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Lord Of The Rings: The Truth About Aragorn's Sword, Anduril

Weapons have long been a focal point of stories — just ask King Arthur. This is especially true in the case of Middle-earth, where the right weapon can change history. Bilbo Baggins uses his sword, Sting, to petrify a troop of spiders. Gandalf acquires the sword Glamdring during The Hobbit, then uses it to take down the Balrog in Moria. Bard of Dale defies Smaug by firing his famed black arrow and felling the dragon in a single shot. Théoden's fingers "remember their old strength" when they grasp the hilt of his ancient blade, Herugrim. No matter where you are in Middle-earth, the weapons at hand are named, often fabled, and hugely important.

However, there is one weapon that outshines all others. This masterwork of steel takes the weighty concepts of heirlooms, ancestry, and royalty, and rolls them into one terrifically terrifying battlefield weapon. We're talking about Aragorn's sword, Andúril. Forged ages before the War of the Ring, Aragorn's antique is a one-of-a-kind weapon, wielded by one of the greatest heroes in all of Middle-earth.

Known for most of its long life as Narsil, the blade plays a pretty important role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it turns out that its uber-important story actually extends far beyond the events of that trilogy. We've decided to follow the bread crumbs and figure out just what it is that makes the son of Arathorn's sword so important in his bid to become king.

A brief history of Númenor

In order to properly understand why Andúril is such a big deal, you have to go all the way back to the Second Age of Middle-earth's history. The War of the Ring (that is, the events in The Lord of the Rings) takes place at the very end of the 3,000-year-long Third Age. The Second Age consists of the 3,5000 years that come before that. The Second Age is going to be the primary canvas for Amazon's huge Lord of the Rings prequel series, so it won't be long before it becomes a familiar stomping ground for fans.

The Second Age sees the rise of the men of Númenor, an island once known as Elenna. These "Númenóreans" become one of the most powerful nations in Middle-earth — that is, until Sauron manages to single-handedly topple their entire nation in an Atlantis-like catastrophe. The survivors sail to the mainland, where they find two sister kingdoms ruled by a branch of the original royal family of Númenor. Gondor is founded in the south by two brothers named Isildur and Anárion. Their dad, a tall dude named Elendil, founds the kingdom of Arnor in the north. Oh yeah, and he has a special sword he brought with him too, called Narsil.

Narsil goes to war

By the time the High King Elendil founds his kingdom, his sword is already enormously old. It was forged during the First Age by an incredibly skilled Dwarf named Telchar. The exact way the sword ended up in Elendil's hands is never specifically discussed, but it appears to have already been an heirloom of the royal house for thousands of years by the time Elendil straps it on and goes to war.

At this point, the sword is called Narsil, and it impresses all who behold it. Elaborately carved, the weapon strikes fear into the hearts of its wielder's enemies. This turns out to be a very good thing, because it doesn't take long for Elendil's fledgling kingdom to come under attack by his country's old antagonist, Sauron.

Eventually, Elendil and his sons form the Last Alliance with their Elven compatriots, and their armies take on Sauron's forces on the villain's own turf. This war has already been briefly adapted to the silver screen: It can be glimpsed as one of the epic events depicted in the opening sequence of The Fellowship of the Ring. In The Silmarillion, Tolkien describes Narsil during the fighting, explaining that the weapon "[fills] Orcs and Men with fear, for it [shines] with the light of the Sun and of the Moon." For a while, the Narsil-wielding Elendil and his allies appear to be unstoppable ... until Sauron comes out to join the fray.

Narsil cuts the One Ring from Sauron's hand

After defeating Sauron's armies, the forces of the Last Alliance invade Mordor and besiege Sauron's main fortress, Barad-dûr. The siege lasts for seven years. During that time, the besiegers lose a lot of soldiers, and Isildur's brother Anárion is killed. Eventually, Sauron becomes so cooped up and desperate that he decides to come out and try to break the siege himself.

At this point in Middle-earth's history, Sauron still has a physical form. So, when we say he "comes out" to challenge the leaders of the Last Alliance, we're talking about a real-world showdown that takes place on Mount Doom. Wearing the One Ring, Sauron takes on the Elven King Gil-galad, his herald Elrond (yes, that Elrond), the Elven lord Círdan, the High King Elendil, and his son, Isildur.

In the combat that follows, Sauron kills Gil-galad by scorching him with his fiery hands. He also kills Elendil, whose sword breaks underneath him when he falls. At this point, with his brother and father killed, Isildur desperately takes up the shards of his father's sword and uses them to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. This maims the Dark Lord's body and instantly disconnects it from a large part of his power. Sauron's spirit retreats, and the Last Alliance wins the day, all thanks to the sharp work of the now-broken sword, Narsil.

Narsil winds up in Rivendell

Though broken, the shards of Narsil become legendary after the battle against Sauron. Isildur decides to collect the broken pieces of his father's weapon and keep them as an heirloom of his house.

However, as he returns from battle, he is ambushed by Orcs and killed. This is the event that results in the One Ring becoming lost in a river, where it lies hidden until Smeagol comes by it centuries later. Isildur's esquire, a fellow named Ohtar, is one of three men who escape the carnage. Eventually, Ohtar finds his way to Rivendell, bringing with him the shards of Narsil.

Why did this desperate and lonely survivor head to Elrond's Elven fortress? Because it's there that Isildur's son is living under Elrond's protection. Born during the events of the Last Alliance, Isildur's fourth and only surviving son, Valandil, now becomes the new king. However, his grandfather's sword isn't reforged at this point. Instead, it is left in Rivendell, where the pieces lay, safe but unused, for thousands of years.

Narsil's new owner

Ohtar arrives in Rivendell with his fallen king's broken sword three years into the Third Age. After that, the sword remains tucked away in the Elven stronghold for nearly 3,000 years, during which Isildur's heirs rule over their kingdom.

Quite a few events happen during this long stretch of time. After 800 years of rule, the realm of Arnor is divided into three separate territories that begin to squabble with each other. Eventually, the Witch-king sets up a realm nearby and begins to wage war on the divided countries, leading to their downfall. While Gondor continues to survive in the south, by the time of The Lord of the Rings, the northern kingdom is little more than a memory, and the heirs of Isildur wander in the wild as chieftains of the Dúnedain – also known as Rangers – scattered and waiting for a chance to make a comeback.

Finally, Aragorn, the last chieftain of the Dúnedain, turns 20, and Elrond decides that it's time to deliver the shards of Narsil to their rightful owner. In the appendix to The Return of the King, Elrond gives Aragorn the pieces of the heirloom, pointing out that he "may yet do great deeds" with the weapon. The proud stripling takes the broken sword and keeps it by his side, waiting for the day when it can be reforged.

Narsil finds new meaning in life

After spending so many centuries as a broken relic on display, Narsil gains new importance once it comes into Aragorn's possession. Sure, the sword is already an important symbol of the family that managed to take down the most powerful spirit in Middle-earth. But by the time of The Lord of the Rings, all of that Last Alliance business is barely remembered ancient history. Once Aragorn owns it, the sword gains a major upgrade from museum artifact to battlefield weapon of choice.

Throughout his writings, Tolkien takes special pains to link the sword not just to Isildur's family, but specifically to Aragorn's destiny. Case in point, when Elrond gives Aragorn the sword, he throws in a prophecy along with it, informing the young Ranger that he's called to a high destiny — if he doesn't die in the process of attaining said destiny, that is.

Andúril and Aragorn begin their journey

Narsil takes on new life as part of Aragorn's story, becoming intimately linked to his identity. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf writes Frodo a letter informing him that he may meet Aragorn during his travels. He includes a poem (written by Bilbo, no less) describing the Ranger in order to help the Hobbit identify him. One of the eight lines of the little ditty is entirely devoted to his sword: "Renewed shall be blade that was broken."

The importance of the heirloom isn't lost on its new owner. So intense is the bond between Aragorn and his weapon that, in The Two Towers, when he's asked to leave the sword at the doors of Théoden's hall, he resists the request, claiming that he does not wish to "deliver Andúril to the hand of any other Man." Aragorn "would do as the master of the house bade [him] ... if [he] bore now any sword but Andúril."

Even when he's finally convinced to leave it behind, he leans it against the wall himself, telling the guards, "Here I set it ... but I command you not to touch it, nor to permit any other to lay hand on it." He follows up with an outright threat: "Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil's sword save Elendil's heir." Suffice it to say that Aragorn is pretty attached to his blade.

Wait, what sword is that?

If Elrond gives Aragorn his sword when he's 20, and he carries around the broken pieces for a long time, it begs the question: What's up with the unbroken sword he uses before he gets the reforged Narsil? The answer appears to lie in the fact that Peter Jackson reworked the sword's entire storyline in his cinematic adaptation.

In the books, Aragorn has the broken sword for decades, and it's reforged before the Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell. In the movies, though, Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn sports a nameless sword throughout the first two films. Eventually, Elrond shows up in The Return of the King and gives him the heirloom before he heads out on the Paths of the Dead.

This doesn't impact the plot much. However, it does change the scene where the four Hobbits meet the Ranger in Bree. In the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn actually draws a full sword on Frodo's friends before he lowers his guard and they begin to talk. In the book, though, Aragorn only has the shards of Narsil with him, and he uses the broken sword not to threaten, but to prove to the Hobbits that he's one of the good guys. Why Jackson felt the need to change the story is a bit of a mystery, but hey, different strokes for different folks — especially when it comes to mysterious heirloom weapons.

Dreaming of Narsil

At this point we've seen Narsil broken in battle with Sauron, preserved in Rivendell, and hand-delivered to Aragorn. Aragorn keeps the broken sword by his side, waiting for the right time to use it to reinforce his claim on the throne of Gondor. Before he reforges the weapon, though, he waits for a sign.

Once The Lord of the Rings' story gets into full swing, an event takes place that spurs the Ranger to finally turn the sword into a glittering new blade. In the book The Fellowship of the Ring, at the Council of Elrond, Boromir shares a dream that he and his brother had, in which a voice told them to "[seek] for the Sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells." While he doesn't know it at the time, this phrase clearly indicates that Boromir should be looking for Elendil's sword, Narsil.

When the warrior arrives in Rivendell, reporting the confusing yet prescient words, Aragorn reveals the shards of Narsil — and his own identity in the process. He takes the prophecy as a sign that the time has come to reforge the sword and make his bid to topple Sauron and reclaim the throne.

Narsil becomes Andúril

So far, we've talked a lot about Narsil. However, fans of The Lord of the Rings are generally familiar with the cognomen Andúril, which is the name that Aragorn gives the sword after it's reforged. This reforging happens at two distinctly different points, depending on the source material consulted. In the movies, the sword is reforged and delivered to Aragorn by Elrond during The Return of the King. In the books, however, the sword is reforged before the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, and Aragorn has it throughout his adventures.

When the sword is reforged by Elvish smiths in the original Fellowship of the Ring book, its blade is given an elaborate design that includes many runes written around an image of seven stars that lie between the sun and a crescent moon. "Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again," the book recounts, "the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold." This hearkens back to the description of the sword during the events of the Last Alliance. Once it is reforged, Aragorn renames it Andúril, or "Flame of the West." Equipped with his "new" ancient weapon, Aragorn heads out to war.

A sheath for Andúril

In the film, The Return of the King, Elrond delivers Andúril ready to go, and Aragorn uses the sword as he receives it. However, in the books, the Ranger ends up upgrading the housing for his heirloom as he travels — and we're not talking about some rinky-dink sheath here, either. He ends up getting a posh new scabbard, gifted to him by none other than the Lady Galadriel herself.

After the sword is reforged, the Fellowship of the Ring begins their travels, heading south, crossing through Moria, and eventually arriving in Lothlorien, where they get some much-needed rest. After spending a month in the Golden Wood, they prepare to head out again — but before they leave, Galadriel gives them all gifts. Some of these are shown in the extended edition of the film, but a few important details are left out, including the fact that she gives Aragorn a sheath specifically made for his sword.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, it states that this sheath "was overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought of silver and gold." In addition, the name "Andúril" and the lineage of the sword are spelled out ... in gems. In other words, Aragorn doesn't just get a sheath, he gets an insanely fancy sword casing covered gold, silver, and jewels — which probably doesn't help with his reluctance to let anyone touch the darned thing whenever he takes it off.

Andúril's role in The Lord of the Rings

At this point, we're well into The Lord of the Rings' story. Aragorn uses his fabled sword throughout his adventures, referring to it at various times as the "Sword That Was Broken" and the "Sword Reforged." He fights with it both at Helm's Deep and in Gondor. When Pippin arrives in Minas Tirith, he also tips off Aragorn's impending arrival to Denethor when he accidentally mentions that "someone" of high honor is coming to the capital, carrying a famous sword.

In the films, the sword also plays a critical role in Aragorn's effort to convince the Army of the Dead of his legitimate claim to the throne of Gondor. Eventually, Aragorn brings the sword with him as he leads the Men of the West in their hopeless attack on the Black Gate. Andúril flashes in battle yet again as the story reaches its climax and the One Ring is destroyed.

After the War of the Ring, Aragorn presumably keeps the sword, as no record is given by the author that it is destroyed, lost, or broken. Besides, having Elendil's sword by his side would serve to reinforce Aragorn's kingship, and it likely helps him as he reclaims both Arnor and Gondor, reuniting them into a single kingdom with a single king who possesses a single, powerful, ancient sword: Andúril, the Flame of the West.