3

During the events of The Hobbit, after dealing with the trolls, the Bilbo and co. find three magic weapons in the troll's lair:

... among them were several swords of various makes, shapes, and sizes. Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jeweled hilts.

Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath. It would have made only a tiny pocket-knife for a troll, but it was as good as a short sword for the hobbit.

"These look like good blades," said the wizard, half drawing them and looking at them curiously. "They were not made by any troll, not by any smith among mend in these parts and days; but when we can read the runes on them, we shall know more about them."

Chapter 2, Roast Mutton, pp. 55-56

Two of the swords found have names, Orcrist (which translates to Goblin-cleaver) and Glamdring (which translates to Foehammer), as Elrond tells us in the next chapter:

Elrond knew all about runes of every kind. That day he looked at the swords they had brought from the troll's 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!"

Chapter 3, A Short Rest, p. 67

However, Elrond does not take a look at Bilbo's blade, and it is not mentioned in the above meeting with Elrond. The name "Sting" is one that Bilbo himself gives it after fighting off a giant spider of Mirkwood, inspired by his victory over it:

He beat the creature off with his hands–it was trying to poison him to keep him quiet, as small spiders do to flies–until he remembered his sword and drew it out. Then the spider jumped back, and he had time to cut his legs loose. After that it was his turn to attack. The spider evidently was not used to things that carried such stings at their sides, or it would have hurried away quicker. Bilbo came at it before it could disappear and stuck it with his sword right in the eyes. Then it went mad and leaped and danced and flung out its legs in horrible jerks, until he killed it with another stroke; and then he fell down and remembered nothing more for a long while.

There was the usual dim grey light of the forest-day about him when he came to his senses. The spider lay dead beside him, and his sword-blade was stained black. Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all along by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt like a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.

"I will give you a name," he said to it, "and I shall call you Sting."

Chapter 8, Flies and Spiders, pp. 198-199

The only other things we know about the sword from The Hobbit, as far as I'm aware, come from Bilbo's meeting with Gollum, such as that it glows in the presence of orcs/goblins, and that it is an old Gondolin blade (which Bilbo merely infers from the glow, since he would not have mused on its origins had Elrond outright told him, as he did with the other two swords he identified):

... his hand came on the hilt of his little sword–the little dagger that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten about; nor fortunately had the goblins noticed it, as he wore it inside his breeches.

Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. "So it is an elvish blade, too," he thought; "and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough."

But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had been sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly.

Chapter 5, Riddles in the Dark, pp. 88-89

"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!" [Bilbo replied]

Chapter 5, Riddles in the Dark, p. 93

Sting shows up again in The Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo gives it to Frodo, but Bilbo is still referring to it as "Sting". Do we ever learn more about the blade's history, in particular its real name (whether its elvish name or its translation), either in The Hobbit (unlikely), The Lord of the Rings (possibly) or any of Tolkien's other works (e.g. The Silmarillion, etc)?


All the page numbers are according to my copy, which is the Alan Lee illustrated edition. I'm not sure if the page numbers are the same in every edition, and if not, whether it's useful to include page numbers. These page numbers can be removed if it doesn't add anything to the post.

11
  • 2
    I think the answer is just 'no'. Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 18:58
  • 6
    Gordon Sumner
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 19:11
  • 3
    Perhaps better: The 'swords' used by the hobbits are actually daggers. Daggers are usually secondary weapons, and as such are unlikely to have names. I can't think of any named daggers in Middle-Earth, so we might go out on a limb and state that Sting probably never had any other name. Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 19:11
  • 3
    @IanThompson We do have one named knife: Angrist, which Beren used to carve a Silmaril from Morgoth's iron crown.
    – LAK
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 19:34
  • 2
    Weirdly, the sword Sting's real name is actually Reg Dwight. Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 20:54

0