Dec 29, 2012

Fantasy Weapons Lore: Sting of the Baggins'

Today I’m going to talk about the famous Sting. I don’t mean that singer that starred in Dune and got his nickname in high school by wearing a black and yellow stripped shirt. No, the Sting I’m going to discuss will sing a different tune. A song filled with a history of blood, monsters, and hobbits. For those of you who saw the Lord of the Rings, or even better, read the books, you are already aware of this blade. You already know some of its magical nature, but do you know its origin?

Some Tolkien historians have discussed the origins of this mysterious sword. Yes Middle-Earth is deep and rich enough to have expert historians studying the thousands of documents and notes that JRR Tolkien wrote up over the years it took him to create his world. Some of these historians have thought that it was not a blade that was forged alone. It was a companion blade made alongside two other swords that were found with it in the Hobbit. The largest blade starred in the Lord of the Rings as Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring. There was another shorter version of Glamdring which is called Orcrist. I can’t tell you too much about Ocrist because that would create spoilers for The Hobbit movies still in the editing room. Glamdring and Orcrist are believed to have been made as sister blades. Orcrist was shorter than Glamdring and they were probably intended to be wielded in a similar fashion to the Samurai Daisho.

Sting is shorter than Orcrist and thought to have been more likely a dagger, but in the hands of a hobbit, it is a very good sword. These three swords date back thousands of years before even Sauron was called the dark lord. The elves of the first age of Middle-Earth were a powerful force and they fought many battles against the Balrogs and Dragons of Morgoth. Some of their heroes even tried to face off against Morgoth himself. One such elf wielded the blades in a battle against Morgoth at the gates of Gondolin, the elven city that Morgoth eventually tore down.

The ancient city, Gondolin, was built by the elves so they could have a foothold in Middle-Earth while they waged war against the forces of Morgoth who sought to enslave all of Middle-Earth. The swords were lost then and had not been seen for millennia. As the stories go, it is believed that a flightless dragon named Scatha the Worm. She was mischievous and resourceful and lived for many thousands of years after the fall of Morgoth. Like all of Morgoth’s minions. Scatha, Smaug, the Balrogs, Shelob and Sauron himself hid from the world for a while as the rest of their kind were hunted down.

Eventually Scatha was found in the Grey Mountains north of Mirkwood and was slain be the powerful Rohirrim horsemen many centuries before they had migrated to the open plains just north of Gondor. The Rohirrim leader Fram was soon murdered afterwards by dwarves who were angry that Fram had refused to share the horde of gold left by the dragon and instead insulted them. The three blades were then taken away by the dwarves who eventually met their demise at the hands of trolls as they migrated across the mountain ranges. Once you see the Hobbit, you’ll know the rest.

All three blades glow blue at the presence of orcs. This was a safety design by the elven makers to warn of an ambush. Sting is small enough to be a dagger to most elves, but it was typical elven blacksmithing that forged the blade to weigh nearly nothing at all. It is not only the perfect sword for a hobbit, but it doesn’t weigh down his little arms so that even an amateur would be able to wield it with precision. The blade is sharpened to slice through most surfaces; maybe other metals as the only thing it would be difficult to penetrate. The blade is slightly leaf-shaped and narrow.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Sting didn’t actually earn its name until it was in the hands of Bilbo. As the dwarf says in the video at the front, letter openers aren’t named. At some point he had it engraved with the following “Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im” which translates from Sindarin (an elven language) to “Sting is my name; I am the spider's bane.” Wait a minute; I know you’re wondering why Bilbo would call it the spider’s bane if it was designed more for fighting orcs. Well the answer lies in the pages of the Hobbit and will most likely be revealed in the second Hobbit film. If you haven’t already figured it out, yes, Bilbo faces down a bunch of giant spiders. Shelob was an ancient great spider, but she wasn’t the first oversized arachnid to feel the bite of Sting.

I hoped you learned something new about The Hobbit. If you haven’t seen the movie then go do it. It’s a great film, and if you loved Lord of the Rings, you’ll love the Hobbit. It’s full of cameos of Lord of the Rings characters as well.

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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