Literature and Mythology

The Elven Short Sword–The Sting

Frodo Baggins holding the Sting

What is the Sting?

The Sting was an Elven short sword made during the first age at Gondolin, a hidden city of the Elves. In third age 2941, abbreviated as TA 2941, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins found the Sting in a troll-hoard. In the story of The Hobbit by the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, Bilbo used this sword in the Quest of Erebor. Together with Gandalf and the group of thirteen dwarves called Thorin and Company, they take the quest to reclaim the Dwarven city of Erebor in the Lonely Mountain from the Dragon Smaug, the main antagonist. Eventually, he passed it to Frodo Baggins, his relative and adoptive heir.

Even though the Sting was quite small, Bilbo chose to wear it within his breeches. With the Sting on his waist, he’s still able to travel and even run without apparent inconvenience. Like the swords Glamdring and Orcist, the Sting was created by Elvish smiths. However, unlike the two mentioned swords, the Sting appeared to glow in blue, with glittering blue flames on its edges whenever any humanoid monsters called Orcs were near. The Sting could also easily slash through the web of the offsprings of the dark spider, Ungoliant, and other spider species like Shelob and the spiders of Mirkwood.

The History of the Sting

Sting was an ancient Elvish blade in Gondolin crafted by weapons-smiths. The sword may have been lost during Gondolin’s fall, the battle where Turgon fell, and where the sword Glamdring was taken. It is unclear what happened to the blade after the fall of Gondolin, but it came to be in possession of three trolls living in eastern Eriador during the late third century. In the year TA 2941, it was also in Eriador that Bilbo, with his dwarf companions, discovered the Sting alongside the elven blades, Glamdring and Orcrist. While Thorin and Company were being rescued from Mirkwood’s giant spiders, Bilbo gave the sword its name after cutting himself free from a cocoon guarded by a spider.

Subsequently, in the story of the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo gave the Sting to Frodo, before his nephew went on his quest from the town of Rivendellgoing to Mordor. During the quest, Frodo and his side-kick, Samwise, encountered the giant spider, Shelob, and paralyzed Frodo. After Samwise Gamgee unsuccessfully wakes up the paralyzed Frodo, he then concluded that Frodo was dead. Sam took the Sting and decided to continue the quest on Mordor’s borders and take the Ring from Frodo’s hand.Eventually, at the end of the third age, they defeated Sauron, the ruler in the land of Mordor. Frodo entrusted the Sting to Samwise. The Sting then became the heirloom of the Gamgee family.

Also, the Sting was able to help Bilbo when he confronted the antagonist Gollum, who was afraid of anything made by the Elves. The same sword also helped Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo, when he subdued Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.In addition, the Orcs also feared the weapon and hated those who carried the sword.Following Frodo’s departure going to the Undying Lands, it was unknown whether he brought the Sting or left it to Sam.

The Sting in the Film Adaptations

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as he was about to depart, Gandalf discovers the sword on the cave floor and gives it to Bilbo, who is waiting outside. In this film, the Sting is depicted as distinctly leaf-shaped, with a spiral pattern and gently curved edges, same as to what is mentioned in Tolkien’s book. In addition, in the trilogy films of The Lord of the Rings, also written by Tolkien, the Sting’s blade has engraved Sindarin letters. The letters were read phonetically as “Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im” (Sting is my name; I am the spider’s bane.)

According to the appendix of Tolkien’s collection, The Silmarillion, ‘Maeg’ in Sindarin means ‘piercing or sharp.’ Also, in volume five of Tolkien’s book, The Lost Road and Other Writings, the word ‘nass’ means point. With this, the word ‘Maegnas,’ written on the blade of the Sting literally means “sharp-point.” However, in the book, there wasn’t any mention of whether Bilbo had the blade of the Sting inscribed. The inscription is also not present in the film adaptation of The Hobbit.

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