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Old 11-18-2008, 02:38 AM   #1
Gordis
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Boots Nazgűl clothes: visible and invisible

I decided to open a separate thread to discuss the fascinating subject of nazgul clothing.

It has started in the Barrow-wights thread here: http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=153
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Originally Posted by Gordis View Post
The nazgul do have material bodies. They are faded into invisibility, visible only in the Shadow World, but material nonetheless.
Frodo's clothing disappears with him because he wears the Ring. Nazgul clothing remains visible because the nazgul do not wear their Rings - Sauron keeps the Nine himself. When the nazgul desire to go around invisible, they have to remove the clothing (as in UT-Hunt for the Ring), because Sauron doesn't deign to lent them their Rings.
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Not to turn this into a Nazgűl discussion, but surely they did not go around naked most of the time (even though invisible)! I'd always thought them to be clad in whatever they had been wearing when they had 'faded' when invisible to eyes (or as you said, like Frodo when he puts on the Ring). They were then obligated to put on additional garments in order to be seen by all but Sauron. Frodo, when wearing the Ring, was able to see their original clothes.
(Frodo) was able to see beneath their black wrappings. .......Under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. FOTR p221. (paperback)
None of that was visible to any of the others present on Weathertop. Just the black stuff.
That is correct. Although the unclad (cloakless and bootless) nazgul were called "naked" by Tolkien (in the Hunt for the Ring), surely they didn't go around literally naked. To have no other clothing but cloaks would have been quite inconvenient when riding a horse. But the cloaks and boots, unlike the rest of their garments, were quite ordinary physical clothes - visible to everybody. Gandalf said:
Quote:
The black robes are real robes that they wear to give shape to their nothingness when they have dealings with the living
After the WK was slain by Eowyn, the visible ordinary clothes remained on the battlefield: the crown, the hauberk, the black mantle.

But beneath the cloaks the nazgul wore white and grey robes and helms of silver, visible only in the Spirit world. Frodo saw it twice: at Weathertop when he put on the Ring and at the Ford when his wound drew him into the Wraith-world:
Quote:
He could see them clearly now: they appeared to have cast aside their hoods and black cloaks, and they were robed in white and grey.
An interesting matter is the nature of those invisible inner garments. Were they material, but invisible? Could they be changed, taken off, washed, mended? Or were they totally illusion- spectral garments of their fëar? What would one feel if one touched an “unclad” nazgul: bare flesh or “ghostly” clothes?

I tend to think that much like the nazgul bodies, the clothes were material, but invisible. They could be touched.
If the visible clothing consisted only of cloaks, boots and gloves, it would be reasonable for the nazgul to don something else as well – invisible but material – on their material bodies and not ride their horses practically naked. That is the drawback of the idea of immaterial, ghostly clothes.

However, the idea of two sets of material clothing (visible and invisible) seems a bit weird – for practical reasons.
It couldn’t have been the same clothes they had worn when fading - back in the Second Age. Like everything else in the world, the material clothes would decay during the millennia, and fall to nothingness. They would have to be replaced.

Now a question arises: where do you shop for invisible clothing?

Maybe when a nazgul wears something ordinary for some period of time, the garment gradually becomes invisible as well? That is how they could restock their invisible wardrobe. But it is somehow weird: to have garments displaying different degrees of transparency.

Also, their long grey robes, seen by Frodo at Weathertop seem to be very unpractical for travel. Why not wear clothes more suitable for riding, if they could choose the invisible clothes? Why don a kingly crown while on secret mission? If one puts on a helm and then a crown and covers all this with the hood of his visible cloak, wasn’t the material crown’s shape still recognizable under the hood? This issue would not arise if it were but a nebulous crown, an illusion.

Anyway, I find all this confusing. I can’t say I have a firm opinion on the matter.
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Old 11-18-2008, 03:16 AM   #2
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Nice post, but I can't think I can think of anything very clever to say. You have certainly pointed out many inconsistencies, not easily explained away.

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What would one feel if one touched an “unclad” nazgul: bare flesh or “ghostly” clothes?
I think this is important to remember: one must never, I repeat, NEVER, touch a naked Nazgul.
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Old 11-18-2008, 07:35 AM   #3
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But beneath the cloaks the nazgul wore white and grey robes and helms of silver, visible only in the Spirit world. Frodo saw it twice: at Weathertop when he put on the Ring and at the Ford when his wound drew him into the Wraith-world:

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He could see them clearly now: they appeared to have cast aside their hoods and black cloaks, and they were robed in white and grey.
Perhaps another interesting question is why they are robed in the colours of Gandalf. After all, much is made of Gandalf's colours. What is the relationship of the wraith-world and that of the maiar? Was Tolkien running out of colours or is there some kinship of the spirit world?
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:09 AM   #4
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I remember reading somewhere (probably in that hightly inaccurate A-Z of tolkein that the Nazgul's grey clothes were the "robes of the dead" and were analagous to shouds. Obviosly they couldn't be real shrouds since the Nazugul never tecnically died till the Third Age but since we don't really know how the fading works (do they live breath and eat all of thier lives or are they more like zombies, dead bodies still animated by thier spirits) I personally think the fact that the Nazgul kings body more or less evaported when he was slain seems to idicate the latter, that ultimately the faded bodies simply disinegrate and what you have left is dust held in the form of a man by the Nazgul's fea (what frodo saw with the ring in this case would have been the nazgul's fea visualized, which would of course look like the Nazgul did in life (in the same way that a ghost can resemble the person it is a ghost of) we dont really know how solid a Nazgul's body is, Merry is the only one who actually stabbed into won and he was too distacted to note whether it felt like he hit something solid inside, or just empty armor.)
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:21 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Perhaps another interesting question is why they are robed in the colours of Gandalf. After all, much is made of Gandalf's colours. What is the relationship of the wraith-world and that of the maiar? Was Tolkien running out of colours or is there some kinship of the spirit world?
'Paisley wraiths' is an interesting phrase linquistically.

In regards to the Nazgul's black robes turning gray and white when Frodo saw them with the Ring on, I had always considered that Tolkien was merely using a metaphor for photography. Frodo is seeing the 'negative image' when he puts on the Ring, just as one would before a photo is processed; thus, we are seeing the 'anti-world' or the netherworld of shadows and mist that is the opposite of the 'real world'.
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Old 11-18-2008, 11:26 AM   #6
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Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others: his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown. In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light. He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.
I always think that the Ringwraiths are a constructed, twisted, mortal equivalent of the 'houseless fea'. Sauron's Rings clearly have an effect upon the hroa and fea of the bearer, and I think the rings he made for Men give a false impression of immortality by working on the nature of Men's being, even wearing their hroa to the point of invisibility or being as insubstantial as to barely exist. This was Sauron's way of making the seven bearers 'immortal' - their hroa are changed in nature so that they fade and do not die.

What I think Frodo is seeing is the 'real' Men behind the Ringwraiths and what they have become in their thousands of years of entrapment. Therefore the 'robes' and 'crowns' are literally shadows of the past which Frodo is able to see as he has entered that world by donning the Ring (the One Ring gives an instant access to this netherworld, whereas presumably you'd need to wear one of the seven rings for a while before you succumbed). What he 'sees' is not entirely real as note that he also sees his own sword flickering red, not blue.

I don't think it would actually matter to a Ringwraith whether he wore 'clothes' under his black robes anyway, as would the chafe of horseriding literally bareback cause any discomfort to a Wraith? Trousers or the lack of them probably wouldn't bother your everyday Wraith.
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Old 11-18-2008, 02:22 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by skip spence View Post
I think this is important to remember: one must never, I repeat, NEVER, touch a naked Nazgul.
There are some temptations that are irresistible. Curiosity killed a cat…

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Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Perhaps another interesting question is why they are robed in the colours of Gandalf. After all, much is made of Gandalf's colours. What is the relationship of the wraith-world and that of the maiar? Was Tolkien running out of colours or is there some kinship of the spirit world?
I think everything in the Wraith World appears as shades of gray: grays and whites and blacks. But it is not a negative image like in photography, Morthoron: note the nazgul faces are white (positive image) so their robes are indeed white and grey, not black visualized in negative contrast. Moreover the quotes clearly tell that the white-and grey garments are beneath the black outer robes, not that those are the same robes viewed in a different way.
.
I agree with Alfirin that the nazgul white and grey garments "obviously couldn't be real shrouds since the Nazugul never tecnically died till the Third Age".

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Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
since we don't really know how the fading works (do they live breath and eat all of thier lives or are they more like zombies, dead bodies still animated by thier spirits)
We know some facts, however.
1.Nazgul didn't need to eat and rest:
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Only the bodies of 8 horses were discovered; but also the raiment of the Captain. It is probable that the Captain took the one horse that remained (he may have had strength to withdraw it from the flood) and unclad, naked, invisible, rode as swift as he could back to Mordor. At swiftest he could not accomplish that (for his horse at least would need some food and rest, though he needed none) ere November had passed. RC p. 262 -Marquette MSS 4/2/36 (The Hunt for the Ring)
2. Nazgul didn't need to breathe. It can be implied by Gandalf being so very sure that not a single nazgul was drowned by the Flood at the Ford - which proved accurate.

3. Yet, not needing air, the nazgul could and did breathe.
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From inside the hood came a noise as of someone sniffing to catch an elusive scent - "Three is company"
Frodo thought that he heard a faint hiss as of venomous breath -"The knife in the dark"
A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear - "Flight to the Ford"
I would venture the idea that it was likewise with food as well: the nazgul didn't need to eat to survive, but it doesn't mean they would turn down a nice juicy steak with a bottle of Nurn. Valar, after all, didn't need to eat either, yet they had one feast after another to the point of neglecting to watch their precious Trees.

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I personally think the fact that the Nazgul kings body more or less evaported when he was slain seems to indicate the latter, that ultimately the faded bodies simply disinegrate and what you have left is dust held in the form of a man by the Nazgul's fea (what frodo saw with the ring in this case would have been the nazgul's fea visualized, which would of course look like the Nazgul did in life (in the same way that a ghost can resemble the person it is a ghost of) we dont really know how solid a Nazgul's body is, Merry is the only one who actually stabbed into won and he was too distacted to note whether it felt like he hit something solid inside, or just empty armor.)
The fact that the nazgul bodies were maintained by Dark Magick doesn't mean the nazgul bodies were not solid or material. Merry didn't hit empty armor, there was "something solid inside" and we are told exactly what he had hit:
Quote:
Merry’s sword had stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
How can a fea have flesh and sinew? Flesh is hroa by definition. This particular hroa offered a lot of resistance to ordinary blades (Eowyn's had disintegrated on impact) and ordinary resistance to the Barrow-Down's blade - Merry's stab pierced the mantle and cut the ligaments behind a knee - nothing extraordinary here, given it was a small sword wielded by a hobbit.
So, I believe, on Weathertop Frodo saw not " the Nazgul's fea visualised" but their hroar, that now belonged to the Shadow World. And their hroar were the very ones the nazgul had been born with, only they gradually became invisible, faded.

For Men fading is an alien phenomenon, but for Elves it is an ordinary thing to happen if they stay too long in Middle Earth. Faded Elves, called "the Lingerers" are described in the "Laws and Customs among the Eldar" in Morgoth's Ring (Home X).

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“the Lingerers, whose bodily forms may no longer be seen by us mortals, or seen only dimly and fitfully"
“Moreover, the Lingerers are not houseless, though they may seem to be. They do not desire bodies, neither do they seek shelter, nor strive for mastery over body or mind. Indeed they do not seek converse with Men at all, save maybe rarely, either for the doing of some good, or because they perceive in a Man's spirit some love of things ancient and fair. Then they may reveal to him their forms (through his mind working outwardly, maybe), and he will behold them in their beauty.”
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
I always think that the Ringwraiths are a constructed, twisted, mortal equivalent of the 'houseless fea'. Sauron's Rings clearly have an effect upon the hroa and fea of the bearer, and I think the rings he made for Men give a false impression of immortality by working on the nature of Men's being, even wearing their hroa to the point of invisibility or being as insubstantial as to barely exist. This was Sauron's way of making the seven bearers 'immortal' - their hroa are changed in nature so that they fade and do not die.
I have to disagree: nazgul are mortal equivalent of the Lingerers, not the Houseless Elves. The Houseless have no hroar at all: they are dead, their bodies had died, but their fëar refused to go to Mandos where they belong. The Nazgul and the Lingerers do have bodies invisible by mortals, but solid and not dead. They were never summoned to Mandos - just because they haven't died.

"Invisible" is not the same as "insubstantial". Imagine one walks by night, hits an invisible tree and finds it painfully substantial. Ordinary Men simply don't see at night, neither do they see in the World of Shadow - but that doesn't prevent them from hitting something invisible for them and getting hurt.

Last edited by Gordis; 11-18-2008 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 11-18-2008, 04:26 PM   #8
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Boots

Oh, okay, my mind must be getting rusty.

as for the point of this article here are a few addional thoughts

While, Nazgul may be able to change thier inner robes, I doubt they do, or at least do often. Since breathing seems optional (and as suggested earlier food is likey optional too) I imagine that in general Nagul do not sweat much if at all (likewise they probably do engage in any other bodily activities) so thier robes likey stay wearable far longer than they would on an ordinary man.) None the less the robes are likely chaged from time to time, since unless the bodily preservation powers provided by the ring also extend to them the clothes would evetually rot away and crumble (I know fabric can last ceturies from time to time, but this usally only happen when it is kept in special circumstances (perpetually in low moisture, or pickled in peat juice. anything a wraith would be wearing would be subject to the full range of enviorments and would likey rot as fast as any other clothes.
Also there are no doubt times when it is advatageos to wear other clothing besides the cloaks. Certainly the Warith who called on Gloin (assuming it was a wraith, opion here seems to be divided) would likey have dressed as befits an ambassador; he was trying to get on Gloin's good side, and keeping his dusty traveling cloak on in his audience might have been misenterpreted as an insult (though he likely wore a wide hat to keep his face (or in this case, lack of face) in shadow (unless wraith magic incudes a spell to temporarily put the image of a body onto thier form)
Also one minor correction. Just as we have esabished that a Nazgul without his cloak is not in a tecnical sense, naked, I would maintain that one wothut the black riding boots is not, technically bootless. The Naxguls wore robes in thier "invisible form", they likey wore boots as well (or maybe slippers of the kind worn by the well to do indoors in the middle ages (more like leather socks in construction); the boots we see were likely worn over these. Just as riding a horse would be uncofotable naked, this would also apply to riding one barefoot.

Finallu one last question. We know that as the Witch king of Angmar the lord of the Nagul wore a crown of iron which hwas visible even in the real world. my question is twofold 1. is the crown seen on the WK in the ring world the same crown or an earlier crown (I seem to remember something about that crown being silver or gold) and 2. might some of the other nazgul have worn crowns as well. The WK wore a crown becuse he was king of angmar not because he was lord of the Nazgul. While not kings I seem to recall that several of the other Nazgul were, in thier lives fairly high up individuals, princes, lords and other nobles, all well in thier rights to wear crowns and coronets of one sort or another (come to think of it wasn't Khamul a king amoung the Easterlings)
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Old 11-18-2008, 04:54 PM   #9
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I have to disagree: nazgul are mortal equivalent of the Lingerers, not the Houseless Elves. The Houseless have no hroar at all: they are dead, their bodies had died, but their fëar refused to go to Mandos where they belong. The Nazgul and the Lingerers do have bodies invisible by mortals, but solid and not dead. They were never summoned to Mandos - just because they haven't died.

"Invisible" is not the same as "insubstantial". Imagine one walks by night, hits an invisible tree and finds it painfully substantial. Ordinary Men simply don't see at night, neither do they see in the World of Shadow - but that doesn't prevent them from hitting something invisible for them and getting hurt.
Well indeed, they could be either. However the fact that Elves who resist the call to go to Valinor and instead linger in Middle-earth and simply 'fade' are not all evil is very different to the nature of the Ringwraiths, who are evil. And for an Elf to take the choice to wander about as a houseless fea is as bad as for a mortal to exist as a Wraith - wholly against his nature.

A Ringwraith has not resisted any 'call' on his fea, but has succumbed to the temptation offered by living a seemingly endless life, something forbidden to him. He has undergone what must have been a long and drawn out process in which his hroa has withered and to all intents and purposes is not a lot different to the houseless fea of an Elf, though we could say it's a lot worse as it is at least possible for an Elf to exist without a hroa (though it leaves him vulnerable to evil), whereas Men are not created that way.
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:33 PM   #10
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A most unusual topic. I wonder, though: is the appearance of a Nazgul "under the robes" any more real than Sauron's appearance as a flaming red eye? What Frodo "sees" when he puts on the Ring may be no more their true appearance than when he sees the Eye through the auspices of the Ring. It may be a representation of what they once were (or in Sauron's case, a frightening image he wishes to project into the minds of others to terrify them), but not real in a physical sense. When Merry stabs the Witch King, he breaks the spell that "knit his unseen sinews to his will," allowing Eowyn to finish him off, so it seems plain to me that there is some form of "magic" at work in his continued embodiment -- a living death, of sorts, and rather more akin to the faded Elves, as others have noted.

Must ponder this some more (and maybe go rooting through the letters and such...)
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Old 11-18-2008, 07:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Well indeed, they could be either. However the fact that Elves who resist the call to go to Valinor and instead linger in Middle-earth and simply 'fade' are not all evil is very different to the nature of the Ringwraiths, who are evil. And for an Elf to take the choice to wander about as a houseless fea is as bad as for a mortal to exist as a Wraith - wholly against his nature.

A Ringwraith has not resisted any 'call' on his fea, but has succumbed to the temptation offered by living a seemingly endless life, something forbidden to him. He has undergone what must have been a long and drawn out process in which his hroa has withered and to all intents and purposes is not a lot different to the houseless fea of an Elf, though we could say it's a lot worse as it is at least possible for an Elf to exist without a hroa (though it leaves him vulnerable to evil), whereas Men are not created that way.
Yes, sure you are right here. In my previous post I was not speaking of the moral side of it: good vs. evil, only about the physics of it: whether there was a material hroa to go with the fea. Yes, indeed, though physically the Nazgul resemble the Lingerers, morally they are more evil than the Houseless.
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Old 11-19-2008, 07:36 PM   #12
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Perhaps another interesting question is why they are robed in the colours of Gandalf. After all, much is made of Gandalf's colours. What is the relationship of the wraith-world and that of the maiar? Was Tolkien running out of colours or is there some kinship of the spirit world?~Bethberry
This is just some rambling speculation here Bb, so don't know what you want to make of it. Anyway, I forget what topic I was listening to on the radio, but I heard "he chose the white part of grey." I immediately thought about Gandalf and also the colour symbolism of 'grey.'

Grey is kind of this limbo color, you're neither white nor black, but aspects of both. You're in this middle state, some sort of uncertainty.

Gandalf comes to Middle-earth robed in Grey. I think that's important, because remember when he was chosen he resisted, he didn't want to go to Middle-earth and direct the fight against Sauron:
Quote:
"But Olorin declared he was too weak for such a task and he feared Sauron."~Unfinished Tales: The Istari
Gandalf enters Middle-earth in this grey/limbo position, and he is confronted by the Ring right in the 2nd chapter. Does he continue to lead the resistance against Sauron, or does he take the ring when asked and become Sauron? The climax of Gandalf's transition from Grey to White is his sacrifice on the bridge in Moria. When he returns we see him take really a much more active role in spear-heading the fight against Sauron. He is Saruman as he should have been. What's interesting about Saruman is his transition from White to 'Many Colors', but I think that's for a different discussion.

Anyway, what I just wanted to point out is the colour symbolism behind grey. Perhaps their 'grey clothes' represents the Ringwraiths really being in this limbo-stage, they are neither living nor dead, the live in a 'Shadow World' as well as having a very real and physical presense in Middle-earth.
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Old 11-20-2008, 02:55 AM   #13
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Some more musings on the main subject. It seems the main question in this thread is:
What exactly does Frodo see with the Ring on: 1. material Hroar of those who dwell in the World of Shadow or 2. their Fëar? In the first case all the clothes revealed in the Shadow World would be tangible and material, in the second case the garments would be mere illusion, intangible, spectral. In the first case the invisible bodies of the "unclad" nazgul would be clad in material, invisible clothes; in the second case the "unclad" nazgul would be literally naked.

Alfirin seemingly favors the first opinion (as I did myself in the opening post).

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Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
While, Nazgul may be able to change their inner robes, I doubt they do, or at least do often. Since breathing seems optional (and as suggested earlier food is likey optional too) I imagine that in general Nagul do not sweat much if at all (likewise they probably do engage in any other bodily activities) so thier robes likey stay wearable far longer than they would on an ordinary man.) None the less the robes are likely chaged from time to time, since unless the bodily preservation powers provided by the ring also extend to them the clothes would evetually rot away and crumble (I know fabric can last ceturies from time to time, but this usally only happen when it is kept in special circumstances (perpetually in low moisture, or pickled in peat juice. anything a wraith would be wearing would be subject to the full range of enviorments and would likey rot as fast as any other clothes.
Also one minor correction. Just as we have esabished that a Nazgul without his cloak is not in a tecnical sense, naked, I would maintain that one wothut the black riding boots is not, technically bootless. The Naguls wore robes in thier "invisible form", they likely wore boots as well (or maybe slippers of the kind worn by the well to do indoors in the middle ages (more like leather socks in construction); the boots we see were likely worn over these. Just as riding a horse would be uncofotable naked, this would also apply to riding one barefoot.
All this seems quite logical. I totally see it: trunks and pegs with invisible clothes in Minas Morgul, lesser wraiths under the competent direction of the late King Earnur busily mending robes and pants, sewing new soles to nazgul slippers….

Only… While all these fascinating details would be quite appropriate for some fantasy writers (like Herbert Wells), it is so very un-Tolkien-like, I can't even imagine that he could have intended this.

Moreover, let us consider the further implications of the "invisible clothes" theory. Ok, let us suppose the nazgul first don the invisible inner clothes, then cover them with ordinary visible cloaks and boots. But what about Calaquendi Elves? They are also plainly visible in the World of Shadow, but they hardly have any invisible clothes to wear under their ordinary garments. Yet the eyes of all creatures of the world of Shadow are able to see beneath the real-world clothes. So, would Glorfindel appear naked to a nazgul? Would Galadriel? Hmm… the latter would definitely be interesting… Just imagine: Galadriel expects a visit from Glorfindel and for decency sake she frantically strives to obtain some casts-off from Minas Morgul. Crazy?- yes.

I am afraid there goes the first theory….
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:03 PM   #14
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Neither/nor

Thanks to Morthoron, Gordis and Boro88 for their thoughts on grey. For a colour lacking hue, it certainly carries a fair bit of symbolism.

We know that grey represents some kind of neutral stance of indifference or balance. It's not a hot to trot colour--limbo indeed. This could represent either calmness and coolness or unthinking routine. (In the case of Gandalf the Grey, I always thought it represented a challenging limitation on the power of the maiar.) It is also the colour of intellect--"grey matter"--and the colour of age-"grey hairs". (Well, Gandalf and the Nazgul are all very old.) Those who see things only in shades of black and white are challenged by those who see "shades of grey", the fine points of articulation between two opposing positions. Again, depending on one's point of view, this is either positive or negative. In folklore, denizens of the fairy world are often associated with grey and dusk or dawn, those immaterial times between light and dark. (Both Gandalf and the Nazgul belong to this realm.) In a certain subculture, grey denotes a particular fetishism-bondage. (It's possible to argue that the Nazgul are in bondage, but not that they belong to this subculture.) Grey is also the colour of ashes and penitence, contrition, Lent. (Mortification? One could argue that Gandalf operates under mortification until he becomes the White.)

I suppose we could say that Gandalf would obviously be a warm grey (tinged with yellow) while the Dark Riders would be a cool grey (tinged with blue), yet how interesting that the spirit realm of Middle-earth combines both the great wizard and the horrible adversaries of Light. To me, it makes Sauron's experiments with Rings even more ominous, that he is perverting the existence of the Maiar. No wonder Gandalf was so frightened himself by the Ring.
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Thanks to Morthoron, Gordis and Boro88 for their thoughts on grey. For a colour lacking hue, it certainly carries a fair bit of symbolism.

We know that grey represents some kind of neutral stance of indifference or balance. It's not a hot to trot colour--limbo indeed. This could represent either calmness and coolness or unthinking routine. (In the case of Gandalf the Grey, I always thought it represented a challenging limitation on the power of the maiar.) It is also the colour of intellect--"grey matter"--and the colour of age-"grey hairs". (Well, Gandalf and the Nazgul are all very old.) Those who see things only in shades of black and white are challenged by those who see "shades of grey", the fine points of articulation between two opposing positions. Again, depending on one's point of view, this is either positive or negative. In folklore, denizens of the fairy world are often associated with grey and dusk or dawn, those immaterial times between light and dark. (Both Gandalf and the Nazgul belong to this realm.) In a certain subculture, grey denotes a particular fetishism-bondage. (It's possible to argue that the Nazgul are in bondage, but not that they belong to this subculture.) Grey is also the colour of ashes and penitence, contrition, Lent. (Mortification? One could argue that Gandalf operates under mortification until he becomes the White.)

I suppose we could say that Gandalf would obviously be a warm grey (tinged with yellow) while the Dark Riders would be a cool grey (tinged with blue), yet how interesting that the spirit realm of Middle-earth combines both the great wizard and the horrible adversaries of Light. To me, it makes Sauron's experiments with Rings even more ominous, that he is perverting the existence of the Maiar. No wonder Gandalf was so frightened himself by the Ring.
And continuing on that train of thought, how interesting that Saruman's experiments result in a rainbow of colour instead of grey, misty liminality....
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