Sword in Movies & Books - Lord of the Rings - Glamdring
Of Glamdring’s early history, we know almost nothing. From Elrond’s words, we can say that it was forged some time in the second to fifth centuries of the First Age (the centuries when Gondolin existed), and that it was borne by Turgon (the only Elf to hold the title ‘King of Gondolin’).
After Gondolin was built, Turgon was in battle just twice: at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and at the Fall of Gondolin. Glamdring was greatly feared by the Orcs even thousands of years later, so Turgon must have wielded it ferociously on both these occasions.
Glamdring was a two-handed sword. Glamdring is translated as “Foe-hammer”, which is a Sindarin expression, and the Goblins in The Hobbit call it “Beater”.
For over 6000 years it went missing, surviving the War of Wrath, until Gandalf (and company) found it (along with Sting and Orcrist) in the trolls’ cave in The Hobbit and claimed it for himself. He continued to use Glamdring through the events of The Lord of the Rings, and it is kept safe in the treasure vault at Minas Tirith.
The only way to explain the sword’s survival through the War of Wrath is that the sword somehow was taken out of Beleriand within the 43 years after Gondolin’s fall and before the end of the First Age. This was most likely accomplished by one of the flightless dragons involved in Gondolin’s fall, most probably the dragon later to be known as Scatha the Worm.
After fleeing east with the spoils of Gondolin, including Glamdring, Sting and Orcrist, Scatha established a lair on the southern slopes of Ered Mithrin. Roughly around 2000 of the third age, Scatha was killed by Rohirrim leader Fram but the hoard was disputed by the dwarves (it undoubtedly did contain many dwarven treasures as well, like the horn gifted to Meriadoc by Eowyn).
The dwarves killed Fram and made off with some of the hoard most likely including the swords of Gondolin. The swords would have been used 700 years later in the battles between the dwarves and the orcs revenging the death of Thror and culminating in the Battle of Nanduhirion (where young Thorin Oakenshield earned his name). Thus the orcs would have a fresh fear of Biter and Beater (as demonstrated by their reactions when they capture Bilbo and company).
Years after the battle, the dwarven wielders of the Elvish swords were most likely relocating to Lindon during the Fell Winter of 2911 when they were waylaid unsuspectingly by trolls in the Ettenmoors. Thus the swords ultimately fell into the hands of the three trolls from The Hobbit by the end of the Third Age.
On the sword it reads, “Turgon aran Gondolin tortha, Gar a matha I vegil Glamdring Gud Daedheloth, Dam an Glamhoth.” Which means, “Turgon king of Gondolin wields, has and holds the sword Glamdring, Foe of Morgoth’s realm, hammer to the Orcs.” This was a strengthening spell to protect the user’s hand should an actual blow strike it.
Famously, Gandalf used it to battle the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and it fell with him there into the abyss. Glamdring survived that fall: Gandalf had it with him when he returned, and he bore it throughout the last days of the War of the Ring and beyond.
We know that he still had the sword when he rode through Bree with the Travellers in October III 3019, but Tolkien doesn’t mention it after that point. It seems safe to assume, though, that Gandalf was still wearing Glamdring, as he had for eighty years, when he boarded the White Ship at the end of the Third Age.
Photo source: LOTR Wikia - Glamdring as depicted in the “Lord of the Rings” movies directed by Peter Jackson