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, 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. Four possibilities for wielders present themselves: Maeglin, Tuor, Ecthelion of the Fountain, and Glorfindel. Since Maeglin presumably still had his father's sword, Anguirel, it was likely not his. Tuor seems to have come to Gondolin after Glamdring had been forged (see Unfinished Tales), and since Orcrist was its mate, it should have been forged before his arrival as well. In any case, Tuor bore an axe, not a sword. This leaves Ecthelion and Glorfindel as possible bearers. Of the two, Glorfindel died outside of the city, slaying a Balrog. Thus, the most probable assumption is that Orcrist belonged to Ecthelion, but this is never stated explicitly in any of Tolkien's writings. It is interesting that if Orcrist did belong to Ecthelion, the two swords were both used to fight the two most famous balrogs, Orcrist to fight Gothmog Lord of Balrogs and Glamdring to fight Durin's Bane.
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.
Portrayal in AdaptationsEdit
In the Peter Jackson film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), Orcrist appears more similar in shape and size to Sting. Its appearance - a single-edged weapon with a somewhat curved pommel - is also somewhat reminescent 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.
The grip is made of a large tooth capped in a metal pommel. The pommel also displays Ecthelion's heraldry symbol. 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.
- ↑ Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Short Rest". In The Hobbit, the word goblin was used as the English translation of orc.
- ↑ Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter 4, "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.
- ↑ Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Roast Mutton"
- ↑ Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
- ↑ Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "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|