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The Most Powerful of the Third Age

The Shire

Dec 11 2012, 7:13pm

Post #1 of 22 (1446 views)
The Most Powerful of the Third Age Can't Post

Hello, I am new to the forum. I hope I have posted this topic in the right sub-forum. Please excuse my ignorance if I have not.

I have lately been pondering the relative power of individuals. Is Gandalf the Grey stronger than Durin's Bane? Is the Witch-King stronger than Gandalf the White, and by extension, Saruman and the Balrog? What about Glorfindel? Is he really more powerful than the Nine? Are dragons stronger than Maiar?

How would you rank them?

Thank you for your time and opinions.


Dec 11 2012, 9:21pm

Post #2 of 22 (769 views)
I really [In reply to] Can't Post

like power debates.

I think Gandalf is as strong as Durins bane, as both died during the fight. IMHO Gandalf the white is stronger than the WK, since his power has increased, with Gandalf the grey Iīm not sure, Saruman would be weaker than a Balrog, because he couldīt use his full power being restricted in that old men body, Glorfindel would be more powerfl than the nine, cause the Calaquendi are strong in both the seen and unseen, that would apply to Galadriel too.


Dec 11 2012, 9:25pm

Post #3 of 22 (775 views)
Welcome! And great question [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll take a stab at it and try to rank them, then we can all debate:
  1. Sauron
  2. Galadriel, post-death Gandalf, Bombadil
  3. Elrond, Cirdan, Glorfindel, pre-death Gandalf, Saruman
  4. Balrog
  5. All the Nazgul
1. After Sauron's fall, Galadriel was able to lay bare the pits of Dol Guldur. Not sure how she did it, but I have trouble seeing Elrond or anyone else doing that.
2. Despite Bombadil's nonsense talk, and Gandalf's point that the Ring had no power over Bombadil, not the reverse, he had no trouble trouncing the Barrow-wight. I think he was quite powerful, and really, wouldn't he have been swept away before if he wasn't? Sauron brooks no rivals, and Sauron had overrun Eriador before. Bombadil wasn't exactly high-profile, but he wasn't all that secret and hidden, either, and it seems fair to believe Sauron knew about him.
3. I'm putting the Balrog beneath the others because the Noldor were able to kill balrogs in Beleriand, though with difficulty, and pre-death Gandalf was able to, if you count dying last in the battle as being proof of greater strength.
4. Pre-death Gandalf was able to hold off all of the Nazgul at night on Weathertop, when they were at their strongest, which makes me think he's a match for any one of them, including the Witch-King.

I don't know how to rank dragons against the others since they fight and kill so differently. But if you think of the Maia in their original forms, not limited as Wizards, they must have fought effectively against the dragons in the last battle against Morgoth. Just don't ask me how. Smile


Dec 11 2012, 9:32pm

Post #4 of 22 (761 views)
What do you think of Elrond vs the Nazgul? [In reply to] Can't Post

We see Elrond only as the wise old elf who rules from inside a Homely House, so he doesn't quite seem like a warrior who could stand in a field by himself. But he was at the battle at Mount Doom where Sauron was defeated, and I don't think he was a mere bystander in that war, though he says he was Gil-Galad's herald (which also doesn't sound too tough).

Something tells me that Elrond could, on his own, even without a flooding river, have held a bridge against the Nine as Glorfindel did, or drive them mad with fear if he revealed his inner spirit like Glofrindel. True, he wasn't born in Valinor and didn't have that extra light in his spirit, but being descended from Melian/Luthien, Turgon, and Earendil, and having the mightiest of the Three has to count for a lot. This is all gut sense. I'm not sure if Tolkien ever wrote about him explicitly as a warrior.


Dec 11 2012, 9:44pm

Post #5 of 22 (726 views)
I [In reply to] Can't Post

donīt think it would be easy for Elrond, he doesnīt have the light of the two trees in him and I think that really matters in the fight against the Nazgul. Sure he is decended from Melian, but does that make him more powerful than Glorfindel or Galadriel? I donīt think so.
The ring he had was not made for war, so it would not help him in the fight.

(This post was edited by Nerven on Dec 11 2012, 9:45pm)

The Shire

Dec 11 2012, 11:07pm

Post #6 of 22 (880 views)
Nice list [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your list Curious.

I would only change Glorfindel to another level. It is said he was imbued with more power on his return in the Third Age. Saruman is probably between 2 and 3 of your list.

What about Smaug? Where would he fit do you think?


Dec 12 2012, 3:58pm

Post #7 of 22 (685 views)
Like your list [In reply to] Can't Post

However, my understanding of Bombadil from some of the things that he said lead me to believe that he was master of his own domain, and by extension was restricted to that. So the question then is whether or not he was able to be as powerful outside of his own lands.

Sauron's power was in fear and deception, and only at the greatest need did he come to actually fight. Defeating him seems to be more of a matter of getting to him. Kind of like Morgoth. He was big bad and scarey but Tulkas still whooped his butt when he got his hands on him.

Really I think all of the Maiar are pretty evenly matched, so I would say Gandalf(white and Grey) Saruman, the Balrog, were all on the same level it was just a matter of personality and how they chose to use their power. Galadriel is indeed the most powerful Elf in Middle Earth at the time. On another thread they were discussing the msytery of Galadriel and how the Valar must have breathed a sigh of relief when she rejected the One Ring. Taking the one she would trumped them all for a time as she would have had Sauron's powers until it corrupted her and she became a wraith like the Nazgul.

The Nazgul are certainly scarey and have potentially some great powers but like their mastery their power is in fear and dread. I'm not sure how the witch king would have had any more power than the rest. They were all slaves to the will of Sauron and thus could really do nothing without his command.

The Noldor are another matter indeed. It seems their spirits and tenacity imbue them with a far greater power when combined with the Light of Valinor. So they are definitely high ranking, the ones that are left at that time.

In the end I do think that the top three would be:
Gandalf the White

I put Gandalf the white ahead because of his race. As the white I would daresay that he was capable of almost anything at need. If you think about the reason the Istari are there is because the Valar have unfinished business with Sauron. They caught Morgoth, but Sauron slunk away. Knowing that that bit of their war of wrath was unfinished, I can logically see that Gandalf would have eventually defeated Sauron even if it came down to hand to hand combat or a battel of power. This is the servant of Morgoth versus the herald of Manwe (Yes I know he spent more time with Lorien, but I do believe his name comes up in connection with the Lord of the Valar as well). But in the end, Sauron falls because of a small piece of jewelry. How like a man, One ring rules them all lol.

"clever hobbits to climb so high!"
Check out my writing www.jdstudios.wordpress.com


Dec 12 2012, 4:05pm

Post #8 of 22 (996 views)
Agree on Gandalf [In reply to] Can't Post

When he comes back from the dead, he continues to play the role of adviser and the behind-the-scenes motivator, but he's clearly more powerful than before, and profoundly so. I don't think it's just the invulnerability, I think, as you say, if it came down to a one-to-one battle with Sauron, they would be at least evenly matched. It's my suspicion that he was sent back by the Valar/Iluvatar as the ultimate weapon if all else failed, since the first attempt at sending the Istari had failed completely. Who would want to make that mistake twice? And even though Sauron is powerful, he was defeated once before by the Last Alliance: Elves and Men, no Maiar involved, so it's not a stretch to think that another Maia on steroids could knock him off.


Dec 14 2012, 10:50am

Post #9 of 22 (779 views)
A herald in battle would be a worthy leader and formidable fighter themselves [In reply to] Can't Post

I mean who the heck would want to discuss terms on a battle field with someone who was no scarier than Strawberry Shortcake on a bad day.

In the Tolkien mythology Eonwe was the herald of Manwe and he (Eonwe) was greatest in arms of anyone who has ever been in Arda, including the Valar.

Third Age power rankings (I am unsure whether I like or loathe these things)

Gandalf the White
Saruman the White
Gandalf the Grey
Elrond or Cirdan
Cirdan or Elrond
Jeff the Balrog
Elladin & Elrohir (any girl with two older brothers will be tougher than both of them put together and also have Daddy wrapped around her little finger)
Fran Walsh
Phillipa Boyens
Katie Jackson
Sir Peter Jackson
The Witch King
Farmer Maggot's wife
Farmer Maggot
Grip (one of Farmer Maggot's dogs)
Third Nazgul from the left
The other Nazgul just behind him...no not the the one with the horsemans mace, the one with the shield and sword...yes that's him.
Rosie Cotton (anyone who can tame the Hobbit that probably mortally wounded Shelob....nuff said, let alone bear and raise that many hobbitlings)
The Nazgul preoccupied with his Galaxy III, playing Angry Fell Beasts I guess
Bill the Pony
The Black Arrow of Dale
Fang (the second toughest of Farmer Maggot's dogs)
Farmer Maggot's last dog whose real name was Pookie, not Wolf.
The last 4 Nazgul all equal (equally useless because they could never do anything unless they all agreed on it...oooh look Mount Dooms on fire lets take a closer look)
Mudwiggle the Worm
Celeborn (otherwise known as Teleporno.....no seriously that is one of the names given to him by Tolkien, I can't remember if it was Quenya, Sinda or Klingon in origin but that was deinitely one of his names)

I don't count Bombadil because he is an enigma, in Middle Earth but not of Middle Earth, and besides he stole my boots.

Radagast would be in there somewhere if he wanted to, my best guess is probably between Saruman the White and Galadriel if he could be bothered to stop chasing butterflies and building bird houses.

Power rankings do not equate to combat ability, they have some bearing in some respects but don't neccessarily correspond.

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Dec 14 2012, 10:52am)

Registered User

Dec 20 2012, 5:55pm

Post #10 of 22 (567 views)
They are all Maiar [In reply to] Can't Post

Without going into much detail, putting aside "who is the most powerful" I will say that the "Essense of many of these characters is that of Maia, so who is actually the Michael Jordan of the group, I'm not really sure, but the balrigs and gandalf and sauron, etc... Equal in making. Sarumam "was" more powerful then gandalf, but eventually loses that title. And in the silmarillion it is stated that sauron of the Maia may have been worse the melkor himself exile of the valar and former Vala himself. So any of these characters have the potential to be the "strongest" or most "powerful". Orcs can slay gandalf and he is of the Maia, yet he could contest sauron but he doesn't, he has the power, but that us not gandalf a purpose. Even the "eagles" are Maia, they are on the same level as balrogs and wizards and such. In the silmarillion, of all the elves that lusted for the silmarils, it was a weak man that took the first one from morgoth. The bilbo saves the day, frodo, Sam and gollum destroy the ring. The weak play bigger roles, who's most powerful doesn't matter.


Dec 20 2012, 6:28pm

Post #11 of 22 (559 views)
Where does it say that the Eagles are Maiar? [In reply to] Can't Post

They're associated with Manwe as his messengers, but I've always assumed they were mortal creatures. They die out, or Thorondor should still be around in Frodo's time. Where does it give their origin?

Registered User

Dec 20 2012, 6:38pm

Post #12 of 22 (563 views)
Thorondor [In reply to] Can't Post

No the eagles are I'm fact Maiar, and thorin for is around during the LotR and the hobbit. He is present when helping Volvo and the dwarves and saving gandalf on orthanc and saving frodo and Sam. The eagles are Maiar and are not mortal just as gandalf isn't. I would assume they could go to aman with any ships. So did not need to leave middle earth on the last ship and could've stated longer. The trolls were made in mockery of the ents, are dragons the mockery of eagles? Or are the nazgul mockeries?

Tol Eressea

Dec 20 2012, 6:47pm

Post #13 of 22 (567 views)
i don't go in for this sort of thing much [In reply to] Can't Post

- personally, I've never 'got' the appeal of trying to work out who is stronger/tougher than whom. But if anybody's interested, there's a quote somewhere where Gandalf says 'There are many fprces for good and evil in the world. Some are greater than I. Against some I have not been measured.'

(paraphrase from memory).


Dec 20 2012, 6:52pm

Post #14 of 22 (547 views)
Gwaihir [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf says that Gwaihir is the descendant of Thorondor and is the leader of the Eagles in Middle-earth, and he was the one who rescued Gandalf from Orthanc, and Frodo, etc. Though I suppose it's possible that Thorondor went to Valinor with the Valar's army after Beleriand was destroyed. I'm not sure we ever hear his fate, but it's been my assumption that he died of old age and was succeeded by heirs.

You make a good point about dragons. I've wondered that lately, since Morgoth officially can't create, only corrupt, how the dragons came about. Were they made in mockery of Eagles? That would make sense. Or were they Balrogs that he turned into dragons somehow? The only other thing I can think of is that Sauron created the winged creatures that the Nazgul flew on by taking some creature and feeding it "foul meats" until it turned into the kind of monster that he wanted. Maybe Morgoth did the same with lizards or alligators? But that sounds kinda silly.

PS. Who's Volvo?


Dec 20 2012, 7:04pm

Post #15 of 22 (543 views)
I agree they don't rank neatly [In reply to] Can't Post

"Power" in the books is defined differently for different people. I'm reminded that the sons of Feanor didn't dare attack Beren and Luthien to recover the Silmaril while they were alive. They didn't even send a demand for it. Why not? They told Dior, as King of Doriath, to surrender it, and they had a combined army that was greater than his, so they should have been able to overcome the scattered Elves of Ossiriand. I think the answer is because the sheer reputation of Luthien and Beren was "powerful" enough that Feanor's sons didn't dare challenge it, and just as in politics in the real world, the perception of power is as important as the reality of it. In every political science class I took in college (it was my major), the professors tried to define power, and no one ever did so satisfactorily.

But putting all that aside, there are general impressions about power, and who has more of it than others, and we can make reasonable distinctions there. Maybe it's mostly about perception. If asked to compare Denethor and Galadriel, I'd say Denethor had much more territory and a larger army, but Galadriel was still more powerful, even without her magic ring. Besides military and magical power, there's power of the mind. She was able to read Sauron's mind (or all of it that concerned the Elves), but she could keep hers shut to him. Denethor, on the other hand, was ensnared by Sauron's mind when he looked into the palantir, so he was weaker than she was in that respect.


Dec 20 2012, 7:08pm

Post #16 of 22 (558 views)
Power is definitely situational and varying [In reply to] Can't Post

but nonetheless, some feel compelled to define themselves within a power chain.

In doing so, these people create yet another situation where both strength and weakness can be found. It is both a strength and a weakness to be at the top or the bottom of such a chain. Many times the important part becomes how a person can leverage all of it in the moment at hand.

Registered User

Dec 20 2012, 7:27pm

Post #17 of 22 (691 views)
Correction [In reply to] Can't Post

My bad, not sure how I made the mistake of thinking thorondor was around the while time. Maybe cause they just stop mentioning him after the first age and never actually say what happened to him.

The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 12:00am

Post #18 of 22 (506 views)
Are you thinking of the fell beast? [In reply to] Can't Post

Because the Nazgul were the Black Numenoreans. And it's not Thorondor who rescues Bilbo & Co. and later Gandalf from the top of Orthanc, it's Gwaihir who is a descendent of Thorondor. So I have to agree with the previous poster that the eagles aren't Maiar.

In Reply To
No the eagles are I'm fact Maiar, and thorin for is around during the LotR and the hobbit. He is present when helping Volvo and the dwarves and saving gandalf on orthanc and saving frodo and Sam. The eagles are Maiar and are not mortal just as gandalf isn't. I would assume they could go to aman with any ships. So did not need to leave middle earth on the last ship and could've stated longer. The trolls were made in mockery of the ents, are dragons the mockery of eagles? Or are the nazgul mockeries?

Grey Havens

Dec 30 2012, 1:58pm

Post #19 of 22 (542 views)
Some eagles: Maiar or not [In reply to] Can't Post

Part of the problem might be that certain relevant texts are hard to date, at least in relation to each other:

'Manwe however sent Maia spirits in Eagle form to dwell near Thangorodrim...' Note to the typescript, Annals of Aman

'... many of the Maiar robed themselves like other lesser living things, as trees, flowers, beasts. (Huan.)' Note on the page for Myths Transformed, text V

'Huan and Sorontar could be Maiar -- emissaries of Manwe. But unfortunately in The Lord of the Rings Gwaehir and Landroval are said to be descendants of Sorontar.' Myths Transformed text VIII

These appear to hail from the late 1950s

I have a further question concerning text VIII in any case: immediately after noting the problem of the descendants of Thorondor, Tolkien asks if Maiar can become Orcs, answers yes, and then notes: '... but by practising when embodied procreation they would (cf. Melian) [become] more and more earthbound, unable to return to spirit-state (even demon-form), until released by death (killing), and they would dwindle in force.'

But does this not imply that Maiar could have descendants? If these spirits accept permanent incarnation as Eagles, it seems to me that Gwaehir and Landroval being descendants of Thorondor should not necessarily prohibit the idea of Thorondor being a Maia -- though I certainly agree he should procreate with a female Maia as an eagle, as opposed to a regular eagle.

If so (correct me if I'm wrong about this previous part), Tolkien's conclusion to text VIII -- that the eagles are not Maiar but beasts raised to a higher level (but still without fear, as in plural of fea) -- could be in question, possibly being the result of a problem that may not really have been a problem upon further reflection. But yet, according to very next paragraph following the statement about Thorondor, even Tolkien seems to think Maiar could have descendants.

I realize this was very much a record of 'thinking with the pen', but I'm wondering if others share my confusion here -- or if I'm off the path myself, creating my own confusion rather.

Also, in The Lost Road Christopher Tolkien comments about editorial alterations made the text published in The Silmarillion. With respect to a line in Of Beren and Lúthien, and Thorondor and two other Eagles from the steps of Angband:


(...) with wings swifter than the wind (p. 182). The draft text B has at this point: 'Thorondor led them, and the others were Lhandroval (Wide-wing) and Gwaewar his vassal.' In the following text C, also of 1937, this became: 'Thorondor was their leader; and with him were his mightiest vassals, wide-winged Lhandroval, and Gwaewar lord of the wind.' This was emended (in 1951) to 'Gwaihir the lord of storm', and in this form the passage is found in the QS [Quenta Silmarillion] manuscript. It was omitted in The Silmarillion on account of the passage in The Return of the King (VI. 4): 'There came Gwahir the Windlord, and Landroval his brother ... mightiest of the descendants of old Thorondor, who built his eyries in the inaccessible peaks of the Encircling Mountains when Middle-earth was young.'

At the time, I did not understand the nature and dating of the end of QS. It now appears that there was no reason to suppress the names; in fact, it seems that Gwaewar was changed to Gwaihir to bring it into accord with The Lord of the Rings -- however this is to be interpreted.

However this is to be interpreted, yes. But it looks like we have Gwaihir, even if a descendant of old Thorondor, alive in the First Age. Although again, the external dating becomes an issue, and Tolkien's 'final' decision becomes a bit obscured here.

The Osanwe-kenta (c 1959-60) states: 'The only case that is known in the histories of the Eldar is that of Melian who became the spouse of King Elu-thingol. This certainly was not evil or against the will of Eru, and though it led to sorrow, both Elves and Men were enriched.' Author's note 5, where Pengolodh adds a long note on the use of hroar by the Valar.

This singles Melian out, but not being published (which caused Tolkien's 'unfortunately' above in text VIII with respect to Thorondor), to my mind this would still not necessarily prohibit the notion of the eagles as Maiar, if desired. And I suppose Tolkien might not have been considering the eagles here, but that speculation is only so compelling, admittedly.

So the answer must once again be: East-elves Wink


Dec 30 2012, 4:41pm

Post #20 of 22 (480 views)
And Ungoliant [In reply to] Can't Post

She was the mother of the line of giant spiders in Middle-earth, and she's either a Maia or Ainu. It's not clear whom she mated with, unless part of being a great being is that you can create lesser versions of yourself without procreating.


Dec 30 2012, 5:44pm

Post #21 of 22 (509 views)
Oops [In reply to] Can't Post

I missed something. Ungoliant bred with "foul creatures of spider form" and didn't make offspring on her own. It's interesting that Tolkien describes her mates that way, and doesn't just call them spiders. The "spider form" hints that they were perhaps Maiar or other spirits who took the form of animals.


Dec 30 2012, 8:29pm

Post #22 of 22 (683 views)
Ungoliant's origin [In reply to] Can't Post

is indetermnate and there is even text that suggests the Valar are not aware of her origins.

With regards to descendants of Maia, if Melian could produce offspring while taking the form of the firstborn then why is there any debate that a Maia that had adopted another form could not reproduce. I believe it would result in greater inconsistency and lack of "reality" for the opposite to apply or for Melians situation to be thought of as a unique possibility and not just the unique situation it was.


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