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Old 05-19-2009, 01:45 PM   #1
Thinlómien
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Narya When the Nazgûl lose their bodily form, what happens to their rings?

Well the title says it all.

I was just faced with this question when modding my werewolf game... I mean really, if they lose their cloaks and horses and travel as bodiless spirits, what on earth happens to their rings? Do they become immaterial for the time being? Or do the Nazgûl after all move around without their rings on? Or is there some other solution? I'm puzzled, please help/educate me.
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:47 PM   #2
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Umm I was under the impression the rings were with Sauron, who could command them from afar even when they weren't wearing them... Don't know where I've read that though.
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:50 PM   #3
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Umm I was under the impression the rings were with Sauron, who could command them from afar even when they weren't wearing them... Don't know where I've read that though.
Well I was semi-under that impression too, but in a way it doesn't quite make sense. Because, how come they can be under the power of their rings if they're not wearing them and one could kind of expect the rings to be the things to sort of "keep them together"... weird.
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:58 PM   #4
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I think I recall a quote from UT (don't have the book handy) that implies Sauron could be certain of their loyalty because they were enslaved by their rings, which he held. I think that was from the chapter The Hunt for the Ring.
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:06 PM   #5
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I think I recall a quote from UT (don't have the book handy) that implies Sauron could be certain of their loyalty because they were enslaved by their rings, which he held. I think that was from the chapter The Hunt for the Ring.
Now phrased that way, it sounds very familiar.

But hmm... I wonder if Tolkien came up with that explanation merely because the problem of the disappearing rings would otherwise be too difficult...
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:08 PM   #6
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Well I was semi-under that impression too, but in a way it doesn't quite make sense. Because, how come they can be under the power of their rings if they're not wearing them and one could kind of expect the rings to be the things to sort of "keep them together"... weird.
There has been a lot of discussing about that here some time ago (I don't know, about a year or more?), in one discussion where Yours Truly participated too (I don't recall the name of the discussion anymore, but perhaps one could look for it... anyway, it was probably not the only one concerning that topic), and I think the conclusion was - even though I did not quite like it - that the Rings indeed were with Sauron. Or, at least (and now that is the question) by the end of the Third Age. Of course, before the Nazgul-men became Ringwraith, they were wearing them, and eventually went to Sauron... if we relate it to your WW narration, I would presume that by that time apparently they were already in the service of Sauron, but seemingly were still corporeal. Hm, thinking of that, perhaps it won't be such a problem for an incorporeal RW to carry away one Ring of Power... perhaps such a strongly "magical" (used in lack for better terms, even though it is hardly appropriate to use that in terms of M-E) item would have been possible to "catch" even by a person who is in the Wraith-world only? Though, that won't make much of a sense. After all, what were RW? Normally, they were seemingly "corporeal" or "semi-corporeal" (clad, carrying swords...), and when they were "killed" (like by Bruinen or in your narration), they became "completely incorporeal" and couldn't really do anything until their master... well, in computer game terms, until they respawned

Okay, but as for the actual question, I basically said what I think - logically, it seems that when the Nazgul were searching for Baggins, Sauron had the Rings with himself. That would also point to the fact that WK, when killed, didn't have his Ring with him when he died on Pelennor, thus, no Éomer could just come and say "hey, look, what a nice Ring lying in this pile of clothes" (ah yes, I think that was in the discussion I mentioned too).

Though if you asked just for personal feelings, all logic aside, I always thought the Nazgul have their Rings with them, and they can feel each other this way, use some powers, are controlled by Sauron etc. Of course, that would face questions like the one you put in front of us.
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:09 PM   #7
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Sauron possessed the 9 rings, as some of the 7, as you correctly recall.

Unfinished Tales:
Quote:
...mightiest servants, the Ring-wraiths, who had no will but his own, being each utterly subservient to the ring that had enslaved him, which Sauron held
Quote:
...were entirely enslaved to their Nine Rings, which [Sauron] now himself held
And in LOTR:
Quote:
...the Nine [Sauron] has gathered to himself; the Seven also, or else they are destroyed
Quote:
You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine
My thoughts as to why he had them, is what Tolkien wrote in Letter 246 (another place where I believe Tolkien mentions Sauron held the 9 rings). And that is Sauron had a way to control his Nazgul, even without the One Ring. In Letter 246, Tolkien sets up a hypothetical scenario about Frodo the "ring-lord" claiming the One Ring, in the Sammath Naur, but the Nazgul would still take Frodo from Mount Doom and bring him to Sauron. As it was their 9 rings that that Nazgul were enthralled to, not the One.
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:10 PM   #8
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Now phrased that way, it sounds very familiar.

But hmm... I wonder if Tolkien came up with that explanation merely because the problem of the disappearing rings would otherwise be too difficult...
Indeed, it is there. And no idea about Tolkien's motives, but I know he is sort of ambiguous about that - Gandalf (or Elrond? Or somebody, simply) says "Nine the Nazgul keep". Which sounds as if they have them. I have heard attempts to sort of talk one out of it, but not that they sound very convincing (not even by their logic).
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:12 PM   #9
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In Letter 246, Tolkien sets up a hypothetical scenario about Frodo the "ring-lord" claiming the One Ring, in the Sammath Naur, but the Nazgul would still take Frodo from Mount Doom and bring him to Sauron. As it was their 9 rings that that Nazgul were enthralled to, not the One.
Yeah, that's what I heard as part of that argument I mention. However, there is still this "Nine the Nazgul keep" sentence from FotR, which just makes a bit of a mess in it, in my opinion.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:32 AM   #10
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I don't think the quotes from UT and FotR are irreconcilable. The Nazgûl keeping the Nine is what the Wise of the West may have supposed to be true (wasn't it Gandalf who said that?), whereas Sauron holding them seems to be an auctorial statement by Tolkien himself, who knew a little bit more of the matter than his characters.

Apart from that, Sauron himself had no problem wearing the One in spirit form when his body perished in the Downfall of Númenór - maybe he taught the Nazgûl the trick.
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Old 05-20-2009, 02:51 PM   #11
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I don't think the quotes from UT and FotR are irreconcilable. The Nazgûl keeping the Nine is what the Wise of the West may have supposed to be true (wasn't it Gandalf who said that?), whereas Sauron holding them seems to be an auctorial statement by Tolkien himself, who knew a little bit more of the matter than his characters.
Yes, Gandalf or Elrond. The problem is, that the very same Gandalf says at another point something different which seems to imply that Sauron has the Rings, and not the Nine. Well, what could he know anyway - Sauron may have redistributed the Rings in any way he wished - but still, it's an interesting controversy. I like it, because it opens more room for speculation.

Quote:
Apart from that, Sauron himself had no problem wearing the One in spirit form when his body perished in the Downfall of Númenór - maybe he taught the Nazgûl the trick.
Well, but I guess there is a difference between one (really powerful) Maia and a Ringwraith. And especially when water is involved...
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Old 05-20-2009, 03:06 PM   #12
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The essential problem of course was that after the end of the Second Age Sauron *could not* have controlled the Nine, had they possessed their own rings. They would have been free agents, bound to none but themselves. So I think we have to assume that once they were fully "wraithed," some time in the Second Age, Sauron used the power of the Ruling Ring to force the Nazgul to give their Rings back.
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Old 05-21-2009, 01:02 AM   #13
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It probably would have helped if I was more specific with the quotes, but do to my lack of a LOTR book at the moment, I found those from another thread here...

If I recall correctly, the 1st LOTR one Gandalf tells Frodo in The Shadow of the Past.

The 2nd one is Galadriel in The Mirror of Galadriel.

But don't hold me to that.
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Old 05-21-2009, 06:38 PM   #14
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I'm thinking that maybe if Sauron had the nine rings then he would have an easier time controlling the Wraiths because they would always want to have their rings. What I mean is, the Wraiths would always want to come back to their rings in hopes that Sauron, being the nice, generous guy that he is, would give them back. Maybe the wraiths actually trusted Sauron. Maybe Sauron lied to them, a second time, and they were decieved into giving them up, he told them he would give them their rings back.

As to how the Nazgul would find each other, they had pagers.
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Old 05-22-2009, 04:00 PM   #15
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Actually, the idea that Sauron held the Nine Rings seems to have been the original one, going back to the early drafts.
From The Return of the Shadow (HoME VI), Of Gollum and the Ring:
Quote:
[...] the men-wraiths are servants of the Lord, and they brought all their rings back to him; till at last he gathered all into his hands again that had not been destroyed by fire[...]
And from RS, Ancient History:
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But all the Nine Rings of Men have gone back to Sauron, and borne with them their possessors, kings, warriors, and wizards of old, who became Ringwraiths and served the maker, and were his most terrible servants.
Curiously, Gandalf is the speaker in both cases; so what possessed him to state "The Nine the Nazgûl keep" at the Council of Elrond? Maybe just a temporary lapse of memory by Tolkien, the original idea resurfacing later in UT and Letters?

Boro:
Quote:
As it was their 9 rings that that Nazgul were enthralled to, not the One.
Saruman, expert in ring-lore, thought otherwise (UT, The Hunt for the Ring):
Quote:
I know what you seek, though you do not name it. I have it not, as surely its servants perceive without telling; for if I had it, then you would bow before me and call me Lord.[my emphasis, Pw.]
He may have been mistaken, of course.

TGEW:
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What I mean is, the Wraiths would always want to come back to their rings in hopes that Sauron, being the nice, generous guy that he is, would give them back.
I quite like this thought. Maybe in this respect the Nazgûl weren't that much different from Gollum - addicted to their rings, and driven mad by more than an age of withdrawal?
"Please masster... give preciouss back to good Khamûl!"
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:09 PM   #16
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TGEW:

I quite like this thought. Maybe in this respect the Nazgûl weren't that much different from Gollum - addicted to their rings, and driven mad by more than an age of withdrawal?
"Please masster... give preciouss back to good Khamûl!"
Ha-ha. The Ring-wraiths might actually want to come back to Sauron for more than that reason though, maybe they wanted to come back to Sauron because he gave them perks that no one else in the service of the Dark Lord got. Plus, if Sauron wasn't around then the Nazgul would just fade away and maybe actually die.

Oh yes, thank you for the compliment!
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Old 06-04-2009, 06:54 AM   #17
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if Sauron wasn't around then the Nazgul would just fade away and maybe actually die.
I doubt if they could, and they certainly didn't when Sauron was disembodied for a millennium or so between his defeat by the Last Alliance and reappearance as the Necromancer of Dol Guldur.
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Old 06-05-2009, 05:11 AM   #18
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I don't think Tolkien reconciled the nine rings conclusively. It's one of those plot holes pitting the fabric of such a sprawling tale. And the inconsistency in the plot logic is nowhere more noticeable than after Isildur cuts the One Ring off Sauron's finger. If Sauron had the Nine, then they would have been lost in the fall of Barad-Dur (which would not be raised again for centuries).
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:02 AM   #19
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Sauron must look like a pimp with all them rings on his hands...

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Old 06-05-2009, 10:17 AM   #20
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I don't think Tolkien reconciled the nine rings conclusively. It's one of those plot holes pitting the fabric of such a sprawling tale. And the inconsistency in the plot logic is nowhere more noticeable than after Isildur cuts the One Ring off Sauron's finger. If Sauron had the Nine, then they would have been lost in the fall of Barad-Dur (which would not be raised again for centuries).
If we accept that Sauron had the One with him in Númenor and was somehow able to trasport it with his disembodied spirit back to ME, why could he not have done the same with the Nine after his defeat by the Last Alliance?
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Old 06-05-2009, 01:01 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Morthoron
I don't think Tolkien reconciled the nine rings conclusively. It's one of those plot holes pitting the fabric of such a sprawling tale. And the inconsistency in the plot logic is nowhere more noticeable than after Isildur cuts the One Ring off Sauron's finger. If Sauron had the Nine, then they would have been lost in the fall of Barad-Dur (which would not be raised again for centuries).
But why can't Sauron have taken the Nine back in the Third Age? That appears to be the indication from Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age, as I read it anyway.
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:48 PM   #22
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If we accept that Sauron had the One with him in Númenor and was somehow able to trasport it with his disembodied spirit back to ME, why could he not have done the same with the Nine after his defeat by the Last Alliance?
Ummm...if that were the case, don't you think Sauron would have levitated the One Ring out of Isildur's grasp? I mean, really, what's the point of spiriting off the Nine when his decapitated finger had the only ring that mattered? And since Isuldur was in the slice and dice mode, if the other Rings were available on Sauron's prone body, wouldn't he have lifted those as well?

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But why can't Sauron have taken the Nine back in the Third Age? That appears to be the indication from Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age, as I read it anyway.
Where were they then, 'zactly?
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:49 PM   #23
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Sauron must look like a pimp with all them rings on his hands...

I wonder if toe rings were in fashion back then.
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Old 06-06-2009, 04:11 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Ummm...if that were the case, don't you think Sauron would have levitated the One Ring out of Isildur's grasp? I mean, really, what's the point of spiriting off the Nine when his decapitated finger had the only ring that mattered? And since Isuldur was in the slice and dice mode, if the other Rings were available on Sauron's prone body, wouldn't he have lifted those as well?
I believe you are correct, Sir. Touche.
Well, the only other option I can come up with is perhaps Sauron was in possession of the Nine, but did not always physically keep them on his person. I don't think it was beyond his power to have created a storage place for them where they were available to him, but inaccessable to the Nazgûl.
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Old 06-06-2009, 04:38 PM   #25
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Where were they then, 'zactly?
I would say they were with the Nine Wraiths until Sauron took them back in the Third Age.
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Old 06-06-2009, 09:44 PM   #26
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I would say they were with the Nine Wraiths until Sauron took them back in the Third Age.
'One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them...'

Odd, isn't it, that Sauron can demand the Nine Rings back without the Ruling Ring? Seriously, it is a flaw in the plot. If Sauron has the ability to control the Nazgul without the aid of the Ring, then the Ring is unnecessary, isn't it? The Rings of the Elves proved more beneficial to the Free People than the One Ring to its master. If it weren't for mistakes by Sauron and his allies, the Dark Lord would have won the war without the Ring. Had it not been found, he certainly would have won a war of attrition.

I hate to sound heretical, but there is a disconnect there.
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Old 06-06-2009, 10:05 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
I hate to sound heretical, but there is a disconnect there.
Shun the nonbeliever! Shuuuuunnnn!!!

I don't think it's an issue, though. If the Ring had never been found, of course Sauron would have pwned, because all that cutting off the Ring did was delay his victory by a few millennia. The Ring was never necessary to Sauron's victory, just really really useful. He was doing fine in the War of the Ring until his paranoia (because he knew the Ring had been found, and he feared a usurper) got in the way.
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Old 06-07-2009, 05:55 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
'One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them...'

Odd, isn't it, that Sauron can demand the Nine Rings back without the Ruling Ring? Seriously, it is a flaw in the plot. If Sauron has the ability to control the Nazgul without the aid of the Ring, then the Ring is unnecessary, isn't it? The Rings of the Elves proved more beneficial to the Free People than the One Ring to its master. If it weren't for mistakes by Sauron and his allies, the Dark Lord would have won the war without the Ring. Had it not been found, he certainly would have won a war of attrition.

I hate to sound heretical, but there is a disconnect there.
But wait. I think that the One Ring was made just to control the Nine and their owners. It was just the first stage. Once he had control of them they could do whatever he wanted. The true power of the ring was himself, after all. Maybe he wasn't as stupid as we tend to think. But then this theory does sort of devalue the power of the ring...

Or, what about his other nine fingers? Isildur might have cut one off, but he could have been wearing the others. Then, later when he returned, he could have searched for the remains of his body and found the rings. Or did his body disappear when he "died"?

On the other (third, and therefore not normally possible) hand, he may have just kept them safely somewhere in Mordor where no-one, not even the Nazgul, could find them.
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Old 06-07-2009, 01:45 PM   #29
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Odd, isn't it, that Sauron can demand the Nine Rings back without the Ruling Ring? Seriously, it is a flaw in the plot.
But we don't know exactly how Sauron got the Rings back, noting (in any case) that the Wraiths had been his slaves for very many years and Sauron was usually a master of deception.

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If Sauron has the ability to control the Nazgul without the aid of the Ring, then the Ring is unnecessary, isn't it?
There are levels of control however, and IIRC Tolkien makes the point (or implies it) that when holding the Nine Rings the Dark Lord could trust the Nine even to acquire the One and return it to their Master once acquired -- the search for the One in particular would be a good reason for Sauron to take back the Nine rings. In any event the level of his sway over them otherwise would arguably be largely unknown to Western chroniclers.

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The Rings of the Elves proved more beneficial to the Free People than the One Ring to its master. If it weren't for mistakes by Sauron and his allies, the Dark Lord would have won the war without the Ring. Had it not been found, he certainly would have won a war of attrition.
Sauron took a great risk with the Rings of Power yes, but had this deception worked exactly as planned the rewards would have been huge. I didn't work exactly as planned, as we know, and so yes Sauron himself paid the price.

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Old 06-12-2009, 04:15 AM   #30
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Well the title says it all.

I was just faced with this question when modding my werewolf game... I mean really, if they lose their cloaks and horses and travel as bodiless spirits, what on earth happens to their rings? Do they become immaterial for the time being? Or do the Nazgûl after all move around without their rings on? Or is there some other solution? I'm puzzled, please help/educate me.
The problem is that Tolkien changed his conception of the nazgul bodies, right in the middle of writing LOTR, sometime during the first drafts of the Pelennor Battle.

Originally, Nazgul were shape-shifters, that could look like a hobbit (one looking like a hobbit came to Hobbiton – see in HOME 6 or 7), or shapeshift into monstrous birds- vultures. In the first drafts for the scene with Eowyn, she destroyed the Witch-King SIMPLY by cutting off the bird's head! (By the way, there the WK only lost his shape, much like he did at the Ford, and was present again at the Parley (instead of the Mouth) and then even talked with Frodo after the Ring was destroyed in the Cracks of Doom.

But then, Tolkien decided that shape-shifting was mostly restricted to incarnate Maiar, not for Nazgul. After that, he changed the draft for the Eowyn scene exactly as it is now.

But Tolkien didn't correct the "Fellowship” and the “Two Towers" accordingly. Not all of it, at least, some things he had missed. So Radagast's: "disguised as black riders", Gandalf's " the black robes are real robes that they wear to give shape to their nothingness when they have dealings with the living,” and all the issues with "losing shape" in Bruinen River are the reminders of the original conception.

The worst bug connected with the former shape-shifting concept still remains in TT (the White Rider):
Quote:
Gandalf: “For he was a Nazgul, one of the Nine, who ride now upon winged steeds. […]But they have not yet been allowed to cross the River, and Saruman does not know of this new shape in which the Ringwraiths have been clad.
Just imagine a happy owner of a new car saying:
“Behold the new shape in which I have been clad”


Yet when Tolkien later returned to the Bruinen ford episode in the “Hunt for the Ring” manuscripts (RC), he made it perfectly clear that none of the nazgul had lost his shape: they lost only their cloaks and boots (not a big issue), and the Witch-King had no difficulty riding his horse unclothed all the way to Mordor:

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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.[...] Help no doubt was sent out to the other Ringwraiths as they made their way back, and they were bidden to remain secret again. RC, p 262
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Old 05-04-2010, 06:10 AM   #31
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In my opinion the benefits of wearing the rings were "installed" just to get the bearers to use them. The sinister intentions of the rings is a separate power. Once slaves, the bearers would always be tied to the one ring and do its bidding even in death despite the location of the rings or who was bearing them. Sauron was also a slave to the one ring because as he made it he put more of himself in it than was left over. So each ring could have had its own mini story behind it but only the one ring was the stories focus.
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Old 05-04-2010, 01:07 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morthoron
Odd, isn't it, that Sauron can demand the Nine Rings back without the Ruling Ring? Seriously, it is a flaw in the plot. If Sauron has the ability to control the Nazgul without the aid of the Ring, then the Ring is unnecessary, isn't it? The Rings of the Elves proved more beneficial to the Free People than the One Ring to its master. If it weren't for mistakes by Sauron and his allies, the Dark Lord would have won the war without the Ring. Had it not been found, he certainly would have won a war of attrition.

I hate to sound heretical, but there is a disconnect there.
It is not a flaw. Sauron could have dominated Middle-earth even without his Ring; he was supposed to be in "rapport" with the power that he had invested in it. The Nazgul were his through and through, rings or none. Retrieving The One remained critical, however, for while it was not in his possession, he remained vulnerable. There were several individuals still in Middle-earth who might have been capable of usurping mastery of the Ring, and even an incomplete claim on the Ring (like Isildur's) would have been enough to greatly inconvenience him.

Sauron's actions suggest that he expected a gambit of this kind rather than the madness of destroying the Ring. Any victory he could have had before recovering The One could be undone by a powerful claimant, and the likelihood of such a claim would increase as his realm and power grew. Step one, the most essential step, was to obviate this potentiality, preferably while his enemies believed they still had some slim window of time.

Here's a little discussion of Ring-claiming.

Last edited by obloquy; 05-04-2010 at 01:58 PM. Reason: Added a link.
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