In Tolkien's book The Hobbit, is there any direct indication that the dwarves carried or used any weapons such as swords or axes before they found Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting? Or for that matter, at any point before they got to The Lonely Mountain?

I've read the book a few times, the last time a few years ago, and I don't remember there being any mention of them carrying or using ordinary weapons at all. I think maybe (?) use of a bow for hunting is mentioned once. When fighting the goblins, the only weapons I remember reading about were the magic ones they just found.

When they do armor up at The Lonely Mountain, it does get some description.

I remember thinking this was a little bit unexpected and notable (one might think they'd bring at least a few weapons for self-defense), but my reading was it was intentional and indicated that they really didn't carry any hand weapons. It actually seemed to also nicely make some sense in that they were also more likely to pass as humble non-threatening travelers and they seemed competent (or overconfident) enough to possibly not need them.

I think I probably would have noticed the last couple times I read it, but it occurs to me I could be wrong, and that there are some mighty Tolkien experts here, so I figured it was worth asking.

  • The dwarves would surely have had weapons when they departed from Hobbiton but lost them when they were captured by the goblins in the Misty Mountains. I'll try to look up the details tonight and expand this into an answer. – Harry Johnston Mar 3 '15 at 3:27
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    OK, I stand corrected; prior to meeting Beorn, there seems to indeed be no mention of their having any weapons other than those they found in the troll's lair. – Harry Johnston Mar 3 '15 at 7:11
  • @HarryJohnston Thanks for re-checking! I think it's a pretty interesting detail, and it's good to know I didn't just miss something. – Dronz Mar 3 '15 at 17:16


They got bows and arrows from Beorn:

I will provide you with skins for carrying water, and I will give you some bows and arrows. But I doubt very much whether anything you find in Mirkwood will be wholesome to eat or to drink.

Which they subsequently tried using on Mirkwood squirrels:

The food would not last for ever: it was in fact already beginning to get low. They tried shooting at the squirrels, and they wasted many arrows before they managed to bring one down on the path.

And on the white deer:

Suddenly on the path ahead appeared some white deer, a hind and fawns as snowy white as the hart had been dark. They glimmered in the shadows. Before Thorin could cry out three of the dwarves had leaped to their feet and loosed off arrows from their bows.

But otherwise all that they had were small knives:

Even if the dwarves had not been in such a state that they were actually glad to be captured, their small knives, the only weapons they had, would have been of no use against the arrows of the elves that could hit a bird's eye in the dark.

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  • Ok, I thought I remembered bows, but not hand weapons like swords or axes, right? – Dronz Mar 3 '15 at 0:54
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    @Dronz - added another quote confirming that all they had otherwise was knives. – user8719 Mar 3 '15 at 0:56
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    Weren't Glamdring et al. found before the company even crossed the Misty Mountains, and reached Mirkwood? I know this is valid because it answers the "before the Lonely Mountain" bit, though. – HDE 226868 Mar 3 '15 at 0:57
  • Aha! Perfect! Thanks! That has been bugging my subconscious curiosity for a while. – Dronz Mar 3 '15 at 0:58
  • Yes HDE. I meant besides those, as I tried to explain in the question. – Dronz Mar 3 '15 at 0:58

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