Mithril has been one of the most prominent parts of Prime Video’s The Rings of Power lore so far. The latest episode delves into the legendary metal’s origins with an original spin unique to the show.
Mithril didn’t play an important role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its prequel, The Hobbit trilogy. However, the precious find of Khazad-dûm has already been set up to play probably the foundational role in the ROP series until the forging of the rings.
The metal that is lighter yet tougher than steel, is worth more than gold for the dwarves. It is not only the dwarves, though, who are eying the metal of the legends and squinting at its lustre with a smile on their faces.
It has been made abundantly clear how the metal can be the best thing to ever happen to the Dwarven kingdom. However, it is also clear that Mithril will be surrounded by greed, corruption, and malice from all sides of middle-earth.
Looking at the works of Tolkien and the transient references in the LOTR movies, it is also known that Mithril would end up becoming the reason for the doom of Khazad-dûm.
Another inevitability related to Mithril is that it will be used to forge at least one of the rings. Galadriel’s ring Nenya is very clearly mentioned to be forged out of the metal in the Tolkien canon.
But that’s all about what Mithril’s future entails. What about its past, though? What are the origins of this rare find and how did it find its way inside the deep mines of Moria?
The origins of Mithril, as told by Gil-galad
The Rings of Power episode 5 gives an explanation for Mithril’s origins, which while befits the fantastical world of Tolkien’s works, does not actually derive from them.
It is Gil-galad who talks about the origins of Mithril in an effort to persuade Elrond to break his oath and reveal the big secret During and his kingdom has got brewing inside their mines.
Gil-galad asks Elrond to recount The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglier — the Misty Mountains. What he brings up is the story involving a legendary battle between an elf and a Balrog.
This battle was fought not for honor but over a tree, atop the Misty Mountains, and within this tree was hidden the last of the lost Silmarils.
On one side of the tree fought the Elven warrior, who was of a heart as pure as Manwë. To protect the tree, the Elven warrior poured all his light into it. On the other side of the tree was the Balrog of Morgoth, siphoning all his hatred out into the tree, to destroy it.
Amidst their legendary battle, lightning struck the tree which forged with two duelling forces, a new power. Gil-galad interjects to claim that this power, which was as pure and light as good and as strong and unyielding as evil, seeped down the roots into the mountain depths.
Gil-galad says that this power has been lying dormant in the depths of the mountains for centuries, implying that Mithril is that very power.
Is Mithril’s origin intentionally fabricated or genuinely canon in The Rings of Power?
Gil-galad dumps the expository background of Mithril to set up the next phase of his persuasion. He later explains to Elrond that if the survival of the Elven race is to be assured, they need to have access to Mithril.
Celebrimbor further explains that if they use vast quantities of Mithril to saturate every last elf in the light of the Valar, their race could survive the impending rot and perish that looms larger than ever over their heads.
This seems like a very sketchy situation, especially with the highly suspicious flair that Gil-galad has championed so far in the series. The story of how Mithril came to be, seems highly unlikely and highly erroneous if it does have a canonical seal of approval from the makers.
The faults in the story
There are some faint similarities that the Rings of Power story of the Elven warrior vs Balrog shares with the Tolkien canon. There was an elf that did fight with a Balrog on his own, his name was Glorfindel, who, interestingly, can appear in the series in the future seasons.
However, the part about one of the Silmarils being hidden inside a tree doesn’t match up with the Tolkien lore. It just could be another one of TROP’s retcons.
However, a plausible explanation for the incongruence could be that the entire origin of the lightning forging a power and that power being Mithril is simply a fabrication.
For what reason, then, does the fabrication occurs? And who is behind this made-up origin? The first and immediate suspect is Gil-galad, who has been exuding very suspicious energy from the start.
The likely fabricator
However, Gil-galad’s spying on Elrond and Durin as well as the exclusion of the half-elven lord in his plans may very well be a red-herring, meant to distract the audience and pin all the suspicion on him.
In reality, it might actually turn out to be some other figure in the background, someone the show has not revealed to the audience yet, someone who has been influencing both Gil-galad and Celebrimbor to accumulate large quantities of Mithril, so that the metal could be used for his evil doings and forging of the rings.
This figure working in the shadows very well could be Sauron in disguise, likely influencing Gil-galad and Celebrimbor to serve his plans without their awareness because he’s probably masquerading as Annatar — the adopted identity and form of Sauron in the books, who befriends Celebrimbor and the Eregion elves.
However, that’s most likely a stretch at this point, albeit just as much of a stretch as Gil-galad’s story of Mithril’s origins seems to be.