|obennas||Document created 15/12 2000|
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 Elves had formulated rules or principles for the shaping of heraldic devices, which can be summarized in the following way:
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.
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.
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 .
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 .
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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).
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.  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.
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 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. 
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. 
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.).
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" ,
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. 
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.  The Silmarils are also used as emblems
in the devices of Feanor, Earendil,
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 ; but the design of one of the devices has been confirmed by a much more trustworthy text , 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 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
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. 
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 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 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 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 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 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
The devices of the remaining houses aren't described. What we know is this:
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.
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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 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.
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.  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.
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 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. 
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 . 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.
Rohan and The House of Eorl had a white
horse on a green field as its emblem . 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 , and the dealings between the two peoples
Both Gandalf and Saruman, the two most important Wizards in the westlands, used cirth (runes) as seals.
Gandalf used both a G-tengwa and a G-certh as his seals,
though he seems to have preferred the certh.
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. 
Saruman's soldiers had helmets decorated with an S-certh.
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
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. 
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 .
A common denominator of the heraldry for the two Dark Lords and their followers is the preference of black.
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.
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 [13, 16]. 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.
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" . 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 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. 
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." 
Modified 15/12 2000