Narsil is a fictional sword featured in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. It is introduced in The Lord of the Rings as having once belonged to King Elendil of the Dúnedain as the sword that cut the One Ring from the hand of Sauron. It also appears in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
The sword was forged during the First Age by the Dwarf Telchar of Nogrod, a famous weaponsmith and artificer who also made the knife Angrist, which cut a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth, and the Helm of Hador later used by Túrin Turambar.
The sword is first mentioned in Tolkien's legendarium as being in the possession of Elendil. He brings it back with him to Middle-earth towards the close of the Second Age, as his father Amandil correctly predicted Númenor's imminent destruction.
Elendil became thereafter a great lord, the first of the kings of Gondor and Arnor. He used Narsil in the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron. During the siege of Barad-dûr, Elendil and Gil-galad overthrew Sauron, but perished in the act, and Narsil broke into two beneath Elendil as he fell. Elendil's son Isildur then used the hilt-shard of the sword to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand, thus destroying the Dark Lord's physical form.
Isildur took the shards on his journey home. Shortly before Isildur was killed in the second year of the Third Age in the disaster at the Gladden Fields, the shards of Narsil were rescued by Ohtar, squire of Isildur. He took them to Imladris (Rivendell), where Isildur's youngest son Valandil was fostered.
The Shards of Narsil became one of the heirlooms of the Kings of Arnor, and after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed they remained an heirloom of the Rangers of the North. The sword was reforged in Rivendell in 3018 T.A. during the War of the Ring, in celebration of the rediscovery and capture of the Ring with which it had become associated as its symbolic antithesis.
Thereafter it was renamed Andúril (meaning "Flame of the West" in Sindarin, another of Tolkien's invented languages), by Aragorn, the heir of Isildur. He carried the sword during his journey south as one of the Fellowship of the Ring, and it featured prominently at several points in the story, where it was sometimes referred to as "the blade that was broken" or "the sword reforged".
Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, traveled to Rivendell in time for the Council of Elrond because of the prophetic dream of his brother Faramir, in which he was told to "seek for the sword that was broken". Aragorn often used the sword to help establish his credentials.
Narsil (broken and reforged as Andúril) acts as a symbol of the kingship of Arnor and Gondor, and by extension, the stewardship of law over evil. As the Chieftain of the Rangers of the North, Aragorn is the heir to the fragments of the ancient sword. The reforging of the broken sword into Andúril prior to the Fellowship of the Ring leaving Rivendell is one of many important prophesied events leading up to the downfall of Sauron and the restoration of the line of Elendil as kings of Arnor and Gondor.
The reforged Andúril is described in The Fellowship of the Ring:
...on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes... Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen.
Some passages in Tolkien's writings, including the above, imply or indicate that Narsil/Andúril glowed, similarly to Sting and Glamdring. However, Andúril was Dwarven-made rather than Elven-made, so unlike Sting and Glamdring, Narsil/Andúril did not glow blue in the presence of Orcs. Rather, it glowed with a red light in sunlight, and a white light in moonlight.
From The Silmarillion:
...the sword of Elendil filled Orcs and Men with fear, for it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon, and it was named Narsil. ...Thus Narsil came in due time to the hand of Valandil, Isildur's heir, in Imladris; but the blade was broken and its light extinguished, and it was not forged anew.
There are several other indications of this in The Lord of the Rings, including:
But even as the orc flung down the truncheon and swept out his scimitar, Andúril came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame and the helm burst asunder. The orc fell with cloven head.
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out.
Charging from the side, they hurled themselves upon the wild men. Andúril rose and fell, gleaming with white fire. A shout went up from wall and tower: "Andúril! Andúril goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!" ...Three times Aragorn and Éomer rallied them, and three times Andúril flamed in a desperate charge that drove the enemy from the wall.
Tolkien confirms that this glow was not simply due to reflection or polishing in a private letter, where he describes Andúril as glowing with an "elvish light".
It is possible that the reforging of the sword by elves allowed it to glow like purely elf-forged swords.
In the motion picture trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, Narsil was broken into six parts (rather than two), which were kept in Rivendell, and broke not when Elendil fell but rather when Isildur reached for it and Sauron stepped on it. It is also not reforged into Andúril until the third film, when Arwen persuades Elrond to have elven smiths reforge it from the shards and bring to Aragorn. In the book, he actually wears the broken blade and shows it to the Hobbits when they meet at the Prancing Pony in Bree, and its reforging prior to the departure of the Fellowship is a decisive move toward kingship. According to conceptual artist John Howe, it is designed with a hollow pommel.
The incident involving Aragorn disarming reluctantly is omitted from the second film on the grace that the sword he surrenders there is not Andúril. However, the first film does include an invented scene of Aragorn reverently placing the hilt of Narsil back into the display after Boromir knocks it from its podium onto the floor.
In The Two Towers, it is written that Aragorn uses Andúril with a shield from Théoden's armoury during the Battle of the Hornburg. In The Fellowship of the Ring it is also stated that his sword was similar to Boromir's, who uses his with a shield consistently. This, coupled with Tolkien's comparisons of Middle-earth's clothing and war gear to that of Dark Age Europe and the Bayeux Tapestry, would suggest that it and other swords would be single-handed rather than the two-handed longsword depicted in the films, which is more akin to the late medieval and Renaissance periods.
The filmmakers opted not to make Andúril glow at all, keeping that property only for Sting. (Gandalf's sword Glamdring also did not glow in the presence of orcs. Peter Jackson notes, in his DVD commentary on The Fellowship of the Ring, that this was an oversight, not a deliberate change from the books.)
The hollow pommel is inscribed with tengwar: Narsil essenya, macil meletya, telchar carnéron navarotessë ("Narsil is my name, a mighty sword, Telchar made me in Nogrod"). After Narsil was reforged into Andúril, runes were added to the blade, which read: Anar. Nányë Andúril i né Narsil i macil Elendilo. Lercuvanten i móli Mordórëo. Isil ("Sun. I am Andúril who once was Narsil, sword of Elendil. The slaves of Mordor shall flee from me. Moon"). Both inscriptions were composed in Quenya by David Salo. While Tolkien wrote that there were runes engraved on the blade, he apparently never wrote down the actual inscription. Both inscriptions shown in the films are inventions of the filmmakers.
Concept and creation
Christopher Tolkien suggested that Narsil was introduced during the writing of The Lord of the Rings rather spontaneously: "It is possible that the Sword that was Broken actually emerged from the verse 'All that is gold does not glitter': on this view, in the earliest form of the verse ... the words a king may yet be without crown, A blade that was broken be brandished were no more than a further exemplification of the general moral [that not everything is what it appears to be]." Following this, references to the Sword were introduced during major recastings of "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" and "The Council of Elrond" chapters.
Originally the sword was only referred to as "the Sword of Elendil" or "the Broken Sword"; later the name Branding (from Old English brand 'sword') was devised for the Sword Reforged. This was replaced by Andúril after the emergence of Narsil.
- ↑ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Ring Goes South", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- ↑ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- ↑ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- ↑ Template:ME-ref/TT
- ↑ Template:ME-ref/TT
- ↑ Template:ME-ref/LETTERS
- ↑ Template:ME-ref/LETTERS
- ↑ Template:ME-ref/TOI
- ↑ The Treason of Isengard, pp. 77-80, 120.
- ↑ The Treason of Isengard, p. 290
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