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Glamdring, Gandalf's sword in Peter Jackson's trilogy Lord of the Rings

Glamdring (also called Foe-Hammer) was a two-handed sword, forged for the Elf Turgon, the King of Gondolin during the First Age. Glamdring was used in battle only twice in the First Age; Turgon wielded Glamdring in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and in the Fall of Gondolin. For over 6000 years it went missing, surviving the War of Wrath, until Gandalf (and company) found it (along with Sting and Orcrist) in the trolls' cave in The Hobbit and claimed it for himself. He continued to use Glamdring through the events of The Lord of the Rings, and it is kept safe in the treasure vault at Minas Tirith.[1]

The only way to explain the sword's survival through the War of Wrath is that the sword somehow was taken out of Beleriand within the 43 years after Gondolin's fall and before the end of the First Age. This was most likely accomplished by one of the flightless dragons involved in Gondolin's fall, most probably the dragon later to be known as Scatha the Worm. After fleeing east with the spoils of Gondolin, including Glamdring, Sting and Orcrist, Scatha established a lair on the southern slopes of Ered Mithrin. Roughly around 2000 of the third age, Scatha was killed by Rohirrim leader Fram but the hoard was disputed by the dwarves (it undoubtedly did contain many dwarven treasures as well, like the horn gifted to Meriadoc by Eowyn). The dwarves killed Fram and made off with some of the hoard most likely including the swords of Gondolin. The swords would have been used 700 years later in the battles between the dwarves and the orcs revenging the death of Thror and culminating in the Battle of Nanduhirion (where young Thorin Oakenshield earned his name). Thus the orcs would have a fresh fear of Biter and Beater (as demonstrated by their reactions when they capture Bilbo and company). Years after the battle, the dwarven wielders of the Elvish swords were most likely relocating to Lindon during the Fell Winter of 2911 when they were waylaid unsuspectingly by trolls in the Ettenmoors. Thus the swords ultimately fell into the hands of the three trolls from The Hobbit by the end of the Third Age.

Glamdring is translated as Foe-hammer (A Sindarin word), and the Goblins in The Hobbit call it "Beater".

On the sword it reads, "Turgon aran Gondolin tortha, Gar a matha I vegil Glamdring Gud Daedheloth, Dam an Glamhoth." Which means, "Turgon king of Gondolin wields, has and holds the sword Glamdring, Foe of Morgoth's realm, hammer to the Orcs." This was a strengthening spell to protect the user's hand should an actual blow strike it.


Glamdring, along with Orcrist, its mate, are described in The Hobbit as having "...beautiful scabbards and jeweled hilts", and Glamdring is referred to by Elrond as "Foe-hammer that the King of Gondolin once wore". In Unfinished Tales, one of the footnotes to the story "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" mentions that the sword of Turgon was "...white and a ruel-bone (ivory) sheath,..." While Glamdring is not mentioned by name, it is reasonable to assume that the same sword is described.

Glamdring is inscribed with runes in the Elven language. In the movies released by New Line Cinema and directed by Peter Jackson, the runes say "Turgon Aran Gondolin, Tortha gar a matha Glamdring, Vegil Glamdring gud daelo. Dam an Glamhoth." which translates to "Turgon, King of Gondolin, wields, has, and holds the sword Glamdring, Foe of Morgoth's realm, Hammer of the Orcs." This inscription, however, was not mentioned in any of J. R. R. Tolkien's writings. All Tolkien says in The Hobbit is that the names of the swords were given in the runes, but nothing else is clearly stated. The invented inscription for the movie sword, however, does sound plausible, since Elrond was able to identify that the sword belonged to Turgon.

One problem, though, is that the inscription is given in Sindarin, but in an essay written late in J. R. R. Tolkien's life, he explicitly states that Turgon had re-established Quenya as the language of his household in Gondolin (see The Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 348). Curiously, it is mentioned in The Hobbit that Gandalf could not read the runes, but that Elrond could, suggesting they were inscribed not in normal Cirth but in some special mode which Gandalf did not know—or, as is more likely, it was at first an inconsistency on Tolkien's part, keeping in mind that The Hobbit had not originally been intended to be so closely woven into the Silmarillion legends. Although the inscription in the film version is Lord of the Rings-era Sindarin and Cirth, the Elvish languages had certainly changed since Turgon's time, so it may be that since Elrond was a survivor from the First Age, he would have been able to read the inscription, whereas Gandalf, who had lived in Aman until the middle Third Age, was not acquainted with it. This seems highly unlikely though, as Quenya originates as an Elvish language from the Undying lands of Aman and is the mode of speech for the Noldorin exiles in Beleriand; which Gandalf would have known in his life as the Maiar Olorin.

Often it is forgotten that the Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings are 'historical accounts' written by the Hobbits, Bilbo, Frodo and Samwise. As a Linguist and by default an historian of modes, Tolkien would not have been ignorant of the historical devices put place within ancient texts, both mythic and historical, where the specific details of importance are not arltered, in this case, the wording and appearance of glamdring, but in fact, for poetic effect, the speaker may change. The poetic effect, or adding of depth in this case is that Turgon is Elrond's great grand father, which to accommodate the significance, requires Gandalf to appeare buffoonish, or perhaps to be considered to withhold information which would be far too detailed and ruin the poetic depth later on. This maybe a 'meta' literary device employed within the technical stance that Bilbo is recording his history of events. Of course this cannot be fully true, as stated above the work with the rest of Arda was not to be so intrinsically included, but it may help to see it in this light.

Gandalf Glamdring

Gandalf the White with Glamdring during the Battle at the Black Gate.

Like all High-Elven swords, Glamdring is supposed to glow with a blue or white flame when Orcs (or Balrogs) are near, like Frodo's sword Sting and Thorin Oakenshield's sword Orcrist, which were also made in Gondolin. However this was left out of the Lord of the Rings movies by New Line Cinema because they felt it would be confusing.


In addition to the licensed reproduction sword linked below, Del Tin Antiche of Italy made unlicensed interpretations of both Glamdring and Orcrist, which were sold through Museum Replicas, Ltd. back in the mid to late 1980s. These were very high quality steel and well constructed (if quite plain).

Another rather ornate version of Orcrist created by Greg Hildebrandt was issued by Franklin Mint in 1998.


References and Notes

  1. Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare

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