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Old 12-23-2008, 09:36 PM   #1
Sardy
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Who wrote...

Who was the writer of...

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.


Was it Tolkien (that is, Tolkien, the author, breaking down the third wall), or does this poem exist in Middle-earth (I believe I recall Gandalf reciting bit of it to Frodo)...

Is it of Elvish origin? Or a modern day (i.e., "Third Age" parable of ancient times...) creation?

I'm curious as to the origin of this poem which so succinctly sets up the premise of the Trilogy... and moreso, I'm interested in knowing if it was contrived by someone "in the know" and under the thumb of Sauron, or rather, if it was is a fanciful indulgence of a later age playing upon the "myths" of ages past...
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Old 12-23-2008, 10:50 PM   #2
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Gandalf does say it is "a verse long known in Elven-lore."

I would think it was composed by Noldorin Elves in the Second Age after they learned of Sauron's intention to use the One to dominate the Free Peoples of ME.
Gandalf's recitation to Frodo appears to be the only mention of the full verse in the books.
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Old 12-24-2008, 03:28 AM   #3
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I'd thought it was written by Sauron as part of the verse was enscribed upon the ring?
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Old 12-24-2008, 06:35 AM   #4
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More likely a part containing a translation of Sauron's Ring-spell was later incorporated into the Elven-made verse.

Originally Sauron's spell was likely uttered (and inscribed on the Ring) in the Black Tongue and contained only two lines (Ash nazg etc. = One Ring to Rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them).

But in SA 1600 when the Ring was made, Sauron firmly hoped to rule Elves who had the 19 Rings. While making the One, he didn't suspect that the Elves would hear his spell and take off their Rings. It was much later, by 1695, when Sauron finally gave up on his plan A and changed to plan B - to take the Rings back from the Elves and distribute them to other races. But he hardly put his plan into verse at that time - it was meant to be a nasty surprise for the unsuspecting Dwarves and Men who were about to get his Rings. Also, at the time, he still hoped to take the Three back as well.

So, I guess the Elves made the verse much later - towards the end of the Second Age, when the ultimate fate of the Seven and the Nine became known to them. While speaking of the One, they used the ancient Sauron's spell translated from the Black Tongue.
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Old 12-24-2008, 02:58 PM   #5
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I may be being dense, but exactly how could the elves have actually heard the verse? Sauron forged the ring at Orodruin, and I don't seem to recall anything about anyone else being there at the time with him. He may have been using the techniques he had shared with Celembrimbor, but the One ring was, as I recall forged in solitude. The elves could not have read the verse off the ring, as it's only visible when the ring is placed back in fire. There are only two possiblityies I can think of. Once is that the verse is actually a sort of charm or spell; when Sauron says it while wearing the ring it's what links the other rings in and that, intitally the spell had to be said in the presence of the other rings to bring them fully under the Master ring's control (i.e. Saron made the ring in Orodruin but then had to take it back to Eregion and say the spell to "link" the other rings in. The other possiblity is that it was read of the ring when Isildur had it, though this is less likely as it is doubful that he would had condescended to ever allow the ring to leave his presence and there would be no reason why he would trow it into a fire (though there is the possiblity that Sauron, in his "Great Warrior" body in fact emitted siginficant heat (which could explain the burned skin visible under the black armor) in which case the ring may have always been hot enough for the words to be visible.)
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Old 12-24-2008, 03:36 PM   #6
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I think the Elves (those who actually wore the Rings of power at the moment - and the Three and the Seven already had Elven owners) had indeed heard Sauron's binding Ring-spell all the way from Orodruin. Just by Ring-magic. The Ruling Ring, when wielded by Sauron, seems to be strongly connected with the other 19 and could, it seems, be used for broadcasting. Sauron, however, hardly intended this to happen - his mistake.

Remember that when Frodo put the Ruling Ring on and claimed it in Sammath Naur, Sauron was immediately aware of him. Perhaps partly it was due to the fact that Sauron at the moment had 12 rings in his possession?
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Old 12-24-2008, 09:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
The other possiblity is that it was read of the ring when Isildur had it, though this is less likely as it is doubful that he would had condescended to ever allow the ring to leave his presence and there would be no reason why he would trow it into a fire (though there is the possiblity that Sauron, in his "Great Warrior" body in fact emitted siginficant heat (which could explain the burned skin visible under the black armor) in which case the ring may have always been hot enough for the words to be visible.)
In fact the text of The COuncil of Eldrond reads thus, in part:
Quote:
‘But in that time also he made this scroll,’ said Gandalf; ‘and that is not remembered in Gondor, it would seem. For this scroll concerns the Ring, and thus wrote Isildur therein:

Quote:
The Great Ring shall go now to be an heirloom of the North Kingdom; but records of it shall be left in Gondor, where also dwell the heirs of Elendil, lest a time come when the memory of these great matters shall grow dim.
‘And after these words Isildur described the Ring, such as he found it.

Quote:
It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither its beauty nor its shape. Already the writing upon it, which at first was as clear as red flame, fadeth and is now only barely to be read. It is fashioned in an elven-script of Eregion, for they have no letters in Mordor for such subtle work; but the language is unknown to me. I deem it to be a tongue of the Black Land, since it is foul and uncouth. What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it, lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron’s hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed. But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.
‘When I read these words, my quest was ended. For the traced writing was indeed as Isildur guessed, in the tongue of Mordor and the servants of the Tower. And what was said therein was already known. For in the day that Sauron first put on the One, Celebrimbor, maker of the Three, was aware of him, and from afar he heard him speak these words, and so his evil purposes were revealed.
As far as exactly who wrote it... in the Shadow of the Past, Gandalf only says : 'It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore".
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Old 12-24-2008, 10:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30 View Post
As far as exactly who wrote it... in the Shadow of the Past, Gandalf only says : 'It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore".
He also says:
Quote:
Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.
So these two lines were exactly what the Mirdain had heard.
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Old 12-25-2008, 06:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30 View Post
As far as exactly who wrote it... in the Shadow of the Past, Gandalf only says : 'It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore".
But as the verse can't have pre-existed the Ring, those two lines must be by Sauron.

Equally, following Gordis' reasoning at #4, the rest must have been composed later.

So the entire poem would seem to have at least two authors, i.e. Sauron + unknown Elf (unless the part added later represents Sauron's Expanded Special Edition(tm)).

Hmmn. I'm not sure JRRT really thought this one out.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:35 AM   #10
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Perhaps this is a case of a tale growing with time. The two lines inscribed on the Ring are certainly the oldest, but as more of the tale became known, it could well be that more verses were added. Indeed, I like to imagine there were a few stages the poem went through. Perhaps one focussed on the three elven rings against the One, then the Seven were added and finally the nine. It is not unknown for a tale told in poetry to grow and expand, especially in mythic tales.
Who knows?
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Old 01-04-2009, 05:04 PM   #11
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Strange thing about this verse....

The line about Men.

"Men" already implies "mortal". "Mortal men" is a bit of an overkill already. But "Mortal Men doomed to die" tells the same thing TRICE.

Why is this line so redundant? Especially considering that these particular nine men didn't die after all...
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Old 01-04-2009, 05:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordis View Post
Strange thing about this verse....

The line about Men.

"Men" already implies "mortal". "Mortal men" is a bit of an overkill already. But "Mortal Men doomed to die" tells the same thing TRICE.

Why is this line so redundant? Especially considering that these particular nine men didn't die after all...

That's a really intriguing point! I think that this redundancy offers a lot of potential insight as to who is the author(s) (in middle-Earth, not Tolkien) of the verse, as well as who is the intended audience.

Most likely, men wouldn't remind themselves of something so ingrained as their own mortality in a poem. The immortal elves, however, within their poetry very well may make use of the "artistic liberty" of redundently describing men as mortal, in a way poetically re-affirming their own immortality...

On the other hand, an audience of men may see the unnecessary pointing out of their mortality---and their "doom" as it were---by immortals as in poor taste, or an arrogance of the immortal poet(s)? Or perhaps, the mention of men "doomed to die" is an elven poet's attempt as empathizing the sadness of his mortal brethren...

Just some initial thoughts. But I do think that this redundancy that Gordis pointed out may be a key to understanding the natures of the storyteller(s) and listeners...
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Old 01-05-2009, 03:33 AM   #13
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Interesting thought, Gordis! It occurs to me that the triple emphasis has a proverbial background: 'Third time pays for all'; 'Alle guten Dinge sind drei' (all good things are three); and frequent usages of 'three times' in fairy tales and legends. In this case, I should think that it makes plain the motivation for men's acceptance of the rings. It is for that very reason, that they wish to avoid mortality, that they are so willing to become enslaved to Sauron.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:10 AM   #14
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I agree that the triple emphasis on mortality points to Elves as authors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sardy View Post
The immortal elves, however, within their poetry very well may make use of the "artistic liberty" of redundently describing men as mortal, in a way poetically re-affirming their own immortality...
Yes, but if the Elves were only reaffirming their own immortality, why not mention at least once that Dwarves were also mortal? Maybe because (unlike Men) the Dwarves themselves seemed content with it and never strove for immortality?

Theoretically, however, Elves are supposed to see Death as a Gift for Men and envy it:
Quote:
Messengers from Valinor said to Men: "The Eldar, you say, are unpunished, and even those who rebelled do not die. Yet that is to them neither reward nor punishment, but the fulfilment of their being. They cannot escape, and are bound to this world, never to leave it so long as it lasts, for its life is theirs. And you are punished for the rebellion of Men, you say, in which you had small part, and so it is that you die. But that was not at first appointed for a punishment. Thus you escape, and leave the world, and are not bound to it, in hope or in weariness. Which of us therefore should envy the others?"
So, maybe the undercurrent of this line is "Mortal men doomed to die who are never content with it and foolishly try to escape the Doom"?

Also maybe, the Elves considered the tweaking of the nature of Men (which even the Valar can't do) the most horrible and "unholy" effect of the Rings overall?

But if so, wouldn't it be better to write "Nine to the Mortal Men doomed to live?"

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