Why does Frodo’s sword glow blue?

by Daniel Berry | Last Updated: 12/11/2020

Anyone familiar with the Lord of the Rings films or books will know that Frodo’s sword, sting, glows blue whenever orcs or goblins are near. But why does Frodo’s sword glow blue? What gives it this magical property.

Sting

Frodo’s famous sword, an Elven dagger created during the first age, long before the events of the Lord of the Rings. The blade was forged by the famous weapon smiths of Gondolin. Little of the history of the blade is known but it is speculated that the blade was lost during the Fall of Gondolin. How exactly the blade came to be in a cave troll where it was then discovered by Bilbo is completely unknown. Bilbo then gifted the weapon to Frodo before he embarked on his quest.

Why does it glow blue?

The simple answer is that Elvish swords were made to glow around orcs and goblins, as this passage from the books explains:

“being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light, if any Orcs were near at hand.” 

Note here how the swords shine with a cold light, the only sword described as having a blue light specifically is Sting although we can determine that a cold light probably infers a blue hue.

Do all Elvish blades glow?

No, simply put not all Elvish blades are known to glow in the presence of Orcs. While it is true that Sting glows because it is an Elven blade it does not follow that all Elven blades glow. We are told in the books however that both Glamdring and Orcrist also glow. These three blades were all forged in the First Age in Gondolin, thousands of years old by the time Gandalf and Bilbo find them. These are special blades forged for kings and worthy warriors, so this could be special high tech not used in all Elven blades.

But Glamdring doesn’t glow in the films?

This is a mistake, as you can see in the earlier passage from the books all three of the swords found in the goblin cave glow. We must just put this down to an oversight on the part of the filmmakers.

Hey, I'm Dan, I studied computer science with artificial intelligence at Loughborough University. I try to bring my tech knowledge to the posts where it is needed while also offering a DIY view to go with Sam's professional view on tools. I am a very keen DIY'er and have experience of doing everything the completely wrong way.