From Tolkien Gateway
This article is about Thorin's sword. For the journal, see Orcrist (journal).
Ted Nasmith - Orcrist, The Goblin Cleaver.jpg
"Orcrist, The Goblin Cleaver" by Ted Nasmith
Other namesBiter
LocationGondolin, Trollshaws, Erebor
AppearanceSword with a jewelled hilt, glowed blue in the presence of Orcs
CreatedGondolin, First Age
Notable forBeing Thorin's Blade
GalleryImages of Orcrist
"This, Thorin, the runes name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of Gondolin; it was a famous blade."
― Elrond, "A Short Rest"

Orcrist was an Elven sword, the mate of Glamdring. It had a decorated scabbard and a jewelled hilt. Like Glamdring and Sting, the blade could detect the presence of Orcs and warn its bearer by glowing blue.

Orcs called the blade Biter.[1] It had been crafted by the Elves, who not only made it a valuable weapon, but also a feared one to their enemies, particularly among Orcs and other evil creatures.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

As the "mate" to King Turgon's sword Glamdring, Orcrist was likely borne by him, or a high ranking lord of the Gondolindrim in the King's entourage.

Orcrist "had killed hundreds of goblins in its time, when the fair elves of Gondolin hunted them in the hills or did battle before their walls".[1] During the Fall of Gondolin, Rog, Duilin, Egalmoth, Tuor and Ecthelion's houses defended at the gates before the walls. Ecthelion led a charge that resulted in the deaths of thousands of orcs, which made his name a terror to their race, before fighting Gothmog.

By the Third Age Orcrist and its mate were found and kept in a Trolls' cave in Eriador. Thorin and Company, found and searched the cave early in the Quest of Erebor, and Thorin Oakenshield obtained the weapon.[3] Elrond identified the sword and Thorin promised to honor the sword and hoped to cleave Goblins once again[2] which he did when captured in Goblin-town.[1]

Thorin was disarmed when captured by the Elves of Mirkwood and Orcrist was kept there.[4] However after his death, Thranduil returned Orcrist and placed it upon Thorin's tomb under Erebor, and it "gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached".[5]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Orcrist is Sindarin for "goblin-cleaver".[6]

In the Etymologies, the name Orchrist is said to be a "sword-name", related to Noldorin risto ("rend, rip"), derived from the root RIS ("slash, rip").[7]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

Thorin acquires Glamdring in the trolls' cave. Elrond recognizes the sword at first glance, and afterwards identifies Glamdring. The Goblins found Orcrist on Thorin after they captured the Dwarves and Bilbo and it was recognized by the guard who removes it from his person. Thorin's recovery of it is not depicted.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

As in the book, the sword is found in the trolls' cave and is identified as Orcrist by Elrond in Rivendell. It's designed as a straight, single-edged sword with a prominent recurve at the cutting edge. Its pommel consists of two prongs, and it possesses a half-guard (whereas most Elven swords in Jackson's films are shown without guards). The grip of the sword is fashioned from a dragon's tooth and the base of the blade contains the Sindarin inscription "NAGOL E-LYG" meaning "Tooth of-Snake [or dragon]".[8]
When it is discovered by the Goblins, the Great Goblin recognizes the sword, and claims that it sliced a thousand necks. Later, when Thorin and Company are captured by the Wood-elves, Legolas personally confiscates the sword, believing that Thorin Oakenshield had stolen it from his kinfolk. He then takes up the legendary weapon as his own, using it when Bolg and his stealth-Orcs raid Lake-town in search of the Dwarves, and during the Battle of the Five Armies, where he returns Orcrist to Thorin just in time for his final showdown with Azog the Defiler.


Weapons in Tolkien's legendarium
 Arrows:  Black Arrow · Dailir · Red Arrow
Axes:  Dramborleg · Durin's Axe
Bows:  Belthronding · Bow of Bregor · Bow of the Galadhrim
Knives:  Angrist · Barrow-blades · Morgul-knife · Sting
Maces:  Grond
Spears:  Aeglos
Swords:  Anglachel/Gurthang · Anguirel · Aranrúth · Dagmor · Glamdring · Glend · Gúthwinë · Herugrim · Narsil/Andúril ·  Orcrist · Ringil · Sword of Manwë