The Swords

After the group kills the Trolls trying to eat them, they go to their cave where they find a collection of Elven swords. Gandalf gives Bilbo a sword that glows when Orcs are near.

Bilbo's Sword

The Elf City

Later in the film, after escaping from the Orcs, the group find themselves in Rivendell. They share a dinner with the Elves, where they hear the names and histories of the swords they found.

Bilbo pulls out his sword, but a Dwarf sitting beside him tells him to put it away, because it was too small to have a story.

What was the name of Bilbo's sword, and what was its story?

  • There's a great quote in the Fellowship of the Ring which one of the dwarves makes if someone can find it... something like "Don't bother laddie... swords are named for great deeds" "are you saying it hasn't seen battle?"
    – Liath
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 9:26
  • 2
    The point was it doesn't have a name because it doesn't have a story. It's just a random Elvish knife.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 13:32

2 Answers 2



Sting was an ancient blade made by Elvish weapon-smiths in Gondolin. It was lost during the Fall of Gondolin, the same battle in which Turgon fell and Glamdring was taken. The blade was carried by Bilbo in The Hobbit after he found it in a Troll-hoard.


Engraved on the blade are Sindarin letters that read phonetically, "Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im". Translated they read, "Sting is my name; I am the spider's bane". According to the appendix of The Silmarillion, the element maeg in Sindarin means 'sharp' or 'piercing', and the Etymologies section in The Lost Road and Other Writings gives the meaning of the element nass as 'point', so "Maegnas" is literally translated as "sharp-point".

  • 3
    Well, yes. But Bilbo gives it that name when he is fighting the spiders in the forest. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 2:24
  • No, the name was written on the sword. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 5:10
  • 21
    When found in the trolls' cave, there was no writing on the knife/sword/(letter-opener). After his adventures in Mirkwood, Bilbo named his blade "Sting" and had the Elves engrave it as given above.
    – Jim Green
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 12:43
  • 1
    @JimGreen I'd post that as an answer - although the answer has already been chosen its worth adding!
    – Liath
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 7:29

It had no name until Bilbo named it

It was not a sword, merely a dagger, and unlikely to have been used for much worthy of recognition. I can think of only one dagger in Tolkien lore that was worthy of a name - Angrist - it is not Angrist.

No-one remarks on it by name when it is found, or in any other situation, unlike Orchrist and Glamdring, swords that had great deeds attributed to them.

Bilbo named it Sting after killing the spiders in Mirkwood with it.

Spider #2: It stings! It stings!

[the spider then falls down to his death and Bilbo then looks at his sword]

Bilbo: Sting. That’s a good name. Sting.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

In this picture from The Hobbit where Bilbo kills a spider you can see decorative swirls along the blade but no inscription.


However in this picture from The Fellowship of The Ring you can see that the decorative scrollwork has been redesigned with the Sindarin inscription Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im added between the swirls. This is translated in English to Sting is my name; I am the spider's bane


Here is a picture of the blade in the Hobbit alongside the blade in The Fellowship Of the Ring showing the lack of inscription in the Hobbit.


This would allow us to deduce that the inscription about being the spider's bane was added after Bilbo had killed the spiders and named it, probably in Rivendell, and wasn't something that was on the dagger when it was found.

This would indicate that the sword was not named Sting when Bilbo found it in the troll hoard.

Therefore Sting's name and story begins when Bilbo finds it.

Answer using the books

The dagger that was to become Sting was made in Gondolin by the Noldorian Elves of the First Age.

It is not mentioned in any of the books until it is found in the Troll hoard in The Hobbit.

Only one dagger is named in the Silmarillion, Angrist. This was a Dwarven dagger made in Nogrod whose story is arguably far greater than Sting's.

In the book Bilbo again named it Sting after killing the spiders in Mirkwood with it.

"I will give you a name, and I will call you Sting."

The Hobbit - Chapter 8 - Of Flies and Spiders

There is no mention of any inscription upon it in the books and is described as being quite plain when first found:

Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts. Gandalf [Glamdring] and Thorin [Orcrist] each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife [Sting] in a leather sheath. It would have made only a tiny pocket-knife for a troll, but it was as good as a short sword for the hobbit.

The Hobbit - Chapter 2 - Roast Mutton

Gandalf does then go on to say:

'These look like good blades,' said the wizard, half drawing them and looking at them curiously. 'They were not made by any troll, nor by any smith among men in these parts and days; but when we can read the runes on them, we shall know more about them.'

The Hobbit - Chapter 2 - Roast Mutton

It is unclear if he is talking just about the swords having runes upon them or the small knife as well.

But when they get to Rivendell:

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: 'These 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. They must have come from a dragon's hoard or goblin plunder, for dragons and goblins destroyed that city many ages ago. This, Thorin, the runes name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of Gondolin; it was a famous blade. This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore. Keep them well!'

The Hobbit - Chapter 3 - A Short Rest

As Gandalf only shows Elrond the two swords we can assume that Gandalf was only talking about the swords and that the blade that would become Sting did not have any runes upon it.

As the movies have the inscription in Sindarin we can conclude that this was engraved after Bilbo named it because:

  1. It references the killing of the spiders in Mirkwood - either that or the blade also killed spiders in Gondolin (of which no mention is made and would be quite a coincidence).
  2. The Noldorian Elves of Gondolin spoke Quenya not the Sindarin of the Grey Elves, they would therefore have engraved their blades in Quenya.

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