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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Identity of Sting

Artomun
Registered User

Mar 23 2013, 4:45am

Post #1 of 10 (1027 views)
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The Identity of Sting Can't Post

    Upon purchasing and rewatching Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, I have discovered that from within my mind has arisen an especial interest in the passing on of important and iconic items throughout the ages of Middle-Earth. I am fascinated by the fact that Gandalf's sword Glamdring belonged to Turgon king of Gondolin in the first age, and thus was a participant of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad; that Thorin's sword Orcrist [may have] belonged to Ecthelion in the first age, and thus would have been the very blade that slew Gothmog, captain of the Balrogs; that Aragorn's sword Anduril was a reforging of Narsi­l, the sword of Elendil, and cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand; that Turin's sword Gurthang was once Anglachel, forged of a meteorite by Earl, given to Thingol king of Doriath, then passed on to Beleg, who was slain with Anglachel by the hand of Turin.
In The Hobbit, Thorin and Gandalf discover the ancient blades of Gondolin, Glamdring and Orcrist; the fame these blades bear is clear. However, Bilbo makes another discovery. Bilbo found, among these blades of renown, a small dagger, a knife, really. Nothing is ever said to contend for the blade's import, but that it was made in Gondolin and therefore must have been used by the elves in war with Morgoth. But I feel that such ambiguity is not acceptable or to be believed in the writings of a man who specialized in detail and connections between stories and the effects of certain events on others. Therefore, I propose a [hopefully] logical theory as to the true identity of Sting.
In Narn I Chin Hurin (that's The Tale of the Children of Hurin for you folk who don't speak Sindarin), Hurin dwells for a time with Turgon in Gondolin. He is permitted to leave only because he didn't know whence he came by the hidden city. When he returned home to Dor-lomin, Hurin gave to his son Turin a birthday gift: an elvish knife from Gondolin. Turin in turn passes this knife to Sador "Labadal," who was his father figure in Hurin's absence. Tolkien passed away before he was able to finish his legendarium, if it even was completable. However, the story of Turin Turambar was among his favorites, and I believe that he would have loved to connect that story to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings via Sting.
My theory is that Sting is in fact the knife which was once owned by Turin. At first, I believed I thought in error, for Turin's knife is described as being bound in black leather and rested in a sheath of black leather as well, while Sting is shown to be bound in and sheathed in brown leather in the Peter Jackson movies. Alas, I cracked open my good ol' one volume edition LotR and found that Sting's hilt is never described, and the sheath is of battered black leather, which agrees with the description of Turin's knife. Also, Sting was forged in Gondolin, and that is where Hurin came by the knife to give to his son. Turin says to Sador, as he is giving him the knife, that it will serve his purpose well and will easily cut through any surface; when Bilbo bestows Sting to Frodo, he showcases the knife's sharpness by plunging it deep into a wooden beam with little effort, going along with the description given by Turin himself. The thought of this connection is thrilling in my mind, and I can but hope that it is so. A problem is encountered in contending with this theory, though: we don't know what happens to the knife. When Turin returns to Dor-lomin, he finds Sador and converses with him, but the knife is not mentioned either in the dialogue or the narration. I propose two possibilities (which I deem plausible, though many exist) for this situation. First, perhaps the knife was taken from Sador by the Easterlings and perhaps was borne away from Dor-lomin and even Beleriand, which is how it came to be in a troll's horde. Second, perhaps Turin took the knife with him after Sador died and it was left near the Teiglin River where Turin died, to be found later either by the trolls or one of their victims. However it found its way into the troll horde, it matters not; I have no doubt that this connection between Turin, Bilbo, and Frodo is legitimate.


(This post was edited by Rosie-with-the-ribbons on Mar 23 2013, 11:57am)


DanielLB
Immortal


Mar 23 2013, 1:21pm

Post #2 of 10 (764 views)
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Brilliant first post. [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to TORn Artomun, and what an excellent first post. I have to say, I've never made the connection before (nor read it elsewhere). And I have to agree with everything you said, the evidence is certainly there. It's a shame that it's not definitively mentioned elsewhere. Very thought-provoking post.

Smile


squire
Valinor


Mar 23 2013, 2:19pm

Post #3 of 10 (777 views)
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It is more likely the other way around [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel sure you're right about the connection between Sting and young Turin's knife. However, it is probably more correct to say that Sting became the knife, rather than that the knife became Sting. The entire story of Sador Labadal was added to the Narn I Chin Hurin cycle after The Lord of the Rings was mostly completed, that is in the late 1940s and long after Sting had been established in The Hobbit.

You're right that Tolkien was detail oriented and delighted to invent (or 'discover', as he sometimes fancied the process) connections between the different stories in his ever-growing legendarium. But he also recognized that in some ways it made the entire conception a 'great game' with fewer and fewer 'unexplained vistas' - a phenomenon that he recognized as a potential weakness rather than a strength in the work of art as a whole. The discovery of magic blades in a trolls' hoard in The Hobbit is meant to be a bit of a magical moment itself. It ranks with the other magics of the story: the moon-letters, the talking birds, the Black Arrow, the stone giants, and of course the magic ring of invisibility. If Tolkien were to have traced the exact way in which these blades survived the destruction of Beleriand and the changing of the world at the end of the Second Age and were transported to the Ettenmoors of Eriador at the end of the Third Age, I would judge it to be a substitution of cleverness for magic -- to the detriment of The Hobbit and of LotR.

So I would say the addition to Turin's tale of an Elvish knife that an acute reader can recognize as Sting is not necessarily the best idea Tolkien ever had. It smacks too much of authorial coincidence (the humble hobbits are Elf-friends just like Turin was - as noted explicitly by Elrond at the Council - even to the point of owning the child-Turin's own blade - because they're like children too -- get it???) and too little of any meaningful working of Fate. An earlier identity for Sting does not at all affect our understanding of its actual functions in Hobbit and LotR, but it does somewhat sabotage the meaning of owning the blade that Bilbo and Frodo take within the story - that Sting is Elvish and so they are inheritors of Gondolin's legacy of struggle against Morgoth.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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CaptainFaramir13
The Shire

Mar 23 2013, 7:29pm

Post #4 of 10 (723 views)
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Brilliant! [In reply to] Can't Post

I love that idea, that is a really cool theory! I had never thought of that, but there is certainly some evidence to support it. Next time I read Children of Hurin I shall picture the knife as Sting!


Artomun
Registered User

Mar 23 2013, 9:21pm

Post #5 of 10 (709 views)
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Touche [In reply to] Can't Post

Very nice insight, and I agree, mostly. I don't think that, if Tolkien intended to make this connection, he would completely detail how it survived the ruin of Beleriand. The end there was simply my speculation as to the implied possibilities. I loved your reasoning of the childlike demeanor of the Hobbits inheriting the knifeofa young Túrin. To build off of that, Túrin shows great pity and kindness when he gives the knife to Sador. In a similar wway, Bilbo and Frodo show the same pity and kindness with Sting when they spare Gollum.You could almost say that the knife is a blade of mercy and pity itself. By the end of your comment, though, I couldn't tell if you agreed or disagreed with my theory. Would you accept the connection overall, even if you might notagree with my aassumed details?


Artomun
Registered User

Mar 23 2013, 9:30pm

Post #6 of 10 (697 views)
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Many Thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought of this with no outside sources besides lotr, the hobbit, and coh. Actually, it came to me when thinking of how I would do a coh movie. I thought, it would be awesome to see Glamdring in the Nirnaeth and then see it again with Gandalf! Then I remembered something about a knife in coh, and I thought, even if there was no connection, Sting would be really cool there, too. So, I studied all three books for half an hour or so, and I discovered that there is very real evidence of a connection. I wrote up this essay and made an account just to put it out there and see what the other self proclaimed Tolkien scholars thought of it. So far as I've seen, no one else has ever written anything on this. :-)


Artomun
Registered User

Mar 23 2013, 9:35pm

Post #7 of 10 (696 views)
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The Mind of a Goldfish [In reply to] Can't Post

I simply needed to go back and read the first sentence of your post. Forgive my ignorance lol.


squire
Valinor


Mar 23 2013, 10:29pm

Post #8 of 10 (717 views)
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H. "Is the knife Sting?" [In reply to] Can't Post

The answers to this tease were fairly uninterested or uninteresting. You have put a lot more thought into it, making for a much better discussion!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Artomun
Registered User

Mar 24 2013, 12:39am

Post #9 of 10 (702 views)
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Wow [In reply to] Can't Post

Not only uninterested or uninteresting, but also not weighing either supportive or refuting evidence. As a debater on my speech team at school, everything must be backed with evidence and all counter arguments must be addressed. It irks me when people answer yes or no with utter surety but have no backing. Excited to see I'm not the only one who noticed this possible connection.


Dirhaval
The Shire

Jun 23 2013, 10:38pm

Post #10 of 10 (598 views)
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Sting [In reply to] Can't Post

I have thought about Sting's origins too.
I say that is does not matter AND that was Tolkien's point.
The Hobbit is a story about Bilbo finding himself. That is it period

Thus, the elf dagger given to Bilbo is a way for him to find himself by
using the weapon and naming it himself. I doubt Gandalf could not read
the runes on the swords or guest their origin. In any case he wanted
Elrond to provide "help" in reading the runes to Thorin. My opinion.
I say that Sting too had its origins on it, but were not meant to be read
to Bilbo OR Gandalf did not want to give Bilbo the hope the dagger was carried
by the King of Gondolin.

Think about it. Two swords from Elves of royalty still together
after all these years? Surely the elves who had these swords
died in close proximity? Thus it was a deadly battle meaning
the dagger had to be drawn, thus it was easily seen by the vandals
who took all three blades.

My summary is that Sting was meant to not have a history for Bilbo to find himself and thus
be productive with the company. A better question is: Why did Gandalf give a weapon to Bilbo AFTER the troll encounter?

 
 

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