The Threat of Mordor
The Way to Mordor

Two Themes for Mordor


The Threat of Mordor, a theme for Mordor, is a danger motif used alone or as an ostinato under other music.

Although Doug Adams states that this music, officially known as The Threat of Mordor, is a "motive...constructed much like the (Mordor) Accompaniments, but...employed differently in the score" (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 31), he doesn't elaborate on how it employed differently. This phrase, in FOTR and TTT, is a circling melody comprised of a low note on 1 and three descending notes on 2,3, and 4, that are repeated till the final run when the notes ascend It is played in incidences where characters are hiding from or running away from something and it is sometimes used as a background counterpoint to the Ringwraith theme. It is rarely long. But in ROTK, the danger becomes more immediate and present and the theme often ascends instead of descending.

The Threat of Mordor is blending with the rhythm of the Isengard theme to produce the Witch King of Angmar / Orcs of Mordor theme. Additionally, if one overlooks that first low note, the rhythm structure is the same as the Mordor Skip Beat. In fact, one iteration is identified in the AS-ROTK as being 'somewhere between an inverted Threat of Mordor and the Mordor Skip Beat.'


The Way to Mordor is a three note 'truncated variant' of the Threat of Mordor that occurs a handful of times between the TTT and ROTK. I have placed those instances in the list below.


Some of the places this motif is used in FOTR:

  • As Gandalf creeps to the window of Bag-End after he and Frodo hear a noise outside it. Sam is hiding outside the window

  • As Gandalf dismounts from his horse in Isengard

  • As the Hobbits run out from the tree root where they’ve hidden from the Ringwraith

  • Just after Merry says, "Bucklebury Ferry... follow me."

  • As Frodo asks, (after jumping onto the Ferry) "How far to the nearest crossing" and Merry answers, "Brandywine Bridge... 20 miles."

  • Behind the Ringwraiths' Theme as we see the aerial view of them entering the Prancing Pony

  • Just after Gimli takes his axe to the Ring at the Council of Elrond.

Some of the places this motif is used in TTT:

  • A slow version of the truncated variant, Way to Mordor, is heard as Frodo asks Sméagol, "You know the way to Mordor? You've been there before?"

  • Three notes of the variant, Way to Mordor, are played aggressively as Frodo, Sam and Gollum realize the Black Riders have appeared in the Dead Marshes and Gollum yells, "Hide!"

  • As the Ringwraith flies over the Dead Marshes while Gollum, Frodo, and Sam huddle under some bushes. The motif is heard as an ostinato under the Ringwraiths' Theme as we realize that they are now 'Wraiths on Wings.' Then again a few seconds later by itself as Gollum says, "They are calling for it. They are calling for the precious."

Some of the places this motif is used in ROTK:

  • First a single note variant and then the descending version after the Voice of Saruman fails to seduce Théoden. The Wizard calls Théoden a dotard and then turns on Gandalf. (EE scene)

  • A phrase 'somewhere between an inverted Threat of Mordor and the Mordor Skip Beat is heard as Gandalf and Pippin discuss Mordor on the balcony of their rooms in Minas Tirith. (EE version) This version is an ABC version with the notes descending. I would say it bears more similarity to the Threat of Mordor than to the Mordor Skip Beat but it is ascending rather than descending.

  • A quiet but aggressive version is heard as the Orcs steal up onto the western shore of the river Anduin to attack the Gondorian company defending western Osgiliath. It starts with ascending phrases, moves briefly to descending ones, then back to ascending phrases.

  • A very rapid three note version of the variant, Way to Mordor, is heard as Gothmog, approaching Osgiliath by boat, orders the Gondorian scout killed. A more moderate version takes over as Faramir realizes, "They're not coming by the north." and the Gondorian troops take their places while the Orcs hasten their advance by boat and draw swords. The Gondorians mostly in place and waiting tensely, the music holds some suspenseful notes as the Orcs continue towards the landing. But the Way to Mordor resumes again as the boats disgorge the passengers who make their way into the city. The theme finally gives way to the Gondor Theme as Faramir leads the attack against the Orcs.

  • Quiet ascending versions play as Gothmog approaches the wounded Madril and kills him. As Gothmog declares, "The age of Men is over. The time of the Orc has come." a more assertive version begins that runs once through as ascending then another time through with descending phrases in a different key as the regular Threat of Mordor motif.

  • The regular descending Threat motif is heard just after Gandalf's staff is broken by the Witch King. He taunts the Istar, "You have failed. The world of Men will fall." (EE scene)

  • The Threat of Mordor plays under the choir as as the Witch King is whipping his flail at Éowyn.

  • As Frodo and Sam, disguised as Orcs, get caught up in the Orc Army moving toward the Black Gate. Here, both the Five Beat Pattern and the Threat of Mordor function as ostinatos under a melodic line that wavers between the old Isengard Theme and its Fourth Age version, the Witch King / Orcs of Mordor Theme. (EE Scene)

  • The same mix of Five Beat Pattern, Threat of Mordor, and Isengard/Orcs of Mordor Theme is heard as infighting (instigated by Sam and the weakened Frodo) breaks out among the Orc troops. (EE Scene)