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Ring Verse

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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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File:Tim Baker - The One Ring.jpg
The One Ring by Tim Baker

The Ring-inscription is a Black Speech inscription in Tengwar upon the One Ring, symbolising the Ring's power to control the other Rings of Power, and perhaps being part of the spell that give it its powers.



Normally the One Ring appears perfectly plain and featureless, but when heated in a fire the inscription appears in fiery letters inside the Ring.

It seems that the inscription uses Elvish lettering because the other Rings of Power were made by the Elves. Isildur was the first to notice the letters. When he had cut the ring from Sauron's hand, it was burning hot, and so Isildur was able to transcribe the inscription before it faded. He described them to be of a style "of Eregion". The mode of writing was the one used also in Westron.

Gandalf first learned of the Ring-inscription when he read the account that Isildur had written before marching north to his death and the loss of the Ring. When Gandalf subsequently heated the ring that Bilbo Baggins had found and passed on to Frodo the inscription appeared, leaving him in no doubt that it was the One Ring.


The inscription read:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

These words, are physically painful to any Elf who hears them (as well as any other words of that language), most probably because of the power and the shadow they bring (the Shadow being the more harmful to the elves).

Roughly translated, they mean:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

There is also a poem about the Rings of Power, that contain these lines. Probably it was composed by the Free Peoples during the wars with Sauron, after the revelation of the truth about the Rings of Power but it is a mystery how and when the composer knew the spell of the Ring Inscription to incorporate it into the poem.

It is also possible that it has been a song by the Dark Forces of Sauron, and after the wars, it somehow "leaked" to the tradition of the Free Peoples who won.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.


Note: some recent editions of The Fellowship of the Ring accidentally omit the first two clauses of this phrase from Chapter 2.

Portrayal in adaptations

Tolkien describes the inscription to be in the inner side of the Ring. For visual purposes, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has the inscription being both externally and internally. This was the case also with the replicas of the Ring for the movies' merchantize.

In the book, Gandalf mentions the Black Speech phrase in the Council of Elrond in order to prove his concerns about the Ring. However in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring he utters the words out of context: while the participants begin to argue and shout, Gandalf speaks the words in order to "darken" the atmosphere and make them stop. It is not mentioned anywhere in the context that these lines were the Inscription of the Ring. That event was a bit controversial to the fans of the books, since it was like somehow Gandalf performed a kind of "dark magic" in order to restore order.