Sketch of Orthanc by J. R. R. Tolkien

The impregnable tower of Orthanc, fashioned by the Númenorean exiles of Gondor at the end of the Second Age, was one of the greatest architectural creations in all of Middle-earth. Over five hundred feet in height, the pinnacle was hewn out of a black adamantine substance rarely found in such quantity, and the arts by which it was carved and shaped had since been lost to all but a very few. The rock of the tower, a volcanic mineral known as laen, was absolutely black, and appeared glassy and wet. In overall design, the tower of Orthanc was four huge conical piers of rock, fused together to form a single structure. Only near the very top did the tips of the piers flare out, forming four sharp and cruel spikes, slabbing upward into the heavens. After this overall form was achieved, Curugond of Lamedon, designer of Orthanc, turned inward, carving out the interior of the mass as they saw fit. Running up the height of each of the piers was a 'service shaft', which contained in its center a chimney, and either toilet facilities or a cistern network, depending which lower (two of each). Winding around this shaft was a stairway, so that each spike had a spiraling stair running from top to bottom — but in many cases the stairs did not run unbroken and the unwary intruder could quite come to a dead end or possibly bypass levels, even the floor which he sought. There were myriad windows cut through the walls of Orthanc, all narrow, but they were especially so near the bottom and grew wider in the upper rooms as they were completely inaccessible to attackers at that height. The windows were in deeply cut embrasures most deep on the interior, with usually only small insets from the outside. Interior lighting in addition to that provided by the fireplaces was by many lamps of wrought iron with crystal faces. These were either mounted on the walls, as in the stairwells, halls, and some rooms, or in groups suspended from the ceiling. The lamps burned very cleanly and were kept filled by the servants. Nearly all of the inside fixtures of the citadel were of an iron alloy, absolutely black and unrusting. That was not say that there were not rich furnishings of fine fabrics and woods; quite the contrary. But the overall feeling one got while inside most of the areas of the tower — especially after Saruman had made it his abode — was one of dark, hard surfaces, endless echoes and winding shadowed passages and stairs. All interior doors in Orthanc, unless otherwise noted, were of polished dark oak, hinged and bound with straps of the same black, non-corroding iron and equipped with locks which were Hard to pick. All of these doors were eight feet high at the apex of their gothic-arched top and swung into the room which they served. Each of these locks was different. However, there was one key, the Key of Orthanc, which had very unusual properties. Not only was it the only key to the main door of the tower, but it would act as a master key, operating any door in the tower. The master of Orthanc traditionally wore this key around his neck at all times. When Saruman controlled Orthanc, he kept the key himself. The other keys were distributed to the servants and guards as needed.

Places of Note


MERP Orthanc plans


MERP Orthanc - detail

Deeps beneath Orthanc:

  • Experimentation pit -2nd deep
  • Heart of Orthanc - 7th deep beneath Orthanc
  • Crystal mines - 2nd - 5th deep
  • Laboratories - 3rd deep beneath Orthanc
  • Old Library - 2nd deep

Ground floor:

  • Armoury (3) - Northwestern Room, outer circle
  • cisterns (5) - in the core of the northeastern and southwestern central quarter
  • fireplaces (6) - in every centre of the four great mid-circle halls
  • Guard Quarters (2) (T3) - eastern room, middle circle
  • Sitting Room (T5) - Northern Room, middle circle
  • Guard Room (1) (T2) - eastern room, middle circle
  • Kitchens (T7) - southern Room, middle circle
  • Reception Hall (T4) - central Hall
  • Stairs (7) - in the four central quarters
    • Northeastern Stairway (S2)
    • Northwestern Stairway (S1)
    • Southeastern Stairway (S3)
    • Southwestern Stairway (S4)
  • Storeroom (T6) - Western Room, middle circle
  • toilet (4) - core of the southeastern central quarter

First Level:

  • Armoury (U10) - southeastern inner Quarter
  • Door (8) - Southern outer wall
  • Dining Room (U11) - Southeastern inner Quarter
  • Drawing Room (U8) - Northwestern inner Quarter
  • Entry Hall (9) - central great hall
  • Guardpost (10) -southeastern inner circle
  • Guest Bedroom (U9) - Northeastern inner Quarter
  • Key Room (11) - northeasatern inner circle
  • Page Quarters (13) - eastern outer room
  • Stairs (14)
    • Northeastern Stairway (S6)
    • Northwestern Stairway (S5)
    • Southeastern Stairway (S7)
    • Southwestern Stairway (S8)
  • Waiting Chamber (12) - southeastern outer room

Second Level:

  • Dining Room (19) - Northeastern Quarter
  • exterior Balcony (16) - southern outer Wall
  • Guest suites (17) - northwestern and Southeastern Quarters
  • interior balcony (15) - central gallery
  • Kitchen/Pantry (20) - Northeastern Quarter
  • Library - eastern outer Wall
  • Servant Quarters (18) -Southwestern Quarter
  • Stairs
    • Northeastern Stairway (S10)
    • Northwestern Stairway (S9)
    • Southeastern Stairway (S11)
    • Southwestern Stairway (S12)
  • Storage (21) - southwestern Quarter

Third Level:

  • Alchemy Library (23) - northwestern Quarter
  • General Reading Room (25) - southwestern Quarter
  • High Balcony/Main library stacks (22) - inner gallery
  • Language Library (23) -southern inner circle
  • Librarians Office (27) -southeastern quarter
  • Librarian#s Quarters (28) - northeastern Quarter
  • Magical Library (24) - northern room
  • Map Room (26) -eastern room
  • Stairs
    • Northeastern Stairway (S14)
    • Northwestern Stairway (S13)
    • Southeastern Stairway (S15)
    • Southwestern Stairway (S16)
  • Work Room (29) - western Quarter

fourth Level:

  • General Store (34) - Eastern Room
  • Herbs Storage(33) - Northern Room
  • Laboratory (x17) - central Hall
  • Research Area (30)- central Hall
  • Spell research Room (32) - southeastern Quarter
  • Stairway (s17)
  • Storage (31) -Southwestern Quarter

Fifth Level:

  • Dumbwaiter (41) - southeastern quarter
  • Fabric Storeroom (43) - southeastern quarter
  • False Cistern (38) - northeastern quarter
  • Fruit Stores (40) - northwestern quarter
  • Gold Treasury (45) - northeastern quarter
  • Grain Stores (36) - eastern central room
  • Jewel Treasury (47) - northeastern quarter
  • meal Storeroom (35) - northern central room
  • Metals Treasury (46) - southeastern quarter
  • Paper Storage (42) - southeastern quarter
  • Secret Magic Treasury (48) - northeastern quarter
  • Stair (39) - NW, SW, NE, SE
  • Uniforms (44) - northwestern quarter
  • Wine Stores (37) - sw central room

Sixth level:

  • duty room (49) - sw quarter
  • Elite Guard Quarters (55) - w central room
  • Guard Captain Quarters (56) - nw quarter
  • Keeper of the Tower Quarters (57)
  • Kitchen (52) - sw quarter
  • Pantry (53) - sw quarter
  • Servant's Quarters (51)
  • Stair (50)
  • Storage (54)

Seventh level:

  • Elite Guest/Aide Quarters (61)
  • Grand dining Room (59)
  • High drawing Room (58)
  • Secret Passage (60)
  • Stairs (62, 63)

Eighth level:

  • Apprentice's Bedroom (W14) - Northeastern Quarter
  • Ornate bathing area (67)
  • Private dining Room (66)
  • Saruman#s Quarters (65)
    • Saruman's Bedroom (W16) - Southwestern Quarter
    • Saruman's Study (W13) -northwestern Quarter
  • Secret Door (68)
  • Secret Vault (71)
  • Sitting Room (69)
  • Stairs (64)
  • Treasury (W15) - southeastern Quarter
  • Wardrobe (70)

Ninth level:

  • Palantir Chamber (72,Y18) - central hall
  • Stairway (73,S18)


  • Observatory
  • Roof (74)
  • Stairway


  • MERP: Isengard and Northern Gondor
  • Quest Game: A Spy in Isengard
  • LotRRPG: Isengard Sourcebook
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