Did Frodo take it off, or was the fell spider's sting simply too strong to be stopped by Mithril?

If it is the latter, that would be pretty surprising, because that would mean Shelob could possibly sting a sleeping dragon! (I remember Gimli saying "Mithril - hard as dragon scales!")

  • 9
    Didn't she sting him in the neck? Or was that someone else?
    – TLP
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:49

7 Answers 7


She stung him in the neck.

From "The Choices of Master Samwise"

She's got more than one poison. When she's hunting, she just gives 'em a stab in the neck and they go as limp as a boned fish, and then she has her way with them.

So the mail would not have protected him.

  • 5
    Therefore the movie depiction, though more practical and artistic, is incorrect. One might surmise for the movie that she got in below the chainmail's lower edge; it was only a shirt, so maybe she got him in the pelvis area?
    – KeithS
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 22:26
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    @KeithS and had her way with 'em? Most likely.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 8:02

In support of DQdlM's answer, Shelob doesn't pierce Frodo's mithril chainmail at all.

While in the book she stings him in his unprotected neck, it's clear that this doesn't happen in the movie! We see Shelob stinging Frodo from the front (since he turns to face her just before getting stung) and we can clearly see his neck is unhurt, so that's not the place. (As a bonus, we can see Shelob has a stinger, unlike real-world spiders. But that's neither here nor there).

However, I can still provide evidence that Frodo doesn't get stung through his chainmail. In this scene just minutes before his encounter with Shelob, we can see the mithril coat is actually way below his neck. Frodo's upper chest is unprotected!

Frodo stands, looking up and right; his cloak is clasped at his throat above an open V in his shirt where his skin shows, unprotected by his mail

Later we can clearly see at least two of his wounds: the wound from the Nazgûl, and the other must be Shelob's attack, within his exposed upper chest.

Frodo lies on his side facing the viewer, his head partially wrapped in web.  On his bare chest are visible the scars of the Morgul-knife, high on the left side near his shoulder, and Shelob's sting near the centre of his chest by the end of the right clavicle.


Frodo gazes at the One Ring as he holds it aloft on a chain.  The Morgul-knife scar is visible by his left shoulder, and Shelob's stinger scar shows below his right clavicle, slightly outside his sternum.

Which makes us wonder why Frodo didn't wear his chainmail in a more practical fashion.

Disclaimer: evidence gathered from the forums of TheOneRing.net.

  • 10
    This amply illustrates the perils of style over substance. Open neck Mithril shirt = big hole where bad things can stick their sharp bits. He might as well have been wearing a chain mail bikini
    – user11154
    Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 20:25
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    Wasn't the shirt originally made for a dwarf? It could simply be hanging a little low on a smaller hobbit frame.
    – user1786
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 3:23
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    I believe the hobbit book states that it was originally made for an elven prince, but I may be wrong Commented May 15, 2014 at 9:02
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    +1 For the "unlike real world spiders" which do not have stingers (their poison is administered through their chelicerae).
    – Lexible
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 19:40

Chainmail is composed of small rings, interlinked together. Against some piercing weapons it was ineffective. Arrows in particular could still injure the wearer. And since the monster would only need to penetrate it enough to inject poison (unlike an arrow that causes more injury the further it goes through), it doesn't seem that this would be much of an impediment to Shelob.

half-sleeved chainmail shirt

  • 9
    Going by the movie would indicate that Shelob's fangs are about the size of baseball bats and very unlikely to pierce through the rings. Note also that real chainmail rings will break allowing piercing weapons to penetrate whereas Mithril rings will almost certainly not.
    – user11154
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:23
  • 2
    @UserEleventyOne Going by the movie, Shelob's stinger was not located in her fangs, but was instead on the end of her abdomen. Additionally, as already mentioned, the stinger only needs to penetrate enough to break the skin, in order to effectively poison the target.
    – Xantec
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:30
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    @UserEleventyOne Well, she is a magical creature in a fantasy story.
    – Xantec
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:49
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    @Xantec Yes, but Mithril chainmail is also fantasy armor. No, Shelob couldn't pierce it or bypass it with its stinger; that's why she stung Frodo in the neck.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:53
  • 3
    @WadCheber Tolkien admitted he was too scared of spiders to examine their anatomy closely. :P
    – Ber
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 2:49

Shelob was no ordinary foe. It was of a "higher" (or lower) lineage than your average dragon. Recall that Shelob was the "last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world", where Ungoliant destroyed more or less everything that's fair in Valar (together with Melkor). Plus, a chainmail is not particularly effective against piercing weapons.

  • 5
    That just makes Sam freaking Legendary.
    – Aditya M P
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:20
  • 2
    @adityamenon agree. In a previous question is discussed if Sam is the "true hero" of the LotR: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/6238/…
    – Francesco
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:24
  • @adityamenon - I don't think Sam has so many upvotes Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 16:41
  • 1
    Thank you for giving me a chance to vote The Mighty Sam, who did things that would have even made Aragorn quake in fear..
    – Aditya M P
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 16:53
  • Shelob was not ordinary foe, but neither is Mithril ordinary chainmail. Shelob stung Frodo's neck, which was unprotected.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:55

The Mithril only covers his torso, not his whole body, so unless it's explicitly mentioned where Shelob stings Frodo we have to assume that she gets an uncovered area.

  • She doesn't bite, she uses a stinger on her butt, and the book specifically says (at least twice) that she stung him in the neck.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 6:45

The final draft of the script was much closer to the book than the final film; Shelob stings Frodo in the neck, rather than the shoulder:

CLOSE ON: FRODO suddenly senses the LURKING MALICE... he SPINS AROUND: Before he can react, SHELOB VICIOUSLY STABS FRODO in the NECK with her monstrous abdominal STINGER!

Return of the King (2003)

As far as I know there's been no official comment on why this was changed in the final version.


I agree that logic takes a place in fantasy but so also does imagination...I mean think in fantasy mithril is renowned for being extremely hard and durable. and may even have "magical" properties. But logically yes piercing weapons (including the fangs/stinger) would be effective against chainmail, normally. but in the movie you get several good looks at just how fine the rings in Frodo's mail is. we also see a troll attempt to kill Frodo with a hefty thrust with a spear of sorts. the pressure alone would be enough to kill a Halfling without actually piercing his body. we can assume that Frodo was not wearing his mail properly when the spider stings him. you can get a good idea of the trajectory of the stinger going straight to his gut .... I think its safe to assume that the spiders stinger has a point just fine enough to pierce Frodo's mail and puncture his skin..... abet barely....

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