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Mithril – Everything About The Rare Element Of Middle Earth

By Mohit Srivastava
September 26,2022

The lore of Middle-Earth is filled with magical gems and stones that play a pivotal role in its history. One of the many magical stones and gems featured in Tokien’s works is – Mithril. Mithril was previously mentioned in the Lord of The Rings (LOTR) and Hobbit movie trilogies, and recently it appeared in Amazon Prime’s Rings of Power (ROP). So, what are these Mithrils and what is their significance? Let’s see to it.

What is Mithril?

The Mithril in Rings of Power

A Mithril is a fictional metal described as resembling steel, but being more robust and lighter than steel. It was discovered in the mines by the Dwarves in Khazad-dum. The name mithril comes from two words in Tolkien’s Sindarin language—mith, meaning “grey”, and ril, meaning “glitter”. It could be used to form various alloys which in turn can help in making extremely lightweight, hard, and durable armor.

A new ore, lighter than silk, harder than iron as weaponry it would best our proudest blades. As specie, it might be dearer than gold. This could be the beginning of a new era for our people of strength, prosperity. – Durin

The books say that Mithril was mainly found in the Misty Mountains, in the underground dwarven city of Moria. It was also believed to be found on the island of Númenor and probably in Aman as well.

Mithril in LOTR movies and books

The Mithril vest of Bilbo Baggins

Mithril plays an important role in Tolkien’s books and in both of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogies. Mithril was also called “true-silver” by Men or ‘Moria-silver’ while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it. In The Hobbit, Thorin gifts Bilbo a vest of mithril rings that no blade can pierce (which was taken by Thorin Oakenshield from Smaug’s hoard). Later, Bilbo passes the vest to Frodo to destroy the One Ring. The shirt saves his life countless times, during his journey.

In the Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf explained Mithril by saying –

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.

Also, its mentioned in the books that, one of Galadriel’s rings in LOTR (called Nenya) is made of Mithril. This is one of the three Rings forged by the Elves of Eregion that were the most powerful of the 20 created, after the One Ring. It becomes apparent that the elves had learned to make the metal Ithildin using Mithril. Also, it’s shown that the Mithril marked the West gate to Khazad-Dum. The helmets of Gondor’s guards of the citadel are also mithril. Gimli and his dwarven kin later rebuilt the gates of Minas Tirith using the precious metal.

Origin of Mithril

The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir in Rings of Power

Episode 5 of Rings of Power (titled, “Partings”), gave us a glimpse of Mithril’s origin story. During a conversation between elven High King Gil-Galad and Elrond, when Elrond refuses to reveal the information about a secret ore that Durin has mined (because he took an oath), Gil-Galad asks him to recount The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir.

The poem that Gil-Galad mentions actually tells of a fight between a pure-hearted elf warrior and a Balrog of Moria over a beautiful tree, at top of the Misty Mountains. The tree, according to legends, was believed to be containing the light of one of the lost Silmarils (more about them here). In an attempt to keep the tree pure, the elf poured his life’s light into it. At the same time, Balrog corrupted the tree with its own evil and darkness. Soon after, the tree was struck by lightning. All of these combined essences seeped deep into the Misty Mountains below and formed the element called as – Mithril.

Fate of Mithril

A Balrog

One thing that should be noted is that Tolkien never provided a concrete origin story for mithril. He even mentions in his works that it was also discovered in mines other than Moria, such as those in Númenor. Once dwarves had mined Mithrils and came to know of immense abilities, they continued to delve deeper to mine it even more. They ultimately released a Balrog, who appeared to be guarding the Mithril in the darkness below. The Balrog then destroyed the entire Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dum and caused the mining of Mithril to stop abruptly.

The surviving dwarves then fled their kingdom. The Orcs that inhabited Moria after the release of the Balrog did not dare to delve for mithril and gave all the mithril that the dwarves had already mined as a tribute to Sauron, who desired it. However, once Khazad-Dum fell, Mithril became a very precious and rare element in Middle Earth. At the end of the Third Age, the only way to obtain a mithril object was to either use the weapons and armor that were produced before the fall of Moria or to melt down the existing objects to forge new ones.