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In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn wears a jewel called the Elendilmir, or Star of Elendil, upon his brow. This stone, which was also known as the Star of the Dunedain and the Star of the North, was later presented to Samwise Gamgee by Aragorn Elessar.

In Unfinished Tales, in the chapter The Disaster of the Gladden Fields, we learn that this was the second jewel to bear this name, and that the first one was lost with Isildur when he died; this first Elendilmir was later found by Aragorn Elessar and Gimli in Orthanc, and Aragorn kept it, wearing it only on special occasions.

In the footnotes to the chapter, things become even more confusing. There it is said that the Elendilmir worn by Isildur was actually the second incarnation of the Elendilmir.

The first was actually created for Silmarien in Numenor. The second was created by King Tal-Aldarion for his wife Erendis, also in Numenor, and this was the one that ended up being lost with Isildur. The third incarnation of the Elendilmir was created by the Elves of Imladris for Isildur's son Valandil, and was then passed down through the line of the Dunedain, eventually coming into the hands of Aragorn.

Finally, Christopher Tolkien makes things even worse by suggesting that the Elendilmir which Aragorn gave to Samwise was a totally different jewel, meaning that it is actually the fourth incarnation of the Elendilmir.

I can't imagine that J.R.R. Tolkien intended for this issue to be so ridiculously complex and impossible to understand.

Is there any way to determine how many Elendilmirs there were, and what happened to each of them? Furthermore, is there any reason to believe that J.R.R. Tolkien meant for us to think that the jewel given to Samwise Gamgee was anything other than the Elendilmir which Aragorn wore before finding the lost Elendilmir of Isildur?

  • 3
    Maybe the Eledilmirs can regenerate! Was Elendil a Time Lord? – Rand al'Thor Jul 9 '15 at 7:09
  • I'd guess this is just a side effect of Tolkien having too much time on his hands. – Matt Gutting Jul 9 '15 at 10:20
  • We know there was a palantir in Gondor, and in Orthanc. Is there a connection between the palantir and the elendilmir? – EngrStudent Jul 9 '15 at 16:14
  • 1
    @EngrStudent nope. "Elendilmir" means something like "Jewel Of Elendil". Palantir just means "far-seer". – Wad Cheber Jul 9 '15 at 18:11
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    I was thinking that the Elendilmir might be control amplifiers or such. I don't know that making a gem to look pretty is nearly as much a motivation as to make one that does a job that returns value. Think about modern synthetic gems - they primarily are used for very powerful industrial lasers. – EngrStudent Jul 10 '15 at 12:01
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+100

There were probably only two stones that bore the name "Elendilmir":

  • The stone of Silmariën. This was the original Elendilmir, and was the "crown" of the kingdom of Gondor worn by Elendil and Isildur. It was lost when Isildur fell at the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, but was recovered and hoarded by Saruman sometime later. Aragorn discovered in in Orthanc shortly after ascending to the throne of Gondor, and it became a ceremonial item (emphasis mine):

    Saruman in his degradation had become not a dragon but a jackdaw. At last behind a hidden door that they could not have found or opened had not Elessar had the aid of Gimli the Dwarf a steel closet was revealed. Maybe it had been intended to receive the Ring; but it was almost bare. In a casket on a high shelf two things were laid. One was a small case of gold, attached to a fine chain; it was empty, and bore no letter or token, but beyond all doubt it had once borne the Ring about Isildur's neck. Next to it lay a treasure without price, long mourned as lost for ever: the Elendilmir itself, the white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril that had descended from Silmariën to Elendil, and had been taken by him as the token of royalty in the North Kingdom.

    [...]

    Elessar took it up with reverence, and when he returned to the North and took up again the full kingship of Arnor Arwen bound it upon his brow, and men were silent in amaze to see its splendour. But Elessar did not again imperil it, and wore it only on high days in the North Kingdom.

    [...]

    When men considered [Saruman's] secret hoard more closely, they were dismayed. For it seemed to them that these things, and certainly the Elendilmir, could not have been found, unless they had been upon Isildur's body when he sank

    Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter I: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"

  • The stone of Valandil. After the original Elendilmir was lost, a second was made and was worn by Valandil, Isildur's son, and borne by all the Kings of Arnor and Chieftains of the Dúdedain. Aragorn continued to wear it even after the original was found (emphasis mine):

    Every king and the chieftains that followed them in Arnor had borne the Elendilmir down even to Elessar himself; but though it was a jewel of great beauty, made by Elven-smiths in Imladris for Valandil Isildur's son, it had not the ancientry nor potency of the one that had been lost when Isildur fled into the dark and came back no more.

    Elessar took [the original Elendilmir] up with reverence, and when he returned to the North and took up again the full kingship of Arnor Arwen bound it upon his brow, and men were silent in amaze to see its splendour. But Elessar did not again imperil it, and wore it only on high days in the North Kingdom. Otherwise, when in kingly raiment he bore the Elendilmir which had descended to him. "And this also is thing of reverence," he said, "and above my worth; forty heads have worn it before."

    Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter I: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"

    This stone is almost certainly not the token that Aragorn gives to Sam Gamgee, but I'll cover that shortly.

Presumably both Elendilmir remained tokens of the royal line of Gondor, although what exactly happened to them after the start of the Fourth Age is unknown.

Other stones

The question brings up two references to stones that sound like they should be the Elendilmir. Unfortunately it's difficult to be completely certain of Tolkien's intentions here, but Christopher Tolkien's consensus is that neither are Elendilmir.

  • The stone of Erendis. The story of this stone is that Tar-Aldarion, sixth King of Númenor, once brought a diamond from Middle-earth and gave it to Erendis, the woman he loved and eventually married (emphasis mine):

    At that time Aldarion first looked on Erendis with love; and he stood long in the stern looking back as the Palarran passed out to sea. It is said that he hastened his return, and was gone less time than he had designed; and coming back he brought gifts for the Queen and the ladies of her house, but the richest gift he brought for Erendis, and that was a diamond.

    Unfinished Tales Part 2: "The Second Age" Chapter II: "Aldarion and Erendis"

    When they were officially betrothed, Erendis revealed to Aldarion that she had it set in a silver fillet, and afterwards she wore it on her brow:

    "I have had my betrothal gift, though it came beforehand. It is the only jewel that I have or would have; and I will set it yet higher." Then he saw that she had caused the white gem to be set as a star in a silver fillet; and at her asking he bound it on her forehead. She wore it so for many years, until sorrow befell; and thus she was known far and wide as Tar-Elestirnë, the Lady of the Star-brow.

    Unfinished Tales Part 2: "The Second Age" Chapter II: "Aldarion and Erendis"

    The confusion is understandable, because the Elendilmir is described very similarly. However, there are a few problems with this reading:

    • The Elendilmir almost certainly already existed at this time. Silmariën was Aldarion's aunt, and was very probably still alive when Aldarion brought the diamond from Middle-earth
    • The diamond worn by Erendis is never described as being anything more than an ordinary diamond, albeit the nicest thing Aldarion brought back on that particular voyage. The Elendilmir, on the other hand, is described as an "Elvish crystal", and very clearly displays some magical tendencies (for example, it reacts poorly to the One Ring, burning brightly and failing to turn invisible when Isildur wears both at once)
    • The fillet of the Elendilmir is described as being made of mithril, but Erendis' is only described as silver

    Likewise, there's no indication that it was ever referred to as "Elendilmir"; that would seem a strange name for it, since it bears no connection to Tar-Elendil and didn't exist until well after his death.

    Christopher Tolkien compares the two gems in a footnote in Unfinished Tales, where he emphatically states that they are not the same:

    It is told in "Aldarion and Erendis" (p.193) that Erendis caused the diamond which Aldarion brought to her from Middle-earth "to be set as a star in a silver fillet; and at her asking he bound it on her forehead." For this reason she was known as Tar-Elestirnë, the Lady of the Star-brow; "and thus came, it is said, the manner of the Kings and Queens afterward to wear as a star a white jewel upon the brow, and they had no crown" (p. 225, note 18). This tradition cannot be unconnected with that of the Elendilmir, a star-like gem borne on the brow as a token of royalty in Arnor; but the original Elendilmir itself, since it belonged to Silmariën, was in existence in Númenor (whatever its origin may have been) before Aldarion brought Erendis' jewel from Middle-earth, and they cannot be the same.

    Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter I: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields" Notes

    The ultimate fate of this stone is unknown; there are few references to it after the betrothal, and no indication of what Erendis ultimately did with it. It's possible that she discarded it as a bitter memento of her failed marriage; or that she took it with her when she died; or that she gifted it to her daughter, Ancalimë, in which case it may have passed through the line of kings. Whatever its intermediate fate, it was almost certainly lost forever when Númenor sank

  • The Star of the Dúnedain. This is a more confusing case, because the only known reference to this object is in Appendix B:

    1436 King Elessar rides north, and dwells for a while by Lake Evendim. He comes to the Brandywine Bridge, and there greets his friends. He gives the Star of the Dúnedain to Master Samwise, and Elanor is made a maid of honour to Queen Arwen

    Return of the King Appendix B "The Tale of Years" Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring

    The issue is somewhat muddied because some prominent Tolkien scholars wrote their own books stating that "Star of the Dúnedain" was just another name for the Elendilmir. As Christopher Tolkien notes in a footnote to Unfinished Tales, he himself finds this unlikely, but had no other reference to refute it more definitively (emphasis mine):

    In the Tale of Years in Appendix B to The Lord of the Rings the entry for the year 16 of the Fourth Age (given under Shire Reckoning 1436) states that when King Elessar came to the Brandywine Bridge to greet his friends he gave the Star of the Dúnedain to Master Samwise, while his daughter Elanor was made a maid of honour to Queen Arwen. On the basis of this record Mr. Robert Foster says in The Complete Guide to Middle-earth that "the Star [of Elendil] was worn on the brow of the Kings of the North-kingdom until Elessar gave it to Sam Gamgee in Fourth Age 16." The clear implication of the present passage1 is that King Elessar retained indefinitely the Elen­dilmir that was made for Valandil; and it seems to me in any case out of the question that he would have made a gift of it to the Mayor of the Shire, however greatly he esteemed him. The Elen­dilmir is called by several names: the Star of Elendil, the Star of the North, the Star of the Northkingdom; and the Star of the Dúnedain (occurring only in this entry in the Tale of Years) is assumed to be yet another both in Robert Foster's Guide and in J. E. A. Tyler's Tolkien Companion. I have found no other reference to it; but it seems to me to be almost certain that it was not, and that Master Samwise received some different (and more suitable) distinction.

    Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter I: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields" Notes

    He makes a very good point here, that I want to emphasize: to suggest that the Star of the Dúnedain is the Elendilmir (either one) is to suggest that Aragorn thought so highly of Sam that he made a gift of one of the tokens of his office as King of Gondor. Without wanting to presume to know Tolkien's mind, this seems stunningly unlikely.

    However, this still leaves us with the as-yet-unanswered question of what, exactly, the Star of the Dúnedain actually was. Christopher Tolkien answers this for us in History of Middle-earth, where he mentions receiving some correspondence making the (clearly correct) case that this was a reference to a brooch worn by the Dúnedain in the shape of a rayed star:

    In The Tale of Years (LR Appendix B) the entry for the year 1436 in the Shire Reckoning states that the King Elessar, coming to the Brandywine Bridge, gave the Star of the Dunedain to Master Samwise. In my note 33 to The Disaster of the Gladden Fields in Unfinished Tales (pp. 284 - 5) I said that I was unable to say what this was. This is a convenient place to mention that after the publication of Unfinished Tales two correspondents, Major Stephen M. Lott and Mrs. Joy Mercer, independently suggested to me that the Star of the Dunedain was very probably the same as the silver brooch shaped like a rayed star that was worn by the Rangers in the present passage (RK p. 51); Mrs. Mercer also referred to the star worn by Aragorn when he served in Gondor, as described in Appendix A (I.iv, The Stewards): 'Thorongil men called him in Gondor, the Eagle of the Star, for he was swift and keen-eyed, and wore a silver star upon his cloak.' These suggestions are clearly correct.

    History of Middle-earth VIII The War of the Ring Part 3: "Minas Tirith" Chapter IV "Many Roads Lead Eastward (1)"

    The referenced passage from Return of the King is certainly a similar sraft to this one, a description of the Rangers at Dunharrow (emphasis mine):

    A little apart the Rangers sat, silent, in an ordered company, armed with spear and bow and sword. They were clad in cloaks of dark grey, and their hoods were cast now over helm and head. Their horses were strong and of proud bearing, but rough-haired; and one stood there without a rider, Aragorn’s own horse that they had brought from the North; Roheryn was his name. There was no gleam of stone or gold, nor any fair thing in all their gear and harness: nor did their riders bear any badge or token, save only that each cloak was pinned upon the left shoulder by a brooch of silver shaped like a rayed star.

    Return of the King Book V Chapter 2: "The Passing of the Grey Company"

    Once again, the fate of this token is unknown. It's possible that Sam took it with him when he went over the sea, but it may also have become a family heirloom or a mathom.

It's not impossible that Tolkien did intend for one or both of these stones to be versions of the Elendilmir, but absent some direct confirmation from him (which, if it exists, has not been found), we're left with the evidence suggesting they are not.


1 The passage referred to is the one where Aragorn describes the continue importance of the second Elendilmir, even though the original has been found:

Elessar took it up with reverence, and when he returned to the North and took up again the full kingship of Arnor Arwen bound it upon his brow, and men were silent in amaze to see its splendour. But Elessar did not again imperil it, and wore it only on high days in the North Kingdom. Otherwise, when in kingly raiment he bore the Elendilmir which had descended to him. "And this also is thing of reverence," he said, "and above my worth; forty heads have worn it before."

Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter I: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"

  • Wow. I'm very impressed, and that's saying something, since your answers are always great. This deserves a bounty, but I will have to put it off for a little while, because I'm trying to breach the 10,000 mark. Many, many thanks. This is what all answers should aspire to. – Wad Cheber Jul 10 '15 at 0:53
  • I'm still confused, though - you use the same exact passage for both the Stone of Silmariën AND the Stone of Valandil. The pronoun "it" can't refer to both stones, that indicates a single stone. – Omegacron Jul 13 '15 at 15:49
  • @Omegacron Tolkien isn't always unambiguous with his pronouns, which can be frustrating. However, the passage is clearly referencing two stones that have the same name; consider the last two lines of the passage: 'But Elessar did not again imperil it, and wore it only on high days in the North Kingdom. Otherwise, when in kingly raiment he bore the Elendilmir which had descended to him. "And this also is thing of reverence," he said, "and above my worth; forty heads have worn it before."' – Jason Baker Jul 13 '15 at 15:58

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