‘But last night I told you of Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord. The rumours that you have heard are true: he has indeed arisen again and left his hold in Mirkwood and returned to his ancient fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor. That name even you hobbits have heard of, like a shadow on the borders of old stories. Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.’

Gandalf, The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Have you heard of Sauron
“Have you heard of Sauron?” SDCC Season 1 trailer.
Fear has struck the hearts of Men as Sauron begins to stir again.

It is the Second Age of Middle-earth. The tide turns and evil reveals itself as a figure lurking in the shadows. Sauron is here. Albeit, invisible. His presence hinted at in the form of a searing hallmark

Following the drop of the The Rings of Power trailer at the San Diego Comic-Con, Tolkien enthusiasts like myself have repeatedly pored over the SDCC trailer in search of elements from Tolkien’s lore buried within the scenes of the show. With the use of some deductive reasoning and observation, it is highly probable that we have uncovered a unique point in the lore, seemingly disguised as an icy mark

The icy mark, in question, appears in two instances within the trailer. In the first instance, we see the mark actively of three spikes forming over a hard and stony surface. In the second, it distinctly appears on what can only be described as a forging anvil. A common factor in both instances is how the mark incorporates actively freezing water to reveal its runic features. 

To fully understand how this icy rune may have formed, we must apply some deductive reasoning. Water is a substance that transforms into its crystalline state (ice) at freezing temperatures. The instant formation of ice often indicates temperatures much lower than freezing (sub-zero).

Looking at the scene from the trailer again, we see crystals of ice form rapidly upon the stony surface. If we take another step back, we can perhaps also draw another conclusion. This icy mark is not a mark made of rapidly freezing water, but rather by the lack of ice crystals in the space where the rune is inscribed. This indicates that the inscription or branding must have been made with a searingly hot implement such that ice has finely crystallized along its edges. It also appears the inscription continues to be indefatigably hot to boot.

The mark of Sauron appears as water freezes instantly around the searingly hot rune. Note the three spikes.

Weighing these factors together, we can revise a couple points:

  1. The runes are in a location where sub-zero temperatures result in near-instance formation of ice crystals. 
  2. The rune appears on an anvil — a tool used for forging weapons. Besides the trailer, we observe the same rune inscribed upon a broken sword held by Theo.
  3. If this rune is a maker’s mark of a master forger, what are the possible sources of the heated implement used to craft and forge weapons?

In Middle-earth, one location appears to be the optimal location for sub-zero temperature conditions. The Forodwaith is a frozen wasteland in the northern reaches of Middle-earth, which is also categorically home to Mount Gundabad (the northernmost tip of the Misty Mountains). While historically connected with the Dwarves, Gundabad is deeply contested by Orcs during the Second and Third Ages. While we have received no clarification from Amazon on the matter, the clues suggest Gundabad could be the place where these runes appear.

Given their active heat-emitting properties and its connection to the forging craft, we must now ask how such runes have come to exist in a place where there are no other obvious signs of active metallurgical hot working. 

What could possibly be as hot as an active volcano to have inscribed a searingly hot rune into stone and metal in the coldest part of Middle-earth? How is the area of this rune still hot even (presumably), long after the mark was embedded in the anvil and the anvil was last used to forge things?

Could it be that these searing, tripartite* marks were made at the hands of Sauron?

‘What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it, lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron’s hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed.’

Isildur describing the Ring. The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
This gif shows a ) the cursed, broken sword with Sauron’s mark; b) Theo holding up the broken sword; and c) the broken sword forming out of fire and smoke in a way that is reminiscent of the broken Morgul-knife that Aragorn pulls out of Frodo.

While it is ambiguous how Sauron brands any object with his mark, the heat of Sauron’s hand seems to be an obvious ultimate source of hot working temperatures for forging with various metals. Moreover, it is clear the signature on the anvil and the sword suggests the same Maker. That is, Sauron is involved in the creation of these objects. 

But what is the purpose of the Mark? What is the purpose of a broken sword found at the bottom of a barn in the Southlands? Is it evidence of Sauron’s attempts to create an object that ensnares the will of another? The first of its kind. A Morgul-knife that shares characteristics similar to the Rings of Power?

If that were the case, Theo surely faces a dark future as the series unfolds episode by episode.

‘They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have became a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord; and he would have tormented you for trying to keep his Ring, if any greater torment were possible than being robbed of it and seeing it on his hand.’

Gandalf to Frodo. Many Meetings, The Lord of the Rings

Finally, if we presume this tripartite mark to be the definitive mark of Sauron’s invisible yet haunting presence on Middle-earth, I say that anything that touches it will turn to ash.

A single mallorn leaf falls through the caverns of Moria and burns to ash upon contact with yet another invisible yet searing mark of Sauron.

Bootnote: The design of the tripartite mark reveals some similarities to the Helm of Sauron in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Per WETA’s design, Sauron’s helm has six distinct points — three tall points spaced along the points of a triangle; then three shorter points towards the front. We see the tripartite mark on the anvil and on the blade Theo holds bears a resemblance to the configuration of the three points towards the front of Sauron’s helm.

Helm of Sauron. Note the three smaller spikes at the front with the largest spike in the center. Source: The Weta Museum.

Second bootnote!

It’s also worth drawing attention to a mark we can see on the left breast of Finrod’s body in the SDCC trailer. This mark appears to be an inverted form of Sauron’s mark, with the prongs pointing downward. The left and right prongs are distinct, while the elongated center one is more indistinct. It appears to have been burnt into the corpse, possibly posthumously.

The mark is also present on the left breast of Finrod in this scene from the SDCC trailer.

A posthumously applied mark would preserve the Silmarillion canon of Finrod’s death in the dungeons of Sauron at the hands of a great werewolf (note the claw marks on the left bicep and forearm).

The question that continues to puzzle is how the body comes into the possession of Galadriel.

However, Beren and Luthien liberate many elven thralls from the dungeons of Sauron. The showrunners might be taking a tack where they return the body to Nargothrond (The Silmarillion states that Galadriel spent time there). Alternately, it may be that the scene occurs on Tol-in-Gaurhoth itself. The latter would preserve the integrity of Finrod’s burial, but at the risk of intruding Galadriel into the Beren and Luthien story. Of course, if the scene occurs in flashback, we may never even (or require) get the full context — if it doesn’t serve the story, it can be left to the imagination of watchers to fill in the blanks however they want.

* Editor’s note: we’re calling it a tripartite mark because of those three spikes. Also, just as we were about to go to “print” with this piece, Stephen Colbert showed this clip as part of an interview with Morfydd Clark on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Looks like we were on the money.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

Acknowledgements: All these GIFs and the Colbert clip are thanks to the hard work of our fab Discord member, WheatBix.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

If you were eagle-eyed, you might have noticed that the other day I briefly put up an article postulating that Glorfindel is a convincing option for the Sun Sword poster.

Sun Sword

Unfortunately, shortly after, an eagle-eyed redditor pointed out an additional key piece of evidence I was unaware of. That evidence instantly brought the article’s conclusion into doubt. After a lot of thinking, I’m republishing the article in part, supplemented with some analysis of the current leading theory: Elendil.

You could says this is a somewhat of cautionary tale about the limitations of analysis: you can build the strongest chain of logic, and still be wrong if a premise is incorrect. I also hope it draws some useful conclusions though.

The Glorfindel theory

The real draw is the sun imagery. The sigil on the sword pommel draws the eye, but it’s also (imprecisely) echoed on chest of the individual holding the sword.

And this is what got me thinking.

In the original account of the Fall of Gondolin, Tolkien describes Glorfindel’s folk, the people of The House of the Golden Flower, like so:

There stood the house of the Golden Flower who bare a rayed sun [emphasis mine] upon their shield…

The Book of Lost Tales II: The Fall of Gondolin.

Fact: the device of Glorfindel’s house is a rayed sun.

Tolkien also invested an enormous amount of effort into developing a complex system of elven heraldry and emblems. An account of it can be found in the Hammond and Scull book J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. I don’t own a copy, but accounts of it can be found on the internet.

One such is here. Wikipedia also has its own summary.

Now, notice that on Sun Sword, the pommel of the sword has 12 rays touching the edge of the design. In elven heraldry, that is indicative of an individual with very high ancestry. Of the examples that Tolkien provides, only Idril Celebrindal has as many rays touching the edge of her emblem’s design; only Finwë the High King of the Noldor has more.

Emblems of the elves of Beleriand from the back cover of the first UK edition of the Silmarillion. Left to right: Fingolfin, Eärendil, Idril Celebrindal, Elwë, Fëanor.

Glorfindel, is of course, not an elven king.

But his ancestry would be considered high — elevated by his noble actions and self-sacrifice in the wreck of Gondolin, his subsequent and early re-embodiment in Valinor and his close association with the Maiar (See The Peoples of Middle-earth: Last Writings).

As Tolkien developed his character down the years, Glorfindel is simply an exceptional individual by the time of his return to Middle-earth in (according to Last Writings) the early or middle of the Second Age.

That exceptional stature might just be enough to gain the honour of an emblem with 12 rays.

Set against that, note that the design is circular. A circular design is typically used for elven ladies (Idril, Lúthien, Melian). Those for elven males are all lozenge-shaped. The picture above shows some examples.

There’s a little more, too.

If we examine the sleeves of the Sun Sword individual, we see they are green, patterned with gold.

At the sack of Gondolin, Glorfindel marched into battle wearing:

…Glorfindel bare a mantel so broidered in threads of gold that it was diapered with celandine as a field in spring; and his arms were damascened with cunning gold.

The Book of Lost Tales II: The Fall of Gondolin.

Celandine is a plant with a golden flower — very likely the golden flower that Glorfindel’s house is named for — and deep, green leaves. Wikipedia lists three species and visually, they all look very striking. One species, pictured below, is regarded by many in the UK as a harbinger of Spring.

According to a costumer friend, the sleeves could be argued to be “damascened” in this way.

In summary, there are sufficient superficial visual cues that you can make a solid case for this theory based on descriptions of Glorfindel and his house symbols that are given in The Fall of Gondolin, and some clever application of elven heraldry.


As I discovered (after posting my article) the individual in the Blue Robe poster bears the exact same device as we see on Sun Sword. This is a theory killer — in the Second Age Glorfindel’s house symbol should be unique to him. No-one else would have it. No-one.

Blue robe brooch compared against Sun Sword pommel. The design is the same.

Long story short, I think it’s just super-unlikely. Sorry, Glorfindel supporters!

The Elendil theory

Right now, the (widely accepted) rumour is that Blue Robe is Ar-Pharazôn the Golden — the 25th (and last) of the kings and queens of Númenor. I’m going to accept this as a working assumption.

But what of the evidence for Elendil?

First, we may note that the armoured sleeves (vambraces?) bear a stamp that resembles a fish (you can see what appear to be fins if you look closely). Additionally, there is a wave pattern on the chest at the middle of the sun emblem.

Now, in the text of AKALLABÊTH, The Silmarillion describes Elendil (and his father Amandil) as great ship-captains.

That’s suggestive. It’s also about as far as we can get from pure visual analysis.

But, turning to the lore, we know that Amandil and Ar-Pharazôn were once quite close. Ar-Pharazôn was also very active at sea before he took the Sceptre of Númenor.

In the days of their youth together Amandil had been dear to Pharazôn, and though he was of the Elf-friends he remained in his council until the coming of Sauron. Now he was dismissed, for Sauron hated him above all others in Númenor.

AKALLABÊTH, The Silmarillion

The Unfinished Tales states that most of the Númenorean chieftains posses what is described as heirloom swords. Yet “at times they would still give a sword as a gift to their heirs”. Additionally:

A new sword was made for the King’s Heir to be given to him on the day on which this title was conferred.

Unfinished Tales, Description of the Island of Númenor

Finally, a note in Unfinished Tales states that the King’s sword is actually Aranruth — the personal sword of Thingol, the Sindarin king of Doriath. Handed down through Dior, Earendil, Elros, it’s an important link to the elven heritage of the Númenorean kings.

Assembling these facts, it’s possible to postulate the following: when Tar-Palantir dies and Ar-Pharazôn becomes king, he takes up Aranruth. But then he has this other sword leftover — the sword he received as King’s Heir.

At this point, he and Amandil are still friends. Because Sauron doesn’t enter the scene until years later. So he gives his King’s Heir sword to Amandil as a gift. I expect that Amandil would treasure this — and all the more so as they grow increasingly distant as politics force them apart.

I was stumped here for a bit: why would Amandil then hand that sword to Elendil?

Here’s my thought: As Ar-Pharazôn’s reign progresses, life becomes ever-more-dangerous for the Faithful. Elendil must be known as one of the Faithful. That makes him a target for the King’s Men faction. If Elendil were going to sea — maybe as a member of the Venturer’s Guild — he could find himself isolated among a group hostile to his views.

Thus Amandil gives Elendil the King’s Heir sword as protection — an indirect sign of the King’s favour.

However, current scuttlebutt insists that the Sun Sword is Narsil (I can’t speak to the truth or falsity of that rumour — it’s not my wheelhouse). If that’s the case, the above scenario doesn’t work for two reasons:

  1. A personality as avaricious as Ar-Pharazôn would surely not give away a sword with a history stretching back into the mists of the First Age. Ar-Pharazôn is the greediest of all Númenor’s rulers.
  2. UT states that the King’s Heir sword is a brand-new sword that is forged for each heir.

The first is highly suggestive, and the second is conclusive.

Still, I love the pathos of this concept.

Examining the sword

But, what if the sword is Narsil? If that’s the case, why does Blue Robe’s device match that of the sword? Should it still not be unique to Narsil alone?

Let’s examine.

We know that Telchar, a dwarf of Nogrod, forged Narsil sometime in the First Age. But we don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know for whom. All we know is that, eventually, it makes its way to the hands of Elendil.

One easy supposition, I think, is that this was an heirloom sword of the Lord of Andunie. As I pointed out, Unfinished Tales states that many Númenorean chieftains posses heirloom swords.

Now, it’s not impossible that Telchar may have made Narsil for someone of very high ancestry — perhaps even an elf, originally. This would explain away the heraldry issue — that there are so many rays striking the edge of the pommel design. Telchar simply made Narsil for someone of superlative rank.

Who? I’m not sure and this is a weak link. Thingol and, subsequently, Dior already have Aranruth. Gondolin is off the table. One of the sons of Feanor, perhaps? Both Maglor and Maedhros survive until the end of the Quenta. Maglor is kidnap-dad — I mean, foster-father — to Elrond and Elros after the Third Kinslaying.

Could Narsil have been made for Maglor? Could Maglor have gifted Narsil to Elros? Not impossible, I think.

It then descends through the royal house of Númenor, but when Silmarien doesn’t get the throne, she gets Narsil (in addition to the Ring of Barahir). But the royal house retains the sun heraldry — as in Blue Robe’s brooch — because it’s also part of their heritage.

This seems … a plausible chain of logic.

The other thing in favour of the Narsil argument is that there is a hollow disc cut in the pommel. This hollow pommel evokes (though it is not the same as) the hollow pommel of the Peter Jackson rendition of Narsil (and Anduril).

But, there are some arguments against Narsil.

It does have an oddly ceremonial look; the design seems quite gaudy with the gold sheen and the heavy carvings on the upper end of the blade. One of my fellow analysts pointed out that if the inlays and carvings extend much further toward the tip, they would compromise its usefulness in battle.

Additionally, we see only sun symbology on the sword and it does not shine like described in The Silmarillion.

The host of Gil-galad and Elendil had the victory, for the might of the Elves was still great in those days, and the Númenóreans were strong and tall, and terrible in their wrath. Against Aeglos the spear of Gil-galad none could stand; and the sword of Elendil filled Orcs and Men with fear, for it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon, and it was named Narsil.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

“Shine” could mean solely in the presence of orcs, but isn’t that a trait restricted to blades made by the Noldor of Gondolin?

Finally, we see a lot of sun symbology on Sun Sword. But nothing of the moon. Narsil is a Quenya name meaning “red and white flame”. Tolkien explains in a letter that it “symbolised the chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness, Sun (Anar) and Moon (in Q) Isil.”

The question is, what’s on the reverse side? It could be an equivalent moon symbology. If so, I believe that would be sufficient confirmation that this sword is Narsil.


So, what are we left with after all this?

The Glorfindel argument is difficult to sustain. Elendil is plausible, as is Narsil but there are other lore-friendly explanations for the sword at least. In the absence of further evidence, we have to rely on the veracity of the rumour-mongers, or withhold final judgement.

Bootnote: Glorfindel is, of course, a named character in The Lord of the Rings. The rights situation is … well, it’s murky until someone actually goes on the record. But it’s typically believed that Amazon Studios can use the bits it needs from the Second Age in Unfinished Tales, and The Silmarillion (most likely the Akallabeth account and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age). Anything else they need to go to Tolkien Estate and justify the need. It seems Tolkien Estate is willing to listen if the reason is good. If they wanted to give Glorfindel verisimilitude, this might just fit the bill.

Acknowledgements: I got a lot of assistance from keen-eyed and incisive folks on our new Discord in pulling this together. So in no particular order (and apologies to anyone else who contributed that I’ve missed), many thanks to DurinDeathless, LadyNico, Lasswen, Sid, Nathan, and Sir Skrilldor.

Beorn. A portrait by John Howe.
Beorn. A portrait by John Howe.
The reader reaction to the low-resolution image of Beorn from the SD Toys 2014 Hobbit Calendar has been swift, visceral and fascinating.

Fact is that, while noting that people often tend to automatically respond negatively to change then rapidly adapt, the reader response has been largely unfavourable. Overall, people don’t seem to like Beorn.

It’s a reaction seemingly propelled by the crazy mane of hair that sweeps over Beorn’s head like a mohawk, and stretches down his back like a long, rangy mullet.

It’s prompted a wide-ranging variety of negative comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog, Blanka, Joe Dirt, ’80s hair metal bands, David Bowie in Labyrinth and Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Continue reading “Peter Jackson’s Beorn not yet convincing fans”

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Bilbo set against Smaug by Ringer Skaan.
Bilbo set against Smaug by Ringer Skaan.
Last night I stumbled on this very clever post on TheOneRing.net’s boards. In it, user Skaan suggested that the promotional picture of Bilbo sprawled atop Smaug’s hoard could offer a guide to the size of Jackson’s version of Smaug (the Magnificent).


Well, we also saw Smaug’s head buried in that selfsame pile. So the size of the coins gives us a basis for comparison. Continue reading “Analysis: just how big is Jackson’s Smaug?”

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

There are many cool things and great moments in the teaser trailer that finally came out just a week and half ago. But, silly lists aside, there’s a lot of interesting stuff at work in this trailer: for what it includes AND for what it omits. One of the things that struck me immediately was the emphasis on character. It’s enormous.

There’s some justification for that: Jackson and his minions need to introduce a core cast of 15. That’s a lot of different people that the audience has to invest in… and differentiate between. (Before you read on, I must warn you: this is inevitably a spoiler-filled discussion) Continue reading “Why the Hobbit trailer is a test of character”