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What did the Rings of Power do?
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Registered User

Oct 1 2014, 8:24pm

Post #1 of 47 (1587 views)
What did the Rings of Power do? Can't Post

Now, this may seem like a foolish question and I am surely missing something, but what exactly was the purpose of the Rings of Power, notably the 9 for the Men and 7 for the Dwarves? I know the Celebrimbor created them (with the aid of Sauron, thus corrupting them), and then sent them out to these great kings of man and dwarf. There were also other rings made, I believe, but to whom they were sent I am unsure - is it of much significance?

Nevertheless, after distributing these rings, not much seems to happen, until Sauron crafts the Ruling Ring and suddenly all hell breaks lose. What confuses me, is Sauron seeks to have these rings returned, reclaiming the 9 from the Men/Nazgul and any that were not otherwise lost from the Dwarves.

Now I thought the One was designed to control and influence the wearers of these other rings, so what does Sauron gain from taking them back? Do they have an inherent power taken from their wearers? Do they now grant influence or control over those peoples that they didn't prior? Otherwise I cannot see his reason for giving them away in the first place if it was his intent to take them all back regardless.

I have a few more questions of this ilk in line but I'm sure it would be easier for someone to just explain the whole thing than me explain each and every detail I'm unsure of, and again sorry for what is probably quite a silly question.

I await your responses!


Oct 1 2014, 8:51pm

Post #2 of 47 (1106 views)
Best Guess... [In reply to] Can't Post

Once the Nine had achieved the forms of Ringwraiths they were inextricably tied to the One Ring and Sauron could control and command them while keeping possession of the Rings himself. He put his own Power into all of the Rings, 'though the vast majority was in the Ruling Ring. Thus, by taking back the Nine Rings and the surviving Dwarven Rings Sauron could reclaim a small measure of his Power.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Oct 1 2014, 8:52pm)

Registered User

Oct 1 2014, 8:57pm

Post #3 of 47 (1048 views)
Still not entirely clear [In reply to] Can't Post

What did he gain from the Dwarven rings? What was the point? I kind of get how the nine work but the use of the seven and indeed the One still don't seem entirely clear.


Oct 1 2014, 9:02pm

Post #4 of 47 (1051 views)
I don't think the Seven are any different than the Nine. [In reply to] Can't Post

He just dispersed them out, seven to the seven Dwarf houses and nine to nine human kings. But all sixteen rings were probably alike in power. It's that Dwarves were created by Aulė to be very different creatures from Elves and Men, so Sauron couldn't control them the same way. The rings emphasized their own propensities toward greed, but it also strengthened their resolve against external control. Sauron probably took them back because he realized that they were ineffective in yoking the Dwarves, so he was better off just keeping them or perhaps giving them to additional Men.


Oct 1 2014, 9:04pm

Post #5 of 47 (1037 views)
The Rings [In reply to] Can't Post

The Seven and the Nine were meant to corrupt their bearers and to bind their spirits to Sauron's will. The Dwarf-rings, however, did not work as intended as the wills of the Dwarven-kings were too strong; in them, the Rings remained a corrupting influence and inflamed their desires for whatever was most precious to them. The effect on Thror was very much like dragon-sickness.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Oct 1 2014, 11:24pm

Post #6 of 47 (1030 views)
I'm going from shaky memory... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but I think the original 16 rings were initially not intended to ensnare the elves and it wasn't until the jig was up that Sauron "regifted" them to men and dwarves with unintended results to both groups.

He had no direct involvement with the forging of the other three so he had no power over them.

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Oct 1 2014, 11:32pm

Post #7 of 47 (1006 views)
Welcome Morgothic [In reply to] Can't Post

The whole plan of the Rings was for Sauron to gain control of the Elves in the Second age as they were too strong for him to gain control by force. So, he used the idea of tempting them to create the Rings, with possibly his help, so that he could control them all via the One Ring. Now, this plan was scuppered a bit by the fact that once he wore the One Ring, the Elves were aware of him and took their Rings off. This plan was also scuppered by the intervention of Numenor and Sauron's defeat at the end of the second age. By the time of the 3rd age, I would imagine it was a slightly different case. The forces opposing him were weaker and the Rings which they did possess were a force of strength. So now, Sauron thought he could increase his own strength by possessing them.


Oct 2 2014, 1:01am

Post #8 of 47 (1017 views)
key to this is understanding that [In reply to] Can't Post

the elves did not give out the rings, Sauron did after capturing them. The rings whether lesser or greater were never intended by the elves to be possessed or used by mortals. Their primary purpose was to save off decay or the passage of time and let the bearers preserve their works or another way to put it, make works that would endure.


Oct 2 2014, 1:06am

Post #9 of 47 (995 views)
Oops! Meant to say [In reply to] Can't Post

"....original 16 rings were initially intended to ensnare the elves..."

(This post was edited by Bladerunner on Oct 2 2014, 1:08am)


Oct 2 2014, 1:26am

Post #10 of 47 (1025 views)
More on the Rings [In reply to] Can't Post

This essay (http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Rings_of_Power) on the LOTR Wiki has some good insight to the rings. Not much different than what the posters have said here, but it goes a bit more in detail.

Tolkien didn't get very specific with how the Rings exactly worked. We know the broad end result, but not the intricacies.

One of the effect of the Nine was that it increased the power of the men who wielded them, thus giving Sauron some powerful allies. Once he had the Nine rings under his control, he had the Nazgul under control as well. This didn't work with the Dwarves, but presumably the Seven rings had power in and of themselves that increased Sauron's power overall. Or maybe he just wanted to keep the Rings of Power to himself and not have any other use them. A Dwarf lord with a Ring might have gotten powerful enough to challenge Sauron, although this seems unlikely.

Unlike the Numenoreans or the Noldor, there was never a race of Dwarves that seemed powerful enough to conquer all of Middle Earth.


Oct 2 2014, 5:19am

Post #11 of 47 (952 views)
Thanks for posting that link [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks HeWhoArisesinMight, I'd been hoping there was more material on the the history of the rings out there.

"I name you Elf-friend; and may the stars shine upon the end of your road!" - Gildor


Oct 2 2014, 8:55am

Post #12 of 47 (970 views)
no chance of any such ring bearer challenging sauron [In reply to] Can't Post

all other rings were subject to the one ring utterly. A dwarf or elf or man with the one ring let alone the lesser rings was no match for him. An individual would have to posses the one ring for any such challenge to sauron and tolkien made it clear that few had the stature to do so, perhaps gandalf and saruman but that was about it and even they were unlikely to be able to supplant him.


Oct 2 2014, 11:53am

Post #13 of 47 (964 views)
Two others .... [In reply to] Can't Post

... Ar-Pharazōn, and to a lesser degree and with a lot of luck, Isuldur.

In Reply To
....An individual would have to posses the one ring for any such challenge to sauron and tolkien made it clear that few had the stature to do so, perhaps gandalf and saruman but that was about it and even they were unlikely to be able to supplant him.


Oct 2 2014, 1:29pm

Post #14 of 47 (957 views)
Ar-Pharazon [In reply to] Can't Post

He actually defeated Sauron without the Ring, so I would imagine that if he had the Ring, he would be even more powerful. One could argue that at the zenith of his power, Ar-Pharazon was the most powerful individual in Middle Earth (by power, I don't mean individually, but as a ruler). Eventually, the One Ring would be his downfall, and of course, over time Sauron would probably emerge victorious of a mortal (after all, Sauron was a Maiar and one of the most powerful of his order).

Nevertheless, ar-Pharazon would give any Maiar or Elf Lord a run for the money. He bit off a bit more than he could chew when he challenged the Valar.

Grey Havens

Oct 2 2014, 3:58pm

Post #15 of 47 (964 views)
letter 131 [In reply to] Can't Post

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance – this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor – thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. 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. But secretly in the subterranean Fire, in his own Black Land, Sauron made One Ring, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so that its wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them. He reckoned, however, without the wisdom and subtle perceptions of the Elves. The moment he assumed the One, they were aware of it, and of his secret purpose, and were afraid. They hid the Three Rings, so that not even Sauron ever discovered where they were and they remained unsullied. The others they tried to destroy.

In the resulting war between Sauron and the Elves Middle-earth, especially in the west, was further ruined. Eregion was captured and destroyed, and Sauron seized many Rings of Power. These he gave, for their ultimate corruption and enslavement, to those who would accept them (out of ambition or greed). Hence the 'ancient rhyme' that appears as the leit-motif of The Lord of the Rings...

JRRT, letter 131, 1951

I agree that the '16' were made in origin for Elves -- Sauron came with war and took them (the Dwarvish story aside concerning one of their rings) -- and then distributed them to Men and Dwarves...

... and hence the rhyme.

(This post was edited by Elthir on Oct 2 2014, 4:02pm)


Oct 2 2014, 5:05pm

Post #16 of 47 (923 views)
Some "fossils" from early drafts [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome Morgothic!
I think the Rings we read about in LOTR keep some properties they got from Tolkien's earlier ideas, discarded in draft (but which we can read in Christopher Tolkien's epic sorting through his father's papers: The History of Middle Earth). That might form another part of the answer to your question.

Bilbo's ring in the Hobbit is not very sinister - a handy magical invisibility device a bit like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.

Setting out to write LOTR, Tolkien thrashed around a bit to find something to drive the plot of his new story, and the idea of the Rings of Power emerged only slowly.

At one point there were many rings, distributed freely by The Necromancer as a form of mischief. Nothing bad need necessarily happen to the user of one of these, but if he or she used a ring with evil intent, he or she would fade and become a subject of the Dark Lord. (One presumes that there must be enough magic rings of one kind or another in Middle-earth as finally imagined: that's necessary for it to be credible that Gandalf knows Bilbo has one of them, but takes a long time to deduce which ring it is.)

At another point, Tolkien had the idea that the Dark Lord was trying to recapture all these rings, and was counting them and finding one (Bilbo's ) missing. This was the original motive for the Dark Lord to be looking for Bilbo, or his heir.

Finally, these ideas got amplified to the point we see in the published story, where any bearer of the Ring would necessarily be corrupted by it sooner or later, and it is a unique item of great evil power.


"nowimė I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

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Oct 2 2014, 5:07pm

Post #17 of 47 (889 views)
Thanks for the citation, Elthir! // [In reply to] Can't Post



Oct 3 2014, 12:41am

Post #18 of 47 (898 views)
i should have been clear [In reply to] Can't Post

I did not mean in a full on conflict of armies I was only referring to the individual situation, personal contest of wills and power in particular for control of the ring.


Oct 3 2014, 12:45am

Post #19 of 47 (893 views)
further to your post hewhoarises [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien did write that the valar turned over their guardianship of arda to eru when the numenoreans landed because they were a real threat to them. I would not have thought that was even possible until I read it.


Oct 3 2014, 12:56am

Post #20 of 47 (893 views)
Was it threat, or avoiding human slaughter? [In reply to] Can't Post

I figure if the Valar could defeat Morgoth at his best, they could defeat Ar-Pharazon. I wonder if they didn't want to be slaughter his whole army, since unlike killing Orcs, that would be wrong and a betrayal of their guardianship.. Eru managed to avoid killing them also with that "hide them in a cave forever" trick; he could have killed them all, but chose not. (But I see the flaw in that reasoning: why didn't the Valar trap them in a cave forever?)

Tol Eressea

Oct 3 2014, 1:21am

Post #21 of 47 (886 views)
IIRC... [In reply to] Can't Post

It was Sauron's servants who quailed at the sight of Ar-Pharazon's hosts, and Sauron surrendered willingly, mistrusting his servants ability to fight such a host, and possibly intimidated himself. Of course, he still had his 'fair form' so that allowed him to rot Numenor from the inside by feeding the Anti-Valar sentiment already present.

That was how I read it. Sauron surrendered willingly, when his armies or he himself was doubtful of the issue of a combined Numenorian/Elven host. The Elves after all did hole Morgoth in Angband for years and years.

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Oct 3 2014, 2:26am

Post #22 of 47 (896 views)
Just what I was going to say [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree: the Valar were plainly capable of wiping up the beachhead with the entire Numenorean force, but to do so was so at odds with their roles as 'guardians' of Middle-earth that they punted and asked Eru to make the call.

The relationship between 'armed force', i.e., massed armies, and the moral force represented by the Rings of Power and the One Ring, is not clearly delineated by Tolkien. I have never quite believed that the Numenoreans could have cowed Sauron's armies, if Sauron had the One Ring (and he did). The premise of that episode seems to be the opposite of the one assumed by the Council of Elrond: that with the One Ring, a warlord such as Elrond or Gandalf could lead the Free Peoples to overcome the clearly superior armies of Mordor -- at the price of becoming in turn the new Dark Lord.

Of course the point of the episode of Sauron's apparent humiliation is to further the fable of the Akallabeth, with Sauron corrupting Numenor from within, ultimately destroying it (and his own body, ha ha), etc. But I think -- I think, mind you -- that the fable in question was written really without the One Ring in mind. I wonder what a little textual investigation would show about the Tolkien's development of the Numenor myth in the context of his parallel writing of the War of the Ring / Frodo's Quest myth.

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Oct 3 2014, 6:44am

Post #23 of 47 (895 views)
tolkiens words are to the effect of the numenoreans being a real threat to valinor [In reply to] Can't Post

No mention of avoiding human slaughter, which occured anyway with the downfall of numenor, off to find the quote now, be back soon hopefully.


Oct 3 2014, 11:59am

Post #24 of 47 (865 views)
Good point [In reply to] Can't Post

I managed to forget the whole-scale slaughter of everyone on Numenor. Though I continue to think that the Valar didn't want blood on their hands and felt it violated their guardian role, or that killing armies of humans (without Morgoth at their head) was out of their jurisdiction.

Maybe the Numenorean army could have wreaked havoc in Valinor, and the destruction to their homes caused while fighting them was too daunting to the Valar.

Or maybe it's Tolkien hyberbole that Numenor at its zenith was so great that the Valar were afraid of it.


Oct 3 2014, 1:33pm

Post #25 of 47 (872 views)
The deux ex machina [In reply to] Can't Post

Given that the Valar were gods, they could do pretty much anything they pleased within Arda. Of course, they were somewhat limited by Eru, but this furthers the paradox of absolute power of both the Valar and Eru.

This is something that is not specific to Tolkien, but to mythology/religion across the board. None of the Valar or Maiar should ever be defeated by mortals or Elves. In fact, why would they even be scared of the Children of Iluvator. It is like Superman in Comic Books. He should never lose his battles. But you have to give him some kind of flaw (kryptonite for example) to make it interesting. This is where the paradoxes come in. Why would the Valar call on Eru to remove the Numenoreans from Valinor? Couldn't Manwe simply use his powers of wind to blow the ships back home or Ulmo use the ocean currents to prevent them from making it to Valinor.

In order for the story to work, we have to accept that the Numenoreans became so powerful that they could at least challenge the Valar, or think that they could. They were besotted by Sauron into thinking they were powerful enough, so that much is acceptable and believable. What is hard to accept is that the Valar were freaked out about a bunch of Men, even if they were the most power humans of all time. So there have to be some flaws within the Valar (such as doubt and fear) in order for them to turn over the matter to Eru. Or maybe they felt they did not have the authority to wipe out the Numenoreans. It was Eru who destroyed Numenor, not the Valar.

So it might come down to authority rather than fear for Manwe. He might have felt the handling of this matter was beyond him, which introduces some human flaws into the Gods. However, with Eru stepping in and solving the problem, we simply have a duex ex machina ending, but it works in this context.

(This post was edited by HeWhoArisesinMight on Oct 3 2014, 1:36pm)

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