In Sindarin, Orcrist is said to mean "goblin cleaver". In The Hobbit, the goblins called it Biter. Many of the famed weapons in Tolkien's stories had names, such as Glamdring, Narsil, and Sting. It was crafted by the Elves of Gondolin, which not only made it a valuable weapon, but a feared one as well, particularly amongst Orcs who, like other evil creatures of Middle-earth, were traditional enemies of the Elves. Presumably Orcrist was like Glamdring and Sting in that "being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand, and so warned their bearers of nearby evil.
As the "mate" to King Turgon's sword Glamdring, Orcrist was likely borne by a high ranking lord in the King's entourage. From The Book of Lost Tales in the Fall of Gondolin we are told that of the Noldor only "Eglamoth of the Heavenly Arch" bore a "bent sword" If indeed the portrayal of Orcrist in the films is accurate we can surmise who the sword belonged to in the beginning. However some would say that Orcrist may have belonged to Ecthelion, "Lord of the Fountain Court" who supposedly killed thousands of orcs aduring the Fall of Gondolin, due to the Great Goblin's reference to it as "the blade that sliced a thousand necks."
How it came in contact with Glamdring is another mystery, whereas Turgon, the High King, bearer of Glamdring perished with the fall of his tower, Eglamoth escaped Gondolin with Tuor and Idris, only to be slain in the attack on the havens at the mouth of Sirion by the remaining four Sons of Fëanor.
Somehow Orcrist and Glamdring were taken out of Beleriand in the 43 years after Gondolin's fall and before the end of the First Age, and in the intervening years must been used in combat against Orcs, which would explain how and why the Orcs would know of and fear of Biter and Beater (as demonstrated by their reactions when they captured Thorin and Company). Later, the wielders of the swords may have been waylaid by trolls in the Ettenmoors. Thus may the swords have ultimately fallen into the hands of the trolls Tom, Bert, and William by the time of the events of The Hobbit.
In The Hobbit, Thorin and Company found Orcrist in the cave of the three trolls and Thorin claimed it as his own, while Gandalf claimed Glamdring. Thorin bore Orcrist throughout most of The Quest of Erebor. It and Glamdring were used against the goblins of the Misty Mountains when they captured the group, renewing the Orcs' hatred of the Elvish weapons. Orcrist was taken from Thorin during his captivity in the Woodland Realm by Thranduil the Elvenking. It was returned to Thorin only after his death at the Battle of the Five Armies. We are told in The Hobbit that Thranduil placed Orcrist upon Thorin's tomb, so that thereafter it "is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise. That may not have been literally true, however, because in The Lord of the Rings Tolkien tells us that by the time the Fellowship took the One Ring south from Rivendell, Orcrist "lay now upon the breast of Thorin under the Lonely Mountain,  indicating that the sword was buried with him. However, on his breast could also mean upon his sarcophagus.
Portrayal in AdaptationsEdit
In the Peter Jackson film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), Orcrist appears more similar in shape to Sting. Its appearance - a single-edged weapon with a somewhat curved pommel - is also somewhat reminiscent of Hadhafang, the blade wielded by Arwen in the Fellowship of the Ring film adaptation and by Elrond in both Fellowship and, presumably, Unexpected Journey, as he wore the sword in his first appearance in the film. The main difference is that Hadhafang has a curved blade, whereas Orcrist's is straighter.
While it is an Elvish sword, it does not appear to glow blue (or glow at all, for that matter) when Thorin is in the presence of orcs.
The grip is made of a large tooth capped in a metal pommel. The pommel also displays Ecthelion's heraldry symbol, giving speculation that Orcrist was his sword. The runes running along the blade have been translated to be NAGOL E-LŶG or 'Tooth of-Snake [or Dragon]'. In the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The sword's designers went with a single-edged blade due to its name "Goblin Cleaver".
Orcrist's spine was kept fairly straight, meaning it should also function well as a thrusting weapon. With this in mind, movie version Orcrist is surprisingly versatile, and well-suited to a dwarf. One may presume that a stout dwarf could wield it with the force needed to cut through nearly any orc-made armor.
In several shots from the production videos of The Hobbit, Legolas can be seen wearing Orcrist on his hip. It can be speculated that Legolas conviscated Orcrist from Thorin upon capturing the Company, and reatined custodity of the sword until the Battle of Five Armies.
- ↑ The Hobbit: "A Short Rest". In The Hobbit, the word goblin was used as the English translation of orc.
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark". Only Sting was definitively described as glowing blue, or glittering with blue flame at its edges. Glamdring was "bright as blue flame" in the midst of a goblin (orc) horde, but the color of its light was always described as white, and Orcrist, being the same type of blade, was probably similar in this as well.
- ↑ The Hobbit: Roast Mutton
- ↑ The Hobbit: The Return Journey
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring goes South"
|Weapons of Middle-earth|
|Aeglos | Andúril | Anglachel | Anguirel | Angrist | Aranrúth | Belthronding | Dagmor | Dailir | Dramborleg | Durin's Axe | Glamdring | Grond | Grond (Warhammer) | Gúthwinë | Gurthang | Herugrim | Morgul-blade | Narsil | Orcrist | Red Arrow | Ringil | Sting|