The weaponry of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is an integral part of the whole mythology, and it deserves as much attention as all other related questions. Some of the weapons in the franchise are basic and/or simple, but there is a certain number of special(ised) weapons that have a much larger role in the narrative itself; swords are among the most popular weapons in this category. One such weapon is Aragorn’s sword, Andúril.
What type of sword is Andúril?
As far as the typology is concerned, we have to emphasize that Tolkien relied heavily on medieval terminology and lore, which is why his weapons can be classified according to modern, real-world classification standards. So, what do we know? This is what Tolkien himself wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring:
“The Company took little gear of war, for their hope was in secrecy not in battle. Aragorn had Andúril but no other weapon, and he went forth clad only in rusty green and brown. as a Ranger of the wilderness. Boromir had a long sword, in fashion like Andúril but of less lineage and he bore also a shield and his war-horn.”– The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
We can see that, in the paragraph, Tolkien describes Boromir’s sword as “a long sword, in fashion like Andúril” but of lesser lineage, as Andúril was truly special and noble in that aspect. Tolkien himself uses the term and additionally reaffirms his stance here:
“And so the red blood blushing in their faces and their eyes shining with wonder, Frodo and Sam went forward and saw that amidst the clamorous host were set three high-seats built of green turves. Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars. On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey.”– The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen
The term “great sword”, which Tolkien uses here, is just another term for a very large longsword, i.e., a war-sword. The longsword is a European-type sword present since c. 1200, i.e., since the Late Middle Ages. Based on the typology and the timeline of the longsword, it should not come as a surprise that Tolkien actually put this type of sword in his books.
When and how did Aragorn get Andúril?
Andúril was forged after the Council of Elrond and then given to Aragorn, who gave it its current name. It was forged by the Elves, who used the shards and fragments of Narsil, an earlier sword that was broken in battle, and reforged them into the longsword that Aragorn used during the journey.
The name Andúril means “Flame of the West”, from the Quenya andúnë (“west, sunset”) and ril (“brilliance”).
How long is Andúril?
Andúril’s exact length was never revealed by Tolkien himself, but there are some calculations on the Internet based on the length of the sword used in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. Based on actor Viggo Mortensen’s height, the sword’s length relative to the actor’s height and the average length of a medieval longsword, people calculated that Andúril is around 5’4” (c. 160 cm) long.
How much does Andúril weigh?
Like its length, Andúril’s exact weight was never revealed by Tolkien. The only information we have are the weights of the swords used in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy and their replicas since they are the only versions of Andúril that actually exist outside of Tolkien’s stories. The most realistic replica, made for Viggo Mortensen himself, weighs 4.9 lb, which is c. 2.25 kg.
What is the difference between Andúril and Narsil?
The relationship between Narsil and Andúril is one of the best-known ones when Tolkien’s weaponry is concerned. Narsil was a longsword, also forged by Elves, that belonged to King Elendil, who used it during the War of the Last Resistance. Narsil was broken during the battle, and its pieces and shards were ultimately inherited by Aragorn. Before the Fellowship left Rivendell, the Elves used the shards and reforged Narsil into Andúril, Aragorn’s primary weapon.
What sword did Aragorn use before Andúril?
The answer to this question depends on whether you’re watching the movies or reading the books. In the books, Aragorn doesn’t have any other weapon besides Andúril, so he doesn’t really use any sword before he obtains his greatest weapon. He does carry the shards of Narsil with him, but they wouldn’t have been very useful in a swordfight. This is what Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring, explaining Aragorn’s ownership of Narsil:
“‘I did not know,’ he answered. ‘But I am Aragorn, and those verses go with that name.’ He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. ‘Not much use is it, Sam?’ said Strider. ‘But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.'”– The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 10: Strider
And later reaffirms Aragorn not having any other weapon besides Narsil and Andúril in the paragraph from Chapter 3 (The Ring Goes South). And this is true as far as the books are concerned.
The movies are a completely different question as Jackson, without any apparent reason, gave Aragorn his Ranger sword as a primary weapon before obtaining Andúril. This wouldn’t really be such an issue had the Ranger sword not disappeared at one point and was never mentioned after Aragorn obtained Andúril.
Have anything else to add about Andúril? Let us know in the comments below!