04 February 2017

The Dark Heart of the Smith Still Dwells in It (Silmarillion 201-02)

Fireball over Banff National Park, CA. Dec. 2014 © Brett Abernethy

[Melkor] began with the desire of Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness. And darkness he used most in his evil works upon Arda, and filled it with fear for all living things.
(Silmarillion 31)
With passages like this in mind, which recall for many of us the words of Isaiah 14:12 -- 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! -- it is easy to forget that Melkor was not the only thing that fell from the sky and which a dark heart made evil.
'I ask then for a sword of worth,' said Beleg; 'for the Orcs come now too thick and close for a bow only, and such blade as I have is no match for their armour.' 
'Choose from all that I have,' said Thingol, 'save only Aranrúth, my own.' 
Then Beleg chose Anglachel; and that was a sword of great worth, and it was so named because it was made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star; it would cleave all earth-delved iron. One other sword only in Middle-earth was like to it. That sword does not enter into this tale, though it was made of the same ore by the same smith; and that smith was Eöl the Dark Elf, who took Aredhel Turgon's sister to wife. He gave Anglachel to Thingol as fee, which he begrudged, for leave to dwell in Nan Elmoth; but its mate Anguirel he kept, until it was stolen from him by Maeglin, his son. 
But as Thingol turned the hilt of Anglachel towards Beleg, Melian looked at the blade; and she said: 'There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not love the hand it serves; neither will it abide with you long.' 
'Nonetheless I will wield it while I may,' said Beleg.
(Silmarillion 201-02)
Most people these days think of objects as morally neutral, and even if we tend to regard specific weapons as evil, we do not regard them as possessed, as it were, by the malice of their makers.  But clearly Tolkien portrayed things differently.  The intention of the smith, of the maker, matters greatly, for good or for ill, as Gandalf makes clear:
 ... let all put doubt aside that this thing is indeed what the Wise have declared: the treasure of the Enemy, fraught with all his malice; and in it lies a great part of his strength of old. Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed: 
     One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
     One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.

(FR 2.ii.254)


  1. It will do us no good to wage war with the Enemy's own weapons.

  2. In the same way, the intentions of the smith who made Merry's blade are mentioned when Tolkien describes how it was able to pierce the Witch King. "So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."

  3. "it was made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star"

    Ah, but was it a meteorite? Probably not, if someone saw it fall and the chunk was big enough to make a sword: see e.g. http://meteorites.wustl.edu/realities.htm (#3, 4, 12) and http://www.meteoritemarket.com/metid2.htm and http://meteorites.wustl.edu/check-list.htm

    Though I'm curious whether the iron-nickel mixture of meteorites would actually make a good sword IRL: http://meteorites.wustl.edu/id/metal.htm

  4. "The elves were the first to charge. Their hatred for the goblins is cold and bitter. Their spears and swords shone in the gloom with a gleam of chill flame, so deadly was the wrath of the hands that held them." -Hobbit