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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 was 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 gave it its powers.



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

It seemed that the inscription used 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 were physically painful to any Elf who heard them (as well as any other words of that language), most probably because of the power and the shadow they brought (the Shadow being the more harmful to the elves).

Roughly translated, these words mean:

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

Ring Poem

There was also a poem about the Rings of Power, that contained these lines. It was probably 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.

A possible explanation is that this poem belonged to the Forces of Sauron, but after the wars, it somehow "leaked" to the tradition of the Free Peoples, the winners of the war.

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.[1]

Portrayal in adaptations

1981: BBC Radio's The Lordo f the Rings:

The Black Speech words form the "background" sound in various scenes about the Ring, and Gandalf speaks them at the Council of Elrond.

2001-3: Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings:

Tolkien describes the inscription to be in the inner side of the Ring. For visual purposes, this version has the inscription being both on the outside and the inside of the Ring.
In the book, Gandalf mentions the Black Speech phrase in the Council of Elrond in order to prove his concerns about the Ring, the atmosphere darkens and the Elves seem to suffer to hear the words. In the first film he utters the words 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 and he appeared like as he was conjuring a "spell". That event was a bit controversial to the fans of the books, since it was like somehow Gandalf made use of the Shadow in order to restore order, performing thus "dark magic"[source?].

2002: Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring:

The Ring-inscription is found on the outside. Gandalf speaks the words several times, both in Bag end and Rivendell.


  1. Some recent editions[source?] of The Fellowship of the Ring accidentally omit the first two clauses of this phrase from Chapter 2.