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"As light as a feather, yet as hard as dragon scales."

"Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim."
Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter 4 "A Journey in the Dark".
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Mithril is a fictional metal from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy writings. It's silvery and stronger than steel but much lighter in weight. The author first wrote of it in The Lord of the Rings, and it was retconned into the second, revised edition of The Hobbit in 1966. In the first 1937 edition, the mail shirt given to Bilbo was described as being made of "silvered steel".

The name "mithril" or similarly spelled variations (mithral, mythril, mythral, and others) is present in other fictional contexts like role-playing games, since the term is not trademarked, unlike "Hobbit" or "Balrog". The name is usually used for a special type of metal (often used as armor), or as a denomination of currency, or as a name for a project or device. It's very useful to have an exotic trope metal that is more rare and valuable than mundane metals like steel or gold. Citadel Miniatures even produced a color of (metallic) paint named Mithril Silver.

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As to whether Mithril was ever based on a real metal, Tolkien never said. Guesses for this metal have been aluminum, titanium, naturally occurring titanium-molybdenum alloy and platinum (and yttrium silver if you want to get technical). Titanium comes closest in lightness, hardness, toughness and resistance to tarnishing, yet it is not found whole in nature, it has to be extracted from minerals via a complex process which could not be discovered and put in practice by a pre-industrial civilization. (Unless, perhaps, if they had magic....)

Subtrope of Fantasy Metals. Compare with Thunderbolt Iron, Orichalcum, Hihi'irokane, Unobtainium, Silver Has Mystic Powers. Contrast with Cold Iron.

Not to be confused with Heavy Mithril, or the fictional mercenary organization of the same name.


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Examples

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    Fan Works 
  • Pokédex: This is the "steel" that makes Lucario a Steel-type. In ancient times, natural deposits were mined to make armor and weapons, but now they're tapped out and people hunt Lucarios for the mithril in their bones.
  • Scootamom: Luna's material of choice when forging is an alloy of mithril, adamantine and vibranium.

    Literature 
  • The Dwarves: In a wide variety of flavours. Every God in the setting created a metal with no earthly counterpart. These metals are all rare and precious, and used almost solely for ornamentation.
  • The Return Of Paul Twister: When Paul hears about the extraordinary properties of the dwarven super-metal èla, it's not surprising that this is the word he chooses to translate it. If John is right, though, the truth is even more interesting: apparently the dwarves, despite having the same pre-industrial technology level as everyone else, have figured out a way to mix magic with their metallurgical and smithing skills in order to overcome the considerable difficulties inherent in smelting and forging titanium!
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: The Trope Maker and Trope Namer. Mithril in Sindarin (Elvish) means "grey glitter", the -ril part being the same as in Silmaril. In Quenya (the classical language of the Elves) it was mistarillë. It resembles silver, is extremely light, and is much stronger than steel. Mithril chain mail provides incredible protection, while weighing almost nothing. As a result, mithril — sometimes called "truesilver" in the Common Tongue — is incredibly valuable and searched after. It was the reason for the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm's wealth and power, as large mithril veins extend beneath Moria and the Misty Mountains. Greed for this metal eventually led to the downfall of the dwarves when they found a vein of mithril that led to a sleeping Balrog.
  • The Deverry series calls it "Dwarven Silver", and a dagger made of the metal is a recurring theme: it's the key signifier of mercenaries in the setting. The first book in the series is even called The Silver Dagger. It's most notable property is to glow when touched by an elf or half-elf.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Mithril is a substance created from fusing silver with Magisteel (metal forged from ore that has been transformed by absorbing sufficient quantities of magicules), and it's particularly effective as a weapon against The Undead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons uses it, of course (sometimes spelled "Mithral"), as well as other properties based on it. In D&D, mithral weapons and armor are lighter and have reduced or even removed penalties to strength and/or stealth checks, though they are far more expensive due to the metal's rarity. Mithral dragons also exist, and are some of the rarest and most powerful.
  • Ryuutama: Items made of Mythril are lighter, smaller and more durable than ones made from regular metals.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: While mithril itself (or anything similarly named) doesn't appear to exist within the setting, its traditional role is taken by the metal silverite. It is exceptionally rare and valuable, is a beautiful, clear silver color, hard enough that it serves as the second best armor material in almost every game it appears in (normally surpassed only by dragonbone) and light/flexible enough that in Inquisition, armor made of it has the unique property of being wearable by members of any character class regardless of type (so even silverite plate armor could be worn by a rogue or a mage. Mind you, this is still rarely done as these classes aren't expected to need heavy armor anyway, wearing their own unique types mostly for the stat bonuses). In Origins, it also appears to be extremely harmful to the darkspawn — likely the reason that Grey Warden weapons and armor are traditionally made of it. Silverite is also not unbreakable, which leads to another reason it is usually only used by the rich: it is nigh impossible to repair completely. Any attempt will leave flaws in the armor or blade that will inevitably break again, and far more severely the next time. Hence, damaged silverite needs to be replaced completely, which is, naturally, expensive.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Mithril is a fairly rare metal, usually either silvery or blue, that is sometimes used to make armor. It's light and very strong, but it isn't the highest-grade metal in the game — that's typically Daedric. In The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, Mithril is explicitly a mid-grade material.
  • Golden Sun: Mythril shows up at the beginning of the game in the form of mythril bags needed to safely carry the elemental stars. In The Lost Age and Dark Dawn, it reappears as Mythril Silver, a material that can be collected and forged into special equipment pieces.
  • Final Fantasy: Curiously, the series portrays mythril a very low-grade metal obtained in the early game.
  • Moon Diver: Mithril used to be fictional in-universe, but was made real through modern science and alchemy.
  • Popful Mail: Mithril makes up one of Venuncio's golems, and also the Overlord's host body.
  • Realm of the Mad God: Mithril is described as "the strongest and most desirable of all metals". In practice, mithril is mostly alluded to in a few items, and the Game-Breaker Mithril Sword was removed relatively early in development, eventually being replaced by the Crystal Sword.
  • Romancing Walker: Appears as the "El Metal", mined by the elves of Elzcrown; it's very strong and very light, and Ryle uses it to upgrade his boat.
  • RuneScape: Mithril is stronger than steel and requires high levels of mining and smithing to work, and in the earliest days of Runescape, it was the third strongest metal in the game, behind Adamantium and Runite. By today's standards it's a rather low-level armour, requiring only 30 Defense to wear. In accordance with tradition, though, it weighs less than other metals.
  • Shining Force II: You'll find mithril in different places, and if you hold onto them for the whole game near the end the Dwarven blacksmith will forge powerful mithril weapons for your force.
  • Shining the Holy Ark: You can find Mithril Ore and Mithril Ingots on your travels and, for a fee, they can be crafted by the blacksmith in Desire Village into useful equipment.
  • Story of Seasons (2014): Mithril is treated more as a gem than as an ore, and required for crafting several high-end garden decorations and some jewelry (but not much else).
  • Terraria: Mythril is a blueish-green metal used to craft decent gear and the ever-important Mythril Anvil. At the time of its addition, Mythril was the third-strongest metal in the game (beaten by Adamantite and Hallowed metal), but years of feature creep have left it basically a footnote, with worlds even having a 50% chance to generate largely superior Orichalcum instead.
  • World of Warcraft: Mithril exists, but it's disappointing compared to the original or in other settings. Due to the Expansion Pack World franchise and the leveling process in general, gear is continually replaced. When the game was new, mithril was the second- or third-best naturally-occurring ore available. Players could make weapons and armor out of it and some of those weapons would probably last them until just before the endgame. Today, over a dozen better metals have been introduced, and mithril is just another relatively brief part of leveling.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Mythril appears as rare blue and purple materials for the synthesis of rare items such as the Ultima Weapon. Mythril often comes as shards, stones, gems, or crystals. It can also be synthesized in all its forms in Kingdom Hearts II. But, it takes rare materials in of itself.

    Other 
  • In the extended Digimon canon Mithril is mentioned a few times as part of the body or weapons of the creatures, such as Garurumon's fur or Iikakumon's horn. Although it has much less relevance and power than other original fictional materials from the franchise itself such as the Chrome Digizoid.


Alternative Title(s): Mythril

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