Tolkien Gateway

Rings of Power

Revision as of 10:54, 4 April 2013 by Morgan (Talk | contribs)

The Rings of Power were Rings created by the Elves of Eregion, nineteen Great Rings (and many other lesser rings) with knowledge obtained from Sauron, and several of them with Sauron aiding the creation. Sauron forged the twentieth Great Ring, called the One Ring or the Ruling Ring, secretly in the fires of Mount Doom.

A verse that summarizes the Great Rings and their ownership is an important part of the lore of Middle-earth. It translates as follows:

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 Mordor 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 Mordor where the Shadows lie.


The Creation of the Rings of Power

Celebrimbor forges the Rings of Power

Around S.A. 1200, Sauron started to corrupt the Elves.[1] Sauron did not manage to approach Gil-galad and Elrond but he had better luck with the Elven-smiths of Eregion to whom he presented under the alias of Annatar, an emissary from the Valar. The Gwaith-i-Mírdain of Eregion were mostly Noldor and wished to have the same joys in Middle-earth as the Elves who had returned to Valinor[2]

The Elves started to make the Rings with knowledge gained from Annatar. The Rings were of various kinds: the lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown. In approximately S.A. 1500 the Greater 16 were created.[1] When Annatar departed from Eregion, Celebrimbor went on to forge the Three Rings using the knowledge he had gained from him, but without his involvement, and finished them around S.A. 1590.

Sauron then created The One Ring around 1600, alone, in the heart of Mount Doom. Its purpose was to rule over all the other rings, and Sauron put a great part of his power into it. The Elves, upon creation of the One, heard Sauron speak the spell, and realized they had been betrayed.[3] They defied Sauron and then he attempted to claim the Rings to distribute them to other people; though the Elves fought valiantly in the War of the Elves and Sauron, he took Nine Rings and other lesser works of them; but he could not find the rest. Then Celebrimbor was put to torment, and he revealed about the Seven of them.[4]

Sauron then distributed them to Lords who trusted him, Men who became powerful sorcerers and Kings; and Dwarves who grew greedier and augmented their treasures.

The Twenty Rings

  • The Three Rings of the Elves were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and were never touched by Sauron. However, their forging involved some of the arts taught by "Annatar" thus they too were bound to the One Ring to some extent. They were named Narya the Ring of Fire, Nenya the Ring of Water and Vilya the Ring of Air; they remained hidden from Sauron.
  • Sauron gave some six Rings to the Dwarf-kings, although according to Dwarvish tradition the Elves already gave another to Durin III. The Dwarves used their Seven Rings to establish their treasure hoards, but Sauron was unable to force the Dwarven bearers to submit. It is believed that the dwarves' natural hardiness, and the fact that it was only the more powerful dwarf lords who possessed them, made them resistant to Sauron's control, yet allowed them to accumulate treasure. The final ring to leave the possession of the dwarves occurred when Thráin II was captured.
  • The remaining Nine Rings were divided amongst those evil-hearted men who saw their abilities increase, and became sorcerers and Kings among Men. They gained longevity but then faded away to become the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, dominated under Sauron's will.
  • The One Ring, secretly forged by Sauron in the heart of Mount Doom, had the power to dominate the sixteen rings owned by Dwarves and Men. His domain over the other rings was incomplete, but he placed a large amount of his own power into it at its forging; a necessity that later led to his downfall at Frodo Baggins' hands.

Nothing is known of the fate of the lesser rings, made as essays to the craft, but, according to Gandalf, still dangerous for mortals that might have found them.[5]

The Power Of The Rings

The Rings of Power all had certain abilities, shared amongst them; the only different ones were the three. The chief power of all the rings was the prevention or slowing of decay, the preservation of what is desired or loved. Men (including Hobbits) would see their lifespan increase.

They also enhanced the natural powers of the wearer thus approaching ‘magic’ (a motive easily corrupted into evil) and increased lust for domination. They also shifted the wearer to the Unseen, rendering the material body invisible and making to the wearer able to see the Unseen.[6] Eventually the wearer would fade and eventually turn into a wraith under Sauron's domination.[7]

The Dwarves however were immune to most of those effects, other than they increased their lust for gold which provided occasion for quarrels among themselves. They used their rings to increase their treasure troves; the treasure hoards of these dwarves drew the mightiest of dragons and opponents.[2]

The Three did not do as the other rings. They did not make one invisible (though they themselves could be made so[8]), and their benefits were largely secondary to the main effect the Elves achieved - that of stasis. A wearer of one of the Rings of Three gained the power to heal and preserve, in many different ways, whatever they controlled. Galadriel's and Elrond's Rings allowed them to fend off Sauron and protect and preserve Lothlorien and Rivendell. Narya also had the power to inspire hope and courage[9] in those around the bearer.

The One

  • Control - Control, over the other rings and in a limited sense the bearers was gained by whomever controlled the power caged inside the One Ring.
  • Power - In its forging, to give it the ability of control, it was necessary for Sauron to allow a fatal amount of his power into the One Ring. Any bearer could use this power, though it would take time, determination, skill, and knowledge to do so.
  • Invisibility - As the other Rings, it shifted the wearer to the Wraith-world, rendering him invisible.
  • Translation - An ability to understand other creatures.
  • Corruption - The Ring also had the power to corrupt the heart and mind, making its wearer obsessed with it.

The Final Disposition of the Rings of Power

Dragons destroyed four of the Seven Rings, and after Sauron's return he recaptured the remaining three (the last from Thráin II). At the end of the War of the Ring, they were presumably buried in the ruins of Barad-dûr.

The Nine he took back from his Ringwraiths, and they were still in his possession at the time of his fall. These, too, probably lie in the ruins of Barad-dûr.

The Three were hidden from him, and their bearers eventually took them to Aman.

The One was destroyed in the Crack of Doom. With its destruction, the remainder of the Seven, the Nine, and the Three Elven rings were freed from the One's control.

Other versions of the legendarium

In one draft it is said that the Rings of Power transformed their bearers into wraiths, thus creating elf-, goblin-, men-, or dwarf-wraiths.[10]


The Rings were the background story as fleshed out by Tolkien, out of the Ring that appeared in The Hobbit. The lore of the Rings (especially the One) are often compared to the "Ring of the Nibelungs" although Tolkien denounced any direct inspiration.[11]

Portrayal in adaptations

1978: Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings

In the introduction of the movie, the Rings are portrayed as a purely Elven conception and creation, which the Elves generously gave to the Dwarves and Men. It was when Sauron 'learned of the Ring-making' when he forged the One Ring.
It contrasts the canonical account according to which the Rings were always a part of Sauron's plan. Sauron distributed them to the Dwarves and Men, after the Elves turned against him.

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131, (undated, written late 1951)
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", Cirdan's words to Gandalf
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: III. Of Gollum and the Ring", p. 78
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 229, (dated 23 February 1961), “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.”

 Rings of Power 
The One Ring
Three Rings
(Narya · Nenya · Vilya)
Seven Rings
(Ring of Thrór)
Nine Rings