The Descending Third

A Mordor Accompaniment


The Descending Third Motif, an accompaniment for Mordor, signals "impending doom." Like the Mordor Skip-beat and the Threat of Mordor, it is sometimes used as an ostinato, sometimes alone. It is a sequence of descending thirds that bears some resemblance to the Dies Irae. (see note regarding the Dies Irae HERE.)


Places this motif is heard in FOTR:

Places this motif is heard in TTT:

  • We get a little taste of the motif as an Orc in Isengard tells Saruman, "We don't have enough fuel to feed the fires."  Saruman's answer will be to look towards the forest of Fangorn.

  • A deliberate, slow phrase is heard as Pippin discovers he's not climbing a tree, Grishnákh tells Merry, "Let's put a maggot hole in your belly." and the not-a-tree seems perturbed.

Places this motif is heard in ROTK:

  • On the ROTK Soundtrack CD, Track 1 - A Storm is Coming, an unused cue toward the end of the track (~2:00 - end), there is a mix of a speeded up variant of the Seduction Theme, Sauron's Theme, and the Descending Third Motif.  This section was originally intended for the fight between Sméagol and Déagol (which doesn't contain any music in the movie). 

  • The motif is played under Sauron's Theme just after the beacon of Minas Morgul is lit.  It plays as a descending third, then the thirds meander a bit, then they ascend. This motif is no longer furtive or foreboding.  It is now loud and threatening and assertive and moving beyond it's earlier parameters.

  • As the heads of the Gondorian troops slain in Osgiliath are flung over the walls of Minas Tirith by the catapults of the Army of Mordor.

  • When Denethor loses all hope of Rohan coming. He declares himself betrayed by Théoden and orders all to abandon their posts and flee for their lives.

  • It is heard under the The Fourth Age version of the Ringwraiths' Theme, The Power of Mordor, as the Nazgûl attack Minas Tirith.

  • As Sam holds the newly spider-stung Frodo in his arms and realizes that glowy Sting means Orcs are near.

  • As the Witch King boasts to Dernhelm that no man can kill him. Merry creeps from behind to distract him long enough for Dernhelm to reveal bad news for the Lord of the Nazgul. The Witch King and the Descending Third motif die at the hands of two who are not men.