Rings of Power

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Rings of Power refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Rings of Power (disambiguation).
The Forging of the Ring by Alan Lee

In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power. [...] Now the Elves made many rings; but secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last.

The Rings of Power were rings created by the Elves of Eregion, nineteen Great 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.

Twenty Rings

  • The sixteen Rings of Power forged under Annatar's guidance:
    • Sauron gave some six Rings to the Dwarf-kings, although according to Dwarvish tradition the Elves already gave another to Durin III. The Dwarves used their Seven Rings to establish their treasure hoards, but Sauron was unable to force the Dwarven bearers to submit. 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. The final ring to leave the possession of the dwarves occurred when Thráin II was captured.
    • The remaining Nine Rings were divided amongst those evil-hearted men who saw their abilities increase and became sorcerers and Kings among Men. They gained longevity but then faded away to become the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, dominated under Sauron's will.
  • The Three Rings of the Elves were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and were never touched by Sauron. They were made last, however, and their forging involved some of the arts taught by "Annatar". Thus they too were bound to the One Ring to some extent. They were named Narya the Ring of Fire, Nenya the Ring of Water, and Vilya the Ring of Air; they remained hidden from Sauron.
  • The One Ring, secretly forged by Sauron in the heart of Mount Doom, had the power to dominate the sixteen rings owned by Dwarves and Men. His domain over the other rings was incomplete, but he placed a large amount of his own power into it at its forging, a necessity that later led to his downfall at Frodo Baggins' hands.

The Three Rings, the Seven Rings and the Nine Rings were all set with their proper gem, but the One Ring was round and unadorned like the lesser rings of Power.[1]

A verse that summarizes the Great Rings and their ownership is an important part of the lore of Middle-earth. It translates as follows:

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.



The Forging by Ralph Damiani

Around S.A. 1200, Sauron started to corrupt the Elves.[2] He did not manage to approach Gil-galad and Elrond but he had better luck with the Elven-smiths of Eregion. The Gwaith-i-Mírdain of Eregion were mostly Noldor, and wished to have the same joys in Middle-earth as the Elves who had returned to Valinor. Sauron therefore presented himself as "Annatar", an emissary from the Valar,[3] and tempted the Elves by offering the knowledge to transform Middle-earth.

Annatar taught the smiths the knowledge of how to create Rings, which would grant the Elves who wear them certain powers. At first the Elves created some lesser rings, which were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown. In approximately S.A. 1500, the Greater 16 were created.[2] When Annatar departed from Eregion, Celebrimbor went on to forge the Three Rings using the knowledge he had gained from him, but without his involvement, and finished them around S.A. 1590.

Sauron then created the One Ring around 1600, alone, in the heart of Mount Doom. Its purpose was to rule over all the other rings, and Sauron put a great part of his power into it. The Elves, upon the creation of the One Ring, heard Sauron speak the spell, and realized they had been betrayed.[4]

Advent of Sauron

As soon as Sauron put on the One, the bearers of the Three became aware of him and took them off in fear and anger. They defied Sauron and refused to use the Rings. Seeing this, Sauron attempted to claim the Rings to distribute them to other peoples; he waged War against the Elves, and although the Elves fought valiantly, Eregion was destroyed. Celebrimbor however managed to salvage the Three he created himself and secretly gave them to Gil-galad, Círdan, and Galadriel. They were originally given to the three greatest Eldar in Middle-earth at that time.[3][2] During the Sack of Eregion, Sauron took the Nine Rings and other lesser works from them; but he could not find the rest. Then Celebrimbor was put to torment, and he revealed the existence of the Seven Rings.[5]

Sauron then distributed them to Lords who desired secret power beyond their nature, hoping to bring them under his sway; Men who were the readiest to his will, became powerful sorcerers and Kings; and Dwarves who grew greedier and augmented their treasures. As Sauron had to do with their making, he easily perverted and accursed the Rings, betraying those who wore them.[3]

The Mannish lords who held the Nine were consumed by them and entered the wraith-world, becoming the Ringwraiths, servants of Sauron without will. The Dwarves who held the Seven were largely (but not totally) unaffected, but the wrath and greed brought upon them brought evils that benefitted Sauron. The Three were always held by the Elves, and Gandalf upon his arrival.[3]

Final disposition

During the Third Age, four of the Seven were destroyed during the Dwarves' conflicts with Dragons, and after Sauron's return he recaptured the remaining three, the last from Thráin II. The Nine he took back from his Ringwraiths, and they were still in his possession at the time of the War of the Ring.

Nothing is known of the fate of the lesser rings, made as essays to the craft, but, according to Gandalf, still dangerous for mortals that might have found them.[6]

The One was lost and refound until it was destroyed in the Crack of Doom. With its destruction, the existing Rings were freed from Sauron's control, but may have lost their power altogether. They were presumably buried in the ruins of Barad-dûr, or perhaps simply faded, while the (powerless) Three were taken with their bearers to Aman.


Powers and properties

The Rings of Power all had certain common properties. The Elves of Eregion created the rings to preserve their lands, attempting to make them as beautiful as Valinor. Thus, a primary power of the rings was to prevent and decelerate decay and change. The rings also increased a bearer's own natural powers, seemingly granting 'magic' abilities.[7]

In her father's garden by Jef Murray

According to Gandalf, a Ring of Power has the ability to "look after itself". A bearer of a Ring was unable to abandon it, but a ring could "decide" to abandon its wearer as the One Ring did many times in order to get back to Sauron.[6]:55 The One Ring specifically had such power of lust that nobody had the will to try to injure it[7] (even though it was indestructible itself).

Additionally, the One Ring, along with the Seven and the Nine, had the ability to tap into the Unseen at different degrees. The One could completely shift the wearer to the Spirit World, rendering the material body invisible to mortals.[7] Men who wore a Ring of Power caused the wearer to fade and turn into a permanently invisible wraith[6]:51 under Sauron's domination.[6]:47

The Dwarves however were more resistant to most of these effects. They could hardly be dominated, it was hard to read their thoughts and they could not be turned into wraiths. They mostly suffered under an increased wrath and lust for gold and only used their Seven Rings to increase their wealth. It was said that a golden ring was the foundation on which each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old.[3]

The Three did not make their wearers invisible[7] (though a wearer could make the ring itself invisible[8]). A wearer of one of the Three gained the power to heal and preserve, in many different ways, whatever they controlled. Galadriel's and Elrond's Rings allowed them to fend off Sauron and protect and preserve Lothlórien and Rivendell. Narya also had the power to inspire hope and courage in others.[9]

The One

Main article: The One Ring

For The One to have the ability to control The Three, it was necessary for Sauron to allow a significant amount of his power and will to flow into it during its forging. As it was the Master Ring, whoever mastered the One also had control over the other rings, the works done through them, and also could perceive and control the thoughts of anyone wearing another ring. But Sauron never managed to do so, because as soon as he wore it upon his finger, the Elves became aware of him.[3]

The wearer also was able to understand speech in languages the wearer did not know, or at least able to understand the Black Speech.[10]

Any bearer could use its power, though it would take time, determination, skill, and knowledge to do so. However the Ring corrupted the heart and mind, making its wearer obsessed with it.

Other versions of the legendarium

The One Ring and the Three in the dust-jacket design for The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

In an early draft of The Lord of the Rings, there were many different elements related to the Rings of Power:[11]

  • Not the Elves of Eregion, but the dark master made many rings and distributed them to ensnare others. The Elves did not have three, but had many rings. There is no mentioning of the Elves discovering the intent of the Lord of the Rings and taking off their rings. Instead, it is mentioned that there were now many Elf-wraiths.
  • The Goblins had some rings and their wraiths are very evil and totally under the command of the dark master.
  • The elements that the Dwarves had seven rings, that they only turned them greedy and that a golden ring was the foundation of each of the seven hoards of the Dwarves were already present. However, it is not mentioned that the dwarves were hard to dominate, that their thoughts could not be read or that they could not be turned into wraiths, it is only said that their rings could not make them invisible.
  • Instead of nine rings, Men had received three rings, but had found other rings in secret places that had been thrown away by Elf-wraiths. The men-wraiths were servants of the dark master and brought their rings back to him. Instead of Isildur the ring that was later found by Bilbo fell of the hand of an Elf, but the other elements that he fled from his pursuers in a war and that the ring betrayed him and fell from his hand when he swam across a river so that he became visible to Goblins that killed him are already present in this draft.
  • Instead of a hobbit called Déagol, a hobbit called Dígol found the ring and used its effect to turn him invisible for malicious purposes, turned to muttering to himself so that he was called Gollum and was told to go into exile by his relatives.

In an earlier draft it is mentioned that your turn permanently invisible that everything becomes very faint for you that you can smell more clearly than you can hear or say and that you turn into a ringwraith under the command of the Lord of the Rings. It is also mentioned that you do not have the power to turn things invisible and that your clothes are visible.[12]


The Rings were the background story as fleshed out by Tolkien, out of the Ring that appeared in The Hobbit. The lore of the Rings (especially the One) are often compared to The Ring of the Nibelung, although Tolkien denounced any direct inspiration.[13]

Portrayal in adaptations

1978: Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings:

In the introduction of the movie, the Rings are portrayed as a purely Elven conception and creation, which the Elves generously gave to the Dwarves and Men. It was when Sauron 'learned of the Ring-making' when he forged the One Ring.
It contrasts the canonical account according to which the Rings were always a part of Sauron's plan. Sauron distributed them to the Dwarves and Men, after the Elves turned against him.

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

In the Prologue, narrated by Galadriel, the 19 initial Rings were shown being given to the Elves, Men, and Dwarves. The introduction states that all of these ring-holders were deceived by Sauron, who created the One Ring to rule them all.

2017: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Alongside the One Ring and the Three, names are also given to the Seven and the Nine:
  • The Seven rings of the Dwarves are given as Taurya, Sindya, Tínya, Tulcya, Úrya, Vanya, and Angya (the Ring of Durin).
  • The Nine rings of Men are named Sâkhla, Adâsh, Orôm (the ring of the Lieutenant of Dol Guldur), Jûru, Mêbat, Khânto, Sapthân, Nitîr, and Ûri (the ring of the Witch-king).

2022: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Season One

Episode 9: Alloyed
All the lore related to the forging of the Rings of Power under the guidance of Annatar is ignored. No lesser ring, nor any of the sixteen Rings is made before the Three Rings. Instead of the Three being the only ones unmarred by Sauron's intervention, they are the only ones done under Halbrand's guidance. All the magical craft done by the Elven-smiths is reduced to the magical properties of mithril made up for the series.

External links


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 251
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131, (undated, written late 1951)
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", Cirdan's words to Gandalf
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: III. Of Gollum and the Ring", p. 78
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: III. Of Gollum and the Ring", p. 75
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 229, (dated 23 February 1961), "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."

Rings of Power
The One Ring | Three Rings (Narya · Nenya · Vilya) | Seven Rings (Ring of Thrór) | Nine Rings