Nov 18, 2012

Fantasy Weapons Lore: Grond of Morgoth

Some of you have heard the name Grond. For those three people left in the world that hasn’t seen the Return of the King, then you have now met one version of the weapons known as Grond. This is the massive flaming wolf headed battering ram that Sauron’s army of orcs used to smash the magic gates once built by an ancient race of men with elven blood and long lives. That’s a mouthful. Throughout the thousands of years of history in Middle-Earth, Grond has taken a few forms that are suspected to be designs of Sauron’s masterful engineering and magic.

During the time of the Return of the King, Grond was a one hundred foot battering ram that stood sixty feet tall. The head was forged from black iron. In the movie, the mouth was filled with fire, but I don’t believe Tolkien envisioned it that way. About the only use fire would have coming from the mouth is intimidation. Tolkien was an experienced military man who served during World War 1, and although the orcs are a flashy raging mass of unthinking hate, they weren’t unorganized when directed by Sauron’s generals like Gothmog. I would assume that just the sheer size would be enough to scare the Gondorians. Hauling fuel for the fire would be an unnecessary additional resource to be carried across rivers and mountains all the way from Mordor. That said, it did add some nice cinematography for the film so it got two thumbs up from me, no matter how impractical it was.

Since this blog isn’t a breakdown on JRR Tolkien vs Peter Jackson, let’s move on. The first name of Grond appeared during the first age. Although the battering ram that Sauron engineered was fearsome, it was nothing compared to the original owner of the name. In the hands of Morgoth, it was capable of breaking mountains.

The master of Grond in the First Age of Middle-Earth was named Morgoth (originally called Melkor). Morgoth was the greatest of his people, the Ainur (the equivalent of angels). They were direct descendants of the creator of Middle-Earth (Eru (or God for those who are trying to figure out if Tolkien’s mythology was in line with his Christian beliefs). In short, Morgoth is Satan/Lucifer/The Devil or whatever you want to call him. The difference was he was a physical being that warred and corrupted Middle-Earth when he fell from Eru’s grace because of his pride and selfishness in being the most powerful of the Ainur. Not a war of souls but an actual blood spilling war that involved the Ainur as well as men and elves.

Morgoth felt it was his right to rule Middle-Earth his way. Most of the other Ainur disagreed. Sauron is a member of a lesser breed of Ainur in which Gandalf is related to. Sauron became his right hand man during that war. Morgoth became so powerful and corruptive that his very existence on Middle-Earth plagued the land. He created armies of dragons and balrogs. His fortress was equally as massive and impenetrable. At one point the Elves laid siege to it for over 400 years before they were eventually scattered. After a while, the other Ainur protecting Middle-Earth came for Morgoth and he was defeated, his physical form beheaded, his soul chained, and then tossed into the void. As most of you know, where most of Morgoth’s minions were destroyed or hid deep in the ground, Sauron escaped that fate.

Like his Christian counterpart, Morgoth felt a special hatred towards men. He was able to corrupt them and convince them to worship him, but he realized he could never truly trust them or control them like his other minions or predict them like the other races. He began to fear them for that reason. Maybe he saw himself in the mortals. Unlike the elves that saw through most of Morgoth’s manipulations, they didn’t truly understand the depths of his evil. Men on the other hand could embrace the chaos and darkness as much as he had. They understood him and saw him for what he truly was, while the other Ainur did not seem to.

Now you know about the being that held the first Grond, let me tell you more about the most devastating weapon to ever exist in Middle-Earth. That battering ram in the movies was only named Grond to inspire the orcs. Morgoth’s weapon was a symbol of inspiration and pride among all the dark races. It was a massive mace. Not unlike the one used by Sauron in the movies. The real difference being that Sauron was nothing more than an angelic blacksmith and architect, where Morgoth was a force of rage and anarchy. He was a powerful warrior who defeated every being that faced him one on one. His trusty mace, Grond, was one of the reasons.

Nobody knows where exactly the mace was crafted or how, but some Silmarillion texts have described it as large as a tree. Morgoth was often described as a towering giant that may have been around twelve feet tall. His foot was described as weighing as much as a hill would when he stepped down on someone.

Pic via Wikipedia
Grond was enchanted with the ability to break anything it struck. At the gates of Morgoth’s last fortress, Angband, he dueled the elven king, Fingolfin. It’s written that Fingolfin was very quick and although Fingolfin was unable to slay him, Morgoth struggled to land a blow until Fingolfin became exhausted. Every place Grond smashed into the ground, it split open and spewed forth smoke and fire.

Eventually Morgoth was able to crush the Elven king, but he did not escape without serious injury. In his arrogance, he had given much of his power to his minions, like the Balrogs and dragons, and his power was weakening. Fingolfin ruined one of his feet, and Morgoth walked with a limp the rest of his existence on Middle-Earth.

Tolkien never said what happened to Grond after the fall of Morgoth. Who knows, maybe the battering ram’s power was more than just cool engineering. Maybe it was built from the shaft of Morgoth’s magical mace. Sauron was very much enamored by his master and mimicked him every way he could, even though he never mastered any skill in actual combat and lost every fight he personally joined throughout history. Sauron was a master designer. It is always possible that Sauron ran away with the original Grond and saved it for the day it could be of use again. In that case, the flaming maw of the battering ram may have been what was left of the magic of Morgoth’s Grond.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of Fantasy Weapons Weekly. Click here to view the catalog of all the fantasy weapons I’ve written about.

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