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Mithril in Third Age

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  • mailbox@hughes.net
    An erstwhile colleague, a chemistry professor at Illinois Central College, just posted the question below. Can anyone help with an answer, please? The
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 7, 2007
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      An erstwhile colleague, a chemistry professor at Illinois Central
      College, just posted the question below. Can anyone help with an
      answer, please?

      "The question was exactly how rare was mithril in Middle-earth at the
      end of the Third Age. As I recall the most informative reference was
      Gandalf’s comments while they were passing through Moria, and the only
      specific artifacts I could think of were the helmets of the high guard
      of Gondor, Bilbo’s coat, and if I am remembering correctly one of the
      three rings. 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? Chris"

      Thanks,
      Mike
    • Merlin DeTardo
      ... the end of the Third Age... most informative reference was Gandalf’s comments while they were passing through Moria... Gandalf s history of _mithril_
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 7, 2007
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        >>"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
      • Jason Fisher
        ... It s in The Disaster of the Gladden Fields -- more specifically in Tolkien s footnote 31: For that metal [mithril] was found in Númenor. It s also
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 7, 2007
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          > 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.

          It's in "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields" -- more specifically in Tolkien's footnote 31: "For that metal [mithril] was found in Númenor." It's also mentioned in "The Line of Elros", in the description for Tar-Telemmaitë.

          > There it says, citing UT, that the Elendilmir was made of mithril.

          Yes, in "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields", the Elendilmir is described as "the white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril." Following which, we have the footnote I gave above.

          Jason Fisher
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