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*DO* you think the Nazgul have Minds of their OWN?

Alcuin

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Yes, I do think they have minds of their own; however, some of them could be in various states of fear, madness, or delusion.

First, a hat-tip to Gordis, who’s not posted here in nearly 10 years. The Nazgûl were her especial field of study. She argued that after Sauron was disembodied when Isildur cut the Ring from him, the Ringwraiths were for a while independent of Sauron or his direct influence. (This would be a good time for Gordis to join us again for a while.)

Tolkien’s notes in Reader’s Companion include his jottings on the motives and movements of various enemies: the Orcs, the Nazgûl, Saruman, and of course Gollum. From these we get some insight into the mind of the Witch-king, which is pretty remarkable, given that (as best I can recall) the only characters whose interior thoughts are revealed are Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gimli, once for Legolas (who observes Aragorn’s “crown” when he declares himself to Éomer and his éored), and once for Aragorn (his search for Frodo on Amon Hen until Boromir’s death): everyone else’s words and actions are reported as observed by one of these characters.

In the chapter covering “Knife in the Dark,” the Witch-king is described as “elated to learn that the Ring was really in the Shire” from Khamûl the Black Easterling (the number two Nazgûl and the only one for whom Tolkien provides us a name, as far as we know), but “exceedingly wroth” that the Ring-bearer has escaped him at Bree. So we know he still has emotions: he isn’t a robot or zombie: emotions are a very important part of an independent personality!

So he rides through Bree with four of his companions “like a howling wind,” throwing down the gate. Two days later, these five Nazgûl sense Gandalf catching up with them on the way to Weathertop. “[The Witch-king] is both puzzled and pleased. For a while he had been in great fear that … Gandalf had got possession of the Ring…” So here are two more emotions, pleasure and fear, along with puzzlement: he can think on his own.

At the end of this chapter, though, Tolkien gives us his strongest suggestions that the Witch-king still retains some of his old self, however twisted and perverted it may have become. Describing the reasons behind the Nazgûls’ leaving Frodo and his companions after attacking them and stabbing Frodo at Weathertop, Tolkien writes,
[The Witch-king] … was actually dismayed. He had been shaken by the fire of Gandalf, and began to perceive that the mission on which Sauron had sent him was one of great peril to himself both by the way, and on his return to his Master (if unsuccessful); … But above all the timid and terrified Bearer had dared to strike at him with an enchanted blade made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. … How had [Frodo] come by it – save in the Barrows of Cardolan. … [Frodo] was in some way mightier than the B[arrow]-wight; and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the Nazgûl…

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor-knife to Frodo …, he withdrew and hid … out of doubt and fear both of Aragorn and especially of Frodo. But fear of Sauron, and the forces of Sauron’s will was the stronger.
The Witch-king still retains a strong sense of self-preservation, so he still has a strong sense of himself as an individual. That is undoubtedly tainted with pride and arrogance, but pride and arrogance could be important character flaws that led to his downfall in the first place: it isn’t as if they’re rare character traits for people, maybe even some real people reading this thread! He is very afraid: of Gandalf, of Aragorn, of Frodo, and particularly of Sauron, whom he knows uncomfortably well.

The key here is that phrase “the forces of Sauron’s will,” which indicates that all the Nazgûl felt compelled to do what Sauron wanted. Remember Frodo and his inability to resist putting on the Ring at various points in the story? first when Khamûl happened upon him and his companions in the Woody End? on Weathertop? when he and Sam followed Gollum into Morgul Vale, then the Witch-king led out his army and they hid, and he could not control his hand until he placed it on the Vial of Galadriel? on the slopes of Mount Doom when he and Sam got a fleeting glimpse of Barad-dûr through the clouds and shadows surrounding it? It’s just worse, far worse, for the Nazgûl: they no longer have any means of resisting Sauron’s will. They have been suborned by Sauron through their Rings of Power.

That’s my position, and I’m sticking to it. :D
 
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CirdanLinweilin

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Yes, I do think they have minds of their own; however, some of them could be in various states of fear, madness, or delusion.

First, a hat-tip to Gordis, who’s not posted here in nearly 10 years. The Nazgûl were her especial field of study. She argued that after Sauron was disembodied when Isildur cut the Ring from him, the Ringwraiths were for a while independent of Sauron or his direct influence. (This would be a good time for Gordis to join us again for a while.)

Tolkien’s notes in Reader’s Companion include his jottings on the motives and movements of various enemies: the Orcs, the Nazgûl, Saruman, and of course Gollum. From these we get some insight into the mind of the Witch-king, which is pretty remarkable, given that (as best I can recall) the only characters whose interior thoughts are revealed are Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gimli, once for Legolas (who observes Aragorn’s “crown” when he declares himself to Éomer and his éored), and once for Aragorn (his search for Frodo on Amon Hen until Boromir’s death): everyone else’s words and actions are reported as observed by one of these characters.

In the chapter covering “Knife in the Dark,” the Witch-king is described as “elated to learn that the Ring was really in the Shire” from Khamûl the Black Easterling (the number two Nazgûl and the only one for whom Tolkien provides us a name, as far as we know), but “exceedingly wroth” that the Ring-bearer has escaped him at Bree. So we know he still has emotions: he isn’t a robot or zombie: emotions are a very important part of an independent personality!

So he rides through Bree with four of his companions “like a howling wind,” throwing down the gate. Two days later, these five Nazgûl sense Gandalf catching up with them on the way to Weathertop. “[The Witch-king] is both puzzled and pleased. For a while he had been in great fear that … Gandalf had got possession of the Ring…” So here are two more emotions, pleasure and fear, along with puzzlement: he can think on his own.

At the end of this chapter, though, Tolkien gives us his strongest suggestions that the Witch-king still retains some of his old self, however twisted and perverted it may have become. Describing the reasons behind the Nazgûls’ leaving Frodo and his companions after attacking them and stabbing Frodo at Weathertop, Tolkien writes,
The Witch-king still retains a strong sense of self-preservation, so he still has a strong sense of himself as an individual. That is undoubtedly tainted with pride and arrogance, but pride and arrogance could be important character flaws that led to his downfall in the first place: it isn’t as if they’re rare character traits for people, maybe even some real people reading this thread! He is very afraid: of Gandalf, of Aragorn, of Frodo, and particularly of Sauron, whom he knows uncomfortably well.

The key here is that phrase “the forces of Sauron’s will,” which indicates that all the Nazgûl felt compelled to do what Sauron wanted. Remember Frodo and his inability to resist putting on the Ring at various points in the story? first when Khamûl happened upon him and his companions in the Woody End? on Weathertop? when he and Sam followed Gollum into Morgul Vale, then the Witch-king led out his army and they hid, and he could not control his hand until he placed it on the Vial of Galadriel? on the slopes of Mount Doom when he and Sam got a fleeting glimpse of Barad-dûr through the clouds and shadows surrounding it? It’s just worse, far worse, for the Nazgûl: they no longer have any means of resisting Sauron’s will. They have been suborned by Sauron through their Rings of Power.

That’s my position, and I’m sticking to it. :D
That was a really good answer, thank you!


CL
 

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