The Sword of Elendil
The Sword of Elendil was forged in or before the First Age by the greatest Dwarven smith, Telchar, in one of the ancient fortresses of the Dwarves called Nogrod (Sil 412). The blade was originally called Narsil. According to a letter written by Tolkien, “Narsil is a name composed of 2 basic stems without variation or adjuncts: v. NAR ‘fire’, and v. THIL ‘white light’. It thus symbolized the chief heavenly lights, Sun (Anar) and Moon (in Q) Isil, as enemies of darkness.” (Letters 347) It can be interpreted, from Tolkien’s letter, that Narsil, imbued with celestial qualities, was forged for the sole purpose of defeating evil. The creation of the sword by an ancient and renowned Dwarven smith was an important detail because it reinforced the superior craftsmanship of the legendary blade. According to Glóin, in the Third Age, the weapon was of a quality that would never again be matched. “We have done well… But in the metal-work we cannot rival our fathers, many of whose secrets are lost.” (LotR 223) In the time between the creation of the sword and the wielding of it by Elendil in the Second Age, there is no further mention of the sword (in LotR, Sil, LT, or Letters). Aragorn, in Rohan, revealed that, “[d]eath shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir.” (LotR 500) There is some confusion over this claim, considering Elendil was not born until approximately 1000 years (at least one Age) after the sword was originally forged. Thus, hundreds of years of Narsil’s history is unknown.
By examining the instances of the Sword of Elendil in The Lord of the Rings, it is clear that the weapon was an essential component of the tale. Narsil has its own part to play in The Lord of the Rings, as it was a powerful symbol of hope and for the restoration of good. When Elendil wielded the sword, he and Gil-galad fought together on the field of Dagorlad before the Black Gate. (Sil 354) At the sight of the sword, “…orcs and men were filled with fear as it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon.” (354) Elendil fell on the battlefield before Sauron. Narsil shattered beneath him and the light of the sword was extinguished. Isildur, Elendil’s son, raised Narsil’s sharded hilt against Sauron and sliced the finger wielding the One Ring. (LotR 237) “Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.” (Sil 354) Isildur then took the sword of Elendil and the One Ring. When Isildur was later slaughtered by orcs, the shards of Narsil were taken to Imladris (Rivendell) for his heirs, and the Ring was lost. In the advent of the rising presence of Sauron in the Third Age, Elrond had Narsil reforged by his smiths in Imladris.
“The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon, and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes… Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West.” (LotR 269)
Andúril, or Narsil reforged, played a large part in the weaving of the tale in its ability to distinguish Aragorn as the rightful King of Gondor and as a benevolent sign of the returning king. The following accounts from The Lord of the Rings, will illustrate the importance of Andúril to the various people of Middle Earth.
During the Battle of Helm’s Deep, the allied and the enemy forces recognized the legendary blade and reacted to its presence. “Andúril rose and fell, gleaming with white fire. A shout went up from wall and tower. ‘Andúril! Andúril goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!’ Dismayed the rammers let fall the trees and turned to fight; but the wall of their shields was broken as by a lightening stroke, and they were swept away, hewn down, or cast over the rock into the stony stream below. The orc-archers shot wildly and then fled.” (LotR 521-2)
Also, when Faramir and his forces capture Frodo and Sam, Frodo spoke of Aragorn and his possession of the sword. “A murmur of astonishment ran through all the ring of men. Some cried aloud: ‘The Sword of Elendil! The Sword of Elendil comes to Minas Tirith! Great tidings!.’” (LotR 649)
On the field of Pelennor, Eómer looked across the expanse of the terrain and found the sign of victory; the sword of Elendil gave him and his warriors hope. “[B]efore [the Rangers of the North] went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Andúril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old.” (LotR 830)
Finally, Faramir, the Steward of Gondor, introduced the lawful king to his people. “‘Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged… Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?’ And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice.” (LotR 946)
The Sword of Elendil becomes crucial for the continuation of the plot of Lord of the Rings. Aragorn used the sword to distract The Dark Lord – to keep Sauron’s eye from fixing upon Frodo and the Ring as the two Hobbits traveled the land of Mordor to destroy the ring in the fires of Orodruin (Mount Doom). As part of Aragorn’s clever and successful plan, he purposely gazed into the Palantíri, the Seeing Stone.
Aragorn revealed, “Sauron has not forgotten Isildur and the sword of Elendil. Now in the very hour of his great designs the heir of Isildur and the Sword are revealed; for I showed the blade re-forged to him. He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay doubt ever gnaws him.” (LotR 763)
“The Dark Power was deep in thought, and the eye turned inward, pondering tidings of doubt and danger; a bright sword, and a stern and kingly face it saw,and for a while it gave little thought to other things; and all its great stronghold, gate on gate, and tower on tower, was wrapped in a brooding gloom.” (LotR 902)
With Sauron considering the reforged sword of Elendil and the heir of Isildur, Frodo traversed to the mountain and destroyed the Ring. With the destruction of the ring, Sauron was defeated, never to rise again. The Sword of Elendil then remained with the King Elessar, Aragorn of Arathorn, in the Kingdom of Gondor as a symbol of the triumph of men over the forces of evil.
Please note that the following short forms are used:
Letters = The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Sil = The Silmarillion
LotR = The Lord of the Rings
LT = The Book of Lost Tales 1 & 2
Carpenter, Humphrey. Ed. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. George Allen & Unwin: London.
Tolkien, Christopher, Ed. The Silmarillion. Unwin Paperbacks: London, 1979.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. HarperCollins Publishers: London, 1995.
Submitted by Fossegrim