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Lord of the Rings Armour

Protective gear in the Lord of the Rings films

An overview by Robert Jan    - v2.1

Picture on left from the London Exhibit.

Thank you to Torn for these pictures.  Full gallery here:

A row of LOTR Armor: 2nd age elf, Gondorian common soldier, Rohan soldier

or here for high rez

Wellington airport display, 2003

Lord Of The Rings Armour As A Plot Device

Personal body armour and the other half of the arms race equation, weapons, are 'signature' elements of Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings" and Peter Jackson's screen adaptation. In either source the military effectiveness of LOTR armour directly contributes to the plot. Without his shirt of Mithril mail Frodo would have died in the Mines of Moria, without the sword Sting and Galdriel's phial, Samwise Gamgee would have had a tough time seeing off Shelob the Giant Spider, and the feisty shieldmaiden, Eowyn, would have had more difficulty disguising herself as a man without the armour worn by a Rider of Rohan. Sometimes, of course, it's a matter of armour just plain failing to do its job! Merry the Hobbit was able to help slay the Lord of the Nazgul because he found and exploited a design flaw in the Witch-King's armour. Similarly, if Sauron's armoured gauntlet had been constructed as an all encompassing mitten instead of as an individually fingered glove it would have been much harder for Isildur to deprive the Dark Lord of the Ring!

The Different Periods & Cultural Origins Of LOTR Armour In The Fellowship Of The Ring Movie

Some notes on dates and the course of the plot in the film are in order to help place the armour and weaponry in context. The prologue at the start of "The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring" is our chief source for most of the Human and Elf armour in the first film. This features the Battle on the slopes of Mt. Doom between Sauron's forces and the 'Last' Alliance of Men and Elves in the Year 3441(S.A) at the end of the Second Age of Middle-Earth. With the dawning of the Third Age (T.A) the calendar is re-set to zero.

In addition to the massed armies there are five major armoured characters in the prologue: Sauron himself, two Elf-lords, Gil-galad (High-King of the Elves) Elrond (Herald to Gil-galad), and two human nobles, Elendil (High-King of Arnon And Gondor) and Prince Isildur (Elendil's eldest son).

Gil-galad and Elendil are 'blink and you'll miss them' characters in the film, Prince Izzy The Imprudent lasts long enough to show why people preferred to call him "Durrr!", and Elrond makes a return appearance later on. Elendil, as a human, is descended from surviving Numenoreans, a race of sea-farers whose island home was destroyed in a cataclysm that supposedly spawned the legends of lost Atlantis. The human armour seen in the film's prologue can be called Late Second Age Gondorian, but it is more popularly labelled Numenorean, especially by manufacturers of tie-in merchandise such as sculptures and miniature figures.

In the film the two opposing forces clash mightily, just when it looks like the Last Alliance troops are getting the upper hand Sauron himself appears.

Wielding the One-Ring of Power (plus a mean mace!) he literally smites the legions of the humans and elves, and in the process almost casually kills both Gil-galad and Elendil. Elendil's sword, Narsil, was broken in half under his body when Sauron killed him, but there was enough blade left attached to the hilt for Prince Isildur to desperately grapple it up and use it to slice through Sauron's finger, separating him from the Ring, and a good deal of his magical power. Narsil "The sword that was broken" will one day end up in the hands of Aragorn, who is descended from Isildur's line but a good deal wiser than his ancestor.

Sauron's physical body is destroyed (though his 'spirit' survives to cause considerably more mischief) but Isildur keeps the Ring for himself, rather than throwing it into the volcanic Fires of Mt. Doom which Elrond counsels, is the only way to destroy, or 'unmake' it. The Ring, charged with Sauron's evil power, eventually betrays Isildur to his death, and it falls into the Great River where it will be found by the creature, Gollum, nearly two and a half thousand years later around 2463 (T.A). Bilbo Baggins 'liberates' it from Gollum in 2941 (T.A), and passes it on to his nephew, Frodo Baggins, in 3001 (T.A), who then takes it from the Shire in 3018 (T.A). Frodo, aided initially by the Fellowship of the Ring and later by the major battles that distract Sauron's attention, eventually bears it to the Fires of Mt. Doom in Mordor itself in 3019 (T.A). There he has a hand (or at least a finger) in the Ring's ultimate destruction, thus ending the Third Age, and resetting the calendar once again, setting the stage for Earth's recorded history, as we know it, to begin. According to Tolkien at least. What about the archaeological record? Where are the camp middens full of discarded broken harness, or the mass battlefield graves heavy with shattered plate and riven mail? Ah well, here endeth the pseudo-history lesson!

From a costuming perspective one of the interesting points about all this is that there are some three thousand years separating the prologue and the events that take place in the bulk of the first film. Three millennium is a long time, but do we see much technological development take place in the armour of Middle-Earth over that span?

When we see the elves fighting en masse again in the third film (perhaps even the second if on-set accounts of their presence at the Battle of The Hornburg are accurate) will they be wearing the same gear seen in the prologue? I'd love to be wrong, but I'd guess that from the director's chair it probably looked ruinously expensive, and perhaps confusing to the audience, to create entirely new armour for the Third Age elves. On the other hand, elves are not subject to age or disease (they can be killed or die of grief) and being immortal perhaps they took the time to design their armour 'right' in the first place and didn't need to develop it further! Of course, by the time of the Third Age's War of The Ring, the elves are a dwindling race, and there shouldn't be quite so many of them appearing in the battlelines. Naturally, Tolkien has it covered! In "The Silmarillion" the author notes "It is said that the host there assembled (At Mt. Doom, in 3441 S.A) was fairer and more splendid in arms than any that has since been seen in Middle-Earth."

Practically the only armour we see the elves wearing in the rest of the first film (apart from a brief flashback in Rivendell when Elrond reminds Gandalf of how Isildur failed to destory the Ring at Mt Doom) are the leather wristguards and highboots worn by Legolas and other elves seen 'in the field', or rather, in the forest! A fascinating exception is the one-piece moulded curiass that Galadriel appears to be wearing when she does her "Dark Queen" party piece for Frodo in Lothlorien. It reminds me somewhat of the form fitting breastplate worn by Helen Mirren as Morgan le Fay in Excalibur.  Incidentally, Elf gear often has the added virtue of being blessed with assorted magical spells. One would expect this would convey all sorts of benefits perhaps including lightness, corrosion resistance, strength, and so on.

The humans of Gondor and Rohan are descended from the Numenorians. There are enough 'pre-release' stills floating around from the next two films to form a reasonable idea of Gondorian and Rohirrim armour in the Late Third Age, where LOTR is set. The Riders of Rohan are distantly related to the Gondorians, and are primarily cavalry orientated, though of course they also fight as dismounted infantry. The Gondorians also have horsed knights, and also fight as infantry. Although three thousand years may have seen little change in Elf war-gear it’s unlikely that human equipment will remain that static. In either case their armour seems to be different to that of the Late Second Age Numenoreans. Comparing pictures of the LOTR film armour worn by the Numenorians and that of their descendants it is possible to make a case for the human designs actually having devolved, over the three millennium. Will the 'old' Numenorian armour be seen later in the trilogy? 

At this stage I can't say with 100% certainty. It seems likely, given the  enormous battle scenes still to come!

Gimli and the other dwarves attending Elrond's Council are heavily armed, with axes or warhammers, and armoured. The dwarves, incidentally, are the only Alliance Forces in the first film who sometimes wear actual scale armour, as opposed to mail. For their size, dwarves must have remarkable stamina! When Aragorn. Gimli and Legolas pursue the Orcs who have captured Merry and Pippin only Gimli is fully armoured. Running a marathon in full kit is no mean feat! According to The Silmarillion (the most useful supplement to the LOTR text when it comes to armour in Tolkien) the dwarves invented mail, made it so it wouldn't rust and were also unmatched in the tempering of steel. Additionally Two Towers footage shows some humans wearing scale, and of course the Orcs wear it along with the rest of their rag-bag kit! There is also quite a lot of dwarf armour scattered around the Mines of Moria, since its unfortunate owners have no further use for it. I'm rather surprised the Orcs haven't scavenged it all; maybe it's got anti-Orc runes engraved on it, or perhaps they just like the grim tone it gives the decor! Gimli picks up extra weapons himself in the Mines of Moria, including an impressive double bladed battle-axe. Since he appears to aquire this when fighting in Balin's Tomb (the irreverent Cave Troll smashes open the sarcophagus) I'd like to think that the axe belonged to the last King of Khazad-dum.

Boromir represents the Third Age's Men of Gondor for most of the first film and he's relatively (compared to full plate armour) 'lightly' costumed for travelling. Well, light infantryman is a role that actor Sean "Richard Sharpe" Bean is quite accustomed to! He carries a large, round shield, and appears to be wearing a mail shirt beneath his tunic. Actually, a full mail shirt can be quite heavy in itself, but is Boromir wearing a complete hauberk or does he just have medium length mail sleeves attached to an arming garment? Appearances can be deceiving! He also wears very sturdy leather wristguards, or vambraces, which Aragorn later 'inherits' after Boromir is slain by the Orcs.

By the first film's conclusion these are the only armour Aragorn has, apart from his trusy Ranger's sword and Clean Living! In the books Narsil is reforged quite early at Rivendell and Aragorn carries it thereafter, with the weapon renamed Anduril. In the first film, the shards of Narsil remain behind at Rivendell, presumably to be reforged, and later delivered to Aragorn, perhaps (as others have cleverly speculated) by Arwen. If so, that would be a particularly neat way of bringing her back into the tale!

Frodo the Hobbit is also armoured for part of the movie, wearing the Mithril mail shirt that Bilbo gave him! As noted this becomes literally a plot point when it saves Frodo from being pierced by the Cave Troll's spear in Moria.

The enemy are generally more heavily armoured with a bewildering variety of gear that includes plate, mail, shields, and helmets. Clearly, industrialised Mordor doesn't have a problem with logistics, though they fall pretty flat when it comes to intelligence gathering; the all seeing Lidless Eye may be far sighted, but seems to be a little fuzzy when it comes to details such as spotting a pair of hobbits infilitrating Mordor!

In the film we see Orcs as blacksmiths in Saruman's fortress, strapping plates still hot from the forge onto the bodies of newly minted Uruk-Hai 'super' Orcs. Ouch! Armour worn by the Great Captains of the enemy are almost certainly magically enhanced, but this extra protection does not seem to be extended to the lower ranks! Certainly, there’s no sign that the crude armour worn by most Orcs is rust proof…. Higher up the evil evolutionary food chain are the Nazgul, or Ringwraiths, who have a taste for spiked 'Gothic' style gauntlets and armoured boots and leggings.

Sauron, the Lord of the Rings himself, stands heavily armoured in the prologue, as Commander-In-Chief of the Armies of Darkness. Armour which notably isn't capable of preventing Isildur from chopping the Ringfinger from his hand! Sauron's armour is both technically and visually complex, beyond the point of decadence and into the realm of offensive propaganda! He is armed 'cap-a-pie', from head to foot, in extensively fluted plate armour worn over mail. Pauldrons with extravagantly dangerous radiating spikes are examples of an overall threatening theme that encompasses every component. All plates appear to be heavily etched, engraved or otherwise elaborated on with raised detail. The colours are sombre, as befits the Dark Lord, but on film can also be made to appear ultra bright provided sufficient sorcerous light is emitted from within! Sauron's great helm in particular is composed of multiple, overlapping serrated 'blades' of metal, rising to spires that echo the design of his fortress, the Dark Tower, Barad-dur.

Sauron carries a fearsome mace, perhaps in homage to Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld wielded in battle by Sauron's former master Melkor. Sauron's armour in the film also reflects sketches drawn of Melkor. In the film, at least, the wizards Gandalf and Saruman use distinctive staves to help focus or direct their powers. It's possible that Sauron's mace similarly channeled the awesome energy of the One Ring.

Another key plot moment involving villainous armour sees Pippin knock the metal clad corpse of an Orc down a well in the Mines of Moria with a wincingly loud "Yoo hoo, here we are! "clatter!

Fidelity To Tolkien’s Text

This is a potentially vexing question if you let yourself get carried away with it! It's complicated by the fact that Tolkien wrote more than just "The Lord Of The Rings" set in Middle-Earth. The supplementary notes and books like "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion" (amongst others) add much detail about armour and weaponry. Recreation armourer Joe Piela has written an excellent essay on the subject of "Arms & Armour in Tolkien's Middle Earth".  Compare and contrast it with the film. Or re-read the books again and take your own notes!

Tolkien generally seems to have been basing his ideas about armour and weapons upon gear used in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. In the books, humans, elves and dwarves wear mail hauberks, sometimes mail hose as well, plus helmets, occasionally with greaves and/or vambraces according to 'national' preferences. Orcs, on the other hand, wear all kinds of motley kit including plate armour, but again, mostly mail, though the latter is of fairly coarse manufacture. that is to say, the rings are large and crudely made. Whilst the film makes use of mail for Orcs, it's usually heavily supplemented with plates.

From the perspective of having to tell the story on screen, I think it would have been more difficult to differentiate between the various armies if they all were predominantly clad in similar looking mail.

Banners, crests and devices on shields are also useful aids to identifying combatants. Mind, if the heralds did their job of formally identifying the participants, the Orcs would probably eat them for their trouble! It gets more complicated in the later films where we encounter different groups of human armoured infantry and cavalry. Again, considerably more plate armour than Tolkien alluded to has been used to help identify combatants.

When referring to armour Tolkien occasionally was very specific in the books. When the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell he notes that only Gimli is openly wearing mail, though Frodo's mail remains hidden beneath his regular clothing. In the film however, you can readily see that Boromir too looks to be wearing mail (you can see the sleeves at least) as they begin the journey. Textual discrepancy or not, there's no easier way for a man on foot (without a wheeled trolley, which I don't believe numbered amongst Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowhsip!)) to carry a hauberk by himself than to wear it! Certainly the armour appears to deviate from what Tolkien imagined, but for reasons I thought, as an armour buff myself, were mostly justified.

So far at least!

Design Of LOTR Armour

Conceptual artist John Owe, a medieval rejector himself, seems to have been primarily responsible for the armour designs, which were realised at Weta Workshop. Ngila Dickson, the costume designer, must also have had input.

Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor said: "At every stage we tried to step outside what we've seen in our own history and create armour that was not of this world. We've drawn on some of the best design-elements from armour and weapons throughout our own times whilst avoiding the trap of producing what fits people's perceptions of 'classic historical armour'." (P.91: LOTR OFFICIAL MOVIE GUIDE- BY BRIAN SIBLEY)


Taylor later continues, "We set up a foundry and we employed two armour-smiths to hand-beat all the original armour out of plate steel. By using hammer, anvil and the furnace we were able to get the kind of shapes and forms, the fluting and all the detailing that would have been created in times past." (P.91: LOTR OFFICIAL MOVIE GUIDE- BY BRIAN SIBLEY)

Once the 'master' metal templates were finished, silicon moulds were taken from them. Into these moulds was sprayed fast setting polyurethane. 48,000 separate pieces of armour were produced. (Derived from P.91: LOTR OFFICIAL MOVIE GUIDE- BY BRIAN SIBLEY)

At this stage I'm not sure if the 'hero' armour for the main characters was made of metal or plastic. Lead characters are generally costumed with more attention to detail and finish than secondary ones and extras. This seems to be the case with LOTR from the photos I've viewed. On the other hand, plastic or semi-rigid rubber is lighter than steel or even aluminium plate! There would have been 'stunt' suits with special practical features as well: more padding for physical action, or flame -proof for stunts involving fire.

Armour Terminology

Confusingly, there are different national variations on what armour components have been called throughout history. For the purposes of costume articles it's helpful to define some consistent terminology. Yes, they're a bit of a mixture, but I've picked words that I hope will cause least confusion to those who don't go through life with hammer and tongs! These terms are envisaged as being useful 'hooks' to hang more extensive descriptions of LOTR armour upon in further articles.

Helm - For protecting the head. Most of the Human/Elf/Dwarf helmets seen in the film are open-faced types, though there are important exceptions. A helm may have integral protection for the cheeks, face and back of the neck (elf helms are good examples) or they may have seperate pieces that serve the same purpose. Helms fitted with seperate visors (faceplates) are much more common amongst the Orcs, who, more than anyone, have good reason to hide their ugly mugs! From a filmmaking point of view a helmet with a mask or visor means that the actor’s face, when playing an Orc, does not necessarily need to be fitted with a prosthetic. Pointed elf ears my also be omitted byusing a suitably obscuring helmet.

Crest - A helmet may also be fitted with a decorative device for identification purposes. A crest can also have actual practical protective benefits, depending on what it’s made from. The metal ‘crescent blades’ on Elf helms would be of some use in deflecting blows, and even a simple horsehair crest affixed to the top of a helm can bind an enemy’s weapon or at least confuse their aim.

Aventail - A mail 'curtain' hanging from the lower edge of the back of the helmet to protect the back and sides of the neck. As opposed to a mail Coif, which covers the entire head.

Hauberk - A complete mail shirt. In the LOTR film armour context it has long, medium or short sleeves. Mail is generally constructed from joined circular or oval shaped metal rings, either rivetted, welded or even simply butted together. In the simplest, most common Western pattern, each ring is linked through fours others. Mail in the LOTR films, however, can in some cases be seen to be more exotically composed!

Hauberks in the film are often worn beneath plate armour which has the following elements:

Curiass - The entire defence protecting the whole torso. For the purpose of this article we'll separate a plate cuirass into a breastplate, backplate, and front and rear skirts.

Arm Defences - The entire defence covering the arm from shoulder to fingertips. It breaks into these components:

Pauldron - Plate/s that covers the shoulder joint, front, back and top. Why 'Plate/s'? This is not just a Gollum like stutter! Sometimes a pauldron is just one large, single plate, sometimes it can be composed of a number of overlapping, articulated plates. In either case the entire unit may still be referred to as a pauldron.

Rerebrace - Gutter or cylinder shaped plate/s that cover the upper arm.

Elbowguard - Curved plate or plate to cover the elbow and also bridge the gap between the upper and lower arm defences.

Sleeve - In some cases in the LOTR film armour wearers have no other substantial arm defence but a mail sleeve. Or, they may wear a mail sleeve beneath other arm defences so it can be seen protecting the gaps. A mail sleeve could be full (to the wrist) length, or just to the elbow or even shorter. They are usually part of a hauberk, but often in films are attached to an unseen arming garment, the rest of the mail being omitted because it's hidden anyway beneath some outer garment. Of course, in reality, protecting just your arms without additional armoured defence would be rather imprudent!

Vambrace - gutter or completely cylindrical shaped plate/s that cover the forearm. Vambraces made specifically to protect an archer's arm from the slap of the released bowstring are also called bracers.

Gauntlet - covers the hand and usually the lower forearm, either a heavy leather glove with a wrist cuff which might also be covered with articulated plates or mail.

Leg Defences - The entire defence covering the leg from hip to toes. These are the components:

Tassets - Plate/s which protect the hips, particularly in the case of cavalrymen where additional hip protection is often added. They can be attached to the breast/backplate either by straps or rivets or may even be attached to a separate belt.

Groinguard - Plate/s protecting the groin.

Rumpguard - Plate/s protecting the buttocks.

Cuisses - Gutter or cylindrical shaped plate/s protecting the thighs.

Kneeguard - A curved plate or plates that protect the knee joint and also bridges the gap between the upper and lower leg defences.

Hose - An alternate to articulated plate leggings are mail hose. These are basically mail stockings. Tolkien mentions them, but I haven't seen any yet in the film!

Greaves - Gutter or cylindrical plate/s protecting the shins and calves.

Tall Boots - Often, heavy leather boots are worn as an alternate or supplement to Greaves. Depending on their construction they may have little value in stopping blades. However they still serve a protection function, particularly for cavalry, where they can prevent chafing of the rider's leg against the horse's flank and also protect against cuts and scrapes from thistles, branches and other typical hazards encountered when mounted.

Sabatons - Armoured boots with articulated plates that allow walking.

Shield - Technically, a shield is also defensive piece of armour, though it may also be used offensively to literally punch or ram an enemy. This is as good a place as any to note that any armour may potentially be used offensively, a helm can be used to butt a foe in the face, an armoured fist makes a fairly effective mace, and so on. The Orcs and fellow travellers in LOTR enhance the offensive qualities of their armour by a lavish use of sharp spikes applied to various surfaces. Sauron is the extreme example!


Everything from wire, steel plate, modern thermoplastics, leather, rubber and even old fashioned twine has been used to make LOTR film armour. I'll try and indicate what was used where, when appropriate, on a case by case basis. Tolkien himself mentions all manner of materials, ranging from leather to iron, and also...steel! Steel (iron modified by being alloyed with more or less quantities of carbon) is referred to several times in the books, and King Theoden's mother was even nicknamed "Steelsheen!" Finally, there's the mysterious, much coveted metal, Mithril. Mined by dwarves and desired by every metal working race in Middle-Earth from Elves to the smiths of Mordor. Mithril is one of those convenient fantasy metals which has magical properties which remind me, in part, of some modern armour steels!


The major armour groupings seen in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings or hinted at in pre-release material in future films include:

1) Late Second Age (Also possibly Late Third Age Gondorian) Numenorean Human armour. Infantry armour worn in the ranks in the prologue consists of a what is meant to be a long sleeved mail hauberk, worn under a long surcoat with the White Tree of Gondor emblazoned on the chest. A long cloak similarly hides the hauberk at back, which probably means that there isn't any mail really attached to the sleeves. Supplamenting the mail are vambraces, greaves and a distinctive bowl shaped helmet with tall, vertical wings extending from broad cheekpieces. Shields are also carried. Great Numenorean Captains like Isildur are better protected than soldiers in the ranks by metal plate curiasses with plate leggings and arm defences.  Isildur's more concial helmet has no wings, but does boast a princely crown.

2) Late Second Age (Also possibly Late Third Age) Elf armour. Elf infantry in the ranks wear long sleeved mail hauberks covered with plate armour. The hauberk also covers the neck. The curiass is composed of brass or gold coloured diagonal segments. The effect is vaguely Roman, as if metal bandages were woven diagonally up the torso and across the shoulders. The curiass extends so far down that its many plates actually form the tassets.

Arm defences are composed of many individual segmented plates. The helmets are elaborate, appear to have been forged out of one piece of metal, and are crested with a stylised crescent 'blade' (rather like an ice skate being held sole upwards) and cover the ears but not the chin and mouth. Infantry also carry elaborate, leaf shaped shields. Long robes and cloaks, again serve to obscure the view of the rear of the armour. Great Elf Captains like Elron and Gil-galed are basically similarly armoured with some variations. Their hauberks come to points in front and have medium length instead of full sleeves. As with the infantry their hauberks are quite long and obscure any leg armour worn, or omitted. The Captains also wear distinctive armoured mantles, a plate one for Gil-galed and a mail 'cape' (technically called a 'bishop's mantle') for Elrond, but they do not wear helmets in the prologue! Elf design is very elaborately cruved and highly decorated with both raised and engraved detail that is a mixture of celtic and art nouveau styles. Elf infantry armour looks like it could conceivably be worn by a mounted trooper on horseback as well, since it divides in front and back to somewhere near the waist. Elves in the bulk of the first film generally wear little more armour than bracers or vambraces.

3) Late Second Age & Third Age Mordor and Isengard armour. Comparing the gear briefly seen in the film's prologue with that seen later the design of Orc armour seems to have been carried over from the earlier time. A motley assortment of leather hide, metal plate and/or mail armour is worn by the common Orc. Spiked shields and helmets are also signature components of the orcs. As with other combatants the Great Captains of Mordor, including Sauron and his Ring-wraiths are more elaborately and completely armoured than the rank and file. Sauron's prologue armour is the literal pinacle of enemy war-gear, plate and mail armour complete with spires and spikes writ large on a scale that reminds me of a mobile siege engine! Sauron, in effect, is a dark tower unto himself. Various forces ally themselves with Mordor, and if portrayed in later films may have their own distinctive war gear. More than other LOTR hosts the Orcs are given to looting battlefield salvage. This was acknowledged in the production by incorporating in their gear various scavenged items derived from other races.

4) Late Third Age Gondorian Human armour. Boromir is the only example in the first film of an armoured Gondorian. Mail sleeves, perhaps an implied entire hauberk, leather vambraces, stout boots and a round shield comprise his entire defences. Mounted Gondorians seen in stills from later films wear substantially complete metal plate defences with conical shaped visorless helmets rather like Isildur's, only less elaborate. Gondorian cavalry also tend to wear red cloaks. Gondorian infantry in the third age look to be similarly armed to their Numenorean ancestors from the prologue.

5) Late Third Age Rohirrim Human armour. The Riders Of Rohan in the later films wear slightly less plate armour than their Gondorian counterparts; but only slightly! More mail is visible than in the case of Gondorian knights.  Their plate, however, looks to be made of elaborately coloured and embossed leather, as opposed to metal. Their helmets boast characteristic white horsetail crests, and are very anglo-saxon/celtic in look, in some cases identical to the famous 'Sutton-Hoo' helmet, complete with a 'domino mask'-like half visor.

6) Late Third Age Dwarf armour. Dwarves seen in the first film wear full hauberks of either mail or scale armour. Arms and lower legs are protected by very elaborately decorated leather defences, and they also have open faced helmets. Gimli's upper arm defences are particularly intricate, and are formed from a number of interlocking, highly decorated small plates.

7) Miscellaneous armour. Aragorn, is a typical highly mobile Ranger and wears little armour beyond bracers, vambraces and good boots in the first film. He will aquire more armour as the trilogy progresses. Frodo's Mithril corselet is arguably the most effective armour in the entire trilogy,

however his Hobbit companions will also aquire armour as the series progresses. Certain animals (beyond Orcs!) are also armoured, including horses, the famous war Oliphaunts, and perhaps the flying steeds of the Nazgul.

The fantasy nature of The Lord of The Rings film trilogy coupled with the broad range of warring cultures depicted and the sheer scale of the back-to-back production makes it one of the most ambitious cinematic 'armoured' projects to date. It compares well to armour rich films like Gladiator, Besson's Joan Of Arc, and Excalibur.


1) I have used the traditional European spelling of 'armour' as Tolkien did. This article was also written in Australia and we also speak a form of the Queen's English! Still, if anyone wants to use 'armor' I'll still know what they mean!

2) This article was written after the release of The Fellowship Of The Ring film and will almost certainly require revision as more information comes to hand.

3) In most cases armour (with the Orcs being the masochistic exceptions) in the LOTR films seems to be worn over some kind of garment, hopefully ones that are padded and will cushion blows! These garments therefore have a limited value as armour in their own right, but are more properly discussed as general costumes.


 Revised March 2002

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