soon be called Mordor, as the ash and smoke from the volcano will block out the sunlight to make the lands fit for the Orcs, who have no love for the sun at all. But are Udûn and Mordor one and the same?
Udûn isn’t Mordor but is actually just a place in Mordor. The Udûn that can be found in Mordor is a depressed valley that is northwest of the entire map of Mordor. It can also be found a bit close to Mount Doom and is the place where the Black Gates can be found.
One of the reasons why we don’t believe that the Orcs were referring to the Udûn found in Mordor when they were chanting “Udûn” is the fact that Tirharad, which is the village where the Southlanders held their ground against the Orcs, is found far away from the place that eventually became Udûn when Mordor was formed. As seen in this post, Tirharad is found south of the volcano, whereas Udûn is found northwest of it.
Nevertheless, in her book The Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad describes the depressed valley of Udûn as something similar to a caldera that could have been formed due to a volcanic eruption. In that regard, this place might have been formed as it is due to the eruption of Mount Doom, which we just saw during the final events of episode 6 of The Rings of Power.