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Dates
Forged in the First Age some time between c.I 126 and I 510
Rediscovered by Gandalf in May or June III 2941
Probably passed into the West 29 September III 3021
Origins
Forged in Gondolin for Turgon
Meaning
Given as 'Foe-hammer'1
Other Names

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  • Updated 10 March 2002
  • This entry is complete

Glamdring

The sword of Turgon and Gandalf

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"This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore."
Words of Elrond
from The Hobbit 3 A Short Rest
Glamdring

Of Glamdring's early history, we know almost nothing. From Elrond's words, we can say that it was forged some time in the second to fifth centuries of the First Age (the centuries when Gondolin existed), and that it was borne by Turgon (the only Elf to hold the title 'King of Gondolin'). After Gondolin was built, Turgon was in battle just twice: at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and at the Fall of Gondolin. Glamdring was greatly feared by the Orcs even thousands of years later, so Turgon must have wielded it ferociously on both these occasions.

After Gondolin's Fall, Glamdring passed out of history or rumour for more than 6,000 years. The fact that it survived the War of Wrath, though, tells us that it must have left Beleriand before the end of the First Age, perhaps carried eastward by a band of Orcs2. More than that cannot be said, except that somehow, by the late Third Age, it had fallen into the hands of the three trolls called in The Hobbit Tom, Bert and Bill Huggins.

It was discovered in their troll-hoard by Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves as they travelled eastward on the Quest of Erebor, and claimed by Gandalf. After it was identified by Elrond, Gandalf wore it for eighty years. He had it with him when the White Council drove Sauron from Dol Guldur, and he bore it through the War of the Ring itself.

Famously, he used it to battle the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and it fell with him there into the abyss. Glamdring survived that fall3: Gandalf had it with him when he returned, and he bore it throughout the last days of the War of the Ring and beyond. We know that he still had the sword when he rode through Bree with the Travellers in October III 3019, but Tolkien doesn't mention it after that point. It seems safe to assume, though, that Gandalf was still wearing Glamdring, as he had for eighty years, when he boarded the White Ship at the end of the Third Age.


What Did Glamdring Look Like?

We know much less about Glamdring's appearance than its history. The sword itself is consistently described as 'white' (in The Fellowship of the Ring II 5 The Bridge of Khazad-dûm). When enemies were near it 'shone with a pale light' (ibid), though it became 'bright as blue flame' after Gandalf used it to kill the Great Goblin (The Hobbit 4, Over Hill and Under Hill). Both Glamdring and its mate Orcrist had runic writing on their blades, giving at least their names.

In the notes for an unfinished continuation of the story Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin, we're given a more detailed description of the sword of Turgon. It's said to have been white and gold, and borne in a scabbard of ivory. This sword is not positively identified as Glamdring, but the account comes in the closing years of Gondolin, so there's good reason to think that this is a description of the sword later carried by Gandalf.

Notes

1

Actually, the literal translation of glam is 'noise', not 'foe'. 'Foe-hammer' comes from glamhoth dring, 'noise-host hammer' - glamhoth is an Elvish term for Orcs.

2

This is only one possible way that Glamdring might have left Beleriand. It assumes that the sword was looted from the wreck of Gondolin, but it isn't easy to explain why it should have been carried into the east. Alternatively, it might have been rescued from the Fall of Gondolin by (say) Tuor, and taken eastward by the Elves. In this case, though, we would need to explain how it was lost a second time, and how Elrond (who was with the Exiles of Gondolin at the end of the First Age) had apparently forgotten about it.

3

If it is difficult to explain how Glamdring escaped destruction in the War of Wrath, its escape from the depths of Khazad-dûm is doubly puzzling. What details we have come from Gandalf's account in The Two Towers III V The White Rider. This makes it clear that Gandalf had somehow managed to hold onto Glamdring as he fell. As he fights the Balrog in the depths, he says that 'ever I hewed him', which means he must have had the sword with him.

Glamdring isn't mentioned again until long afterwards. Gandalf must have kept it as he climbed the Endless Stair, and perhaps used it in the Battle of the Peak to finally destroy Durin's Bane. What isn't clear, though is how it survived Gandalf's destruction and re-embodiment - he says explicitly 'naked I was sent back'. We have to imagine that it survived the ruin of Celebdil's peak, and was perhaps later recovered by Gwaihir.

See also...

Beater, Foe-hammer, Glamhoth

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