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One of the most compelling elements in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other literary works is the dramatic battles he describes and the impressive weapons his characters wield.
Tolkien spent a lot of time creating backstories for the weapons. They communicate a lot about the characters who wield them and the historical events in which they play critical roles.
We have put together a list of the ten most powerful weapons created by Tolkien. Rankings are based on our opinion and are not canon. In choosing, we have only considered the weapons that appear in the books.
Also, we have chosen not to include any of the Rings of Power in our list, including the One Ring. Why? While these are undeniably powerful weapons, they are of a different order and deserve an article of their own.
10. The Black Arrow
The Black Arrow is the Dwarven forged steel arrow used by Bard the Bowman near the end of The Hobbit to slay the dragon Smaug.
At the time of the Battle of the Five Armies against the dragon, the arrow had become an heirloom of the House of Girion, the last king of Dale who lived almost 200 years earlier.
Girion had previously used a black arrow against Smaug. While he was incapable of killing the dragon, the arrow knocked a small gem off the dragon’s belly armor. Despite the injury, Smaug went on to destroy Dale and the neighboring Dwarven realm of Erebor.
When Bard had no ammunition left, his attention was drawn to his ancestor’s arrow by a Thrush. The bird also drew his attention to Smaug’s vulnerable spot, created by Girion with a matching arrow. Bard was able to shoot Smaug there, piercing his heart and slaying the beast.
It does not seem like the arrow had any magical properties. But it was clearly a finely made weapon that could be highly effective in the hands of an archer whose aim is fine and true.
9. Bow of Galadhrim
The Bow of Galadhrim was given to Legolas by the Elven Lady Galadriel when the fellowship visited Lothlorien. Legolas then goes on to use it to slay many of the group’s foes.
When Galadriel gives the bow to Legolas, she says that it is a bow like the ones used by Galadhrim. This is the name for the Silvan Elves that dwell in Lothlorien, led by Galadriel and Celeborn.
Longer and stouter than the bow that Legolas was already carrying, it was strung with elf hair and considered superior to the bows used by Mirkwood Elves, such as Legolas.
While Legolas uses his new bow to slay many foes, most notable is when he shoots down one of the flying steeds of the Nazgul at the river rapids of Sarn Gebir shortly before Frodo and Sam leave the company.
There is no mention of the weapon having any specific magic. However, it was elven made and used elf hair suggests that it may have had some enchantment.
After Bilbo and the Dwarves encounter the Trolls in The Hobbit, they find their treasure hoard with Gandalf. In the stash are three Elven-made swords, which various members of the company claim. They learn about the history of the swords from Elrond when they reach Rivendell.
Orcrist is the name of the sword that Thorin Oakenshield claimed. Elrond tells him that Orcrist means Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of the Elves of Gondolin and says that it was a famous blade.
The sword killed hundreds of Goblins when the Gondolin Elves hunted them in the hills and when defending Gondolin, unsuccessfully, against the siege army of Morgoth. But the power of the weapon made it a terror to Orcs and Goblins, who came to call it Biter.
As is true of all Elven weapons, the sword is finely made and has a jeweled hilt. But the sword is also enchanted to detect the presence of Goblins and to glow blue as a warning to its wielder.
Thorin used the weapon to kill Goblins again when the party was captured in Goblin-town in the Misty Mountains. However, it was confiscated by the Mirkwood Elves when the Dwarves were imprisoned there.
The sword was only returned to Thorin after his death, placed on his tomb under the mountain Erebor. There it gleams if foes approach.
Thorin is also included in our list of the most powerful dwarves in Middle Earth history.
Sting was an Elven dagger also found in the Trolls’ hoard and given to Bilbo, for whom it was almost a sword. The Gondolin Elves made it and probably lost when their city fell in the war against Morgoth.
Even for a Hobbit, the sword must have been relatively small, as Bilbo initially chooses to wear it inside his breeches. But this is also why none of the other Dwarves claimed the blade and were happy to let Bilbo have it.
Bilbo kept the sword for many years as a prized possession and even took it to Rivendell when he abandoned the Shire after his 111th birthday. But when his nephew Frodo arrives in Rivendell and agrees to take the One Ring to Mordor, Bilbo gives him the sword to help him on his quest.
Both Frodo and Sam are thankful for the sword on several occasions during their quest. After the defeat of Sauron, Frodo entrusts the sword to Sam, and it becomes a family heirloom.
While many Elven swords seem to have glowed when Orcs were nearby, Sting seems to have glowed more brightly than the rest. Perhaps its brightness was amplified by its small size. Razor-sharp and with a blade that will never decay, Bilbo had no problem using the sword to cut through the thick webs of the spider offspring of Ungoliant in Mirkwood to free his friends.
In the hands of the diminutive and peaceful Hobbits, Sting does not kill many foes. But it still plays a definitive role in the story of the One Ring.
Glamdring is the name of the Elven sword claimed by Gandalf from the treasure of the Trolls. The wizard wields it throughout the events of the Lord of the Rings.
The name Glamdring means Foe-Hammer, and the weapon once belonged to Turgon, the King of the Gondolin Elves. He killed many Orcs with the weapon, at one point hewing through a sea of enemies to his brother’s side. As a result, the weapon was known as Beater among the Orcs and Goblins.
Turgon perishes at the fall of Gondolin. We do not hear about the blade again until it turns up among the treasure of the Trolls.
When Gandalf sees the weapon among the treasure, he is immediately aware that it is significant, despite being covered in dark blood. He claims it for himself. The blade is inscribed with runes that Gandalf cannot read. He only learns the name of the weapon later from Elrond.
The sword is described as a beautiful white and gold sword with a jeweled hilt. Like the other Elven swords, it glows blue when in the presence of Orcs.
The grey wizard of the Astari slays many foes with the weapon, including the Great Goblin and the Balrog in the Chamber of Mazarbul. Gandalf’s spirit perishes in his fight with the Balrog, but he is sent back to finish his task. When he returns, he is still in possession of Glamdring.
The sword sometimes seems to have additional magical powers in the hands of Gandalf. However, it’s unknown whether the magic comes from the sword or Gandalf.
5. Morgul Blade
The Morgul Blade is a knife carried by the Nazgul. The most famous of these is that which the Witch-king of Angmar uses to stab Frodo at Weathertop.
The blade’s purpose is to cut and to break off a shard inside the victim that either kills them or turns them into a wraith.
The magic of the Elven leader Elrond was able to remove the shard and prevent Frodo from undergoing the transformation. But even he was not able to heal Frodo completely. Every year on the anniversary of the incident Frodo becomes seriously ill from the wound.
The idea of a weapon that can transform someone into one of the living dead is undoubtedly a powerful and terrifying prospect.
Narsil is the ancient sword of the king of the Men of Gondor. It was broken in the confrontation with Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance. The Elves later reforged the pieces to create Anduril, a new sword for Aragorn to defeat Sauron again and re-establish kingship among men.
The original blade was forged in the depths of time by the famous Dwarven smith Telchar of Nogrod. It is unclear exactly how, but the sword eventually finds its way into the hands of Elendil, the first High King of the Dunedain in Middle Earth, ruling over the men of both Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south.
Elendil wielded the weapon bravely and skilfully throughout ongoing battles with Sauron and his forces. It is said to have shone with the light of the Sun and Moon. But he was eventually slain at the Siege of Barad-Dur and his blade broken and its light extinguished. Nevertheless, his son Isildur was able to pick up the hilt with the broken blade and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s finger, defeating the Dark Lord.
Isildur took the broken shards of the blade home with him. The shards were gathered and hidden by his esquire Ohtar when Isildur was killed during the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. He took the shards to Rivendell where Valandil, Isildur’s youngest son, was being fostered. There was a chance to reforge the blade at this time for Valandil, but Elrond foretold that the sword would only become whole again when Sauron and the One Ring returned.
The sword was only reforged after the fellowship’s quest had already begun, almost 3,000 years after it was broken. The new sword was called Anduril, meaning Flame of the West.
The new blade is decorated with Seven Stars between a rated Sun and crescent moon. It was placed in an Elven sheath with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought in silver and gold, given to Aragorn by Galadriel.
The sword is not only a fine weapon, but it is instrumental in allowing Aragorn to assert his kingship over the men of Gondor, who have not had a king for three millennia. It is also this sword that allows Aragorn to command, and then free, the Oath Breakers. These are the spirits of the men who betrayed Elendil during the last great war with Sauron.
This weapon is just as powerful as a symbol as it is as a mighty blade.
The Noldor Elf King Fingolfin wielded the sword Ringil. This Elven-made blade glittered like ice by the light of the stars and bit with a chilling cold.
With the sword in hand, Fingolfin faced down the Dark Lord Morgoth at the gates of Angband, the ancient fortress of Morgoth in the Iron Mountains.
During their duel. Fingolfin wounded Morgoth seven times before the Dark Lord broke his neck with his foot. But with his final breath, Fingolfin used Ringil to heave off Morgoth’s foot. This left Morgoth with a limp for the rest of his life.
What happened to the blade after the fateful encounter is unknown.
Also, read our list of the most powerful elves in Middle Earth history.
Grond was the great Warhammer that was wielded by Morgoth himself, the first Dark Lord. It is also sometimes called the Hammer of the Underworld for its deathly power.
Tolkien only mentions Grond once when he describes the single combat between Morgoth and the Elf King Fingolfin.
He says that every blow that Morgoth brought down with his hammer was like a lightning strike. It left smoldering craters in its wake, which filled with blood during the battle. At the end of the battle, Fingolfin stumbled into one of these craters. He was pinned down by the foot of the Dark Lord, who then broke his neck.
Sauron was so impressed by the weapon of his former master that he called the wolf-shaped battering ram that he used at the gates of Minas Tirith Grond in its honor.
The sword Gurthang was wielded by the Elf Turin Turambar, who was considered cursed by Morgoth. It was reforged from the sword Anglachel, the sword of Eol, the Dark Elf of Nan Elmoth.
Many sad events occurred in Turin’s life, who was considered to be cursed by Morgoth. He lost many members of his family at a young age. King Thingol later adopted Turin, but he was forced to flee when he accidentally caused the death of one of the king’s counselors. He then began to live as an outlaw.
His old friend Beleg later joined him, and he owned the sword Angachel. But Morgoth’s curse led him to kill Beleg with his sword accidentally. This was when Angachel passed into his possession.
After these events, he had the sword reforged as Gurthang, which means Iron of Death. It was black and shone with a pale fire. He used the sword as he led the Elves of Nargothrond in open warfare and slew the dragon Glaurung. But his cure meant that Turin also committed many heinous acts with the blad as well.
Turin discovered that his wife was his sister at the end of his life and resolved to kill himself. He asked the blade if it would take his life. It responded in a ringing voice that it would avenge the death of its former master Beleg and the other unjust deeds carried out by Thurin.
When he cast himself on Gurthang, the blade broke asunder. The blade ended its time on this plane at the same time as its ultimate master.