From Did Gandalf know the origin of "Glamdring"? we learn that Glamdring belonged to the King of Gondolin (Turgon) and that Elrond suspects it was looted from the remnants of the city by orcs or dragons.

Rivendell was founded by Elrond and other survivors/descendants of Gondolin. Elrond's father Eärendil was born in Gondolin, and King Turgon was Elrond's great grand-father. Legally, Glamdring would actually belong to Elrond by right of heritage 1), Elrond being Turgon's closest living relative in Middle-Earth.

Also, the sword belonged to the former High King of Noldor, so having it in his possession would strengthen Elrond's position and claimed heritage from a political point of view. Much like Narsil did for Aragorn.

Yet Elrond lets Gandalf have the sword almost dismissively!

Sure, he might think that Gandalf has greater use for it, just like Cirdan thought Gandalf would have greater use of the ring Narya. But he doesn't even seem particularly surprised or even excited upon encountering an old heirloom of his own family, which has been lost for several millennia.


Compare this with with Elrond's fascination over the sword Narsil, and his bland reaction upon finding Glamdring seems even stranger.

And then Gondolin was located in the old world, supposedly somewhere vaguely far north of Rivendell. If the swords were originally looted by orcs/dragons, then carried around all over the world in various loot piles for two ages, isn't it a strange coincidence that they are found so close to Rivendell?

I am aware that these swords (Glamdring and Orcrist) are kind of an anachronism, as Tolkien borrowed bits and pieces from The Fall of Gondolin in his latter works. But perhaps there exists a canonical explanation, a 'patch' released by Tolkien afterwards, like in the case with the Glorfindel anachronism in LOTR?

1) This based on the nobility of all people in Middle-Earth using the same primogeniture inheritance (male preference) system as feudal Europe, regarding titles and royal regalia. Aragorn inherits Narsil from Isildur. Elwing inherits the Silmaril from Thingol, Turin inherits the dragon helm from Hurin, Beren inherits the ring of Barahir from Barahir. And so on. It is a recurring, undisputed rule of heritage throughout the books.

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    Is Glamdring ever mentioned by name in The Silmarillion? It might just be one of many swords that Turgon might have owned, not necessarily one of any particular importance. "My lord, on occasion of your 2,400th birthday, may I present you the sword Glamdring!" "Mhm, thanks, put it with the others."
    – chepner
    Nov 5, 2018 at 20:28
  • @chepner It is never mentioned but there was only one King of Gondolin. Turgon founded the city and died defending it when it fell. But of course, he could have been a sword collector for all we know :) It is however unlikely that a sword which wasn't used by him in battle became known as the Foe-Hammer.
    – Amarth
    Nov 6, 2018 at 17:25
  • This wiki lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Glamdring tries to piece together the description of the sword of Turgon with Glamdring, but the sword's name wasn't mentioned.
    – Amarth
    Nov 6, 2018 at 17:28
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    To correct your geography, Gondolin was in Beleriand, which was to the west of Third Age Middle Earth. The map in the Silmarillion overlaps the Lord of the Rings map only very slightly, and Rivendell is a considerable distance east of the Grey Havens. Nov 6, 2018 at 21:22
  • @DavidThornley It's not very obvious due to the lack of canonical sources, as we can see from these maps: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/89705/…. The places on the LOTR map are not really mentioned at all in the the first age part of Silmarillion, except for (I think?) Khazad-dum.
    – Amarth
    Nov 7, 2018 at 16:13

8 Answers 8


Elrond recognised that Glamdring and Orcrist were both forged in Gondolin and that Glamdring belonged to the King of Gondolin (who is not named).

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
Page 48 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

Unlike Aragorn, Elrond did not need proof of his lineage, and in any case he would not try to make his guests give up their finds just because they once belonged to his family.

I don't think Elrond was particularly fascinated with Narsil. After Isildur was killed, Elrond helped to pass its shards on to each of the heirs of Elendil. He understood its significance in Arnor and Gondor and arranged for it to be reforged so that Aragorn could take it with him when he left Rivendell with the Fellowship.

In The Hobbit, Elrond is identified as a half-elf but not as a descendant of Turgon:

The master of the house was an elf-friend - one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories before the beginning of History, the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men in the North. In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief.

The Hobbit Chapter 3: A Short Rest
Page 47 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

If we step outside the bounds of canon, it is possible that, when he wrote The Hobbit, Tolkien had not yet decided on Elrond's exact ancestry. However, even within canon, I think Elrond's behaviour is not inconsistent.

As to two swords from Gondolin being found so close to Rivendell and very many miles east of where Gondolin once stood (in Beleriand - which by this time was under water), I agree that it seems to be a coincidence. It is possible that they were both taken at the same time and so happened to stay together over the millennia because they passed together from one owner to another. Of course in Middle-earth, coincidences don't always happen just by chance.

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    For the record, in the appendix of Children of Hurin Elrond is listed as a descendant of Turgon directly.
    – JAD
    Nov 3, 2018 at 9:04
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    It's clear that Elrond is descended from Turgon. I was only saying that it wasn't mentioned in The Hobbit.
    – Blackwood
    Nov 3, 2018 at 12:05
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    @Amarth I'm afraid I don't follow your argument about Narsil. He simply had it reforged before Aragorn left Rivendell showing that he understood its importance to Aragorn (but saying nothing about Elrond's personal feelings about Narsil). Elrond's message (delivered to Aragorn by his sons) suggesting the Paths of the Dead did not mention Narsil.
    – Blackwood
    Nov 3, 2018 at 15:06
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    @Amarth I completely agree that Elrond's heritage is clear in The Lord of the Rings and all the books published since Tolkien's death. I am simply saying that it was not mentioned in The Hobbit which was published earlier.
    – Blackwood
    Nov 3, 2018 at 15:08
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    I might be mixing things up with the movies, where Narsil is needed for Aragorn to take the Paths of the Dead (and in the movie it is delivered by Elrond himself, which is completely different from the books). Come to think of it I think the dead recognized Aragorn without the sword - it was rather Isildur's banner (made by Arwen) that was the necessary artifact to hold them to their oath.
    – Amarth
    Nov 3, 2018 at 15:15

I think Elrond cares more about Narsil than Glamdring because he's pragmatic. Glamdring has no special significance as far as the war against Sauron is concerned. He probably is personally interested in it, but it just doesn't help solve the current problem. Narsil on the other hand is mentioned in the prophecy given to Boromir. Further, Elrond knows it is capable of harming Sauron, and the fear of that blade may make Sauron blunder.

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    I think you're right. When you're six+ thousand years old, and have spent most of that time defending elves and men from great dangers, your perspective on life and on who owns old swords will be a bit different from a third-grader saying "Mine! Mine!"
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 3, 2018 at 12:12
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    @MarkOlson cough-ëanor-cough, cough-hingol-cough Nov 3, 2018 at 19:28
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    Both of whom ended very badly because of their avarice...
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 6, 2018 at 19:22

Perhaps Elrond realized there was more than luck at work in finding this sword after being lost for centuries.
Gandalf says the following about Bilbo finding the ring:

There was more than one power at work, Frodo.... I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.

Gandalf, as one of the Wise, recognized the hand of a higher power (Eru Ilúvatar himself?) at work in discovering the Ring. Perhaps Elrond, no less among the Wise, recognized something similar at work in finding Glamdring, Orcrist, and especially, Sting.


Elrond was planning to go back to the undying lands. The time of the Elven Kingdoms was long gone. The sword represents that old world he is leaving behind. This it is only right to him that someone that will probably have great need if it uses it, and it never need remind him of the destruction of the great Elven Kingdom that was the main refuge of his people.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. What you say is probably not wrong, but doesn't really respond to the question's assertion that Elrond appears to care more about Narsil. Which, if your hypothesis is correct, he would similarly not seem to care about.
    – DavidW
    Apr 23, 2021 at 18:09

This is a holdover from the first draft

In the original draft Elrond identifies the swords as being from the elves of Gondolin, but does not identify the names of the swords or which elves they belonged to.

Elrond knew all about all runes of every kind. 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 elves that are called Gnomes, and they were made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars. They must have come from a dragon’s hoard, for dragons it was that destroyed that city many ages ago.’ He looked at the keys and he said ‘these are troll-keys, but there is one in the bunch that is not. It is a dwarf-key.’
The History of the Hobbit - The Second Phase - III - "Rivendell"

In his commentary John Rateliff notes that this would explain why Elrond never laid claim to Glamdring.

The manuscript makes clear one puzzling point, first raised I think by Christina Scull, that arises in relation to Elrond’s ancestry: since he is the direct descendant of Turgon, the king of Gondolin (father of Idril mother of Eärendel father of Elrond), why does Elrond not lay claim, as rightful heir, to Glamdring, his great-grandfather’s sword? The answer, of course, is that when the scene was first drafted the swords were not named but merely identified as elf-blades from Gondolin, much as the hobbits’ weapons in The Lord of the Rings are never given specific antecedents beyond being Númenórean blades forged during the war against Angmar. By the time the names and prior owner were added (in the First Typescript; Marq. 1/1/53:5) Elrond’s tacit abnegation was already part of the story.
The History of the Hobbit - The Second Phase - III (iii) - "Elrond"


Some thoughts:

One thing that occurred to me is the whole backstory to The Hobbit. The White Council knows that Sauron is back in Dol Guldor and Gandalf plots to install a dwarven king in the Lonely Mountain, getting rid of Smaug as a potential ally to Sauron at the same time.

It is possible that Gandalf let Elrond know of this plan - at any rate Elrond knew that Gandalf was going up against a dragon. So Glamdring would be of more use to Gandalf. Given the sword's history, it is quite likely an efficient weapon against dragons (and balrogs), since the elves of Gondolin fought dragons back in the first age when the sword was forged.

At the same time, the White Council also plans an attack on Dol Guldor. Elrond knows this too. Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the dwarves momentarily, to seek the White Council and urge an attack on Dol Guldor. This could potentially have influenced Elrond to give Gandalf the sword as well, but at this point none of them knows of the One Ring and the war that would be triggered by its return.


Elrond wasn't particularly warlike by this time, and even if he were, he would by now have a new weapon. I can't see him waiting almost 6500 years for this sword (6462 by my math), or miss having it for too many years after the fall of Gondolin.

How long can you not possess your property before it isn't considered your property anymore? Even if it is a magic longsword +5 that hammers foes instead of slicing them, which glows with light when goblins are near and can produce 2d4 quarts of delicious and nutritious fruit juice per day?


There are two possibilities here:

Either the rule is finders keepers, in which case Elrond has lost his right to the sword many years ago and would not ask for it back. It would look petty and may insult an esteemed guest.

Or Elrond has every right to ask for it back, in which case, both parties are immortal, there is no rush. It could be more like lending something to a museum, Elrond gain more status from his family's sword being wielded by an Isari to slay a dragon and restore the Dwarven throne than just sitting in an armoury.

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