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Old 11-28-2001, 12:30 AM   #1
obloquy
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Sting The Ringwraiths -- What were they?

They were clearly more than just spirits. Perhaps they were examples of what a man would be if he was bound to life long after he was supposed to physically expire? Here's the thread that prompted this new topic.

Post any points, questions, or general meanderings here and we'll see if we can't have a real interesting discussion.
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Old 11-28-2001, 03:35 PM   #2
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Sting

Better topic than it sounds. We know the Ringwriths were men bound by their rings to Sauron. As I understand it, Sauron held the rings themselves. Presumably, they became "stretched thin" like Gollum and Bilbo were, until they entered the wraith world, yet they still occupy the real world to some extent. What is the wraith world? I guess it is the "plane" were spirits exist separate from a physical existence. So in a sense, Obloquy is probably correct. The Nazgul are more like the spirits of dead men than living men.
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Old 11-28-2001, 04:06 PM   #3
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Sting

What about the notion that the wraiths cannot see living men well, except Frodo when he wears the Ring. What does that signify?
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Old 11-29-2001, 08:50 AM   #4
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As I just said in the Tom Bombadil thread opened in the Novices and Newcomers forum, I believe JRRT's cosmology was always intended to be consistent. The wraiths exist in a shadowy world perhaps halfway between the physical world and that occupied by spirits. Except when the sun is high and bright they have some sense of sight though it is shadowy and unclear. To add to my previous post Sauron was the Necromancer. Necromancy was the "art" of being able to raise or influence the dead. HoME suggests that Sauron may have been responsible for attempting to gather the spirits of slain elves during Morgoth's reign. This fits with my view of the Nazgul.
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Old 11-30-2001, 03:24 AM   #5
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Silmaril

the Ring was of their world, that's how they could see it when it was worn
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Old 11-30-2001, 04:19 PM   #6
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Yes, and when Frodo put on the ring and become invisible he entered their world. That's why he was able to see their true forms, as fallen kings of Men.
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Old 11-30-2001, 04:36 PM   #7
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Silmaril

In the world of Tolkien there are two worlds mentioned: the Seen and the Unseen. The wraiths resided in the Unseen, logically because they cannot be seen; you only see their form, their silhouette. As Ereinion pointed out Frodo saw them clearly when he put on the Ring, thereby entering the Unseen world. Remember Glorfindel as well, who became 'radiant' while the others were grey and foggy. Gandalf said he was one of the mighty of the Firstborn, both in the Seen and the Unseen worlds. Any thoughts on that?
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Old 11-30-2001, 05:10 PM   #8
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Sting

Well I have another question to you, Mithadan: If Sauron could "raise the dead", and the Nazgul were examples of this, what exactly was the unique fate of Men? Did their spirits linger awaiting a Necromancer to bring them up again? Or did the Necromancer somehow manage to recall them without Eru's support? I contend that the Nazgul cannot be dead. Would Sauron have the power to keep the spirit of a Man from its fate? As I said, I think it's much more likely that the Rings were designed to bind them to him and sustain their lives with his power. The effect was physical beings merged with the spirit realm (the realm to which Sauron and his power were native). I'm still not clear on my own opinion, even. That's why I'm interested in discussion on this topic. Please, opinions all!
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Old 12-01-2001, 10:04 AM   #9
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You must not forget the spirits themselves. There necromancable spirits are the unquiet ones, those that have not yet passed away and still haunt a particular place like their place of death. Maybe because they are not finished with life yet or because they do not know theyre dead. Once the spirit has passed away, I think its no longer possible for Sauron or anyone to recall them. So the only spirits usable to Sauron are the unquiet ones which choose not to go or cannot go yet. That might also be why the spirits of the fallen in the battle at the end of the 2nd age were chosen by Sauron; because they are still there (Remember the faces of the people Frodo and Sam saw when passing the Dead Marshes).
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Old 12-01-2001, 10:06 AM   #10
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Obloquy, Mithadan was talking about Sauron practicing necromancy on dead Elves, not dead Men. Nothing can bring back a Man who has died, except Eru Himself.

We know that the Nazgul were Men, who had been enslaved by the Nine Rings. These Rings were originally made by and meant to be used by the Elves of Eregion to slow down the fading of the Elves, but Sauron had "assisted" the Elven-smiths and introduced some of his own "improvements" to the Rings. These "improvements" were there to make it possible for the One Ring to control the other Rings, but they can't have been too obvious or the Elves would have noticed Sauron's treachery earlier. Therefore, the Rings weren't inherently "evil" and they must have had some possible "good" uses as well (just like the Three).

These good uses were probably only accessable to Elves, as Mortals would fade themselves if they wore a Ring. We know that if a Mortal's life is influenced by a Great Ring, he'll become "stretched". We have three examples of stretched Mortals: Gollum, Bilbo and the Nazgul. The latter ones had faded, while the former ones had not. I believe that this is explained by the Hobbits' resistance to fading (Frodo proved this by carrying the tip of Morgul-knife for so long without fading).

Gollum and the Nazgul had become immortal because of their Rings. Physical wielding of their Rings was no longer necessary for them to continue their existence - after they had worn their Rings long enough, it was enough for the Rings just to exist. Bilbo was another case, as he hadn't apparently worn the One Ring enough to become immortalized. It made him long-lived though.

On to the Nazgul. They were originally mighty Men, and Sauron gave them the Nine Rings he had stolen from the Elves. The Rings made the nine Men great kings, warriors and sorcerers, but their lives had become unending misery. Their bodies (hroar) faded into the Unseen world and their spirits (fear) became attached to their Rings - this means that they never died to become Wraiths, and that their hroar and fear never separated before they became Wraiths. I believe that their hroar were necessary for them to be in any contact with others but not necessary for the Nazgul to continue its "life". If a Nazgul's faded hroa was destroyed, I think that Sauron could make him a new one (just like a dead Elf may get a new body in Valinor). This is supported by the fact that they were crushed in the flood at the Fords of Bruinen, but they were able to return (even though it took time). I also seem to recall that they were taken out in the War of the Last Alliance as well, but I can't find it anywhere in the books right now.

So what was a Nazgul's hroa like? I'd say it was probably just an unseen version of the Man's old body. We know that they had unseen sinews, thighs, heads, hair, etc. so Tolkien can't have been using the word "Wraith" in the traditional sense (at least my dictionary defines "wraiths" as immaterial). They were also limited by their hroar - they were never able to pass through things, like a traditional ghost.
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Old 12-01-2001, 05:36 PM   #11
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The 9 rings were not given to dead men, they were given to live ones. Like the one ring prolonged Gollums life, even though he very slowly wasted away from his former hobbit self, so did those who wore the 9, as they were wholly under Sauron's power.

[ December 01, 2001: Message edited by: Elrian ]
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Old 12-01-2001, 09:34 PM   #12
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Sting

Quote:
Obloquy, Mithadan was talking about Sauron practicing necromancy on dead Elves, not dead Men. Nothing can bring back a Man who has died, except Eru Himself.
This is exactly my point. Sauron's necromancy can't explain the Nazgul.

You go on to explain your opinion of the Nazgul, which I almost wholly agree with, and was precisely the idea I intended to convey in my post. The only point I don't necessarily agree on is that the Nazgul are occasionally separated from their hroar. I believe LotR only mentions the Nine being unhorsed, not actually "destroyed" in any sense.

As I said in a previous post -- and you also included in yours -- the Nazgul can't be actual ghosts (read dead), because Sauron can't bind the fea of a Man. A Man's fea doesn't return to Aman to serve its time in Mandos, and it doesn't get rehoused. Can Sauron keep the fea of a mortal Man from its fate? was my question to Mithadan because his explanation of the nature of the Nazgul was based on Sauron's necromancy (at least it seemed so to me). Which, I reiterate, I don't think is possible.

Gandalf alludes to the Nazgul being dead, however.
Quote:
`I know,' said Frodo. `They were terrible to behold! But why could we all see their horses?'
`Because they are real horses; just as the black robes are real robes that they wear to give shape to their nothingness when they have dealings with the living.'
And this is why I asked the question. I had always just assumed they were dead, but I now don't think they could be. Your opinion, Elenhin, that I agree with, seems the most plausible. It explains why they were affected by physical objects, and why they could affect the physical.
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Old 12-02-2001, 12:42 AM   #13
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No, they were not dead

It seems there were three planes
1) the physical
2) the unseen, the consciousness, metaphysical body
3) the mortal shades

The living had both the physical body and and the unseen. Note, Glorfindel appeared simultaneously in both the seen and the unseen, as did the others at the Fords, although shadowy - and fire appeared, too! Also, it's stated throughout the LotR that Sauron could not 'Make' something that didn't already exist, so the rings had to be working with something that existed already.

The Nazgul only had the second, the Unseen body. Their physical bodies had faded; but their will, volition, consciousness (even their personalities) and ability to effect the world remained. They could still slay, ride horses and so forth. Galadriel's description to Frodo of what he would need to use the ring - strength of will - supports the idea that will and consciousness are bound up in the use of the rings. The fact the Witch King of Angmar was Sauron's Captain at Minas Tirith indicates they are alert to the present and able to make decisions.

The mortal dead had no such volition, did not continue, couldn't hold conversations with their dead friends, write poetry, or effect the physical world. They continued only by the force of what unfinished business held them to life, could not create new ideas, dream new dreams. Or effect the physical save with fear.

This has a couple interesting implications:
- In ME the Unseen consciousness has form
- It is not dependent on physical form
- The Unseen gives a truer (or deeper) picture of the essence of a being, seeing Glorfindel "an elf lord revealed in his wrath" and seeing Galadriels motives.
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Old 12-17-2001, 04:04 PM   #14
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Old 12-17-2001, 05:21 PM   #15
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The Ringwraiths could also not be destroyed as long as Sauron existed. Even the Witch King, after being felled by Merry and Eowyn, was able to make his way back, albeit powerless, to Sauron.
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Old 12-17-2001, 08:20 PM   #16
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Sting

And where in the book is that said?
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Old 12-17-2001, 08:41 PM   #17
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Meow? You speak Cat? Marvelous! Mwrorer wrorum meowp mewp prrrruprrrrr.

Anyways, I think our friend is referring to how the ringwraiths were unhorsed at Rivendell, since Gandalf said they could not be harmed in such a way. I think it's clear in the unique manner of the Witch King's death, and various statements in in the RotK, that he did die.

Still, his point lends weight to the argument that Merry's blade of Westernesse, wound about by spells for the doom of Mordor, really struck the killing blow. Since ordinary means could not have killed him.
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Old 12-17-2001, 09:08 PM   #18
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looks like you've stirred up a hornet's nest obloquy.

Sauron was known as the Necromancer, but i don't think necromancy is the power behind the Nazgul. I can't remember how the 9 got their hands on the rings (if indeed they did), but perhaps this is not important. I think Sauron simply corrupted 9 powerful kings of men through their own pride and greed and was able at some time to bring the 9 under his sway (through a combination of the power of the 9 rings, the one ring, and his own will). I don't think they were ever dead. Does it say anywhere that they were killed? Would Sauron have killed them just to bring them back in some ghostly form? Why do that? I think they were 'stretched' (Sauron drew away their own life force and replaced it with his own will), if you like, to the point where they occupied a point roughly half way between two worlds (ie they were neither truly dead nor truly alive). Their life force came from Sauron and maybe the rings and/or the one ring.

As to whether Sauron could hold men's spirits back from departing the world I don't know. He's only a Maiar isn't he? Perhaps that suggests that the Nazgul never crossed the death threshold. But because he is a necromancer as well as a maiar, perhaps it suggests he HAD the power to bring them back if they did cross into death.

Helpful?
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Old 12-18-2001, 01:41 AM   #19
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I do not have the books in front of me, but I remember that Frodo and Sam heard and/or saw the Witch King returning to Barad-dur, but their hearts were lifted because the "cloud" did not hold power over them as it did before. I know this is a paraphrase, but it is in the book, and that is why I do not think the Witch King was actually destroyed by Merry and Eowyn, just rendered powerless, as long as Sauron existed.
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Old 12-18-2001, 10:19 AM   #20
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Sting

Meriadoc, I'm afraid that the "cloud-shape" wasn't the Witch-King, but another Nazgul. Then the WK died, it was said that his voice was not heard again in that Age of the world - and Frodo and Sam heard the Nazgul scream. The scream didn't hold power over them because the Nazgul was in great hurry and distress.

Yet there is evidence for the theory that the WK wasn't actually killed in the battle at Pelennor (I believe in this theory myself). Tolkien once wrote (footnote to Letter 246) that the WK had been "reduced to impotence" - not "killed" or "slain".

Peregrine, no one but Iluvatar can bring back a Man who has died. There are some ways to delay the death, or to bind the Man's life to some object (like the Nazgul), but there can be no way to bring back a Man after the death.

There is an exception, of course... in the tale of Beren and Luthien Beren died but he was brought back from the halls of Mandos, before he had left the World completely. It would appear that Mandos (or perhaps Manwe) has the power to let a Man go from the Halls of Waiting in Mandos - but I don't think that anyone else, ever, was granted this than Beren, and no one most definitely can be forced to leave.
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Old 12-18-2001, 11:49 AM   #21
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The ring wraiths...the Nazgul....The Dark Riders, the Nine Mortal men, "Nine for mortal men doomed to die"
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Old 12-23-2001, 08:29 AM   #22
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Okay, as far as I understand it the Nazgul are still alive and can be permanetly killed. They were never dead before, they were given the rings when they were already kings and they became greater because of it. However like Gollum they began to obsess over it and became more and more under the power of Sauron. I'm guessing that they had to give up their thrones in the Numenorian way once they reached a certain age but they continued on far beyond that. Eventually they must of reached a Gollum like state but it happened a lot sooner since a human cannot be immortal but just have his life extended. After the Gollum stage is when they fully faded. They were able to stay invisible even without the ring. Now they could still interact with our world just like Bilbo could when he put on the ring. They also fell under the full power of Sauron and lost all will of their own. Because they could still interact with our world they can be affected by it so they could kill and be killed. As far as I can tell the Witch King is the only one that got close to imortal. The Nazgul could not be formed after being killed because that would take away their fate of man. Okay I'm done now.
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:49 AM   #23
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As I see it, The Ringwraiths are kind of living spirits. They are ghosts and are actually dead, but the power of the Ring holds them in this world as a prisoner. When Frodo puts on the ring, he passes into the shadowworld to, so he can see the spirits they really are. As soon as the Ring is destroyed, they are no longer tied to this world and can finally rest in the shadowworld where they belong
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Old 06-05-2002, 04:45 PM   #24
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Here's the description from The Sil:
Quote:
They had, it seemed, unending life but life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this would beneath the sun, and they could see things in world invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and under the domination of the One, which was Sauron's. And they became forever invisible, save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants, darkness went with them, and they cried with voices of death.
-The Silmarillion; Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, page 346

Personally I think that the Nazgl are a sad story. Yes, they are evil and fearsome, but they are also ruined men. And, but for the saving power of courage, humility, and compassion, Frodo's fate was very nearly theirs.
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Old 06-05-2002, 09:36 PM   #25
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Quote:
Can Sauron keep the fea of a mortal Man from its fate?
Definitely not. Nobody can take away death, which is the Gift to men from Eru. Only Eru himself can alter the fates of men.

(By the way, I suppose Beren was an exception. When men die, don't their spirits depart "whither the elves know not" beyond the circles of the world? I didn't know they went to Mandos first. But Beren was evidently a special case.)

The Ringwraiths most certainly are not dead. I recall in the early chapters of Fellowship when Gandalf tells Frodo about the Ring. He says something to the effect of how the people who posess the ring don't die, but they do not grow or obtain more life. They merely continue. Their life becomes merely stretched, unnaturally stretched and dangerously thin, like Bilbo and Gollum's lives. (remember Bilbo's description: "Like butter scraped over too much bread").

In the chapter Mount Doom, i think it was, Sam is asking Frodo if he remembers the stewed rabbit that he'd cooked from him, as well as the other happier times in the Shire: (I don't have the books with me at the moment so i'm doing this from memory the best I can)
Quote:
Although I know these things took place,no taste of food, no feel of water, no memory of tree or grass or flower are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is nothing between me and the great wheel of fire. I begin to see it with my waking eyes, and all else fades.
Frodo speaks for himself, Gollum, and the Ringwraiths when he makes this chilling remark. What he said is the essence of what it feels like to be under the control of the Ring. It's overwhelmingly tragic. Innocent men fallen from grace and ruined by their greed.

It's interesting how when one puts the Ring on, their senses become more keen and they can hear things from afar and see things that they can't usually see. But at the same time, while being farsighted, they lose their nearsightedness and cannot clearly see what is close to them. Interesting interesting. I have more to say about this but it's in the back of my mind right now and I can't quite dig it up. Later, hopefully, it will come to me.
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Old 06-05-2002, 10:47 PM   #26
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Quote:
"Can Sauron keep the fea of a mortal Man from its fate?"

Definitely not.
Definitely so. When a man dies his spirit does not go directly to God, nor directly to Mandos. If it so chooses, and it may choose, it may tarry for a while at any point on its journey.

Quote:
For the spirit of Beren [a man] at her [Luthien's] bidding tarried in the halls of Mandos, unwilling to leave the world, until Luthien came to say her last farewell upon the dim shores of the Outer Sea, whence Men that die set out never to return.

Of Beren and Luthien, Silmarillion
There is more in HoME about fear moving about of their own volition, but I do not have that and thus can not quote.

[ June 06, 2002: Message edited by: burrahobbit ]
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Old 06-29-2002, 04:13 AM   #27
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my opinion of the nazgul was always that, while dead, they were bound to this world, much like Sauron himself, by the power of their rings. Thus, while their rings exist, and the One Ring exists, they were unable to pass into the unseen world. when the one ring was destroyed, the other rings ceased to have any power, and they could thus pass on to the unseen world, without any of their spirit remaining.
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Old 06-29-2002, 04:37 AM   #28
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Burrahobbit has proved, at least to me, that the fea of a man can stay in Arda, and not go to Eru. But does Sauron have enough power to make them wraiths under his control? It is just an extra question, as I do not believe that the Nazgl were created with the use of necromancy, but in Mirkwood lived many evil creatures. Perhaps it was Sauron's way of killing time in Dol Guldur, creating wraiths.
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Old 06-29-2002, 09:23 AM   #29
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I've always had the impression that the fear of men cannot permanently stay in Middle Earth, they must heed the calling of Iluvatar and leave the circles of the world. In Hurin's conversation with Melkor he states that no one can prevent the spirits of men from leaving Arda. The fear of men make a stop at the Halls of Mandos, but they depart after a short time. The fear of elves are bound to Middle Earth and do not need to accept the summons of Mandos. Morgoth's Ring goes into some depth about what becomes of elven fear if they do not accept the summons of Mandos and remain floating about in Middle Earth. Many were captured by Morgoth and Sauron, and Tolkien hints that the Barrow Wights were elven spirits that refused the summons. On the other hand the fear of men must eventually leave the circles of the world. Somehow Beren was able to postpone leaving the circles of the world and remained in Mandos waiting for Luthien. However, it should be noted that he did not have to wait very long. The dead men of Dunharrow also remained in Middle Earth for a very long time, which is contradictory to Tolkien's writings about man's fea. The only way to explain this is that Iluvatar willingly complied with Islidur's curse, knowing that the men of Dunharrow would have a part to play in His plan later on. The last exception to the fea of a man not leaving Arda after death is Turin dealing Melkor his death blow in the last battle at the end of the world. But there are at least two contradictory accounts that deal with the fait of Tuin, and it cannot be known what Tolkien would have ultimately decided to do about Turin.

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]
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Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.
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Old 06-29-2002, 04:19 PM   #30
akhtene
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I imagine the cases of Beren and the Nazgul were differnt, as Beren wes really dead and his fea left the body and lingered in Mandos waiting for Luthien.

But the Nazgul, I believe, did not have a chance to die, as their souls were posessed by the Nine rings and thus bound to Arda. Their bodies waned as they were the bodies of mortal men, but their fea stayed tied to them through their rings. That, I think, explains that the Nazgul do not have the abilities of "normal" ghosts: They need horses or other beasts for moving around, they couldn't penetrate walls or other solid objects... And they could be finally killed when what remained of their body was wounded by a charmed weapon (like the Witch-King's) or the rings which sustained their "life" (existance in this world) were destroyed.

So even if Sauron practiced necromancy - and he probably did - I don't think he applied it in case of the Nazgul. At least he didn't bring the Witch-King to life again. Or was he just too busy at the time?
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Old 07-04-2002, 03:46 PM   #31
nazgul878
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I still think that the nazgul were remnants, or memories of the men that were bound to the dark lord through their rings. The power of the ring is not really earthly, so after they became consumed by their greed and will to possess the rings, they weren't "earthly" either; more like spirits of their inner self. Does that make sense? They weren't the bodies anymore, but the spirits inside themselves that became enslaved through the rings.
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