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.

However!

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.

Conclusions

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.

My learned colleagues at TORnCentral have weighed in on the 23 images released yesterday by our good friends at Amazomg, but I’m keen to zero in on one and put it under the microscope.

It’s this one — let’s call it Gauntlet and Sword.

Gauntlet and Sword.

Gauntlet and Sword immediately recalls Jackson’s Third Age armoured Sauron. But there are obvious discrepancies when you compare it against the visual aesthetic that the Peter Jackson productions established.

First, at the Last Alliance confrontation between Gil-galad, Elendil and Sauron in the Fellowship of the Ring prologue, the latter bears a gigantic flanged mace, not a sword. (You can rewatch the entire prologue scene here if you like; Sauron appears about two minutes in.)

Gauntlet and Sword, on the other hand, shows, well, a sword. A blackened sword with a remarkably ornate hilt. But, still, a sword.

Second, the Amazon Studios gauntlet does not fully correspond to the one designed by WETA Workshop head Richard Taylor and his staff. The WETA gauntlet is a metal one, with articulated metal plates all the way past the wrist.

United Cutlery Sauron gauntlet reproduction. Source.

Sure, the gauntlet we see in Gauntlet and Sword is black and spiky, but from the promotional image provided, it lacks the articulated and overlapping metal plates that go all the way to the wrist. Instead, the articulation appears to stop at the knuckles. The general effect looks more like a studded, heavy leather gauntlet than one carefully assembled from many metal plates.

Finally, it’s important to note that before the Akallabêth — the period that Rings of Power seems likely to focus on at first, Sauron was not bound to that terrible and intimidating form. Instead:

…in his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power (as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenance.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Letter #246.

One must conclude that either:

1) This is not actually Sauron
2) It is Sauron, but Amazon Studios is moving away from “the PJ look”

When we have cosplayers doing intensive research and nailing all the details with incredible detailed replica Sauron costumes, it defies logic that Amazon Studios couldn’t do the same with their sky-high budget. If they so desired.

The impression that I have long had is that Amazon Studios has been trying to hew to the aesthetic Jackson created. In itself, choosing New Zealand as the original shooting location fits this thesis — although I am sure financial considerations come into play there, too.

It makes sense — the PJ aesthetic has a lot of penetration through the popular consciousness and pop culture. Leveraging it is a low-effort way to get buy-in from viewers.

And the original Amazon Studios tease image carries a great deal of PJ aesthetic in the architecture of Tirion upon Túna.

So I don’t think Amazon Studios is drifting from the PJ look . Instead, what we have is some artful misdirection — we are being teased with the superficial appearance of Sauron using typical signifiers that we subconsciously associate with the lord of Barad-dûr, but there are enough clues for us to dismiss it.

This is not Sauron.

For similar reasons I would discard the Witch-king of Angmar — the gauntlet doesn’t match (you can get a good look at Wiki’s gauntlet at 1 min and 6 secs in this clip where he confronts Éowyn) , and although Wiki carries a sword (as well as a massive flail), its design is a lot cleaner than the one in Gauntlet and Sword. In fact the swords of all the Nazgul are very minimalist with flat or slightly curved crossguards.

The Nazgul draw swords at the Ford of Bruinen.

So, who is it?

I’m going to outline a handful of outlandish possibilities. All speculation, of course.

Option 1. Túrin.

Black sword, right? Also, The Silmarillion outlines how the folk of Nargothrond equip Túrin with “dwarf-mail, to guard him”. Further, The Silmarillion describes from the perspective of Tuor and Voronwë the following scene at the Well of Ivrin after the sack of Nargothrond.

But even as they gazed upon it they saw one going northward in haste, and he was a tall Man, clad in black, and bearing a black sword. But they knew not who he was, nor anything of what had befallen in the south; and he passed them by, and they said no word.

Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

Nevertheless, the other image with a broken black sword somehow seems a better fit for Túrin.

Option 2. Eöl or Maeglin.

Gurthang (or Anglachel, if you prefer) is not the only black sword to feature in The Silmarillion. There is another: Anguirel. Eöl, the Dark Elf, forges both as a pair. The former he gave to Thingol, the latter he kept for himself. Anguirel then ends up in the hands of his son, Maeglin, when Aredhel and Maeglin flee Eöl’s controlling nature.

Canonically, both Eöl and Maeglin meet nasty ends in Gondolin; the ultimate fate of Anguirel is unknown. Because Maeglin is tossed over the walls of Gondolin during its sack, it’s only a bit of a stretch that he might have survived (but it is a stretch). And the emblem of Maeglin’s house was a plain black field with no symbol whatsoever.

Could Tolkien Estate be convinced to allow Maeglin to be used as a returning Second Age antagonist? I don’t know. It’s a thought.

Props to posters over on the LOTR on Prime sub-reddit for raising this one. Intriguing.

Option 3. Morgoth.

Must confess, I started considering this because of John Howe’s famous image of Ungoliant and Melkor about to do the dirty on the Two Trees. Melkor, all in black, has in hand an enormous black greatsword. Not canonical — in The Silmarillion he uses a spear: “Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep”. However, John Howe has been providing art for the Amazon Studios production.

In The Silmarillion, Beleg also uses the appellation “Black Hand” at one point to describe Morgoth. If we get the Two Trees, we must surely get Morgoth at some point. Right?

The current rumour: Adar

The current suggestion via Fellowship of the Fans is that it corresponds to a character known as “Adar” (originally codenamed “Oren”). Adar is a Sindarin word that translates as “father” and the role is supposedly being filled by Joseph Malwe.

To reprise, Adar is said to be an “corrupted” and “tortured” elf who oversees a group of orcs who see him as a father figure. Hence the name, Adar. Further, the rumour states that this elf is one of the brothers of Galadriel — but not Finrod Felagund. This offers two choices: Angrod and Aegnor, both of whom canonically perished in The Battle of Sudden Flame (Orodreth should properly be considered to be Angrod’s son).

These are choices that seem much more out of canon than, say, the Maeglin option. The Silmarillion’s text declares “the sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain”.

Could they work? I guess.

There’s this to consider:

But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband; for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people, they had little welcome, and wandered alone outlawed and desperate.

Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

Additionally, in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to Frodo:

The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him [emphasis mine].

Many Meetings

And service need not be direct, or knowing as in the case of Húrin.

When therefore he judged the time to be ripe, [Morgoth] released Húrin from his bondage, bidding him go whither he would; and he feigned that in this he was moved by pity as for an enemy utterly defeated. But he lied, for his purpose was that Húrin should still further his hatred for Elves and Men, ere he died.

Of the Ruin of Doriath

Placed against that, consider Gwindor son of Guilin. An escaped thrall, he not only assists Beleg and succors Turin at risk to himself, he is also seemingly welcomed back to Nargothrond without suspicion or fear.

Still, there might be a way for Amazon Studios to work a story of pathos and miscalculation, if they can find some subtlety. We’ll see.

The second figure review of 2018 comes from The Lord of the Rings and covers one of the most important characters in Middle-earth. Our friends at Weta Workshop absolutely nailed the statue of Isildur with some of the best detailing and paint you will see. It also features the new resin technique that Weta has started to use on their statues.

Isildur is in low stock so you can count on what’s left of this 750-piece limited edition to be gone in the not to distant future. Continue reading “Collecting The Precious – Weta Workshop’s Isildur Statue Review”

Weta has been on one heck of a roll since SDCC 2017, and they keep things going this October with tonight’s surprise pre-order: yet another piece fans have been hoping would get made, and one that is near the top of this collectors list. Our friends at Weta Workshop have unleashed the stunning Isildur statue! Isildur looks amazing holding The One Ring, but that’s not the only wonderful bit about this statue – you also get the helm of the fallen Sauron at Isuldur’s feet. Limited to 750 pieces, Isildur comes in at $399. I wouldn’t wait very long to place your order, with the new payment plan system now available.

The Battle of the Last Alliance sequence at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the coolest moments in cinema. One of the many cool moments within that sequence is when you get that chain of Elves swiping to kill the orcs as they charge. Our friends at Weta Workshop have captured this perfectly with the Elven Warrior statue. The Elven Warrior was quite limited as well, with only 750 pieces worldwide, and is now sold out via Weta Workshop’s site. So if you’re looking to add this to your collection I’d suggest beginning that search now, before this one reaches grail status among The Lord of the Rings statue line.
Continue reading “Collecting The Precious – Weta Workshop’s Elven Warrior Statue Review”

Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor.
Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor.
Tolkien scholar Michael Martinez examines the question of whether the line of Númenorean kings and queens expired with the destruction of Númenor in the Akallabêth and the vanquishing of Ar-Pharazôn and his great fleet.

It’s also a nice little history lesson for those interested in learning more about the heritage of Arnor and Gondor, and Aragorn’s forebears. Continue reading “Was Elendil the Rightful King of the Númenoreans?”

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