Mithril

From Academic Kids

Mithril is a fictional material from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe, Middle-earth. It is a precious silvery metal, stronger than steel but much lighter in weight, that was mined by the Dwarves in the mines of Khazad-dm. The name mithril comes from two words in Sindarinmith, meaning "grey", and ril meaning "glitter". Mithril was also called "true-silver" by Men, while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it. 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 is actually 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, corrosion resistance, and light weight. Other possibilities are aluminium or magnesium; these metals are even lighter than titanium, but not as strong. (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 which of these metals mithril is.

Mithril is extremely rare by the end of the Third Age, as it was found only in Khazad-dm. 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 twice 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 oldor of Eregion made an alloy out of it called ithildin (moon-metal), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The West Gate of Moria is an example.

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

Contents

The Mithril Coat

Of all items made of mithril, the most famous is the coat of mail retrieved from the hoard of the dragon Smaug, and given to Bilbo Baggins by Thorin Oakenshield. A kingly gift, the mithril-coat was actually worth more than the entire net price 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. (In the film adaptation of 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-dr. 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 in the Lord of the Rings novels

  • 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 Elessar 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 Kingdom of the South. 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.

Other contexts

Mithril, or similarly spelled names, has been used in other fictional contexts as a strong and semi-magical metal. Examples include:

  • Within Bored of the Rings (a Lord of the Rings parody), objects are made of cheap "mithral plate" rather than solid mithral.
  • In the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, mithral is one of the special materials used to make high-quality or magical items.
  • 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.
  • In the video game RPG series Final Fantasy, Mythril is a material for shields, weapons, armour, helmets and so on.
  • In the computer game ADOM, mithril is a type of metal, one of the strongest.
  • The computer game Princess Maker 2 has the character, a French aristocrat Francoise More, wearing a mithril armor when she fences.
  • The computer game Simon the Sorceror features milrith.
  • In the computer game Age of Mythology, mithril is a special armor type.
  • In the MMORPG Kings of Chaos, mithril is a defence weapon for humans.
  • In the MMORPG EverQuest, mithril is a metal that can make weapons, armor, and other equipment.
  • In the free online MMORPG RuneScape, mithril is a type of material for weapons and armor, stronger than steel but weaker then adamantite, and blue in colour. It is also found on its sequel, RuneScape 2.
  • The MMORPG The Realm Online features Mythril as a strong, light-weight metal green in color used to make quality weapons and armor.
  • In the MMORPG World of WarCraft, mithril is used to make weapons, armor, and gadgets.
  • In the video game Kingdom Hearts, mithril is a rare material used for "synthesis" in high-level items.
  • In the sci-fi/fantasy anime series Hyper Police, it is possible to buy or make "mithril-tip" bullets.
  • In the sci-fi/action anime series Full Metal Panic, Mithril is the code-name of a secret international military force.
  • In the roguelike IVAN, mithril is a rather strong and valuable metal.

Tolkien's 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 vi Angantr, hann mun gefa str hgg me Tyrfingi, en ek tri betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju inni, til hlfar").fr:Mithril ja:ミスリル pl:mithril sv:Mithril

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