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In The Hobbit, Thorin and Company found Sting in a Troll-hoard along with the other Elvish blades Glamdring and Orcrist (which went to Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield, respectively). Although it was just a dagger by the standard of Men or Elves, it made an excellent sword for a Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins bore the weapon for the remainder of the quest, first using it to keep Gollum at bay under the Misty Mountains. Later, Bilbo gave it the name Sting, after killing a Giant Spider in Mirkwood.
In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo gave Sting to his nephew, Frodo Baggins, just before the Fellowship of the Ring set off from Rivendell. Fear of Sting helped Frodo to tame Gollum (temporarily). It also helped Frodo and Samwise Gamgee escape from Shelob's lair, and Sam used it to seriously wound Shelob in combat. After the defeat of Sauron at the end of the Third Age, it remained with Sam. He may have taken it with him to the Undying Lands, or it may have remained as an heirloom of the Gardner Family.
Sting had the (apparently) magic ability to detect the presence of Orcs in its vicinity. When Orcs were nearby, it glowed blue, as it did when the Fellowship encountered Orcs in the mines of Moria. Sting also glowed in the presence of the giant spider descendants of Ungoliant, such as the spiders of Mirkwood in The Hobbit and Shelob in The Two Towers.
Sting also performed better than ordinary weapons in combat and against odd materials; it cut through the webs of giant spiders easily, whereas the blade that Sam brought from the Barrow Downs failed to cut through Shelob's webs.
Portrayal in Adaptions
In Rankin/Bass' 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit, Sting has a distinctive shape, with a vaguely leaf-shaped blade, round, ball-shaped pommel, featureless black hilt, and a unique guard sporting a ring in the front that the wielder's finger slips into when grasping the hilt. This version of Sting glows bright white, not blue as in the books and most other adaptations. Notably, following the Rankin/Bass adaptations' pattern of not explicitly showing violence, Sting is not shown stabbing or slashing its victims; instead, a strange fly-eye like effect is shown when Bilbo slays the giant spiders in Mirkwood, an effect that is oddly repeated when he knocks another spider off of a branch with a rock.
Sting's appearance in Rankin/Bass' 1980 animated adaptation of The Return of the King is broadly similar to that in Rankin/Bass' earlier film, with a alterations; notably, the shape of the blade is changed from vaguely leaf-shaped to stout and straight-bladed, and the hilt is no longer a featureless black, but is now adorned with intricate designs.
Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im
Which is translated "Maegnas is my name, I am the spider's bane".
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