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Assignment 12
Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age


The preceding chapter, the Akallabeth, covered the events of the Second Age with regards to the Numenorians. During the Second Age, however, much also occurred in Middle Earth. After the defeat of Morgoth, Gil-galad became High King of the Noldor, and taking the survivors of the sunken Beleriand, he founded a new realm at Mithlond, the Grey Havens. Others, too, Teleri of Doriath and Ossiriand, travelled East and formed realms of their own among the Silven Elves of Middle Earth.

At this time also, the city of Ost-in-Edhil was also founded by the Noldor in Eregion. Here the Gwaith-i-Mirdain (the People of the Jewel-smiths) came, and they befriended the Dwarves of Khazad-dum. Celebrimbor, grandson of Feanor, led these Elves, and great craftsmen they became.

After the defeat of Morgoth, Sauron hid himself in Middle Earth, but it was not long before he attempted to subvert the Men and Elves. Still able to take fair form, he called himself Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and offered to share much knowledge with the Elves. In Mithlond, Gil-galad and Elrond were wise enough to have no dealings with him, but in Ost-in-Edhil he was readily welcomed. Under his teachings and guidance, the Gwaith-i-Mirdain proceeded to create the Rings of Power, among some of the greatest artefacts ever made.

Sauron, however, had betrayed the Elves, and in secret he forged the One Ring, placing much of his own strength and will into it. With this ring, made to rule the others, he could perceive all the things done with the other rings, as well as governing the very thoughts of those who wielded them. In this way he had hoped to control the Elves, but the Elves were not so easily deceived. Aware of him immediately he placed the One Ring upon his finger, they took off their own rings and managed to hide three of them from him.

Angry his plan had been foiled, Sauron then made war upon the Elves, destroying Ost-in-Edhil and slaying Celebrimbor. Capturing 16 of the rings, he then gave seven to the Dwarves and nine to Men, but of the last three to be made, he could not find. Of those given to the Dwarves, he found he had little control for the Dwarves were highly resistant to his magic, but of those given to Men, he had far greater control. Under his domination, their wielders eventually turned to shadow, becoming Ringwraiths, the Nazgul.

During this time, Sauron managed to overrun much of Eriador, but he was unable to assail Gil-galad who was aided by the Numenorians. Bringing a great army to the aid of the Elven king, Tar-Minastir managed to defeat Sauron’s forces and drove them out of Eriador. For fifteen centuries there was a watchful peace within Middle Earth, during which time several Numenorian ports and cites were built along the coasts, but by guile, Sauron eventually managed to do what he failed to achieve with strength of force.

Assailed by a huge Numenorian army, he allowed himself to be captured without a fight, and was taken back to Numenor as a hostage. As was seen in the previous assignment, it was not long before he then managed to corrupt the Numenorians, causing their downfall by encouraging them to invade Valinor. Not all the Numenorians were destroyed with the sinking of their island, however, for nine ships of the Faithful made it to the shores of Middle Earth. There, their leaders, Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anarion, became kings, founding the realms of Arnor in the North and Gondor in the South.

After many years, Sauron again made war. He took Isildur’s city of Minas Ithil, but before he could advance further, a Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed. Led by Gil-galad and Elendil, this army was the greatest seen in Middle Earth since that of the Last Battle when the Valar had defeated Morgoth. Driving Sauron back to Mordor, they besieged his stronghold for seven years, until he eventually came out onto the field himself to combat his foes. There, he battled with Gil-galad and Elendil, slaying them both before falling himself.

Taking the shards of his father’s sword, Narsil, Isildur then cut the ring from Sauron’s hand, causing Sauron’s spirit to be vanquished. Isildur, however, refused to listen to the council of Elrond and Cirdan, who urged him to destroy the One Ring. Had he done so, Sauron would have been vanquished forever, but instead he took it for his own.

With the defeat of Sauron the Second Age passed into the Third Age, but Isisldur’s victory was short lived. Travelling North to his father’s old realm of Arnor, his force was ambushed by orcs at the Gladden Fields. Here Isildur, three of his sons and almost all of their men were slain, while the One Ring was lost in the Anduin. Only three men survived this massacre, one of them returning the shards of Narsil to Elrond at Rivendell.

The Third Age saw many battles both in the North and the South, the kingdom of Arnor eventually falling, while the people of Gondor became weaker after mixing their blood with lesser men. In time the line of the Gondorian kings was also broken, but guarded in secret by Elrond, the line of the Northern kings remained intact. Throughout this time the One Ring remained lost, allowing the three remaining elven rings to be used.

Around TA 1100 an evil power, believed to be a Nazgul, is discovered to be hiding in Dol Guldur but it is almost a thousand years before it is realised it is Sauron returned. Gandalf manages to drive Sauron into the East in TA 2063, but in TA 2460 he returns again. In TA 2850 Gandalf again enters Dol Guldur and discovers Sauron to be there, but Saruman overrules his council to attack the stronghold. Unbeknown to the other members of the White Council, Saruman by then had a desire to posses the One Ring for himself, and believed it would reveal itself should Sauron remain in Dol Guldur. What no one realised, however, was that 400 years earlier the ring had been discovered and hidden by Smeagol.

In TA 2941, after realising Sauron’s servants were searching the Gladden Fields for the ring themselves, Saruman assented to an attack on Dol Guldur. Sauron, however, had long planned for this moment and slipped back to Mordor, where his Nazgul had been long preparing the stronghold for him.

As is told in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the ring was eventually found by the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and later passed to his nephew Frodo. With the aid of Gandalf and the heir of the kings of the Northern realm, Aragorn, it was then taken to Mordor and finally destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, where it had first been made.

Questions for Discussion

1) Using his Ruling Ring, Sauron was able to control the wielders of all the other rings. How do you suppose he was able to control the wielders of the three Elven rings when he had played no part in their making?

2) In creating his Ruling Ring, Sauron placed much of his own power into it. How did this compare with how his master, Morgoth, had behaved in the First Age?

3) Generally when a king dies with no heir, the closest relation with the strongest claim becomes king. Why do you suppose Gondor took no king after the death of their last king, being ruled in his stead by the line of Stewards?

4) What sort of powers did the three Elven rings possess? What does this tell you of Celebrimbor?

5) What do you suppose would have happened if a mortal had been the wielder of one of the three elven rings?

6) Narya had been given to Cirdan for its safekeeping. Why do you suppose he passed it up so readily to Gandalf on first meeting him, when he had not given it to Saruman? Why also did Galadriel want Gandalf to lead the White Council?

7) Is it just coincidence that the two greatest enemies of the Third Age, Sauron and Saruman, were both servants of Aule?

8) How was Gandalf the Grey different to Gandalf the White?
Well as I close in on my (gasp) 200th post, there's no better place to start than in my favorite thread, the one and only The Silmarillion reading group here at PT!

In regards to question #6, Cirdan gave up Narya so readily to Mithrandir because Cirdan being by far one of the wisest Elves ever to live, was the only one who knew at first who the Istari were, where they came from, and why they had been sent. Cirdan revealed this information to Elrond and Galadriel only. Here is a quote from page 365 where Cirdan gives Mithrandir Narya;
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Take now this Ring, for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is The Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill.
Gandalf was the closest in counsel with Elrond, and the Elves, and I think this fact along with Cirdan’s incredible powers of perception (since he was obviously aware of the tasks placed before Gandalf, and since he probably also perceived that something was amiss with Curunir) were the reasons that Cirdan entrusted the ring to Gandalf, and not to Saurman. One other thing I would like to add (and I realize this might be jumping the gun, but since I’m just starting to read UT for the first time, I’ll mention this as well) is a short quote from page 406 in Unfinished Tales;
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But Cirdan from their first meeting at the Grey Havens divined in him the greatest spirit and the wisest; and he welcomed him with reverence, and he gave to his keeping the Third Ring, Narya the Red.


Galadriel I think wanted Gandalf to be the head of the White Council essentially for alot of the same reasons that Cirdan had entrusted Gandalf to the safekeeping of Narya. Again, it was because Gandalf was the closest in council with Elrond and the rest of the Elves, because he was the most vigilant, and because I believe that Galadriel being as powerful as she was, also perceived that Gandalf was the greater and wiser spirit, and that he had been sent with the higher purpose. I also think it very likely that after a while, she also perceived that something was amiss with Saurman, although due to his power, he did a good job of hiding his true intentions even from the wisest for a long time.
Elf Smilie

Nice answer, Elfstone. What I was actually wondering myself when I wrote the question, was whether Cirdan and Galadriel actually recognised Gandalf from before when he was Olorin? Manwe chose Olorin, among other reasons, because he had spent so much time with the elves whom he loved so much. He spent a lot of time in Lorien, but it does not say anywhere that he had not been to Middle Earth prior to becoming and Istari. Galadriel would almost certainly have met him at some stage in Valinor, and Cirdan may well have done in Beleriand.
As for question 6, I totally agree with Elfstone and Val, however I prefered to think of it this way:
The wise recognise the wise, the good recognised the good. In other words they recognised their kind or better put, people of the same nature as them. Therefore Cirdan was able to "divine" Olorin from Gandalf. And even if they did meet Gandalf in Valinor, Gandalf and that time did not take any visible form among them. (I think...) and therefore, it requires both wisdom and perception on them to be able to know Olorin was Gandalf.
I have an answer for #3. I think it was because, when the king left, he left the steward in charge until he came back. The king never came back, so the line of stewards just kept on holding their place. Smile Smilie Eventually Aragorn came back, but only after many years. At least, that's what I always thought!



[Edited on 14/5/2003 by Beleg_Strongbow]
Very true, Beleg. I kinda forgot about that too. The last King of Gondor was Earnur and he had no wife and thus no children as he reveled in combat and other manly stuff before he went to get killed by the witch-king. Therefore the steward ruled in his name but not in his place as Earnur did not exactly leave a kin.
Hi Beleg, welcome both to Planet Tolkien and to our Discussion group here.

You answer to question 3 is correct in that the Steward was left in charge in the King's absence until he returned. This is a tradition I believe first started during the reign of Isildur when it was the Steward's duty to pass on a scroll, known as the "Tradition of Isildur", an item containing the secrets of the realm and other information a new King would need. This would be passed on before the new king was crowned, and the duty was known only to the King and his Steward.

In this way, the Steward became responsible for the realm in the King's absence, whether the king be dead or away on some business (eg. war). It was thus held that the Steward held all the rights and duties of the King "until the Great King returns". In this later statement, the Stewards judged the words to mean someone who was an heir of Elendil.

Mardil, who became the first Ruling Steward, judged that as the line of stewards was also hereditory, this rule in the King's stead should also continue until the true heir returned. As no true heir was known to exist at that time, it was deemed unlikely to ever happen, but the Stewards, through tradition, never sat on the throne or called themselves Kings.

So that is a brief history of how Gondor came to be ruled by Stewards. I think had things occurred differently, however, and the last king, Earnur, had died in the palace, the succession may have been different. Because Earnur disappeared, however, and many thought he was being held captive by the Witchking, they could not crown someone else as king until his death was confirmed. By then, however, the Stewards were in power and any bid for succession would cause strife among the Dunedain in determining who should be rightfully King.
As for question 6, I guess that you may be wrong to say that Sauron has no part in its making. As it can be assumed that Celebrimbor learned or may have been taught some of his craft of rings by Sauron himself. Even if he is not taught by Sauron himself, He may have been influenced or taught by his comrades who are under the apprenticeship of Sauron. So therefore, Celebrimbor works, too have Saurons craft of rings in it. You can call it the "style" of making it. And therefore a part of Sauron's work in it. And Since Sauron made his rings to control all the other rings, which he had a part in making, I guess it is possible that the three rings could be controlled.
I assume you are refering to question 1, MadWannabe.

That is how I interpreted things too. The Three Elven Rings were forged by Celebrimbor alone, but he would have been using technics taught to him by Sauron. These rings are obviously not normal rings and can be assumed to require complex spells/rituals etc in their making. I'm guessing some of these spells/rituals or whatever else they are, may be somewhat beyond Celebrimbor's own understanding to fully comprehend.

I think he was well enough versed by Sauron to successfully follow the procedure of forging a ring, but maybe did not fully understand the full potential of what he was doing. To better understand what I am trying to explain, compare the forging of the rings with the modern day use of a PC. You can run your PC, instal programs and connect to the Net etc, just as Celebrimbor could forge the rings, but most people are unable to then fully understand what is occuring within the programming of their PC. Just as there is potential for Mr Bill Gates to instal controlling programs withing any Microsoft product, there was the danger Sauron had cleverly hidden controlling magics within the rituals and procedures he had taught Celebrimbor. Without fully understanding the procedures he was following, he could quite easily have introduced these without ever being the wiser.
Yikes! Yep, you are right I meant question 1... Tongue Smilie
And about Valedhelgwath's point on that Celebrimbor not fully understanding what he was doing is an angle I have not realised before...but I would like to add a point that Sauron did not neccesarily need to conceal controling magics in it, but he may be able to fully utilise the ring weakness, as he was the technically the "creator" as they may use his techniques....like he is the main computer and the others are just extensions of it...and therefore needed much of Sauron's power in forging it.
And about question 2, my preliminary anaylsis of it could only come up with the fact that Sauron use his power much the same way as Morgoth...they attempt to corrupt using their power. As can be read, Sauron has the ring of power which all his power was in, while Morgoth had Middle-Earth which was his ring. Both rings in this corrupt all and make them well "fall-from-grace" in a manner of speaking. They both seek to control and corrupt as can be seen with Sauron with the elves and Morgoth with well....all races and even Maiar. That is all I can think of now. Smile Smilie
One thing to think about--Sauron was second to Morgoth only in the fact that he served another. If Sauron had won the War of the Ring, would he have strived to bring back Morgoth? Or would he have just kept the ultimate power?

And as to question 5--I don't think a mortal could have wielded one of the elven rings without it having some sort of negative effect. Although Gandalf's ring gave men courage if I remember right (which I may not be, since my memory is the size of a goldfish Smile Smilie ), I think the power and responsibility that came with it would be to much for a mere mortal.

Wasn't there something in the Fellowship (in the second chapter, I think) about mortals who wore the rings? Gandalf said if they used them enough they would disappear. Would that apply to the elven rings?

And one more thing--Annatar was very deceptive, and I don't think that any knew what he actually was. The ringwearers and the forgers didn't see anything wrong--it was Annatar, not Sauron the evil Maiar.

[Edited on 22/5/2003 by Beleg_Strongbow]
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Wasn't there something in the Fellowship (in the second chapter, I think) about mortals who wore the rings? Gandalf said if they used them enough they would disappear. Would that apply to the elven rings?
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'... 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.'

'A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later—later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last—sooner or later the dark power will devour him.'

- FotR about 7 pages into 'The Shadow of the Past'
As the three Elven rings were also Great Rings, I think we can take Gandalf's above statement at face value.
Just thinking about it...if the Nine Rings given to mortal men were Great Rings as well, would that be why the Nazgul are invisible--because they used the rings so much?
1) The whole point of Sauron making the ring so powerful was so he was able to control the others (esp. the Elven rings Nenya, Narya and Vilya)/ I’m unsure to the ‘scientific method’ so to speak by which Sauron controlled the other rings. Tolkien in the foreword to LoTR comments on Saruman, if LoTR was a allegorical reference to WW2 ‘learning the lost secrets of making the ring/s of power.

2) Tolkien comments on this in Myths Transformed (HoME 12)

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Eventually he squandered his power (of being) in the endeavour to gain control of others
Myths Transformed (HoME 12)

The he here is Sauron and Tolkien is comparing his creation of the ruling ring to Morgoth’s dispersment of his power. They are very similar in many ways. By creating the Ruling Ring, Sauron offered the peoples of M-E one effective way in which he could be rendered completely impotent, however small the possibility was. Yet there was also some element of 'wisdom' if you want, in it. The chance of it being destroyed was nigh on impossible, and the creation of the ring meant that Sauron could not be slain like say a Balrog or other Maia as even though he was incarnate, as long as the ring existed, then he did. Of course there is the possibility of being enslaved, as Tolkien comments on in the Foreword to LoTR and The Letters, but only a very powerful force was able to enslave Sauron, and in M-E the only ones who could do that were Gandalf and Saruman, and they didn't appear until 1,000 T.A (or near there) but Sauron had a low opinion of them:

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It would appear that he interpreted the 'change of the world' at the Downfall of Numenor, when Aman was removed from the physical world, in this sense: Valar (and Elves) were removed from effective control, and Men under God's curse and wrath. If he thought about the Istari, especially Saruman and Gandalf, he imagined them as emissaries from the Valar, seeking to establish their lost power again and 'colonize' Middle-earth, as a mere effort of defeated imperialists (without) knowledge or sanction of Eru). His cynicism, which (sincerely) regarded the motives of Manwe as precisely the same as his own, seemed fully justified in Saruman. Gandalf he did not understand. But certainly he had already become evil, and therefore stupid, enough to imagine that his different behaviour was due simply to weaker intelligence and lack of firm masterful purpose. He was only a rather cleverer Radagast cleverer because it is more profitable (more productive of power) to become absorbed in the study of people than of animal
Myths Transformed (HoME 12)

Of course Morgoth’s decimation of power into Arda and his servants was very unwise and it allowed for him to have to adopt a psychical form, so he could be destroyed, and his psychical body was executed by Namo and he fled into the void ,waiting till he could grow stronger. Yet his influence in Arda meant it would forever be marred, as opposed as to the paradise it once could and should have been and all things born into M-E were tainted due to his malice. Maybe he would have latter on viewed this as worthwhile?

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3) Generally when a king dies with no heir, the closest relation with the strongest claim becomes king. Why do you suppose Gondor took no king after the death of their last king, being ruled in his stead by the line of Stewards?



You must remember there was NO full blood heir of Anarion in Gondor, the Dunedain were big on full blooded descendants of the King coming to power (the kinstrife as a example, Eldacar having Northmen blood in him, which caused some disruption in Gondor, also see the Akallabeth (U.T) for the pressure for only full blooded descendants of Elros being in power). The fact that Arvedui, had had his claim rejected, by the lords of Gondor, must have angered the Arnorian descendants of Isildur, even though through Firiel, daughter of Onodhir they were by right descendants of both Isildur and Anarion, yet Denethor is quite dismissive of Aragorn’s claim and scorns the descendants of Isildur, when he is talking about Gandalf plotting his overthrow, but by this time the Gondorians were desperate for a King.

4) They didn't have any powers for 'war' as is stated by Elrond in the Council of Elrond but to preserve. The Eldar didn't want to fade and the rings were made to slow down this fading for a time by halting 'time' so to speak.

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The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention of the slowing of decay ( i.e. change, viewed as a regrettable thing) the preservation of what is desired or loved-or it's semblance-this is more or less the Elvish motive
Letter 131 and used in preface for 99' Quenta Silmarillion

The Elvish desire for a slowing of growth/decay was in many ways selfish as Tolkien comments elsewhere.

I think Celebrimbor was a very tragic character, he was certainly wise, I don’t know if this was in Unfinished Tales or the Grey Annals (HoME 11) but Tolkien comments on him loving Finrod and being like his mother (unnamed) rather then the villainous Curufin.

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5) What do you suppose would have happened if a mortal had been the wielder of one of the three elven rings


The 'Three Rings' IMO ,were not useful for mortals, but could only be used/appreciated by Men (Or Dwarves) because of their natures.

6. Cirdan is mentioned in Last Writings (HoME 12) to be the most foresighted of all the Elves, and this probably effected his judgement. He sensed Gandalf as being a figure of immense wisdom and more wise then Saruman and gave the ring to him because of this. Galadriel prolly thought the same, since she was a figure of immense wisdom, and though they may not have thought Saruman was evil they may have sensed Gandalf was wiser remember he was Olorin wisest of the Maia.

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But Cirdan from the first meeting at the Grey Havens divined in him the greatest spirit and wisest; and he welcomed him with reverence, and he gave to his keeping.Narya
The Istari; Unfinished Tales

8) Gandalf, was sent back by Eru with enhanced powers. Maybe he was able to assume his powers as Olorin, rather then the weakness he had to suffer from as a result of being incarnated into a Istar?


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Nice answer, Elfstone. What I was actually wondering myself when I wrote the question, was whether Cirdan and Galadriel actually recognised Gandalf from before when he was Olorin?


Remember, Val., when they were sent by the Valar they were sent as old (ish-Saruman had raven hair, and a residue of this was commented on in his description in the 'Voice of Saruman') men, not in the form they assumed in Valinor, if they did assume a form that is. But he may have told Galadriel he was Olorin. On his journeys to M-E Tolkien comments it may have been possible.

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That Olorin as was possible for one of the Maiar had already visited M-E and had become acquainted not only with the Sindarin Elves and others deeper in M-E, but also with men is likely but nothing is said of this

Last Writings; HoME 12

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One thing to think about--Sauron was second to Morgoth only in the fact that he served another. If Sauron had won the War of the Ring, would he have strived to bring back Morgoth? Or would he have just kept the ultimate power?


In his letters, Tolkien says that Sauron in the T.A said he was 'Morgoth returned' to his arrogance. It would have been impossible to get his spirit from the void anyway, and Morgoth would come back for the Dagor Dagorath, so maybe Sauron would keep M-E nice and cosy for his return. Wink Smilie

Beleg-the Nazgul faded.















Findekano--Here Here! (or Hear Hear, whatever you prefer!)

But I have one question--'the nazgul faded.' What does this mean exactly? Is that just it? They faded? Did it have anything to do with using the rings at all? Or was Sauron's leadership enough? I don't quite understand.
Welcome to the Reading Discussion Group, Findekano, your knowledge and insight are most welcome here. Your post has also saved me a deal of work as you have covered most of the points I was attempting to raise in the questions.
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The he here is Sauron and Tolkien is comparing his creation of the ruling ring to Morgoth’s dispersment of his power.
That is what I was trying to show. From what I can see, Sauron concentated his power into one small item. In doing so he used much of his own power in its creation, but it did give him anchor to Middle Earth should anything ever happen to him. Like you said, the creation of the Ring did give his enemies a means to destroy him, but this risk was negligible.

Morgoth, on the other hand, had dispursed his power rather than concentrating it, spreading it throughout Middle Earth. I think I read somewhere (please correct me if I am wrong), that he had managed in the end to taint almost every piece of material in Arda, and that taint would be permenant. Further, since the hroar (physical bodies) were composed of this matter too, he had succeeded in tainting every body in Arda. The piece I read, I think a discussion between Finrod and Andreth concerning death, it was suggested this taint was responsible for the Children of Eru living shorter natural lives than had originally been intended.

Like you mentioned, by spreading himself in this manner, Melkor eventually tied himself to a physical form which presented his enemies a weakness by which they could defeat him. The two strategies are quite different, and yet quiet similar in other ways, and from what I understand, motivated by similar needs too. Sauron created the ring in order to control the minds of the Elves. Morgoth dispersed his power to better understand hroar (flesh) and ultimately to control it.
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Remember, Val., when they were sent by the Valar they were sent as old (ish-Saruman had raven hair, and a residue of this was commented on in his description in the 'Voice of Saruman') men, not in the form they assumed in Valinor, if they did assume a form that is.
One of the reasons I raised this one was because I felt the wise such as Galadriel and Cirdan would be able to see through the "Old Man" Istari disguise and be able to recognise the spirit that burned within had they met it before. Your quote about the possibility of Olorin having been to Middle Earth was one I had not seen before (or at least did not remember), but it does seem to add strength to my feeling that Gandalf/Olorin was perhaps recognised by them.
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8) Gandalf, was sent back by Eru with enhanced powers. Maybe he was able to assume his powers as Olorin, rather then the weakness he had to suffer from as a result of being incarnated into a Istar?
That is my opinion too. The Istari were given severe limitations when they were sent to Middle Earth, and I have always felt Gandalf the White had had those limitations removed so that he could complete his task.

The limitations were there so that the Istari would better understand Mortal flesh with whom they were meant to be working with. By the time of the War of the Ring, Gandalf had adequately demonstrated he had learned this well, and he had not tried to dominate with, or abuse his powers. I think, therefore, the Valar had sent him back as Olorin, with none of the Istari limitations, in order that he might complete his task.

Further, I'd stick my neck out, and say that Gandalf knew this when he fought the balrog in Moria. I think he knew to complete his task he needed to shed his burdens and return to his true potential. By fighting the Balrog, he was not only eradicating an enemy he could not possibly leave behind their lines, but was also buring away his Istari limitations ready for his rebirth.

I'd be interested to hear what you think about this one.
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Findekano--Here Here! (or Hear Hear, whatever you prefer!)
Thank you Cuthalion. I don't mind which.

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But I have one question--'the Nazgul faded.' What does this mean exactly? Is that just it? They faded? Did it have anything to do with using the rings at all? Or was Sauron's leadership enough? I don't quite understand.


The ring brought unnatural and unending life for the Nazgul. This was not in accordance to their fates, therefore they became wraith-like beings, and their hröa (bodily form) 'faded' so to speak. They could no longer e called or considered 'humans'.

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Men proved easier to ensnare. Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth yet it turned to their undoing. The had, as it seemed, unendable life yet life became unendurable to them....and one by one, sooner or later according to their strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beggining they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and under the domination of the one which was Sauron's.
Of the Rings of Power; Published Silmarillion

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Earth. I think I read somewhere (please correct me if I am wrong), that he had managed in the end to taint almost every piece of material in Arda, and that taint would be permenant.


Yes you are right. Melkor had 'marred' Arda effectivley and he had disperesed his 'power into it. This is dealt with in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, Myths Transformed The Statue of Finwe and Miriel. all of which are in the rather aptly named, Morgoths Ring which is the tenth HoME. Aman was not 'tainted' in the same way that M-E was but the Elves as being born of a marred Arda brought that 'taint' with the, hence Miriel's death a consequence of 'Arda Marred' as discussed by the Valar in their debate.


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[The piece I read, I think a discussion between Finrod and Andreth concerning death, it was suggested this taint was responsible for the Children of Eru living shorter natural lives than had originally been intended.



The 'Children of Eru' constitutes Elves and Men, Val. Elves didn't live out longer lives then Eru intended because they were immortal upon Arda, (or as Finrod says 'indifferentially longeval) therfore their lifespan couldn't be 'cut short' though of their fates after the end of Arda, no one knows not even the Elves or the Valar.

The idea you ahve citied was a belief of men, carried down by the Hadorians/Marachains. The truth of this is dubious to say the least, it was a tradiiton passed down MANY (Since in the Athrabeth we are workign with a Myths Transformed mythology) generations of men and therfore things could be added altered etc, though I think it is in essence a true tale, mixed with some myth. (Tolkien describes the story of the awakening of Elves in HoME 11 as a mix of fact/fiction, i think this may be the same) especially since Of Dwarves and Men (HoME 12) claims men prior to their coming to Beleriand carried no written histories but only oral traditions. Andreth claims that men were immortal, but their natures meant that they woudl depart from Arda, but if they remained thei woudl fall in dotage-or worse, but Eru cut short their lifr-spans so they coudl confess who the real 'god' was since they had turned to Melko worship.

I will answer youre idea on Gandalf's motives in sacrifce later on. Sorry, but im busy at the mo.


[Edited on 26/5/2003 by Findekano]

[Edited on 26/5/2003 by Findekano]
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Elves didn't live out longer lives then Eru intended because they were immortal upon Arda, (or as Finrod says 'indifferentially longeval) therefore their lifespan couldn't be 'cut short' though of their fates after the end of Arda
By this I assume you mean their fea is immortal upon Arda?

Until beginning Morgoth's Ring, I used to be of the opinion that elves were immortal in body too (at least with respect to ageing and disease). In several places in MR however, it suggests this is not the case, and that the elven hrondor (flesh) is not immortal...
From Morgoth's Ring
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As ages passed the dominance of their fear ever increased, "consuming" their bodies. The end of this process is their "fading", as Men have called it; for the body becomes at last, as it were, a mere memory held by the fea; and that end has already been achieved in many regions of Middle Earth.....

.....Those fear, therefore,that in the marring of Arda suffered unnaturally a divorce from their hrondor remained still in Arda and in Time. But in that state they were open to the direct instruction of the Valar. As soon as they were disbodied they were summoned to leave the places of their life and death and go to the Halls of Waiting; Mandos in the realm of the Valar.
In Finrod's conversation with Andreth, he says the following, suggesting the elves too were being effected by by this marring of Arda...
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"That I can well believe," said Finrod: "that your bodies suffer in some measure from the malice of Melkor. For you live in Arda Marred, as do we, and all the matter of Arda was tainted by him, before ye or we came forth and drew our hroar and their sustenance therefrom: and save only maybe Aman before he came there. For know, it is not otherwise with the Quendi themselves: their health and stature is diminished. Already those of us who dwell in Middle Earth, and even we who have returned to it, find that the change of their bodies is swifter than in the beginning. And that I judge, must forbode that they will prove less strong to last than they were designed to be, though this may not be clearly revealed for many long years.
Again, I've based my opinions on the part of the book which I have read. I notice you mention certain parts have been dismissed as being Numenorian myth rather than truth. This is something I have not encountered before, so may be basing my views on writings that have later been altered etc, or dismissed by Tolkien as myth.

Although this topic was raised in response to one of the questions in this section, we are beginning to move outside of the realm of what we are trying to achieve with the Silmarillion Reading Group, in that we are going a long way beyond the Silmarillion. This, however, is becoming a great discussion in its own right. So I don't fall foul of my own rule of keeping these assignments on topic, I may move these last few posts to a more relevant assignment (there is one concerned with why Morgoth began losing his power), or move it to a section of its own. If I do this, I'll leave a signpost here, indicating where it has been moved to.

For the ease of moving these posts if necessary, could anyone wishing to comment on this Marring of Arda aspect, keep their posts separate from those discussing other aspects of this assignment, so I can selectively move posts as needed.
Val-The Valar did not send back Gandalf-that was a direct intervention of Eru, who sent him back. On Gandalf’s motives for fighting the Balrog:

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The wizards were not exempt, indeed being incarnate they were likely to stray, or err. Gandalf alone pasts the test, on a moral plane anyway. (he makes mistakes of judgement). For in his condition it was a sacrifice to perish on the bridge in defence of his companions, less so for a Hobbit or moral, since he had greater inner power then them, but also more since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to the ‘rules’; for all he could know at that moment that he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was in vain. He was handing over to the postAuthorIDity that ordained the rules, and giving up personal hopes for success.

Letter #156. Letters of Tolkien

The ‘ordained of the rules;’ is Eru-Iluvutar, he was the one that made the rules. The Valar carried them out, or added some, in a fashion, in accordance to their wisdom. Gandalf undoubtedly had a great foresight but did he REALLY think his self-sacrifice meant he would return as Olorin or with enhanced powers? Note the last few lines of the letter I have citied. He had given up ‘personal hopes for success’ I.e. his part was over (or so he thought) and that Eru was the one who would ‘pull the strings’ so to speak, which he did, he re-embodied Gandalf.

Later in that letter Tolkien comments

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Sent back by whom and whence? Not by the ‘gods’ whose business is only with this embodied world and time, for he passed ‘out of thought and time’. Naked is alas! Unclear. It was meant just literally ‘unclothed like a child’ (not discarnate) and so ready to receive white robes of the highest. Galadriel’s power is not divine, and his healing in Lorien is meant to be no more then psychical healing and refreshment


He Tolkien re-iterates that’s it was ERU not the Valar who ordained his ‘return’. it could have been beyond the Valar’s powers, maybe they weren’t allowed to break the rules (since upon entrance into Ea, their power was limited as is told in the Ainulindale; Published Silmarillion and since Gandalf was ‘put back’ upon the peak of Zirakzagil where he killed the Balrog (or sent his fea back into his hröa?). Of course, in the course of the writings of his letters the Silmarillion had not yet been published (The one in HoME 4 and 5 had been rejecting these constitute the pre-LoTR Silmarillion work) and so many people wouldn’t know the history of the Quenta (Valar, Eru, Greta Music etc).

But you must remember he was still a Istari, though with greatly enhanced powers I.E of incarnate form and though he tells Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas ‘that no weapon may hurt me’ eh could effectively be slain, if he used his powers to dominate etc then he would effectively be breaking the rules, yet his power had been enhanced and so he was able to ‘wake up’ Theoden from his Saruman/Wormtounge induced state of dotage and to break Saruman’s staff.

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By this I assume you mean their fea is immortal upon Arda?

Until beginning Morgoth's Ring, I used to be of the opinion that elves were immortal in body too (at least with respect to ageing and disease). In several places in MR however, it suggests this is not the case, and that the elven hrondor (flesh) is not immortal...

From Morgoth's Ring

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The Elves find their supersession by Men a mystery, and a cause of grief; for they say that Men, at least so largely governed asthey are by the evil of Melkor, have less and less love for Arda in itself, and are largely busy in destroying it in the attempt to dominate it. They still believe that Eru's healing of all the griefs of Arda will come now by or through Men; but the Elves' part in the healing or redemption will be chiefly in the restoration of the love of Arda, to which their memory of the Past and understanding of what might have been will contribute. Arda they say will be destroyed by wicked Men (or the wickedness in Men); but healed through the goodness in Men. The wickedness, the domineering lovelessness, the Elves will offset. By the holiness of good men - their direct attachment to Eru, before and above all Eru's works -the Elves may be delivered from the last of their griefs: sadness; the sadness that must come even from the unselfish love of anything less than Eru.)
Myths Transformed; HoME 10

The Elvish fea is immortal upon Aman that being untainted. That is why so many Elves fled there. The 'fading' is not necesarilly a sign of 'weakness' it can be seen as a trancendency in fatc to a more spiritual state rather then relying on the hroa.

Tolkien also comments on the ability to 're-generate' their hroa.

'Adaels Tale' is a tradition passed down by men. As Andreth comments earlier on the wise of men selected things that they viewed as being right, they didn't give a definitive answer. Men, confused things round a lot;

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t is now clear to me that in any case the Mythology must actually be a 'Mannish' affair. (Men are really only interested in Men and in Men's ideas and visions.) The High Eldar living and being tutored by the demiurgic beings must have known, or at least their writers and loremasters must have known, the 'truth' (according to their measure of understanding). What we have in the Silmarillion etc. are traditions (especially personalized, and centred upon actors, such as Feanor) handed on by Men in Numenor and later in Middle-earth (Arnor and Gondor); but already far back - from the first association of the Dunedain and Elf-friends with the Eldar in Beleriand - blended and confused with their own Mannish myths and cosmic ideas.
Myths Transformed; HoME 10



One thing that struck me about the elves opinion of men was the creation of the adjective for 'old' concerning men. The elves had an adjective for 'old' as in 'having existed many years' before man, but when they met men they formed a new adjective for 'old' in the sense of 'being worn and decrepit'. I thought that was interesting (and an especially creative move on Tolkien's part! Big Smile Smilie )

And what some consider a curse in the real world (the curse of mortality) was actually considered by the elves to be a blessing! It makes you think.

And thanks to Findekano--I wasn't quite sure on the whole ring wraithe part. The Nine sound an awful lot like Gollum, except on a bigger scale.

[Edited on 26/5/2003 by Beleg_Strongbow]
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but when they met men they formed a new adjective for 'old' in the sense of 'being worn and decrepit'. I thought that was interesting (and an especially creative move on Tolkien's part!
The word "weariness" means like worn down, as men get old their bodies wear out, they are filled with weariness.
Hi!
I have one more interesting topic to discuss. Everyone knows that there are a lot of allusions to Scandinavian mythology in Tolkien's works. Do you think that Celtic myths in some way influenced his writing? In what way?
I ask this question because Frodo's mission seems to me a kind of Quest (for example, the Quest for the Holy Grail). The difference is that if in he Middle Ages a knight wanted to find the Grail, Frodo, on the contrary, wants to get rid of his Ring. So to say, anti-Quest, or minus-Quest?
What do you think of all this? Do you have more ideas on this topic?

Hi Parzifal.

I'm no expert on Celtic myths, beyond really their patheon of gods and certain heroes such as Cuchulain. I do feel though that Celtic myths may well have influenced quite a lot of his background world.

One example which springs to mind is the similarity between Tolkien's Elves and the Tuatha De Danann, a pre-human race of Irish immortals. Similar to Middle Earth Elves travelling into the West as Man became the dominant people, the Tuatha De Danann also withdrew from Ireland as Man migrated there from the east. Also, like the pockets of Elves that remained in Middle Earth in isolation (such as Lorien and Rivendell), the Tuatha De Danann left a remnant behind, known as the Sidhe.

As the Celts were driven out by the Anglo-Saxons, so too in Tolkien we see similarities. Where a lot of his Elven names are rooted in Welsh, many of the races of Men take their names from Anglo-Saxon (for instance most of the Rohirrim... Eowyn, Theoden, Theodred etc).

In addition to the Elves, there are similarities between the Valar and the Celtic patheon of gods. In both cases we see Valar/deities ruling certain elements or emotions. In some cases the names bear striking resemblences too. Orome the Huntsman for instance was called Araw in Sindarin. This almost certainly takes its roots from the Welsh god Arawn the Huntsmen (who rode a supernatural horse and led a pack of magical hounds).

Although possibly more tenuous, there are also similarities between the adventures of a Celtic hero blacksmith, Wayland Smith, and the exploits of Feanor, Telchar the Smith and Celebrimbor.

With respect to Frodo, in a similar manner to which Arthur suffered a mortal wound and was then taken by a mysterious ship to the faerie land of Avalon where he was healed and became immortal, Frodo suffered two terrible wounds and was later taken to Valinor where he would have been healed.

These are just a few of the comparisons I can think of at this point. Samwisegamgee seems quite interested in this aspect of things. It would be interesting to see what she can add to this.