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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Broken Sword

Barrow-Wight
Rohan


Jul 14 2013, 3:16am

Post #1 of 11 (290 views)
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Broken Sword Can't Post

This is something I've noticed while reading Lord Of The Rings. Whenever someone dies or is gravely injured their sword is broken. why is that? I know it's symbolic but is there more to it then that?


dubulous
Rohan

Jul 14 2013, 10:01am

Post #2 of 11 (162 views)
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I don't have an answer but this is something I've often wondered about too // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


FrogmortonJustice65
Rivendell


Jul 14 2013, 12:44pm

Post #3 of 11 (163 views)
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Likely just symbolism... [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps somebody around here has a more profound explanation, but I think it is just symbolism...Tolkien's way of representing the defeat of a great warrior.

That being said, who all does this happen to? My memory is a little foggy.

It happens to Elendil. It probably happens to Boromir & Theoden but I can't specifically remember that. Is there anybody else?

 photo cbccab4e-f61e-4be5-aaa1-20e302430c7c.jpg


Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 14 2013, 2:12pm

Post #4 of 11 (157 views)
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It happens to... [In reply to] Can't Post

as far as I can remember, Elendil, Frodo's sword on Weathertop, The Morgul blade evaporates, Boromir, (I can't exactly about Theoden, but I don't think his sword was mentioned) Merry's sword evaporates after stabbing the Witch King.

Other than that, I'm not sure who else.

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 14 2013, 2:49pm

Post #5 of 11 (151 views)
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Old world symbolism [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually Barrow-Wight, since one of the heroes it happens to is Turin, I am bringing that up this week!

I think the sword represents the strength of the warrior - and its breaking the physical loss of power, and also defeat.

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







Elizabeth
Valinor


Jul 14 2013, 6:07pm

Post #6 of 11 (145 views)
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Just Elendil and Boromir, I think. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't see any mention of Theoden's sword in his death scene. And Thorin's sword was buried with him. We will hear about Turin's sword later this week!

I believe the Morgul blade and Merry's sword are a separate special case: these are enchanted weapons, and disappear when used.

Although there is always some symbolism in a broken sword (swords are commonly associated with male vitality), Elendil's sword is the one where it's really emphasized: it's the broken line of descent of major kings, that will only be restored when the sword is reforged, etc.

I think the breaking of Boromir's sword is really a testimony of how hard he fought, relieving him of "fault" for falling instead of succeeding in his defense of M&P.








Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 14 2013, 6:32pm

Post #7 of 11 (123 views)
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Ah, of course, [In reply to] Can't Post

Turin's sword! How could I forget about that?Frown

Yes, I suppose Merry and the Morgul blade are different here. Although, you say disappear when used; I somehow always thought Merry's sword vanished because he stabbed the Ringwraith, that any sword that did so would disappear?

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


Barrow-Wight
Rohan


Jul 14 2013, 9:55pm

Post #8 of 11 (114 views)
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Witch-KIng [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't count Merry or Eowyn's swords because they touched the Witch-King as Aragorn said in the chapter "Flight To The Ford"

"But all blades perish that peirce that dreadful King. More deadly to him was the name of Elbereth"

Frodo only slashed his cloak he didn't stab him like Merry or Eowyn so that's why his sword survived until it broke at the Ford Of Bruinen and the Morgul blade probably wouldn't count either since it's only purpose was to harm someone it did it's job.



CuriousG
Valinor


Jul 16 2013, 10:34am

Post #9 of 11 (84 views)
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His mace? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your question makes me wonder if the Wi-King's mace perished when he did? I don't think so, but his death was pretty momentous, so you'd think it would, unless it was just a garden variety mace he picked up. Now that I think about it, didn't he confront Gandalf at the Minas Tirith with a sword, not a mace? Or hold up a sword when casting the spell on the Gate? Why would he have switched weapons?


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jul 20 2013, 7:51am

Post #10 of 11 (98 views)
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The symbolism of Broken swords, and other damaged equipment - and its limits! [In reply to] Can't Post

 Let's get the obvious symplistic Freudian connotations out of the way first (the broken sword symbolizing the failure of the potency of the virile warrior: I already did my sniggering about thiis on the Turin threads,so will try to behave now) .
Because the sword is the symbol par excellence of a warrior, the broken sword also of course works as a good non-Freudian symbol of the warrior's defeat. I imagine warriors having a close attachment to their particular blade. It was something they spent a lot of time with, training and maintaining it. You'd probably end up feeling the affection a musician does about their instrument. or a biker for their Harley. More than that, your sword was with you at key moments of crisis - so modern similarities with the tennis player's lucky racquet or golfer's lucky putter come up. Breaking the sword is therefore all the more like breaking the warrior
Other items could be argued to have a similar significance. After their confrontation in the ruined Orthanc, Gandalf breaks Saruman's staff: his badge of office as a wizard, as well as his wizardly weapon.
It's Boromir's cloven horn which is retrieved after his fall, rather than his broken sword. Still a pointy thing to keep the Freudians happy, but also, it's had more billing than his sword - its an heirloom of his house, and he's twice sounded it to symbolize his defiance (on setting out from Rivendell, and in Moria), as well as blowing it to try to rally the Fellowship when the orcs attack them at Parth Galen. There's also a practical point here - it's more credible that the horn rather than the sword would be washed ashore after Boromir's river burial.
A further factor, I think is the idea of a possession giving its all and breaking under the strain of what its heroic owner has asked it to do. So Gandalf's staff "bursts asunder" on the bridge, fighting the balrog. And Theoden, signalling the charge of the Rohirrm at the Pelenor Fields:


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"With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder."


Perhaps it is a bit like Beetohoven (or, more so) Liszt, breaking pianos during performances of their tempestuous romantic music - rigged piano possibly, but worked because of the idea that a mere machine couldn't channel the firey soul of this artistic genius. Very in keeping with the Romantic era's ideas.

We don't hear much about breakage of the bad guys' weapons, perhaps because we don't need to have that kind of sympathy for them. We're more likely to hear of smashed up baddie items as an indicator of our heroes great power. So for example, in one of his flashes of revealed kingliness, Aragorn routs an orc attack in Moria:


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"But even as the orc flung down the truncheon and swept out his scimitar, Anduril came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame and the helm burst asunder. The orc fell with a cloven head. His followers fled howling..."


The sword-that-was-broken takes things further - rather than being a symbol of ruin, the shards of Narsil are turned into a symbol of hope, and its reforging symbolized Aragorn taking up the old battle.

So I think it works on many levels. But also, when thinking symbollusm, i I think we should not be content with mere symbolism. I think Toliken tended to be sniffy about people who wanted to reduce stories (or words) to mere symbols. "Ah yes, a = b and x = y. I have decoded this now; new story please" is a rather impoverished reaction to a rich story. A dragon is no mere fancy - or need not be while one is "inside" a fantasy story. Let it be a real dragon which you might encounter venturing out in Middle-earth, as well as the layers of meaning that build up around dragons, and can be comfortably unraveled in your armchair at home.
That's what I try to remind myself, anyway…

What do you think?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Dirhaval
The Shire

Jul 21 2013, 4:49am

Post #11 of 11 (58 views)
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broken weapon [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi. This is a topic that I glanced over long ago;I would not write this if I have not heard you ask it.

I like to think that the sword is a symbol of the warrior's faith. With it broken the authenticity
of the warrior is questioned. When your sword is broken most likely it is because your opponent
wanted to break it to not only kill you but those that follow you. To kill your spirit. If an opponent
can break the sword he could have killed his enemy sooner, unless used in defense.
If a warrior has his sword broken then he must not have much else to use to defeat his enemy: knife, wits, cleverness. So when
the sword breaks the warrior is impotent. Boromir though used his sword to not only thrust but
to also parry to buy time to save the company.
To me it is odd the Narsil was not reforged soon after that war. Would not Isildur reforge it? May be he was planning it since
it was in his company at Gladden Fields.
My opinion.

 
 

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