|Other names||Seeing Stones|
|Location||Various locations in Endor|
|Appearance||Smooth, 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 (sometimes translated as "Seeing Stones") 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 Noldor of Valinor in the Uttermost West, possibly by Fëanor. Many palantíri were made, but the number is not known. 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-stone 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.
The final fate of most of the stones is unknown. The Elostirion-stone was taken west with the Ringbearers in 3021 of the Third Age, severing the last link of Middle-earth to Valinor. The stones of Anor and Orthanc are believed to have been reinstated in the Reunited Kingdom and used officially once more. The Ithil-stone may have been destroyed in the fall of Barad-dûr, but it is also possible that it too was found and reused in the Reunited Kingdom. Whether or not the other three lost stones were ever found is never indicated; the Osgiliath-stone may have rolled into the Sea, or it may have lain still in the Anduin. The stones of Arnor, however, were lost in the frozen seas of Forochel, and therefore it is highly unlikely that they could ever be recovered.
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 Master-stone was not one of the seven, but remained in the Tower of Avallonë in Tol Eressëa. It was the master stone. It apparently could not communicate with the stones of Middle-earth, or at least is not mentioned having done so.
- 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 Elostirion-stone, also known as the Elendil Stone, was placed by Elendil in the tower of Elostirion in the Emyn Beraid, just west of The Shire. The tower and stone were maintained and guarded by Círdan and the Lindon-elves. Elendil used it to looked back along the Straight Road to Eressëa and even the Tower of Avallonë and the Master-stone, and though it is indicated that he tried, he could not see the fallen Númenor. It could not be used in communication with the other stones, and was unique in this respect.
- 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 Ithil-stone was placed in Minas Ithil, in the mountains that came to be known as the Ephel Dúath. When Minas Ithil fell to the Nazgûl, the Ithil-stone was taken to Barad-dûr and used by Sauron.
- 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.
The user or "surveyer" of a palantír would first assure himself that the stone was oriented properly. Usually the stones were held firmly so that this did not have to occur at each viewing. Then the surveyer would take up a position facing the direction he would want to look; for instance, if he wished to look west, he would stand on the eastern side of the stone. The major stones, however, could be rotated, and thus did not require moving about. The stones were apparently controlled by will power; although chance largely dictated precisely upon what the gaze of the stones lay, the surveyer could manipulate and shift the gaze by merely concentrating, even when not touching the stone. This concentrating, however, was quite taxing, and so was not generally used save in urgent situations. Zooming in could be accomplished through the same methods, and standing three feet away from the stone achieved the best clarity and widest scope. Stronger and more skilled surveyers could generally see more easily and with less difficulty than others.
To communicate with another stone, the viewer would orient himself and look toward the location of that stone, and the two stones would automatically connect with one another unless one was being used in another conversation. The surveyer would transmit his thoughts to the other stone by thinking, but the person on the other end would hear it in his head. The surveyer and his contact would see one another, but sounds could not be transmitted save through the above method of thought.
The stones were generally placed in bowls or depressions in tables of black marble, oriented through trial and error so that the poles of the stone aligned with the center of the world. The kings usually appointed deputies to look in the stone regularly, or on command, or in times of emergency. Others not authorized by the king could use them, but it took a great amount of willpower, and things were often less clear.