We are all excited about the release of The Road Darkens in just a week or two, and the latest article by Caleb over on Fantasy Fight’s website only whet the appetite even more! One of the Boons to be included in this epic Saga Expansion is Andúril, Flame of the West, Aragorn’s sword reforged from the shards of Narsil. We all know about the ‘blade that cut the Ring’, but what else is there to know about this weapon before it helps lead the Ring to the Fire when the company goes south?
The origins of the blade aren’t entirely clear, but it is believed to have been forged by Telchar the Smith, that great dwarf craftsman of the First Age. From there it was passed down to Elros, son of Eärendil and brother of Elrond, first King of Númenor. Narsil means ‘read and white flame’ in Quenya and its renaming carries on that legacy, as we’ll see.
There is no evidence as to how the sword eventually came into the possession of Elendil the Tall, save that his line was distantly related to that of Elros and the line of Kings. Elendil, being one of the great among the Faithful, was shut out by the Kings of Númenor before its downfall and so speculation could say that Narsil was taken early on, as the death cult of Sauron was just beginning, and kept safe by the Elf-friends. Or perhaps it was shunned altogether and dispossessed by an earlier King as an abominable weapon of elvish descent, even if it was originally of dwarf-make. One way or the other, Narsil came to Middle-earth on the wings of storm when Númenor was obliterated and the Faithful fled to Middle-earth in nine ships.
From that point on Narsil became one of the more famed blades as Elendil wielded it in the siege of Mordor during the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Without getting on too tall a soap box, I’ve often felt that the battle between Elendil and Gil-galad and Sauron was a real missed chance for the films. Of course, combat itself is not described in the books but we can imagine a severely epic fight between the High King of the Elves and the High King of Gondor and Arnor on one side against the Dark Lord on the other. In the text it is said that Gil-galad and Elendil defeated Sauron but died in the process, meaning they suffered grievous injury and fell soon after besting the evil one. He, Sauron, did not disappear after having his flanges severed by Isildur. While we aren’t given the details, it’s safe to assume that Sauron was incapacitated and perhaps had even left his physical form behind when Isildur took the broken Sword, split in half when Elendil fell in battle, and cut the Ring off the Black Hand. If he hadn’t floated away yet, surely Sauron’s spirit-self did so after losing the Ring that contained so much of his power and essence.
The Sword was salvaged by Ohtar, squire of Isildur, and taken to Rivendell after the disaster at Gladden Fields. From then on the Shards were kept in the house of Elrond as an heirloom of the Rangers of the North. Again, the details are unclear: was it always carried by the Chief Dúnedain, or only Aragorn? Did it stay in Rivendell exclusively? Was one half kept in Rivendell and the other lugged around by the Rangers? However it happened the Sword was kept alive in memory throughout the broken history of the realms of Gondor and Arnor. Even Boromir references it in the dream shared by he and his brother: ‘Seek for the Sword that was broken’.
Worth highlighting again is that the Sword That Was Broken did not shatter but was merely split in half. This is clearly represented in the Sword That Was Broken card, as well as core set Aragorn, by John Stanko, in which we see either half the blade being depicted. I find incredibly weird and cool that Aragorn carried around a useless weapon for many years before the sword was reforged. It seems so…Tolkienian.
Which brings us to Narsil’s successor, Andúril. Before the Company departs Rivendell, the Sword is reforged by the talented smiths of Elrond. The process is not described, though it is depicted (briefly) in the films. It’s full glory is not revealed until the Three Hunters meet Éomer. No, as the Company prepares to leave there is a kind of montage of preparation and we get this:
The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West.
The sword is, of course, used several times during The Fellowship, but it is wielded as a weapon of awe when Aragorn meets Éomer. It is both a sword of glorious make and proof of Aragorn’s high lineage.
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. ‘Elendil!’ he cried. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!’
Even old Éomer blanches at that! The wise but unlearned Rohirrim know and respect the Sword, and the elven-sheath that stores it! There is then the famous scene where Háma forbids weaponry to be brought into Meduseld and Aragorn lays a curse on any man who touches his sword. Andúril goes to war after that, flashing its brightness at the battle of the Hornburg and its light is seen again during and after the battle at Pelennor:
…before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Andúril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old: and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.
No doubt Anduril shone countless times after that in the wars King Elessar fought alongside King Eomer in the East after the fall of Sauron and surely it was passed on to Eldarion when Elessar’s time came.
As a card, Andúril will be epic! The attached hero essentially gets a free attack after he or she defends by exhausting the sword, not to mention a hardy stat boost! I think the designers get to play around with some strong attachments when they are Boons (or, in the case of The Hobbit saga expansions, Treasure) because they won’t be used in regular play. So a card like Andúril gets some special attention and what could potentially be a very strong, even overpowered effect. I’m looking forward to using it and playing through Aragorn’s many adventures!