|Dead or Alive||Undead|
Evil spirits (perverted Maiar or possibly spirits of Orcs, fallen Avari, or evil Men) were sent to the Barrow-downs by the Witch-king of Angmar in order to prevent a resurrection of the destroyed Dúnedain kingdom of Cardolan.
They animated the dead bones of the Dúnedain buried there, as well as older bones of Edain from the First Age which still were buried there.
During the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins and company were trapped in the Barrow-downs, and nearly slain by a barrow-wight. It was mentioned in The Lord of the Rings Appendix A that Frodo was trapped in the cairn of the last prince of Cardolan; Merry's exclamation on waking from his trance suggests this. Frodo sliced off the wight's hand; then, when the wight extinguished the dim light in the cavern where the company was imprisoned, Frodo called upon Tom Bombadil, who expelled the wight from the barrow.
Other versions of the legendariumEdit
Due to his inspiration from Hrómundar saga Gripssonar, during the writing of The Lord of the Rings (see The History of The Lord of the Rings) Tolkien at first foresaw a link between the wights and the Ringwraiths, initially describing the Black Riders as horsed wights, but the suggestion that they were the same kind of creatures was dropped in the published work. In the final work there remained a link between them: the wights were now spirits sent by the Witch-king of Angmar.