35

In LOTR, the sword Sting glows whenever goblins or orcs are nearby enough, and in the movies, it can get pretty bright. Can they see this light? If so, has it ever given the wielder away?

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    I would be surprised if they didn't, as after all it's just light. However, by the time they see it, it's probably from up close and then boom they're killed by Gandalf/Legolas/Sam/Aragorn etc :) – Rebel-Scum Jul 11 '17 at 18:58
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    That's true, it always seemed like a tactical disadvantage if you were on a stealth run. – Imperator Jul 11 '17 at 19:27
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    @Imperator That's what scabbards are for. – Matt Gutting Jul 11 '17 at 19:28
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    @MattGutting Not if you were about to slit an orc's throat when he saw the glow. Scabbards stop you from seeing it too. – Imperator Jul 11 '17 at 19:29
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    If you were sneaking up that close to the goblins, you wouldn't need the glow to tell you where they were ;-) – Matt Gutting Jul 11 '17 at 19:32
54

Yes. In this passage from The Hobbit, chapter IV, the goblins can clearly see Orcrist and Glamdring. Sting was of the same make, so there is no reason to believe that its light would be any different.

At this point Gandalf fell behind, and Thorin with him. They turned a sharp corner. “About turn!” he shouted. “Draw your sword Thorin!”

There was nothing else to be done; and the goblins did not like it. They came scurrying round the corner in full cry, and found Goblin-cleaver, and Foe-hammer shining cold and bright right in their astonished eyes.

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    I love how there seems to be a canonical answer to almost any LOTR question. – Brian Risk Jul 12 '17 at 17:10
  • "Shining" often refers to reflected light. Mundane non-glowing swords are sometimes described as shining. There is nothing in the quote to suggest that the goblins perceive the swords as glowing. – Robert Jul 12 '17 at 22:22
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    Occam's Razor suggests it is far more likely that they can see the glow without any evidence to the contrary. – chepner Jul 13 '17 at 1:56
25

The glow is visible to anyone who can see the blade. However it appears the sheath completely masks the glow as Aragorn is unable to see the blade glowing while it was sheathed.

'Let us see what Sting may show,' answered Aragorn.

Frodo then drew the elf-blade from its sheath. To his dismay the edges gleamed dimly in the night. 'Orcs!' he said. 'Not very near, and yet too near, it seems.’

'I feared as much,' said Aragorn. 'But maybe they are not on this side of the River. The light of Sting is faint, and it may point to no more than spies of Mordor roaming on the slopes of Amon Lhaw. I have never heard before of Orcs upon Amon Hen. Yet who knows what may happen in these evil days, now that Minas Tirith no longer holds secure the passages of Anduin. We must go warily tomorrow.’
The Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 10 - The Breaking of the Fellowship (emphasis mine)

There is no instance in the books where the glow caused the wielder's presence to become known prematurely.

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    "I have never heard before of Ores upon Amon Hen." Yet there they are, my good Lord, and ready for smithing! Wondrous implements could be made with such high-quality raw material... – ANeves Jul 12 '17 at 13:20
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    @ANeves - Ha! Fixed. – amflare Jul 12 '17 at 14:16

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