🧙 The Tolkien Forum 🧝

Welcome to our forum! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox! Plus you won't see ads ;)

How do rings functionally work?

pgt

Registered User
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
169
Reaction score
2
The recent Nazgul thread got me thinking...

I always presumed one of the basic tenents of the rings of power was that they caused the wearer to be invisible. This is probably largely based on Hobbit and I know and agree that presumptions from the Hobbit are dangerous because that book was written in a different voice and such compared to LOTR.

Be that as it may, when the one is found and it's only known power is the ability to render the wearer invisible, we understand that such rings though rare, do exist. At the beginning of FOTR we still only know that it renders the wearer invisible.

Now the 3 Elven rings do not turn either Elves or Istari invisible.

The nine Nazgul are certainly not invisible or at least their attire and equipment is not invisible. There is a legitimate debate as to whether or not they wear their rings in another thread.

Do the 7 Dwarf rings turn wearers insivible? - I'm not sure that is known conclusively but don't recall references to it at all. In fact the reference to their power is the ability to find gold or something making their insivible powers NOTABLY ABSENT in that description. Very suspicious.

Soooo.....

Is invisibility unique to the one ring?
 

Beorn

In the shadows
Staff member
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
1,655
Reaction score
3
Location
Houston, TX
I would think it is unique because of the nature of it: The ring doesn't make you invisible, it takes you to the world of...I guess what would best be called....undead*. Sauron might have put this power into the One Ring so that he could see & (I would assume) communicate with the Nine Riders easily. Often, they would sniff, because they couldn't see in the living world, so maybe it was easier if they saw Sauron in the undead world

*What would happen if Frodo took the Paths of the Dead and put on the ring? Would he see all the dead as living because they are really undead?
 

LadyEowyn

Registered User
Joined
Dec 14, 2001
Messages
60
Reaction score
0
Location
Las Vegas, Nevada
Originally posted by Mike B
I would think it is unique because of the nature of it: The ring doesn't make you invisible, it takes you to the world of...I guess what would best be called....undead*. Sauron might have put this power into the One Ring so that he could see & (I would assume) communicate with the Nine Riders easily. Often, they would sniff, because they couldn't see in the living world, so maybe it was easier if they saw Sauron in the undead world

*What would happen if Frodo took the Paths of the Dead and put on the ring? Would he see all the dead as living because they are really undead?
[/QUOTE

Where do you get your information?
 

Moonbeams

Spilling Moonbeams
Joined
Dec 12, 2001
Messages
57
Reaction score
1
Location
Land of a Thousand Islands
I somehow always assumed that any ring of power would make those of less power, those unable to fully control it, invisible... but now that this question has been asked, I'm not so sure.
But it couldn't be that the ring takes you only to the world of the undead, because if you remember, Frodo saw Glorfindel in his full might as a prince of elves when he put the ring on. It makes "dim" things more visible, but I wouldn't say only dead things.
 

Beorn

In the shadows
Staff member
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
1,655
Reaction score
3
Location
Houston, TX
Originally posted by LadyEowyn
Where do you get your information?
Lord of the Rings, of course...hehe :D

'Yes, fortune or fate have helped you,' said Gandalf, `not to mention courage. For your heart was not touched, and only your shoulder was pierced; and that was because you resisted to the last. But it was a terribly narrow shave, so to speak. 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.
Yes, at present, until all else is conquered. The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him. And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power
They did not need the guidance of their horses any longer: you had become visible to them, being already on the threshold of their world.
At first he could see little. He seemed to be in a world of mist in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him. Then here and there the mist gave way and he saw many visions: small and clear as if they were under his eyes upon a table, and yet remote. There was no sound, only bright living images.
All of these describe another world when Frodo put the ring on. I termed it undead, because that is what the Nine are, undead. They are just very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very old.
 

Rosie Cotton

Registered User
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
111
Reaction score
0
Location
NJ
If the one ring were the only ring to grant invisibility, wouldn't Gandalf have known it for what it was immediately? If invisibility only came with the one ring, Gandalf would have been able to save himself (and everyone else) an awful lot of time and effort. Maybe it works like Moonbeams suggested, making only those who can't fully control it invisible.

As for the whole wraith-world sub-topic, Mike beat me to it, and he has book quotes, so I don't think I can add anything there....
 
Last edited:

Beorn

In the shadows
Staff member
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
1,655
Reaction score
3
Location
Houston, TX
Actually, I've got computer quotes...just searched for 'world' in FotR...found 'em all in about 5 minutes...

We should compile a huge list of Tolkien questions...That'd be cool...and interesting
 

Snaga

The Usual Suspect
Joined
Feb 11, 2002
Messages
2,261
Reaction score
5
All of these describe another world when Frodo put the ring on. I termed it undead, because that is what the Nine are, undead. They are just very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very old.
I don't think this is right because Gollum was also very old but didn't 'fade'. It is more than aging that goes on with possession of the rings it is also submission of the bearers will.

I don't think the dwarves were rendered invisible by their rings - no suggestion of that from the accounts of Thror and Thrain. I suspect that the rings had various differing powers, but I am not sure that invisibility was unique to the one ring, or Gandalf would not have spent 60 years unsure of what ring Bilbo had. There were many lesser rings "mere essays" in the craft forged in Eregion by Celebrimbor - maybe some of these also conveyed invisibility.
 

pgt

Registered User
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
169
Reaction score
2
Yes, exactly I was under the impression there were rings (plural) that Gandalf was aware of that turned the wearer invisible at the time of Bilbo's adventure. Gandalf didn't know that much about the rings back then but if he knew that much this suggests that it was common knowledge at least among the wise that rings (plural) could make you invisible.

Yes, I think the lack of mention of Dwarf rings turning the wearer invisible is supiciously absent.

Hmmm....
 

Greymantle

Registered User
Joined
Sep 19, 2001
Messages
348
Reaction score
2
Location
San Francisco
Supposedly the Great Rings are all supposed to confer invisibility to mortals. This is why the hobbits are made invisible, but the Elves and Gandalf are not.
The Dwarves are puzzling, though... certainly not immortal, but as you say there is really no indication of the Rings conferring invisibility. In the first drafts of LotR, the original rings (very different from those in the final version) conferred invisibility to all creatures who wore them but the Dwarves.
Perhaps it is assumed that the reader will know that the Great Rings confer invisibility to mortals, or perhaps it's an exeption. Who knows!
 

Aerin

Halfway out the door
Joined
Sep 27, 2001
Messages
691
Reaction score
1
Location
Littleton, Colorado
But....

What if the One Ring had unique powers from the other Rings?
When Gandalf told Frodo that he was halfway in the wraith world, that makes me wonder. Is the Ring a gateway for mortals into the wraith world? Or does it merely suggest to weaker minds invisibility?
To determine the true effect of the One Ring, it would have to be worn by at least two Hobbits, two Dwarves, two Elves, two Istari, and two Men. Then, one could compare the effect of the Ring on all of those forementioned, and come to something resembling a conclusion.
Also, there are many factors.
Would the Ring corrupt Boromir or Faramir more quickly? What if Aragorn wore it? What if a simple farmer wore it? Would the effect of the Ring depend on the desires of the wearer?

There are so many questions about the Ring, that discussing its true nature and or powers is quite difficult.
The other Rings are a different matter... or are they?
 

pgt

Registered User
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
169
Reaction score
2
Excellent point Greymantle. Yes the immortals being immune to invisibility certainly fits. Thanks! Personally I'm going to chalk the Dwarf ring powers of invisibiliyt or not up to an unknown curiosity. Is it safe to presume the nine rings, when originally given, conferred invisibility? Just a thought.

Again, thanks.
 

theGrenadier

Registered User
Joined
Nov 20, 2001
Messages
13
Reaction score
0
I had the impression that the ring didn't necessarily make one invisible, but rather 'moved' the wearer into the realm of darkness, so to speak. Like when Frodo put on the Ring, and then saw the Nazgul as they really are because he was now in their dimension. Invisibility was a sort of default side-effect. The wearer was rendered invisible because he was literally not all there anymore.
Maybe, the immortal beings weren't really immune to invisibilty, but, more like immune to the nature of the Dark Side.
 

Grond

Morgoth's Mace
Joined
Oct 31, 2001
Messages
3,040
Reaction score
37
Location
Somewhere in a Tolkien story.
From TFotR, Chapter The Shadow of the Past, Gandalf states, "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 purposes will last---sooner or later the dark power will devour him."

The Great Rings include all of the 20 (9+7+3+1). They confer invisibility to all mortals but have not the same effect on the Eldar and Maia, since both of these races already live at once in both realms. Once the metamorphisis of mortals has occurred, it cannot be undone and the Rings are no longer necessary to keep them in the Shadow world. This is why Sauron took the Rings of the Nazgul to keep, so that they would continue to be subservient to him in the event he lost the Ruling Ring (which he did). The Nine Kings were consumed and all entered the shadow world, the dwarves proved of sturdier stock (being a creation of Aule) and Sauron was unable to pervert them...as for the Eldar, there Rings were untouched by Sauron, yes his Ring would still have had dominion over the Three and would have enslaved the holders, so they immediately took them off and hid them when Sauron's betrayal became known.

As for Gollum, he was inordinately strong willed and had not yet been diminished to the shadow world though the Ring had imparted agelessness on him. He found the Ring in 2463 and was over 556 years of age when he died.

Bilbo didn't hold the Ring long enough to have any severe lasting effects other than his apparent youth. He still longed for It if It was near but otherwise was able to resume his life without the pervading sense of loss suffered by Smeagol/Gollum.

Did anybody notice how quickly Bilbo aged in the movie? He gave the Ring to Frodo and within a short period of time appeared to have aged 40 years. That seems totally contrary to what I've just researched and written and is another nitpickingweenie change that I don't think should have been made.

Well, I've gone on long enough and hope I've answered most questions. If not, we'll give it another go.
 

Snaga

The Usual Suspect
Joined
Feb 11, 2002
Messages
2,261
Reaction score
5
Good post Grond, but I am not sure this says everything.

I thought I would just read a bit of Appendix A and guess what. There's a nice little passage on just the subject of the dwarvish rings:

The only power over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all other good things seemed profitless, and they were will with wrath and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them. But they were made from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will; and for the same reason their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it. All the more did Sauron hate the possessors and desire to dispossess them.
By implication it did not make the dwarves invisible.
 

Grond

Morgoth's Mace
Joined
Oct 31, 2001
Messages
3,040
Reaction score
37
Location
Somewhere in a Tolkien story.
Variag of Khand

I stand corrected. Your quote definately confirms that the Rings held no substantial power over the dwarves and I was wrong in saying, "...to all mortals...". I should have said, "...all mortals except for the Dwarves...".

Good call Variag and let it not be said that Grond can't gracefully accept correction.
 

Wide Boy

Banned
Joined
Dec 27, 2001
Messages
31
Reaction score
0
Location
Canberra, Australia
I like Grond's analysis of the invisibility/fading issue (as amended for dwarves, courtesy of Variag).

Apart from invisibility, aging and the "personality" effects, does anyone recall anything about the rings having any specific powers? Or do they just give power by enhancing their owner's abilities? This would fit with the statements of Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond etc that the Ring is more dangerous to those of greater power (ie if it works by enhancing power, then the more you have to start with, the more you end up with and the worse it is for everyone else when you go bad). If the Ring(s) conferred specific powers then the native power of the owner would matter less. Or do they do both?

I can't recall any mention of specific powers other than those already discussed, but there is lots of stuff hidden in obscure corners in the later Christopher Tolkien releases.
 

Snaga

The Usual Suspect
Joined
Feb 11, 2002
Messages
2,261
Reaction score
5
Hmm... I don't have a damn fine quote up sleeve this time, but I'll try some informed guessing.

THe passage on the dwarves' rings suggests that the ring given to the house of Durin was less sullied by Sauron. The dwarves held that it was made by the elves and not by Sauron, although he did help in its making, and that its powers for evil were diminished. Suggesting that not all rings are the same.

The 3 elven rings all had jewels encrusted in them, of different hues. Gandalf in FotR describes the 3 elven rings as being made for 'healing, understanding and building'. You could hazard a guess that this might mean that Elrond's was for healing, Galadriel's for understanding, and Cirdan's for building (primarily) - but a Tolkien passage backing that up would help. I'll see what I can find!

Grond, I didn't catch it first time but you said:

Did anybody notice how quickly Bilbo aged in the movie? He gave the Ring to Frodo and within a short period of time appeared to have aged 40 years. That seems totally contrary to what I've just researched and written and is another nitpickingweenie change that I don't think should have been made.
.

In the book Bilbo looks 50 when he leaves the Shire. Frodo meets him in Rivendell 17 years later, and he is described as definitely elderly in appearance - i.e. not 67 years old. Sorry to nitpick at your nitpicking, but I think PJ got this one right. If I had a criticism it is that there is no suggestion that Frodo is master of Bag End for 17 years. In the film it appears that he stays there no longer than it takes Gandalf to make a round trip to Minas Tirith!
 

Tar-Steve

Registered User
Joined
Oct 26, 2001
Messages
102
Reaction score
0
Location
Connecticut, USA
I kind of like how the "invisibility vs. the dwarves" thing was worked out.

Movin on ...

Since this seems to be the most comprehensive thread about the rings themselves I'll re-raise a "question" I'm struggling with about the nine and the wraiths:

I had always thought that the wraiths wore their rings. However, in Unfinished Tales in the section entitled "The Hunt for the Ring", the third paragraph clearly states that the wraiths were enslaved to their rings, which Sauron held.

The question: Why don't the nine die? They are men and noone can take their mortality away from them, certainly not Sauron. They've been without their rings for the entire Third Age. Bilbo didn't age while he possessed the One but began to age as soon as he gave it up. How come the nine aren't dead?

Other ??'s: Are the nine just taking a long time to die because they held their rings for a long time? (Anybody know how long offhand?). How long will Gollum last compared to the nine and to Bilbo (seeing how Gollum probably possessed his ring less time than the wraiths but longer than Bilbo)? Should these comparison even be made since the one and the nine may be quite different?

Is this nitpicking? Can the fact that the wraiths go on and on be attributed to Sauron holding their rings and exercising some power over their souls, simply delaying their deaths? Unless some of my respected "walking libraries" (aka fellow members) can bring forth some excerpts, there's a lot of room to speculate here.
 

Gothmog

Lord of Balrogs
Staff member
Joined
Sep 10, 2001
Messages
1,960
Reaction score
158
Location
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Interesting point that I have been concidering since Grond proved me wrong in my assumption that the wraiths kept their Rings. Now Bilbo held the one ring for a few years and started aging after he gave it to Frodo. Gollum held the ring for many years and did not seem to age in the same way. In fact judging by the way he travlled he did not age physicaly at all. The Nazgul held their rings probably a great many years before Sauron took them back and they probably did not do so willingly.

So looking at this it may be that the longer someone holds a great Ring the longer it takes for the effect to wear off. Another possibility is that Bilbo gave the Ring to Frodo more or less willingly. It was not taken from him but given by him. In the cases of the Nazgul and gollum the rings were not given willingly and this may have the effect of increasing the hold of the ring as the person wants it back.

So I feel that it is the desire to regain the rings that they once held that keeps the Nazgul and Gollum from ageing quickly once the Rings are taken from them.
 

Thread suggestions

Top