Aktualności ze świata miłośników twórczości Tolkiena

G-i-P Report: Orchrist, the Goblin-cleaver

This is our news from January 4th, 2012. We have changed the picture: now you can see there the results of the cooperation of Marc Zender, Florian „Lothenon” Dombach and Richard „Galadhorn” Derdzinski in deciphering the runic signs. See also the comments. There are new theories there.


Elrond knew all about runes of every kind. That day he looked at the swords they had brought from the trolls’ lair, and he said: „They are not troll-make. They are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin. They were made in Gondolin for the Goblin wars. (…) This, Thorin, the runes name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of Gondolin; it was a famous blade.”

(The Hobbit, „A Short Rest”)

Earl Carvalho, a member of TheOneRing.net staff, has informed us about these interesting examples of the use of Tolkien’s runes in The Hobbit movie pre-production. Thanks to the publication of the Dwarves’ characters photos (see Thorin’s photo – here) we can see some interesting Cirth inscriptions on Thorin’s sword, Orcrist, and on his ring:

1. Thorin’s Ring – The ring on Thorin’s right hand seems to have the Dwarven (Angerthas Moria?) rune R on its front face. It’s difficult to determine what the runes on the other faces say (if those actually are runes), but it is possible that another rune is HW. Thorin also wears another ring on his left hand, and it seems to have some sort of design, but we cannot be certain that it works itself out to a rune.

2. Orcrist – The pommel of Thorin’s sword has the Elvish runes O R KH R I S T inscribed on it. The language is Sindarin and the script are old Elvish runes called Angerthas Daeron (we shall remember that the runes of Middle-earth were primarily the script of the Elves of Beleriand in the First Age). Let us compare this inscription with the runes from another sword found by Thorin’s Company in the trolls’ lair – Glamdring (see here).

Photo of Orcrist and Thorin’s Ring edited
by Ryszard „Galadhorn” Derdzinski

G-i-P stands for Gwaith-i-Phethdain, ‘The Fellowship of the Word-smiths’ or the linguistic website devoted to post-Tolkienian constructions in the “reconstructed” languages of Middle-earth [link].

Kategorie wpisu: Filmy: Hobbit i WP, G-i-P Report, In Westron (English), Lingwistyka

13 Komentarzy do wpisu "G-i-P Report: Orchrist, the Goblin-cleaver"

Marc Zender, dnia 09.01.2012 o godzinie 5:06

Nice report, Ryszard! And my complements to Earl for having spotted the runes on Thorin’s sword and ring. (http://www-images.theonering.org/torwp/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/thorin-richardarmitage.jpg) I just have a couple of comments.

(See The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, for the rune numbers and values cited below.)

I agree with Earl that the runes on Thorin’s sword provide the name of Orcrist, but I don’t think the third rune is 18 K. The orientation of the other signs suggests that it’s 20 KH. (That is, Sindarin fricative ch, not aspirated Khuzdul kh.) That would make the full spelling O-R-KH-R-I-S-T, which makes considerable sense given the origin of Orcrist in Sindarin orch ‘goblin, orc’ (Etym 379) + rist(a) ‘rend, rip’ (Etym 384). That is, I expect David Salo has opted for an etymological spelling here.

I also agree with Earl’s identification of the main rune on Thorin’s ring as 12, but I wonder whether the earlier value N isn’t more likely than R, particularly given the use of rune 29 for R on Orcrist? That said, I’m not at all sure what N would stand for. Do you suppose there’s any chance that the sign might instead have been meant as a kind of monogram or ligature of 10 TH + 50 O, giving the initials for Th(orin) O(akenshield)? Just a thought.

Marc Zender, dnia 09.01.2012 o godzinie 5:21

On Orcrist, Glamdring and the Gondolinic Runes

Actually, I have to admit to being just a little bit disappointed that the filmmakers used the Angerthas Daeron instead of the Gondolinic Runes on Orcrist. (For the Gondolinic Runes, see The Treason of Isengard [1989:452n], Mythlore 69 [1992:20] and Parma Eldalamberon 15 [2004:11]. There’s a useful table of them online here: http://www.tolkiendil.com/langues/english/otsoandor/gondolinic_runes )

As you’ve noted, Ryszard, both Orcrist and Glamdring are “very old swords … made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars” (The Hobbit, ‘A Short Rest’), so it’s only logical that their inscriptions would have been in the earlier Gondolinic Runes. It’s also the best reason I can think of for Gandalf, rune-master that he was, having been initially unable to read them: „…when we can read the runes on them, we shall know more about them” (The Hobbit, ‘Roast Mutton’). Elrond, on the other hand, should indeed have had little difficulty reading them, given that his father had been born in Gondolin.

But, of course, the filmmakers also wrote the name of Glamdring in Third Age runes in The Lord of the Rings films (http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/movie_inscriptions.htm#glamdring). So I guess they were unaware of the earlier runes, or unwilling to use them in The Hobbit (because of the precedent with Glamdring in The Lord of the Rings), or perhaps unable to do so (for reasons of copyright). Still, it’s a shame. It would’ve made a nice visual point about just how ancient these two swords are.

Galadhorn, dnia 09.01.2012 o godzinie 10:05

Ad 1: The runic analysis was made by me, so I will answer :-)

Of course, you’re right the inscription is in fact: O R KH R I S T. My mistake! Now it has sense in Sindarin. Thank you, Marc. I must change the picture.

As for the Ring I wonder if the runes are Elvish or Dwarvish here and I suppose they are rather Dwarvish. The use of the earlier Elvish Angerthas Daeron would be very dubious in the Third Age in any Dwarvish kingdom. This is only my guess.

Ad 2: Dear Marc, I think the resolution is simple: the Gondolinic Runes belong probably to the earlier conceptual phase of the linguistical construction of Tolkien’s Legendarium. They didn’t exist in the late version of the Tale – Tolkien didn’t write about them in „The Lord of the Rings” Appendices.

Marc Zender, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 2:49

Hi again, Ryszard — I’m glad to hear you agree about the KH rune, and sorry for misattributing your analysis of the cirth to Earl. :)

You make a good point about the certh on the ring being more likely to come from a later period, at least from a story-internal point of view. But I was also thinking in story-external terms, since we know that the filmmakers used a fairly simplified/consistent set of runic values in the previous movies, regardless of whether they were intended to be Elvish or Dwarvish, and regardless of age and language (e.g., http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/graphics/2191.jpg ).

Given that the R in the Orcrist inscription agrees with the values in the tables at the link above — see also the filmmakers’ inscription on Glamdring (http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/movie_inscriptions.htm#glamdring) — it seemed to me that certh 12 might have a different value on the ring.

But this is only my guess too.

Marc Zender, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 2:55

(Sorry about the font problems in the last comment. I missed a „/” after the KH above. But I don’t seem to be able to alter the comment.)

About the Gondolinic Runes: it’s of course possible that they belonged only to an earlier conceptual phase of Tolkien’s legendarium. But I don’t think we can say that for sure (Tolkien omitted to mention a great deal in The Lord of the Rings appendices, often for reasons of space). So I’d like to leave open the possibility that Tolkien still saw them as relevant to the history of the Cirth.

Consider that, as Tolkien notes in Appendix E: “[t]he Cirth were devised first in Beleriand by the Sindar”, that they had an “older and simpler form”, and that “before the end of the First Age, the Cirth, partly under the influence of the Tengwar of the Noldor, were rearranged and further developed. Their richest and most ordered form was known as the Alphabet of Daeron.” The question is: what was the appearance and arrangement of “the Cirth in their older and simpler form”, before their rearrangement by Daeron? Either we don’t know the answer to this question (which is certainly possible) or perhaps the Gondolinic Runes give us a picture of (at least one of) the pre-Daeron Cirth arrangements.

This would also solve the problem of Gondolin, whereby the city and its peoples were hidden from friend and foe alike throughout most of the First Age. For this reason, it makes sense that Gondolin would have made use of “the Cirth in their older and simpler form” and it’s these older runes which we should expect to see on Orcrist and Glamdring. Given that Tolkien named one set of early runes ‘Gondolinic’, I think it remains a pretty good candidate! :)

Galadhorn, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 11:32

:-) Marc, thank you for your answer. I have helped to correct the tags in your comment. Now everything should look ok.

Glamdring and Orchrist are the examples of Angerthas Daeron (so, Elvish runes from the First Age) and the tables seen on the provided picture seem to be Angerthas Moria (so, Dwarvish runes, from Second-Third Age).

As I could see in the LotR movie the filmmakers (I suppose it’s in fact David Salo) chose these two runic systems for earlier, Sindarin inscriptions (Angerthas Daeron) and for later Dwarvish-Khuzdul ones (Angerthas Moria). And in fact I believe that in Gondolin the users of Sindarin wrote with Angerthas Daeron (which was already in use when they built Gondolin in the mountain circle) modified to write also the sounds of Noldorin Quenya (we have a glimpse of something like this in the App E). So, in my opinion this what they seem to prepare for „The Hobbit” movie is ok according to Appendix E in the LotR book. And this what we know about „Gondolinic Runes” is not with accordance with the App E in the LotR – see that most of these runes don’t have many in common with the Cirth. In my opinion „Gondlinic” script wasn’t valid in the conceptual phase of the LotR – but it’s of course only my guess.

Here we can read something which describes your and my conception: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Gondolinic_Runes

Greetings, Marc. Thank you for your kind answers. I hope we’ll be able to decipher something new very soon.

Florian "Lothenon" Dombach, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 12:32

You have an interesting point about Gondolinic Runes not being valid in the later conceptions of the myth.
But it doesn’t really answer why Gandalf couldn’t read the names – I find it hard to believe that Gandalf wouldn’t be able to read an older Elvish arrangement of Cirth, as it’s nothing but a somewhat different „mode” (if you will).

When we do base our assumptions solely on Appendix E I think we must regard the data provided there as somewhat relevant to the 3rd Age, as this is the allover point of view of LotR and we do in fact not find information on the Sarati while they are mentioned, showing that they are still part of the general conception. Why then would information of the Elvish arrangement be given, and would Gandalf be able to read only one „mode”?

Galadhorn, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 13:29

Florian, Tolkien himself answers this question. In 1960, while rewriting „The Hobbit”, he found the explanation of why Gandalf could not read the runes: Glamdring was covered in dark blood when Gandalf found it, explaining why the runes were unreadable until cleaned by Elrond (citation from Tolkien Gateway, cf. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), „The History of The Hobbit, Return to Bag End”, page 799).

Gandalf in the „childish”, original „The Hobbit” wasn’t exactly the Maia of the later writings. Tolkien tried to update his „Hobbit” in 1960s, but the fragments like this one with the Gondolin runes are still in the published text. This is my opinion at the moment. But I am still open to the other arguments.

:-) Cheers!

Florian "Lothenon" Dombach, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 14:16

I have to admit I wasn’t aware of that and it renders any argument rather pointless… 😉

But another wild guess concerning the ring:
Could you imagine they used Futhark there, as Tolkien did on the map? The central rune would then represent T, which one MIGHT interpret as the initial of „Thorin” (which of course would be wrong but at least somewhat conceivable and in accordance with Latin spelling).
Given that the LotR film’s Mazarbul book was an exact replication of Tolkien’s Cirth version it would also be inconsistent and I don’t really believe it myself.
Just a thought… :)

Galadhorn, dnia 10.01.2012 o godzinie 16:32

I have uploaded new picture with our theories.

And I have another guess – maybe the signs on Thorin’s Ring are… runic numerals? The main sign (looking like reversed rune number 12, but without the stroke) is the numeral „3” known from the Book of Mazarbul. And the other one looks like two signs for „5” put together = „10”? Or maybe two signs for „3” = „6”?

What do you think about „3 and 6/10 Theory”? What the numerals could mean?

Orcrist: The Sword of Thorin in Book, Film, and Replica « Heirs of Durin, dnia 10.04.2012 o godzinie 20:34

[…] There is little description given of Orcrist, aside from having a jeweled hilt, being etched with runes, and gleaming “in the dark if foes approached.”  So far, what we can see of the film version shows that it deviates from this description in not having jewels (although, like film Glamdring, it may have one single stone somewhere to represent this), but it does have runes on the guard which spell O R KH R I S T in Elvish, according to Gwaith-i-Phethdain. […]

Findlithui, dnia 20.03.2013 o godzinie 21:19

In support of Marc Zender’s comments regarding Gondolinic Runes…

Take a look at the Photostat of Tolkien’s rendering of Gondolinic runes at Lisa Stark’s site (http://www.reocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/9902/runegond.html)….

Pay particular attention to the small (crude) drawing of a sword at the bottom of the Photostat… translate the incription which is in Gondolinic Runes.

…it reads „Glamdring”.

In my poor opinion – if the Glamdring inscription was rendered by Tolkien in Gondolinic Runes, it lends strong support to the concept that Gondolinic Runes would have been proper for Orcrist.

Findlithui, dnia 22.03.2013 o godzinie 22:43

Second Post….

…. but I think there may be something we are missing. It jumped out at me last night around 2AM…

Forget what the CORRECT Runes are for Orcrist: WHAT DID PETER JACSON BUY THE RIGHTS TO?

The content of „The Hobbit” and LOTR. The Estate has put anything else off limits – if it’s not within what was purchased? The Movie Makers can not use it. REGARDLESS of what they think might be proper.

So – I suspect that they were FORCED to use only Runes that are shown, or at least EXPLICITLY REFERENCED in the texts that they had purchased the rights to. A sad situation, indeed.

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