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Articles Referenced in
the FAQ of the Rings

Compilation Copyright © 2013–2024 by Stan Brown,


Genesis of This Page

The FAQ of the Rings refers to more than 25 articles by various authors in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.books.tolkien. That article used to link to the referenced articles in the Google archive, and periodically as Google changed its links I would update the references.

But with every redesign, Google made it progressively harder to find articles or to reference them by Web links, for obscure reasons of its own. Finally in summer 2012 I threw up my hands and stopped trying, but I didn’t actually remove the links because they contained the Message-IDs.

On 15–16 September 2013, I spent several hours retrieving the articles, and appended them to the FAQ in a ZIP file. It was less than handy for readers, but still much, much easier to access than the Google archives.

Jeff Urs suggested placing the referenced articles in one text file, with anchors, so that the FAQ could link directly to each article. I have gladly adopted his suggestion, which I should have thought of myself.

In the quoted articles, I have suppressed most headers. I’ve kept References, In-Reply-To, and Xref because they may be interesting to those who might like to find more of a conversation. And of course the Message-IDs are there, as (theoretically) unique identifiers for articles.

A. Clausen 2003-05-15

Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
From: AC <>
Subject: Re: Why did the Three stop working?
References: <_hywa.6056$> <> <_rDwa.6130$>
Organization: The Tao of Cow
Message-ID: <>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 04:33:09 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:106015

On Thu, 15 May 2003 03:03:22 GMT,
TradeSurplus <> wrote:
> AC wrote ,
>>TradeSurplus <> wrote:
>>> Does Tolkien ever explain why the Three stoped working after the One
> was
>>> destroyed?
>>The Three, like the Seven and the Nine, were made with Sauron's
> knowledge.
>>Though they were never touched by Sauron, and he had no part in their
>>making, they, like the other Rings of Power, were bound to the One.
> That is
>>why, when Sauron revealed himself, the Eldar took off their Rings and
> hid
> That explains how Sauron was able to control them. It doesn't explain
> why they worked before the One was forged but not after its destruction.

Tolkien doesn't go into a discussion of mechanics, so other than the vague
understanding that Sauron's extensive knowledge was used in *all* the Rings
of Power, and his plans were to dominate the wielders of those Rings, so we
have to assume that the flaw or weakness in the Three was there even before
the One was fashioned.  It's likely a matter of pre-design, but all of this
is guesswork.  At the end of the day, we know that the Elves hoped the Three
would be freed, but in the end, the destruction of the One brought to an end
the power of the Three.

But this is my assumption as to what happened.

1. Sauron, in the guise of Annatar, gets in with Celebrimbor, and comes up
with a plot to lure the Eldar into forging Rings which he then would
dominate with a Ring of surpassing power.  This is all dreamed up before the
forging of the Rings of Power even begins.

2. The Seven and the Nine are forged with Sauron's knowledge *and* aid.  I'm
pretty sure Sauron did not expect any more Rings of Power to be forged.

3. Celebrimbor and the Gwaith-i-Mirdain forge the Three, without Sauron's
aid, but with his knowledge, thus building into them (unwittingly) the same
back door that the Seven and the Nine have.

4. Sauron forges the Ruling Ring, and all the Rings of Power, whether made
with Sauron's aid or not, are made subject to it because of the back door
that was put into them via Sauron's knowledge.  Part of this back door is
the binding of the power of all the Rings of Power to the Ruling Ring, which
may have been necessary for Sauron to dominate their wielders.  This is a
pretty safe assumption because of ...

5. The destruction of the Ruling Ring ended the power of the Three.

A. Clausen

← back to How did Sauron’s Ring control Rings that were created earlier?

Conrad Dunkerson 2001-06-09

From: "Conrad Dunkerson" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
References: <Xs9S6.5615$> <> <> <> <z3sT6.382$I4.28433@uchinews>
Subject: Re: Why 9 and 7?
Message-ID: <fupU6.72100$>
Date: Sat, 09 Jun 2001 13:26:35 GMT
Organization: AT&T Worldnet
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:18971

"Steuard Jensen" <> wrote in message

> (Isn't there a comment suggesting that the Nine were all kept in a
> central location while the Seven were more scattered?  I'll look
> later...)

Possibly this;

"Celebrimbor, desperate, himself withstood Sauron on the steps of the
great door of the Mirdain; but he was grappled and taken captive, and
the House was ransacked. There Sauron took the Nine Rings and other
lesser works of the Mirdain; but the Seven and the Three he could not
find. Then Celebrimbor was put to torment, and Sauron learned from
him where the Seven were bestowed. This Celebrimbor revealed, because
neither the Seven nor the Nine did he value as he valued the Three;
the Seven and the Nine were made with Sauron's aid, whereas the Three
were made by Celebrimbor alone, with a different power and purpose."
UT, History of Galadriel and Celeborn

So far as I can recall, this is the only mention of a division into
'Seven' and 'Nine' prior to Sauron taking ownership of the Rings.
There is no indication that the two sets were different, though this
might be assumed from the fact that Sauron was able to find the Nine
(along with lesser rings) at Eregion, while the Seven were either
hidden or somewhere else.  This could just indicate that the Seven
were in use or held by Elves who were not at Eregion - which might
also explain why the sets were given to different races.  Sauron
could have given the Nine to Men immediately and the Seven to Dwarves
after recovering them.  Still, it also is possible that the Seven
were somehow different and hidden because they had some power which
it would be worse for Sauron to gain control of than those imparted
by the Nine.

← back to How did the Seven and the Nine differ?

Conrad Dunkerson 2002-02-15

From: "Conrad Dunkerson" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
References: <Xns91B4CAD7C321Crsutiganacom@> <> <a4g45r$> <> <tGRa8.1144$> <>
Subject: Re: Nazgűl & their importance to Sauron
Message-ID: <o7Ya8.6956$>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 23:55:00 GMT
Organization: AT&T Worldnet
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:60347

"Stan Brown" <> wrote in message

> Now it is clear that without the One in his possession, Sauron could
> not automatically control the thoughts and actions of Ring-bearers -
> - otherwise the Three Elven-Rings would not have been used during
> the Third Age. But remember that the Nine (and the Seven) were much
> more Sauron's doing than the Three. While there is room for
> difference of opinion, I think the balance of probability is that
> Sauron's being "in rapport with" the One would be enough to let him
> transfer its dominance of any new wraith to himself.

While I'm not personally fond of this view myself, two bits of
evidence in support of it;

1: Sauron was able to control the Nazgul absolutely even after losing
the One.  This is repeatedly said to be because he held their Rings,
but the chronology makes it seem likely that he had to recover the
Nine from them after having lost the One.  So one way or the other he
was still able to dominate them without the One.

2: It is implied/suggested that some of Thrain II's seeking after gold
and falling into Sauron's clutches was caused by Sauron influencing
him through the Ring he wore.

In contrast there is of course the matter of the Three.  These items
do not have to be contradictory however.  The Nine and the Seven were
made with Sauron's assistance (rather than just with knowledge gained
from him like the Three) and further corrupted after their capture.
That might logically have made them more easily influenced by Sauron
(even without the One).  Too, the degree of influence that could be
imposed would likely have been less without the One and the bearers of
the Three were more able to resist attempts at domination - consider
Galadriel's words about Sauron seeking to get past her defenses and
see into her mind.  Even without the One he seemed to retain the
capability (whether through the Rings or via some other method) to
make such assaults, but in the case of the bearers of the Three he no
longer had sufficient power to dominate them.  Thus, Sauron might have
been able to confront the Nazgul directly to force them to surrender
their Rings and influence Thrain through his Ring, but not overcome the
wills of the bearers of the Three; unless he regained the One.

What this would mean in reference to a new wraith?  Well, presumably
Sauron would have been able to dominate them in a direct confrontation
and force them to hand over the Ring... which would then give him
complete control since they had become enslaved to it.  As to why this
would not lead to the possibility of Nazgul armies - the solution which
seems to best fit the texts would be that the power to hold a human's
fate in abeyance could only be applied to one person at a time.  Just
as any being truly mastering the One would have caused Sauron's
dissolution precisely the same as if it had been destroyed... so to
would any human mastering (and thus being mastered by) one of the Nine
cause its power to be taken from any previous Nazgul just as if the Ring
had been destroyed / rendered powerless.

> Besides, remember how terrible Sauron was. Even without using the
> Ring at all, he could reduce Pippin to a gibbering idiot in a few
> seconds.

Are we really talking about a significant reduction there?  :)

← back to Why didn’t Sauron use the same Nine Rings to make more Nazgűl?

Conrad Dunkerson 2002-02-17

From: "Conrad Dunkerson" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
References: <Xns91B4CAD7C321Crsutiganacom@> <9vHa8.407$> <> <> <> <PKdb8.1324$> <a4lcak$hje$> <s7zb8.5891$> <> <PnCb8.6137$> <>
Subject: Re: Nazgűl & their importance to Sauron
Message-ID: <_nDb8.6229$>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 01:08:10 GMT
Organization: AT&T Worldnet
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:60725

"Mikael Halila" <> wrote in message

> Would he have Gandalf lapse into much more archaic speech for just
> a single sentence, and then return to the comprehensive English he
> uses throughout the rest of the book? I don't think so, and this is
> my fundamental problem wit your interpretation. I find reading the
> quoted sentence the way you do totally inconsistent with the
> conversation and the whole book.

Oh, there are other instances of archaic usage in the texts, but as
it happens I think Tolkien wrote this with the intent of the Nazgul
having the Rings.

I argue the reverse because examination of the drafts shows that
Tolkien considered having the Nazgul bear the Rings or Sauron returning
the Rings to them at various times... I believe this line is left over
from one of those conceptions.  However, given that I think Tolkien's
final decision (stated repeatedly) was that the Nazgul not hold the
Rings this single potential discrepancy is best explained with the
archaic interpretation.

> But he still only uses the word "held".

What about "gathered to himself"?  And at that, I'm going to have to
argue that 'he himself now held' is more than just 'held'.  Consider
your argument above about phrasing in relation to THIS line... do you
really think it is remotely likely that Tolkien would have written that
Sauron 'held the Rings himself' if he did NOT intend to indicate that
Sauron had them in his possession?

> And gathering the Nine to himself can very well refer to Sauron
> regaining direct control over the Nazg?l when he returned.

He 'gathered the Rings to himself'... not the Nazgul.  And both
quotations also include the DWARVEN Rings.  If Sauron was not taking
these Rings into his own possession then where exactly were the
Dwarven Rings?  And consider also that we know that Sauron took Thrain's
Dwarven Ring >directly< into his possession at Dol Guldur.  As we know
he 'gathered' / 'held' that one personally I think the others mentioned
in conjunction with it must have been so treated as well.

Finally, in the 'textual history' department, consider this;

Tolkien wrote the 'Nine the Nazgul keep' line during one of the drafts
of the Council of Elrond.  Then much later he wrote that the Nazgul were
increased in power before the Battle of the Pelennor fields because
Sauron had returned their Rings to them.  If Sauron was only returning
the Rings at that point then Tolkien could not have intended that they
were wearing them at the time of the Council.  In the end even this
reference to the Nazgul having the Rings was removed, setting us up for
the various LotR and post-LotR statements indicating that Sauron had
the Rings.

> I feel more comfortable with my interpretation because I think it's
> consistent with the actual text of LotR, and you're free to keep to
> yours and think the same.

Well, so long as we agree that it is not "all very simple".  :)

← back to Were the Nazgűl wearing their Rings at the time of The Lord of the Rings?

Conrad Dunkerson 2002-04-08

From: (Conrad Dunkerson)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Gandalf and fireworks (Re: FAQ of the Rings -- updates and new Qs)
Date: 8 Apr 2002 12:02:08 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <aW3s8.9516$> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:66652 (Stan Brown) wrote in message news:<>...

> Could we have some more discussion on this point, please? I'm
> willing to change the FAQ entry, and I'd like to know more. What are
> the relationships or fire, fire-WORKS, and the Red Ring?

Well, throwing the 'textual history' argument into the mix, it is
worth noting that Gandalf's connection with fireworks and 'special
study of fire magics' predates any mention of him having a Ring and
indeed even the existence of the Three Rings.  Thus, they were not
included BECAUSE of Narya, but Tolkien's statements in Letter #301
would seem to indicate that they are at least 'consistent' with his
use of Narya.

I would argue that the three rings very much WERE dedicated to
preservation, but that they were also 'elemental' in nature.  Why give
something the name 'Ring of Fire' if it has nothing to do with fire?
Ditto for 'Ring of Air' and 'Ring of Water' (the translations of
'Vilya' and 'Nenya').  Consider Narya's status as 'the Kindler' and
its reputed powers of strengthening the wills of others (as Gandalf
did with Theoden, the defenders of Minas Tirith, and quite possibly
certain hobbits)... a sort of 'preservation' type effect, resisting
weariness and fear.  Just the sort of thing the Elves were trying to
do - and tied to the 'inner fire' of individuals.  We don't get the
same sort of clues about the natures of the other two Rings (though
there was a quite a bit about Galdriel's in the drafts - it went
through several changes but was consistently elemental in nature), but
I would suspect they were similar.  Elemental forces (and air and
water are every bit as destructive as fire in their own ways), but
specifically focused on 'preservative' and 'healing' aspects.  The
purpose of a blow-torch is constructive in nature, but it can
certainly be turned to violent uses.  Ditto for the Rings.  Gandalf
could make fire in a blizzard to keep companions from freezing to
death... or in a battle to fry some werewolves (using the same phrase
for both, and just a few pages apart).

> Why does Gandalf always seem to use his staff to make fire?

Gandalf tends to do alot of things with his staff.  At which point the
question centers on the nature of the >staff< rather than the Ring.
If it was a 'conduit' or 'focus' it might just be part of the WAY
Gandalf does 'magic' while Narya is part of the POWER he draws upon to
do so.  Or vice versa.  The staff being involved doesn't mean the Ring
wasn't.  Gandalf visibly used his staff in 'healing' Theoden, but that
scene also perfectly fits the described powers of Narya.

Textually, Gandalf was always associated with fire.  Right back to The
Hobbit.  Mytho-historically he had no such connection in origin (he
was not a 'fire Maia' to all appearances) and only developed those
skills in Middle-Earth, after he had received Narya.  Given the
textual history it was natural that Tolkien would choose to allocate
the Ring of Fire to Gandalf once he had decided that Gandalf would
have a Ring.  And I think from that connection and the statements in
Letter #310 we have to accept that the Rings DID have tangible
'elemental' aspects - focused towards their primary purpose of healing
and preserving, but also applicable in other ways.

← back to What were the names of the Three Rings, and what were they made of?

Conrad Dunkerson 2002-04-15

From: (Conrad Dunkerson)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Gandalf and fireworks (Re: FAQ of the Rings -- updates and new Qs)
Date: 15 Apr 2002 05:39:53 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <aW3s8.9516$> <> <> <> <> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:67622 (Stan Brown) wrote in message news:<>...

> I'm not altogether sure I understand your analogy here, but _if_ you
> are saying

> Manwë/Air/Far sight  therefore  Elrond/Ring of Air/Far sight
> Ulmo/Water/Prophecy  therefore  Galadriel/Ring of Water/Prophecy

Essentially, though with the caveat that this is quite speculative and
just in the nature of showing that there were some possible additional

> then I would ask, what is the left side of the analogy to
>                                 Gandalf/Ring of Fire/Encouragement
> Which Vala was concerned with fire, in the same way that Manwë was
> with air and Ulmo with water? I can't think of one.

No Vala, but one Maia approaching the power of the Valar... Arien,
guardian of the Sun.  Also somewhat known for bringing hope and
'encouragement'.  There is also the direct connection where Gandalf
says that he is a 'wielder of the flame of the Sun' in the
confrontation with the Balrog.

> This would seem to argue against use of the Red Ring, since both
> Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White had it. On the other hand--

Hrrrrm?  That Tolkien said Gandalf would have been unable to 'so deal
with' Theoden (and Saruman) prior to becoming 'the White' argues that
he did not ONLY use his staff (unless the whole reason he was 'the
White' was that his staff was somehow now 'more powerful').  If he
used more than the staff then he could also have used Narya.  That
doesn't argue that he HAD to have used Narya, but it does indicate
that the show with the staff was not the full story.  Adding in that
Narya enhanced his abilities in general makes its use that much more
likely... as does the fact that descriptions of its power match what
was done in that scene.

> But note "kindle hope and courage"; this is using fire as a metaphor
> for certain emotions.

Yet what I am arguing is that Tolkien used that particular element
'metaphorically' for those particular emotions frequently enough that
it might be argued that there was an intended deeper 'connection'...
either metaphysically or culturally for the Elves.  To the point where
a 'magical' control of 'fire' would either automatically include the
ability to 'kindle hope and courage' (if metaphysical) OR the two
would naturally be linked together (if cultural).

> ell no, of course it doesn't. But our only evidence for what Tolkien
> was _thinking_ is what he _wrote_. The logical leap from "Tolkien
> might have meant X because he didn't say X was false" top "therefore
> Tolkien did mean X" is an awfully large one -- too large, in fact.
> Next thing you know, we have talking Rings on Mount Doom. :-)

Ha ha.  If there WERE such a great leap of logic involved I'd agree.
However, I think that there is one reference which takes the 'leap'
out of it and makes it a much smaller step.  See below.

> With the greatest possible respect, I submit that this is circular
> reasoning. The only way to establish that "fire" was not a metaphor
> is to show that the Red Ring made actual fire, _and_ that the other
> two could not (otherwise fire is just a common power of the Three).
> To say, "well it's called the Ring of Fire and fire is an element so
> therefore it made fire" is begging the question. (I admit I'm
> oversimplifying your argument, partly perhaps because I don't fully
> understand it.)

Again, you are missing the one reference I was basing this on.  The
logic was not as above, but actually; 'Tolkien gave the Three
elemental names' + 'Tolkien indicated the Ring of Fire was used with
actual fire' = 'The Three must have been partially elemental in
nature'.  The names alone are suggestive, but as you note not

> The contrary hypothesis seems to me to have the virtue of
> simplicity: the Three Rings were named based on the colors of their
> gems, and all of them were about preserving things unstained and
> rekindling new hope.

Both ideas have the virtue of simplicity.  It is just as simple to
conclude that the gem colors were chosen to correspond to the intended
elements and that all the Rings had a purpose of preservation, but did
so in different ways.

> Again, if Tolkien says otherwise somewhere then of course I'll have
> to accept that; but I don't think it's quite enough to argue that he
> merely didn't explicitly support my hypothesis and therefore it is false.

I have not argued that.  I have argued that the lack of any statement
by Tolkien indicating that the Three had no 'elemental properties'
leaves open the possibility that they did have such properties - which
I have further supported with other arguments.

> If you have a quote to show that Gandalf actually used the Ring
> to make fire or fireworks, I'll happily accept it; but failing
> that, why bring in an extra hypothesis?

You might not take it the same way, but the 'one reference' I keep
citing is actually something you quoted at the top of this thread;

> And Conrad produced a quote that goes the other way:
> "Fireworks have no special relation to me.  They appear in the books
> (and would have done even if I disliked them) because they are part
> of the representation of Gandalf, bearer of the Ring of Fire, the
> Kindler: the most childlike aspect shown to the Hobbits being
> fireworks."
> Letters #301

Does this not indicate a specific connection between Gandalf's
fireworks and his being the bearer of the Ring of Fire?  Even if you
parse the first half to refer to Gandalf alone and the Ring of Fire
reference to be a random addition - the second half clearly describes
fireworks as a 'childlike aspect' of 'the Kindler', which is another
name for Narya.

> I think "enchanted rivers" argues against the power of Galadriel's
> Ring of Water, not for it. Remember that Elrond also had an
> enchanted river, but his Ring was the Ring of Air.

I noted this in the Elrond section, but really it argues that Elrond
(and Gandalf, who did the horses and such) could ALSO affect
'water'... NOT that Galadriel could not or did not do a good deal of
'water magic'.  Gandalf did 'water magic' in that one scene, but I'm
again going to argue that he used fire FAR more than any other

> For that matter, if it was Rings then the Ring of Water was _less_
> effective than the Ring of Air in controlling rivers. Elrond was
> able to prevent an invasion by the Black Riders; Galadriel was not
> able to prevent an incursion by mere Orcs. That would argue pretty
> strongly against any special power of the Ring of Water over water.

The Orcs came from the 'land-bound' side, were beyond or on the
borders of the realm proper, and crossed only the tiny Nimrodel (which
was still notably bold).  On the other hand, major assaults from
Sauron's forces at Dol Guldur were unable to break into Lorien across
the river - specifically because of the power of Galadriel and her
Ring (though not specifically because of the river).

Of Elrond;
> And of course the telepathy was not Ring-related, or at least not
> necessarily.

Right, neither the telepathy nor the healing nor the bit of prophecy
Elrond engages in are particularly unusual for Elves even without
Rings.  The only really noteworthy bit of 'magic' we see him do is the
river, and I'd argue that as such we don't have a 'representative
sample' to work with.

I had written;
>> Specific statements by Tolkien that Rings did not have such powers:

> But this seems to me to be a false basis of reasoning. Tolkien also
> did not say that the Rings did not have the power to transport their
> bearers through time, yet I do not think you would argue that this
> omission is any evidence at all that the Rings had such a power.
> Absence of proof for is _not_ the same as proof against.

Absolutely, and if it were 'absence of proof' alone it would make
little difference one way or the other.  However, I think that the
names are suggestive (though again, certainly not definitive) and the
fireworks reference the only item of semi-solid evidence in the whole
debate.  Everything else is 'absence of proof' and 'possibility to
speculate', but that one item has the added 'weight' of 'non-canonical
once off suggestion'.  :)

Hence my 'very little' vs 'almost none' summation.

> Granted the names, but given Tolkien's rich use of metaphor I think
> we cannot jump to conclusions. Was the Flame Imperishable an actual
> fire? I doubt it. Was Anduril (Aragorn's sword) and actual flame?
> Certainly not.

Uh oh.  Again, I think it entirely possible that the Flame
Imperishable WAS a form of 'fire' and that Anduril WAS in some senses
tied to actual flame... it gives that impression on more than one
occasion.  As you note, it is a matter of determining 'level of
metaphor' or precise intent... Anduril was not an open flame at all
times, but I do think that it could burn.

> In fact you _must_ accept a certain level of metaphor in the names
> of the Rings. "Ring of Water" obviously doesn't mean it was made of
> water. The question then becomes, which metaphors are in use. Unless
> there is clear statement from the author, I think we need to apply
> normal techniques of analysis, which means choosing the simplest
> hypothesis first.

Yes, but opinions as to what is the simplest hypothesis are invariably
founded based on other beliefs which are not shared amongst all
participants.  I >am< choosing the simplest hypothesis; based on my
existing view of 'elemental affinities' in Middle-earth 'magic' the
simplest hypothesis is that the Three Rings were given names
referencing elements because they incorporated a degree of elemental

> This summing up puzzles me a great deal. From my perspective, there
> is a great deal of evidence that can be explained without special
> reference to any Ring having particular "elemental" powers,

Which is an 'absence of proof' issue - many things happen without
mention of 'elemental powers'.  This does not mean that 'elemental
powers' definitely do not exist, but it can serve as a contributing
argument against them.

> nothing that can't,

Here is the main point of disagreement.  I believe that the fireworks
reference contradicts the 'nothing' - it IS a reference to 'elemental
powers'.  And ergo I see it as 'general lack of mention BUT one
specific instance where it >is< stated'.

> some direct evidence _against_ that hypothesis,

I'm not sure what this refers to.  The 'primary purpose of
preservation' issue?  As I argued previously, I don't see that
contradicting the possibility of 'elemental powers' at all.... they
are either not part of the PRIMARY purpose, or the preservation was
achieved precisely through control of those elements.

> and no clear statement from the author.

The letter is not a clear statement that the Three had elemental
powers, but I believe it IS a clear statement that Narya was
associated with Gandalf's fireworks and that this forms a reasonable
basis for arguing that the Three had elemental names because they had
such powers.

← back to Gandalf bore the Ring of Fire. Is that how he made his fireworks?

Conrad Dunkerson 2002-08-24

From: "Conrad Dunkerson" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
References: <>
Subject: Re: uopdated FAQ of the Rings
Message-ID: <12V99.2868$>
Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 23:55:41 GMT
Organization: AT&T Worldnet
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:78213

"Stan Brown" <> wrote in message

> I'm in the process of overhauling the navigation on my Web site.
> Anyone who feels moved to, please look at the new navigation (on
> this page and the other ones in the General section) and tell me how
> the navigation seems to work for you.

I haven't looked at the page in a while.  Like the new layout.

Some other comments;

B.2: The last sentence of this passage states that you do not know
of any 'definitive' statement by Tolkien on the subject.  Might be
better to say that the one definitive statement may have been

"The dwarves it is said had seven, but nothing could make them
RotS, Of Gollum and the Ring

C.2: There is a slightly different version of the history of the
Three wherein Gil-galad gives Vilya to Elrond fairly early on, but
then holds on to Narya himself until just before the Last Alliance.
However, this is contradicted by LotR itself so maybe best to stick
with just the one account which is backed up by the published version.

D.10: While I agree with the 'Morgoth Element' view of the Ring it
may not be universally accepted.  Also, personally I tend to think
that this power was not present >in< the Ring per se, but rather
that the Ring allowed a powerful bearer to influence the Morgoth
Element in OTHER matter... outside the Ring itself.

D.12: I think it might be important to draw a distinction between
defeating Sauron in direct confrontation (which the letter indicates
only Gandalf might have a chance of) and doing so by building up
forces to beat him militarily (as it indicates Elrond or Galadriel
would have pursued).  It is possible that even Aragorn could have
'won' by the latter method... it was only the direct confrontation
where he was specifically excluded.

← back to Did the Dwarves’ Rings make them invisible?

← back to In the Third Age, having lost the Ring, why wasn’t Sauron weaker than before he had made it?

Conrad Dunkerson 2003-05-10

From: (Conrad Dunkerson)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: ring and invisibillity
Date: 9 May 2003 10:51:20 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <b9d8l4$ah4$> <b9deum$ip8$> <Pdvua.37$> <b9e1e6$6vt$> <> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:105643

Stan Brown <> wrote in message news:<>...

I had written;
>> However, there are other passages which can be read to suggest
>> that Sauron changed the 16 rings after he stole them from the
>> Elves... which might mean that those powers were added after
>> the fact.

> Hmm... Could you say more? I'm trying to recall any such passages
> but drawing a blank.

Note that it is a "can be read to suggest" sort of situation;

"Therefore the Three remained unsullied, for they were forged by
Celebrimbor alone, and the hand of Sauron had never touched them;
yet they also were subject to the One. ...
But Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of
Power; and he dealt them out to the other peoples of Middle-earth,
hoping thus to bring under his sway all those that desired secret
power beyond the measure of their kind. ... And all those rings
that he governed he perverted, the more easily since he had a part
in their making, and they were accursed, and they betrayed in the
end all those that used them."
Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power

The Three were unsullied because Sauron had "never" touched them - not
merely been uninvolved in their creation.  The 16 that he captured
were then "perverted" so that they 'betrayed all those who used
them'... possibly by turning them into wraiths or the ill-luck that
followed the Dwarven bearers?  This implies that a 'curse' was added
to the Great Rings after Sauron seized them... and the whole personal
corruption bit would seem to qualify.

"...Hence the making of the Rings; for the Three Rings were precisely
endowed with the power of preservation, not of birth.  Though
unsullid, because they were not made by Sauron nor touched by him,
they were nonetheless partly products of his instruction, and
ultimately under the control of the One."
Letters #144

Again, it is pointed out that not only did Sauron not make the Three,
but that he never touched them.  Implying that if he could get hold of
them he could do something MORE to corrupt them.

"And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron
('the Necromancer':so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and
presage on the pages of THE HOBBIT): such as rendering invisible the
material body, and making things of the invisible world visible.
The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful
rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed to the
preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility.
They hid the Three Rings, so that not even Sauron ever discovered
they were and they remained unsullied."
Letters #131

Again, Sauron could have done something to 'sully' the Three if he had
found them.  The three did not confer invisibility and this power was
'more directly derived from Sauron'.  Again allowing the possibility
that these 'Sauron derived' powers were added after the fact when the
other Rings were 'sullied'.

That's the gist of it.  Maybe a few other passages along the same
lines, but basically there is evidence that Sauron capturing the Three
would be bad not just because of how he could use them but because he
could DO something to the Rings themselves.  Whatever this is
apparently WAS done to the other 16.  The 'nasty effects' which should
have raised elven alarm bells seem like good candidates, but it is
very much an extrapolation from the texts.

← back to What if an Elf or Wizard had put on one of the Seven or the Nine?

Conrad Dunkerson 2004-02-23

From: "Conrad B Dunkerson" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
References: <> <>
Subject: Re: Precedents to Tolkien in literature
X-RFC2646: Format=Flowed; Original
Message-ID: <7gc_b.78899$>
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004 00:59:47 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:20650

"loisillon" <> wrote in message

> Niebelungenlied.  Many common points, to begin with the ring.

Not really.

> The story of the treasure of the dwarves kept by the dragon also.

That dragons kept treasure hordes was a common conception long before
Wagner and Tolkien.

> I do not understand why Tolkien denied Niebelungenlied as source of
> inspiration.

Consider 'The Hobbit'.  Was there anything about Bilbo's Ring, as it was
portrayed in that book, which was similar to Niebelungenlied?  I'd say no.
From there Tolkien began a new story and wrote everything from the start
up to the council of Elrond TWICE and the Ring still had very little in
common with Wagner's.  He eventually decided to make the Ring much more
powerful because otherwise it did not make sense that all these black
riders were chasing Frodo around and Sauron doing everything he could to
recover the Ring while Elrond, Gandalf and all the rest were devoting so
much energy to keeping it safe.  All of those things grew in the
development of the story BEFORE Tolkien even conceived of the idea of 'One
Ring to rule them all' and he came up with that concept specifically in
response to all the fuss being made over the thing.  In short, we have the
textual history of the Ring's evolution in the HoME books and the simple
fact is that Tolkien did not start out with a concept similar to Wagner's
Ring.  That the final form ended up that way is a coincidence which can be
traced step by step through changes made in response to the way the story
was developing.

← back to How did the One Ring compare to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung?

Doug Elrod 2002-07-11

From: (Doug Elrod)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien,
Subject: Saruman's Ring-lore (was Re: Is Modernity Evil to Tolkien?)
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 18:54:42 -0400
Organization: Cornell University
Message-ID: <>
References: <lJmX8.6496$>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:74979

In article <lJmX8.6496$>, (Steve  Dufour) wrote:

> Posted at by Curious
> I am still pondering this question raised by our discussion over the
> past couple of weeks.? After continuing to mull it over, I still say no,
> he did not.? Here is my reasoning.
> Here are some arguments that Tolkien did equate Evil with technology and
> modernity.? Note that when Tolkien, in the forward to the second edition
> of LotR, denies any allegory to the 20th century, he says that if he had
> written an allegory the forces of Good would have used the Ring, Saruman
> would have created his own Ring, and there would be a three-way battle
> between powers that all resembled Mordor.
Ah, that's an interesting section.  The part regarding Saruman reads
"Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion
and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in
his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made
a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler
of Middle-Earth."

I had thought that perhaps Saruman might have made such a Ring already
(at least striving to be equal to the Three), but this clearly implies
that his knowledge at the time of LOTR was insufficient.  I stand

-Doug Elrod (

← back to What was Saruman’s ring?

Troels Forchhammer 2004-06-03

From: "Troels Forchhammer" <Troels@ThisIsFake.invalid>
References: <40b9c5ed$0$8989$>   <> <> <77wuc.593218$Pk3.5330@pd7tw1no> <4CDuc.17855$> <> <QiGuc.16547$> <cxMuc.634620$Ig.630234@pd7tw2no> <> <S6Nuc.630818$oR5.46249@pd7tw3no> <> <3jNuc.634747$Ig.609652@pd7tw2no> <40bbaa13_1@> <8ZNuc.798$> <40bbc3d9_1@> <t6Wuc.600101$Pk3.93736@pd7tw1no> <> <1oYuc.639903$Ig.328812@pd7tw2no> <> <WUYuc.635998$oR5.505623@pd7tw3no> <> <N24vc.638814$oR5.401799@pd7tw3no> <40bda883$0$1583$>
Subject: Re: Are any "evil" characters in Tolkien actually redeemed?
Message-ID: <u1Avc.18050$>
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 07:01:46 GMT
Organization: Nokia
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:4155

in <40bda883$0$1583$>,
Cemetery Mink, MD <I don't like spam> enriched us with:


> Do the books say how well the ring fit? (Perhaps they do.)

LotR I,2 'The Shadow of the Past'
  "Though he had found out that the thing needed looking after;
   it did not seem always of the same size or weight; it shrank
   or expanded in an odd way, and might suddenly slip off a
   finger where it had been tight."


  "  'A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. /It/ may slip
   off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it."

So I think we have to say that the fit varies ;-)

Troels Forchhammer

This isn't right. This isn't even wrong.
 - Wolfgang Pauli, on a paper submitted by a physicist colleague

← back to What were the special powers of the One Ring?

Troels Forchhammer 2004-09-19

From: Troels Forchhammer <Troels@ThisIsFake.invalid>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Frodo and the Ring (was Re: Sam and the Ring at Cirith Ungol)
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2004 20:02:42 +0000 (UTC)
Organization: Cybercity
Message-ID: <Xns9569E1AB74E00T.Forch@>
References: <> <> <hoV%c.24942$> <Iz20d.3865$> <yFE0d.25098$> <> <> <> <> <Gm31d.63$> <aIh1d.25234$> <oPq1d.134$> <> <> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:11917

In message <>
Stan Brown <> enriched us with:
> "Odysseus" <> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>> From _UT_, "History of Galadriel and Celeborn":

<snip quotation>

> Thanks. I've added this to the FAQ of the Rings.
> I've also revised the nearby text about the Red Ring. Previously
> the FAQ cited the ambiguity in UT about whether Gil-galad gave it
> to Círdan in the middle of the Second Age or just before the end.
> Now the FAQ points out that most accounts favor the earlier date.

From the Rings-FAQ regarding Vilya:

  "(Unfinished Tales is more specific: "At that time [after
   Sauron's defeat in S.A. 1701] also Gil-galad gave Vilya,
   the Blue Ring, to Elrond, and appointed him to be his
   vice-regent in Eriador." [UT: GC (237)]"

I think that one must either accept the whole of that quotation (that
Elrond got Vilya about S.A. 1700 and Círdan got Narya about S.A. 3440)
or reject both parts.

All accounts point towards Gil-Galad keeping one of the two Rings
almost until his death ("[...] before he died gave his ring to Elrond."
implies, IMO, an unsaid 'shortly before . . .') and giving the other to
either Círdan or Elron very early on (let's say no later than S.A.
1705). I would find it problematic to believe that Gil-Galad would have
passed on both Narya and Vilya as early as the middle of the Second Age
and keeping none of the Rings for himself.

Going by the text in LotR I think the most likely is still that Gil-
Galad passed Vilya to Elrond near the end of the Second Age (after the
formation of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, I would say).

The problem is that the quoted passage from UT is, as far as I am
aware, the only passage that is more explicit than 'before he died'.
The problem is that it leaves Gil-Galad without a Ring from that point.

> I've also added a short list of "handlers" of the One Ring after
> the table of bearers at
> Can anyone add anything to the list of handlers?

Gandalf did 'handle' it very briefly in Bag End in I,2 'The Shadow of
the Past':

   "[...] It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or
    Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to
    touch it.
      Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and
    solid gold. 'Can you see any markings on it?' he asked.
    For a moment the wizard stood looking at the fire; then
    he stooped and removed the ring to the hearth with the
    tongs, and at once picked it up. Frodo gasped.
      It is quite cool,' said Gandalf. 'Take it!' Frodo
    received it on his shrinking palm: it seemed to have
    become thicker and heavier than ever."

It's not at all obvious, IMO, but emphasizing 'handlers' you seem to
try to avoid any distinction between 'keepers', 'bearers' and 'owners',
but I think that Gandalf, in that case, would have to be included ;-)

Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is <t.forch(a)>

For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to
(a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.
 - (Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites)

← back to Who bore the Three Rings?

← back to Who bore the One Ring, and when?

← back to How did the One Ring compare to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung?

Jerry Friedman 2013-09-16

From: Jerry Friedman <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien,
Subject: Re: FAQ of the Rings updated
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2013 21:50:33 -0600
Message-ID: <l18jib$sie$>
References: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

On 9/16/13 3:35 AM, Stan Brown wrote:
> The actual content of the FAQ of the Rings hasn't been significantly
> updated in a couple of years.  As always, if you see mistakes, or if
> you have something new to add, please post here so that we can all
> discuss it.

Very interesting.  I have a couple of comments.

"Cubic Zirconium" should be "Cubic Zirconia" (zirconium oxide).

You suggest that Faramir couldn't be corrupted by Rings, but I don't see 
any reason to believe that.  He held out for a day, but Boromir held out 
much longer than that and still succumbed.  And we have no idea what 
would have happened if someone like him had been given a reused one of 
the Seven (a possibility that had never occurred to me) by someone who 
didn't appear to represent the forces of darkness and he didn't know any 
practical or moral reason to refuse it.

And do you really want "Who could have beat Sauron...?" instead of "beaten"?

Jerry Friedman

← back to What were the special powers of the One Ring?

Tim Howe 2002-05-14

From: (Tim Howe)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Was the One Ring sentient?  (proposed FAQ entry)
Date: 14 May 2002 04:30:53 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <> <abp72l$1iq3$> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:70736

Delurking briefly ...

Jay Random <> wrote in message news:<>...
> Pradera wrote:
> >
> > Remembering shapes and elasticity is not a matter of being sentient... it
> > seems though that Sauron was the first to invent elastic metal.
> The Ring did not simply alter its size to fit the wearer's finger.
> Sometimes it altered its size specifically so as _not_ to fit, as when
> it slipped off of Isildur's finger. (I'm not sure it's stated just how
> Gollum came to lose it, but I suspect it was another case of
> expanding-Ring syndrome.) Tolkien quite specifically states that the
> Ring `no longer had any use for Gollum'. To use things (or people) as
> instruments implies goals, what the Scholastics called `final causes';
> to have goals implies sentience, if not outright intelligence.

not necessarily.  It certainly implies Saruon's sentience, but not
necessarily the ring's.  The ring could have been pre-programmed so to
speak to behave in certain ways without actually making decisions of
it's own.  We don't think of computers as being sentient despite some
behaviors which may appear as such.  For example, Saruon "programmed"
the ring to either slip on or off at any time it may place an enemy
into peril.  Or if an owner possessed it too long without concern for
using it.  Gollum lost the ring only after he no longer really needed
to use it most of the time.  Isildur was an enemy.  Frodo was an enemy
(with regards to slipping onto his finger in Bree).  However the ring
was also unable to do anything physical beyond changing size.  And
that could be activated by the presence of a "spirit" or a "soul"
alone, hence it does not change while on the chain etc.  Now, how it
recognized an enemy I don't know.  It might be anyone other than
Saruon, or possibly it is triggered by some personality trait.

Also, interestingly, I don't know that the ring did change size for
Tom Bombadil.  I'll have to re-read the passage but didn't he just
slip it onto the tip of his finger, implying that it does not change?

> You may try to shrug this off by saying that Gandalf was speaking
> figuratively. But the essential `narrative protocol' of fantasy
> literature, including the Northern myths & legends that so profoundly
> informed Tolkien's life & work, is that _the pathetic fallacy is to be
> taken as literally true_. In real life (or in a story in a `realistic'
> setting), if I say my ring fell off my finger on purpose, I am
> attributing an impossible quality to it. Rings don't have a sense of
> purpose; they don't do things on their own. If a character in a
> `realistic' novel says something of this kind, we know one of two
> things: either he's telling a tall tale for humorous effect (the
> Murphy's Law method of attributing malice to inanimate objects), or he's
> out of his head. We know he's an unreliable narrator. In fantasy, we
> _must_ assume that the narrator is reliable unless & until we are given
> information to the contrary.

Or it's a way of describing something as accurately as possible
without delving into an excessively long explaination.  Or possibly
Gandalf does not know the exact nature of the ring because no one does
other than Saruon, and he isn't talking.  The powers of the ring were
well known to all the wise, but the physical attributes mabye less so.
 We know that despite his long struggle, Gandalf had to travel all the
way to Minas Tirith to study before he could say for sure that Frodo's
even WAS the one ring.  Afterall, only one being held the ring before
it passed out of knowledge other than Saruon.

Which raises another question, if the one ring is sentient, does that
imply that the other rings of power are too?  Gandalf's comment about
the ring seems to apply universally in this regard so I'd say yes.

> Rings _can_ be sentient in a work of
> fantasy; horses can fly, the dead can walk the earth, men can be
> immortal, the world can be flat & teeming with incorporeal spirits. We
> have only the author's word for what constitutes `reality' inside his
> story. We have Tolkien's word that the Ring made decisions on its own &
> was trying to get back to its master. By the rules of the game, we have
> to accept that as the literal truth within the frame of the tale.

But even decisions do not imply sentience necessarily, they merely
imply a sufficiently adequate set of rules or instincts.  I'd argue
that ants are not sentient, but they do make decisions.  Plants are
definately not sentient but they too make decisions in a way.  To
imply sentience we'd have to prove that the ring somehow understood
the decisions.

Frankly though, given the tone of the stories, I agree that the ring
is sentient.  In that it is at least dimly self-aware and makes
considered decisions.  But I don't know that I can prove it, devil's
advocate and all that.



← back to Could the One Ring think, feel, and make choices?

Steuard Jensen 1998-09-08

From: (Steuard Jensen)
Subject: Re: The Invisibility of the Ringwraiths
Date: 1998/09/08
Message-ID: <6t2hup$mbj$>#1/1
References: <6sup31$r7$> <> <>
Organization: Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien

Quoth (Stephen Souter):
> Actually, couldn't that "and his eyes glittered" be interpreted as
> meaning they glittered by *reflected* light?
> But then invisibility in Tolkien's word is peculiar.

[Snip many examples, in which various things are visible or not.]

> In which case what about some other light source the bearer happened
> to be carrying, be it the magical Phial of Galadriel or a
> non-magical lantern?)

As far as I can tell from the books (and these examples in
particular), the Ring only influences light which passes through a
"skin" around its wearer, and in fact, only light which first hits the
_outside edge_ of that "skin."

In more detail, light running into the "skin" from the outside simply
passes along without being affected by anything inside (or at least,
not much; more on this later).  Thus, we can see right through the
wearer, as if he were not there.  On the other hand, light which runs
into the "skin" from the inside is not affected.  Hence, light sources
borne by the wearer (magical or not) are visible on the outside to
precisely the extent that they would be if the Ring were not involved
at all.

This is really quite a good idea, when it comes right down to it.
Among other things, heat can be emitted as (infrared) light, and it
would be very bad for the Rings to interfere with their wearers'
abilities to regulate their body temperatures.  Also, it means that
the Ring only needs to "worry about" a one sided, two dimensional
surface, rather than a full three dimensional volume, which has got to
make its job much easier.

Of course, the Ring's ability to stop influences on incoming light is
clearly not perfect: Bilbo's shadow in _The Hobbit_ is testament to
that.  However, I don't think we can tell if this "flaw" was
intentional or not.

Finally, (but briefly, as I need to go), I think that the Ring depends
on a sentient being wearing it to be activated (so Frodo's finger
alone didn't cut it).  Once the Ring was activated, the wearer would
have some degree of personal control over its operation.  For the weak
and/or untrained, that would consist only of a subconscious list of
what counted as "carried" and what did not.  For the strong, the
invisibility could be easily limited, as Galadriel confined
invisibility to her Ring alone.

					Steuard Jensen

← back to Why were Frodo’s and Bilbo’s clothes invisible while they wore the Ring?

Steuard Jensen 2002-02-01

Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Comments welcome on my Ringlore Web page
References: <>
From: (Steuard Jensen)
Message-ID: <Stz68.95$>
Organization: The University of Chicago
Date: Fri, 01 Feb 2002 16:36:02 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:58404

[Posted and emailed.]

Quoth (Stan Brown) in article
> At long last, about seven months after I first thought of doing it,
> I have my "FAQ of the Rings" on line at

Very well done.  I don't have time right now to give your FAQ the
detailed feedback that it deserves, but I certainly plan to. :)  A
couple of points now while I'm thinking of them:

1. A question that I've been meaning to add to my FAQ is "Who were the
   intended bearers of the Great Rings?"  (or something to that
   effect).  I see quite a few questions (on the newsgroups and by
   email) from people who haven't realized that the Rings were
   originally all made for the Elves (with a possible exception for
   Durin's Ring), and I think such a FAQ entry would be very useful.

2. Just because I've noticed it, a comment on the invisibility
   answer.  We have direct evidence that the Wood Elves of Mirkwood
   could _not_ see people in the "world of the Unseen": otherwise,
   they would have noticed Bilbo at once.

3. I've never been happy with either of the "logical" arguments that
   you present against the Nazgul wearing their Rings.  Frodo was
   trying to avoid being stabbed on Weathertop; he wasn't writing a
   society column on the Nazgul's choice of wardrobe.  On the other
   hand, Galadriel made a point of showing Frodo her Ring, or at least
   that has been my reading.  As for the Witch-king's Ring, I don't
   recall any discussion of people gathering up his mace, sword,
   armor, or other personal items, either; a Great Ring would
   certainly be more significant, but it's not inconceivable that it
   simply wasn't mentioned (or even found, for that matter).

4. The fact that the Nine were destroyed along with the remaining
   Seven (whatever that means) could be additional support for Sauron
   holding all of them together.

5. Are you sure the One allowed Sauron to "control" the thoughts of
   the other Ringbearers?  I haven't looked at the appropriate passage
   from Silm. recently, but I've thought that the One might have
   allowed its user to bypass the natural ability of a person to close
   their mind to "telepathy" (as described in the
   Osanwe-kenta)... meaning that Sauron could "insert" thoughts, but
   that with vigilance the other Ringbearers could recognize them as
   foreign.  (I've wondered if that was how the Elves were first aware
   of what Sauron was trying to do to them.)

On another note, there is a small amount of overlap between your FAQ
and mine (and the Loos FAQs).  I certainly plan to link to your FAQ
eventually, but it might be good to figure out whether that sort of
overlap is a problem.  (There's even more overlap with some of the FAQ
additions that I've had on my to do list, but I may rethink the need
for those now. :) )  At any rate, very well done, and thank you! :)

						Steuard Jensen

← back to Why did the Rings make their wearers invisible?

Steuard Jensen 2002-07-16

Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: The Nine
References: <agl38r$mnrmf$>
From: (Steuard Jensen)
Message-ID: <T7VY8.34$>
Organization: The University of Chicago
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2002 13:24:03 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:75212

[No, I'm still not really here. :) ]

[Referring to Sauron's original plans for the Rings:]

Quoth "Taemon" <> in article
> What _would_ have happened if his plans had worked out? Would he
> have been ruling three elves and seven dwarfs along with his nine
> humans? It seems to me that his ring-plan would have failed
> miserably even if it did succeed, so to speak. Any thoughts?

An important point that's been left out of many of the replies in this
thread is that Sauron's _original_ plan for the Rings had absolutely
nothing to do with Dwarves _or_ humans.  The _original_ plan was for
the Elves of Eregion (and possibly the other Noldor around
Middle-earth) to use the Rings themselves, and for Sauron to take
control of _them_ (the Rings were not originally intended for anyone
but the Elves who made them).

Having said that, the question is still an interesting one.  If the
Elves _hadn't_ recognized what he had done and removed their Rings,
would Sauron have ended up controling all the Noldor, or would he just
get nineteen remarkably powerful Elven slaves?

I think, though, that the answer isn't as tricky as it may seem.
Sure, at the end of the Third Age the Nazgul don't seem to have been
rulers of major kingdoms, but rather Sauron's messengers and
lieutenants.  But not too much earlier, the Witch King of Angmar was,
well, King of Angmar: he built a nation out of practically nothing,
raised great armies, and all but annihilated the Dunedain of the
North.  It doesn't seem at all unlikely to me that he and the other
Nazgul could have done similar things in the past: maybe that
contributed a lot to Sauron's immense power in the East.  I would be
surprised, too, if they hadn't left their original nations in Sauron's
hands before leaving them and truly becoming Ringwraiths.

Given that, I suspect something along the following lines would have
happened to the Elves (if they hadn't recognized Sauron's plot).  The
Ringwearers would have slowly manipulated the politics of Eregion to
push out or marginalize those who were most wary of Sauron (they had
already done something of the sort to Galadriel, even without being
minions of Sauron).  Eventually, they would start guiding the policies
of the realm in ways that would help Sauron in subtle ways, and of
course, Sauron would know all the Elves' secret councils.  As their
actions became more overtly pro-Sauron, some of the other Elves might
start to speak out, but it would be gradual enough that they could be
discredited bit by bit.  Meanwhile, most of the population wouldn't
want to disturb the status quo without _clear_ evidence that evil was
at work, particularly because they would become quite dependent on the
decay-slowing effects of the Rings.  (Witness how quickly the
populations of Rivendell and Lorien passed West when the Rings lost
their power.)

At some point, the situation would be made clear, and there would be
rebellion... but without any of the strength and unity that the Noldor
could have mustered originally.  Sauron could sweep in with military
force and wipe them out easily... and he would have gotten years of
good service and information from them by that point.  (Heck, they
would probably have been able to help bring about the downfall of
Numenor quite easily... I wonder if Sauron could even have eventually
gotten them to attack Numenor themselves, passing it off as some sort
of retribution for the Numenorians' increasing rejection of the

That's my little story, anyway.  Others could clearly be
constructed. :)
						Steuard Jensen

← back to Were the Seven and Nine Rings originally intended for Dwarves and Men?

Steuard Jensen 2002-08-25

Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: uopdated FAQ of the Rings
References: <>
From: (Steuard Jensen)
Message-ID: <EP3a9.2$>
Organization: The University of Chicago
Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002 12:11:16 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:78261

First, a comment on an earlier update: while I do not doubt that
Sauron could have gotten the Nazgul to give up the Nine Rings even
without the One, I don't think your argument for that point is valid.
Sauron's ability to take the One Ring from a mortal would certainly be
enhanced by the One's natural "allegiance" to Sauron (Tolkien makes
rather a lot of this when discussing Gandalf using the Ring against
Sauron).  There would be no such effect when Sauron tried to reclaim
one of the Nine.

Quoth (Stan Brown) in article
> "What if an Elf or Wizard had put on one of the Seven or the
> Nine?"(*)

When you say "affected by one of the Seven or Nine just like a Man",
do you mean "made invisible" (I agree), "made into a wraith" (I'm not
sure that I agree), "made a slave of Sauron's will" (I agree), or

In any case, I've put this in the section "Objects of Interest" in the

> "When did the Nazg?l arise?"

And this is now in the "Earlier Events and History" section.

For the record, responding to one of Conrad's points, I might replace
'Extra (new) power in the Ring, concentrated from the "Morgoth
element" of Arda' with 'Additional power available to the Ring-wearer,
probably from the "Morgoth element" of Arda', or something like that.

It might be worth mentioning somewhere that that extra power ("R") may
have varied based on the native power of the wearer; I like to think
of the One Ring as a sort of "catalyst" for one's innate power.  No, I
don't know what the algebraic relationship of "R" to innate power "I"
should be. :)  "R = k*I"?  "R = k*I^2"?  "R = k*exp(I)"?  Who
knows. :)
						Steuard Jensen

← back to In the Third Age, having lost the Ring, why wasn’t Sauron weaker than before he had made it?

Michael Kohrs 2002-01-04

From: Michael Kohrs <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: What happened to the other Rings
Message-ID: <>
References: <BANX7.22625$> <3PNX7.225$> <> <a0s3in$2b1$> <> <rZ8Z7.323720$> <a15iee$nd5$>
Date: Sat, 05 Jan 2002 03:52:53 GMT
Organization: AT&T Worldnet
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:51511

On 5 Jan 2002 00:47:10 GMT, Tamim <> wrote:

>Conrad Dunkerson <> wrote:
>> "OrionCA" <> wrote in message
>>> The Dwarves were granted long life
>> No, the Rings of power did not extend the lifespan of Dwarves.
>I would assume the same from the fact that they primarily only increased
>their lust for gold but do you have a quotation?

LoTR, Appendix A:

"for the Dwarves had proved untameable by this means.  The only power
over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a
greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all
other good things seemed profitless, and they were filled with wrath
and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them.  But they were made
from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any
domination.  Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be
reduced to shadows enslaved to another will; and for the same reason
their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or
shorter because of it.  All the more did Sauron hate the possessors
and desire to dispossess them."


← back to What were the powers of the Rings?

Christopher Kreuzer 2003-12-29

From: "Christopher Kreuzer" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien,
References: <dhXGb.65773$> <> <nT0Hb.6548$> <3fee1fa5$0$42734$> <pnpHb.7418$> <bsl9j6$28ef$> <yjqHb.7452$> <3fefd5c0$0$4760$> <> <3ff0af6c$0$4737$>
Subject: Re: Gollum's near repentance at The Stairs of Cirith Ungol?
Message-ID: <PN2Ib.1361$>
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2003 23:29:51 GMT
Organization: blueyonder (post doesn't reflect views of blueyonder)
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:11018

"Luminaria" <lanatAT@rcn.DOTcom> wrote
> "Stan Brown" <> wrote
> > Luminaria wrote:
> > >Well, Bilbo certainly started to age rapidly once he gave up the Ring
> > >Frodo.
> >
> > Really? Where do you get that?
> >
> > To me Bilbo seemed to be the same hobbit, not noticeably older when
> > Frodo meets him again in Rivendell after 18 years. By contrast, he
> > was much older and more feeble, almost gaga, just a year later after
> > the Ring had actually been destroyed.
> He was described as noticably weaker, tended to fall asleep all the time.
> Seemed much more frail. Either aging or he was having problems with the
> Elven water....

Frodo meets Bilbo in Rivendell _before_ the War of the Ring (this is the 18
years later, 18 years after Bilbo left the Shire), and Bilbo appears to have
been asleep:

" 'Wake up indeed!' [Bilbo] said, cocking an eye at Elrond. There was a
bright twinkle in it and no sign of sleepiness that Frodo could see. 'Wake
up! I was not asleep, Master Elrond.' " (Many Meetings, FotR).

In fact, Bilbo had been sitting and thinking about his recitation of his
song of Earendil. A long song that he performed that evening. He then stayed
up long into the night talking with Frodo. Hardly frail. He is described as
older, but that would be the 18 years.

Compare this with what Arwen says to Frodo following her wedding to Aragorn
_after_ the War of the Ring, when Frodo mentions Bilbo's absence from the

" 'Do you wonder at that Ring-bearer?' said Arwen. 'For you know the power
of that thing which is now destroyed; and all that was done by that power is
now passing away. But your kinsman possessed this thing longer than you. He
is ancient in years now, according to his kind; and he awaits you, for he
will not again make any long journey save one.' " (Many Partings, RotK).

And later in the chapter when they arrive at Rivendell, Bilbo "looked very
old, but peaceful and sleepy" and he often fell asleep. He also loses the
thread of conversations and falls asleep again several times over the next
few pages. Bilbo himself says "I am getting so sleepy."

Bilbo only has one line in the Grey Havens chapter, so we can't really see
any further developments in his ageing, but he does seem to be nodding in
his sleep on his pony.


Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

← back to Then why didn’t Gollum and Bilbo die when they lost the Ring?

nfw 2006-04-11

From: nfw <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: FAQ of the Rings commentary < .sig lenght < Was: Re: Frodo's profession?
References: <44325fda$0$18267$> <> <> <> <> <> <p5b_f.50563$> <>
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-ID: <UxS_f.39117$>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 14:27:00 -0400
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:7150

Stan Brown a écrit :
> Sun, 09 Apr 2006 17:01:09 GMT from Christopher Kreuzer <>:
>>Derek Broughton <> wrote:
>>Um. Stan's .sig is _more_ than 5 lines....
> Do you suggest that I omit those URLs, which are intended as a
> convenient reference for everyone?

Very convenient indeed! Thank you for such a big worthy work.

As I am going through your fabulous FAQ of the Rings, learning a great
deal, I would like to bring to your attention some ideas, though I'm no
loremaster of Eä as you are obviously, as several other "biggies" of
RABT. Just take it as the newbie's look... :-)

A3. Who could see an invisible Ring-wearer?

Did Gandalf see Bilbo "disappear" on the Brithday Party Speech? And how?
I think it unbeleivable that Olorin would not have access to both
worlds. Yet he never shows to Bilbo, as you point it very well, whether
he sees him or not with the Ring on, and avoids any situation when he
should see him wearing it, so that the question is eluded. I think he
actually sees Bilbo wearing the ring and even feels him every time he
uses it (see "E2. What were the special powers of the One Ring?"), but
wants to learn more about the Ring and therefore doesn't say anything
that could hinder Bilbo's free use of it.

C8. Why didn’t Sauron use the same Nine Rings to make more Nazgűl?

You point out that “Just as any being truly mastering the One would have
caused Sauron’s dissolution precisely the same as if it had been
destroyed, so too would any human mastering (and thus being mastered by)
one of the Nine cause its power to be taken from any previous Nazgűl
just as if the Ring had been destroyed [or] rendered powerless.” Yet,
the three remaining of the Seven were "free" and could be used to
enslave men, as soon as Sauron had recovered the One.

C10. What if an Elf or Wizard had put on one of the Seven or the Nine?

As the Istari were sent in ME centuries after the Disaster of the
Gladden Fields, there is no time when the Wizards could have worn any
ring under the domination of Sauron wearing the One. Had, say, Saruman
taken Thrain's ring thanks to the attack on Dol Guldur, he would have
been free to use it without being subject to Sauron. Eventually, he
could still have been corrupted as Thrain's ring had been perverted by
Sauron, but not under the domination of him.

E2. What were the special powers of the One Ring?
To deceive and corrupt its bearer and others

"Also, in the Fellowship, Boromir fell prey to the Ring’s temptations.
However, Isildur’s descendant Aragorn and Boromir’s brother Faramir
seemed immune." I wouldn't say "immune", but only different in mind as
far as power is concerned. Faramir was the second son, growing in the
shade of his elder brother and thus developping other motives than
power. Aragorn was well aware of the way Isildur failed, he had learned
early to reject straightforward power claim so as to get to the full
stature of a King of Gondor and Arnor when the time came, and from a
sense of responsibility rather than greed for power. He worked under the
rule of his own steward instead of claiming back the kingship at once.
Keeping close to Gandalf and Elrond, he acquired lore that strengtened
him against the Ring.

E6. Who inscribed the verse in the One Ring?

"The letters ran over the inside and outside of the Ring, and were not
visible when the Ring was at room temperature." The Ring was cold out of
the fire, which nonetheless revealed the letters.

E13. Then why didn’t Gollum and Bilbo die when they lost the Ring?

"It seems as though giving up the Ring, or even losing it involuntarily,
doesn’t restart the aging process." Though, being deprived of it by
slaughter causes sudden death, as we see with Déagol and Isildur. ;-)

E21. How did the One Ring compare to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung?

Remember the War of the Ring occurred ages ago. The tale used by Wagner
might just be the faint and faulty echo of its memory.


 > Wasn't Ungoliant committed to creating a world-wide web?
sounds like the sort of evil thing she'd do.  she was probably the
first spammer, too.               -- Count Menelvagor in RABT--

← back to Who could see an invisible Ring-wearer?

← back to Why didn’t Sauron use the same Nine Rings to make more Nazgűl?

← back to What if an Elf or Wizard had put on one of the Seven or the Nine?

Odysseus 2004-09-15

Message-ID: <>
From: Odysseus <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Frodo and the Ring (was Re: Sam and the Ring at Cirith Ungol)
References: <> <> <hoV%c.24942$> <Iz20d.3865$> <yFE0d.25098$> <> <> <> <> <Gm31d.63$> <aIh1d.25234$> <oPq1d.134$> <>
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 10:49:51 GMT
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:11784

Stan Brown wrote:
> "Christopher Kreuzer" <> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
> >Looking here...
> >
> >
> >
> >We see that Elrond received his Ring from Gil-galad before he died,
> >which is still not quite specific enough.
> I was unable to find anything more specific, but I'd love to know it
> if I missed something.
From _UT_, "History of Galadriel and Celeborn":

"At this time [shortly after the war that began in S.A. 1700] the
first Council was held, and it was there determined that an Elvish
stronghold in the east of Eriador should be maintained at Imladris
rather than Eregion. At that time also Gil-galad gave Vilya, the Blue
Ring, to Elrond, and appointed him to be his vice-regent in Eriador;
but the Red Ring he kept, until he gave it to Círdan when he set out
from Lindon in the days of the Last Alliance. [...]"

So Elrond had possessed Vilya for more than a sesquimillennium before
the siege of Barad-dűr. BTW, this passage indicates that I was wrong
about Círdan's being an original Ring-bearer. Earlier in the same
account it is said that Celebrimbor (or perhaps others of the
Mírdain) held all three of the greater elven-rings at the time Sauron
made the One; on realizing he'd been 'played' he took them to Lórien,
where he gave Nenya to Galadriel; and on her advice he sent the other
two to Gil-galad in Lindon. Contradicting the quotation above, it was
apparently Tolkien's conception at this point in the writing that
Gil-galad passed Narya on to Círdan soon thereafter, but CJRT notes
this parenthetically, evidently accepting the version I quoted instead.

Still somewhat puzzling is that the last sentence above would seem to
imply that Círdan stayed behind to keep the Red Ring safe, but of
course we're told elsewhere that he was present at Sauron's
disembodiment. Might he have arrived in Mordor some time after the
army of the Last Alliance, when the siege was nearly over?


← back to Who bore the Three Rings?

Ciaran Shanahan 2004-07-08

From: " Shanahan" <>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Subject: Re: Who could see an invisible Ring-wearer?
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 22:43:26 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <7%iHc.46814$>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:8405

In news:7%iHc.46814$,
Conrad Dunkerson <> opined:
> "Stan Brown" <> wrote in message
>> The more intriguing question is whether there are any classes of
>> persons who can see a mortal who is wearing a Ring, as Tom
>> Bombadil could.
> Nazgul.  :)

Very funny!

> Also, when Frodo wore the Ring it often seemed to increase the
> danger of Sauron locating and 'seeing' him.
> There is also the speculation over whether Sauron was visible
> when he fought the against the Last Alliance or whether
> Gil-galad, Cirdan, Elrond, Elendil and/or Isildur could somehow
> see or fight him despite the invisibility.

Well, how about the quote from Isildur's Scroll: "The Ring misseth,
maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black and yet burned
like fire, and so was Gil-Galad destroyed."  That seems to imply
visibility, while He was wearing the Ring.

Ciaran S.
On the punk generation:
"It should be remembered that we had all grown up
with Civil Defense drills and dreams of the Bomb
at night: we had been promised the end of the world
as children, and we weren't getting it."
            - _England's Dreaming_

← back to Was Sauron visible when wearing the Ring?

O. Sharp 1995-08-19

From: (O. Sharp)
Subject: Re: Tolkien's Magic
Date: 1995/08/18
Message-ID: <>#1/1
references: <> <40vkv8$>
organization: A Rolling Stone Gathers No _Hroa_
newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien

Lars Christensen ( wrote:
: Lars-Einar Fryklof ( wrote:
: : On August 15, Bill Thompson wrote:
: : > Check out Letter No. 131 in the 'Letters of JRRT' (page 152).  In this
: : > letter JRRT states that the Seven and the Nine _did_ confer invisibility
: : > to the wearers, whereas the Three _did not_.

: : Which makes me wonder... how come the Nazguls' _clothes_ didn't turn
: : invisble, when Bilbo's and Frodo's did?

: Well, their clothes _did_ turn invisible. Everything except their
: cloaks, that is. Maybe Sauron was an excellent tailor, and made some
: special Nazgul cover-up cloaks?

Wait, wait, waiiit, wait, wait wait wait waitwaitwait. Hold on. Let me
catch up here.  :)

I think we're talking two different _kinds_ of invisibility here. With
Bilbo and Frodo, their invisibility would be caused by the Ring's power
to _make_ you invisible - and that power evidently made your clothes
invisible as well. With the Ringwraiths, however, it's a whole different
thing. The reason _they're_ invisible is not because of Ring-spells any
more, but because over the centuries they've _faded_; their bodies are
basically gone, and now all that's left of the Ringwraiths are... well,
_wraiths_, just as Gandalf said would happen to anyone who wore a Great
Ring for too long (_Fellowship_ p. 56 hardback; also see _Sil._ p. 289
hardback: The Nazgul "became for ever invisible save to him that wore the
Ruling Ring"). In other words, with the Nazgul it's not so much
"invisibility"; it's that there's no body any more to _see_.

So the Nazgul no longer need Rings for their flesh (or lack of flesh) to
be invisible. Good thing, too, since evidently they no longer even _have_
the Rings; Sauron gathered the Rings to himself (_UT_ p. 345; also
implied in _Sil._ p. 302), and so the Nazgul haven't even _got_ the
things... and so, I believe, they no longer have access to the
powers which the Rings had.

Thus you can't see a Nazgul, but you _can_ see its black cloak, and its
hood, and its crown and mace if it's the Witch-king, and I suppose its
_horse_ for that matter...  :)  From this I suppose one could put forward a
theory that the Nazgul wore no underwear, since nobody ever sees it, but
I don't think I'll commit myself to a position either way on that.  :)

...Just as an aside, has anybody else noticed the similarities between
Gandalf's description of becoming a wraith and the passage in _Morgoth's
Ring_ describing Elven spirits (_fea_ singular, _fear_ plural) eventually
burning out their bodies (_hroa_)?

From _M's Ring_, pp.218-9:

     "As ages passed the dominance of [the Elves'] _fear_ ever increased,
'consuming' their bodies (as has been noted). The end of this process is
their 'fading', as Men have called it; for the body becomes at last, as it
were, a mere memory held by the _fea_...
     "[If an Elven body fails,] sooner or later it 'dies'. That is: it
becomes painful for the _fea_ to dwell in it, being neither a help to
life and will nor a delight to use, so that the _fea_ depart from it...
Then the _fea_ is, as it were, houseless, and it becomes invisible to
bodily eyes (though clearly perceptible by direct awareness to other

...I suspect that the Ringwraiths' losing their visibility and becoming
disgruntled, invisible spirits may be a similar "mechanism" to the Elves'
losing their _hroa_ and becoming disgruntled, invisible _fea_...
invisible, but still perceptible to (say) other _fea_, or to (say) Frodo
wearing the Ring at Weathertop.

Anyway, that's just my current issue-confusing speculation.

I want to emphasize that I am not a doctor, and do not have any practical
experience in the matter of unnaturally prolonging life.  :)

----------------------------------------------------------------------              ...Maybe we should ask Keith Richards?  :)

← back to Then why were the Black Riders’ clothes visible?

Stephen Souter 1998-09-08

From: (Stephen Souter)
Subject: Re: The Invisibility of the Ringwraiths
Date: 1998/09/08
Message-ID: <>#1/1
References: <6sup31$r7$> <>
Organization: University of Sydney
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien

In article
<>, (!**?#!#$) wrote:

> > ) sentence caught my attention: "He bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes
> > ) glittered."
> In boring reality, eyes do not shine, they only reflect. Not Gollum's, nor
> creatures on the elf-path through Myrkwood. But in Tolkien's world, eyes
> can generate light.
> Actually I always thought the red flames were where the body should have been.

Actually, couldn't that "and his eyes glittered" be interpreted as meaning
they glittered by *reflected* light?

Mind you, that brings us right back to the question posted by the original

But then invisibility in Tolkien's word is peculiar.

Consider Sting. When in _The Hobbit_ Bilbo picks up a selection of stones
to fling at the Mirkwood spiders ("While he was picking up stones..."),
the spiders can't see the ones he's carrying, even though he must have
been carrying a fair number when he started throwing them at them. Yet
despite this, the spiders can later see Sting when Bilbo brandishes it at
them even though they (still) can't see Bilbo himself. ("The spiders saw
the sword, though I don't suppose they knew what it was...")

There's a similar incident in _Unfinished Tales_. Isildur puts on the Ring
to escape the Orcs at the battle of the Gladden Fields. "But the
Elendilmir of the West could not be quenched, and suddenly it blazed forth
red and wrathful as a burning star." Not until Isildur "drawing a hood
over his head, vanished into the night" does the Elendilmir vanish as

In other words, the Ring by itself could not prevent the Elendilmir from
being seen, yet an (invisible) hood drawn over the elvish stone could!

Strangely, there is actually a consistency in this. Although the spiders
could see Sting when drawn, they could (apparently) *not* see it so long
as it was in its (invisible) scabbard!

Do we see Sting & the Elendilmir (but not Bilbo's stones) because of the
former two's Elvish powers?

Well...maybe. But why then can Sam still see Gollum in the Chambers of
Fire when the latter attacks Frodo? ("Gollum on the edge of the abyss was
fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe.") If Gollum was grappling
with Frodo should not Gollum *himself* have become as invisible as the
other things Frodo had (so to speak) clinging (or otherwise attached) to
himself or his clothes? An elvish brooch, for instance.

(Just to confuse matters further there's also the thought which comes into
the mind of (an invisible) Sam in _The Two Towers_ as he goes charging after
Gorbag & Shagrat when they & their Orcs come upon Frodo above Cirith
Ungol: "They'll see the flame of the sword, as soon as I draw it..." Do we
interpret this to mean that Sam thinks the Orcs would see the sword itself
or just the light it makes in the presence of their kind? In which case
what about some other light source the bearer happened to be carrying, be
it the magical Phial of Galadriel or a non-magical lantern?)

One cannot help feeling that there is a degree of discrimination here on
the part of the Tolkien's rings. The bearer can be holding stones, or be wearing
clothing or be bearing a sword in a scabbard, and these will all be
invisible. Yet if someone grabs hold of the bearer (as distinct,
presumably, from the bearer grabbing hold of them) they do not turn
invisible also.

More, putting the Ring on a chain round your neck doesn't make you
invisible, but putting it on your finger does--so long as that finger
stays attached to you! (When Gollum attacks Frodo & bites off his finger,
it isn't just Frodo who suddenly becomes visible: "Gollum, dancing like a
mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle."
One cannot help but wonder what would have happened had the wonders of
microsurgery been available in Frodo's day, assuming Sam had been able to
retrieve it in time from Gollum & have it preserved in ice! If the
surgeons had been able to attach the finger back on with the Ring still on
it, would Frodo have at once turned invisible?)

Given that the One Ring was itself invisible when its bearer was, it all
suggests what might be termed degrees of "invisi-bility" between the
classes of rings. That is, between what they will (or can) make invisible
and what they will (or can) not: with the Three at one end of the scale
and the One Ring and (presumably) the Nine somewhere at the other. The
Three are limited to making themselves invisible. Or at least in a sense
"invisible"; for Frodo saw the ring on Galadriel's finger whereas Sam did

That being the case, maybe it's not so strange at all that Merry & Eowyn
could see the eyes of the Ringwraith glitter.  :)

Stephen Souter

← back to Why were Frodo’s and Bilbo’s clothes invisible while they wore the Ring?

A Tsar Is Born 2002-04-11

From: (A Tsar Is Born)
Subject: Re: Wagner and Tolkien
Date: 11 Apr 2002 22:01:49 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <XEVn8.583$> <a7tob2$d0q$> <IVAo8.1519$> <a84fl5$pkhv6$> <Elrp8.13322$> <a8d4nh$qttir$> <> <Xns91E55C34BB86borregairedelscollon@> <a8dhtq$rn9on$> <> <AjVr8.252$>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:67233 soc.culture.jewish:167932

"?evind L?g" <> wrote in message news:<AjVr8.252$>...
> Confronted with the claim that he had been influenced by Wagner's Ring,
> Tolkien wrote: "Both rings were round, and there the similarity ends."
> Öjevind

I'm sure he wrote that, and he may even have believed it.

But it wasn't true.

In the source material, the Ring is merely magical in that it attracts
gold (like the dwarven rings in Tolkien) and in that it is accursed
when stolen from its original owner, the dwarf Andvari, by Loki.
Volsunga Saga shows the working out of the curse. (I don't believe the
ring exists in Niebelungenlied at all.)

It was Wagner's idea to place the ring at the center of his drama, to
have it bound up with power, with violation of the natural order, with
control of the world, and control of other beings against their will.
He kept the curse, but gave it a new meaning. He also gave it a
companion magical item, the tarnhelm, which could change the wearer's
shape -- and the first shape the first wearer chooses is invisibility.

Tolkien conflated these when he first had Bilbo stumble on the Ring in
The Hobbit. (He even keeps Andvari/Alberich's curse and riverine
habitat for the original -- later revised -- Gollum.)

Later, tinkering around for a sequel, he pounced on the Ring as the
likeliest story-link. But it had to be more significant than it had
seemed in The Hobbit. And, having Wagner's Ring in the back of his
mind (he and Lewis had attended performances of it at Covent Garden,
and every literate human being in Europe knew the story of the opera
back then), he used Wagner's notion of a violation of natural law to
create a Ring of Power that would rule the world. He didn't get this
idea from Norse Sagas, because it doesn't occur in any of them. It
doesn't occur before Wagner, who invented it. Tolkien got it from him,
and a great deal else besides. He constructed a very different fable
around it -- in part because he was a devout Catholic and Wagner was
not a devout Christian of any sort, and in part because Tolkien had
the whole of his Elvish mythology ready-made on which to build his
plot. He did a fantastic job, and he managed to have his characters
destroy the Ring without ending their world.

But YES whatever he said, or you say, Tolkien got the idea of the Ring
of Power from Wagner. Nowhere else.


← back to How did the One Ring compare to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung?

A Tsar Is Born 2002-05-17

From: (A Tsar Is Born)
Subject: Re: Wagner and Tolkien
Date: 17 May 2002 23:55:55 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <XEVn8.583$> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:71106 (Chris Kern) wrote in message news:<>...
> On Sun, 14 Apr 2002 18:20:00 -0400, (Stan Brown)
> posted the following:
> >It is nonsense, as is quoting _me_ and lodging an objection to what
> >someone _else_ said, when I never said that and in fact have said
> >the opposite.
> Sorry, that was supposed to be an apology but the actual apology got
> dropped.  Sorry.
> -Chris

Chris has been saying it's nonsense to say that Tolkien got the idea
of a Ring that rules the world from Wagner, but neither he nor anyone
else has come up with any example of such a thing prior to Wagner.

Wagner invented it, and whether Tolkien knew more than he about Norse
myths or not, he invented it forty years before Tolkien was born.

During Tolkien's lifetime, and one reason the Sagas came into such
vogue in his lifetime, Wagner's music-dramas were overwhelming in
their influence on culture throughout Europe. And we know Tolkien knew
them and attended performances of the Ring. YEARS LATER he came up
with the idea of a Ruling Ring. No one else had ever come up with such
a thing before Tolkien -- except Wagner.

Unless you have some alternate universe for Oxford dons thesis, Wagner
is the inventor of the Ruling Ring idea, and Tolkien got it from him.

The stories they based on this Ring are, of course, very different --
as different as a music-drama by an egoist and a novel by a
conservative Catholic might be expected to be.

But that IS the source of Tolkien's idea of the Ruling Ring.


← back to How did the One Ring compare to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung?

Jeff Urs 2013-09-18

Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.tolkien
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2013 20:47:45 -0700 (PDT)
In-Reply-To: <>
References: <> <slrnl3e477.13lt.g.kreme@jaka.local> <> <slrnl3gm47.kd6.g.kreme@jaka-2.local> <>
Message-ID: <>
Subject: Re: FAQ of the Rings updated
From: Jeff Urs <>
Xref: rec.arts.books.tolkien:340701

On Tuesday, September 17, 2013 11:12:34 PM UTC-4, Stan Brown wrote:
> Thanks for the suggestion.  I'm in a bit of a quandary.  Both new
> windows and popups are deprecated and won't pass validation.  Also,
> I'd have 25 more files in that folder.  What do others think?

Regarding the 25 files more, you could put all 26 articles in a
single file and create direct links to them using the same sort of
anchor tags you use for your individual FAQs.

If someone wants to have an article open while they are reading the
FAQ that referenced it, they can always manually open it in another
tab or window.


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