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Why did Gandalf take so long to identify the Ring?

Goro Shimura

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Okay... Harad's general skepticism is rubbing off on me.

I confess... it doesn't make sense to me why it took Gandalf so long to realize what Bilbo actually had.

I mean...

The moment they met Eagles... couldn't Gandalf just have said... "Okay, Gwaihir... I need a favor. Could you take Bilbo and myself to Mt Doom??"

And if not then... then how about after the Battle of Five Armies....
 

Tar-Palantir

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Gandalf had no reason (at that point) to think that Bilbo's ring was the One Ring. Saruman had told him that it had rolled down Anduin and into the sea. It wasn't until Bilbo showed no signs of aging that he began to suspect it was more than just your run-of-the-mill magic ring :)
 
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Harad

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Tar-Pal is right.

Except...
How many "minor" Rings made you invisible. In the "Hobbit" that's a cute little trick, but in "LOTR" it has a sinsister aspect to it, something "you shouldnt play around with."

Further, as Gandalf later said, all the other Rings were accounted for, and even so, did THEY make you invisible?

Another case of Whistling?

This is not to say that real life people dont do this, so its not necessarily a criticicm of JRRT. How many times in real life do we say "What were they thinking?" because things are SO obvious.
 

Tar-Palantir

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Harad, I seem to remember reading somewhere that there were other rings besides the Rings of Power, though I could be mistaken. I assumed that Gandalf thought it could be one of these lesser rings.

I also think that you're right - we're looking for "internal logic" when sometimes it's just an inconsistency on the part of the author. I'm not saying that's the case here; I think Tolkien did a pretty good job logically laying out Gandalf's slow realization of what Bilbo's ring really was.
 
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Harad

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I assumed that Gandalf thought it could be one of these lesser rings.
Its possible, but when are we ever shown anything else that makes you invisible?

Invisibilty may have been a nifty holdover from "The Hobbit" before the Ring evolved into the OneRing. To make its identity ambiguous in "LOTR" JRRT had to introduce the concept of other rings that could make you invisible. But no examples are given.
 

Tar-Palantir

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I thought it was stated in "Shadow of the Past" about great rings and lesser rings, but I don't have the text with me. The other option is that I'm delusional........
 
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Harad

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Not delusional...this time.
'In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. 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.
 

Goro Shimura

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But did Gandalf not say that it was clearly a "Ring of Power?"

I thought he knew right away that this was no mere "essay of the craft." If he knew it was one of the rings from the poem-ditty... then it's not hard to eliminate the other options.... (Not of the 9... not of the 3... hmmm....)
 
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Harad

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If so, then you are making your point again...the other Rings were accounted for...so...

Gandalf also says:
I might perhaps have consulted Saruman the White, but something always held me back.
So its one to chalk up to Maia (not human) nature. What WAS Gandalf thinking??? For lo those many years?
 

Eonwe

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He says in the CoE he saw how it lengthened Biblo's life and Gollums' life, and knew that only the Great Rings had that power. So he knew at that point it was one of the 7,9,3... He knew it wasn't one of the three or seven because each had its own gem. The nine were accounted for. So he only suspected it might be the one when he saw Bilbo's lack of ageing, and knew that Gollum had carried it for "many lives of his kind".

Looking back on it with 20-20 hindsight, he looked pretty stupid. Is there any other Ring known in ME that made you invisible? One of the "lesser" Rings could do that?
 

Goro Shimura

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(Wow... Harad said I made a point!!:D )

Which given that point... the only thing that could explain Gandalf's discombobulation is Saruman's oh-so-convincing voice. He must have been much more powerful back then. Or he must have lost a lot of effectiveness after his cover was blown....
 

Eonwe

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Saruman had a motive to keep Gandalf thinking it rolled down Anduin. He wanted Sauron to stay near the Gladden Fields so that the Ring would show up. That's why he delayed the attack on Dol Guldur, why he tried to convince the Council there was nothing to worry about. He posted spies near Anduin to attempt to get it ahead of Sauron.
 
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Harad

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Ah...but...Gandalf did not tell Saruman about Bilbo's Ring. Not only was Saruman's voice convincing about the whereabouts of the OneRing (lost--in the sea--etc) but it was convincing enuf that Gandald did not believe his eyes or his brain with regards to "another" Ring that Biblo kept.

It gets worse: if the most fundamental problem on ME was Sauron, and if Sauron was REALLY a problem with the Ring, then the OneRing should have been foremost on the mind of Gandalf throughout, especially after the ineffective attack on Dol Guldor. Gandalf knows that Sauron is back in Black for more than 150 years, so the OneRing has got to be near the top of the list for things to watch out for. Saruman's voice was effective indeed because he completely contradicts the statement of Elrond and others that were taken on faith in the CoE: i.e. that the Ring could not be lost, only destroyed.
 

Snaga

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Gandalf to Frodo:
Let me see - it was in the year that the White Council drove the dark power from Mirkwood, just before the Battle of Five Armies, that Bilbo found his ring. A shadow fell on my heart then, but I did not know yet what I feared. I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly it was
So right from the start (2941) Gandalf rules out the lesser rings. Its therefore either one of the 7, or its the One. The 7 are supposedly all accounted for, although we never here the full story. So lets assume they are an outside chance.

Many years later, he and Aragorn spend years looking for Gollum, to try and get some gen on the origin of the ring. Without success.

Gandalf at the Council of Elrond:
And then again in my despair I thought again of a test that might make the finding of Gollum unnecessary. The ring itself might tell if it were the One. The memory of words at the Council came back to me: words of Saruman, half-heeded at the time. I heard them now clearly in my heart.
"The Nine the Seven and the Three," he said, had each their proper gem. Not so the One. It was round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings; but its maker had set marks upon it that the skill, maybe, could still see and read."
This suggests Gandalf hadn't been paying attention in class. He has only to spot the absence of a gem, to know its not one of the 7, and therefore it is the One. This meeting of the White Council is probably 2953 (the last one, where Saruman asserts the Ring has rolled into the sea).

It then takes 48 years for Gandalf to 'suspect' according to Appendix B. His suspicion is aroused by Bilbo's longevity, and unwillingness to relinquish the ring. He starts to do something in 3001: the search for Gollum.

The hunt for Gollum takes 16 years. In 3017 Gandalf talks to Gollum and reads Isildur's scroll.

He arrives in Hobbiton in April 3018 and throws the ring into Frodo's fire. Now he knows with absolute certainty.

Lets all pause for a moment and admire the thoroughness of Gandalf's research..... before noting that a bit of logic and paying attention at the White Council would have got him to the same conclusion fully 65 years earlier.

Gandalf Greymantle, not Gandalf Greymatter.
 

Dhôn-Buri-Dhôn

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Maybe he was busy with more important matters, like learning how to make smoke rings do loop-the-loops.

Just goes to show, Tolkien didn't quite find & patch all the cracks.
 

Eonwe

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including the most important of all: the Crack 'O Doom
 

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