Guruth"; pl. "Nefnaid Gyryth") appeared harmless. They rarely exceeded three inches in length and were often solitary. Their white coats and blue under-fur were prized among the Dunlendings of Dunland, to the south. Still, there was meaning to their name, for the bite of a Death Shrew carried the disease called The Blue Hand (S. "E Luincam"). The Blue Hand was not contagious or fatal, but it shortened lives. Dunlendings who contracted it killed themselves. This was due to the disease's dreadful effects: blue discolorations of the skin; large boils on the hands, feet, and under the eyes; bleeding through the ears and nose. Those who contracted it were often immobilized or crippled, and frequently outcasts.
Death Shrews were immune to the scourge they bore, and even relied on other means to dissuade attacks. They secreted a foul-smelling spray which protected them from most larger predators and had developed a reinforced spine which withstood crushing blows. Fortified and strengthened by a mesh of interlocking bony flanges and rods, the shrew's backbone could support the weight of a large Man. This arsenal of defenses might be due to the varied needs of the Death Shrew. Enormous appetites forced them to consume nearly five times its own bodyweight every day. Thus, they fed on nearly anything and would go almost anywhere to satisfy their food-lust. Although they relied on insects and rotting plant matter, they would take a bite out of whatever appeared at hand, including the exposed skin of a large animal. Dwarves used to caution adventurers in the region accordingly, and one traveling in Moria should take care where they slept, or even where they leant for rest. After all, Death Shrews were superb climbers. One could only thank the Valar that they were found nowhere outside the caves of the central Misty Mountains.