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The Attack of the Wraiths by Ted Nasmith
"And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power."
The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"

All things in Arda fall into the realm of either the Seen or the Unseen. The Unseen are objects and creatures of the spirit world that belong to "magic". Some Maiar like Olórin were said to walk unseen among the Elves of Valinor, and Ossë would visit the shores unseen.[1]



Wizards and the Elves who lived in Valinor existed in both the Seen and the Unseen realm; their form in the Unseen is different and have the ability to see and affect Unseen creatures.[2]

The One Ring, and presumably all the Rings of Power, shifts its wearer to the "wraith world", in which the wearer could see the forms of other persons. While the wearer would seem invisible, in reality they would be visible to the creatures of the Unseen realm[3][4]

Some of the most obvious examples of Unseen creatures were the Ringwraiths, which were invisible and formless without the guises provided by Sauron.[2]

Also, the Morgul blade that hit Frodo, had the ability to transform him into a wraith and permanently bring him to the Unseen realm;[2] while Frodo was suffering from its effect, he could see Glorfindel's true luminous form.[4]

The mysterious individual known as Tom Bombadil could see Frodo wearing the Ring;[5] whether this implies that he lived in both realms is not clear.

Portrayal in adaptations

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Arwen as seen by Frodo
The scenes where Frodo wears the Ring, show a different, ghastly version of reality, indicating that Frodo is shifted to the wraith world, although no explanation is given in dialogue. The effects of the Ring become more clear in the Weathertop scene where he sees the Ringwraits in clear form while wearing the Ring.
In the book, Frodo under the effect of the Morgul blade sees the luminous form of Glorfindel, but since in the movie he is replaced by Arwen, Frodo is supposed to see the Unseen version of Arwen; while in the Seen realm she wore a traveler's uniform, Frodo saw her in a white dress bathed in an aura of light.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

When wearing the ring, the edges of the screen become engulfed in flames in the shape of an Eye. The player, as Frodo, can only stay Unseen for a limited amount of time, before his "purity bar" is emptied. Only Ringwraiths can see the Unseen; other enemies such as wolves and Orcs cannot.

2003: Sierra's The hobbit:

Much like the original book, the Unseen world merely serves as a plot device in the halls of the Elvenking. The screen becomes filled with a haze, but many creatures can still see Bilbo. Only the Elves and Men cannot.

See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Flight to the Ford"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"