Rings of Power
The Rings of Power or Great Rings were twenty Rings of Power. The Elves of Eregion made nineteen of the Rings of Power (and many other lesser rings) with knowledge obtained from Sauron, and several of them with Sauron aiding the creation. Sauron forged the twentieth Great Ring, called the One Ring or the Ruling Ring, secretly in the fires of Mount Doom.
A verse that summarizes the Great Rings and their ownership is an important part of the lore of Middle-earth. It translates as follows:
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
The Creation of the Rings of Power
According to Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, in approximately S.A. 1500 the Seven and Nine were created first, in Eregion by an alliance of the Elven smiths led by Celebrimbor and Sauron. Sauron departed, and Celebrimbor went on to forge the three, finishing around S.A. 1590, using the knowledge he had gained from Sauron but without his involvement. The one, created around S.A. 1600, was finally completed by Sauron, alone, in the heart of Mount Doom. Sauron created it to rule over all the other rings, and he put a great part of his power into the One. The Elves, upon creation of the One, heard Sauron speak the closing lines of the preceding poem's verse, and realized they had been betrayed. They defied Sauron, and though they fought valiantly, Sauron gained all the rings still in their posession save the Three.
The Three Rings of the Elves of Eregion were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and were never touched by Sauron. They were called Narya, the Ring of Fire, worn by Gandalf; Nenya, the Ring of Water, worn by Galadriel; and Vilya, the Ring of Air, borne by Elrond. They remained hidden, and the whereabouts of two were not revealed until the end of the Third Age, after the One Ring was destroyed, and the Dark Lord Sauron was overthrown (Galadriel reveals her posession of one of the rings to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring).
Sauron gave the Seven Rings to the Dwarf-kings (although according to Dwarvish tradition the Elves gave one of them to the Dwarf Durin III) and the Nine Rings to Mortal Men. The Dwarves used their Rings to establish their treasure hoards, but Sauron, according to portions of the Silmarillion, was unable to force the Dwarven bearers to submit. Indeed, the rings did not even turn them invisible; they were immune to some of the more detrimental effects of the rings. It is believed that the dwarves natural hardiness, and the fact that it was only the more powerful dwarf lords who possessed them, made them resistant to Sauron's control, yet allowed them to accumulate treasure. Of the Seven the dwarves now possess none. The final ring to leave the possession of the dwarves occured when Thráin II was captured, and imprisoned by Sauron (in the guise of the necromancer) in 2845 of the Third Age.
Main article: Nazgûl
The nine rings for mortal men were those divided amongst those evil-hearted men doomed to become the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths. None are mentioned specifically throughout The Lord of the Rings save their leader, the Witch-king of Angmar. His second-in-command is named in the Unfinished Tales as Khamûl, the Black Easterling. The early Middle-earth Role Playing games name the eight other Ringwraiths, Er-Murazor (the Witch-king, of Númenórean race), Dwar, Ji Indur, Akhorahil, Hoarmurath (Númenórean), Adunaphel (female Númenórean), Ren and Uvatha, but none of these names are considered canon, and especially the idea of a female Ringwraith is extremely unlikely within the context of Tolkien's work.
Main Article: One Ring
The one ring, secretly forged by Sauron in the heart of Mount Doom, had the power to dominate all nineteen other rings. His domain over the other rings was incomplete, but the force Sauron could bring to bear with the Ring was amazing nonetheless. This was due in part to his placing a large amount of his own power into it at its forging; a necessity that later led to his downfall at Frodo's hands.
The Power Of The Rings
The Rings of Power all had certain abilities, shared amongst them; the only different ones were the three. Below are some of the abilities they granted.
The Nine and the Seven
- Invisibility - According to Tolkien, all the rings save the Three made the wearer invisible. Note that, though the Seven did presumably grant invisibility, it did not do so for any dwarf. Dwarves are largely immune to the Rings of Powers effects in this area; prevention of invisibility in this case also defended them from the fate of those Men who wore the Nine.
- Ability Enhancement - All these rings granted the bearer an increased ability in his innate talents; the Dwarves specifically are made mention of having used their rings to increase their treasure troves; arguably the ring's corruption can be seen even here. The treasure hoards of these dwarves drew the mightiest of dragons and opponents.
The Three do not do as the other rings. They do not make one invisible (though they themselves can be made so, as Galadriel showed Frodo), and they have the ability enhancement, but it is largely secondary to the main effect the Elves achieved - that of stasis. A wearer of one of the Rings of Three gains the power to preserve, in many different ways, whatever they control. Galadriel's allows her to fend off Sauron and preserve Lothlorien. Elrond's allows him to do much the same in his domain.
- Control - Control, over the other rings and in a limited sense the bearers was gained by whomever controlled the power caged inside the One Ring.
- Power - In its forging, to give it the ability of control, it was necessary for Sauron to allow a fatal amount of his power into the One Ring. Any bearer could use this power, though it would take time, determination, skill, and knowledge to do so.
- Invisibility - As is seen many times the One confers invisibility upon the wearer.
The Final Disposition of the Rings of Power
Dragons destroyed four of the Seven Rings, and after Sauron's return he recaptured the remaining three (the last from Thrain, father of Thorin Oakenshield, just before or during the action of The Hobbit). At the end of the War of the Ring, they were presumably buried in the ruins of Barad-dûr.
The Nine he took back from his Ringwraiths, and they were still in his possession at the time of his fall. These, too, probably lie in the ruins of Barad-dûr.
The Three were hidden from him, and their bearers eventually took them to Aman.