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17816Re: Mithril in Third Age

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  • Merlin DeTardo
    Mar 7, 2007
      >>"mailbox@..." <mafoster@...> wrote:
      >>"The question was exactly how rare was mithril in Middle-earth at
      the end of the Third Age... most informative reference was Gandalf’s
      comments while they were passing through Moria..."

      Gandalf's history of _mithril_ --"For here alone in the world was
      found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: _mithril_
      is the Elvish name..." (II,iv)-- is supplemented slightly in Appendix
      A ("The Dwarves delved deep at that time, seeking beneath Barazinbar
      for _mithril_, the metal beyond price that was becoming yearly ever
      harder to win") and Appendix B ("Later some of the Noldor went to
      Eregion, upon the west of the Misty Mountains, and near to the West-
      gate of Moria. This they did because they learned that _mithril_ had
      been discovered in Moria"). By the way, Gandalf is contradicted in
      _Unfinished Tales_ --I haven't got that text at hand and can't
      specify the section-- where it says that _mithril_ is found in
      Númenor.

      >>"the only specific artifacts... were the helmets of the high guard
      of Gondor, Bilbo’s coat, and... one of the three rings."

      That was Galadriel's ring, Nenya, "the ring wrought of _mithril_,
      that bore a single white stone flickering like a frosty star"
      (VI,ix). The dwarves also used _mithril_ to make "ithildin,
      starmoon, which you saw upon the doors" of Moria's West-gate,
      according to Gandalf (II,iv); the door's inscriptions were made in
      the Second Age, however, by Narvi and Celebrimbor. Also on Arwen's
      banner, "the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of
      _mithril_ and gold" (V,vi). And after Minas Tirith's Fourth Age
      facelift, "its gates were wrought of _mithril_ and steel, and its
      street were paved with white marble" (VI,iv; also noted in App. A).

      >>"I offered the opinion that there were around 15 or 20 mithril
      artifacts scattered around Middle-earth, but perhaps there were only
      half a dozen or in the other extreme maybe the number was in the
      hundreds, stashed away wherever elves keep their valuables. Any
      thoughts?"

      I don't think we know enough to quantify. Gandalf says that "little
      is left above ground, and even the Orcs dare not delve here for it...
      Of what they [the dwarves] brought to light the Orcs have gathered
      nearly all, and given it in tribute to Sauron, who covets it"
      (II,iv). Balin's dwarves found some in Moria, as Gandalf reads from
      the Book of Mazarbul: "I can see _we found truesilver_, and later the
      word _wellforged_ and then something, I have it! _mithril_!"
      (II,v). Tolkien's illustrations of the Book's pages actually
      read "coat m(ade?) all of purest mithril" -- I copied that from the
      2005 Tolkien calendar (and I think it was previously noted in
      _Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien_).

      On a side-note, I think the first mention of _mithril_ in _LotR_
      precedes any explanation of its nature: "A ship then new they built
      for him / of _mithril_ and of elven-glass / with shining prow; no
      shaven oar / nor sail she bore on silver mast" (II,i).

      And of course it's only after writing this up that I have the sense
      to search the web and find a decent summary of _mithril_ here:

      http://www.tuckborough.net/objects.html#mithril

      There it says, citing _UT_, that the Elendilmir was made of _mithril_.

      -Merlin DeTardo
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