Warning: spoilers ahead for The Rings of Power episode 5Here's everything The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 5 reveals about the mysterious black sword hilt. Mischievously rifling through Waldreg's barn, The Rings of Power's young Southlander, Theo, discovered an eerie black hilt from a broken sword. Very clearly rife with sinister magic, the sword feeds off blood and casts a fiery blade in place of its broken metal.
The Rings of Power has explained precious little about the hilt's significance across its first four episodes, save only that season 1's main villain, Adar, is seeking it. Waldreg did also claim that the hilt represents a gift from Sauron to his followers, and will be used when the appointed time arrives, but his ominous words posed as many questions as they attempted to answer.
The Rings of Power episode 5 ("Partings") sees Theo finally showing the hilt to Arondir the Elf, who inevitably proves far more knowledgeable on the subject than a 14-year-old mortal. Arondir doesn't exactly know how the black sword might be used by Adar, but he does recognize its design and have some understanding of its purpose.
The Rings Of Power's Black Sword Is Not Unique
Upon sighting Theo's black sword hilt, Arondir immediately remembers seeing the relic before. He pulls back a section of overgrown shrubbery inside Ostirith (the Elven tower built to keep watch over the Southlands) and reveals an almost identical sword embedded into the mountain walls, seemingly intertwined with tree roots and rock - presumably since the First Age's War of Wrath against Morgoth. Arondir later remarks that Theo's magical hilt was the result of "some forgotten craft." These key details suggest the enchanted blades of darkness were more common once upon a time. Perhaps such swords were distributed widely among Morgoth's stronger minions during his Middle-earth reign, but Theo's broken hilt is the only piece now remaining during The Rings of Power.
The Rings of Power's second sword (the one Arondir uncovers in Ostirith) bears more than a passing resemblance to the one in Theo's possession, with the two ornate hilts closely matched. The sword in the mountain, however, appears inactive. While it's possible the sword's power was somehow suppressed by nature, it's perhaps more likely that the second blade's magic was exhausted after its purpose was fulfilled - unlike Theo's, which is still carrying great power.
Arondir's revelation of multiple swords impales several The Rings of Power theories straight through the heart. Many had suspected the hilt once belonged to a significant sword from Middle-earth's history - perhaps Gurthang, or a weapon wielded by Sauron/Morgoth. While the artifact is indeed special, we now know it's part of a set rather than a one-of-a-kind piece. This might add credence to the popular theory that Theo's hilt is some kind of morgul-blade - one of the dark magic swords carried by the Nazgûl.
The Black Sword Is A Key (To Mordor?)
Although Arondir doesn't exactly know what the magic sword is used for, he knows enough to tell Bronwyn it's a key to... something. Putting all the clues together, however, there's a fair chance Theo's sword is the key to transforming the Southlands into Mordor. Speculating on the sword's purpose, Arondir remembers, "The enemy commander spoke of becoming a god... of giving the Orcs a home in these lands." The Elf also acknowledges the hilt is what Adar needs to "enact" this plan. Audiences can maybe infer that the black sword will give Adar the power to reshape the landscape for Sauron's return - to turn the green and pleasant Southlands into the smoky wastes The Lord of the Rings fans know as Mordor.
This might explain why Ostirith's sword is lodged into the mountain rock - its terraforming power was already used during a previous age to raise the mountains Ostirith itself is built upon. J.R.R. Tolkien writes of Morgoth altering Middle-earth's geography to suit his purposes, and The Rings of Power's Arondir reiterates this point when telling Bronwyn "whole continents sank... who's to say what horrors this [the hilt] might unleash." Maybe the black swords played some part in aiding Morgoth's reshaping of Middle-earth.
Another clue comes earlier in The Rings of Power episode 5 when Adar longingly glares at the sun and utters, "But soon it [the sun] will be gone." While Joseph Mawle's character is possibly planning further ahead here - Sauron will return and blacken out the sun, etc. - Adar could also be alluding to the permanent darkness Mordor is renowned for. As soon as his dirty hands are around that bloodthirsty hilt, the sun goes down forever on Middle-earth's Southlands.
Why The Southlanders Once Fought For Morgoth
Arondir subtly drops another tantalizing breadcrumb into his conversation with Bronwyn during The Rings of Power episode 5, proclaiming the sword was crafted "to enslave your [Bronwyn's] ancestors." The Rings of Power already explained how the Southlanders made a blood oath to support Morgoth during the First Age, and their descendants have been watched keenly by the Elves ever since. Since the Southlands area is original to The Rings of Power, the source material can provide no clarification on why the region might've turned evil. Most Men who did join Morgoth in Tolkien's mythology were Easterlings, and almost nothing is spoken of their motivations for doing so.
The Rings of Power is kinda-sorta hinting that the black swords were to blame. Maybe Morgoth's commanders threatened to destroy the Southlands if its people didn't submit, giving a little demonstration of the destruction their swords were capable of. Alternatively, The Rings of Power has shown young Theo growing progressively more angry and aggressive since picking up the black hilt, almost as if the item itself is corrupting his soul. Echoing how Sauron used nine Rings of Power to turn nine mortals into his most loyal servants, perhaps Morgoth used black blades to dominate leaders such as the King of the Southlands.
Why Waldreg Had The Black Sword Before The Rings Of Power
The Rings of Power episode 4 hinted at it, but episode 5 confirms it - Waldreg is a bad egg. While most Southlanders either regret their ancestors' support of Morgoth or couldn't care less either way, Waldreg is a rare example of a loyalist who has been patiently waiting for the return of his beloved Dark Lord. He doesn't just bow to Adar because it's his best hope of survival, but because he's a dyed-in-the-wool follower of darkness. This would explain why Waldreg had the black sword hilt hidden under his barn in the first place. Maybe the relic was passed down through one evil ancestor to another before reaching Waldreg's guardianship, or perhaps the tavern owner found it by chance during his own lifetime. Either way, Amazon's The Rings of Power makes perfectly clear that Waldreg kept this broken weapon in a desperate hope that Sauron would return and use it to lead the Southlands back into the shadows.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.