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The name Palantír refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Palantir (disambiguation).
"Who told you, and who sent you?" — Gandalf
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Seeing stones
"Saruman's Palantir" by John Howe
LocationVarious locations in Middle-earth
OwnerElendil and his line, Ruling Stewards, Saruman, Sauron
AppearanceSmooth, round, dark stones
CreatorNoldor (possibly Fëanor)[1]
GalleryImages of palantíri

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!

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, they could communicate with other Stones and anyone who might be looking into them. People of great power could manipulate the Stones to see virtually any part of the world.


Origin and early history

The palantíri were probably made by Fëanor in the Uttermost West.[2] Many palantíri were made; the exact number is unknown. A Master-stone was in the Tower of Avallónë. The Eldar brought some of them to Amandil to comfort the Faithful, as the Shadow fell upon Númenor and they couldn't visit them any more.[3]

Elendil took seven palantíri with him in his flight to Middle-earth upon the Downfall of Númenor. When the Realms in Exile were formed in S.A. 3320, they were distributed to seven different locations:[4] Elendil kept three in Arnor, and four were given to his sons in Gondor.[3] They were used largely for mental communication (ósanwe), but also to see what was occurring throughout the respective realms, and to know the plans of their enemies. Their existence was never common knowledge, and 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 Kin-strife and burning of that city in T.A. 1437. When Arvedui, King of Arnor, was shipwrecked and his line ended in 1975, he drowned with the palantíri of Amon Sûl and Annúminas, the only communicating stones of Arnor. When Minas Ithil fell in 2002, its 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.[5]

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 ensnared through it by Sauron. Thus, the above war was greatly affected by these stones. Later, in the final weeks of the War, its rightful master Aragorn II wrested it to his will, so that it no longer had a connection with the stolen Ithil stone.[6]

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. However, he saw only what Sauron wanted him to see, and partially because of this he eventually committed suicide in the darkest hour. It is said that afterwards, anyone of weaker will who looked into it would see only the writhing hands of Denethor in his final agony.[7]

The final fate of most of the stones is unknown. The Elostirion-stone was taken west with the Ring-bearers 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.


The Palantir of Elostirion by Matěj Čadil

The Stones

  • 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 (ost-giliath, the Dome of Stars) to the city itself. It was too large for one man to carry.[5]
  • 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."[5]
  • 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 II 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.



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.[5]


Saruman with a palantír from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings

The purpose of the stones in general was dual: to communicate with one another, and to see afar.[5] Stones were linked with each other and each could reveal what was near another stone, but those of strong will and mind could direct their gaze anywhere, both in space and time (only towards the past).[3]

All the stones save for the Elostirion-stone could be used in communication with one another, although the bigger and more powerful stones were favoured for this use over long distances. The great Osgiliath-stone could spy on communication by the lesser stones, and a few others apparently also had special abilities. The stones' gaze could penetrate beyond any solid object, such as into deep caverns, but required light to see anything. A technique called shrouding was used when something was to be kept secret from any possible watchers using the stones. Knowledge of this technique was lost in time, although Sauron probably knew of it.[5]

The user or "surveyor" 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 surveyor 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 surveyor 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 surveyors could generally see more easily and with less difficulty than others.[5]

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 surveyor would transmit his thoughts to the other stone by thinking, but the person on the other end would hear it in his head. The surveyor and his contact would see one another, but sounds could not be transmitted save through the above method of thought.[5]

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 centre 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.[5]


The name palantír (pl. palantíri) is Quenya, meaning "Far-seer",[8] containing the elements palan ("far and wide") + tir ("to watch over").[9] It is translated as 'those that watch from afar'.[10]

The Sindarin name for the seeing-stones is Gwahaedir.[11]


The Palantír of Orthanc appeared in a draft of the story unexpectedly. Tolkien already had in his mind the rhyme "Seven Stars and seven stones and one White Tree" and associated it with one of the "seven stones".[12][13]


 Stones of Arnor  † Annúminas-stone (Annúminas) · Elendil's Stone (Elostirion - Valinor) · † Amon Sûl-stone (Amon Sûl - Fornost)
Stones of Gondor   † Master Stone of Osgiliath (Osgiliath) · † Ithil-stone (Minas Ithil - Barad-dûr) · Anor-stone (Minas Tirith) · Orthanc-stone (Orthanc - Minas Tirith)
Other  Master-stone (Tower of Avallonë)