Why Shadow Of War's Shelob Is A Human Woman, And Not A Giant Spider

"We really wanted to explore this character."

71 Comments

As is to be expected from the sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War takes more than a few liberties with the Lord of the Rings canon. There's maybe no better example of that than Shelob, the giant, monstrous spider who is one of the main characters in Shadow of War, where she appears as a human woman. That's a form we never see her take in the books or movies, and it's understandably left some fans scratching their heads. But the alternative, according to developer Monolith, was to dramatically reduce her role.

GameSpot recently spoke with Shadow of War's lead narrative designer, Tony Elias, about the negative response to Shelob's initial unveiling. "I think people's sense of who Shelob is is one of the great spiders, and we could have done just that, sure," he explained. "We could have had Shelob appear in great spider form, but she would have had a much smaller role in the game, ultimately. We really wanted to explore this character."

No Caption Provided

"We thought there was a lot to explore there, and we could do that with a humanoid representation," he added. "We're not saying she is a woman; maybe she goes back between the two. It's very clear from the outset that this is a form that she takes when she communicates with Talion. It allowed us to do a lot more with the story, it allowed us to use her in a more meaningful way in the story."

Turning a giant spider into a human might seem like an out-of-nowhere stretch. And while he didn't claim that Shelob-as-a-lady was some small detail that people simply missed, Elias stated that Monolith did look to the original JRR Tolkien text in making the change.

"If you look back at Two Towers for example, I think one of the first descriptions of Shelob is an evil thing in spider form," he said. "It's an interesting way to describe this creature: a spider form. Not just a spider, or a great spider. And so it feels like it's chosen [that form] in a way.

"Her mother was Ungoliant, who it's suggested is a Maiar, but this kind of primordial being [who is] all powerful. Shelob is the daughter of Ungoliant. We kind of ran with that idea of a creature that could transform itself, depending on the context--we have done that in the first game with Sauron in fair form. Sauron has his war form and he has his fair form, and Shelob, you could think of the spider as Shelob's war form, and her fair form she uses when she counsels Talion. She can read the web of fate. We see her as this kind of dark oracle, a sort of dark Galadriel who can see the future and guide his path."

Elias agreed with a comparison to It, saying it's a "great contemporary reference." He went on to again reiterate that it would not have been possible to have Shelob in her role if she appeared to Talion in her usual form.

"These are sort of archaic icons in a way, these creatures that inspire terror in humanity, these ancient, monstrous forms," he said. "Shelob is just that, it's just sort of if she had appeared in spider form and remained in spider form, and then she's going to guide Talion on his path in the future, what actions he might want to take with the siege of Minas Ithil.

"I think this is not something that could probably be dramatically supported over the long haul. People generally don't trust monsters when they appear in monstrous form. I think you have to give it more breadth, and explore what this character, the other dimensions of what this character could be, and that's what we were trying to do in Shadow of War."

Whether that justifies the change to Shelob will be a matter of some debate; fans who dislike the various liberties that Monolith has taken with the canon aren't likely to be pleased, while others will overlook them. For a look at what the critics make of the game, check out our Shadow of War review and Shadow of War review roundup, as well as our look at the challenges of making a Lord of the Rings video game.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: Middle-earth: Shadow of War - Shelob Reveal Comic-Con Trailer

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 71 comments about this story
71 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
  • 71 results
  • 1
  • 2
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for deadstaar
DeadStaar

15

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

All Shadow of Mordor does is fill in and exploit gray areas and fill timelines. That's really about it.

In the case of Shelob in Shadow of War she was really just sort of derived from what the books imply of both Ungoliant, Shelob's mother, Shelob herself and their "Preference" of spider forms. Which implies that they may have/ could have chosen others...

Shelob and Ungoliant are one of the largest gray areas because their "where" and "how" were never quintessential to the story of the ring, or the story of Morgoth's rise and fall before that. It is stated that Ungoliant chose a form resembling a giant spider, but she was not directly a spider. It is even more directly stated in the case of Shelob:

"There agelong she had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath, and so came to Lothian upon the green sward amid the hemlocks in the moonlight long ago. How Shelob came there, flying from ruin, no tale tells, for out of the Dark Years few tales have come. But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness. Far and wide her lesser broods, bastards of the miserable mates, her own offspring, that she slew, spread from glen to glen, from the Ephel Dúath to the eastern hills, to Dol Guldur and the fastnesses of Mirkwood. But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world."

So, only very powerful entities can morph; Gandalf, Radagast, Sauron, Sarumon and Morgoth. Gandalf, for instance, has appeared and walk the lands as elven-kind, animal, man...you name it. However, this is because they were all "Ainur" which consist of the Valar(arch-angels) and the Maiar(low-level angels). Melkor/ Morgoth was a Valar, which is what made him so terrible. Gandalf, Radagast, Sarumon, and Sauron were of the Maiar variant, though, Sauron was made stronger than the typical Maia by Morgoth.

So, the point is, whomever/ whatever Shelob is, she is very, very old. Probably even older than the Balrog Gandalf slew. She is seen to exist in spider form and she is the LAST child of Ungoliant. I think it's great to imagine just how underestimated Ungoliant and Shelob really were. Creatures/ spirits that old, able to assume forms...can they even die? Especially if Ungoliant was thought to have been born out of darkness and void of an unformed Middle-Earth itself?

FYI, I'm almost pretty positive Shelob is in Elven form in this game. Have a look at her ears under her hair in various scenes.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for syncroniam
syncroniam

56

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

They just did it to provide us with more Rule34 SFM material

2 • 
Avatar image for generalbrownie
GeneralBrownie

38

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

read: "we wouldn't be willing to put shelob in the same role if we couldn't make her attractive"

2 • 
Avatar image for ANUBISZER0
ANUBISZER0

841

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

She's human because nobody wants to say "I wanna sex up that spider real good!"

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wretch1d
Wretch1d

925

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 5

So the spider couldnt talk, they had to add boobies

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jamesbr27
JamesBR27

408

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By JamesBR27

Im not familiar with the story of Lord of the Rings except for the movies trilogy and the hobbit, but I see no harm in transforming a huge spider into a woman. Those familar to Dark Souls saw Patches as a spider in Bloodborne, so no harm done.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

14427

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 26

User Lists: 0

Maybe they shouldn't have bothered with the whole Shelob/Sauron thing, the ghostly ranger thing, and all that and instead set the game after the events of Mordor being liberated (or covered in ash) where you follow a story exploring what the surviving orc tribes did after they lost their leader (ie. warred like crazy). You play one such orc, who has aspirations to rule the whole land, which you can create and customize and...then you proceed with terrorizing and conquering the land.

Pretty much the same game except you don't have to worry about stepping on canon because you're focusing more on events that occur after the books which is pretty much fair game when it's left up in the air (unless they did cover it, but I'm not aware of anyone that occurs after the trilogy. Just all the stuff that comes before).

3 • 
Avatar image for UFOLoche
UFOLoche

52

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Just a note that Gamespot is literally covering this instead of something like God Eater 3 being announced, and that's no good.

3 • 
Avatar image for Golden_Gonads
Golden_Gonads

175

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@UFOLoche: You mean Gamespot only has one journalist, instead of many who each cover different stories? I'm shocked! Shocked I say!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for lostn
lostn

6568

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 86

User Lists: 0

She looks like Milla Jovovich. I wonder if Milla will sue. Lindsay Lohan tried to.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ggsimmonds
ggsimmonds

208

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Look we all knew as soon as they announced a sequel that it was going to disregard certain elements of canon.

2 • 
Avatar image for adayinverse
adayinverse

189

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@ggsimmonds: They did that with the first game, so yeah; no big shock.

2 • 
Avatar image for ambaryerno
Ambaryerno

38

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This whole series just takes a big, colossal, stinking dump all over the Lore.

4 • 
Avatar image for James_xeno
James_xeno

643

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

The only spider woman I care about is Rachnera! :P

2 • 
Avatar image for oskuuu
oskuuu

492

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 29

User Lists: 0

So giant spider skin is cut off content dlc? :D

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

1314

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I dunno why they can't just be honest.

"A human's easier to animate than a spider".

But I'm with Jim Sterling on this. It's dumb that they just made Shelob into a human woman, sure. But if they had to do it, couldn't they have made her look more interesting at least? She's just generic pale-skinned, long-black-hair gothy looking woman. Just think of all the ways they could make a humanised spider look cool and menacing!

7 • 
Avatar image for stoltenberg11
stoltenberg11

48

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

@Dragon_Nexus: Yeah the whole thing comes off as really lazy. Lazy storytelling, lazy animation, lazy excuses. I wonder if she will even have a good(evil) reason for counseling Talion or if it's just gonna be a 'main character counseled by evil character omg so cool and edgy' thing made to appeal to high school sociopaths.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

15776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@Dragon_Nexus: At least have 8 limbs.

2 • 
Avatar image for cdog21
cdog21

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Dragon_Nexus: See monster kill monster reasoning would still be there.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for daveyf03
daveyf03

418

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By daveyf03

Just a bit of a stretch, the reasoning the developer gave is completely idiotic.

3 • 
Avatar image for bfa1509
bfa1509

1058

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

This is species dysphoriaphobia; I identify as a spider and am calling out games developers for being arachnophobic, for not having more spider protagonists in games.

4 • 
Avatar image for greaseman1985
greaseman1985

1498

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 17

User Lists: 5

Why not just create a new character, and keep Shelob's role limited like you said you would've done?

4 • 
Avatar image for cdog21
cdog21

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I didn't even know Shelob was sentient before the trailer dropped.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for cdog21
cdog21

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Metallicwolf29: i tried to read the third book before the movie was released. Its wording was too... dense is the best I can describe. I couldn't get through twenty pages.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

15776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I was kinda hoping for giant spider.

2 • 
Avatar image for CyberEarth
CyberEarth

1301

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@Thanatos2k: Giant spiders can be sexy too!

3 • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

I think its hilarious that they even started the conversation by saying "we went back to Tolkien for this" but make it totally obvious when discussing "what they found" that all they did was make shit up.

Shelob was never a woman. You took liberties with a property in order to sexualize a giant spider, and the sad part is how unnecessary this is, and how easily you couldve done it with many, many other characters.

And how much more badass Shelob as a spider wouldve been.

5 • 
Avatar image for warwickknight
warwickknight

57

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By warwickknight

@Richardthe3rd: Actually they are kind of right, shelobas a giant spider wouldve just been turned into a boss that shows up, does a thing, you fight, and she retreats to return in the books and movies. This way you can look and go "Huh...whats your stake in this whole thing."

3 • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@warwickknight: COMPLETELY disagree.

Having a giant spider ally would be totally badass. Especially if they played up the "out of convenience" aspect, where you work with her but never really trust her because shes a giant, creepy spider that likes to eat people.

Either laziness or a woeful lack of foresight is to blame for this decision and the product is weaker as a result.

3 • 
Avatar image for Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

1314

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@warwickknight: Really? You can't think of a way to include Shelob as a spider other than a cutscene followed by a boss fight?

2 • 
Avatar image for mattcake
mattcake

1475

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By mattcake

Because no one ever had a w*nk over a spider.

Probably.

Hopefully.

9 • 
Avatar image for Abomination713
Abomination713

533

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Abomination713

@mattcake: https://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTAwMFg3Mjc=/z/6ugAAOSwSv1Xk0Ky/$_58.JPG

4 • 
Avatar image for mr_fantastic54
Mr_Fantastic54

70

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By Mr_Fantastic54

lol sexy shelob, i think jim sterlings video about this raps it up nice

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

1314

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@JosephDMcDaniel: I love it when people use the word "cuck" unironically.

As much as I hate labelling, it really does speak to the kind of person who'd use that word thinking they were being in some way smart of even offensive. The word doesn't even mean anything any more.

2 • 
Avatar image for mr_fantastic54
Mr_Fantastic54

70

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@JosephDMcDaniel: could be worse he could be a lame company that fills a video game with loot box microtransactions and turns a iconic spider antagonist into a sexy woman for.....reasons?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Byshop
Byshop

20037

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Byshop  Moderator

Meh, I remember the implication that Shelob was intelligent and was more than a spider so whatever. I also remember there was one particularly creepy line about her and Gollum's partnership that was something like how he took care of some of her "other needs" or something.

(Shudder)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for straightcur
straightcur

1521

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I've never understood the decision to dramatically change classic characters when you could simply make a new character any way you choose. what's the point? you upset the fan base for no reason, other than maybe you can't think of a new name....?

4 • 
Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

4785

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

@straightcur: You should probably stay away from Marvel Comics for the time being then.

3 • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@lionheartssj1: considering of the founders of Marvel (Stan Lee) has always said how important it is for the characters in MU to change and evolve in a perpetually unfolding canon that gets alternate timelines and retconned repeatedly...

And how JRR Tolkien rewrote LoTR many, many times to get it just right in a set, unchanging tale that was has remained unchanged for decades...

Marvel and LoTR could not be further apart. So yeah, he should stay away from MU lol.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Golden_Gonads
Golden_Gonads

175

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Richardthe3rd: If it were up to Tolkien, he would never have released LotR's and would have kept editing it up till his death. He was the George Lucas of his day.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@Golden_Gonads: definitely correct on that one.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

4785

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

@Richardthe3rd: I was merely going off what they said, "I've never understood the decision to dramatically change classic characters when you could simply make a new character any way you choose". I don't give a flip what Stan Lee said. The commentor mentioned drastically changing classic characters. Recently, Marvel has been drastically changing characters that have been more or less the same people since their incarnations, many of which were created in the 1960s. Not speaking to intentions at all, just pointing it out. Also, determining whether Marvel and LoTR reside in similar genre spaces is your own prerogative.

2 • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Edited By Richardthe3rd

@lionheartssj1: yeah... the whole point of what I said was that the spaces in which they "reside" couldnt be more different.

Iterating on what are basically iron-clad characters (Tolkien) is in no way comparable to Marvel, who are much more maleable by design. Someone who enjoys Marvel should be have an appetite for it, and that doesnt mean they should bring identical expectations to Tolkien's work or the traditions they exemplify, or vice-versa.

Suggesting they should avoid one or the other because of their idea of how maleable traditional characterizations within the other universe might be most certainly was the clear perogative of your earlier comment, and its false.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

4785

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

@Richardthe3rd: I think what you're trying to say, in an effete way, is that characters in comic books are more subject to change inherently by their continual installment nature, to which I would agree. I think you may also be saying that there is an expectation for change, to which I wouldn't wholly agree.

While Tolkien's work has been interpreted many different ways over the years, the source material is essentially static (posthumous family contributions not withstanding.) Then again, one could argue that each of these installments (movies, games, etc.), are primarily different than comic story arcs in sheer volume that they're produced, independent of content, because both take liberties with the material that came before it.

Going back though, the original commentor didn't understand why one would drastically change a classic character. Many of Marvel's classic characters were established in the years surrounding the publishing of LotR and these characters have also been more or less iron clad for 50+ years, despite being in comics. Just because you think people should expect these characters to change, doesn't mean there aren't readers who don't want them to or like them to. In this case, I think this person may lean more towards the latter, which is why I suggested they might not enjoy what Marvel's doing now. Also, I don't want you to feel like you have to defend Marvel, I'm not attacking them.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3818

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@lionheartssj1: honestly after reading your last post I think we basically have the same philosophy on all that.

Think my initial passive aggressive post was more the result of a bad week. But I agree with what you said completely.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Elranzer
Elranzer

1312

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Warner Bros owns the movie/game/media rights to Tolkein Lord of the Rings/Hobbit as well as Stephen King's IT.

IT switches forms, including humanoid (Pennywise, others) and a giant spider.

WB's version of Shelob does both.

Upvote • 
  • 71 results
  • 1
  • 2