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Weapons and armour of Middle-earth are found in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy writings, such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Wars and battles are featured in much of Tolkien's writings, and weapons and armour are often given special attention.[1][2]

Tolkien modelled his fictional warfare on the Ancient and Early Middle periods of history. His depiction of weapons and armour particularly reflect the Northern European culture of Beowulf, the Norse sagas and similar works. Tolkien established this relationship in The Fall of Gondolin, the first story in his legendarium to be written. In this story, the Elves of Gondolin use mail armour, swords, shields, spears, axes and bows, which is consistent with Northern European warfare. In Tolkien's writings, these kinds of weapons and armour are used by his fictional races, including Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, and Orcs.[2] Like his sources Tolkien sometimes uses the motif of ceremonial runic inscriptions in his fictional items of warfare to show these items are magical and have their own history.[1]

Terminology

Tolkien devised several constructed languages with terms for types of weapons.

Tolkien also devised terms for specific makes of weapons, like lango (broad sword), eket, ecet (short sword), and lhang (cutlass, sword).[11] Lhang was used for a large two-handed, curved-bladed sword with a long handle used by Elves in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[12]

General items

Swords symbolized physical prowess in battle for Tolkien, following Northern European culture.[1] Tolkien writes that Elves and Dwarves produced the best swords (and other war gear) and that Elvish swords glowed blue in the presence of Orcs. Elves generally used straight swords while Orcs generally used curved swords. Both races have exceptions: Egalmoth of Gondolin used a curved sword and the Uruk-hai of Isengard used short, broad blades. Tolkien so often mentions the use of shields together with swords that it seems one-handed swords would be the norm.[2] In The Lord of the Rings film trilogy most Elvish swords are curved but some named swords are interpreted as two-handed longswords. The films also embellished upon Tolkien's descriptions of swords (and other weapons) by making up inscriptions for these items.[12]

Knives are mentioned in Tolkien's works, sometimes as backup weapons - such as the nondescript long knife of Legolas the archer.[2] However, some individual knives are given more significance through naming (e.g. Sting, see below).[1] Knives of a certain type without proper formal names are also used to further the plot. The Witch-king, leader of the Nazgûl, used a magical dagger called a "Morgul-blade" to wound Frodo Baggins. The dark magic of the knife gravely affects Frodo's well-being, threatening to turn him into a wraith. Recurring ill effects from the wound contribute to Frodo's eventual departure to Valinor.[13] The weapon may owe something to the Old English tradition of the "elf-shot". The term appears in Old English medical texts and charms and refers to illnesses of presumed supernatural origin.[14] A magical dagger forged by the Men of Westernesse to fight the powers of Mordor and recovered from a barrow by Tom Bombadil, informally called a "Barrow-blade", proves instrumental in bringing about the death of the Witch-king.[15] For The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, some characters such as Aragorn and Boromir were assigned hunting or throwing knives as part of their costume design, and Legolas now had two "White Knives".[12]

Axes are used by most races in Tolkien's writings, most notably the Dwarves,[2] who used the battle cry: Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you! (Khuzdul: Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!)[16] For The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Gimli the Dwarf was assigned various axes of different makes during the course of the films.[12] The Sindarin Elves of Doriath also favoured axes as weapons during the First Age.

Bows of different sizes and construction are featured in Tolkien's works. Elves of Lothlórien, Men, and Uruk-hai used longbows while Elves of Mirkwood and Orcs of Mordor used smaller ones. These bows are said to be made of wood, horn and even steel.[2] Sometimes individual arrows are given special mention in Tolkien's works. In The Hobbit, the Black Arrow was a royal heirloom used to kill the dragon Smaug.[17] In The Lord of the Rings, the Red Arrow was a token used by Gondor to summon its allies in time of need.[18] In the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the Red Arrow is omitted and its role is conflated with the Beacons of Gondor.[19] The films also assign a bow to Aragorn and crossbows to the Uruk-hai. In Tolkien's writings Aragorn is armed only with the sword Andúril (below) and crossbows are nowhere mentioned.[12]

Armour in Tolkien's fiction is mainly in the form of mail or scale (Gondor used plate armour), in keeping with Ancient and Early Middle periods of history.[2] In contrast, the Lord of the Rings film trilogy features plate armour.[12] Plate does appear in Tolkien's writings for individual pieces such as vambraces (forearm guards) or greaves (leg and shin guards). As with other items of war, Elves and Dwarves produced the best armour. A mail shirt forged by Dwarves from the fictional metal mithril appears in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, worn in turn by the protagonists Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.[2][20]

Named items

Tolkien emulated his Northern European mythological and literary sources in creating weapons and armour with names (real examples of named weapons include Hrunting and Naegling in Beowulf, Tyrfing in the Elder Edda and Gram in the Volsunga saga). The bestowal of proper names serves to make weapons and armour unique and connecting the reader to ritualized warfare. The items illustrate the passage of time and the transfer of power or fate to their future bearers.[1]

Aeglos
(Sindarin: Snow Point;[21] also spelled Aiglos.) A spear wielded by Gil-galad in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales;[1][22] Aiglos is also the name of a type of plant in Middle-earth which most notably grew on Amon Rûdh. Aeglos is also the name of a Tolkienist semiannual almanac published by the Polish Silesian Science-Fiction Club, parent organisation of the Polish Tolkien Society.[23]
Anglachel
Main article: Anglachel(Sindarin: Iron of the Flaming Star) A sword forged by Eöl the Dark Elf, given to Thingol of Doriath, and later wielded by Beleg Strongbow and ultimately Túrin in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, and The Children of Húrin;[24][25][26] influenced by the sword of the Finnish Kullervo.[1][27] Anglachel was reforged as Gurthang (Sindarin: Iron of Death[28]).
Angrist
(Sindarin: Iron-cleaver[29]) A knife made by the great weaponsmith Telchar of Nogrod, and borne by Curufin. Beren, who had taken it from Curufin, used it to cut a magical Silmaril jewel out of Morgoth's iron crown; as Beren attempted to remove another, the knife snapped.[1][30] In the earliest version of Beren's story in The Book of Lost Tales, he uses an ordinary household knife; the element of Curufin's involvement in Beren's affairs came later.[31]
Anguirel
(meaning in Sindarin unclear) A sword forged by Eöl the Dark Elf, similar to Anglachel which was given to Thingol of Doriath in The Silmarillion. Anguirel was kept by Eöl until it was stolen by his son, Maeglin.[1][32]
Aranrúth
(Sindarin: King's Ire[33]) A sword wielded by Thingol of Doriath in The Silmarillion.[1][34]
Belthronding
(Sindarin/Ilkorin: Intractable Bow[35]) A bow wielded by Beleg Cúthalion (Strongbow) in The Silmarillion and The Lays of Beleriand.[1][36]
Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin
A helmet owned and used by men of the Royal house of Hador (such as Húrin and Túrin) in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The Children of Húrin.[1] Also known as the Helm of Hador.
Dramborleg
(Sindarin: Thudder-Sharp[37]) An axe belonging to Tuor, son of Huor in The Book of Lost Tales and Unfinished Tales.[1]
Glamdring
(Sindarin: Foe-hammer[38]) A sword in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales.[1][39] Known as the sword of Turgon and Gandalf; the latter carried it throughout his journeys with Bilbo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring. Glamdring was nicknamed "Beater" by the Goblins of the Misty Mountains. Glamdring would glow blue whenever orcs were nearby.
Grond
(Sindarin: Club) The name of the mace of Morgoth in The Silmarillion;[40] also a battering ram in The Lord of the Rings,[1][41] used to assault the main gate of Minas Tirith. In the Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Return of the King, the ram Grond is called "the arm of the devil" also named "the hammer of the underworld".
Gúthwinë
(Old English: Battle Friend[42]) A sword wielded by Éomer, third marshal of the Riddermark in The Lord of the Rings.[1][43]
Herugrim
(Old English: Fierce Sword[42]) A sword that belonged to Théoden.[1][44]
Narsil
Main article: Narsil (Quenya: roughly, Red and White Flame[45]) A sword in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion,[46][47] influenced by the legendary swords Tyrfing and Gram.[1] Narsil was broken in the overthrow of Sauron at the end of the Second Age and was later reforged as Andúril (Quenya: Flame of the West[48]).
Narsil

The shards of Narsil in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Note that in the book, it is broken into only two pieces.

Orcrist
(Sindarin: Goblin-cleaver[38]) A sword in The Hobbit.[1][49] Orcrist was nicknamed "Biter" by the Goblins of the Misty Mountains. Thorin Oakenshield carried the sword throughout much of The Hobbit, and it was laid on his tomb after he died in the Battle of Five Armies.
Red Arrow
A black-feathered arrow barbed with steel; its tip was painted red.[50] It was a token used by Gondor to summon Rohan in time of dire need, and may have been associated with the Oath of Eorl.[51] In The Return of the King, the Red Arrow was presented to Théoden by Hirgon with the message: "...the Lord Denethor asks for all your strength and all your speed, lest Gondor should fall at last."[52] The Red Arrow has a historical antecedent in the Old English poem Elene in which Constantine the Great summoned an army of mounted Visigoths to his aid against the Huns by sending an arrow as a "token of war".[53]
Ringil
(Sindarin: Cold-Star/Cold-Spark) A sword wielded by Fingolfin in The Silmarillion and The Lays of Beleriand. It bit with chilling cold, and glittered like ice with a pale light.[1][54][55]
Sting
Main article: Sting (Middle-earth) A knife in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Although made by the Elves as a large knife, for the smaller race of Hobbits it functioned well as a sword.[1][56] Bilbo Baggins named the weapon after using it to fend off the giant spiders in Mirkwood forest, then later passed it on to Frodo for him to use in his quest to destroy the One Ring. Sting would glow blue whenever orcs were nearby.

A sword called Hadhafang was invented for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, where it was borne by Arwen.[12] The name is derived from Tolkien's etymological word list written in the 1930s; here Tolkien provides the word hadhathang (dissimilated: havathang, hadhafang), which he translates as "throng-cleaver". The author never actually used this name in any of his writings.[57]

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 Burdge, Anthony; Burke, Jessica (2006). "Weapons, Named". In Drout, Michael. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Piela, Joseph (2006). "Arms and Armour". In Drout, Michael. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 371.
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The War of the Jewels, p. 234.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 365.
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 385.
  7. http://folk.uib.no/hnohf/khuzdul.htm
  8. Vinyar Tengwar 49, p. 14.
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 355.
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 366.
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road, p. 367.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Smith, Chris (2003). The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare. Mariner Books. ISBN 0-618-39100-2. 
  13. The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 208, 210; The Return of the King, p. 333
  14. Drout, Michael, ed (2006). "Elf-shot". J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  15. The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields", p. 117: "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."
  16. The Two Towers
  17. The Hobbit
  18. The Return of the King, p. 72; Unfinished Tales, p. 364, 411
  19. Timmons, Dan (2006). "Jackson, Peter". In Drout, Michael. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  20. Drout, Michael, ed (2006). "Mithril". J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  21. The Silmarillion, p. 313
  22. The Silmarillion, p. 294; Unfinished Tales, p. 148, 417
  23. Morawski, Marcin (2006). "Poland: Reception of Tolkien". In Drout, Michael. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  24. The Silmarillion, p. 201-202, 206-210, 316; Unfinished Tales, p. 148, 419
  25. The Silmarillion, p. 226
  26. The Silmarillion, p. 225.
  27. Petty, Anne C. (2006). "Finland: Literary Sources". In Drout, Michael. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0. 
  28. Unfinished Tales. p. 443
  29. The Silmarillion, p. 316
  30. The Silmarillion, pp. 177, 181
  31. Template:ME-ref/BOLT2
  32. The Silmarillion, p. 202
  33. The Silmarillion. p. 317
  34. The Silmarillion, p. 201, 279; Unfinished Tales, p. 171
  35. The Lost Road. p. 388
  36. The Silmarillion, p. 208, 320; The Lays of Beleriand, p. 26, 117, 127
  37. Unfinished Tales. p. 172; The Book of Lost Tales (vol. 2), "The Fall of Gondolin"
  38. 38.0 38.1 The Hobbit. "A Short Rest", p. 62
  39. The Hobbit, p. 53; The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 293, 324; The Two Towers, p. 115; The Return of the King, p. 272; Unfinished Tales, p. 54
  40. The Silmarillion, p. 154, 333
  41. The Return of the King, p. 112
  42. 42.0 42.1 Tolkien Dictionary
  43. The Two Towers, p. 139
  44. The Two Towers, p. 123
  45. The Return of the King. p. 438; Further information in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien
  46. The Silmarillion, p. 294-295, 343; Unfinished Tales, p. 272, 275; The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 256-257; The Return of the King, p. 123
  47. The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 290, 338-339, 391; The Two Towers, p. 36, 104, 115, 139; The Return of the King, p. 123, 158, 245
  48. The Return of the King. p. 437
  49. The Hobbit, p. 53, 303
  50. Template:ME-ref/ROTK
  51. Template:ME-ref/CG
  52. Template:ME-ref/ROTK
  53. Scott Howard (21 March 2008), Recreating Beowulf's 'Pregnant Moment of Poise': Pagan Doom and Christian Eucatastrophe Made Incarnate in the Dark Age Setting of The Lord of the Rings, University of Montana 
  54. The Silmarillion, p. 153-154, 347
  55. Template:ME-ref/LOB
  56. The Hobbit, p. 53, 83, 167, etc.;The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 23, 290; The Two Towers, p. 221, The Return of the King, p. 173, 204
  57. Template:ME-ref/LROW

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