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John Howe - Saruman's Palantir.jpg
Other namesSeeing Stones
LocationVarious locations in Endor
AppearanceSmooth, round, dark stones
"The palantír replied to each, but all those in Gondor were ever open to the view of Osgiliath. Now it appears that, as the rock of Orthanc has withstood the storms of time, so there the palantír of that tower has remained. But alone it could do nothing but see small images of things far off and days remote. Very useful, no doubt, that was to Saruman; yet it seems that he was not content. Further and further abroad he gazed, until he cast his gaze upon Barad-dûr. Then he was caught!"
Gandalf, The Palantír

The palantíri (palantír sometimes being translated as Seeing Stone but literally meaning "One that sees from afar") were stones that could be used in communication with one another, and also to see many things across the face of the world. When its master looked in it, he could communicate with other Stones and anyone who might be looking into them; people of great power can manipulate the Stones to see virtually any part of the world.



Origin and Early History

The palantíri were made by the Elves of Valinor in the Uttermost West, almost certainly by the Ñoldor and possibly by Fëanor. Many palantíri were made, but the number is not known. Some had power over other Stones. The stones had various sizes. The smallest had a diameter of about a foot, while the greatest filled a large chamber.

Some of the stones were given to the Dúnedain of Númenor as a gift during the Second Age by Gil-galad. Of these, Elendil took seven with him on his flight to Middle-earth upon the Downfall of Númenor, and in time they were distributed among seven places: four in Gondor and three in Arnor.

Third Age and beyond

One by one the stones vanished from public knowledge or were lost. The Osgiliath palantír fell into Anduin during the Kinstrife. The Elostirion palantír was locked away in its tower. When Arvedui, King of Arnor, was shipwrecked and his line ended in T.A. 1975, he drowned with the palantíri of Amon Sûl and Annúminas. The Minas Ithil palantír was secretly seized by Sauron after the fall of that city, and put to his own use. The Orthanc palantír was taken by Saruman, and the Minas Anor palantír was used by the Kings until the end of their line, and the Ruling Stewards kept the stone hidden until the time of Denethor II.

Several of these hidden or lost stones came to light during the War of the Ring. Previous to this, Saruman used his palantír to gain knowledge, and eventually was caught when he dared to looked toward Mordor. Thus, the above war was greatly affected by these stones. Later, upon Saruman's downfall, its rightful master Aragorn II twisted it to his will, so that it no longer had a connection with the stolen Ithil stone.

The second palantír to be revealed was that of Minas Anor. Denethor, too, had glanced toward Mordor with it, but his great hate of evil and power of will prevented him from being snared, though it taxed him greatly. Partially because of what he saw he eventually committed suicide in the darkest hour. This stone was later used by King Aragorn II, though it is said that anyone of weaker will who looked into it would see the writhing hands of Denethor in his final agony.

The Stones

  • The Osgiliath palantír was the largest stone among the seven, and chief among them. It was placed in a prominent building in Osgiliath, the capital city of the kingdom of Gondor. The ceiling of its chamber was painted to resemble a starry sky, and gave its name (os-giliath, the Dome of Stars) to the city itself.
  • The Orthanc palantír was placed in the great tower built by the Dúnedain in the Second Age at the southern end of the Misty Mountains, Orthanc. It fell into the hands of the wizard Saruman, who used it to garner information on his neighbors and their activities. The stone was also partially responsible for Saruman's fall from grace, as he was using it when he came upon Sauron, and was ensnared by him. Saruman later used the stone to confer with Sauron through the Ithil-stone in Barad-dûr, and plan much of their mutual cooperation throughout the War of the Ring. This communication likely influenced his decision that resistance against Sauron was futile. At Saruman's downfall, Gandalf recovered the stone and gave it to Aragorn II, but not before a hobbit, Peregrin Took, inadvertently contacted Sauron.

    Aragorn proudly declared himself as the heir of Isildur to Sauron, seeking to distract him from the Quest of the Ring, and making him think that Aragorn considered himself master of the One Ring. Sauron's attack was hastened, before he was fully ready, and deeply influenced the outcome of the war. The Orthanc-stone remained in the custody of the Kings of Gondor in the Fourth Age.
  • One Stone was placed at Minas Anor, later renamed Minas Tirith and made the capital of Gondor. It was ultimately used by Steward Denethor to spy on Sauron. Denethor did not become corrupted, but the great effort of will that this required of him led him to age quickly. Furthermore, using the Ithil-stone, Sauron largely controlled what Denethor saw, leading to the latter's despair and insanity. Denethor was holding the stone when he committed suicide on a funeral pyre, and after this, only people of exceeding power could see in it anything other than two flaming hands.
File:Saruman with Palantir from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.jpg
Saruman with Palantir from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings

The stones' gaze can pierce anything except darkness and shadow. A technique called shrouding was used when something was to be kept secret from the enemies' eyes. Knowledge of this technique was however lost long ago, although Sauron probably knew of it.

A Master Stone remained in Avallonë on Tol Eressëa, but no record is made of successful communication from any Palantír of Middle-earth to this one.

See also