The Rings of Power is a beautiful ode to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, sharing deep cuts but also expanding the lore. The mythical mithril is an example of both. In the Second Age, the dwarves of Khazad-Dûm, also known as Moria, discover mithril as we see on The Rings of Power. The rare ore will bring fame and fortune to their kingdom… and also trouble. But for now, the dwarves’ discovery of mithril is momentous. But what is the precious ore, and where else have we seen it? Here’s everything you need to know about The Lord of the Rings‘ mithril.
What Is The Rings of Power‘s Mithril and Why Is It So Precious?
For people so in touch with the mountains, it’s exciting to discover an entirely new ore. Durin’s Folk have only just discovered the “grey glitter,” the dwarven name for Mithril on The Rings of Power. So they don’t know everything about its properties. The timing of Elrond’s visit to seek help from the dwarves leads Durin to question his motives. And though Elrond didn’t know the true purpose at first, the elves are in fact seeking mithril. They believe it was created when a battle of good versus evil caused lightning to strike a tree containing the light of a Silmaril.
Mithril will one day be turned into armor and weaponry. And rings, of course. It will be worth 10 times more than gold. Mithril eventually become priceless once it is no longer mined. But for now, all the dwarves know is that it is lighter than silk yet harder than iron.
Mithril is dangerous to mine, with quakes collapsing the shaft. King Durin III is cautious and shuts down the whole Mithril operation in The Rings of Power. But we know Prince Durin IV’s objections will eventually prevail, and the wealth of Khazad-Dûm will flourish with this discovery. After all, by the Third Age, a shirt made of mithril is worth more than the Shire and everything in it.
What Is the Dwarven Practice of Resonating Stone?
A new addition to the lore of Middle-earth created by The Rings of Power, resonating is the practice of singing to the stone. Disa first detects mithril and describes how to differentiate earth, ore, air, and water within the mountain. “Sing to it properly, each of those parts will reflect your song back to you,” she says. Elrond watches in amazement as rock shifts while she sings to release the trapped miners. Resonating is how the dwarves know where to mine, where to tunnel, and where to leave the mountain untouched. This sounds wise, but, as we know, they will eventually delve too deep on their hunt for the precious ore. We hope the quest for Mithril does not prove to perilous on The Rings of Power.
Mithril in The Lord of the Rings Movies and Books
Mithril plays an important role in Tolkien’s books and in both of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogies. Bilbo describes it as “light as a feather and as hard as dragon scales.” In The Hobbit, Thorin gifts him a shirt of mithril rings that no blade can pierce. They find the treasure in Smaug’s hoard under the mountain.
He eventually passes the mithril shirt along to his nephew Frodo for his journey to destroy the One Ring. It saves Frodo’s life as the fellowship passes through the very mines of Moria from whence the mithril came many generations before. Like everyone wearing hidden armor, Frodo pulls open his shirt to reveal the mithril only after everyone thinks he’s dead, amazing them all. The mail comes in handy once again when Frodo is captured by orcs in Return of the King.
Elsewhere on Middle-earth, other mithril remnants remain. Nenya, Galadriel’s ring, is made of it. The elves learned to make the metal ithildin using mithril. It reflects only starlight and moonlight and marks the door at the West-gate to Khazad-Dûm. The helmets of Gondor’s guards of the citadel are also mithril. Gimli and his dwarven kin later rebuilt the gates of Minas Tirith using the precious metal.
Mithril also shows up in many other fantasy stories and role-playing games. The name, or close alternate spellings, has become ubiquitous with a beautiful and rare metal often used in armor. Tolkien’s creation lives on.
Originally published on September 15, 2022.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.