So there are only 3 blades that can glow blue when enemies are close: Orcrist (Thorin), Glamdring (Gandalf), Sting (Bilbo/Frodo)

being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand

Why didn't the Elves (Gondolin elves) make any more of these blades? Surely they were useful in their war with Morgoth and later Sauron?

  • 24
    I always assumed there were many more, just not in the hands of the protagonists
    – Gerry Coll
    Jun 22, 2017 at 6:11
  • Possible dupe? Certainly related; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/96057/…
    – Valorum
    Jun 22, 2017 at 6:55
  • IIRC, Turin's sword "gleamed around the edges" but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a blue glint.
    – Voronwé
    Jun 22, 2017 at 7:28
  • 12
    That quote surely indicates the opposite of what you say: it implies that it was a common feature of "the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days". Jun 22, 2017 at 7:45
  • 1
    I have to agree with @DanielRoseman that they almost certainly did make many more of these blades, but that most were lost when the City was destroyed and all of Beleriand sank beneath the ocean. Of the few that did somehow survive the battle and the drowning, only these three were specifically mentioned in the tales of the War of the Ring, but that doesn't make them the only such blades in the 3rd Age, and certainly doesn't make them the only ones that were forged. Jun 22, 2017 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


As I understand it, and by the time in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place, there are many Elvish blades that have the ability to glow blue when orcs are near.

The elves were the first to charge. Their hatred for the goblins is cold and bitter. Their spears and swords shone in the gloom with a gleam of chill flame, so deadly was the wrath of the hands that held them.

The Hobbit, Chapter 20: "The Clouds Burst"

Your assumption that there are only three glowing blades probably comes from the Jacksonverse. So, the reason why only three blades glow in the movies, is probably due to the fact that the inclusion of many more would take away the wow factor from them.

As a wise sidekick gone villain once said: "once everyone is super, no one will be".

  • 5
    Actually, the only blade that glows blue in the movies is Sting
    – Voronwé
    Jun 22, 2017 at 9:24
  • Also, the quote states that they glow blue because of their make, not because of special witchcraft, implying they could all be blue
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 22, 2017 at 10:56
  • the sidekick quote I know only from MR. Incredible and the guy saying it was anything but a sidekick (or a hero)
    – Thomas
    Jun 22, 2017 at 15:49

I am unaware of any other swords in Tolkien's stories that we are certain glow when enemies are near. However, there seems to be at least one other place in Tolkien's works where a sword shines blue:

Fingolfin like a shooting light/beneath a cloud, a stab of white,/sprang them aside, and Ringil drew/like ice that gleameth cold and blue,/his sword devised of elvish skill/to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.

Beren and Lúthien, "The Narrative in The Lay of Leithan to Its Termination"

"Like ice that gleameth cold and blue" seems to indicate that the sword is glowing blue, though this is solely used for a poetic description.

This is in The Lay of Leithan, which is an unfinished version of the story of Beren and Lúthien in verse. It is not generally accepted as canon since it was left unfinished and it predates the publication of the Hobbit (Tolkien abandoned it in 1931), but is has some detail that no other versions of the story have, so people can decide whether Fingolfin's sword glowing is canon.

The description of Ringil in The Silmarillion is less detailed:

[Fingolfin] drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.

The Silmarillion, chapter XVIII: "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"

This doesn't suggest it glowing blue, but some sort of light is coming out from it; so The Lay of Leithan is just slightly expanding on the more-canon The Silmarillion.

If we decide to accept Ringil, Fingolfin's sword, as a fourth example of an elvish blade that glows blue when near enemies, it seems more likely that these kinds of swords were used often enough by the elves; they just were almost never mentioned.


The elves created many similar blades in the Elder Days

The passage quoted in the question should be interpreted as saying that many or most of the blades made by the elves in the Elder Days (the First Age) would glow when orcs were near.

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.

The Lord of the Rings Book Two, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark
Page 310 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

The fact that this is said to be a property of blades made by the elves in the Elder Days suggests that the art was lost in Middle-earth by the Third Age. The smiths with the knowledge may have been killed or returned to Valinor.

Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting may not even be the only blades that survived from those days (over 6,000 years earlier), they are just the only ones we are told about.

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