Out of all the ancient blades made by Elvish weapon-smiths in Gondolin, why was Sting given a distinctive and unique glow whenever an Orc was close by?

Secondly, why would they put it on such a relatively small weapon, as opposed to Orcrist or Glamdring?

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    Presumably Orcrist was like Glamdring and Sting in that "being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand," From lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Orcrist
    – 202
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 0:04
  • The Gondolin elves didn't enchant their weapons intending them to glow when orcs were near. They just do, because they made them to be fell weapons against orcs, and glowing is more of a side effect to the weapons wanting to slay orcs. That's just elvish "magic". They put as much effort into making a good dagger as a good sword. After all, why make poor-quality stuff? Commented Jan 17 at 16:02

4 Answers 4


Orcrist and Glamdring were supposed to.

"being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand,"

In the Fellowship of the Ring (the novel), Glamdring glowed with a "pale-light".

From The Hobbit (the novel):

They buried Thorin deep beneath the Mountain... Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise.

Peter Jackson, in the Fellowship of the Rings (EE) commentary, upon being asked why Glamdring didn't glow in the Mines of Moria, responded with 'budgetary cuts?' and something about 'running out of blue'- as such, it seems that it was an oversight.

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    And of course since they didn't glow in the LotR movies they couldn't very well make them glow in The Hobbit.
    – Xantec
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 1:21
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    Hundreds of millions spent and such a simple thing overlooked. Money truly can't buy everything... Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 1:24
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    @Thaddeus Head out to NZ and do some of the LotR tours. Of course it can't buy everything; but, by golly, it can buy so much minute detail, I'm sure there's millions of dollars worth of things you never even noticed in the films. The level of detail is extraordinary. Jackson spent a lot of money on shots that last less than 10 seconds.
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 2:41
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    @Thaddeus And then, after the wonderful makeup from LotR, they had to ruin it all going full CGI for the Orcs/goblins in The Hobbit :( Am I the only one who prefers makeup-based SFX rather than CGI? :(
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 21:34
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    I also read in an interview (which I can't find right now) that Peter Jackson wanted to avoid a "lightsaber" effect. He worried that if the Elven swords were constantly glowing blue during battle, they would look too much like lightsabers from Star Wars. Hence most Elvish swords don't glow, and Sting does so very sparingly.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 21:35

All 3 blades should glow; the Hobbit informs us that they were made in Gondolin for the goblin wars, so let's see what the Silmarillion has to say (Chapter 15, "of the Noldor in Beleriand").

So, it was prophecied that Gondolin would last longest of all Elven strongholds:

Ulmo came to him once again, and spoke with him. And he said: "....Longest of all the realms of the Eldalie shall Gondolin stand against Melkor."

But also that:

And Ulmo warned Turgon that he also lay under the Doom of Mandos, which Ulmo had no power to remove. "Thus it may come to pass," he said, "that the curse of the Noldor shall find thee too ere the end, and treason awake within thy walls. Then they shall be in peril of fire."

I believe that nothing more need be said. With that kind of doom hanging over you - it's useful to know when Orcs are nearby.

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    +1 for mentioning they were forged in Gondolin. The Noldor had problems with those pesky orcs eons before the Hobbits got their hands dirty. Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 5:12

It glowed blue because it was supposed to as it was made in Gondolin just as Orcrist and Glamdring were as well. The swords were Gandalf and Thorin were using improperly did not glow because Peter Jackson could not make them glow blue without making them look like light sabers from Star Wars. This is the only reason. The movies are not an accurate representation of Tolkien's work. They were the best that Jackson could do with the money and technology available and the time constraints involved including how long the movies played.

Every sword made in Gondolin should indeed glow blue and the elves of Gondolin were not worried that the goblins would see them coming. They wanted them to know it, because goblins are cowardly creatures and would be wracked with fear before the elves even got to them. Please do not use the Peter Jackson adaptations of Tolkien's work as your reference material for any subject. They were great movies but massively limited in their scope as Tolkien's epic saga could never be told in something as simple as a trilogy. You would need at least six movies if not more to make even an attempt at bringing the books truly to life.

Just to reiterate because it needs to be; never, ever use Peter Jackson's movies to explain anything at all that has to do with Tolkien's reasoning, decisions, or choices in how he wrote the books and what he wrote in them.


I was disappointed that Glamdring and Orcrist didn't glow in The Hobbit, but I understand IF, for the same of continuity, Jackson chose not to let them glow.

I like to think it was an intentional and TACTICAL choice by the Gondolin elves to make only small weapons like knives [Sting] glow. Imagine trying to sneak up on an unwary orc or goblin in a dark mine or cave with a large sword like Orcrist glowing brightly like Sting does in The Hobbit.

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    So, in effect, you're going down the Marvel Comics route, and saying that in the Tolkien Cinematic Universe, the elves of Gondolin only enchanted Sting to glow. Thus creating an alternate canon, relevant only to the Peter Jackson movies, where such "inaccuracies" are, in fact, different established facts. I can live with that. :) Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 14:54

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