- "The wealth of Moria was not in gold or jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant.... Its worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price; for little is left above ground, and even the Orcs dare not delve here for it."
- "Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim." (The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark").
Mithril in its pure form was apparently rather soft and malleable. It could be used for various alloys to produce extremely lightweight, hard and durable armour but it was also a component of ithildin. The Elves loved it for its beauty and presumably used it for jewelry and attire rather than weapons or armour.
Mithril was extremely rare by the end of the Third Age, as it was found only in Khazad-dûm. Once the Balrog known as Durin's Bane destroyed the kingdom of the Dwarves at Khazad-dûm, Middle-earth's only source of new mithril ore was cut off. Before Moria was abandoned by the Dwarves mithril was worth ten times its own weight in gold. After the Dwarves abandoned Moria and production of new mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless. The only way to obtain a mithril-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom mithril weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing weapons to forge new ones. The Ñoldor of Eregion made an alloy out of it called ithildin ("star moon"), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The West Gate of Moria bore inlaid ithildin designs and runes.
For the literal-minded reader, it is unclear whether or not mithril is a real metal; many have thought it to be platinum, or iridium however, both are far too heavy to qualify as candidates. It is possible that this legendary material was modelled after titanium, as this metal, while actually quite abundant as ore, was very expensive to produce in its metallic form (especially by medieval technology), and has some of mithril's properties of strength, bright silvery color, corrosion resistance, and light weight. Other possibilities are aluminium, or magnesium; these metals are even lighter than titanium, but not as strong or as silvery and shiny. (Famously, Napoleon III of France once bought dinnerware made out of aluminium because it was more expensive than gold at the time.) Certainly Tolkien, being highly educated, would have had knowledge of these three metals and the difficulty in preparing them. However, probably because nobody is known to have asked Tolkien about mithril, it will never be known with certainty whether mithril is based on any real metal.
The Mithril CoatEdit
- "That spear-thrust would have skewered a wild boar!"
- —Aragorn, after seeing that the coat had blocked a spear wielded by an orc-chieftain, in Moria
Of all items made of mithril, the most famous is the "small shirt of mail" retrieved from the hoard of the dragon Smaug, and given to Bilbo Baggins by Thorin Oakenshield. "It was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold as ice, and harder than steel..." and studded with white gems of unknown variety.
A kingly gift, Gandalf states that the mithril-coat was actually worth more than the entire Shire and everything in it (though Gandalf says that he never told Bilbo, Frodo suspects Bilbo knew to some extent). Its value seems to have been even greater, however. After leaving Moria, the Fellowship has a chance to examine the shirt, and Gimli says, "I have never seen or heard tell of one so fair" and that Gandalf "undervalued it."
Bilbo had donated the shirt to the Shire 's mathom museum in Michel Delving, but before he left he reclaimed it and then later in Rivendell passed it on to his nephew Frodo, who wore it during the Quest to Mount Doom. It saved Frodo's life when he was nearly skewered by an orc-chieftain in the Mines of Moria. Aragorn said the thrust was strong enough to skewer a wild boar, but the orc's spear point could not penetrate the mithril-alloy armour coat. Yet, the leather shirt beneath the mithril was punctured with the force of the blow and Frodo was bruised and in pain.
The mithril mail-shirt was later taken by the Orcs who captured Frodo in the pass above Cirith Ungol, and passed on to the Dark Lord's servants at Barad-dûr. When the coat was displayed before the hosts of Aragorn at the Gates of Mordor many despaired, thinking Frodo had been captured or killed, and the Ring taken. Gandalf reclaimed it from Sauron's lieutenant, and was later able to return it to Frodo after the battles were won.
Other Mithril objects in the Lord of the Rings novelsEdit
- Galadriel possesses one of the three Elven Rings, Nenya. It is wrought of mithril with a white stone.
- Searching Orthanc, King Elessar and his aides found the long lost Elendilmir, a white star of Elvish crystal affixed to a fillet of mithril. Once owned by Elendil, the first King of Arnor, it is an emblem of royalty in the North Kingdom. After Elendil fell in the First War of the Ring, his eldest son Isildur ascended to the throne. On his journey back to the northern capital of Arnor, his retinue was ambushed by orcs. Isildur tried to escape by jumping into the Anduin but was shot to death by arrows.
- The Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith wear helmets of mithril, "heirlooms from the glory of old days."
- As Aragorn's ships sail up the Anduin to relieve the besieged Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring, the standard flying on his ship shows a crown made of mithril and gold.
- After Gimli became lord of Aglarond, he and his Dwarves forged great gates of mithril to replace the gates of Minas Tirith which were broken by the Witch-king of Angmar during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
- The doors of Moria are inscribed with Ithildin, an alloy of unknown composition that contains mithril.
The name mithril came from two words in Sindarin—mith, meaning "grey", and ril meaning "glitter". Mithril was also called "true-silver" by Men or 'Moria-silver' while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it.
Portrayal in AdaptationsEdit
- "Here's a pretty thing...light as a feather, and hard as dragon's scales."
- —Bilbo Baggins (Peter Jackson Movie Trilogy)
In the game Aragorn's Quest, Mithril is three lore items, and the rarest currency is a mithril bar, worth a hundred silver coins.
In other mediaEdit
Mithril, or similarly spelled names, has been used in other fictional contexts as a strong and semi-magical metal, due to the fact that the Tolkien Estate did not trademark the term. Examples include:
- In the Computer RPG series known as The Elder Scrolls, Mithril is a kind of armour.
- Within Bored of the Rings (a Lord of the Rings parody), objects are made of cheap "mithril plate" rather than solid mithril.
- In the Role-Playing Game Dungeons & Dragons, mithral is one of the special materials used to make high-quality or magical items.
- In the computer game HeXen II, there is a mithril wall underwater that must be transformed into wood via a spell in order to proceed in the game.
- In the video game RPG series Final Fantasy, Mythril is a material for shields, weapons, armour, helmets and so on. This equipment is usually found in the early or middle portions of the game.
- In the computer game ADOM, mithril is a type of metal, one of the strongest.
- The computer game Princess Maker 2 has a character who wears mithril armor when she fences.
- The computer game Simon the Sorcerer features milrith.
- In the computer game Age of Mythology, mithril is a special armor type.
- In the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Kings of Chaos, mithril is a defence weapon for humans.
- In the MMORPG Everquest, mithril is a metal that can make weapons, armor, and other equipment.
- In the MMORPG RuneScape, mithril is a dark blue metal that can be mined, made into bars, and then forged into various weapons and armor. While it is one of the weaker metals in the game (the third strongest without membership subscription), it is stronger than steel. It also appears to be lighter than other metal armors in the game, possibly as a reference to Tolkien. Unlike Tolkien, mithril is not priceless.
- The MMORPG The Realm Online features Mythril as a strong, light-weight metal green in color used to make quality weapons and armor.
- In the MMORPG World of Warcraft, (and other games in the Warcraft series) mithril is used to make weapons, armor, and gadgets.
- In the video game Kingdom Hearts, mithril is a rare material used for "synthesis" in high-level items.
- In the sci-fi/fantasy anime series wikipedia:Hyper Police|Hyper Police, it is possible to buy or make "mithril-tip" bullets.
- In the anime series Full Metal Panic!, Mithril is a mercenary organization. In the second series, the origin of the name is explained as a reference to The Lord of the Rings.
- In the roguelike IVAN, mithril is a rather strong and valuable metal.
- In the GameBoy Advance game Shining Soul, mithril can be forged with other materials to make valuable weapons, accessories, and armor.
- In the PlayStation game Star Ocean: The Second Story, mithril is a rare metal that can be used for blacksmithing and for customization of weapons.
- In the video game Breath of Fire, some armors are made out of the legendary metal mithril.
- In the video game Chrono Cross, Mythril is a component that can be used in forging new weapons, armor and accessories.
- The name of a Celtic/World music quartet - Mithril (band).
- In the video game Tales of Symphonia "mythril" is used to customize many late game weapons, shields, and other items to equip to characters.
- Mithril is a wearble computer system being developed at the MIT Media Lab.
- In the video games Harvest Moon:Back to Nature for the PlayStation and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the GameBoy Advance, mystril, a take-off of Mithril, is a rare mineral found while mining.
- In the video game Shining in the Darkness, lumbs of mithril ore can be found and forged into some of the strongest weapons and armor available.
- In the PC/Xbox 360 game Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth II, Mithril Mail is an armor upgrade available to Dwarven forces.
- In the MMORPG Lineage 2, there is a Mithril armor set.
- In the video game Terraria, Mythril is material for making weapons and armor.
In Hervarar saga, which was a cycle dealing with the magic sword Tyrfing (and from which Tolkien borrowed, for instance, the names Dwalin and Durin), the hero Orvar-Odd wore a silken mailcoat which nothing could pierce (Oddr svarar: "ek vil berjask við Angantýr, hann mun gefa stór högg með Tyrfingi, en ek trúi betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju þinni, til hlífðar").
Although Tolkien invented the name "Mithril," this name is often used today in fantasy tales, and also in some fantasy computer games, see in other media .
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