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.
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. 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.
Tolkien devised several constructed languages with terms for types of weapons.
• Sword: Noldorin Sindarin: magl, magol, North Sindarin magor, Quenya: makil, macil, Noldorin Sindarin: crist. • Dagger, Knife: Noldorin Sindarin: sigil, Quenya: sicil • Axe: North Sindarin: hathol, Quenya: pelekko, Khuzdul: baruk (construct state: reconstructed singular burk) • Spear: Quenya: hatal also ehte • Bow: Noldorin Sindarin: peng also poetically cû (“arch”), Quenya: quinga.
Tolkien also devised terms for specific makes of weapons, like lango (broad sword), eket, ecet (short sword), and lhang (cutlass, sword). 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.
Swords symbolized physical prowess in battle for Tolkien, following Northern European culture. 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. 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.
Knives are mentioned in Tolkien’s works, sometimes as backup weapons—such as the nondescript long knife of Legolas the archer. However, some individual knives are given more significance through naming (e.g. Sting, see below). 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. 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. 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. 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”.
Axes are used by most races in Tolkien’s writings, most notably the Dwarves, who used the battle cry: Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you! (Khuzdul:Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!) For The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Gimli the Dwarf was assigned various axes of different makes during the course of the films.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. 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. In The Lord of the Rings, the Red Arrow was a token used by Gondor to summon its allies in time of need. In the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the Red Arrow is omitted and its role is conflated with the Beacons of Gondor. 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.
Armour in Tolkien’s fiction is mainly in the form of mail or scale shirts, in keeping with Ancient and Early Middle periods of history. In contrast, the Lord of the Rings film trilogy features plate armour suits in the style of the High and Late Middle periods. These kinds of plate armour are not found in Tolkien’s writings, but plate does appear in the form of 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 Bilboand Frodo Baggins.
Tolkien emulated his Northern European mythological and literary sources in creating weapons and armour with names (real examples of named weapons includeHrunting and Naegling in Beowulf, Tyrfing in the Elder Edda and Gram in the Volsunga saga). The items illustrate the passage of time and the transfer of power or fate to their future bearers.
(Sindarin: Snow Point; also spelled Aiglos.) A spear wielded by Gil-galad; 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.
(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; influenced by the sword of the Finnish Kullervo. Anglachel was reforged as Gurthang (Sindarin: Iron of Death) Túrin used Gurthang to kill Glaurung, the Father of Dragons, and later used the sword to take his own life in recompense for the accidental slaying of Beleg Strongbow.
(Sindarin: Iron-cleaver) 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. 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.
(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.
(Sindarin: King’s Ire) A sword wielded by Thingol of Doriath in The Silmarillion. Later the sword of the Kings of Númenor.
(Sindarin/Ilkorin: Intractable Bow) A bow wielded by Beleg Cúthalion (Strongbow) in The Silmarillion and The Lays of Beleriand.
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. Also known as the Helm of Hador.
(Sindarin: Thudder-Sharp) An axe belonging to Tuor, son of Huor in The Book of Lost Tales and Unfinished Tales.
(Sindarin: Foe-hammer) A sword in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales  belonging first to Turgon. Gandalf appropriated it after it was discovered among the hoard of the three trolls in The Hobbit, and he carries 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. It is the mate of Orcrist.
(Sindarin: Club) The name of the mace of Morgoth in The Silmarillion; also a battering ram in The Lord of the Rings, 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”.
(Old English: Battle Friend) A sword wielded by Éomer, third marshal of the Riddermark in The Lord of the Rings.
(Old English: Fierce Sword) A sword that belonged to Théoden.
(Quenya: roughly, Red and White Flame) A sword in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, influenced by the legendary swords Tyrfing and Gram. The sword was forged during theFirst 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 byTúrin Turambar. 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).
In the motion picture series 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 stomped 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 of Narsil 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.)
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.
(Sindarin: Goblin-cleaver) A sword in The Hobbit. Originally forged in Gondolin, Orcrist was nicknamed “Biter” by the Goblins of the Misty Mountains. After finding it in a troll hoard, 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. It is the mate of Glamdring.
A black-feathered arrow barbed with steel; its tip was painted red. 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. 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.”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”. Théoden pledged his assistance, but Hirgon was killed during the ride back to Minas Tirith, leading Denethor to believe that no help was forthcoming from Rohan.
(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. This was the sword with which Fingolfin wounded Morgoth seven times, causing the first dark lord to limp forever afterward.
A knife in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Although made by the Elves as a large knife, it functioned well as a sword for the smaller race of Hobbits. Bilbo Baggins named the weapon after using it to fend off the giant spiders in Mirkwood forest, then later passed it on to Frodo 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. 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.
List of Middle-earth weapons and armour. (n.d.). Retrieved June 18, 2015.