Ring-bearers was a title used for those three Hobbits (Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee) who had at one time borne the One Ring, and aided in its destruction. Because of their status as Ring-bearers, they were granted the passage of the Straight Road, and each eventually went to the Blessed Realm to live out their lives.
Though only these three Hobbits are strictly counted as Ring-bearers, in fact the Ring was borne by other hands besides; and over its history of about 4.8 millennia only a very few individuals had ever touched it.
List of persons who touched the Ring
Those who actually wore the Ring, as opposed to picking it up or holding it, are shown in bold.
- Sauron - He forged the One Ring for himself around S.A. 1600 and bore it for approximately 1840 years until his defeat in the Siege of Barad-dûr in S.A. 3441.
- Isildur - Against the advice of Elrond and Círdan, he took the Ring for himself. He did not bear it long - two years later, Isildur was ambushed by Orcs and the One Ring was lost in the Anduin on 4 October, T.A. 2, where it lay hidden for most of the Third Age.
- Déagol - He discovered the Ring while fishing the Gladden Fields in about T.A. 2463. He held it for only a short time before he was murdered by his friend Sméagol, who stole the Ring for himself.
- Gollum - He took the Ring from Déagol, and soon hid with it in the roots of the Misty Mountains. He bore it in the dark for almost five hundred years.
- Bilbo Baggins - He discovered the Ring 'by accident' while imprisoned beneath the Misty Mountains in July T.A. 2941, and claimed it from Gollum by defeating him in a Riddle-game. He carried it eastward to Erebor, and then back westward to the Shire, where he kept it. He bore the Ring for almost exactly sixty years.
- Frodo Baggins - He was given the Ring by Bilbo on the advice of Gandalf. He was the Ring-bearer, who carried the One Ring from the Shire to Orodruin, to the very brink of the Cracks of Doom. Once there, the Ring's power overmastered him, and he named it to himself, but Gollum bit it from his finger and fell into the Fire. Frodo bore the Ring for seventeen years until its destruction.
- Gandalf - He held it for a matter of moments on the morning of 13 April, T.A. 3018, before throwing it into Frodo's fire. This was the moment that the Ring's fiery inscription appeared, confirming that it was the One Ring.
- Tom Bombadil - He wore it on his finger for a moment on 27 September, T.A. 3018, but was unaffected by it. The reason that Tom was immune to the effects of the Ring remains an abiding mystery.
- Samwise Gamgee - He bore the Ring for about two days in March T.A. 3019, while Frodo his master was in the clutches of Orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
A possible Ring-bearer?
While Frodo was recovering in Rivendell, one morning he found the Ring passed through a chain for him. It is not known what person or persons did this while he was sleeping. It could be Elrond, Gandalf, or any High Elf of Rivendell, but his identity, the process, and whether he touched it, are unknown.