The Making of Orcrist

  • Orcrist
  • Orcrist - the Goblin Cleaver with details revealing its Gondolin lineage.
  • Peter Lyon - Master Swordsmith
  • Paul Tobin - Senior Designer

"That is a massive blade, and very heavy to be working on", Peter explains. "It's hard physical work to grind an edge on a piece of spring steel that size."

"The finished sword weighs in just under 3kg, which means it's a lot heavier before I start. A curved blade also has its unique challenges."

"But the real 'pièce de resistance' in terms of precision and craftsmanship is the scabbard."

"The 'stunt' version of it (made of urethane) for the movies was made as thin and slender as it could without breaking. But when it comes to making a proper scabbard, I have to work from the slender external dimensions inwards and still leave room for the sword in the middle."

"The scabbard is made from steel and oak timber - it has caused me many a sleepless night thinking about how best to make it beautiful and functional. The leather straps, buckles and belt all need to fit together perfectly. Each scabbard is custom made for its blade, tried and tested for smooth operation."

"Anyone who orders the full set should also be aware of the construction of the scabbard and mind their fingers. Especially if they order their blade sharp."

"To make the scabbard follow the shape of the blade, it was necessary to design the scabbard with a slit along the curved edge side, so the thickest part of the blade can clear the scabbard."

"When you carry the sword on your back, like Thorin Oakenshield, this matters little. But if you are holding the scabbard with one hand and draw the sword with the other, make sure your fingers are out of harm's way."

Orcrist has quickly become one of the most admired items in the Weta Cave and its elven inscriptions (as translated by renowned linguist David Salo) are debated widely by Tolkien scholars across the World.

Blades often provoke an emotive reaction and we dare say none more so than Orcrist - the Goblin Cleaver of Gondolin.

 


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The most iconic prop in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is arguably Orcrist, "Biter", "The Goblin Cleaver". The sword found by Thorin Oakenshield in the hoard of the troll brothers William, Tom and Bert.

Orcrist was launched recently as the fifth sword in Weta's Master Swordsmith's Collection and is available to order.

The sword and some of its design history features in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design, but we wanted to delve deeper. We therefore looked up concept designer Paul Tobin and Master Swordsmith Peter Lyon for a chat about how the sword was designed and made.

A commonly asked question on Facebook and various forums has been if the sword has been inspired by any particular type of sword.

Paul Tobin explains: "In terms of a classification of weapon, it's probably closest to a falchion. However, the main reason for the blade shape is the need for a strong visual weight as it needs to look impressive in the hands of a bulky and potentially scaled down dwarf.

"If you take a sword like Glamdring, which is quite a slender blade, and while it looks fantastic in the hands of the tall slender wizard Gandalf, when you place it in the hands of a dwarf, it's begins to look a bit like a rapier or large letter opener."

"Although some argue Orcrist is the brother of Glamdring, this doesn't necessarily mean they have to look the same, only that they perhaps are made by the same smith. Tolkien never actually described any swords in any technical detail, so a lot of interpretation has to be done", Peter Lyon adds.

"So we started looking at Sting", Paul continues. "There you have a wider blade and for the second round of designs, I drew heavily on that blade shape."

"We needed a heavy blade with a good on-screen presence and although Orcrist is a single-edged blade, there are lots of similarities, like the hand guard - very similar to Sting."

"Something there's much discussion about online is the dragon's tooth handle", Peter interjects. "People are saying that there is no record in Tolkien's work of a dragon being slain in earlier ages and therefore no way anyone could have a dragon's tooth for a handle. But I guess you don't actually have to kill a dragon to get hold of a tooth. Perhaps it was knocked out in battle and made its way to a smithy in Gondolin."

 

Paul elaborates: "Really the tooth hilt was born simply by the name the sword goes by "Biter". Tolkien drew extensively upon our own world culture and histories and there are many examples of bone and ivory being used as handles for weapons. Peter was very keen to push a bold statement for the design and I guess that is why he went for this unusual idea. We even looked at Stone handles as well as a point of difference to the other hero LOTR swords. I also think given the role Smaug plays in the Hobbit that tying the tooth to a dragon has a nice sense of thematic continuity. The final hilt was modeled off a T-Rex tooth with Peter asking specifically for a slight serration to be carried up the hilt like the real dinosaur tooth.

"There are details through-out the design that herald its Gondolin heritage that go beyond the ties to Sting. In terms of its lineage we chose Echthelion of the Fountain, a captain of Turgon the Wise as the most likely owner of the sword. Paul explains. "That's where the fountain design with the four clear gemstones on the pommel originates."

 

"The whole design is actually very fluid, despite being such a massive blade", Paul adds.

Orcrist is the most time consuming design yet in the Master Swordsmith's Collection - mainly because of its size.

 

 


Tags: The Hobbit, The Master Swordsmith's Collection