Where did the Nazgul go after Sauron fell at the end of the Second Age?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

    Feb 19, 2018
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    I had been wondering to myself if it was possible someone could have gotten hold of the Nine Rings and thrown them into Mount Doom without falling to their lure. However, I'm wondering, what became of the Nazgul and the Nine Rings when Sauron fell (the first time, not the final time)?

    If they went into the Shadow Realm, did they take their Nine Rings with them, or were the Nine Rings laying around somewhere till the Nazgul rose again and took them? Or did Sauron have the Nine Rings, perhaps because the Nazgul no longer needed to wear them for him to control them?

    And if Sauron had the Nine Rings, why did Isildur not take them as well?

    If someone had been able to get ahold of the Nine Rings and throw them into Mount Doom (It seems plausible that if Mount Doom could destroy the One Ring, it could destroy the Nine Rings as well, and presumably the Seven Rings, though I'm not sure, as Sauron never made them, if it could have destroyed the Three Rings, though perhaps it could, as dragon fire supposedly could destroy the Great Rings, and Mount Doom was probably as hot as dragon fire.), they could have saved the Fellowship, especially Frodo and Merry, a lot of pain.
  2. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

    Feb 14, 2016
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    Herewith some sources of information.

    Talking about Minas Ithil, Faramir shared what he knew about the Nazgûl with Frodo:

    It was taken by fell men whom the Enemy in his first strength had dominated, and who wandered homeless and masterless after his fall.

    App. A “Annals of the Kings and Rulers” says:

    It was thus in the reign of King Eärnil, as later became clear, that the Witch-king escaping from the North came to Mordor, and there gathered the other Ringwraiths, of whom he was the chief. But it was not until 2000 that they issued from Mordor by the Pass of Cirith Ungol and laid siege to Minas Ithil. This they took in 2002, and captured the palantír of the tower.

    App. B (The tale of years) gives more elements of that timeline:

    In the second age:

    3441 Sauron overthrown by Elendil and Gil-galad, who perish. Isildur takes the One Ring. Sauron passes away and the Ringwraiths go into the shadows. The Second Age ends.

    In the third age:

    1050 Hyarmendacil conquers the Harad. Gondor reaches the height of its power. About this time a shadow falls on Greenwood, and men begin to call it Mirkwood. The Periannath are first mentioned in records, with the coming of the Harfoots to Eriador.

    c. 1100 The Wise (the Istari and the chief Eldar) discover that an evil power has made a stronghold at Dol Guldur. It is thought to be one of the Nazgûl.

    c. 1300 Evil things begin to multiply again. Orcs increase in the Misty Mountains and attack the Dwarves. The Nazgûl reappear. The chief of these comes north to Angmar. The Periannath migrate westward; many settle at Bree.

    1980 The Witch-king comes to Mordor and there gathers the Nazgûl. A Balrog appears in Moria, and slays Durin VI.

    2002 The Nazgûl issue from Mordor and besiege Minas Ithil.

    2063 Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur. Sauron retreats and hides in the East. The Watchful Peace begins. The Nazgûl remain quiet in Minas Morgul.

    Robert Foster summarizes this in his "The Complete Guide to Middle-earth" as follows:

    About SA 2250 they first appeared as the Nazgûl, beings utterly dependent on Sauron, or, more accurately, on his power acting through the One Ring.
    When Sauron fell at the end of the Second Age, the Nazgûl were overthrown or went into hiding. They reappeared about TA 1300, at which time their chief, the Lord of the Nazgûl (q.v.), became the Witch-king of Angmar. The other eight stayed in the East until about 1640, when they secretly entered Mordor and began to prepare that realm for Sauron, who was in Dol Guldur.
    In 2000, joined by their Lord, the Nazgûl besieged Minas Ithil, capturing the city and its palantir in 2002. From this time, the Nazgûl were closely associated with Minas Morgul, as Minas Ithil was then called. In 2951, ten years after its desertion by Sauron, three Nazgûl went to Dol Guldur and stayed there until the WR.

    Between Sauron's defeat and his appearance in Dol Guldur, the nine "go into the shadows" and, according to Faramir, "wandered homeless and masterless after his fall". But that means he does not know more because their leader became the Witch-king of Angmar, they conquered Minas Ithil and made Dol Guldur their own (at least for a while) in that period.

    Apart from the whereabouts of the Nazgûl, there is no information about their rings in that period IAFAIK.

    Indeed: should Sauron have had those in his very hands at the end of the SA then they would have been part of the spoils, but that was not the case.

    There's two other scenario's: the Nazgûl kept them in that period (but that’s at odds with other elements elsewhere) or they remained hidden somewhere in the foundations of Barad-dûr.

    Personally, I'd opt for the last suggestion, but with little argumentation to that effect, I must admit.

  3. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

    Mar 9, 2005
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    salt miner
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    There is a member here, Gordis, who has not been seen about for a while. But she gave great thought to matters concerning the Nazgûl. Perhaps such questions as these will temp her to return.

    For myself, I think that so long as Sauron possessed his Ruling Ring, he had no concern that the Nazgûl would defy any command or wish of his. They were more powerful with their Rings: while the Nine were in their own possession, they could use the power of their Rings. (“The Ringwraiths are deadly enemies, but they are only shadows yet of the power and terror they would possess if the Ruling Ring was on their master’s hand again.”) During the Last Battle on the slopes of Orodruin, Sauron needed all the power he could muster in his vain attempt to overcome Elendil and Gil-galad. Taking the Nine Rings from his chief servants would have been foolish: no one could foresee that Isildur would tear it from him. I think we can safely surmise that the Nazgûl wore their Rings themselves at the end of the Second Age.

    I don’t believe Faramir is necessarily an expert on details concerning the Nazgûl. Not but that Faramir is the best-educated, best-informed man in Gondor in his generation; he is moreover shrewd, discriminating, and wise, like his father. But Sauron’s spirit fled – where? “in waste places,” (Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”) surely in the East or far North, as far as possible from the Eldar and Dúnedain – when his Ring was taken from him.

    If the Wise were aware that the One Ring was not destroyed, surely the Nazgûl were also soon aware that it remained intact. They were, after all, enslaved to it, and even without Sauron’s immediate presence, sooner or later determined either together or individually that it remained intact. Any that managed to retain some sense of self or individuality in the twelve or more centuries since his enslavement to his Ring of Power might briefly have entertained some hope of independence; but would not the more wicked and dedicated begin searching for their master, hoping to assist him in his distress? And where would they find him? In the waste places, as Silmarillion puts it. Sauron would need to re-assemble himself, form another physical body; but along the way, bossy britches that he was, he seems also to have taken their Rings from them, perhaps because one or more of them resisted him in some way, or perhaps because he was simply a control freak who could not being himself to trust them. (Something of both, IMHO, but without published evidence for either.)

    Then what? Back into the fray, and first to try to find his missing Ring. By this time, about 1000 years into the Third Age, the Istari begin to arrive from the Uttermost West: the Valar have already determined that Sauron has arisen again. Soon “the Wise (the Istari and the chief Eldar) discover that an evil power has made a stronghold at Dol Guldur. It is thought to be one of the Nazgûl.” (“Tale of Years”, Appendix B, entry circa 1100) Well, they probably thought it was one of the Nazgûl because at least one of the Nazgûl was gadding about the place – more than one, in all likelihood, because Sauron himself was there: weakened, true, but not ineffectual.

    From this I think we can make some shrewd guesses of our own. It took the Valar some time to determine that Sauron was about, and to plan and execute their embassy of Istari. Perhaps a century? They began to arrive about 1000 years into the Third Age, and quickly focused the attention of the Eldar on Dol Guldur. So the conclave of the Valar mentioned in the essay “The Istari” took place, say, around Third Age 900, perhaps? Maybe as late as 980? And Sauron had regathered enough power to attract their attention and their – what word shall we use? concern? alarm? – before then. So Sauron must have been up and about, strong enough to guide his Ringwraiths into preparing Dol Guldur by Third Age 900 or even a century (or even two?) before that.

    And where were the Ringwraiths? Helping their master – I think that is the clear conclusion. They had been helping him for some time, too, I believe. After the Downfall of Númenor, it was 110 years before Sauron with his Ring in his possession took shape again, regathered his forces, and attacked Gondor. Without his Ring after his discomfiture by Elendil, Gil-galad, Círdan, Elrond, and especially Isildur, it took him longer to manifest himself: He was wounded from the loss of his inherent, native strength: his first body was destroyed in the ruin of Númenor, his second when Isildur too his Ring. The Ring maintained much of what would otherwise have been scattered and lost of his native power: but now Sauron no longer possessed the Ring as before.

    It may even be that Sauron needed possession of the Nine Rings to assist him in his recovery. But in any event, he took them from the Ringwraiths and held them himself.
    Erestor Arcamen and Merroe like this.