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Mithril

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'''''Mithril''''' is a precious silvery metal, stronger than steel but much lighter in weight, which was mined by the [[Dwarves (Middle-earth)|Dwarves]] in the mines of [[Khazad-dûm]].  The name ''mithril'' comes from two words in [[Sindarin]]—''mith'', meaning "grey", and ''ril'' meaning "glitter". ''Mithril'' was also called "true-silver" by Men, while the [[Dwarves]] had their own, secret name for it.
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{{rewrite}}
  
The wizard [[Gandalf]] explained ''mithril'' to the Company, passing through Khazad-dûm, the Mines of Moria:
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{{disambig-two|the precious metal of [[J.R.R. Tolkien]]'s [[legendarium]]|the real-world producers of metal mintiatures|[[Mithril Miniatures]]}}
:"The wealth of Moria was not in gold and jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant... Its worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price; for little is left above ground, and even the [[Orc]]s dare not delve here for it.
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:"''Mithril!'' All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of ''mithril'' did not tarnish or grow dim." (''[[The Fellowship of the Ring]]'', "A Journey in the Dark").  
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[[Image:John Howe - Mithril.jpg|thumb|''Mithril'' by [[John Howe]]]]
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{{quote| ''Mithril!'' All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of ''mithril'' did not tarnish or grow dim.|[[Gandalf]]<ref name="Journey">{{FR|Journey}}</ref>}}
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'''''Mithril''''' was a precious silvery metal, stronger than steel but much lighter in weight, which was mined by the [[Dwarves]] in the mines of [[Khazad-dûm]]. ''Mithril'' was also called "true-silver" by [[Men]], while the [[Dwarves]] had their own, secret name for it.
  
For the literal-minded reader, it is unclear whether or not mithril is a real metal; many have thought it to be [[platinum]], however, platinum is far too heavy to qualify as a candidate. It is possible that this legendary material was modelled after [[titanium]], as this metal, while actually quite abundant as [[ore]], was very expensive to produce in its metallic form (especially by medieval technology), and has some of mithril's properties of strength, bright silvery color, corrosion resistance, and light weight. Other possibilities are [[aluminium]] or [[magnesium]]; these metals are even lighter than titanium, but not as strong or as silvery shiny. (Famously, [[Napoleon III]] of France once bought dinnerware made out of aluminium because it was more expensive than gold at the time.) Certainly Tolkien, being highly educated, would have had knowledge of these three metals and the difficulty in preparing them. However, probably because nobody is known to have asked Tolkien about ''mithril'', it will never be known with certainty whether mithril is based on any real metal.
 
  
''Mithril'' is extremely rare by the end of the [[Third Age]], as it was found only in [[Khazad-dûm]]. Once the [[Balrog]] destroyed the kingdom of the Dwarves at Khazad-dum, Middle-earth's only source of new mithril ore was cut off.  Before Moria was abandoned by the Dwarves mithril was worth ten times its own weight in gold.  After the Dwarves abandoned Moria and production of new mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless.  The only way to obtain a ''mithril''-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom ''mithril'' weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing weapons to forge new ones.  The [[Noldor]] of [[Eregion]] made an alloy out of it called ''ithildin'' ("star moon"), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The West Gate of [[Moria (Middle-earth)|Moria]] bore inlaid ''ithildin'' designs and runes.   
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==History==
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''Mithril'' was extremely rare by the end of the [[Third Age]], as it was found only in [[Khazad-dûm]]. Once the [[Balrogs|Balrog]] destroyed the Dwarven Kingdom of Khazad-dum, Middle-earth's only source of new ''mithril'' ore was cut off.  Before Moria was abandoned by the Dwarves ''mithril'' was worth ten times its own weight in gold.  After the Dwarves abandoned Moria and production of new mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless.  The only way to obtain a ''mithril''-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom ''mithril'' weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing weapons to forge new ones.  The [[Noldor]] of [[Eregion]] made an alloy out of it called ''[[ithildin]]'' ("star moon"), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The [[Doors of Durin]] bore inlaid ''ithildin'' designs and runes.   
  
While Moria is the only known source of mithril, there are indications that it was also found in [[Númenor]] and in [[Aman]] in smaller quantities.
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While Moria is the only known source of ''mithril'', there are indications that it was also found in [[Númenor]] and in [[Aman]] in smaller quantities.
  
==The Mithril Coat==
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==Mithril objects==
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=== The Mithril Coat ===
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[[Image:Mithrilvest.jpg|thumb|The coat as depicted in the movies]]
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Of all items made of ''mithril'', the most famous is the "small shirt of mail" retrieved from the hoard of the dragon [[Smaug]], and given to [[Bilbo Baggins]] by [[Thorin]]. 
  
Of all items made of ''mithril'', the most famous is the "small shirt of mail" retrieved from the hoard of the dragon [[Smaug]], and given to [[Bilbo Baggins]] by [[Thorin Oakenshield]]. "It was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold as ice, and harder than steel..."
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A kingly gift, the ''mithril''-coat was actually worth more than the entire worth of the Shire (Bilbo probably knew this, but he didn't care).  Bilbo later gave the coat to his nephew [[Frodo Baggins|Frodo]], who wore it during the Quest to [[Mount Doom]].  It saved Frodo's life when he was nearly skewered by an [[Orcs|Orc]] in the Mines of Moria. It was later taken by the Orcs who captured him in the pass above [[Cirith Ungol]], and passed on to the Dark Lord's servants at [[Barad-dûr]].  When the coat was displayed before the hosts of [[Aragorn]] at the Gates of Mordor, many despaired, thinking Frodo had been captured or killed, and the Ring taken. Gandalf reclaimed it from Sauron's lieutenant, and was later able to return it to Frodo after the battles were won.
:"'It's a pretty thing isn't it,'" said Bilbo, moving it in the light. (''Fellowship of the Ring'', "The Ring goes South")
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A kingly gift, the mithril-coat was actually worth more than the entire worth of the Shire (Bilbo probably knew this, but he didn't care).  Bilbo later gave the coat to his nephew [[Frodo Baggins|Frodo]], who wore it during the Quest to [[Mount Doom]]. It saved Frodo's life when he was nearly skewered by an [[Orc]] in the Mines of Moria. (In the film adaptation of ''[[The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (film)|The Fellowship of the Ring]]'', the attack was by a [[cave troll]].) It was later taken by the Orcs who captured him in the pass above [[Cirith Ungol]], and passed on to the Dark Lord's servants at [[Barad-dûr]]. When the coat was displayed before the hosts of [[Aragorn]] at the Gates of Mordor, many despaired, thinking Frodo had been captured or killed, and the Ring taken. Gandalf reclaimed it from Sauron's lieutenant, and was later able to return it to Frodo after the battles were won.
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=== Other ''Mithril'' Objects ===
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* [[Galadriel]] possesses one of the three [[Three Rings|Elven Rings]], [[Nenya]]. It is wrought of ''mithril'' with a white stone.
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* Poking through the closets of [[Orthanc]], King [[Aragorn|Aragorn II]] and his aides found the long lost ''[[Star of Elendil|Elendilmir]]'', a white star of Elvish crystal affixed to a fillet of ''mithril''. Once owned by [[Elendil]], the first King of [[Arnor]], it is an emblem of royalty in the North Kingdom.
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* The Dwarves' beloved metal appears in [[Gondor]] too. The [[Guards of the Citadel]] of [[Minas Tirith]] wear helmets of ''mithril'', "heirlooms from the glory of old days."
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* As Aragorn's ships sail up the [[Anduin]] to relieve the besieged Minas Tirith during the [[War of the Ring]], the standard flying on his ship shows a crown made of ''mithril'' and gold.
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* After [[Gimli]] became lord of [[Aglarond]], he and his Dwarves forged great gates of ''mithril'' to replace the gates of [[Minas Tirith]] which were broken by the [[Witch-king]] of [[Angmar]].
  
==Other mithril objects in the Lord of the Rings novels==
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==Etymology==
*[[Galadriel]] possesses one of the three [[Three Rings|Elven Rings]], [[Nenya]]. It is wrought of mithril with a white stone.
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*Poking through the closets of [[Orthanc]], King [[Elessar]] and his aides found the long lost ''[[Star of Elendil|Elendilmir]]'', a white star of Elvish crystal affixed to a fillet of mithril. Once owned by [[Elendil]], the first King of [[Arnor]], it is an emblem of royalty in the North Kingdom.
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*The Dwarves' beloved metal appears in [[Gondor]] too, the Kingdom of the South. The Guards of the Citadel of [[Minas Tirith]] wear helmets of mithril, "heirlooms from the glory of old days."
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*As Aragorn's ships sail up the [[Anduin]] to relieve the besieged Minas Tirith during the [[War of the Ring]], the standard flying on his ship shows a crown made of mithril and gold.
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*After [[Gimli (Middle-earth)|Gimli]] became lord of [[Aglarond]], he and his Dwarves forged great gates of mithril to replace the gates of Minas Tirith which were broken by the [[Witch-king of Angmar]].
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== Other contexts ==
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The name ''mithril'' consists of the two [[Sindarin]] words ''[[mith]]'' ("grey, light grey") + ''[[ril]]'' ("brilliance").<ref>{{PE|17}}, p. 47</ref>
''Mithril'', or similarly spelled names, has been used in other fictional contexts as a strong and semi-magical metal. Examples include:
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* Within ''[[Bored of the Rings]]'' (a ''Lord of the Rings'' parody), objects are made of cheap "mithral plate" rather than solid mithral.
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* In the [[role-playing game]] ''[[Dungeons & Dragons]]'', ''mithral'' is one of the special materials used to make high-quality or magical items.
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* In the [[computer game]] ''[[HeXen II]]'', there is a ''mithril wall'' underwater that must be transformed into wood via a spell in order to proceed in the game.
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* In the [[video game]] RPG series ''[[Final Fantasy]]'', ''Mythril'' is a material for shields, weapons, armour, helmets and so on.
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* In the computer game ''[[Ancient Domains of Mystery|ADOM]]'', mithril is a type of metal, one of the strongest.
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* The computer game ''[[Princess Maker 2]]'' has a character who wears mithril armor when she fences.
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* The computer game ''[[Simon the Sorcerer]]'' features ''milrith''.
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* In the computer game ''[[Age of Mythology]]'', mithril is a special armor type.
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* In the [[MMORPG]] ''[[Kings of Chaos]]'', mithril is a defence weapon for humans.
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* In the MMORPG ''[[EverQuest]]'', mithril is a metal that can make weapons, armor, and other equipment.
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* In the MMORPG ''[[RuneScape]]'', mithril is a dark blue metal that can be mined, made into bars, and then forged into various weapons and armor. While it is one of the weaker metals in the game, it is stronger than steel.
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* The [[MMORPG]] ''[[The Realm Online]]'' features ''Mythril'' as a strong, light-weight metal green in color used to make quality weapons and armor.
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* In the [[MMORPG]] ''[[World of Warcraft]]'', mithril is used to make weapons, armor, and gadgets.
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* In the video game ''[[Kingdom Hearts]]'', mithril is a rare material used for "synthesis" in high-level items.
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* In the sci-fi/fantasy anime series ''Hyper Police'', it is possible to buy or make "mithril-tip" bullets.
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* In the [[anime]] series ''[[Full Metal Panic!]]'', Mithril is a [[mercenary]] organization. In the [[Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid|second series]], the origin of the name is explained as a reference to ''The Lord of the Rings''.
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* In the [[roguelike]] [[Iter Vehemens ad Necem|IVAN]], mithril is a rather strong and valuable metal.
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* In the [[Game Boy Advance|GBA]] game [[Shining Soul]], mithril can be forged with other materials to make valuable weapons, accessories, and armor.
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* In the [[Playstation]] game [[Star_Ocean:_The_Second_Story|Star Ocean: The Second Story]], mithril is a rare metal that can be used for blacksmithing and for customization of weapons.
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* In the video game [[Breath of Fire IV]], some armors are made out of the legendary metal mithril.
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* In the video game [[Chrono Cross]], ''Mythril'' is a component that can be used in forging new weapons, armor and accessories.
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*The name of a Celtic/World music quartet - [[Mithril (band)]].
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*In the video game [[Tales of Symphonia]] "mythril" is used to customize many late game weapons, shields, and other items to equip to characters.
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==Tolkien's inspiration==
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== Inspiration ==
In Hervarar saga, which was a cycle dealing with the magic sword ''Tyrfing'' (and from which Tolkien borrowed, for instance, the names [[Dwalin]] and [[Durin]]), the hero [[Orvar-Odd]] wore a ''silken mailcoat'' which nothing could pierce (''Oddr svarar: "ek vil berjask við Angantýr, hann mun gefa stór högg með Tyrfingi, en ek trúi betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju þinni, til hlífðar"'').
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In the ''[[wikipedia:Hervarar Saga|Hervarar saga]]'', which was a cycle dealing with the magic sword ''Tyrfing'' (and from which Tolkien borrowed, for instance, the names [[Dwalin]] and [[Durin]]), the hero Orvar-Odd wore a ''silken mailcoat'' which nothing could pierce (''Oddr svarar: "ek vil berjask við Angantýr, hann mun gefa stór högg með Tyrfingi, en ek trúi betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju þinni, til hlífðar"'').
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For the literal-minded reader, it can be unclear whether or not ''mithril'' is a real metal.  Candidates for a possible real-world equivilent of ''mithril'' have been diverse, but the one metal that has by far the greatest similarities with described ''mithril'', is '''titanium'''.  Titanium has half the density and weight of steel, has a lustrous silver-white color, is one of the strongest of metals, and is chemically inert such that it does not corrode over time.  Like ''mithril'', titanium was also exceptionally rare and precious, as it does not typically occur as a workable metallic form in nature&mdash;the ore is actually extremely abundant, but the practical technology to extract titanium metal from the ore has only been widely available and economical since the 20th century.  Titanium also has remarkable strengthening effects on other metals when alloyed with them.<ref>[http://www.thetolkienforum.com/showthread.php?13037-Mithril-and-Orichalcum&p=426876#post426876 Re: Mithril and Orichalcum], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium Titanium on Wikipedia]</ref>  Other metals have been proposed as candidates for ''mithril'':
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* Platinum is silver-white in appearance and extremely resistant to corrosion, but is simply far too heavy to be ''mithril''.
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* Aluminium and magnesium have been a candidates for similar reasons as titanium, and aluminium is indeed the single most abundant metallic element in the earth's crust.  These metals are also far too chemically reactive to naturally exist as a workable metal, which originally made them as precious and scarce as ''mithril''.  (Famously, Napoleon III of France once bought dinnerware made out of aluminium because it was more expensive than gold at the time.)  But they are also less lustrous and not as strong as titanium, though they are each also lighter than titanium.
 +
Certainly Tolkien, being highly educated, would have had knowledge of these metals and the difficulty in preparing them.  In Tolkien's universe, ''mithril'' metal also does not typically exist anywhere except in specific localized deposits, with the only known deposits in [[Middle-earth]] being found in the mines of [[Khazad-dûm]].  If ''mithril'' was indeed titanium and titanium does not tend to occur naturally as a metal, then ''mithril'' deposits may have possibly been a result of [[Morgoth|Melkor]]'s original formation of the [[Misty Mountains]], with the ''mithril'' either being intentionally refined as a workable metallic form when the mountains were risen, or being coincidentally formed as a chemical by-product of when Melkor so quickly formed the mountain chain to fend off the [[Valar]].  However, probably because nobody is known to have asked Tolkien about "''mithril''", it will never be known with an absolute certainty whether ''mithril'' is based on any real metal.
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{{references}}
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==See also==
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* [[:Category:Images of Mithril|Images of Mithril]]
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[[Category:Materials]]
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[[Category:Sindarin names]]

Revision as of 15:36, 20 March 2012

"The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our town..." — Master of Lake-town
This article needs to be rewritten to comply with Tolkien Gateway's higher standards...


This article is about the precious metal of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium. For the the real-world producers of metal mintiatures, see Mithril Miniatures.
Mithril by John Howe
" Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim."
Gandalf[1]

Mithril was a precious silvery metal, stronger than steel but much lighter in weight, which was mined by the Dwarves in the mines of Khazad-dûm. Mithril was also called "true-silver" by Men, while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it.


Contents

History

Mithril was extremely rare by the end of the Third Age, as it was found only in Khazad-dûm. Once the Balrog destroyed the Dwarven Kingdom of Khazad-dum, Middle-earth's only source of new mithril ore was cut off. Before Moria was abandoned by the Dwarves mithril was worth ten times its own weight in gold. After the Dwarves abandoned Moria and production of new mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless. The only way to obtain a mithril-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom mithril weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing weapons to forge new ones. The Noldor of Eregion made an alloy out of it called ithildin ("star moon"), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The Doors of Durin bore inlaid ithildin designs and runes.

While Moria is the only known source of mithril, there are indications that it was also found in Númenor and in Aman in smaller quantities.

Mithril objects

The Mithril Coat

The coat as depicted in the movies

Of all items made of mithril, the most famous is the "small shirt of mail" retrieved from the hoard of the dragon Smaug, and given to Bilbo Baggins by Thorin.

A kingly gift, the mithril-coat was actually worth more than the entire worth of the Shire (Bilbo probably knew this, but he didn't care). Bilbo later gave the coat to his nephew Frodo, who wore it during the Quest to Mount Doom. It saved Frodo's life when he was nearly skewered by an Orc in the Mines of Moria. It was later taken by the Orcs who captured him in the pass above Cirith Ungol, and passed on to the Dark Lord's servants at Barad-dûr. When the coat was displayed before the hosts of Aragorn at the Gates of Mordor, many despaired, thinking Frodo had been captured or killed, and the Ring taken. Gandalf reclaimed it from Sauron's lieutenant, and was later able to return it to Frodo after the battles were won.

Other Mithril Objects

  • Galadriel possesses one of the three Elven Rings, Nenya. It is wrought of mithril with a white stone.
  • Poking through the closets of Orthanc, King Aragorn II and his aides found the long lost Elendilmir, a white star of Elvish crystal affixed to a fillet of mithril. Once owned by Elendil, the first King of Arnor, it is an emblem of royalty in the North Kingdom.
  • The Dwarves' beloved metal appears in Gondor too. The Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith wear helmets of mithril, "heirlooms from the glory of old days."
  • As Aragorn's ships sail up the Anduin to relieve the besieged Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring, the standard flying on his ship shows a crown made of mithril and gold.
  • After Gimli became lord of Aglarond, he and his Dwarves forged great gates of mithril to replace the gates of Minas Tirith which were broken by the Witch-king of Angmar.

Etymology

The name mithril consists of the two Sindarin words mith ("grey, light grey") + ril ("brilliance").[2]

Inspiration

In the Hervarar saga, which was a cycle dealing with the magic sword Tyrfing (and from which Tolkien borrowed, for instance, the names Dwalin and Durin), the hero Orvar-Odd wore a silken mailcoat which nothing could pierce (Oddr svarar: "ek vil berjask við Angantýr, hann mun gefa stór högg með Tyrfingi, en ek trúi betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju þinni, til hlífðar").

For the literal-minded reader, it can be unclear whether or not mithril is a real metal. Candidates for a possible real-world equivilent of mithril have been diverse, but the one metal that has by far the greatest similarities with described mithril, is titanium. Titanium has half the density and weight of steel, has a lustrous silver-white color, is one of the strongest of metals, and is chemically inert such that it does not corrode over time. Like mithril, titanium was also exceptionally rare and precious, as it does not typically occur as a workable metallic form in nature—the ore is actually extremely abundant, but the practical technology to extract titanium metal from the ore has only been widely available and economical since the 20th century. Titanium also has remarkable strengthening effects on other metals when alloyed with them.[3] Other metals have been proposed as candidates for mithril:

  • Platinum is silver-white in appearance and extremely resistant to corrosion, but is simply far too heavy to be mithril.
  • Aluminium and magnesium have been a candidates for similar reasons as titanium, and aluminium is indeed the single most abundant metallic element in the earth's crust. These metals are also far too chemically reactive to naturally exist as a workable metal, which originally made them as precious and scarce as mithril. (Famously, Napoleon III of France once bought dinnerware made out of aluminium because it was more expensive than gold at the time.) But they are also less lustrous and not as strong as titanium, though they are each also lighter than titanium.

Certainly Tolkien, being highly educated, would have had knowledge of these metals and the difficulty in preparing them. In Tolkien's universe, mithril metal also does not typically exist anywhere except in specific localized deposits, with the only known deposits in Middle-earth being found in the mines of Khazad-dûm. If mithril was indeed titanium and titanium does not tend to occur naturally as a metal, then mithril deposits may have possibly been a result of Melkor's original formation of the Misty Mountains, with the mithril either being intentionally refined as a workable metallic form when the mountains were risen, or being coincidentally formed as a chemical by-product of when Melkor so quickly formed the mountain chain to fend off the Valar. However, probably because nobody is known to have asked Tolkien about "mithril", it will never be known with an absolute certainty whether mithril is based on any real metal.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 47
  3. Re: Mithril and Orichalcum, Titanium on Wikipedia

See also