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Ted Nasmith - Túrin Prepares to Take His Life.jpg
"Túrin Prepares to Take His Life" by Ted Nasmith
Other names"Iron of Death"
LocationTaur-nu-Fuin, Nargothrond, Dor-lómin, Brethil, Tol Morwen
AppearanceA glowing black blade that could slice through iron; forged from a meteorite
CreatorTúrin (originally Eöl)
Nargothrond, c. F.A. 490-495
Cabed-en-Aras, F.A. 499
Notable forkilling Glaurung

Gurthang was the sword of Túrin Turambar, reforged from Anglachel the sword wielded by Beleg Cúthalion when Túrin slew him in a tragic turn of events.

It was black and shone with a pale fire. With it Túrin performed great deeds but also senseless acts, but it broke when Túrin killed himself upon the sword.


[edit] History

Túrin was led to Nargothrond by Gwindor who had aided Beleg in the rescue. Once in Nargothrond Túrin had Anglachel forged anew. He renamed the blade Gurthang, "Iron of Death". The sword was wielded by Túrin throughout his time at Nargothrond as he became a captain and led the Elves of Nargothrond into open warfare, a tactic they were not well versed in. His increasing fame with Gurthang gave Túrin a new name: Mormegil "The Black Sword" of Nargothrond. Túrin's exploits with the Elves of Nargothrond culminated with the Battle of Tumhalad which led to the ruin of Nargothrond.

Gurthang was used by Túrin to slay the Easterling chief Brodda and it remained with him when he came to Brethil, but wishing to be rid of his past, he put Gurthang away. Only when orcs started to threaten Brethil in numbers did Túrin once again take up Gurthang to repulse them. When Glaurung came to Brethil pursuing Túrin, a desperate council was held in Ephel Brandir as to how to deal with the threat. Túrin told the Haladin of the tale of Azaghâl Lord of Belegost and how his knife forced Glaurung to flee, Túrin then declared "But here is a thorn sharper and longer than the knife of Azaghâl" and the Haladin cried out "The Black Thorn of Brethil!"

Túrin succeeded in slaying Glaurung with Gurthang at Cabed-en-Aras but fell into a swoon when he wrested it from Glaurung's belly. He was then told by Brandir that his wife was in fact his sister Nienor as recounted by Glaurung, and in a rage, Túrin slew Brandir. Discovering from Mablung that this was in fact true, Túrin returned to Cabed-en-Aras to commit suicide, addressing Gurthang with courteous words:

'Hail Gurthang! No lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee. From no blood wilt thou shrink. Wilt thou therefore take Túrin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?' And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer: 'Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.'[note 1]

Túrin cast himself upon Gurthang and the blade broke asunder. It was buried with Túrin beneath the Stone of the Hapless.[1] According to a prophecy, Túrin will use his black sword in the Final Battle to kill Morgoth definitely.[2][note 2]

[edit] Etymology

Gurthang is Sindarin for "Iron of Death",[3] from gurth ("death") + ang ("iron").[4]

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

The Gnomish name of the sword was Mormakil, although makil is an Eldar form. Other variants were Mormagli and Mormegil, meaning all "Black Sword".[5]

[edit] Inspiration

The scene of Túrin's suicide is directly inspired by the death of Kullervo in the Kalevala, although Tolkien gave more importance to the sword in his story.[6] After knowing he had commited incest, Kullervo asks his sword to take his guilty flesh:

The sword [...]
answered with this word: "Why
should I not eat what I like
not eat guilty flesh
not drink blood that is to blame?
I'll eat even guiltless flesh
I'll drink blameless blood".[7]

In the first version of the story in The Book of Lost Tales, the words are even closer to the source of inspiration, as the black sword answers that it will drink any blood without distinction.[8]


  1. Unless one interprets Gurthang's answer as occuring solely within Túrin's mind, there exists only one other item in the legendarium which shows an ability to speak: the talking purse of the troll William.
  2. As can be read in the Dagor Dagorath article, all the versions of the prophecy include a mention to the black sword.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Túrin Turambar"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion", p. 333
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names", entry "Gurthang"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", entries gurth, ang
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Index", pp. 373-374
  6. Richard C. West, "Túrin's Ofermod: An Old English Theme in the Development of the Story of Túrin", in Tolkien's Legendarium, ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, p. 239
  7. Elias Lönnrot, The Kalevala, trans. Keith Bosley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 495
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "II. Turambar and the Foalókë", p. 112

Weapons of Middle-earth
Aeglos · Andúril · Anglachel · Angrist · Anguirel · Aranrúth · Belthronding · Black Arrow · Bow of Bregor · Bow of the Galadhrim · Daggers of Westernesse · Dagmor · Dailir · Dramborleg · Durin's Axe · Glamdring · Grond · Gúthwinë · Gurthang · Herugrim · Morgul-knife · Narsil · Orcrist · Red Arrow · Ringil · Sting