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Thread: Glamdring and Sting

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    Glamdring and Sting

    The following question has occurred to me several times when the topic of Glamdring glowing in the presence of orcs has come up in the movie sections. First, some quick background. We all know that Sting and Glamdring (and Orcrist) are elven blades from the Elder Days and glow in the presence of orcs. On a number of occasions in LOTR Sting is described as glowing blue when orcs are about. (Sometimes, Sting is merely described as glowing without the color mentioned.)

    My question is: Is Glamdring ever described as glowing blue when orcs are near? Certainly Glamdring also glows in the presence of orcs, that is described a number of times; but, does it glow blue? Or is the blue color specific to Sting? I have done a quick look through the LOTR (and The Hobbit) and I find mentions of Glamdring glowing, but the color blue does not seem to be mentioned. I may well have missed or forgotten an occasion. If you know of a time when Glamdring glows blue please give the specific passage from the books.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    As for Glamdring glowing blue, I haven't come across any references in The LOTR--yet. The following is from The Hobbit, "Over Hill and Under Hill":

    Then Gandalf lit up his wand. Of course it was Gandalf,; but just then they were too busy to ask how he got there. He took out his sword again, and again it flashed in the dark by itself. It burned with a rage that made it gleam if goblins were about; now it was bright as blue flame for delight in the killing of the great lord of the cave.
    "Bright as blue flame," however, may only be a reference to the brightness of the sword, not its colour. Mind you, when Frodo is upon the flet in Lothlorien while Orcs are prowling about below, Sting is described as flashing and glittering "like a blue flame."

    Hopefully someone will find a passage in the Lord of the Rings that clears this up--but I suspect that you have stumbled upon a Tolkien myth. Perhaps the idea that Glamdring glows blue when orcs are near is a misconception.
    Last edited by Arthur_Vandelay; 04-27-2005 at 07:11 AM.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    The Hobbit, “Riddles in the Dark”:
    Now he [Bilbo] drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. “So this is an elvish blade, too,” he thought; “and goblins are not very near, and yet not very far.”
    “Flies and Spiders”:
    …Out came his little sword. He slashed the threads to pieces and went off singing.

    The spiders saw the sword, though I don’t suppose they knew what it was…
    Sting was visible when Bilbo used the Ring.

    FoTR, “The Bridge of Khazad-dûm” (Chamber of Mazarbul)
    There was a ring and clatter as the Company drew their swords. Glamdring shown with w pale light, and Sting glinted at the edges.
    The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed cold and white



    From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.

    Glamdring glittered white in answer.

    There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. …
    “The Breaking of the Fellowship”:
    ‘Let us see what Sting may show,’ answered Aragorn.

    Frodo drew the elf-blade from its sheath. To his dismay the edges gleamed dimly in the night. …
    TT, “Shelob’s Lair”:
    …Then Frodo’s heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he did, whether it was folly or despair or courage, he took the Phial in his left hand, and with his right hand drew his sword. Sting flashed out, and the sharp elven-blade sparkled in the silver light, but at its edges a blue flame flicked.
    “The Choices of Master Samwise”:
    He [Sam] drew his sword again and beat on the stone with the hilt, but it only gave out a dull sound. The sword, however, blazed so brightly now that he could dimly see in its light. … then he ran madly, sword blazing in hand, round a bend and up a winding tunnel.
    RotK, “The Tower of Cirith Ungol”:
    There was no answer. Sam strode forward. Sting glittered blue in his hand. …
    …For what [the orc on the stairs] saw was not a small frightened hobbit trying to hold a steady sword: it saw a great silent shape, cloaked in a grey shadow, looming against the wavering light behind; in one hand it held a sword, the very light of which was a bitter pain, …
    …He [Sam] sprang out to meet Shagrat with a shout. He was no longer holding the Ring, but it was there, a hidden power, a cowering menace to the slaves of Mordor; and in his hand was Sting, and its light smote the eyes of the orc like the glitter of cruel stars in the terrible elf-countries, the dream of which was a cold fear to all his kind. …
    BTW, nothing about Glamdring is mentioned at the end of “The Siege of Gondor” when the gates of Minas Tirith are broken and Gandalf faces the Witch-King. (The Witch-King’s sword is mentioned, though.)
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    We might also look for passages that suggest that all Elven blades glow with a blue light in the presence of orcs.

    The entry for "Glamdring" in Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth states that "Glamdring shone with a blue light in the presence of orcs." The entry for "Sting" in J E A Tyler's Complete Tolkien Companion states: "Like all Elf-blades, Sting gleamed with a cold blue light if any servants of the Enemy were nigh at hand . . . ."

    Both sources, of course, may be mistaken. But it seems to me that the pertinent question here is whether there is a reference in either The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, or elsewhere in Tolkien's works to it being a property of all Elven blades that they glow blue when orcs are nearby. From there the question of Glamdring's glowing blue is a matter of simple deduction.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    But from the quotes Alcuin found it seemed that Glamdring shone white.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Quote Originally Posted by Manwe
    But from the quotes Alcuin found it seemed that Glamdring shone white.
    Yes, that's true. There does however appear to be an assumption that it also glowed blue--an assumption made at least by two authors of Tolkien encyclopedias (one directly, the other indirectly), as my previous post indicates. Greenwood is trying to discover if this assumption is actually supported in the text of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, etc. Do these texts, in other words, actually state if:
    (a) Glamdring glows blue in the vicinity of orcs, and/or
    (b) All elven-blades possess this property.

    Perhaps Glamdring glows blue when orcs are about, and shines white in the heat of battle, "invested" with Gandalf's power.
    Last edited by Arthur_Vandelay; 04-28-2005 at 01:46 AM.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Glamdring and its mate Orcrist were made for Turgon, king of Gondolin. Sting might have been made as a companion dagger to the swords; sometimes swordsmiths made companion daggers during the Middle Ages to match better swords, as Glamdring and Orcrist clearly were. I don’t think the sword was “invested” with power from Gandalf.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Thank you all. Lots of good posts. I was aware of a number of the quotes listed, but not all of them by any means. As I said in my starting post, I knew Glamdring was described as "glowing/shining" in the presence of orcs, but when I started checking the actual passages in LOTR where I remembered the subject coming up, I could not find any that specifically stated Glamdring glowed blue. (Though there is certainly no question about Sting.) Thank you A_V for the passage from The Hobbit -- I had missed that one in a quick review. I knew the TTF members would come up with more instances than I could think of at first.


    A_V,

    You are absolutely right, that I do not place much store in secondary sources such as Tolkien "encyclopedias","guides", etc. I have seen too many cases where secondary sources merely copy each other. I am indeed looking for a definitive statement, by JRRT himself, that Glamdring (or all elvish blades) glow blue in the presence of orcs. That they glow (and that Sting glows blue) is beyond dispute, in my opinion. The passage from The Hobbit would seem to support Glamdring also glowing blue, though it is interesting (curious?) that JRRT never seems (based on what has been found so far) to have mentioned Glamdring as glowing blue in LOTR, though he seems to have had it glowing white.

    I am going to keep looking.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Quote Originally Posted by Alcuin
    Glamdring and its mate Orcrist were made for Turgon, king of Gondolin. Sting might have been made as a companion dagger to the swords; sometimes swordsmiths made companion daggers during the Middle Ages to match better swords, as Glamdring and Orcrist clearly were. I don’t think the sword was “invested” with power from Gandalf.
    I put "invested" in scare quotes because I was uncomfortable with the term. Does Gandalf "invest" or "focus" his power through any of the items he possesses (his staff, for example)? I don't know if it is entirely impossible that Glamdring shone white in the battle with the Balrog because it was wielded by Gandalf. Then again--we are accustomed to thinking of blades as being "silver"--perhaps Glamdring actually was white (not just in the midst of battle).

    Can anyone clear this one up? Has it been answered in another thread?
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Quote Originally Posted by Greenwood
    You are absolutely right, that I do not place much store in secondary sources such as Tolkien "encyclopedias","guides", etc.
    Nor should you. But if the notions--supported in the Tolkien encyclopedias I mentioned in one form or another--that either "Glamdring glows blue in the presence of orcs," or that "All elven blades glow blue in the presence of orcs" turn out to be fallacious (in the sense that they are not supported by anything Tolkien wrote), I wonder where these notions come from?
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    With all those nice quotes together, I would tend to favor a 'pale-blue' or a white with a blueish cast to it - for Glamdring.

    I would agree that all Elvish blades did not necessarily glow blue, or even glow period - though they might have all done either.

    It's interesting now to recall what Bilbo's thought was on the matter (Alcuin's first quote). I don't suppose he would have been an authority on Elvish weapons though - so either he was linking in his mind what he saw of Glamdring before with what he now saw of Sting (as yet un-named), or he was recounting what he knew of legends about Elves.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur_Vandelay
    Nor should you. But if the notions--supported in the Tolkien encyclopedias I mentioned in one form or another--that either "Glamdring glows blue in the presence of orcs," or that "All elven blades glow blue in the presence of orcs" turn out to be fallacious (in the sense that they are not supported by anything Tolkien wrote), I wonder where these notions come from?
    No gleam came from the blades of Sting or of Glamdring; and that was some comfort, for being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand.
    II 4
    Glamdring and Sting shone because they were the work of Elvish smiths of the Elder Days, which suggests that other swords of similar lineage may possess that quality too.
    Last edited by Flame of Udûn; 04-28-2005 at 11:41 AM.

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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    I think in the instances when Glamdring shone white A_V was spot on when saying Gandalf used it as a magical weapon like his staff. It seems that the sword would already have a capacity to be used afor magic as it had its quality of shining blue. I think though that the original question has been answered by the Flame of Udun's quote, where did you find it?
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Quote Originally Posted by Manwe
    I think though that the original question has been answered by the Flame of Udun's quote, where did you find it?
    Flame of Udun's quote merely supports Glamdring and Sting both glowing when near orcs, but that was never in doubt and was not the original question. The question is whether Glamdring glows blue. So far the only quote that tends to support that is the one A_V gave from The Hobbit. However, as A_V pointed out, the phrase "bright as blue flame" could be read as only referring to brightness rather than color. So far all the quotes from LOTR merely have Glamdring glowing/shining, with no mention of a blue color. When a color is mentioned, it is white.
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    Re: Glamdring and Sting

    Oh sorry I must have read that wrong! . Judging by his quote though is does seem that all elven blades gleam or glow
    No gleam came from the blades of Sting or of Glamdring; and that was some comfort, for being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand.
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