I was watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and when I came to the Riddles in the dark scene I noticed something weird. When Bilbo points Sting(even though it isn't called that yet) at Gollum, Gollum recoils and says

It's an elvish blade precious but it isn't an elveses is it precious?

My question is how did Gollum know the blade was elvish? To my knowledge he didn't have any interactions with elves before he got the Ring, at least not enough interaction to recognize Sting as elvish craftsmanship. I mean Thorin couldn't even identify elvish blades as elvish it took Gandalf to do that. And after Gollum got the ring he lived in the Misty Mountains until Bilbo showed up. So how did Gollum identity it as elvish?

  • He could have seen the blue glow or recognised the artistry.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 9:16
  • Gollum is hundreds of years old. He's crazy but he's not stupid.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 12:12
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    I dare say Gollum has eaten a few elves in his time... Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 14:11
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    He dwelt in close proximity to the goblins (Misty Mountains) who were notorious for collecting all kinds of items/artifacts. They could identify elven craftsmanship/which age/etc. I figured he also picked up on this kind of knowledge merely by observing the goblins talk & rummage through stuff.
    – iMerchant
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:05
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    I'd have to reread the chapter to be sure, but I don't think Thorin necessarily failed to recognize that the swords were Elvish, he may have just deferred to Gandalf and let him speak. Besides, it would be kind of embarassing if he'd said "Elvish blades!" and Gandalf had said no, they were cheap knock-offs or something. :-) Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:24

2 Answers 2


In The Lord of The Rings Gollum seems to have an affinity (or rather a hatred of) elvish workmanship.

He is in physical pain from the elvish rope.

‘It hurts us, it hurts us,’ hissed Gollum. ‘It freezes, it bites! Elves twisted it, curse them! Nasty cruel hobbits! That’s why we tries to escape, of course it is, precious. We guessed they were cruel hobbits. They visits Elves, fierce Elves with bright eyes. Take it off us! It hurts us.’ Lord of The Rings | The Taming of Sméagol

And he cannot stomach the elvish waybread

Frodo broke off a portion of a wafer and handed it to him on its leaf-wrapping. Gollum sniffed at the leaf and his face changed: a spasm of disgust came over it, and a hint of his old malice. ‘Sméagol smells it!’ he said. ‘Leaves out of the Elf-country, gah! They stinks. He climbed in those trees, and he couldn’t wash the smell off his hands, my nice hands.’ Dropping the leaf, he took a corner of the lembas and nibbled it. He spat, and a fit of coughing shook him. ‘Ach! No!’ he spluttered. ‘You try to choke poor Sméagol. Dust and ashes, he can’t eat that. He must starve. But Sméagol doesn’t mind. Nice hobbits! Sméagol has promised. He will starve. He can’t eat hobbits’ food. He will starve. Poor thin Sméagol!’ Lord of The Rings | The Passage of the Marshes

We know that Sméagol's family told tales of ancient history, in one case he talks about the towers built for the siege of Mordor.

‘The old fortress, very old, very horrible now. We used to hear tales from the South, when Sméagol was young, long ago. O yes, we used to tell lots of tales in the evening, sitting by the banks of the Great River, in the willow-lands, when the River was younger too, gollum , gollum .’ He began to weep and mutter. The hobbits waited patiently. ‘Tales out of the South,’ Gollum went on again, ‘about the tall Men with the shining eyes, and their houses like hills of stone, and the silver crown of their King and his White Tree: wonderful tales. They built very tall towers, and one they raised was silver-white, and in it there was a stone like the Moon, and round it were great white walls. O yes, there were many tales about the Tower of the Moon.’ Lord of The Rings | The Black Gate is Closed

So it perhaps isn't surprising doesn't he recognises and fears an elvish blade.

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    The only issue I see with this answer is that the LOTR is obviously set after the Hobbit and the OP is asking about recognising Sting in the Hobbit. I can't offer anymore myself, but would it not stand to reason that Gollum would come more to the attention of Elves after the events of the Hobbit and Bilbos encounter? Gandalf did send his agents after Gollum in the LOTR to reach him before Sauron did he not? Perhaps Elves formed part of this party.
    – TommyBs
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:46
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    @TommyBs added a quote to confirm gollums knowledge of history comes from before he was captured by the elves
    – user46509
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 17:01
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    Bilbo tells G. the blade was made in Gondolin. G.'s granny told him 'tales' about Elves... 's easy... Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 18:25
  • @TommyBs Gollum was also held captive by the Mirkwood Elves for a time but yes I was asking about how he recognized it as elvish during the Hobbit Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:35
  • Hm. "Dust and ashes." One might imagine that there may be a glamour on the bread and that Gollum can see through elvish glamour (perhaps through exposure to the ring?).
    – Broklynite
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 13:02

Bilbo tells him

If you don't mind an answer from the book that is...

'What's he got in his handses?' said Gollum, looking at the sword, which he did not quite like.

'A sword, a blade which came out of Gondolin!'

'Sssss,' said Gollum, and became quite polite. 'Praps ye sits here and chats with it a bitsy, my preciousss.'

The Hobbit - Chapter 5 - Riddles in The Dark

As Gollum then become very meek one can assume he has heard of Gondolin and knows it is elvish, other than just a random sword.

We can assume that Bilbo himself finds out his "sword" is from Gondolin when Elrond examines the swords in Rivendell:

Elrond knew all about runes of every kind. That day he looked at the swords they had brought from the trolls' lair, and he said:

'These are not troll-make. They are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin. They were made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars. They must have come from a dragon's hoard or goblin plunder, for dragons and goblins destroyed that city many ages ago.

This, Thorin, the runes name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of Gondolin; it was a famous blade.

This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore. Keep them well!'

The Hobbit - Chapter 3 - A Short Rest

This does lead to the question, where Gollum hear about Gondolin?

Probably from the same source given in Po-ta-toe's answer where he heard about Gondor, and how he learnt about the Battle of Dagorlad.

The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Sméagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came. It was a great battle. Tall Men with long swords, and terrible Elves, and Orcses shrieking. They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates.

The Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers - The Passage of the Marshes

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    Perhaps in the tales he used to hear by the riverbank before he found the Ring and was cast out by his family. Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 13:30
  • How did Bilbo know the blade was from Gondolin? I don't have the Hobbit text in front of me to check at the moment. I'm supposing Gandalf or one of the Dwarves mentioned it when it was found amongst the Troll horde? Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:24
  • @Withywindle Elrond told them about Glamdring and Orcrist when they were in Rivendell, I assume Sting was included in this or Bilbo having heard of elvish blades from Gondolin embellished to make the sword seem more intimidating to Gollum Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:37
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    @CearonO'Flynn Thanks for the info, I forgot that Elrond gave a run down on the blades when the company made it to Rivendell (Imladris). Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:41
  • @Withywindle no problem I added it to the answer, with the quote, in case the comment gets removed Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 9:20

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