MUMAKIL (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kings
Mûmakil (known in Westron as Oliphaunts) were large creatures resembling elephants, often used in battle by the Haradrim. To most cultures, the Mûmakil were creatures of great size, as fearsome as dragons, and to them were ascribed all kinds of strange powers.
Oliphaunt was the name given to them by the Hobbits.
Mûmakil resemble elephants, except that they are somewhat larger.
Presumably, they were able to coerce it into kneeling or lying down so that a team could haul the tower into place, tying it under the belly of the beast. Their elevated position allowed them to target an otherwise hidden enemy and gave their arrows and spears a greater range.
In South Harad during the Third Age, there lived beasts of vast bulk that are thought to be ancestors of elephants. Yet the elephants that now inhabit the world are much smaller in size and might than their great ancestors. According to the Red Book, they were bigger than a house.
In the years of the War of the Ring, the fierce warriors of Harad came north to Gondor at the call of Sauron, and with their legions they brought the great Mûmakil, which they used as beasts of war. The twenty Mûmakil that the Haradrim brought to Pelennor were harnessed with the gear of war: red banners, bands and trappings of gold and brass, and on their backs great war towers from which archers and spearmen fought. They had a natural blood-lust, and many foes were crushed beneath their feet. With their trunks they struck down many foes, and their tusks were red with the blood of their enemies. They could not be fought effectively by mounted men, for horses refused to go near them, nor by footmen, who were quickly crushed or shot from above. In war, they would frequently stand as towers that could not be captured; shield walls broke before them and armies were routed around them.
These thick-skinned beasts were almost invulnerable to arrows; their eyes were vulnerable, however, as Mûmakil could be blinded or even killed by arrows released with great force. When blinded they went into a rage of pain, often destroying masters and foes alike in their rampages. The tendons in their legs seem to be a vulnerable point however, as several had been taken down by being hamstrung during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Very few Mûmakil were seen after the War of the Ring outside of Far Harad, their natural habitat. It is presumed wild Mûmakil still roamed in Far Harad and that some still were kept by the Haradrim.
The word Oliphaunt is a variant spelling of the archaic word oliphant meaning “elephant”, “ivory”, “elephant-tusk”, “musical horn made of an elephant tusk”, or “a musical instrument resembling such a horn”. It appears in Middle English as olifant or olifaunt, and was borrowed from Medieval French olifanz. The French word owes something to both Old High German olbenta “camel”, and to Latin elephantus “elephant”, a word of Greek origin. OHG olbenta is a word of old Germanic origin; cf. Gothic ulbandus also meaning “camel”. However, the form of the OHG and Gothic words suggests it is also a borrowing, perhaps indeed directly or indirectly from Greek elephas “ελεφας” Greek for ivory, though apparently with some confusion as to the animal the word referred to. The word survives as the surname Oliphant found throughout the English-speaking world. Olifant is also the Dutch word for elephant.
The most famous use of the oliphant is in The Song of Roland “The oliphant is set to Roland’s Lips;” Roland fails to call for help at the Battle of Roncevaux in 778 until it is too late for him and his comrades. The oliphant is echoed in The Lord of the Rings by Boromir’s Horn of Gondor and counterpoised by Helm’s horn and the horns of Buckland.
In Middle-earth, the Men of Gondor called an oliphaunt a mûmak (plural mûmakil). The word “Oliphaunt” is only used by hobbits.