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Anglachel is a fictional weapon from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. According to The Silmarillion, it was one of two swords forged by Eöl the Dark Elf out of a black iron meteorite. The sword was carried by Túrin, who had it reforged as Gurthang. It was said to have a will of its own, and to have spoken to Túrin when he used it to take his own life.
Eöl gave this sword to Thingol in return for leave to dwell in his forest of Nan Elmoth, though Eöl did not relish giving it away. The other, Anguirel, he kept for himself. Thingol later gave the sword to his captain, Beleg, although Thingol's wife, Melian, prophesied the following to Beleg:
There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not love the hand it serves, neither will it abide with you long.
After Túrin was captured by Orcs at Amon Rûdh, Beleg pursued the Orcs to free Túrin. He slew their guards and slipped into the camp, but as he was cutting Túrin's fetters, the sword nicked Túrin, waking him. In the darkness, Túrin assumed it was Orcs come back to torture him. He seized Anglachel, and slew Beleg with it. When he realised his mistake, he mourned long over the death of his friend.
Túrin and Gwindor then travelled together to Nargothrond where the sword was reforged by the expert smiths and renamed Gurthang ("Iron of Death" in Sindarin). Its edges shone with a pale fire. The Elves came to call Túrin Mormegil ("Black Sword" in Sindarin). With it he led the Elves of Nargothrond in many battles, driving the Orcs from the lands. Túrin also referred to it as the Black Thorn of Brethil.
After the slaying of Glaurung, Túrin discovered from Brandir that his wife Níniel was in fact his sister Nienor. In anger he slew Brandir with Gurthang, and then in despair he fell upon the sword, asking it to take his own life:
"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: "Yes, 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."
It was prophesied by Mandos that in the Final Battle for Earth at the end of time, Gurthang would again be taken up by Túrin and would deliver the final blow against Morgoth, avenging the Children of Húrin and defeating evil forever.
The name Anglachel includes Sindarin roots: ang ("iron"), probably lhach ("leaping flame"), and probably êl ("star"). Commentators have assembled these into various possible translations (such as "Iron Star-flame" or "Iron of the Flaming Star"), but Tolkien did not give a definitive translation.
Gurthang is translated in the Index of The Silmarillion as "Iron of Death", from the Sindarin roots gurth ("death") + ang ("iron").
Parallels in other literature
One of many close parallels between the story of Túrin and that of Kullervo in the Kalevala, is that Kullervo, upon the death of his sister with whom he had an incestuous relationship similar to Túrin's, commits suicide in the very same fashion, even speaking with his sword as Túrin did. Tolkien drew inspiration from the Kalevala for "The Story of Kullervo" in 1914, which was to become the model for his tale of Túrin.
Another parallel is the tale of Sir Balin in the Arthurian Legend. Though he knows he wields an accursed sword, Balin nevertheless continues his quest to regain King Arthur's favour, though he unintentionally causes misery wherever he goes. Fate eventually catches up with him when he unwittingly kills his own brother, who in turn mortally wounds him.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 202, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Beleg is Slain as illustrated by Ted Nasmith
- The Silmarillion, 'The Tale of Túrin Turambar'
- The Silmarillion, Appendix on Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names, pp. 355, 358, and 361.
- The Silmarillion, pp. 333, 355, and 359.
- Shippey, Tom (2004). "Tolkien and the Appeal of the Pagan". In Chance, Jane. Tolkien and the Invention of Myth. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 155, 156. ISBN 9780813123011.