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Thread: Control of the Rings

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JonnieA began this thread with the following post.

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Hi Everyone,

This is my first post, bear with me if this has come up before....
I am unsure (and Tolkien is unclear) exactly how the One controls the wearers of other rings. For example, in the Third Age Sauron has lost the One but can still control the Nazgul...does this mean he holds the Nine somewhere to control them through these rings?
In that case, how did the Nine not escape his dominion when Sauron was 'slain' by Isildur, Gil-galad etc? He lost the One but if they had the Nine would they not become free of him, in the same way as the bearers of the Three in the Third Age were?
Suggestions?


gnampie replied

Hi JonnieA, welcome to PT!

I'm glad to find a question about LOTR that isn't about pro and contra movie/actors. But I'm afraid I'm not exactly the right person to aswer your question. I've only read LOTR twice and that's almost two years ago. Never read the Sil, but here's my try.

I think the reason why Sauron can still controle the Nazgul is because they are dead. The nine Kings were slain, wearing the rings and entered the world of shadows. I don't think anyone can escape from there. If the One Ring is destroyed, they are destroyed with it. If Frodo wouldn't have had the strenght to fight back when he was stabbed by the Mordor knive, he would have gone to that world himself, and no-one could have saved him. He would have been lost.

The bearers of the Three on the other hand are still alive when the one is destroyed. They were under Sauron's controle, but not irreversable. When the one ring is cast into the fire of Mount Doom, they are 'set free'. If they would have been in the world of shadows too, they would have been lost too.

Why the Nine didn't escape from Sauron's domination when he was slain by Gil-galad, is because the Ring survived and it is the Ring that controles the others. Had Isildur destroyed the Ring then, the Nine would have been gone too.

How this controle actually works? I don't know.

The above is only how I see things I'm not sure if it is actually correct, but someone else will help out, I'm sure.

Hi JonnieA. Welcome to Planet Tolkien.
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For example, in the Third Age Sauron has lost the One but can still control the Nazgul...does this mean he holds the Nine somewhere to control them through these rings?
This is the case. At the end of the Second Age when Sauron was defeated, the Nazgul were said to have returned to the shadows. Their lives were bound to the Rings of Power so they would not die, but they went into hiding. When Sauron returned, he took their rings from them...

From UT (page343)
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At length therefore he resolved to use the Ringwraiths. He had been reluctant to do so, until he knew precisely where the Ring was, for several reasons. They were by far the most powerful of his servants, and the most suitable for such a mission, since they were entirely enslaved to their Nine Rings, which he now himself held; they were quite incapable of acting against his will, and if one of them, even the Witchking their Captain, had seized the One Ring, he would have brought it back to his Master.


As for the rest of your question, I agree with gnampie's answer. Even with Sauron gone, being by then already Undead, they were already filled with Sauron's will/malice etc. I don't think they would have even conceived trying to be free of him. Also, I think the fall of Sauron had caused them to weaken too. I don't think they were able able to materialise from the shadows until he had returned.
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The bearers of the Three on the other hand are still alive when the one is destroyed. They were under Sauron's controle, but not irreversable. When the one ring is cast into the fire of Mount Doom, they are 'set free'. If they would have been in the world of shadows too, they would have been lost too.
When Sauron first put on the One Ring, the wearers of the Three immediately were aware of it and him and of its purpose; in self-defence they removed their rings and kept them hidden. By not wearing their rings, Galadriel, Gilgalad, and Cirdan remanied uncontrolled by the One.

When the One was lost at the end of the Second Age, they could again wear the Three with impunity; however, as the One was not destroyed, they had to keep them secret. With the passing of Gil-galad, Vilya the ring of air, passed from Gil-galad to Elrond and about two thousand years later, Narya the ring of fire, was loaned by Cirdan to Gandalf.

Were Sauron again to regain the One ending the Third Age, the Three would again need to be removed but with its extra power Sauron could pinpoint then their locations. With its destruction the Three lost their power and all that was maintained by them was diminished for they could no longer hold back entropy, for example the main thing Galadriel used Nenya, the ring of water for, was to hold back time and aging in Lothlorien.

In summary, Sauron and the One Ring never took control over the Three, due to the diligence of the Elves, but he certainly put a crimp on their use. With the destruction of the One, the Three became useless, mere pieces of pretty costume jewery.
Thanks Valedhelgwath for reminding me of the UT quote - it was obviously lurking in the back of my mind. Incredible name by the way, I presume it means something significant, but my Sindarin is a little rusty....

Continuing the thread, at some point Sauron took the Nine away from the Nazgul - maybe as soon as he was sure they were enslaved, but presumably the Nine had other useful powers too, otherwise why would Celebrimbor want to make them?. So perhaps Sauron let them keep their rings unless he needed to control them without the One.
For example, it seems unlikely that Sauron took the One to Numenor when he went in captivity, otherwise it would have been lost in the Downfall at the same time as his body was destroyed. It also seems logical to assume that Ar-Pharazon was either wholly or partialy ignorant of the One, otherwise he would have demanded it's surrender when Sauron submitted to him.
I would therefore suggest that Sauron took the Nine from the Nazgul and also the One, and hid them somewhere until he could escape from Numenor and reclaim them. This might be a big risk - following the logic of the UT quote, perhaps if one of the Nazgul got hold of the One and his ring from the Nine he might break Sauron's hold? Comments welcome on this line of thought!

Sauron may also have done something similar before the showdown with Gil-galad etc on Mnt. Doom - taken the Nine from the Nazgul and hidden them, knowing the odds were against him and he might lose the One?

Perhaps wiser heads, or those with some of the HOME books (which I find pretty much unreadable) could help?

JonnieA
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For example, it seems unlikely that Sauron took the One to Numenor when he went in captivity, otherwise it would have been lost in the Downfall at the same time as his body was destroyed.
Although I haven't read that anywhere, JonnieA, I had come to the same conclusion. Like any other prisoner, when Sauron surrendered to Ar-Pharazon he would have been thoroughly searched for weapons etc. Knowing this, he would have hidden the ring rather than risk its discovery.
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Continuing the thread, at some point Sauron took the Nine away from the Nazgul - maybe as soon as he was sure they were enslaved, but presumably the Nine had other useful powers too.
I'm not certain at what point Sauron took back the Nine, but I always imagined it to be after he had lost the One. One of the reasons for letting the Nazgul keep their rings would have indeed been one of the powers Sauron bestowed upon all the rings...

From the Silmarillion, page 346
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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.
While the nazgul wore their rings, through his own ring Sauron had a great means of communication with them. I'm guessing only after the loss of his own ring would he have taken their's back. I think this would have been partly to ensure his control over them, and also to prevent the finder of the One Ring from becoming their new master.
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This might be a big risk - following the logic of the UT quote, perhaps if one of the Nazgul got hold of the One and his ring from the Nine he might break Sauron's hold?
Personally, I think the nazgul were beyond acting against Sauron. They were totally slaves to the Rings, and as the One held part of Sauron's spirit anyway, they would never be able to master it. As the ring was able to corrupt and twist the thoughts of others, it would have no problems at all bending the minds of the nazgul to its purpose.
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Incredible name by the way, I presume it means something significant, but my Sindarin is a little rusty....
Val = Power, edhel = elf, gwath = shadow.
On refelection, I think you are right about Sauron not needing the One to control the Nazgul.

I wonder what went 'wrong' (from Sauron's point of view) with the Three - imagine spending all those years setting up a trap and then having it fail! I presume he thought his control over the wearers of the Three would be so complete that they would not be able to take them off once they perceived him. Either the design of the Three was changed in some way that he did not anticipate (after all Celebrimbor did not let Sauron work on them), or the wearers of the Three had more willpower that Sauron supposed.

As you can probably gather I find the nature and forging of the rings one of the most fascinating aspects of Middle-earth. I love the concept of having Sauron actually living and working with Celebrimbor and the other smiths, it is a pity Tolkien did not go into more detail.
Hey and welcome to the forum, JonnieA! Hope u'll enjoy your stay!

As for Sauron and Celebrimbor working together ... yeah, I found that fascinating too! Though not as fascinating as Melkor walking amongst Eldar, teaching them some good stuff in Valinor! (that I gotta see!!!)

Namarie!
With view to your question of what went wrong from Sauron's point of view with the Three, I don't think Sauron expected the Elves to recognise that he had deceived them. The moment he put the One Ring on his finger they recognised what he had tried to do and removed their own. After working alongside them for so long, and managing to successfully pull off his charade, I believe he expected to continue with this deceit until he did have them totally enthralled.

I think that he had not had a hand in the making of these three rings, beyond imparting the knowledge of how to make them, probably helped the Elves too.