What is Mithril in The Lord of the Rings? Mysterious ore explained
The dwarves of Khazad-dûm are mining for special material. **WARNING: Contains spoilers for The Rings of Power episode 4**
As The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power viewers become increasingly overwhelmed with new characters and ancient Silmarillion lore, it’s always nice to return to something familiar.
Of course, to anyone who’s watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this substance is not new at all. But just in case the finer details of Tolkien metal aren’t actually that memorable to everyone, here’s a catch-up on what mithril is and why it’s important.
What is Mithril in The Lord of the Rings?
Mithril is a precious silvery metal that is mined by the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm. Lightweight but very strong, this substance is worth 10 times its weight in gold.
The metal does not tarnish or grow dim and can be transformed into all sorts of shapes. Across the canon of Middle-earth, Mithril has been formed into many precious objects.
Most famously, Bilbo Baggins was given a Mithril chain mail by Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit. Bilbo then passed the armour to his nephew Frodo as he set out on his quest to destroy the One Ring. Those who have seen the Fellowship of the Ring will best remember the Mithril coat stopping Frodo from being impaled by a cave troll.
Other mithril creations include Galadriel’s own ring of power, Nenya, and the crown worn by Aragorn when he is made the King of Gondor.
Some Elves even made an alloy out of Mithril called ithildin ("star moon") which is only visible in the moonlight. The alloy was used to decorate doors and walls such as the entrance to Moria. Such decoration can be seen when the Fellowship tries and enter the mine.
The vein of mithril runs all the way from the mines or Moria to the island of Númenor. Yet after Númenor met its end in the Second Age, the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm were the only ones left with access to it.
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What danger lies in Dwarves mining for mithril in Khazad-dûm?
In The Rings of Power, viewers are shown Dwarves discovering mithril for the first time. Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) shows the ore to Elrond before having to run back into the mine due to a collapse.
By the end of the episode, Durin’s father, King Durin III (Peter Mullan), bans the Dwarves from mining anymore. Yet this seems to be a sign of the dangers to come, as any watcher of the Fellowship of the Ring knows that the mines of Moria don’t stay safe for long.
In J R R Tolkien's lore, in their search for mithril, the Dwarves mined too greedily and eventually uncovered a Balrog. Balrogs were spirits known as Maiar that were corrupted by Morgoth. They became demons of shadow and flame and carried chains.
The Balrog we see in Peter Jackson’s trilogy is known as Durin’s Bain. When he was uncovered, he slayed all of the Dwarves and kept the mine to himself for 500 years. He awoke once more in the Third Age and, as we know, killed Gandalf the Grey.
It’s unclear whether The Rings of Power will go up to the discovery of the Balrog, but seeing as the trouble has already started, it seems likely.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episodes 1-4 are available now on Amazon Prime Video – you can sign up now for a free 30-day Prime Video trial.