SHELOB (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Shelob was a Great Spider, that was the greatest offspring of Ungoliant, the primordial spider. During the Third Age she lived in Mordor and was known to feed indiscriminately, preying on the inhabitants. She was encountered by Frodo and Sam in their quest to destroy the One Ring. Shelob’s early history is completely unknown, save for the assumption that she was born in the Ered Gorgoroth and that she was the “last child” of Ungoliant. By the Second Age, she often feasted on her own children, and that at some point after fleeing from Beleriand, yet long before Sauron took the land of Mordor for himself she spun a dark lair in the Ephel Duath (Mountains of Shadow), near Cirith Ungol in the passes above Minas Morgul. For hundreds of years, she resided there making a labyrinth of webs within a network of caves to better trap her prey, which included all creatures great and small. She feasted primarily on those who wandered into her webs, though if a particularly juicy morsel was available, she would silently pursue and kill it.
Sauron was aware of Shelob’s presence in the mountains and allowed her to dwell there, for she made an excellent, if incidental, guard for the passage of Cirith Ungol. Sauron was known to be somewhat fond of her, and in a rare show of humor, was even known to refer to her as his cat. Sauron would sometimes give her food in the form of prisoners that he had no more use for or servants who had displeased him. Reports of the massacre made by Shelob would be carried back to Barad-dur to further please the Dark Lord’s humor. She would also sometimes eat Orcs that manned the tower of Cirith Ungol. However, as she was a more effective guard for the pass than they, Sauron never made any serious attempt to stop her (though Orcs would occasionally try to barricade her lair with stones).
At one point after being set free from Mordor, Gollum stumbled into her lair while attempting to escape the barren country. She caught him, but he survived the encounter by promising to bring her tastier meats than he. Orcs of Cirith Ungol had seen him on several occasions and believed that he was too thin and wiry for Shelob to bother eating.
Gollum would attempt later to fulfill this promise by leading Frodo and Sam into her lair and abandoning them. His hope was that once Shelob finished consuming the two hobbits, she would throw away the Ring with the other parts of the hobbits that she could not eat, allowing Gollum to retrieve it. The two hobbits eventually happened upon a passageway that was too choked with Shelob’s dark cobwebs to proceed, but as fortune would have it, Frodo’s sword Sting, being of Elvish make, was able to slice through them. Using the Phial of Galadriel, they managed to fend her off the first time. Earendil’s Star the Light from the Phial, caused unbearable stabbing pain to Shelob’s darkened senses, but she returned to attack Frodo poisoning him with her stinger in a surprise attack just as they had reached the exit of the cave on the Mordor side.
Sam then assaulted the creature using Sting in order to save his master, who lay poisoned after Shelob’s surprise attack. In a pitched battle, Sam managed to stab one of her great eyes, injuring her leg, and pierce her great belly, the most grievous wound. Sam was lucky indeed as Shelob caused this wound herself, when she tried to stab him with the venomous stinger in the underside of her abdomen. None had ever wounded her so badly before.
It is not known if Shelob recovered from the battle, or if she succumbed to her wounds, as the book specifies that her fate will remain unknown to the people of Middle-earth. The last time she is mentioned is when Sam wears the one ring, and hears Shelob “bubbling” in her misery far away, as his sense of hearing is vastly improved by wearing the Ring.
While Shelob’s ultimate fate was unknown, her offspring (which were lucky enough to escape her hunger) continued to produce new generations of spiders. Nests of these spiders are known to have existed in Mirkwood.
Like most spiders, Shelob had spindly legs, multiple eyes, and venomous chelicerae. She usually immobilized her prey with her paralyzing sting that enabled her to feed on her victims at her leisure, but could also crush her prey to death by swiftly dropping on them. Her head was Cris-crossed with scars and she had a number of missing eyes. The Orcs comment she usually would paralyze her victims and trap them in webs, keeping them alive for some time before killing them.