Spider’s Bane: The Sting Sword
The world of Middle Earth is rammed full of bombastic weapons and powerful artifacts, including Bilbo and Frodo’s short-sword, known as Sting. From what we know, this was actually designed as a dagger by its Elven creators, which might be why the design is so unique.
While small, Sting is undoubtedly a kingly sword. The design resembles the Ancient Greek xiphos, with a double edged and relatively wide leaf-shaped blade. Like the historical xiphos and many daggers, this was primarily a stabbing weapon.
Like the Sting Sword as depicted in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy (directed by Peter Jackson), this replica features a spiral pattern and printed script on both the blade and crossguard that read “Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im”. In case you can’t read Sindarin Elven, this translates to “Sting is my name; I am the spider’s bane.”
“Maegnas” actually literally translates to “sharp-point”, although it is called “Sting” by the characters of Middle Earth. That leaves no doubt as to the primary use of the Sting sword and its blade design, which is to stab and piece rather than slash and chop.
Moving onto the hilt of this Sting sword replica, we come to the crossguard. We know that part of the crossguard shares the spiral pattern and lettering that flow down onto the blade. The guard itself isn’t huge, especially when compared to the relatively wide blade. The guard curves towards the blade on both sides, to allow for some parrying.
The handle is polished hardwood, adorned with spiralling metallic Elven vines. It is shaped for the hand and capped with a metal pommel. As the Sting sword is a short-sword, the grip is only large enough to accommodate one hand.
Like so many of the Elven swords featured in the stories, the Sting sword is a work of art. Fittingly, it comes with a wall mount so that you can display it either alone or as part of a larger collection. If you’re more inclined towards LARPing or Cosplaying, this replica would be a perfect addition to any character on the smaller side. Or perhaps it’s a side sword for a nobleman, or a soldier who would use a weapon like this in emergency close combat.
As far as we know, the Sting sword replica doesn’t actually glow blue in the presence of Orcs. However, we haven’t been able to find any orcs to test it out on, so there isn’t definitive proof one way or another.
Sting is My Name: From Elven Dagger to Hobbit Short-sword
We first encounter Sting in The Hobbit, which was set a few decades or so before the Lord of the Rings itself. Here, we learn that it has a lofty lineage spanning thousands of years, as Sting is a Gondolin sword.
The Gondolin Blades of Long Ago: Sting Before Rediscovery
The Gondolin swords were legendary weapons forged in the first Age. They were beautiful and able to slice through the webs of the Great Spiders that skittered through Mirkwood, a feat that most ordinary weapons would struggle with. Most notably, Gondolin blades “shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand.”
Only Sting was described as specifically glowing blue, like a blue flame. In the Peter Jackson film adaptations, the other swords forged in the First Age (namely Glamdring and Orcrist) didn’t glow at all in the presence of Orcs. This was likely to set Sting apart from the others.
As we know by now, Sting was originally designed to be a dagger for an Elven wielder. However, it was more like a short-sword in hobbit hands. It was still quite small for a sword even for a hobbit, as Bilbo was able to wear it hidden inside his breeches and run around with ease.
We don’t know a great deal about the history of Sting before Gandalf and Bilbo discovered it, although it was probably a long and storied one. As a Gondolin weapon, Sting would have been over six thousand years old.
As far as we know, it was lost along with Glamdring when the ancient city of Gondolin fell after it was betrayed to Morgoth, the original Dark Lord. Whether it was named back then, we will never know. However, we can tell you that it eventually ended up in the hands of the Hobbits, who used it well on their adventures.
The Three Hobbits Who Wielded Sting
These Hobbits were Bilbo Baggins, who with Gandalf, first unearthed it. It was handed down to Frodo Baggins, his nephew. It was also briefly wielded by Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s gardener. Interestingly, these Hobbits also bore the One Ring and eventually passed onto the Undying Lands of Valinor.
Bilbo was a respectable hobbit, once. He was a wealthy and learned bachelor and a surprisingly good shot when throwing rocks. He was also a friend of Gandalf the Grey, an ancient and powerful wizard who had a fondness for hobbits.
When he was fifty-one years old and happily minding his own business, Gandalf invited him on an adventure. While Bilbo refused, being a respectable hobbit, Gandalf didn’t really care and sent thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield to descend upon him.
He had advertised Bilbo as a burglar, knowing that hobbits were uniquely suited to such a purpose. You see, hobbits were small and could fit in small spaces. They had keen eyesight and good hearing. Hobbits were nimble and had clever hands. But most importantly, hobbits could walk around very quietly, always going barefoot as their large feet were hairy and had thick, leathery soles.
Anyway, Bilbo ended up joining Gandalf and his gaggle of dwarves on their quest to reclaim their mountain home of Erebor. During this journey, while Gandalf was away, they fell afoul of three enormous trolls. Bilbo and the dwarves were all captured and were about to be eaten until Gandalf came to their rescue. He tricked them into arguing until daybreak, as the sunlight would turn them to stone.
After the trolls had been killed this way, Gandalf took Bilbo and the dwarves to the troll’s cave where they hid out during the day and stored their ill-gotten treasure trove. This was where they found a stash of weapons, some being Gondolin weapons. Gandalf claimed Glamdring, Thorin took Orcrist, and Bilbo chose an Elven dagger to use as a short-sword.
The party travelled to Rivendell, then made their way to the Misty Mountains. During this trek, they took shelter in a cave. There, the group were set upon by goblins and Bilbo found himself knocked unconscious and separated from his companions in the ensuing scuffle.
When he roused, he used his hobbit senses to creep through the dark tunnel systems, eventually stumbling upon a small and simple ring, which he pocketed. He encountered Gollum and after a tense battle of wits, was able to use Gollum to find a way out.
You guessed it, this simple trinket was the One Ring of Sauron, full of malice and evil and so on. Gandalf was wary of the ring but took it to be a minor magical ring at first. Anyway, Bilbo was reunited with the party and they were whisked away by eagles. As they continued on their journey, they faced yet more perils.
One of these was Mirkwood, a great forest near the Misty Mountains. Mirkwood was occupied by the reclusive wood-elves, but also housed just so many Giant Spiders. Gandalf yet again wandered off, leaving the dwarves with the admonition to stay on the path. When they inevitably didn’t stay on the path, the party was captured by Giant Spiders.
These Giant Spiders were known as the Children of Ungoliant, a primordial being that took the shape of an enormous spider. Ungoliant originated from the Darkness and ravenously fed on whatever light she encountered. Before her own insatiable hunger led to her devouring herself, Ungoliant had several children. These were the Giant spiders of Mirkwood and Shelob.
The Children of Ungoliant had inherited some of her power and properties. The spiders of Mirkwood hated the light but hungered for it at the same time. They were unabashedly evil creatures, who were considered a blight on the land. They were intelligent, capable of both speech and malice. They also spun thick webs that entangled their prey and wielded a deadly venom.
Bilbo managed to hide using the Ring’s powers of invisibility and battled the spiders himself. Bilbo Baggins’ sword proved most deadly, as did his rock-throwing skills. The spiders grew to hate and fear this sword, giving it the name “Sting.” This name stuck.
So, that was how Bilbo found both Sting and the One Ring. His adventure did continue, as he rescued the dwarves from both the spiders and the elves of Mirkwood before finally reaching Erebor. After an encounter with a dragon and the tragic death of some of the dwarves, Bilbo returned to the Shire forever changed.
His respectable reputation was in shatters and he was forced to buy back his home and possessions as he’d been assumed dead. Bilbo adopted his nephew, Frodo, as heir and lived in comfort for another sixty years, suspiciously barely aging as he did so. Finally, he passed most of his earthly possessions onto Frodo and went on one final trek to Rivendell.
Bilbo had taken Sting with him on this trek, however. Apparently in the intervening years, Bilbo had had the sword engraved with its distinctive patterns and script. However, Bilbo had left the One Ring, albeit with some serious cajoling from Gandalf.
As we know, the One Ring was the impetus for Frodo’s own adventure, shortly after Bilbo left the Shire for the last time. The books give Frodo a few years to settle down, but the films send him off pretty much immediately.
Sting became Frodo’s sword when he eventually made it to Rivendell after being wounded by one of the Nazgul. There, Frodo reunited with Bilbo and received both the sword and a mithril chain-shirt, which was lighter than a feather and as hard as dragon-scale. This had been a gift from Thorin and was apparently worth more than the Shire itself.
Frodo wielded Sting against a cave-troll, but suffered a mortal blow, saved only by his mithril shirt. It wasn’t long after this that Gandalf fell, and Frodo and Sam split off from the rest of the Fellowship.
Once more, we encountered Gollum as he attacked Frodo and Sam. Frodo fended him off with Sting and the three made their way to Mordor. Frodo only used Sting again when Gollum led them to the lair of Shelob, the greatest of the Children of Ungoliant. Frodo was able to cut through the unnatural webbing and fend off Shelob before being poisoned by her stinger.
Sam was forced to take up Frodo’s sword and the Phial of Galadriel to battle Shelob.
Despite only wielding Sting for a short time, Sam proved to be a fierce and surprisingly competent warrior. He managed to seriously wound Shelob, which pretty much nobody had managed before. Whether she died of this wound, we don’t know, but she ran from the hobbit.
Thinking Frodo dead, Sam took the Ring from Frodo and became a ring bearer, if only for a short while. He soon realised his mistake when Orcs arrived to take Frodo’s body to Cirith Ungol and revealed that he was only paralysed.
So, Sam took it upon himself to rescue Frodo. With Sting in hand, he fought his way through Cirith Ungol which was already in disarray thanks to the Orcs killing each other over Frodo’s mithril shirt. The two hobbits continued their trek to Mordor.
Frodo took back the ring but was too weak to be any use with Sting. Sam carried Frodo both physically and emotionally up the slopes of Mount Doom, while desperately trying to fend off the opportunistic Gollum.
Eventually, it wasn’t Sam’s stout heart and sword arm, or Frodo’s resolve that destroyed the One Ring. No, it was Gollum’s stupid celebratory dance that caused him to topple into the fires of Mount Doom, destroying both him and the Ring. It also wiped out the Nazgul and basically all of Sauron’s power.
After the War of the Ring, we saw Bilbo once more as he was taken across the sea to the Elven Undying Lands, now finally aged. Frodo joined him, his body and soul scoured by his experiences with the Ring and the Nazgul. Finally, after living a good life in the Shire, Samwise joined them over there as was his right as a Ringbearer.
The technical specifications of the Sting sword replica are as follows:
- Overall Length: 29 inches or 73.7 cm
- Blade Length: 21 inches or 53.3 cm
- Blade Thickness: 0.25 inches or 0.6 cm
- Blade Material: Tempered 420 J2 stainless steel with printed runes
- Handle Material: Hardwood grip decorated with Elven vines, solid metal guard and pommel
- Finish: Antiqued metal
- Tang Construction: Rat-tail tang