"The wealth of Moria was not in gold or jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant... 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."'... '"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."
Mithril in its pure form was rather soft and malleable. It could be used in various alloys to produce extremely lightweight, hard and durable armour. It was also used as a type of inlay called ithildin. The Elves loved it for its beauty and presumably used it for jewelry and attire rather than weapons or armour.
Mithril was extremely rare by the end of the Third Age, as it was found only in Khazad-dûm. The Dwarves of Moria mined for mithril too greedily and too deep, ultimately releasing a Balrog, Durin's Bane. Once it destroyed the kingdom of the Dwarves at Khazad-dûm, Middle-earth's only source of new Mithril ore was cut off.
Before the Dwarves abandoned Moria, mithril was worth ten times its own volume in gold. However, once the Dwarves abandoned Moria and the excavation of mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless, as the presence of the Balrog prevented the Orcs in Moria from mining for it. The only way to obtain a mithril-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom mithril weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing objects to forge new ones. However, most of the mithril produced by the Dwarves before the fall of Moria was gathered by Orcs and paid as tribute to Sauron, who was said to covet it.
The Ñoldor of Eregion discovered how to make an alloy out of it called ithildin ("star moon"), which was often used to decorate gateways and portals, and was visible only by starlight or moonlight. The West Gate of Moria bore inlaid ithildin etchings and runes.
For the literal-minded reader, it is unclear whether or not mithril is a real metal; many have thought it to be platinum, or iridium however, both are far too heavy to qualify as candidates. It is possible that this legendary material was modelled after titanium, as this metal, while actually quite abundant as ore, was very expensive to produce in its metallic form (especially by medieval technology), and has some of mithril's properties of strength, bright silvery color, corrosion resistance, and light weight. Other possibilities are aluminium, or magnesium; these metals are even lighter than titanium, but not as strong or as silvery and shiny. (Famously, Napoleon III of France once bought dinnerware made out of aluminium because it was more expensive than gold at the time.) Certainly Tolkien, being highly educated, would have had knowledge of these three metals and the difficulty in preparing them. However, probably because nobody is known to have asked Tolkien about mithril, it will never be known with certainty whether mithril is based on any real metal.
The mithril coat
- "That spear-thrust would have skewered a wild boar!"
- —Aragorn, after seeing that the coat had blocked a spear wielded by a Cave Troll, in Moria
Of all items made of mithril, the most famous is the "small shirt of mail" retrieved from the hoard of the Dragon Smaug, and given to Bilbo Baggins by Thorin Oakenshield. "It was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold as ice, and harder than steel..." and studded with white gems of unknown variety.
Bilbo donated the shirt to the Shire 's mathom museum in Michel Delving, but reclaimed it before he left the Shire. Later in Rivendell, Bilbo passed it on to his nephew Frodo, who wore it during the Quest to Mount Doom. It saved Frodo's life when he was nearly skewered by an Uruk captain (in the book) in the Mines of Moria. Aragorn said the thrust was strong enough to skewer a wild boar, but the spear point could not penetrate the mithril-alloy mail. However, the leather shirt beneath the mithril was punctured with the force of the blow and Frodo was bruised and in pain.
Described by Gimli as having been a kingly gift, Gandalf states that the mithril-coat was worth more than the entire Shire and everything in it (though Gandalf says that he never told Bilbo, Frodo suspects Bilbo knew to some extent). Its value seems to have been even greater, however. After leaving Moria, the Fellowship has a chance to examine the shirt, and Gimli says of it, "I have never seen or heard tell of one so fair" and that Gandalf "undervalued it."
The Mithril mail-shirt was later taken by the Orcs who captured Frodo in the pass above Cirith Ungol, and passed on to the Dark Lord's servants at Barad-dûr. When the coat was displayed before the hosts of Aragorn at the Gates of Mordor many despaired, thinking Frodo had been captured or killed, and the Ring taken. Gandalf reclaimed it from Sauron's lieutenant, the Mouth of Sauron, and was later able to return it to Frodo after the battles were won.
Other mentions in Tolkien's works
- Galadriel possesses one of the three Elven Rings, Nenya. It is wrought of mithril with a white stone.
- Searching Orthanc, King Elessar and his aides found the long lost Elendilmir, a white star of Elvish crystal affixed to a fillet of mithril. Once owned by Elendil, the first King of Arnor, it is an emblem of royalty in the North Kingdom.
- The Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith wear helmets of mithril, "heirlooms from the glory of old days."
- As Aragorn's ships sail up the Anduin to relieve the besieged Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring, the standard flying on his ship shows a crown made of mithril and gold.
- After Gimli became lord of Aglarond, he and his Dwarves forged great gates of mithril to replace the gates of Minas Tirith which were broken by the Witch-king of Angmar during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
- The doors of Moria are inscribed with ithildin, an alloy of unknown composition that contains mithril.
The name mithril came from two words in Sindarin—mith, meaning "grey", and ril meaning "glitter". Mithril was also called "true-silver" by Men or 'Moria-silver' while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it.
In the Hervarar saga, which was a cycle dealing with the magic sword Tyrfing (and from which Tolkien borrowed, for instance, the names Dwalin and Durin), the hero Orvar-Odd wore a silken mailcoat which nothing could pierce (Oddr svarar: "ek vil berjask við Angantýr, hann mun gefa stór högg með Tyrfingi, en ek trúi betr skyrtu minni, enn brynju þinni, til hlífðar").
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy
- "Here's a pretty thing...light as a feather, and hard as dragon's scales."
- —Bilbo Baggins (Peter Jackson Movie Trilogy)
While it is never explicitly stated where the mithril shirt originally came from, in the extended edition, Gandalf tells the Fellowship that Bilbo had a set of mithril rings given to him by Thorin. Gimli states that it was a kingly gift and Gandalf agrees but admits he never told Bilbo exactly how valuable the rings were.
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Thorin gives Bilbo the mithril vest while the dwarves are arming themselves for the upcoming battle, stating that it is a gift and a token of their friendship. Thorin states that it is made of silver-steel but does not mention its value or rarity.
In the game Aragorn's Quest, mithril is three lore items, and the rarest currency is a Mithril bar, worth a hundred silver coins.
In other media
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Kazakh||Мітріл (Cyrillic) Mitril (Latin)|
|Serbian||Митрил (Cyrillic) Mitril (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Митҳрил (Cyrillic) Mithril (Latin)|
|Lord of the Rings Wiki Featured articles|
| People: Faramir · Sauron · Witch-king of Angmar · Gollum · Elrond · Frodo Baggins · Samwise Gamgee · Meriadoc Brandybuck · Peregrin Took · Gandalf · Aragorn II Elessar · Legolas · Gimli · Boromir · Galadriel · Elves · Hobbits |
Locations: Middle-earth · Gondor · Mordor · Rohan
Other: Mithril · The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game · The Fellowship of the Ring (novel) · Works inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien · The Lord of the Rings · The Lord of the Rings (1978 film) · Ainulindalë · Tolkien vs. Jackson · Tengwar · Quenya