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Rings of Power

What were the rings of power and where did they come from?

Ring text

Before the time of Elendil, Sauron was trying to conquer Middle Earth in less direct ways. For a long time he pretended to be a friend to the elves and men and taught them, referring to himself as Annatar or Lord of Gifts. One elf that he tried especially hard to befriend was Celebrimbor, the greatest smith and craftsman of the time. With Sauron's help, he and other elves forged many rings. The greatest of all were the rings of power. Three of these were given to Elven lords. Seven were given to Dwarf kings. Nine were given to kings of men.

Sauron secretly made one ring to rule over all the others. He made it in Orodruin, the mountain of fire and much of his own power was put in to the ring. While he wore it he could see all that was done with the others and could exercise power over those who wore them.

The men who wore the nine rings were quickly enslaved by the will of Sauron and became the ring wraiths, or the Nazgûl. The dwarven rings corrupted those who wore them so that they became obsessed with gathering gold and treasure. Some of those rings were recovered by Sauron. Some were lost or consumed by dragon fire.

The wearers of the three elven rings were the only ones to escape Sauron's intentions, since Celebrimbor had made them alone and they were untouched by Sauron. Even though Sauron had no direct control over them their power was still closely connected with the one ring. The three elven rings were Narya, the ring of fire; Nenya, the ring of water; Vilya the ring of air.

Later in the Lord of the Rings books (and possibly in the later movies), it is revealed who had the elven rings. Cirdan the shipwright originally had Narya the red ring of fire but he later passed it on to Gandalf. Gil-Galad the elven king originally had the most powerful of the elven rings - Vilya the ring of air. A gold ring with a blue stone. Elrond later had Vilya. Galadriel had Nenya the mithril ring of water. A mithril ring with a white stone like a frosty star.

The writing in the elven script above is the writing that Gandalf found written on the inner part of the ring. It says:

One ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

This was part of a longer rhyme which follows in full below:

Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
   In the Land of Mor-dor where the shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them
   In the Land of Mor-dor where the shadows lie.

The Power of the One Ring

When Sauron made the one ring to rule the others, a lot of his own power passed in to it. This meant that he was a lot weaker when he didn't have it. It also conferred certain powers on others who wore it. When Bilbo first found it in The Hobbit, we learn that when the ring is worn in daylight, the shadow of the wearer can still be seen. This isn't apparent in The Lord Of The Rings where the ring is never worn by anyone in broad daylight.

  1. It made the wearer invisible. The notable exception was Tom Bombadil who apparently wasn't affected by this particular power of the ring. Gandalf suggested that this power may become permanent if the ring was worn too much.
  2. Increased sense of hearing/smell. Altered sense of sight. When Sam wore the ring, he found that his sense of hearing was increased, so that he could hear orcs that were quite far away. His sense of sight was altered so that normal things became blurry. While Frodo wore the ring, he could see things from the invisible realm such as the Nazgûl.
  3. Long life. Both Bilbo and Frodo didn't seem to age while they possessed the ring. The same was true of Sméagol who lived for hundreds of years.
  4. The ring corrupted those who bore it. Gollum bore the ring longer than anyone else apart from Sauron, and became a twisted form of his former self. Bilbo had also begun to show signs of this towards the end, though Gandalf believed that the ring's power over him was less since he began his ownership of the ring with an act of pity (he didn't kill Gollum when he had the chance despite Gollum trying to kill him).
  5. Power over the wearer. Of all those who bore the ring, Sam & Bilbo were the only ones to give the ring up willingly, and Sam only had it for a very short time. It wasn't so easy for Bilbo but he managed it. After Gollum lost the ring, he spent the rest of his life searching for it. Even Frodo faltered at the end and wouldn't have given the ring up if it weren't for Gollum.
  6. Increased power for the wearer. The ring gave increased power according to the wearer and lured them with promises of great power. This effect depended upon the wearer. Since Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo & Sam weren't very powerful to begin with, the increase of power gained from the ring would have been comparatively small. If someone like Gandalf or Galadriel had posessed the ring, then their increase in power would have been great enough for them to perhaps rival Sauron himself. In all cases, the ring tried to corrupt them with promises of power. For example, in the case of Sam the gardener, he was tempted with the power to transform the whole earth in to a garden. There would have been a price though. As Gandalf stated when Frodo offered the ring to him,
    With that power, I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly... the way of the ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good... The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength.

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