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John Howe - Saruman's Palantir.jpg
Other namesSeeing Stones
LocationVarious locations in Endor
Owned byElendil and his line, Ruling Stewards, Saruman
MakerEldar (possibly Fëanor)
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. They were used largely for communication, but also to see what was occuring through the realms. Their existence was common knowledge, but no-one was allowed easy access to them save for kings and rulers, appointed wardens, or by royal command.

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 and burning of that city in T.A. 1437. 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 only communicating stones of Arnor. When Minas Ithil fell in 2002, the stone was assumed destroyed in general. The wiser and more foresighted men of Gondor decided that in case Sauron had seized the Stone, they would stop using the Anor-stone to prevent any contact with the Dark Lord. As the Elostirion-stone was locked away and could not answer the other stones anyway, the only remaining stone was the Orthanc-stone, which became useless to the Gondorians. When Beren gave Saruman the deserted but secure Orthanc in 2759, he likely assumed that Saruman, head of the leading order against Sauron, would keep it safe.

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 incarnate 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.


They were perfect spheres, appearing to be made of solid glass or deep black crystal. The smallest stones were one foot in diameter; the larger stones too large for a single man to bear. They were unbreakable save, some thought, by the fires of Orodruin.

The Stones

  • The Osgiliath-stone 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. It was too large for one man to carry.
  • The Amon Sûl-stone was placed in the watch-tower of Amon Sûl. It was the largest and most powerful of the Arnorian palantíri and the one most used in communication with Gondor. Like the Osgiliath-stone, it "could not be lifted by one man."
  • The Orthanc-stone 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. After the War of the Ring, the Orthanc-stone remained in the custody of the Kings of Gondor in the Fourth Age.
  • The Anor-stone was placed at Minas Anor, later renamed Minas Tirith and made the capital of Gondor. It was kept an unused secret by the Ruling Stewards until it was ultimately used by Steward Denethor to watch his land, and he eventually even challenged Sauron in a battle of wills. Denethor did not become corrupted, but the great effort of will that this required of him led him to age quickly. 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 purpose of the stones in general was dual: to communicate with one another, and to see afar. All the stones save for the Elostirion-stone could be used in communication with one another, although the bigger and more powerful stones were favored for this use over long distances. The great Osgiliath-stone could spy on communication by the lesser stones, and a few others apparently also had special abilities. The stones' gaze could 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.

The stones were generally placed in bowls or depressions in tables of black marble, oriented to the poles of the world. The kings usually appointed deputies to look in the stone regularly, or on command, or in times of emergency.

See also