Gobennas Document created 15/12 2000

Emblems and Heraldry

By Måns Björkman

Elves, Men, Dwarves, and even Maiar in Middle-earth are all known to have used emblems, arms and heraldic devices of various kinds. These were used to distinguish kingdoms, groups of people, or individuals, much in the same way as in medieval Europe. Below I discuss and give examples of known heraldry and emblems of Arda. The accompanying illustrations are either based on preserved and published material, or reconstructed from written descriptions.


The Eldar


The Elves had formulated rules or principles for the shaping of heraldic devices, which can be summarized in the following way:

Origins and History

The rules of heraldry were usually followed by both the Noldor and the Sindar, which might indicate that they were already in existence (albeit in a crude form) at Cuiviénen; but it is tempting to argue that at that time the Elves were not yet culturally "sophisticated" enough for such ideas. The rules may also have evolved over time, and become known by oral tradition before recieving written form. If the rules were invented by the Noldor, which would otherwise seem likely, it seems strange that the Sindarin heraldry follows these rules, considering Thingol's anti-Noldorin politics. One thing that supports the Noldor as being the originators of the rules is that the Noldorin royals generally seem to have been given higher "status" in their devices, according to the rules above.

That the Sindar invented the rules must be considered a possibility; the Noldor adopted the language of the Sindar when they arrived in Beleriand, so why not the heraldry? Devices are known for Noldor who never had a chance to get aquainted with the Sindar, but that might be explained with that those devices were created at a later time; cf. Finwe's device.

What was the original purpose of the Elvish heraldry? In medieval Europe, heraldry was always connected with warfare: the knights needed a way to be easily recognizable on the battle-field, even in full armour. The heraldic devices thus had to be recognizable from a fair distance, invoking the necessity of stylized symbols and strict use of colours. These demands were clearly not met by the Elvish heraldry, which might either indicate that the devices weren't originally intended for warfare (which seems like a possibility; see below) or that the Elves had extremely good eyesight (which is known for a fact).

Further, in early medieval Europe the shape of the devices was usually restricted by the shield to which it was applied. Does this indicate that the Elves had lozengal and round shields? Round shields are very common in the early civilizations of the world, whereas lozengal shields are rare. The shape of a lozenge also seems a little unpractical for defence purposes.

The inevitable conclusion seems to be that the Elvish heraldry was not originally intended for identification in the battle plain (even though it may have gained such a rôle in the later ages). More likely, its primary function was to represent the kings and queens of Eldalie, and identify them in records and art. Thus it seems even more likely that some or many of the devices were constructed posthumously.

Samples of Eldarin Heraldry

A large number of Elvish heraldic devices has been preserved to this day. The samples below are all based on these preserved and published illustrations.

The device of Finwe Finwe. Finwe's heraldic device shows a "winged sun", opposing Elwe's device of a winged moon. Though Finwe actually died before the first rising of the sun, he was the king of the Noldor that reached the light of Aman and saw the Two Trees. Sixteen "points" reach the edges of the sign, signifying Finwe's position as one of the oldest of the Quendi and the High King of the Noldor. His bright yellow and red colours seem to be echoed in the devices of his heirs Feanor, Fingolfin, and Finarfin [2].

The device of the High Kings There was also a similar device for Finwe's house, identical except for being tipped forty-five degrees to form a square. This was the device of the High Kings of the Noldor and descended from Finwe to his son Fingolfin and then on to Fingon and Turgon [1].

The device of Thingol Elwe. The device of Elwe Sindicollo, better known as Elu Thingol, shows a "winged moon" on black surrounded by stars. It is the antipole to Finwe's winged sun. The reason for this is probably that both started on the Great Journey, but Elwe was enchanted by Melian and never left Middle-earth, at that time lit only by the stars of Elbereth. Finwe, on the other hand, came to Aman and settled in the light of the Trees. Judging by the number of "points" in Elwe's device (eight), he only got half the "rank" of Finwe. [1]

The device of Melian Melian. The Maia of Doriath is given a complex device, very unlike any other male or female device. Within it both stars and flower-like shapes are found, reflecting both the devices of Elwe (her husband) and Lúthien (her daughter). It might also recall (or, indeed, be) her seal, which was "a single flower of Telperion". Within the circle that marks her as female is seen a lozenge, which is usually the escutcheon of male devices. This might symbolize her ability as a Maia, to determine her bodily "raiment" and sex herself. [1]

The device of Feanor Feanor. Feanor's device shares the fiery colours of his father's device, and carries the connotation of fire further by having wavy flames that go from the centre outwards. These may be associated with Feanor's name, meaning "Spirit of Fire". (But these flames are also found in Fingolfin's device, where the same association can't be made.) In the centre is depicted a Silmaril, the greatest of Feanor's creations. It is surrounded by a number of coloured fields, possibly representing the art of creating crystals, which he invented. [2]
The Star of Feanor The Star of Feanor, seen on the west gate of Moria, was apparently an emblem for all the Noldor in Feanor's following. It was properly silver-coloured, and had eight rays and eight "spikes" which were arranged much in the same way as in Feanor's heraldic device. This indicates that the former was based on the latter, or vice versa. [4]

The device of Fingolfin Fingolfin. Fingolfin's device shows a distinct relatedness with the device of Fingolfin's brother Feanor, with the natural exception of Feanor's Silmaril. The silver stars on blue background is probably the source of the blue and silver of Fingolfin's banners mentioned in The Silmarillion. Eight "points" reach the edges, as is the case with all the devices for the sons of Finwe. [1]

The device of Finarfin Finarfin. Though sharing the "fiery" appearance of the devices of his father and brothers, the fire-rays in Finarfin's device are calmer, giving the device a more balanced appearance. Being distinctly set apart from the devices of his brothers, an inclination is perhaps made to the fact that he, at the rebellion of the Noldor, stayed in Aman, while his brothers proceeded to Middle-earth. This device was also used by Finarfin's heirs, and apparently especially Finrod (though he was also given another device). [1]

The device of Finrod Finrod. Finrod Felagund was given a device much different from any of the other Elvish devices: it is not symmetrical and the colours are distinctly earth-like. The image of a harp and a torch recalls the legend about Finrod walking in the woods of east Beleriand and his appearing among Men playing a harp. The Men that Finrod met belonged to the people of Beor, and it is possible that the device was made by one of that people. [2] Finrod also used a badge that depicted a crown of golden flowers. The motive of the badge was probably directly or indirectly related to the device of Finarfin.

The first device of Lúthien Lúthien. Lúthien Tinúviel is the only person known to have had two distinct heraldic devices; both are based on patterns with flowers. The first shows the white niphredil that grew at her birth (it has been described as similar to a delicate snowdrop). The second device of Lúthien The second probably holds an elanor in the centre. The stars in this device echo those found in her father Thingol's device. At a first glance it is hard to tell if there are any "points" that reach the rim, but it seems like they would be no more than four in both devices. In the first device they point in the compass directions northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest. In the second, the only thing similar to "points" are the white flowers that each symbolizes one point. This would give her the correct status as a princess of Doriath. [1]

The device of Idril Idril. The device of Idril Celebrindal reveals a cornflower-like pattern. Apparently Idril was especially associated with this flower, possibly through the golden corn that echoed her golden hair. An inscription found together with the device reads Menelluin Írildeo Ondolindello ("Cornflower of Idril from Gondolin"; Írilde is a Quenyaization of Idril's name). It is possible Menelluin (literally "Sky-blue") was the name, or designation, of the device. In it, twelve points reach the edge of the circle, suggesting the status fitting for the daughter of a High King. [1]

The device of Idril was preserved and brought from Gondolin to Númenor, where it became the inspiration of many similar Númenorean designs. It was then brought to Gondor by Elendil. Even though Gondolin is known to have had its very own heraldic customs, these do not apply to this device, which might indicate that the customs were reserved for the Twelve Houses of the city (q.v.).

The device of Gil-galad Gil-galad. His name means "Radiant star", and remembering also the words from The Fall of Gil-galad: "The countless stars of heaven's field / were mirrored in his silver shield" [5], it is only natural that Gil-galad's device shows a star-covered sky. It is hard to tell how many "points" meet the edge, but his status should allow at least four. [1]

The device of the Silmarils The Silmarils. There is only one known device that is designated for objects instead of a person. Why the Silmarilli should have their own heraldic device is unclear. Perhaps the device was used as a banner by the Noldor in the wars with Morgoth, to mark their intentions. The tree in the background is probably Laurelin, the Golden Tree, from which the Silmarils got part of their light. [2] The Silmarils are also used as emblems in the devices of Feanor, Earendil, and Beren.


Turgon's followers had, already in his old realm of Nevrast, developed heraldic customs that seem to have been unique in Middle-earth, and closer to the heraldry of the middle ages. Their emblazonry consisted of symbols set against a single-coloured background, and the shields they were applied to were "long and tapering". In Gondolin this heraldry was probably not used for personal devices, but were -- perhaps solely -- applied to the devices of the "Twelve Houses" (c.f. Idril). These were groups of nobles, possibly household or guilds, who appears to have been responsible for the defense of the city.

The detailed description of the heraldry comes from a source which is usually considered rather unreliable [10]; but the design of one of the devices has been confirmed by a much more trustworthy text [11], and apart from slight discrepancies I see no reason to believe that the other devices aren't accurately described as well. The coats of arms below are all reconstructed from the descriptions, and should of course not be considered authorial in any way.

The device of the House of the King The House of the King. Turgon and his house had the emblems of "the moon and the sun and the scarlet heart" and their signifying colours were white, gold, and red, each doubtless connected with one of the emblems. I have here grouped the three symbols into one device, although it is possible the house actually had three different devices. The heart represented the heart of Fingolfin, Turgon's father, who was buried north of the city. I have assumed that the sun is connected with the sun in the device of Finwe's house (Turgon being Finwe's grandson), and therefore given it the same number of rays.

The device of the House of the White Wing The House of the White Wing. The stoutest of the King's men wore swans' or gulls' wings on their helmets, and the device of their shields was a swan's wing on blue. Of this kind was the shield and helm that Tuor found in Nevrast, destinying him to ultimately join and lead the house. [11]

The device of the House of the Mole The House of the Mole. Maeglin, who led the House of the Mole, was a masterful miner, and apparently associated himself with a mole. But the shields of the house were sable and unblazoned, just like Morgoth's shield. In the end, it was Maeglin who betrayed Gondolin to Morgoth.

The device of the House of the Swallow The House of the Swallow. This house consisted of formidable archers, dressed in white, dark blue, purple and black. Their leader was called Duilin and their shields were charged with an arrowhead. The Swallow might be reminiscent of an arrow, flying speedily through the air and always finding its mark.

The device of the House of the Heavenly Arch The House of the Heavenly Arch. The members of Egalmoth's house were all very wealthy and enjoyed jewels and gold. On their helmets was set a large opal, and their shields were sky-blue. In the centre of the shields was "a jewel built of seven gems": ruby, amethyst, sapphire, emerald, chrysoprase, topaz and amber. The arrangement of the gems is my own; the "Heavenly Arch" was most likely intended to be the rainbow, and I have assumed that the topaz was yellow, to complete the rainbow colour gradient indicated in the order of the other stones.

The device of the House of the Golden Flower The House of the Golden Flower. Glorfindel led this house, whose device was charged with a rayed sun. The background colour I have chosen because of the house's name, and the description of Glorfindel's clothing as reminding of "a field in spring".

The device of the House of the Harp The House of the Harp. The members of this house wore tassels of silver and gold, and on their shields were set a silver harp on a sable background. The leader of the house, Salgant, fawned on Maeglin, and his on device only the harp was golden. It is notable that the device shares the black of the House of the Mole, perhaps by direct influence of Maeglin on Salgant.

The device of the House of the Hammer of Wrath The House of the Hammer of Wrath. A group of smiths and craftsmen, this courageous and strong house, lead by Rog, fought with maces and had heavy shields. Their emblem was the stricken anvil, but their shields showed "a hammer that smiteth sparks about it". No indication is given of the colouring of the device, but a clue might be that "red gold and black iron was their delight".

The devices of the remaining houses aren't described. What we know is this:

The Hildor


When the Edain entered Beleriand, they seem to have adopted the rules (and perhaps the very concept) of heraldry almost immediately. A forerunner of this was doubtless Beor, whose close friendship with Finrod gave him the oldest of the known Human devices. The first of these tended to use more warm and earth-like colours than their Elvish counterparts, and the designs were usually only symmetrical around the vertical axis, distinguishing them from the entirely symmetrical devices of the Elves. They also seem to have ignored the "point" symbology, with one exception. The illustrations below are all based on preserved devices.

The device of Beor Beor. Beor's device was probably the first to be created for a Man according to the Elvish rules of heraldry, and in many ways it is the most elf-like of the Human devices (not counting Earendil the Half-elf's device). It is entirely symmetrical and has the common Eldarin shape for males. Still it lacks the splendour of the Elvish devices, and seems more earth-bound with its warm and natural colours. [2]

The device of Hador Hador. The reason for the design of Hador's device is not clear. Hador was a great friend of Fingolfin, and one might perhaps discern the "fiery" colours of Finwe and his heirs in this device. The symmetry is vertical, even in the "spearhead" designs, the one at the bottom being more pointed than the one at the top. [2]

The device of Beren Beren. In the centre of Beren Erchamion's device is the Silmaril that Beren and Lúthien took from Morgoth. Above it the Thangorodrim looms, the three peaks of Angband, where the Silmarils were. Below the Silmaril is a red hand, seemingly stretched out to grab the stone. It may also symbolize the hand that Beren lost to Carcharoth. The meaning of the star at the top is unclear, unless it is a foreboding of the star of Earendil as the fate of the Silmaril. The device shows the vertical symmetry common for Men, broken only by the naturally assymetric hand. [2]

The device of Earendil Earendil. The focus in Earendil's device lies in the Silmaril of Earendil depicted in the centre, radiating six light beams towards the edges. In the dark corners the moon in its phases is shown. The presence of the moon might reflect Earendil's destiny to become a star, but it is also the only thing that prevents this device from being entirely symmetrical. This perhaps distinguishes him as being Half-elven. The six light rays are accompanied by six others, that seem to go in the opposite direction. Thus forming twelve "points", a clear relatedness with Idril's device is seen (Idril being Earendil's mother), which is reinforced by the shared blue background of the two devices. [1]

The device of the House of Haleth The House of Haleth. The device of the Haladin shows a tree of an unspecified order, a pair of white flowers, and a number of orange dots that might be stylized nuts or leafs. The tree seems to be entwined with a trailer. The Haladin in general were fond of solitude and forests, which might be indicated in this device. It is notable that the device breaks the Elvish rules of heraldry, using a lozenge for an impersonal device. [2]


In the Third Age, when the civilization of the Dúnedain had advanced in technology as well as in level of sophistication, their heraldry had diverged from the Eldarin customs, maturing into a more stylized and elegant tradition. They often applied a single (usually white/silver) charge to a coloured background, approaching the heraldic customs of the middle ages. This tendency was perhaps inspired by the heraldry of the Twelve Houses of Gondolin, from which two of the ancestors of the Dúnedain had come. No samples of any of these devices have survived in their proper form, but there exist vivid oral descriptions, and many pictorial clues regarding their design. These clues are accounted for below.

The device of the House of Elendil The emblem of Elendil and his heirs was seven five-pointed stars, each representing one of the palantíri that Elendil brought from Númenor. In Gondor they were set on a sable coat of arms, together with the White Tree, which represented any of the descendants of Nimloth that grew in Minas Ithil and, later, Minas Tirith. The device of the Kings To this device the Kings of the line of Elendil added the Silver Crown, which was the chief mark of royalty. In Arnor a single five-pointed star became used as a device, the Elendilmir, representing the Star of Earendil. In Gondor the device including the stars and the Silver Crown fell out of general use, until the time of Elessar and the Reunited Kingdom. [6] The crown of Gondor is depicted most clearly in letter 211 of Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. The tree here is based on the tree of a suggested dustjacked for The Return of the King made by Professor Tolkien.

The badge of Elendil Elendil himself is reported to have used his name, written in tengwar without vowel marks, as "a badge and a device upon his seals." This badge was found on his tomb on Amon Anwar.
The Seal of the Stewards The Stewards of Gondor never took any heraldic device of their own, and their banners were white with no charge. The Seal of the Stewards, used by Cirion to summon the Éothéod, reportedly showed the letters "R · ND · R" for arandur ("steward"), surmounted by three stars. [7]

The device of Dol Amroth The city of Dol Amroth had the emblems of a white ship and a swan. These were sometimes combined in a device showing a white swanship on blue water [8]. A swanship is depicted by Professor Tolkien on his painting of Taniquetil, reproduced in Pictures By J.R.R. Tolkien, No 31. Dol Amroth was used as a port by the Elves of Lórien sailing west in their swanships during the Second and Third Age.

The device of the Eorlings Rohan and The House of Eorl had a white horse on a green field as its emblem [9]. The reason for this is obvious. Most of the land of Rohan was covered by green plains, and the horses were the greatest assets of the Rohirrim. The horse depicted is likely one of the Mearas, the white horses of the Kings of Rohan. The Rohirrim weren't Edain, nor did they belong to either of the Realms in Exile, but by the end of the Third Age they occupied an area that had earlier belonged to Gondor [7], and the dealings between the two peoples were extensive.



Both Gandalf and Saruman, the two most important Wizards in the westlands, used cirth (runes) as seals.

The certh-seal of Gandalf Gandalf used both a G-tengwa and a G-certh as his seals, though he seems to have preferred the certh.The tengwa-seal of Gandalf It was the tengwa that the Hobbit-children identified when Gandalf arrived in Hobbiton, but both in Bree and on Weathertop he only used the certh. [12]

The certh-seal of Saruman Saruman's soldiers had helmets decorated with an S-certh. The device of Saruman Their black shields also portrayed a small white hand in the middle. The white hand of Saruman appears in other places as well. The hand that is drawn here is based on a proposed dustjacket design for The Two Towers by Professor Tolkien. [13]


The emblems of Durin Our knowledge of Dwarvish heraldic or emblematic customs is extremely limited. What we know of it comes from one sole example: the carvings on the Doors of Durin, the west gate of Moria. On the gate was seen, among other things, the emblems of Durin the Deathless. They consisted of a hammer and an anvil, surmounted by a crown which was surrounded by seven stars. The stars represented the constellation of the Valacirca, or the Plough, which Durin saw above his head when he looked into the Kheled-zâram. The Dwarves were always associated with smithying, a tribute to their maker Aule the Smith of the Valar, which should explain the hammer and anvil. [4]


We know virtually nothing about Hobbit customs regarding emblems. We do know that they used logotypes, however: when Merry and Pippin investigated the wreck of Isengard, they found two barrels of pipeweed. Both were marked with "the Hornblower brandmarks" -- but we are not told what they looked like [14].


A common denominator of the heraldry for the two Dark Lords and their followers is the preference of black.

The shield of Morgoth When Morgoth slew Fingolfin, his shield was "sable unblazoned" and his armour was black. The lack of any charge is not only fitting for the personification of the Darkness, but also hints at Morgoth's nihilistic disposition. [15]

The device of Sauron Sauron's device echoes Morgoth's sable background. The Red Eye was the common symbol for Sauron in the Third Age, even when talking about him as a person [1316]. It symbolizes his watching from the Dark Tower all over Middle-earth, especially after the One Ring. The eye drawn here is based on the dustjacket designs for The Lord of the Rings made by Professor Tolkien.

The device of Minas Morgul When Sauron overran Minas Ithil, the city aquired a new emblem. The emblem of Minas Morgul showed a moon "disfigured by a ghastly face of death" [16]. The exact arrangement of the skull and the moon is of course difficult to tell. The moon was probably a remnant from before the takeover by Sauron: Minas Ithil means "Tower of the Moon".

The Emblem of the MSMFC The Mordor Special Mission Flying Corps Emblem is described out of context, but (being preserved) the complex design of this emblem makes it unique in all the known Arda. It apparently was a badge that applied to Sauron's air-borne troops, probably including the later incarnations of the Nazgûl and, perhaps, any remaining dragons under Sauron's command. The "wings" at the side of the emblem are given a feather-like texture, which might indicate that they were originally real wings. A mystifying scribble, saying "Seen from below", actually hints that the emblem portrays one of Sauron's flying creatures, and the small "horns" indicated between the wings and the body of the creature could then be the feet of someone riding the beast. But it is clear that if so, the portrait must be extremely stylized. On the wings can be seen the image of Sauron's eye, multiplied like the eyes on peacock's wings. [1]

The Standard of a Chieftain of the Haradrim In the Battle of the Pelennor Fields one of the chieftains of the Haradrim under Saurons command had a "black serpent upon scarlet" on his standards. It seems that that very battle was also the end of this device, because the chieftain and his followers fell victims for the wrath of the Rohirrim, "and the black serpent foundered." [17]


  1. Hammond and Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Patterns and Devices
  2. Pictures No. 47
  3. Sil. Of Túrin Turambar
  4. LotR Vol. 1 A Journey in the Dark
  5. LotR Vol. 1 A Knife in the Dark
  6. LotR Index IV: Star
  7. UT Cirion and Eorl
  8. LotR Index IV: Ship
  9. LotR Vol. 3 The Ride of the Rohirrim
  10. BoLT 2 The Fall of Gondolin
  11. UT Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin
  12. LotR Vol. 1 A Long-expected Party
  13. LotR Vol. 2 The Departure of Boromir
  14. LotR Vol. 2 Flotsam and Jetsam
  15. Sil. Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
  16. LotR Vol. 3 The Tower of Cirith Ungol
  17. LotR Vol. 3 The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Modified 15/12 2000