HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

mithril

Type: Gems & Jewelry

Other Names:
Moria-silver
true-silver

Description:

A white metal similar to platinum, considered extremely precious due to its scarcity:
'Then what do the dwarves want to come back [to Moria] for?' asked Sam.

'For mithril,' answered Gandalf. 'The wealth of Moria was not in gold and jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant. Such things they found here, it is true, especially iron; but they did not need to delve for them: all things that they desired they could obtain in traffic. For here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name. The Dwarves have a name which they do not tell. Its worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price; for little is left above ground, and even the Orcs dare not delve here for it. The lodes lead away north towards Caradhras, and down to darkness. The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin's Bane. Of what they brought to light the Orcs have gathered nearly all, and given it in tribute to Sauron, who covets it.

'Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 4, A Journey in the Dark


Items made of mithril
[The] Elendilmir itself, [was a] white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril 1 that had descended from Silmariën to Elendil, and had been taken by him as the token of royalty in the North Kingdom.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: The Sources of the Legend of Isildur's Death

On [Galadriel's] finger was Nenya, the ring wrought of mithril, that bore a single white stone flickering like a frosty star.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens

'Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.'

'What?' cried Gimli, startled out of his silence. 'A corslet of Moria-silver? That was a kingly gift!'

'Yes,' said Gandalf. 'I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 4, A Journey in the Dark

The Guards of the gate were robed in black, and their helms were of strange shape, high-crowned, with long cheek-guards close-fitting to the face, and above the cheek-guards were set the white wings of sea-birds; but the helms gleamed with a flame of silver, for they were indeed wrought of mithril, heirlooms from the glory of old days.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 2, The Passing of the Grey Company

In [King Elessar's] time the City was made more fair than it had ever been, even in the days of its first glory; and it was filled with trees and with fountains, and its gates were wrought of mithril and steel, and its streets were paved with white marble....

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, The Steward and the King

'The Elves dearly loved it, and among many uses they made of it ithildin, starmoon, which you saw upon the doors.'

Ibid.


Etymology
mith  'grey' in Mithlond, Mithrandir, Mithrim; also in Mitheithel, the river Hoarwell in Eriador.

The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names

ril  'brilliance' in Idril, Silmaril; also in Andúril... and in mithril (Moria-silver)....

Ibid.


Notes
1For that metal was found in Númenor. [Author's note.] - In "The Line of Elros"... Tar-Telemmaitë, the fifteenth Ruler of Númenor, is said to have been called so (i.e. "silver-handed") because of his love of silver, "and he bade his servants to seek ever for mithril." But Gandalf said that mithril was found in Moria "alone in the world" (The Fellowship of the Ring II 4).

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: Notes, Note 31

Contributors:
Moriel 12Jun03
Lyllyn 6Jul03
Elena Tiriel 11Jan12

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