Skip to main content
Plan your visit
Stories

Swords of ‘Middle Earth’

Four heroic swords based on weapons used in the epic ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy went on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds in December, 2011. Royal Armouries’ curator of European Edged Weapons, Bob Woosnam-Savage, tells us more about the magical swords.

After our highly successful ‘The Wonderful World of Weta: Arms and Armour from the Movies’ exhibition in 2008, I have kept in close contact with one of the workshop’s directors, Sir Richard Taylor, in New Zealand. So when these swords were suggested as a collection of ‘high-end’ collectibles of museum quality I knew we had to have them.

More than just props

Although the swords in this collection are not movie props, they have been made at the multi-Academy Award winning Weta Workshop by the movie’s very own swordsmith, Peter Lyon, using the same designs, methods, materials and tools that were used to create the original hero weapons for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ motion picture trilogy. The pieces encompass a multitude of sword making, metal crafting and wood-working techniques and are examples of present day, world-class sword-making skills. In fact it could be said that they are even better than the original movie props as Peter Lyon now has 10 years more experience in sword making.

The swords – Andúril, Strider’s Sword, Glamdring, and Sting – are all artists’ proof copies of the long since, sold-out limited editions, ranging from only 10 to 25 in number, and have been made over the past two years.

Replica Lord of the Rings sword with textured grip

Design inspiration

The design of some of the swords is based on real medieval and Renaissance designs, similar to those held by the museum. ‘Andúril’, the sword of Aragorn, was based upon a large ‘cruciform’ European sword. The hand-and-a-half sword of the ranger ‘Strider’ was based closely on the proportions of a late-15th century European (bastard or hand-and-half) sword, but with non-historical design features.

The result is a functional and elegant synthesis of history and fantasy. Even ‘Sting’ was originally going to be based upon a Holbein-type dagger of the 16th century, but after much rethinking ended up as it is seen. John Howe, one of the concept artists of ‘The Hobbit’ also, designed the sword Andúril for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as well as co-designing Strider’s sword.

Related stories

Our Collection A most English armour Read time: 9 minutes Find out more

Behind the Scenes A conference report Read time: 9 minutes Find out more

Object of the Month An AK-47 with a story Read time: 7 minutes Find out more