Re-watching the series again, this question came to my mind. Dwarves are known for their mining and smithing skills. We know they use a variety of material, such as Mithril to forge armor. Other than dwarves, pretty much anyone wields weapons of varying quality and length.

However, the only mention of coal in the whole series is in Hobbit:

Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal.

Without coal, it would be almost impossible to forge iron weapons, especially in mass production, but Saruman uses wood to fuel his gigantic furnaces.

The weapons and armor used in series all look formidable, but if everyone is to use bronze weapons or copper weapons, they would look just as formidable.

So, which material is used in Middle-earth for weapon and armor? Book answers are preferred only.

  • 8
    I kinda suspect tolkien just didn't feel like writing about coalminers. Nov 5, 2017 at 14:40
  • @Valorum Thank you. I edited the question using your quote. So, what is the procedure here? Should I include your name as well? If I do, how?
    – user65648
    Nov 5, 2017 at 15:28
  • 1
    @C.Koca - Comments are made to burn. Unless there's an overriding reason to do so, a simply 'thank you' comment is all that's needed :-)
    – Valorum
    Nov 5, 2017 at 15:36
  • 1
    I think Treebeard says so, but I failed to find a good quote. The question still stands even if they use coal :)
    – user65648
    Nov 5, 2017 at 15:46
  • 6
    Wood can be turned into charcoal which burns hot enough to smelt iron.
    – Michael
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


Steel, Iron, Mithril or Bronze etc...

They used many of the metals that were available to the Nordic peoples in our own early history, as well as the mysterious "Moria Steel" which was known as Mithril.

“Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him.”
Fellowship of the Ring - Book II: Chapter 4, Journey in the Dark

Some helmets were made of iron:

“on the front of their iron helms was set an S-rune, wrought of some white metal.”
The Two Towers - Book III: Chapter 1, The Departure of Boromir

“But he chose a cap of iron and leather that fitted well upon his round head; and a small shield he also took.”
The Two Towers - Book III: Chapter 6, The King of the Golden Hall

There were also strange metals that were unknown, that were used to make more special blades (The Barrow knives)

“For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones.”
Fellowship of the Ring - Book 1: Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow Downs

Steel armour also existed, as well as weapons.

and the Gondolindrim were strong and clad in mail, and their ranks shone like a river of steel in the sun.

And speaking about the Dragon-helm of Dorlomin

That helm was wrought of grey steel adorned with gold, and on it were graven runes of victory.

Bronze swords also existed and in an earlier version of the Fellowship of the Ring the barrow blades were made of bronze.

'bronze swords, short, leaf-shaped and keen'
The Treason of Isengard


Swords and weapons in the Middle-earth appear to be largely steel. Plate armour also appears to be steel but with some iron mixed in among the poorer races.

The Nazgul have steel-bladed swords

In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings

The armour (and possibly weapons) of the forces of Minas Tirath appear to be steel

Then turning south again he beheld Minas Tirith. Far away it seemed. and beautiful: white-walled, many-towered, proud and fair upon its mountain-seat; its battlements glittered with steel, and its turrets were bright with many banners.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings

as is orc armour

He turned left and sped across the smooth floor of the hall. The distance was greater than it had looked. As they ran they heard the beat and echo of many hurrying feet behind. A shrill yell went up: they had been seen. There was a ring and clash of steel. An arrow whistled over Frodo's head.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings

The Southrons had poor armour of iron. Both Gondorese and Southrons appear to have steel swords.

He could hear plainly the ringing grate of steel on steel, the clang of sword on iron cap, the dull beat of blade on shield; men were yelling and screaming, and one clear loud voice was calling _Gondor_! _Gondor_! `It sounds like a hundred blacksmiths all smithying together,' said Sam to Frodo. 'They're as near as I want them now.'

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Sam and Merry's swords are steel

'Now!' said Sam. 'At last I can deal with you!' He leaped forward with drawn blade ready for battle. But Gollum did not spring. He fell flat upon the ground and whimpered. 'Don't kill us,' he wept. 'Don't hurt us with nassty cruel steel!

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


Then he stopped, for he had caught the gleam of swords. 'Bill Ferny,' said Merry, 'if you don't open that gate in ten seconds, you'll regret it. I shall set steel to you, if you don't obey.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

  • +1. I guess coal is so abundant in the Middle Earth, just like it is in UK, that Tolkien thought all races could easily access it.
    – user65648
    Nov 5, 2017 at 15:59
  • 6
    @C.Koca - You can easily forge steel using charcoal, which in turn can be made from wood.
    – Valorum
    Nov 5, 2017 at 16:03
  • 3
    I don't doubt that weapons in Middle Earth were made out of steel, but expressions like "the clash of steel" and "I shall set steel to you" read like artistic license to me - the latter being a fancy way to say "I'll stab you", for example; I'm not sure they should be considered objective statements of weapon composition. :)
    – Dan J
    Nov 6, 2017 at 6:00
  • @DanJ It wouldn't be the first time that the fictional translator took license with the "source material" Nov 6, 2017 at 6:57

In Numenor they used iron, copper, lead, and steel.

Some metals they found in Numenor, and as their cunning in mining and in smelting and smithying swiftly grew things of iron and copper became common. Lead they also had. Iron and steel they needed most for the tools of the craftsmen and for the axes of the woodsmen.
Among the wrights of the Edain were weaponsmiths, and they had with the teaching of the Noldor acquired great skill in the forging of swords, of axe-blades, and of spearheads and knives. Swords the Guild of Weaponsmiths still made, for the preservation of the craft, though most of their labour was spent on the fashioning of tools for the uses of peace. The King and most of the great chieftains possessed swords as heirlooms of their fathers; and at times they would still give a sword as a gift to their heirs. A new sword was made for the King's Heir to be given to him on the day on which this title was conferred.
"Of the land and beasts of Númenor", quote reconstructed from excerpts of Unfinished Tales and The Nature of Middle-earth

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.