The Black Riders’ Protection: Nazgul Leg Armor
Much like knights and mounted men-at-arms in medieval times, the Black Riders have often been depicted as wearing some rather nifty leg armor. One standout example of this is in an incredibly tense scene in the Peter Jackson adaptation of the Fellowship of the Ring.
If you’re not sure of the scene we’re talking about, or you haven’t seen the film, it takes place shortly after Frodo and Sam bump into Merry and Pippin as Frodo’s adventure begins. While in the woods, the four hobbits have to hide from a Nazgul, a powerful and terrifying creature who is hunting the One Ring, which is currently in Frodo’s care.
As the Nazgul dismounts from his horse, and we’re treated to a lovely shot of the beast’s glowing red eyes and nail studded and suspiciously stained hooves, we also spot something else. We see plate armor underneath the Nazgul’s black robes.
While, yes, the robes hide most of the Nazgul armor, we can at least see that this armor encases their arms and legs. We spot this armor again later in the film when the Nazgul chase after Arwen (we know it’s different in the book, don’t worry) as she bears Frodo to Rivendell.
So, with that in mind, we have some lovely Nazgul inspired leg armor which would be perfect for any kind of Fantasy LARP event or Nazgul cosplay. In fact, this is functional armor which will allow for reenactment combat. This is not armor for any goody-two shoes paladin out there, but it’s perfect for any kind of dreaded knight or any character on the darker side of the morality spectrum.
The Nazgul leg armor, both depicted in the film and recreated here, is highly articulated. This means that it is made up of smaller interlocking plates, which allow for greater flexibility while still providing protection comparable to a single large plate.
These armor plates cover the front of the leg, protecting most of the thighs down to just below the knee. The knee plate, known as the poleyn, flares backwards in a leaflike pattern. There are also suspension and adjusting straps attached to the leg armor which will allow you to fit it perfectly to your leg.
The Nazgul: Slaves of Sauron
Now, we know that the Nazgul were the terrifying black-clad servants of Sauron who rode about looking for the One Ring, but is that all they were? Well, as the Lord of the Rings was written by J.R.R Tolkien, worldbuilding master, obviously not. Like much else in Middle Earth, the Nazgul come with a long history and strange, otherworldly abilities.
The Fallen Kings: From Humans to Ringwraiths
Before the Nazgul became the strange and ethereal Ringwraiths, they were actually relatively ordinary humans. We say “relatively” because they weren’t just random people who stumbled into Sauron’s path. No, they were powerful and influential men, but they were still men.
Anyway, let’s jump back to the Second Age. Specifically, we’re focusing on the time when the Rings of Power were forged, about five thousand years before Aragorn and friends went on their little adventure at the end of the Third Age.
While in disguise as a benevolent figure, Sauron approached a group of Elven craftsmen and instructed them in the forging of nineteen Rings of Power. Sauron himself was involved in the construction of sixteen of these rings, while Celebrimbor (the leader of these elves) made three other Rings of Power himself.
As you may have guessed, Sauron had schemes beyond teaching the elves how to make magic jewellery. Rather, this was part of a grander plan for Sauron to control the elves by forging a Master Ring to bind these Rings of Power, known imaginatively as the One Ring.
However, things didn’t work out exactly as Sauron had planned. To put a long story short, the elves discovered this deception and Sauron was forced to openly go to war with them. He did, however, manage to retrieve the sixteen Rings of Power that he had helped forge, leaving the elves with the three that Celebrimbor had made.
Sauron gave seven of these rings to the Dwarves, but nine he reserved for mankind. As Gandalf explained:
“Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them. Long ago they fell under the dominion of the One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants.”
Sauron’s chosen men were great lords and warriors. With these Rings of Power, they amassed great wealth, as well as unmatched prestige and power. However, one by one, these proud and great men were corrupted by their rings and slipped into the shadow, bound to Sauron as Ringwraiths.
Why the Nazgul Were So Feared: The Power of the Nine
So, we know how the Nine were turned from men to Nazgul, but that doesn’t answer what the Nazgul actually were or what they were capable of. First of all, as wraiths, the Nine were no longer mortal. This meant that while they could be defeated, they were very hard to permanently kill.
This is because they were sustained by Sauron, rather than their own strength. However, this was a double edged sword as while Sauron granted them incredible power, when he was weak, so were the Nazgul. It also meant that when the Ring was destroyed, so were the Ringwraiths.
The most devastating ability of the Ringwraiths at the height of their strength was arguably their ability to instil terror and dread in mortals. This was demonstrated by their piercing scream. If that wasn’t all, the Nazgul had what is known as ‘black breath’, an aura that sickened nearby foes. The Witch-King especially was also a powerful sorcerer.
They were also physically dangerous, having been granted deadly weapons such as the Morgul blades which could poison an enemy and turn them into a wraith. The Witch-King wielded an enormous mace (or flail in some adaptations) and was capable of breaking limbs with contemptuous ease. The Nazgul also wore armor, in the films they had plate armor on their arms and legs, and the books described them as having silver hauberks.
Finally, as the Black Riders, the Nazgul often rode beasts into battle. Until the Ford of Bruinen, they rode swift black horses. But once these horses were killed, they switched to fell beasts, which were enormous, winged lizard-like creatures that wrecked the battlefield.
Despite all this, the Ringwraiths weren’t unstoppable. Their mounts could be killed, as we’ve seen. They were mostly weaker in daylight, with the exception of the Witch-King himself. They also feared fire and could be temporarily driven off by it. Finally, some people could resist their aura of terror.
When the Nazgul were in a relatively weakened state, Aragorn was able to fend off five of them and drive them away using only his sword and a flaming torch. Yes, Aragorn was a great warrior, but he was still just a man and demonstrated handily the limitations of the Nazgul.
The technical specifications for the Nazgul Leg Armor are as follows:
- Material: 16 g steel
- Colour: Silver-grey
- Number of interlocking parts: 12
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