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Old 05-28-2012, 06:30 PM   #1
radagastly
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The Lesser Rings

Realizing that it's probably been a couple of years since I posted on a thread and certainly much longer than that since I started one, I decided to pose a question that has long puzzled me, or at least made me curious.

In "The Shadow of the Past," Gandalf tells Frodo:
Quote:
In Eregion long ago many Elvin-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles--yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.
So, does anyone know anything about these "lesser rings?" Just how many of these "practice" rings were made before the elves were skilled enough to start work on the "Great Rings?"What was the extent of their power? We know only the Great Rings gave long life and invisibility.

I'm also wondering what might have become of them. It's logical to think that they were not all left behind in Hollin when the elves took the Three and fled from Sauron. Despite considering them "trifles," they must have taken at least some of them with them or Gandalf would not know about them, or at least he would not bother to mention them or consider them "dangerous for mortals." Is there any evidence of any elves using any of these rings at the time of the War of the Ring? I'm sure that if they knew enough to refrain from wearing the Three while Sauron still held the One, they would have known to forgo the use of these rings as well. After all, they were included in "all" referred to in the ring poem (One ring to rule them all.)Might they have been distributed to anyone else, and, if so, to whom? Is anyone using any of them?

If Sauron did seize any of these lesser rings from his initial raid on Hollin, do any of his servants in the war of the Ring show any minimally enhanced abilities?

Finally, does Tolkien provide any more detailed information about these lesser rings beyond the tiny bits of text that merely indicate their existence?
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Old 05-28-2012, 08:28 PM   #2
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This is something that's crossed my mind from time to time as I've read and re-read LOTR over the years.

I don't at the moment recall any other mention of the "lesser rings" apart from Gandalf's words to Frodo in the passage you cite. If I'm wrong, I'll no doubt be swiftly set straight.

My thought would be that they were efforts of the Noldor to make rings with the same powers as the later Three: preservation and healing power. It seems logical that their dabbling in such matters made them all the more susceptible to Sauron's offer of aid, if it didn't in fact give Sauron the impetus to make his own rings.

I guess it's possible some of them escaped the ruin of Eregion and were in use by Elves in the Third Age. Maybe in Mirkwood, by Thranduil? There would be no danger from the One. The "trifles", it would seem, were not, like the Three, made using Sauron's knowledgeable advice, so they should have been free from the influence of the One.

It seems a recurring theme in the ME mythos that desire, and utilization of, power beyond one's innate abilities is a dangerous thing, and we see mortals, and Men especially, easily corrupted by "power". That alone would explain Gandalf's worries to me.

If the lesser rings had the powers I posited, I don't see Sauron having any desire to possess them for any reason. All he was about was domination through the use of power.
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:34 AM   #3
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I can't think of any references to them either (which doesn't mean there aren't any!) but I assumed the trial rings were part of Tolkien's idea to create a plausible mythology for England. Magic rings are part of folklore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_ring

and I supposed that these lesser rings gave the rings of the myths of the real world a Middle Earth origin - just as the lesser sprites. spirits and fairies of "true" folklore can be reconciled to the houseless Fea of elves who refused the call to Mandos at death or to the lingering diminished elves faded almost away.
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Old 05-29-2012, 05:28 AM   #4
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Ring

Interesting topic and thoughts this far, everyone!

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Originally Posted by Mithalwen View Post
I can't think of any references to them either (which doesn't mean there aren't any!) but I assumed the trial rings were part of Tolkien's idea to create a plausible mythology for England. Magic rings are part of folklore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_ring
Indeed! And we see exactly this in Bilbo's story and his reaction to the magic ring - he is not like "huh, what is that?" but "okay, so I just found one of these magic rings known from fairytales, cool!" So the Elven "trifles" would be an explanation for the existing folk stories in Middle-Earth.

I can see endless possibilities with the lesser rings. Many could have found their way to the hands of men, Dwarves, Orcs... after all, Eregion was sacked, it was inevitable that there would occur things like "Sauron's Captain X killed certain Elven smith - took his ring for himself - later, he was randomly killed while raiding Dwarves from Moria - Dwarves took it - later, the owner was killed when Orcs sacked Moria - etc etc..." So the Rings really could have scattered throughout Middle-Earth.

I also think it very likely that Saruman would have gotten his hands on at least a couple of the lesser rings (surely he would be very keen to follow any remark of "hey, this and that guy might own a Ring, let's check it out"), given his interest in Ring-lore, he might have "dissected them" in order to learn how they are made (cf. Gandalf's words about white light broken ).

I do not entirely agree with Inziladun on the power issue. Sure, usurping power for yourself through various means is a bad thing in M-E, but we see these limits crossed many times, especially by proud and gifted people, which the Ring-makers certainly were. Even without the corruption by Sauron, such Rings could have been made.

In any case, I don't see why the lesser rings would only be made to preserve like the Elven ones; after all, the Three were made for special purpose, but these were not, they were experiments - so the Elves could make them do all sorts of things, where they were just testing what they can do. That could, in fact, have produced even more interesting results than the "true" Rings, because the Elves did not make them with specific purpose - or with necessary the same results they expected. (As in: "I want to make a Ring which will allow me speak with animals, but I have never done that before - lo, I just managed to create a ring that will transform me into a bear!" This might be a bit exaggerated example, but I hope you got the point...)
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Old 05-29-2012, 06:59 AM   #5
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Originally posted by Inziladun:
Quote:
The "trifles", it would seem, were not, like the Three, made using Sauron's knowledgeable advice, so they should have been free from the influence of the One.
I'm not so sure I agree (or necessarily disagree) with you on this. I guess it assumes that the lesser rings pre-date Sauron's influence, that he co-opted a line of research that already existed, rather than introducing the idea of including "magic" in the production of jewelry that would otherwise be "just pretty" (but not useful). I suppose your idea would be consistent with the 'arts and crafts' idea of Middle Earth mentioned in another thread (I forget which one, sorry), that the elves would take something that was already useful and make it look pretty, rather than starting with a pretty thing and then finding a use for it. Form following function. I think it's possible that Sauron introduced the idea of "magic" into the elves jewelry-smithing partly (at least) to see which of the elven jewelers had the skills to make the "Great Rings" to which Sauron aspired. I guess I think even the lesser rings were subject to the influence of the One.

Originally posted by Legate of Amon Lanc:
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen

I can't think of any references to them either (which doesn't mean there aren't any!) but I assumed the trial rings were part of Tolkien's idea to create a plausible mythology for England. Magic rings are part of folklore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_ring
Indeed! And we see exactly this in Bilbo's story and his reaction to the magic ring - he is not like "huh, what is that?" but "okay, so I just found one of these magic rings known from fairytales, cool!" So the Elven "trifles" would be an explanation for the existing folk stories in Middle-Earth.
I guess this is a bit of a chicken or egg question (which came first?) Did Tolkien's choice of having Bilbo find a ring (rather than some other kind of bauble) derive from existing English folk-tales of magic rings, or did the Ring simply provide an opportunity for a tie-in to existing folklore and mythology by generating the possibility of these 'lesser rings' still existing, scattered around our own mythic world.

Originally posted by Legate of Amon Lanc:
Quote:
(As in: "I want to make a Ring which will allow me speak with animals, but I have never done that before - lo, I just managed to create a ring that will transform me into a bear!" This might be a bit exaggerated example, but I hope you got the point...)
Finally! a valid explanation for Beorn's shapeshifting ability! (maybe . . .)
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:51 AM   #6
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One possibility is Saruman actually never made his own ring, but found one of the lesser rings and attempted to use it. He most likely would have continued to study the ring in a further attempt to make his own. Whether Saruman made a ring, or found one, it is clear that the result was like one of the "lesser rings."

In an earlier draft of Gandalf's discussion with Frodo in The Shire, there seems to be more evidence Saruman made the ring he wore:

Quote:
"There was much talk of rings at the White Council...even wizards have much to learn as long as they live, however long that may be. There are many sorts of ring, of course. Some are no more than toys (though dangerous to my mind) and not difficult to contrive if you go for such things - they are not in my line."~HOME VII The Treason of Isengard: The Fourth Phase (1)
To Gandalf these lesser rings are "toys" and "trifles," but still dangerous to him. It is not in Gandalf's mind to make a lesser ring, but it wouldn't be difficult for a wizard to craft one, if he had the mind for it. And one thing that is continually stressed in Saruman's fall is that he had long delved into the studying the works of Sauron, especially Ring-lore.

However, this is not in the final text, and I think in the final versions, the evidence that Saruman crafted his Ring gets even slimmer. All that's mentioned is Gandalf suspected Saruman was close to the secrets of their making, but no confirmation that he had succeeded. In fact, it appears there were still some "missing links" in Saruman's study of ring-making:

Quote:
Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth~Foreward
Now this is Tolkien explaining how his story is not allegorical to WW2, however, I think it still holds some important info about the character of Saruman. That is, there were missing links into his studies of ring-lore, he would have only found in Mordor. Being a "wizard" and always able to learn, he would have found the keys to ring-making, but it seems like he was still missing this pertinent info in LOTR.

It is only Saruman, who in a boast declares:

Quote:
For I am Saruman, the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colors!"~The Council of Elrond
Capitilization of "Ring-maker" is interesting here, because it suggests a title or name. Saruman is not an occupational "ring-maker" he is "Ring-maker!" All the more interesting, considering it is the same name Gandalf gives to Sauron:

Quote:
"Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker."~The Shadow of the Past
So, in Saruman's trapping of Gandalf, his boast "Ring-maker" sounds more like Saruman trying to fashion himself in the style of Sauron, not that he was actually a "ring-maker." Although, that really just comes down to interpretation. Personally, I think Saruman found one of the lesser rings and tried to study it in hopes of furthering his study into ring-lore and their making. I think the othe interpretation would be Saruman was successful in crafting his own Ring (as would be possible for wizards who had the inclination for it), but this would have been a "toy" and "trifle" of a lesser ring.
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Old 05-30-2012, 07:43 AM   #7
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Ring

I have always wondered why "The Voice Of Sauron" was so steenkin' old, without being one of the Nine, and how he wasn't faded, but he wasn't dead either, and how or why that happened. Lesser ring maybe...?

ps. Great point about Beorn, bearskins, and elven experimentation. "But I don't want to be a bear. Who wants this? You do, woodsman? Okay, here, take it."
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Old 05-30-2012, 08:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I do not entirely agree with Inziladun on the power issue. Sure, usurping power for yourself through various means is a bad thing in M-E, but we see these limits crossed many times, especially by proud and gifted people, which the Ring-makers certainly were. Even without the corruption by Sauron, such Rings could have been made.
My point was that such efforts to attain 'unnatural' power don't seem to end well for the aspirants. At any rate, that might make an idea for another thread...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
In any case, I don't see why the lesser rings would only be made to preserve like the Elven ones; after all, the Three were made for special purpose, but these were not, they were experiments - so the Elves could make them do all sorts of things, where they were just testing what they can do. That could, in fact, have produced even more interesting results than the "true" Rings, because the Elves did not make them with specific purpose - or with necessary the same results they expected. (As in: "I want to make a Ring which will allow me speak with animals, but I have never done that before - lo, I just managed to create a ring that will transform me into a bear!" This might be a bit exaggerated example, but I hope you got the point...)
Healing and preservation seem to be the overriding concern of the Elves. I think, too, that the powers of any ring were limited by the abilities of the maker. The Elves were specially gifted as healers; not as shape-shifters or whatnot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly View Post
I'm not so sure I agree (or necessarily disagree) with you on this. I guess it assumes that the lesser rings pre-date Sauron's influence, that he co-opted a line of research that already existed, rather than introducing the idea of including "magic" in the production of jewelry that would otherwise be "just pretty" (but not useful). I suppose your idea would be consistent with the 'arts and crafts' idea of Middle Earth mentioned in another thread (I forget which one, sorry), that the elves would take something that was already useful and make it look pretty, rather than starting with a pretty thing and then finding a use for it. Form following function. I think it's possible that Sauron introduced the idea of "magic" into the elves jewelry-smithing partly (at least) to see which of the elven jewelers had the skills to make the "Great Rings" to which Sauron aspired. I guess I think even the lesser rings were subject to the influence of the One.
In Letters (which I don't have with me at the moment), Tolkien states that the Three, though not made by Sauron personally, were still in the end products of his instruction. That is the only reason they were under the One. Therefore, logically any items produced without Sauron's input should have been exempt from its influence.


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I have always wondered why "The Voice Of Sauron" was so steenkin' old, without being one of the Nine, and how he wasn't faded, but he wasn't dead either, and how or why that happened. Lesser ring maybe...?
Well, we're told the Mouth was a "Black Númenórean", but that doesn't mean he had to be extremely old, or one of the Ar-Pharazôn originals. I always perceived that as merely a description of his heritage, just as as people like Aragorn and Denethor are said to be of the race of Númenor.
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Old 05-30-2012, 10:30 AM   #9
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I like the speculation that the ring Saruman wore was one of the lesser rings, but I still think it was one of his own making. Certainly, I think, Gandalf would have "sensed" the difference between the two, while he wore his own ring, if he chose to try. The fact that he never speculated that it was one of the lesser rings seems to indicate that he thought it was Saruman's own manufacture. Good catch on the passage from HoME (The Treason of Isengard). At least there is some more info on these lesser rings.


This discussion does make me more interested in Saruman's research into Ring-making. We know he scoured the Gladden Fields seeking the One. Might he have also journeyed to Hollin seeking long buried little secrets? What about Mordor? If his research preceded The Battle of Five Armies by enough time, he may well have been able to pick through the remnants of the Black Tower or even Sammath Naur despite the fact the Nazgul were holed up in Minas Morgul. What a sticky situation that could have been, if he had been caught.

Originally posted by Mark 12_30:
Quote:
ps. Great point about Beorn, bearskins, and elven experimentation. "But I don't want to be a bear. Who wants this? You do, woodsman? Okay, here, take it."
I also like this. Certainly it's well established that Beorn was 'just a man.' But he was a man who could change his shape and talk to animals, bend them to his will and need. Why not one of the lesser rings?

Originally posted by Inziladun:
Quote:
In Letters (which I don't have with me at the moment), Tolkien states that the Three, though not made by Sauron personally, were still in the end products of his instruction. That is the only reason they were under the One. Therefore, logically any items produced without Sauron's input should have been exempt from its influence.
This still presumes that the elves made the lesser rings before Sauron showed up to provide instruction. I guess there are three possibilities here:
1. The elves were making magic rings already, then Sauron showed up and immediately escalated this craft to making the "Great Rings." Therefore, the lesser rings were not created with his input, and so not subject to influence from the One Ring.
2. The elves were making magic rings already, then Sauron showed up and began to improve the craft, making many more lesser rings and eventually helping the elves to develop to the point where the Great Rings were possible. The earliest of the lesser rings would be free from Sauron's input and influence but the later developments would not.
3. The elves were not making magic rings at all until Sauron showed up and introduced them to the process. All the lesser rings would then be subject to the One since they all derived from his instruction.

My own (admittedly personal) opinion is that since Sauron was seeking to trap or trick the elves into subjugation through the Rings, that the most likely scenario is number 3, thus Sauron's pseudonym as the Giver of Gifts. What greater gift could there be than the idea of Ring-lore and their making?
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Old 05-30-2012, 11:25 AM   #10
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I think Mithalwen has one of the keys to this mystery.

I also think it worthwhile to distinguish between the Elvish Arts and Dark Sorcery. The former the Elves did not even name "magic", whereas the latter were not called "magic" either, but sorcery. Is there reference to the Dark Arts in the ouvre?

The "Mouth of Sauron" delved in sorcery, says Tolkien somewhere, thus his long years, I think.

A ring to explain Beorn shape shifting? I doubt it. I think, again, it's too mechanistic an approach to the way Tolkien did his myth making. If you look at his mythic sources, there were shape shifters aplenty and they needed no ring.

As for the lesser rings, is not the template is the Silmarils rather than anything Sauron might contrive? Thus, it requires that the Elves must take from either themselves (their own spirits/fea), or take something from nature/Arda and form it into a ring. So perhaps anything that something from nature could do, they made their "trifle" rings to be able to do?
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Old 05-30-2012, 12:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30 View Post
I have always wondered why "The Voice Of Sauron" was so steenkin' old, without being one of the Nine, and how he wasn't faded, but he wasn't dead either, and how or why that happened. Lesser ring maybe...?

ps. Great point about Beorn, bearskins, and elven experimentation. "But I don't want to be a bear. Who wants this? You do, woodsman? Okay, here, take it."
Ahem... okay, from the reactions I should not have said that Before any more people start about it, no, no and no. It was a joke. Just as elempi says, it was a natural ability for Beorn, it is explicitely stated in The Hobbit (by Gandalf when he is describing Beorn).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Healing and preservation seem to be the overriding concern of the Elves. I think, too, that the powers of any ring were limited by the abilities of the maker. The Elves were specially gifted as healers; not as shape-shifters or whatnot.
Certainly. But as for healing and preservation, I disagree - it was not the main concern for all Elves, most of all, not for Noldor, who are exactly the ones in question here. Creating, enrichening the world, making beautiful things was the main concern for them, I believe (and that does not mean just jewels, but also cities, or songs... also e.g. if you imagine Teleri, it was ships, so it does not really go only with Noldor. Healing and preserving became prevailing concern only for the late Elves, when Middle-Earth had already reached significant stage of decay, so to say).

Therefore, I am inclined to believe the lesser Rings could be attempts to make one able to e.g. speak with animals like in my previous example (Elves were known for their love in teaching creatures to speak etc, and also understanding was very important for them, at least in their prime); or could enable the bearer to, I don't know, "boost ambient light" or something (along the lines of that you walk into a room lit by a couple of dim candles and then you use your Ring - however one does that - and lo, it seems as if the sunlight had pierced... you get the point), most of all (isn't it even implied somewhere?) to boost one's skills in e.g. singing, or crafting itself (so, one could wear a Ring that would help him make better Rings, or make "magic" weapons akin to the ones of Gondolin, etc.).

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
I also think it worthwhile to distinguish between the Elvish Arts and Dark Sorcery. The former the Elves did not even name "magic", whereas the latter were not called "magic" either, but sorcery. Is there reference to the Dark Arts in the ouvre?
I believe we can basically distinguish two main types of, for the lack of a better word, "magic" in Middle-Earth: the sorcery (which is the evil thing and usually would operate with controlling something) and then what I would call "Art": because that is what it is, the good thing, the way to e.g. create enchanted weapons (like Glamdring or the Sting), or Silmarils, or even the Elven-cloaks, and similar things. I believe it simply requires one to sort of "enhance" or "imbue" certain thing (in case of the artifacts) with something, like in the case of Silmarils: trivially speaking, you catch some light into a crystal. So this is what I believe would happen with the Rings.

I think what happened with Sauron coming into the process was that he started showing the Elves how to upgrade their works, but also he started slowly introducing his own concepts into them; once you start operating with "control", you are slipping to the sorcery side.
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Old 05-30-2012, 01:15 PM   #12
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I like the idea of "trifles too dangerous for Men."

Question is, why too dangerous for men? Because of our penchant for turning things toward power and control? Or is it because being Elvish, they are simply too much for us?

Consider a ring that turns one invisible - if it could do nothing else. In the hands of a Hobbit (closely related to Men), did anything happen that was not as it should have been? (I think the answer to this question is actually pretty easy).
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Old 05-30-2012, 01:23 PM   #13
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Originally posted by littlemanpoet:
Quote:
I think Mithalwen has one of the keys to this mystery.
I suspect this is correct, insofar as Tolkien's motive in mentioning these 'lesser rings' in the first place. It does not explain them in a Middle-Earth context, however. Tolkien is exceptional at devising sources and explanations within his creation (much like Kipling's Just So Stories, "How the Elephant Got its Trunk" and so forth) and I guess that's closer to what I'm interested in, though Tolkien seems to have provided precious little on this particular topic.

littlemanpoet:
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I also think it worthwhile to distinguish between the Elvish Arts and Dark Sorcery. The former the Elves did not even name "magic", whereas the latter were not called "magic" either, but sorcery. Is there reference to the Dark Arts in the ouvre?
I must confess to using the term "magic" as shorthand for readers of Tolkien rather than contextually. For Samwise, it was still all "magic," so not completely unprecedented. As for the term "Dark Arts," I don't recall it anywhere in Tolkien. Sounds more like a 'Harry Potter' thing to me.

elempi:
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A ring to explain Beorn shape shifting? I doubt it. I think, again, it's too mechanistic an approach to the way Tolkien did his myth making. If you look at his mythic sources, there were shape shifters aplenty and they needed no ring.
Of course, you're right. In fact, I can't think of a world mythology that doesn't include shapeshifters, though I admit my familiarity with mythology is, at best, quite limited. Still, it does provide an amusing recollection of that thread from some years ago that speculated on the source of Beorn's shapeshifting abilities.

elempi again:
Quote:
As for the lesser rings, is not the template is the Silmarils rather than anything Sauron might contrive? Thus, it requires that the Elves must take from either themselves (their own spirits/fea), or take something from nature/Arda and form it into a ring. So perhaps anything that something from nature could do, they made their "trifle" rings to be able to do?
Certainly the Three Elven Rings reflect the template of the three Silmarils, but I'm not sure how much that applies to the lesser rings, unless you're talking about how they're made. The elves would have put some of themselves, their fea, into the rings they made, but Sauron did the same when he made the One. Does the distinction between Elven Arts and Dark Sorcery lie in the motivation of the artist? At what point does storytelling become propaganda (or, Eru forbid, allegory?)
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:06 PM   #14
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I'm not sure how much help this will be, because it's specifically about the "great" Rings of Power, and not the lesser rings (which there is just such scant info on). But Gandalf says something interesting about the Rings of Power (excluding the One):

Quote:
"The Nine, the Seven, and the Three, had each their proper gem. Not so the One."~The Council of Elrond
Now we know the gems that adorned the Three. Vilya, had sapphire, diamond for Nenya, and ruby for Narya. The other Rings we don't know the gems, but it seems clear they would have been adorned with a gem.

Furthermore, with the Rings of Power (again excluding the One), Gandalf says "proper gem," which suggests the gem was instrumental, or in some way an important factor in the powers of the rings. For example, Vilya, the Ring of Air, was adorned with a sapphire. Of Manwe:

Quote:
In Arda his delight is in the winds and the clouds, and in all regions of the air, from the heights to the depths, from the utmost borders of the Veil of Arda to the breezes that blow in the grass.~The Silmarillion: The Valaquenta
More interesting yet, Manwe's sceptre:

Quote:
His raimant is blue, and blue is the fire of of his eyes, and his sceptre is of sapphire...~Of the Beginning of Days
So, I think there are clear connections between the Rings of Power and gems. The great Rings of Power, specifically having "each their proper gem."

I don't want to tangent too far away from the lesser rings, but is it too much speculation to say whatever purposes the lesser rings were made for, the maker did not set in the "proper gem." Or perhaps no gem at all? Then again, the One has no gem, and it is the most powerful Ring of the bunch; being a simple band of gold. I haven't the faintest clue where this leads the discussion, but I do think at least in ring-crafting (within the context of Middle-earth)...each having a gem is important to the rings' powers.
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:22 PM   #15
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I like some of the theories about the lesser rings. The one peril I see is that, once you start thinking that way, you start seeing rings at the root of all thing. Say the idea of a ring that helps make enchanted weapons. I can imagine such a ring winding up amoung the men of Cardolan; perhaps being the key to their ability to make weapons unusually good at dealing with things like the Nazgul. Or say, a ring that puts you in tune with the plants, handy for conversing with any Ents who might be around in thier native tounge and getting on thier good sides (I suddenly have an image of a young elf wandering through the woods with such a ring, (in Sindarin) "I Talk to the Trees".
Finally we get to the animal talking ring theorized. If such a ring did exist, I can imagine somewhere it might have been, and, regrettably, the damage it might have done. It is based on a theory I have, just follow me. Gandalf describes the rings as perilous. I think it possible that thier peril may run a bit deeper than that proposed by the people above. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I think that even the lesser rings may have had a touch of Sauron's taint. I don't think the elves considered making rings of power until Sauron proposed the idea. So while it is true that only the major rings were directly under his control, it is possible that even the first attemps had a little of him in them, and so had a dark side. Therefore I think that it is possible that, while a lesser ring would not put someone in Sauron's thrall, it might corrupt them no matter who they were. Specifically, I am thinking of Radagast, and his fall from his mission. Suppose at some point, Radagast had gotten his hands on a "talk to the animals" ring, for some reason or other (maybe he though being able to talk to the animals would help his mission) The ring does indeed let him talk to and understand the animals. However, the more he uses it, the more he loves the animals, until finally, they are more important to him than his stated mission, and he strays from his intended path. One problem with this idea is of course the fact that Saruman would presumably take such a ring from Radagast, given his interest in ringlore. On the other hand, Saruman, if he was already well learned in the lore, might consider such a ring too weak to trifle with, or of no practical use to himself (Saruman after all, really does not love nature (in fact, he basically hates it) and so the abiklity to get closer to it woul likey not appeal to him much.
The only proposed power I do not really think a ring would be made for is increasing ambient light. Such a ring would likey be considered of little use to the elves. Remember that all of these rings are being made by Noldorians, and the Noldorians already have the Feanorian Lamps, and (from the description) those seem like almost mass produced everyday articles. I'm not all that sure the Noldor would even use candles when they had those (after all, the lamps never go out) Plus, elves have very good night vision (to see in the days before the sunlight, they'd have to) so even the light of one candle is probably enough for thier needs.
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:49 PM   #16
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Oringinally posted by Legate of Amon Lanc:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun

Quote:
Healing and preservation seem to be the overriding concern of the Elves. I think, too, that the powers of any ring were limited by the abilities of the maker. The Elves were specially gifted as healers; not as shape-shifters or whatnot.
Certainly. But as for healing and preservation, I disagree - it was not the main concern for all Elves, most of all, not for Noldor, who are exactly the ones in question here. Creating, enrichening the world, making beautiful things was the main concern for them, I believe (and that does not mean just jewels, but also cities, or songs... also e.g. if you imagine Teleri, it was ships, so it does not really go only with Noldor. Healing and preserving became prevailing concern only for the late Elves, when Middle-Earth had already reached significant stage of decay, so to say).
This may accidentally provide some insight into Celebrimbor's motives in creating the Three. Is it possible he was beginning to see the potential for harm represented by the previous sixteen Great Rings as well as at least some of the lesser rings, the ones created with Sauron's direct help? Perhaps he was given to try and heal the problems caused by these rings. After all, we don't know much about the specific intended applications of the Seven or of the Nine, or of any of the lesser rings.
Oringinally posted by Legate of Amon Lanc:
Quote:
I believe we can basically distinguish two main types of, for the lack of a better word, "magic" in Middle-Earth: the sorcery (which is the evil thing and usually would operate with controlling something) and then what I would call "Art": because that is what it is, the good thing, the way to e.g. create enchanted weapons (like Glamdring or the Sting), or Silmarils, or even the Elven-cloaks, and similar things. I believe it simply requires one to sort of "enhance" or "imbue" certain thing (in case of the artifacts) with something, like in the case of Silmarils: trivially speaking, you catch some light into a crystal. So this is what I believe would happen with the Rings.
I like this distinction between "Control" and "Enhancement." Partly because I didn't think of it, so it's something new to me. Of course, enhancement is, in itself, a kind of control, though more cooperative. A race horse wins more when it allows itself to trust and be controlled by a skilled jockey. Might this actually mark the distinction between the lesser rings and the Great Rings? Consider Sauron teaching the elves greater and greater skills at capturing some kind of "enhancement" within a ring until it reached it's zenith, and then the next inevitable step in improving the craft was for the elves to impose "control" through the rings they made. This would certainly fit in with Sauron devising a "trap" which he finally sprung with the creation of the One. Just a passing thought.

elempi:
Quote:
Question is, why too dangerous for men? Because of our penchant for turning things toward power and control? Or is it because being Elvish, they are simply too much for us?
I think in a world full of immortal elves, mortal men might be prone to impatience in themselves. An elf might take a hundred years to compose a single song and think nothing of the time. A man could take that long, but would likely be frustrated by it. And he probably wouldn't consider it as good. So, I guess, the answer would be a little of both. This impatience could lead to great deeds, but would also temp men toward 'shortcuts.' So mortality leads to impationce which leads risking power and control, despite the fact that it may be too much for us.

Originally posted by Boromir88:
Quote:
So, I think there are clear connections between the Rings of Power and gems. The great Rings of Power, specifically having "each their proper gem."

I don't want to tangent too far away from the lesser rings, but is it too much speculation to say whatever purposes the lesser rings were made for, the maker did not set in the "proper gem." Or perhaps no gem at all? Then again, the One has no gem, and it is the most powerful Ring of the bunch; being a simple band of gold. I haven't the faintest clue where this leads the discussion, but I do think at least in ring-crafting (within the context of Middle-earth)...each having a gem is important to the rings' powers.
I wonder if anyone knows if rings (even in our real, modern world) were invented in order to wear and display a gem or for some other purpose. Only simple wedding bands in our world seem to be unadorned. Popes and Kings wear signet rings each with a gem or insignia of some kind. Does anyone know?

I suspect even the lesser rings had gems of some kind. But no two gems are alike. Diamonds have flaws and inclusions, and anyone shopping for an engagement ring learns about the four 'c's' (cut, caret, clarity and color.) Might they have had cheaper stones, or the wrong kind for their specific purpose (If, as seems to be some concensus, they each had a specific purpose?)

Originally posted by Alfirin:
Quote:
I'm not 100% sure of this, but I think that even the lesser rings may have had a touch of Sauron's taint. I don't think the elves considered making rings of power until Sauron proposed the idea. So while it is true that only the major rings were directly under his control, it is possible that even the first attemps had a little of him in them, and so had a dark side. Therefore I think that it is possible that, while a lesser ring would not put someone in Sauron's thrall, it might corrupt them no matter who they were.
This was my thought as well. Certainly, since the lesser rings did not grant extended life they wouldn't have time to really turn someone into a full-on Nazgul, but it could certainly lead them towards what Gandalf would call "mischief."
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Old 05-30-2012, 05:12 PM   #17
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I don't think that any lesser rings would have possessed any great power as we know that it wasn't until Sauron in the guise of Annatar came along, that Celebrimbor managed to create the Three rings. And if you consider that the greater Rings all seemed to possess qualities specific to the three main races of Middle-earth, then these lesser/early rings may also have only been designed to work for the Elves who crafted them.

Saruman probably did have one of them at least, he certainly knows enough Ring Lore:
Quote:
The lore of the Elven-rings, great and small, is his province. He has long studied it, seeking the lost secrets of their making;
But I don't think that the ring he wore himself was one of these 'essays'. He was probably second only to Sauron in Middle-earth for his ability in crafts in the Third Age and I believe more than capable of creating his own ring. It also fits with his deluded determination to go a 'third way'. He was always one step ahead of Gandalf with regard to the rings, even getting to the libraries of Minas Tirith before him. he may even have had ulterior motives in driving Sauron out of Mirkwood - he insists the One Ring is lost but seems to know it is somewhere.

Quote:
'"White!" he sneered. "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken."
'"In which case it is no longer white," said I. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."
Here I always think of him breaking the Light. But like other passages from Tolkien's work, it can have layers of meaning and Gandalf is likely also referring to Saruman investigating how 'magic' rings work by breaking them. If Saruman broke an Elven ring it could easily be seen as breaking a thing of Light given how many of the great Elven artefacts are linked to the divinity of Light.

Saruman knows that he still needs the One ring though, if he is to achieve his 'third way'. I always wonder if he knows that he could wield it in defiance of Sauron or if he has been deceived by Sauron. Galadriel thinks she could wield it too, and thankfully is self aware enough to reject it, knowing that this would make her own power a terrible thing (and she knows she is already being somewhat defiant by wielding the power she already does possess). I think Saruman by this time has reached the very limit of his own considerable skill, and with this, he would have gone way beyond simply using a cast-off Elven ring.

Where those 'essays' went is interesting. Maybe Sauron also gained some control over them? A ring is a symbol both of eternity and of capture. The Nine very much capture those Men who wear them and while their bodies wither, their spirits endure, held together or trapped within the rings they wear. A little like Sauron with the One. Maybe Gandalf warns against them as he is worried by this prospect? I know I would be. He says "to my mind" which suggests this is his personal worry. I don't think I would be tempted to risk wearing one - the existence of Anglo-Saxon rings of power in the real world such as the Bramham Moor Ring, inscribed with spells, is enough to give me a shiver.
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Old 05-30-2012, 05:14 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
Furthermore, with the Rings of Power (again excluding the One), Gandalf says "proper gem," which suggests the gem was instrumental, or in some way an important factor in the powers of the rings. For example, Vilya, the Ring of Air, was adorned with a sapphire.
(...)

So, I think there are clear connections between the Rings of Power and gems. The great Rings of Power, specifically having "each their proper gem."

I don't want to tangent too far away from the lesser rings, but is it too much speculation to say whatever purposes the lesser rings were made for, the maker did not set in the "proper gem." Or perhaps no gem at all? Then again, the One has no gem, and it is the most powerful Ring of the bunch; being a simple band of gold. I haven't the faintest clue where this leads the discussion, but I do think at least in ring-crafting (within the context of Middle-earth)...each having a gem is important to the rings' powers.
I think what you bring up are interesting thoughts about the Three (or possibly the rest of the Great Rings, or the Rings in general), that there might be something special about the stones chosen as well. However, while I agree with the positive interpretation (the proper stone can make the Ring fulfil its ultimate purpose in the best possible manner), I do not think it works in the negative way (if a Ring does not have its proper stone, something is wrong).

I think you are misinterpreting the word "proper", or at least I never understood it that way. Granted, English is not my native language, but I have always thought that "proper" here means simply "characteristic", i.e. the stone that belongs to it, you can identify it that way. Let's say, Vilya has a sapphire in it. That is its "proper" gem - in latin, "proprius" means something like "characteristic" or "distinctive". Even the English word "propriety" does not denote something "correct", but simply something that belongs to someone. So it was a stone that belonged to that Ring, that is what I believe Gandalf meant, nothing more, nothing less.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
I like some of the theories about the lesser rings. The one peril I see is that, once you start thinking that way, you start seeing rings at the root of all thing. Say the idea of a ring that helps make enchanted weapons. I can imagine such a ring winding up amoung the men of Cardolan; perhaps being the key to their ability to make weapons unusually good at dealing with things like the Nazgul. Or say, a ring that puts you in tune with the plants, handy for conversing with any Ents who might be around in thier native tounge and getting on thier good sides (I suddenly have an image of a young elf wandering through the woods with such a ring, (in Sindarin) "I Talk to the Trees".
Why? Middle-Earth was so full of "strange creatures beyond count" - and also things beyond count, I should add at this point - so why should one start seeing Rings behind everything? There are dozens of powerful and wise men mentioned, say, in Gondor's chronicles, I can imagine one or two owning some random lesser Rings they found somewhere randomly, and being renowned for their wisdom because of it... but then the Rings would get lost, forgotten, stolen by pirates, stolen by Orcs, you name it. The story of Gollum's grandmother owning hundreds of magic Rings seemed crazy to Gandalf, but I get the impression that if she had owned just one (but of course not shared it merrily with every passing-by Déagol), it wouldn't have seemed anything that unimaginable for Gandalf. A Ring owned by an Orc chieftain renowned for his suspiciously keen mind. A Ring owned by a guardian of Lórien feared by the Orcs, because it seems one cannot hide in the deepest darkness from him. Thousands of minor characters like that certainly have existed throughout the two Ages of history of Middle-Earth when the Rings were present. We basically only know of one story (Hobbit/LotR), however important one, for something like six thousand years... that covers very little part of Middle-Earth, its inhabitants (even the important ones), and its artifacts, of course.

And just for the record, I do not think Radagast needed any Ring for his communication with the animals (nor for his "fall from duty". He loved animals even without any Ring). On top of everything, I find Radagast such a "natural" person that I would really find it awkward for him to mess around with any Rings...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfirin
The only proposed power I do not really think a ring would be made for is increasing ambient light. Such a ring would likey be considered of little use to the elves. Remember that all of these rings are being made by Noldorians, and the Noldorians already have the Feanorian Lamps, and (from the description) those seem like almost mass produced everyday articles. I'm not all that sure the Noldor would even use candles when they had those (after all, the lamps never go out) Plus, elves have very good night vision (to see in the days before the sunlight, they'd have to) so even the light of one candle is probably enough for thier needs.
Let us please remember that I was giving examples, just like with the bear shapeshifting. From what we know there seem to have been probably at least dozens of "lesser Rings" made by the smiths, each of them very likely with different purpose (or some of them with similar, but still there would be enough distinctive ones). I have named like three possibilites. But this "ambient light", why not? Yes, Elves had Noldo-lamps (though I didn't see any in the Third Age!), but they also had the Star-glass Galadriel gave to Frodo - let's face it, Elves loved to play with light (and especially since the moment the Trees died, so basically... all the time). Such a Ring would make sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly View Post
After all, we don't know much about the specific intended applications of the Seven or of the Nine, or of any of the lesser rings.
It is implied about the Dwarven rings - or, we know about one that it was meant to "breed gold" (even though it "needed gold to breed gold") - not sure what exactly to imagine under it (probably not a "Multiplying Ring", as in: insert a coin, two coins fall out), maybe it was a "Ring of Lucky Precious Ore-Seeking" or "Ring Making One A Skilful Merchant". In any case, the Dwarven Rings seem to be "economic Rings", as is fit for them (though, since they originally were not really intended for Dwarves, maybe it sort of was how they came to be used by their owners - maybe originally they were some sort of "Craft" or "Beauty-creating" Rings). The Nine seem to be more of the "Power and Mind-Enhancing" sort, not sure if it is directly implied, but it is said that the Nazgul became powerful Kings of Men (or already were before they got the Rings, but became more powerful after that), and some became great sorcerers etc. - so maybe the Rings were the cause for this? Rings "boosting" one's knowledge (and whether one decided to use it for studying the "arts of the Enemy" or something else was another matter), perhaps spirit, prowess, ability to see into people's hearts? (And once again, that can be used for good - to facilitate communication - or for bad, to manipulate people more easily, which would probably be the case of the Nazgul.)

Which is basically what I meant by this Control-Enhancement difference, as radagastly pointed out:

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
I like this distinction between "Control" and "Enhancement." Partly because I didn't think of it, so it's something new to me. Of course, enhancement is, in itself, a kind of control, though more cooperative. A race horse wins more when it allows itself to trust and be controlled by a skilled jockey. Might this actually mark the distinction between the lesser rings and the Great Rings? Consider Sauron teaching the elves greater and greater skills at capturing some kind of "enhancement" within a ring until it reached it's zenith, and then the next inevitable step in improving the craft was for the elves to impose "control" through the rings they made. This would certainly fit in with Sauron devising a "trap" which he finally sprung with the creation of the One. Just a passing thought.
So, exactly - you can create a Ring to see into people's hearts, to better understand them, a very good and useful thing... and then click, Sauron makes this one more step to make the Rings basically an instrument of control of other people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
I suspect even the lesser rings had gems of some kind. But no two gems are alike. Diamonds have flaws and inclusions, and anyone shopping for an engagement ring learns about the four 'c's' (cut, caret, clarity and color.) Might they have had cheaper stones, or the wrong kind for their specific purpose (If, as seems to be some concensus, they each had a specific purpose?)
I also think many of the lesser ones had stones. Although from Gandalf's pondering about the One (though how much Gandalf actually knew about the Rings is another topic), probably some of them also didn't (so that if you found an evidently magic Ring without gem, you couldn't be sure if it's the One or one of the others which had no gem). But that much is obvious, I think.
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Old 05-30-2012, 06:07 PM   #19
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Narya

The question of the gems proper to the Great Rings makes me think about the exception to that rule, the One Ring, and that makes me think about a couple of things that are only tenuously related to the discussion of the Lesser Rings--nonetheless, it is fun to speculate.

What crops up in my mind is this: in HoME X, aptly titled Morgoth's Ring, there is an essay where Tolkien compares Melkor's diffusion of his own power into the whole matter of Arda to Sauron's infusion of his power into the Ring, and Tolkien says that Sauron specifically used gold in the creation of the One Ring because it had, as an element or ore, particularly high amounts of Melkor-ness. Silver, on the other hand, is singled out as being one of the purest metals (I would speculate that, in a like manner, water could be assumed to be one of the purest elements of Arda's physical matter, and maybe the air of Manwë).

In addition to this is the idea that has been brought up here that the gemstones of the Great Rings might be significant. The Sapphire connection to Manwë in Vilya seems especially apt, and I wonder if it's not too much of a stretch to hope for a diamond-Elbereth connection for Nenya (after all, Galadriel is very much a Varda-figure in The Lord of the Rings). This leaves Narya, and while I can make no obvious connection between it and one of the Valar, its red stone nonetheless makes a fairly close connection to Gandalf's use of it as "kindling" (i.e. lighting a fire--fires being red).

The connection here that I would put forward--as a theory and as nothing but a theory--is that the gemstones in the Great Rings have something of an analogy to the use of gold in the One Ring. What precisely they *DO* is beyond me to explain, or how they do it, but the "magicks" of the Elves are, as has already been pointed out in this thread, an Art--and I would lean on that word a bit to suggest that an Art suggests that it is a Craft (albeit one that can be done well according to the gift of the craftsman), which is something that can be made with materials--and although there is a lot of emphasis on the craftsmanship of Celebrimbor, nothing is said in the text about the significance of his materials.

What I am propounding, therefore, is a suggestion that what sets apart the Lesser Rings from the Great Rings is, in part, their different materials--or that in the Great Rings the natural potencies of the gems were unlocked by a combination of the Ring-Control/Enhancement (as it has been suggested here) already found in the Lesser Rings, not simply working on the user, but allowing him/her to access further power of Arda itself, as most appropriate to the gem.

The thing about this speculative schema that appeals to me is that it makes a connection between the One Ring and the other Great Rings that allows the lesser Rings to have been a purely Elven Art--indeed, it is easy to see Ring-making as an Eregion reinvention of something the Noldor did in Valinor. The idea that the gems have "innate powers" or what-have-you sits a bit uncomfortably with me, seeming not quite-Middle-earth, but I console myself with the Noldor were always gem-makers, and although the Silmarils are the gems par excellence that they made, it is not impossible that the lesser gems might have had a lesser power just as they had a lesser lustre.

In this conception, the Lesser Rings may well have had gems--it is simply that the gems would not have been of any extra benefit compared to an unadorned Lesser Ring. It is the gems specifically then, in the Great Rings, that allowed the ringbearer great power over nature--but because they were opened up to tap into this "matter of Arda" power, Sauron's One Ring, forged of gold specifically to tap into the Melkor-element in the matter of Arda, was able to get in and control the other ringbearers.

Having said all that, I realise it's all unprovable, but hopefully it will be seen as somewhat plausible--or, at the very least, as highlighting an element or two of the Rings that can bear a touch more scrutiny.
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:15 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
In addition to this is the idea that has been brought up here that the gemstones of the Great Rings might be significant. The Sapphire connection to Manwë in Vilya seems especially apt, and I wonder if it's not too much of a stretch to hope for a diamond-Elbereth connection for Nenya (after all, Galadriel is very much a Varda-figure in The Lord of the Rings). This leaves Narya, and while I can make no obvious connection between it and one of the Valar, its red stone nonetheless makes a fairly close connection to Gandalf's use of it as "kindling" (i.e. lighting a fire--fires being red).
Well there are connections to gemstone symbolism and the powers of the Rings they were set in.

Sapphire = protection, foresight, prophetic wisdom (all quite apt for Elrond, and maybe Manwe)

Diamond = This seems to have a wider range of symbols. But for the most part, the hardness of a diamond symbolizes great strength, but also clarity and beauty (more specifically enhancing relationships since diamonds have been adopted as the rock you put into engagement rings)

Ruby = vitality, courage, confidence, passion. Which all seem fitting with the reasons Cirdan gave Narya to Gandalf:
Quote:
"Take this ring, Master," he said, "for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill."~Appendix B: The Third Age
So, I agree with Legate now that the great rings weren't the Rings of Power because they had the "correct" gem, and the lesser rings had incorrect gems. Although, I think "proper gem" in this case is still important, and means more than say a "characteristic." I'm thinking of "appropriate." That is, the Rings of Power were each adorned with the appropriate gem, according to the designs of maker. With the Elven Rings, this would be Celebrimbor, and in crafting them for purposes of preservation/healing, set in each a proper gem that specified their powers.

I think it's important to keep in mind, that the "lesser rings" are only comparitively lesser, because of the Rings of Power. In a world without the great Rings of Power, I think the lesser rings would still be objects of power and "magic." Not that anyone is making the argument the lesser rings were useless scrap metal, but just keeping in mind the only reason they seem to be called "lesser" is to compare and separate them from the 19 Rings.

In the mind of say Sauron (and at a later point Saruman), the lesser rings would be "toys" and "trifles" because they're not important to their ultimate goal of subjugation. These rings are insignificant, but it's interesting to me that Gandalf still appears to find ALL rings of power dangerous. As much as I mentioned above about the positive symbols of the gems in the Elven rings, I think all gemstones carry baggage too. I mean the history of diamonds is full of exploitation, bloodshed, and negative baggage. All the Rings of Power (even the Elven Rings) were dangerous, if used uncarefully. My interpretation has always been, the Elven bearers use their Rings for good, but also only as a necessity (I believe they conceal them when Sauron possesses the One, yes)? So, it's more about the Elves ability to limit how they use their Rings, where the Dwarves and Men greedily hoarded wealth and power, to the point where it consumed Men to slavery and caused a lot of difficulties for the Dwarves. For as Gandalf says:

Quote:
"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo."~The Shadow of of the Past
Now this depends on whether Gandalf means "A Ring of Power" as only one of the 19, and the One, or if he's including the lesser rings of power here. Still, at least according to Gandalf, he's not only talking about the One, but anything that is included as a "Ring of Power."

Obviously the lesser rings are not as powerful as the 19 Rings. However, if we think, the reason they're termed "lesser rings" is out of necessity to separate them from the 19 Rings, and therefor these lesser rings are also "Rings of Power," in their own respect, we can probably see why Gandalf thought all these rings were dangerous, depending upon the strength of will in the ring-bearer.
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Old 05-31-2012, 10:52 AM   #21
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Sorry, I haven't read every post.

Has anyone mentioned the symbolism of the shape of a ring? A circle, it binds the finger. It holds the ring-bearer prisoner, symbolically. This suggests to me that a ring as a crafted Elvish item holds a different kind of power by virtue of being a ring, as opposed to lembas, elven rope, elven cloaks, silmarilli, phials, or what have you. That Elves made many items other than rings, as exampled above, bespeaks to me the significance and symbolism of the shape itself.

Not only in shape, but think of the ring's prominence in (at least western) human culture. It is the symbol of the promises/vows binding two people together in marriage. Thus, culturally, rings are linked to bondage, whether willing or forced.
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Old 05-31-2012, 11:19 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
Has anyone mentioned the symbolism of the shape of a ring? A circle, it binds the finger. It holds the ring-bearer prisoner, symbolically. This suggests to me that a ring as a crafted Elvish item holds a different kind of power by virtue of being a ring, as opposed to lembas, elven rope, elven cloaks, silmarilli, phials, or what have you. That Elves made many items other than rings, as exampled above, bespeaks to me the significance and symbolism of the shape itself.
Then again, the only other ring in the books I can recall mention of is Finrod Felagund's, which he gave to Beren's father Barahir. There is no indication of when it was made, or why, though we are expressly told it did not confer any special abilities. It was much later given by the last king of Arnor, Arvedui, to the Snowmen of Forochel.

Quote:
This is a thing of worth beyond your reckoning. For its ancientry alone. It has no power, save the esteem in which those who hold it who love my house.
RoTK Appendix A

That Arvedui felt the need to clarify that that particular ring held no power seems significant. Did he assume the Snowmen knew of the Rings of Power? Or were indeed the 'lesser' rings that did have special properties commonly known to Men?
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Old 05-31-2012, 02:26 PM   #23
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Originally posted by Lalwendë:
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I don't think that any lesser rings would have possessed any great power as we know that it wasn't until Sauron in the guise of Annatar came along, that Celebrimbor managed to create the Three rings. And if you consider that the greater Rings all seemed to possess qualities specific to the three main races of Middle-earth, then these lesser/early rings may also have only been designed to work for the Elves who crafted them.
In "The Tale of Years" at the end of Return of the King it says:
Quote:
Second Age:
1200--Sauron endeavors to seduce the Eldar. Gil-galad refuses to treat with him; but the smiths of Eregion are won over.
1500--The Elven-smiths instructed by Sauron reach the height of their skill. They begin the forging of the Rings of Power.
1600--Sauron forges the One Ring in Orodruin. He completes the Barad-dur. Celebrimbor perceives the designs of Sauron.
So three-hundred years of instruction preceded the beginning of the work on the Great Rings which took another hundred years to complete, before Sauron forged the One to trap them. I think that in three-hundred years many lesser rings, or practice rings, were made under Sauron's tutelage and likely had ever improved skill and ever increasing power and scope.

It may also be significant that it specifies "the smiths" of Eregion, rather than "the elves" of Eregion. Perhaps these smiths were already making rings with some kind of power, or "magic" even before Sauron showed up. Maybe they did invent the idea after all, and Sauron merely guided their development in a direction of his choosing.

Legate of Amon Lanc: (just a little side note)
Quote:
Even the English word "propriety" does not denote something "correct", but simply something that belongs to someone.
This is true in a strict sense, but it does carries a connotation of something "correct," especially when considered against its opposite, "impropriety," as in, "The politician commited an act of impropriety by dating his secretary."


Originally posted by Legate of Amon Lanc:

Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88

Furthermore, with the Rings of Power (again excluding the One), Gandalf says "proper gem," which suggests the gem was instrumental, or in some way an important factor in the powers of the rings. For example, Vilya, the Ring of Air, was adorned with a sapphire.
(...)

So, I think there are clear connections between the Rings of Power and gems. The great Rings of Power, specifically having "each their proper gem."

I don't want to tangent too far away from the lesser rings, but is it too much speculation to say whatever purposes the lesser rings were made for, the maker did not set in the "proper gem." Or perhaps no gem at all? Then again, the One has no gem, and it is the most powerful Ring of the bunch; being a simple band of gold. I haven't the faintest clue where this leads the discussion, but I do think at least in ring-crafting (within the context of Middle-earth)...each having a gem is important to the rings' powers.
I think what you bring up are interesting thoughts about the Three (or possibly the rest of the Great Rings, or the Rings in general), that there might be something special about the stones chosen as well. However, while I agree with the positive interpretation (the proper stone can make the Ring fulfil its ultimate purpose in the best possible manner), I do not think it works in the negative way (if a Ring does not have its proper stone, something is wrong).
Originally posted by Formendacil:
Quote:
What crops up in my mind is this: in HoME X, aptly titled Morgoth's Ring, there is an essay where Tolkien compares Melkor's diffusion of his own power into the whole matter of Arda to Sauron's infusion of his power into the Ring, and Tolkien says that Sauron specifically used gold in the creation of the One Ring because it had, as an element or ore, particularly high amounts of Melkor-ness. Silver, on the other hand, is singled out as being one of the purest metals (I would speculate that, in a like manner, water could be assumed to be one of the purest elements of Arda's physical matter, and maybe the air of Manwë).
Learning to make rings is beginning to sound to me like learning to cook. For example, you can scoop out an avacado and mash the flesh and you have guacamole. But it'll turn brown in just a few minutes so you add some lime juice to stop the reaction. But it still tastes kinda bland, so you throw in some jalepino and onion and garlic and cilantro. But all the extra flavors make the buttery flavor of the avacado taste kinda watery so you stir in some sour cream. But the dairy mutes the heat of the jalapino so you add a spicier chile like cerrano or scotch bonnet. And so on and so on and so on . . .

So when making a ring do you use gold? or silver? or mithril or platinum or iron? Copper or brass or bronze or lead? Pure metal or alloy? Do you set it with diamond or ruby or saphire or emerald or maybe nothing at all? It becomes a whole alchemical world. And then then there is the personality of the ring-smith to consider. Sauron infused a part of himself into the One Ring. Celebrimbor did the same with the three, so we can guess that was part of the process. Two different ring-smiths could each make a ring that performed essentially the same kind of charm or effect, but one might need to use mithril and the other needed gold? And how much more commitment from these Elven-smiths would be required as this craft transitioned from rings of "enhancement" to rings of "control?"

Originally posted by littlemanpoet:
Quote:
Has anyone mentioned the symbolism of the shape of a ring? A circle, it binds the finger. It holds the ring-bearer prisoner, symbolically. This suggests to me that a ring as a crafted Elvish item holds a different kind of power by virtue of being a ring, as opposed to lembas, elven rope, elven cloaks, silmarilli, phials, or what have you. That Elves made many items other than rings, as exampled above, bespeaks to me the significance and symbolism of the shape itself.
Somewhere (I forget which book at the moment, perhaps someone else remembers) it says that the Elves put some of themselves into all they make. This is true of all art, whether on the page or the painting or the performance. When the artist bares his soul this honesty makes the subsequent art compelling and powerful in a way that cannot be faked or mechanically reproduced. Combining this naked honesty with the perfect circle, a symbol of binding and of eternity, of commitment, and the subsequent art would inevitably become a ring of power (at least some power.) It occurs to me that the simple invention of "magic" rings, considering the escalating commitment and subsequent escalating power involved, may well have been the beginning of the end for the elves in Middle-Earth, regardless of Sauron's influence. Perhaps the path he led them down was, after all, almost pre-ordained. He "enhanced" them to "control" them, but ended up destroying them instead. Only Celebrimbor, by creating the Three Rings of healing and preservation, seems to have provided any hope.
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Old 05-31-2012, 04:54 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88
In the mind of say Sauron (and at a later point Saruman), the lesser rings would be "toys" and "trifles" because they're not important to their ultimate goal of subjugation. These rings are insignificant, but it's interesting to me that Gandalf still appears to find ALL rings of power dangerous.
There's that phrase which Gandalf uses though: "to my mind", which suggests to me that this fear of what powers other rings may possess is a fear that Gandalf knows he is either alone or in a minority with. It may be that Gandalf is more than a bit spooked having direct experience of watching what use of the One Ring does to someone, and is therefore more worried than other are. The question here is whether he is justified in his caution. But he knows it's his opinion, and not a universal truth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
So three-hundred years of instruction preceded the beginning of the work on the Great Rings which took another hundred years to complete, before Sauron forged the One to trap them. I think that in three-hundred years many lesser rings, or practice rings, were made under Sauron's tutelage and likely had ever improved skill and ever increasing power and scope.

It may also be significant that it specifies "the smiths" of Eregion, rather than "the elves" of Eregion. Perhaps these smiths were already making rings with some kind of power, or "magic" even before Sauron showed up. Maybe they did invent the idea after all, and Sauron merely guided their development in a direction of his choosing.
I agree, given that expansive time frame, it's possible that some of these 'essays' might have been more powerful than expected. How long would it take to craft a ring (maybe the answer is similar to 'how long is a piece of string...')? Would a smith become suspicious should a ring, once made, possess unpleasant or dangerous properties?

I like the idea that Sauron came to Eregion in part to learn and improve on his own ring lore and ring making skills. Maybe watching how these items were made and thus working out how he might make one which surpassed all others. It fits nicely (in a metaphorical sense certainly, and perhaps more) with the appearance of the One Ring, which is a plain gold which only reveals its secret once plunged into fire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Not only in shape, but think of the ring's prominence in (at least western) human culture. It is the symbol of the promises/vows binding two people together in marriage. Thus, culturally, rings are linked to bondage, whether willing or forced.
And building from this, note how the Nine and the One seem to 'break' the bonds set by Eru on the body and spirit (hroa and fea) of Men in particular. With the Nine, the hroa fades away and with the One it temporarily disappears entirely. I'm still convinced, from everything I've read, that the way these rings work is by exposing the fea and thus the minds of Men who wear them to Sauron. The Elven rings work in a similar but more subtle and appropriate way.

On Morgoth, from Osanwe-Kenta:
Quote:
For he would come by stealth to a mind open and unwary, hoping to learn some part of its thought before it closed, and still more to implant in it his own thought, to deceive it and win it to his friendship.
And a little something on Sauron:
Quote:
his desire was to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance
Again, this is a quote from Osanwe-Kenta:
Quote:
And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.
"the lesser rings" - what does Tolkien mean, exactly, here?
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Old 05-31-2012, 05:30 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
There's that phrase which Gandalf uses though: "to my mind", which suggests to me that this fear of what powers other rings may possess is a fear that Gandalf knows he is either alone or in a minority with. It may be that Gandalf is more than a bit spooked having direct experience of watching what use of the One Ring does to someone, and is therefore more worried than other are. The question here is whether he is justified in his caution. But he knows it's his opinion, and not a universal truth.
This would be consistent with Gandalf's opinions about other things--the palantíri come to mind. Tolkien is quite clear in the essay on them in Unfinished Tales that Denethor, as Steward, had full right to use the Anor-stone, and that Aragorn had the same to use the Orthanc-stone; nonetheless, Gandalf sees it as highly dangerous to do so, and even cautions Aragorn (his closest collaborator in many respects, and possibly the Man he trusts most) about doing so.

This is, I would say, Gandalf's normal approach, and it makes him quite different from Saruman. Whereas Gandalf approaches such things with as little pride as possible, Saruman basically says "oooh, something I can use--let me test it to the fullness of its abilities, without regard for the possible consequences."

All of which is to say: I agree with lalwendë that a caution from Gandalf about the dangers of a "trifle" suggest that something like the Lesser Rings weren't so much evil as potentially dangerous--like, for example, a teenager with a motorcycle.
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Old 05-31-2012, 07:52 PM   #26
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Originally posted by Lalwende:
Quote:
There's that phrase which Gandalf uses though: "to my mind", which suggests to me that this fear of what powers other rings may possess is a fear that Gandalf knows he is either alone or in a minority with. It may be that Gandalf is more than a bit spooked having direct experience of watching what use of the One Ring does to someone, and is therefore more worried than other are. The question here is whether he is justified in his caution. But he knows it's his opinion, and not a universal truth.
It's possible his own ring gave him some extra insight on the matter, I suppose. We never hear Elrond's or Galadriel's opinions to compare it to, but I suspect you're right. Gandalf seems to do an awful lot of fretting. Maybe that's how he was able to stay true to his mission.

Originally posted by Formendacil:
Quote:
This would be consistent with Gandalf's opinions about other things--the palantíri come to mind. Tolkien is quite clear in the essay on them in Unfinished Tales that Denethor, as Steward, had full right to use the Anor-stone, and that Aragorn had the same to use the Orthanc-stone; nonetheless, Gandalf sees it as highly dangerous to do so, and even cautions Aragorn (his closest collaborator in many respects, and possibly the Man he trusts most) about doing so.
Good note about the Palantiri. He seems constantly worried about the people he cares about putting too much trust in, for lack of a better word, technology. Even the lesser rings could be a danger in the wrong hands, or hands too weak. And how would you know they were too weak, until they were tested. Like Pippin with the Palantir. After the fact, he must settle for "The burned hand teaches best," when he might have preferred "I told you so."


Originally posted by Formendacil:
Quote:
All of which is to say: I agree with lalwendë that a caution from Gandalf about the dangers of a "trifle" suggest that something like the Lesser Rings weren't so much evil as potentially dangerous--like, for example, a teenager with a motorcycle.
Of course, they could be both, at least in Gandalf's opinion.

Lalwende:
Quote:
And building from this, note how the Nine and the One seem to 'break' the bonds set by Eru on the body and spirit (hroa and fea) of Men in particular. With the Nine, the hroa fades away and with the One it temporarily disappears entirely.
I'm glad you pointed this out. The Great Rings gave indefinitely long life to their bearers. They delayed the Gift of Iluvatar, but the lesser rings did not, despite many of them being tainted with Sauron's influence.

Quote:
I'm still convinced, from everything I've read, that the way these rings work is by exposing the fea and thus the minds of Men who wear them to Sauron. The Elven rings work in a similar but more subtle and appropriate way.
In FotR, "Many Meetings,"Gandalf says:
Quote:
You were in gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in the wraith-world yourself, and they might have seized you. You could see them and they could see you.
And earlier, in "Flight to the Ford:"
Quote:
With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; and behind it ran small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared red in the grey mist that was falling over the world.
Somewhere later (I'm sorry, I forget where, and I can't seem to find it.) Frodo is told that this shining figure was Glorfindel as he appears on the other side because he came from over the sea, and was filled with the memory of the Undying Lands and I think that this memory never faded from those who ever once beheld it. I wonder if this is why Sauron was said the fear Galadriel. She was the only Elf left of any import to Sauron who had come from across the sea. Just a side-note I guess, perhaps a question for another thread, though it does fit in with your assessment of how the Great Rings worked. Perhaps the lesser rings provided a similar, though more limited, insight.

Quote:
Again, this is a quote from Osanwe-Kenta:


Quote:
And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.
"the lesser rings" - what does Tolkien mean, exactly, here?
Being deliberately vague, do you think?
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Old 06-01-2012, 07:48 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
This is, I would say, Gandalf's normal approach, and it makes him quite different from Saruman. Whereas Gandalf approaches such things with as little pride as possible, Saruman basically says "oooh, something I can use--let me test it to the fullness of its abilities, without regard for the possible consequences."

All of which is to say: I agree with lalwendë that a caution from Gandalf about the dangers of a "trifle" suggest that something like the Lesser Rings weren't so much evil as potentially dangerous--like, for example, a teenager with a motorcycle.
Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
It's possible his own ring gave him some extra insight on the matter, I suppose. We never hear Elrond's or Galadriel's opinions to compare it to, but I suspect you're right. Gandalf seems to do an awful lot of fretting. Maybe that's how he was able to stay true to his mission.
And to be fair on Saruman, he is one of Aule's people, so I'd expect him to find objects and fiddle with them to see what they can do. Maybe if he had not used the Palantir quite so much, he would have come up with some interesting solutions to the problems of Middle-earth. Gandalf is quite the opposite - and much of the story of Lord of the Rings comprises of people doing things that Gandalf would rather they didn't do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
Quote:
With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; and behind it ran small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared red in the grey mist that was falling over the world.
Somewhere later (I'm sorry, I forget where, and I can't seem to find it.) Frodo is told that this shining figure was Glorfindel as he appears on the other side because he came from over the sea, and was filled with the memory of the Undying Lands and I think that this memory never faded from those who ever once beheld it. I wonder if this is why Sauron was said the fear Galadriel. She was the only Elf left of any import to Sauron who had come from across the sea. Just a side-note I guess, perhaps a question for another thread, though it does fit in with your assessment of how the Great Rings worked. Perhaps the lesser rings provided a similar, though more limited, insight.
Good find!

Frodo can see the Riders, obviously, and Glorfindel - who possesses something extra in his 'fea' because he has been across the Sea. What are the 'small shadowy forms waving flames'?

Perhaps this is why Galadriel would be such an incredibly powerful leader if she had taken the One ring - if she also possesses the same intensity of Light that Glorfindel does, then if she was in control of Sauron's ring then she would be truly terrifying. This also brings me back to the discussion about 'proper' stones in the Elven rings as Nenya has the 'white' stone. It seems to possess qualities not just of water but also of Light. So it was not just the 'proper' stone for the ring, but also the correct/proper stone for Galadriel.
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Old 06-01-2012, 08:00 AM   #28
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What are the 'small shadowy forms waving flames'?
I believe the text (which I still can't find) explains them to be Aragorn and the Hobbits, following Glorfindel's lead to drive the Nazgul into the flood.

Quote:
Perhaps this is why Galadriel would be such an incredibly powerful leader if she had taken the One ring - if she also possesses the same intensity of Light that Glorfindel does, then if she was in control of Sauron's ring then she would be truly terrifying. This also brings me back to the discussion about 'proper' stones in the Elven rings as Nenya has the 'white' stone. It seems to possess qualities not just of water but also of Light. So it was not just the 'proper' stone for the ring, but also the correct/proper stone for Galadriel.
Good point. Even for the members of the Fellowship that didn't have a ring, Galadriel seemed to exude a special "charisma" that is similar to Glorfindel, but lacking even in Elrond.
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Old 06-01-2012, 10:16 AM   #29
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I believe Gandalf fills in Frodo's gaps in memory from Frodo's bedside just after he wakes up.
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Old 06-01-2012, 10:35 AM   #30
Lalwendë
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Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Thanks for that! Located it and have copied it here:

Quote:
'When the Ringwraiths swept by, your friends ran up behind. Close to the Ford there is a small hollow beside the road masked by a few stunted trees. There they hastily kindled fire; for Glorfindel knew that a flood would come down, if the Riders tried to cross, and then he would have to deal with any that were left on his side of the river. The moment the flood appeared, he rushed out, followed by Aragorn and the others with flaming brands. Caught between fire and water, and seeing an Elf-lord revealed in his wrath, they were dismayed, and their horses were stricken with madness.
This is also relevant:
Quote:
You were in gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in
the wraith-world yourself, and they might have seized you. You could see them, and they could see you.'
'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 robes that they wear to give shape to their nothingness when they have dealings with the living.'
Yet it was the 'Morgul-blade' that was almost the cause of Frodo becoming a wraith, not the Ring, though that helped the Ringwraiths to hurt him. Again, an artefact with magic of some kind wrought into it? Or just a blade which inflicted a terrible injury, but with the consequence that as a Ringbearer he would become a wraith rather than die?
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Old 06-01-2012, 05:10 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Yet it was the 'Morgul-blade' that was almost the cause of Frodo becoming a wraith, not the Ring, though that helped the Ringwraiths to hurt him. Again, an artefact with magic of some kind wrought into it? Or just a blade which inflicted a terrible injury, but with the consequence that as a Ringbearer he would become a wraith rather than die?
There is no indication that a wound from a ‘Morgul-knife’ with pieces of the blade within would have gradually changed only a Ring bearer into a wraith. It seems to me likely enough that if the leader of the Ringwraiths had stabbed Sam, or Merry, or Pippin, or Aragorn, the same thing would have happened to that person.

The part word morgul- means ‘black magic’ (mor ‘black’ + gűl ‘evil sorcery’).

Possibly because Frodo was a Ring-bearer he had increased susceptibility to a morgűl wound. Or possibly the Ring actually helped Frodo to resist the enchantment. We are not told either way. Aragorn’s athelas helped, but some fragments of the blade had gotten in too deep for Aragorn to find them.

But a knife that was otherwise normal but inflicted a horrible wound would probably not be called ‘Morgul-’ by Gandalf, its blade would not have vanished away in the light, and Aragorn and Glorfindel both would not have been so concerned. Glorfrindel in particular refers to signs written on the surviving hilt which he doubts the others can see but which are evil.
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Old 06-03-2012, 12:10 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Yet it was the 'Morgul-blade' that was almost the cause of Frodo becoming a wraith, not the Ring, though that helped the Ringwraiths to hurt him. Again, an artefact with magic of some kind wrought into it? Or just a blade which inflicted a terrible injury, but with the consequence that as a Ringbearer he would become a wraith rather than die?
Quote:
Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
There is no indication that a wound from a ‘Morgul-knife’ with pieces of the blade within would have gradually changed only a Ring bearer into a wraith. It seems to me likely enough that if the leader of the Ringwraiths had stabbed Sam, or Merry, or Pippin, or Aragorn, the same thing would have happened to that person.

The part word morgul- means ‘black magic’ (mor ‘black’ + gűl ‘evil sorcery’).

Possibly because Frodo was a Ring-bearer he had increased susceptibility to a morgűl wound. Or possibly the Ring actually helped Frodo to resist the enchantment. We are not told either way. Aragorn’s athelas helped, but some fragments of the blade had gotten in too deep for Aragorn to find them.

But a knife that was otherwise normal but inflicted a horrible wound would probably not be called ‘Morgul-’ by Gandalf, its blade would not have vanished away in the light, and Aragorn and Glorfindel both would not have been so concerned. Glorfrindel in particular refers to signs written on the surviving hilt which he doubts the others can see but which are evil.
The "Morgul-blade", I have always believed is simply called after Minas Morgul, the "capital city of the Ringwraith", so it would be the place of its making (or the place where it "comes from" in the eyes of the outside world). But of course that does not dismiss the fact that Morgul does mean "black sorcery", and of course that is where the name of Minas Morgul (or Imlad Morgul) comes from.

But yes, the essential part is correct: the blade would have made anyone a Wraith in time. We are told about the shard that remained inside Frodo for a long time, and was traveling towards his heart. But I think the Ring sped up the process. Simply put: if somebody keeps wearing the Ring for long, he starts fading. If someone is stabbed by a Morgul-Blade, he starts fading. This is just adding the two of them together.

For reference, emphasis mine:
Quote:
Originally Posted by LotR, Book II, Chapter I: Many Meetings
"Elrond is a master of healing, but the weapons of our Enemy are deadly. To tell you the truth, I had very little hope; for I suspected that there was some fragment of the blade still in the closed wound. But it could not be found until last night. Then Elrond removed a splinter. It was deeply buried, and it was working inwards."
Frodo shuddered, remembering the cruel knife with notched blade that had vanished in Strider's hands. "Don't be alarmed!" said Gandalf. "It is gone now. It has been melted. And it seems that Hobbits fade very reluctantly. I have known strong warriors of the Big People who would quickly have been overcome by that splinter, which you bore for seventeen days."
"What would they have done to me?" asked Frodo. "What were the Riders trying to do?"
"They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command."
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Old 06-06-2012, 11:24 AM   #33
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littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Makes one wonder how many weak wraiths were skulking around Mordor or elsewhere.
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Old 06-06-2012, 12:20 PM   #34
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Makes one wonder how many weak wraiths were skulking around Mordor or elsewhere.
I am pretty sure there are several topics about it... I recall participating in at least one such discussion, if not more. But I think the Morgul-blades (especially if they were "destroyed upon use" type of weapons) were usually used only in special circumstances, against special enemies... not a thing you'd waste on everyone just to make an army of small wraiths... after all, the process of making the blades probably was not so simple...
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Old 06-06-2012, 01:23 PM   #35
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littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Good point.
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Old 06-06-2012, 04:23 PM   #36
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Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
This makes me wonder if the blade was kept for specific use upon the Ringbearer once he was found. Presumably the Ringwraiths would know that such a weapon would fade once used, so it wouldn't be whipped out just to use on any common or garden enemy?

Have we gone too far off topic yet?
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Old 06-06-2012, 04:43 PM   #37
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From The War of the Jewels (HOME 10), page 383:
In S. the word gűl (equivalent to Q ńóle) had less laudatory associations, being used mostly of secret knowledge especially such as possessed by artificers who made wonderful things; and the word became further darkened by its frequent use in the compound morgul ‘black arts’, applied to the delusory or perilous arts and knowledge derived from Morgoth.
This explanation suggests, but does not prove, that when Gandalf uses the term “Morgul-knife”, he is referring to the knife being a knife of black magic rather than to it being made in Minas Morgul. Of course Gandalf might have meant both at once.
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Old 06-07-2012, 07:50 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
From The War of the Jewels (HOME 10), page 383:
In S. the word gűl (equivalent to Q ńóle) had less laudatory associations, being used mostly of secret knowledge especially such as possessed by artificers who made wonderful things; and the word became further darkened by its frequent use in the compound morgul ‘black arts’, applied to the delusory or perilous arts and knowledge derived from Morgoth.
This explanation suggests, but does not prove, that when Gandalf uses the term “Morgul-knife”, he is referring to the knife being a knife of black magic rather than to it being made in Minas Morgul. Of course Gandalf might have meant both at once.
Of course he meant both at once, but I think only because the place name "Morgul" is derived from the word for sorcery.

Also, a sort of "technical" note, even though the HOME offers many sources and notes on background of many things, the title "Morgul-knife", as we speak of it, is used within the context of LotR, where basically the only use of the word "Morgul" is with capital "M" and it is a toponym, the name of either Imlad or Minas Morgul (and derived terms, like captain of Morgul-hosts etc.). It is pretty clear that when somebody is talking about for example "Lieutenant of Morgul", "Morgul-host" or "Morgul-road", he does not mean "Lieutenant of black sorcery" or "army of black sorcery" or even less "Road of black sorcery", but the captain of/army/road belonging to/leading to the particular place. There is no reason to think about the knives otherwise.

Of course the meaning of the word is "dark sorcery" (as one can look it up also e.g. in the short Elven dictionary in Silmarillion, no need to go as far as HOME), and of course upon hearing the name, a person who knows Elvish would get both the connections in his mind. But there is no reason for Gandalf to speak of "Morgul-knife" in front of Frodo, who, even though he knows Elvish, would probably be rather confused at hearing that. If "Morgul-knife" really meant just "knife of dark sorcery", Gandalf could say just that: "You were hit with a cursed blade," perhaps elaborating a bit on that. It would just seem a lot unlike Gandalf to use the Elvish word "morgul" so randomly (as it seems to me) instead of just saying "sorcery" (as a more easily understandable equivalent, if the situation was like you say it was), since Gandalf is not the type of person who would enjoy using complicated terms when there is no reason to use them. In other words, it is as if a doctor-Gandalf told recovered Frodo: "you are suffering from supracondylar fracture of distal humerus" instead of "you broke your arm". I believe real Gandalf would rather use the second formulation.
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Old 06-07-2012, 11:14 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Also, a sort of "technical" note, even though the HOME offers many sources and notes on background of many things, the title "Morgul-knife", as we speak of it, is used within the context of LotR, where basically the only use of the word "Morgul" is with capital "M" and it is a toponym, the name of either Imlad or Minas Morgul (and derived terms, like captain of Morgul-hosts etc.). It is pretty clear that when somebody is talking about for example "Lieutenant of Morgul", "Morgul-host" or "Morgul-road", he does not mean "Lieutenant of black sorcery" or "army of black sorcery" or even less "Road of black sorcery", but the captain of/army/road belonging to/leading to the particular place. There is no reason to think about the knives otherwise.
That is not clear to me.

Quote:
Of course the meaning of the word is "dark sorcery" (as one can look it up also e.g. in the short Elven dictionary in Silmarillion, no need to go as far as HOME), and of course upon hearing the name, a person who knows Elvish would get both the connections in his mind. But there is no reason for Gandalf to speak of "Morgul-knife" in front of Frodo, who, even though he knows Elvish, would probably be rather confused at hearing that.
I went as far as HOME because the HOME reference is fuller.

Quote:
If "Morgul-knife" really meant just "knife of dark sorcery", Gandalf could say just that: "You were hit with a cursed blade," perhaps elaborating a bit on that. It would just seem a lot unlike Gandalf to use the Elvish word "morgul" so randomly (as it seems to me) instead of just saying "sorcery" (as a more easily understandable equivalent, if the situation was like you say it was), since Gandalf is not the type of person who would enjoy using complicated terms when there is no reason to use them. In other words, it is as if a doctor-Gandalf told recovered Frodo: "you are suffering from supracondylar fracture of distal humerus" instead of "you broke your arm". I believe real Gandalf would rather use the second formulation.
Yes, Gandalf could say that. But he said “Morgul”.

And next chapter the word Morgul-spells appears. And just previously occurs:
And on a time evil things came forth and they took Minas Ithil and abode in it, and they made it into a place of dread and it is called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery.
I need of course have only gone to that place to indicate that Morgul means ‘Sorcery’. The toponym is Minas Morgul, not just Morgul.

Whether morgul was a reasonably familiar word to Frodo in its basic meaning or not at the time is not clearly indicated one way of the other in The Lord of the Rings. And whether the place name Minas Morgul was known to Frodo before the Council of Elrond is not clearly indicated one way or the other in The Lord of the Rings.

If Frodo knew the word morgul from other occurrences than Minas Morgul than your claim that Gandalf would have been using excessively technical vocabulary if he meant morgul in its primary sense is only special pleading.

Frodo obviously did know much about the earlier history of his world that does not come out in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf earlier mentions rumors of Sauron that Frodo has previously heard, but that the reader has not. According to Sam in an earlier passage Frodo knows that many Elves are not sailing into the West to never to return, but this is the first time in either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings where there is any mention that Elves (except long ago) ever sailed to the West.

Frodo, in the same chapter, does not realize that the Rangers are the surviving remnant in the North of the “race of the Kings from over the Sea” although he knows somewhat of those people. Presumably Frodo knew that these people came to Middle-earth from an island now sunk into the Sea, but the reader does not get a hint of this until a conversation between Faramir and Éowyn in “The Steward and the King” in The Return of the King and must go to the Appendices for a fuller account.

If even Sam knows about Gil-galad from Bilbo’s teaching, Frodo must have be understood to know much more. Frodo even knows enough Elvish to speak a few words to Gildor in casual conversation.

That for Gandalf to use the word morgul in its primary meaning would be use a word too technical for Frodo to understand is a doubtful proposition. That when the word first appears it is too technical for the reader to understand, even if it means Morgul in Minas Morgul, is quite true. The reader has not yet encountered Minas Morgul. When the reader does it is immediately explained that Morgul means ‘Sorcery’.

Of course, when concerned with the warriors of Minas Morgul and its immediately surroundings, the word morgul is used topologically. Yet the word tirith is not so used in reference to the warriors and surroundings of Minas Tirith. Perhaps it is because the basic meaning of morgul lies closer to the surface and the meaning fits because old Minas Ithil and its surroundings are now a place of black sorcery.

There is no reason to believe that Gandalf did or did not intend Morgul- to mean ‘black sorcery’, ‘the Tower of Minas Morgul’, or both at once.
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Old 06-07-2012, 12:20 PM   #40
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The Eye Morgul

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Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
That is not clear to me.

There is no reason to believe that Gandalf did or did not intend Morgul- to mean ‘black sorcery’, ‘the Tower of Minas Morgul’, or both at once.
It seems clear to me that Gandalf knows the language and thus the meaning of the word.
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