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Q: Minas Ithil... did it in anyway resemble Minas Anor/Tirith? i.e. the various levels etc.


A: Not in the least. Minas Tirith was a huge city, as you know, with many concentric circles and separating walls. It was designed to be a metropolis, a center of learning and commerce, and the seat of power for the Númenoreans in Exile. Minas Ithil, on the other hand, was a smaller structure meant as a watch-tower for the pass through the Mountains of Shadow. It had walls to reinforce its defense and a central tower, as Tolkien describes, but it was nothing like the structure of Minas Tirith. Cartographer Karen Wynn Fonstad has some interesting diagrams in her Atlas of Middle-earth. Her direct source is clearly The History of Middle-earth, Volume VIII, "The War of the Ring," where you can see the Professor’s sketch-map of the Morgul Vale. Nestled within the valley you will see the outer wall and structures of Minas Morgul as Tolkien first imagined them.


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Q: Hi guys–love, love, LOVE this website! So far the only thing by Tolkien I have read is The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so I may sound uneducated when I ask this, but I was curious about the personality of Sauron. From other things I have read on this site, I gather that Sauron was "charming" in an evil sort of way in The Silmarillion. However, is it ever indicated what his personality as a being was like around the time of the War of the Ring (or before it even)? Did he get amused by others' suffering or laugh at anything? Did he ever have "relationships" with other beings? Did he like culture? For instance, it's often stated that orcs in his service have a red eye on their helmets. Was that their idea, or did Sauron encourage the insignia?


A: Perhaps the best quote is from "Notes on Motives in The Silmarillion" in The History of Middle-earth, Volume X, "Morgoth's Ring," "[Sauron] still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction .... though the only real good in, or rational motive for, all this ordering and planning and organization was the good of all inhabitants of Arda (even admitting Sauron's right to be their supreme lord), his 'plans', the idea coming from his own isolated mind, became the sole object of his will, and an end, the End, in itself *[But his capability of corrupting other minds, and even engaging their service, was a residue from the fact that his original desire for ‘order’ had really envisaged the good estate (especially physical well-being) of his ‘subjects.’]

To this we may add a reminder that Sauron was a Maia of Aulë, and so likely to be interested in the "making" and "creating" of things. He invented the Black Speech; it is likely that the emblem of the Eye was also of his invention. However, he doesn't sound like the sort of guy who had much of a sense of humor.


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Q: If the One Ring lost its power after being destroyed, then why would Frodo still become ill on the anniversary of his attacks while wearing the Ring years later? And what good would it do him to go off with the elves to the Grey Havens (other than perhaps Tolkien wanted an untraditional ending for his hero)?

–V. Smith

A: The Ring left its imprint on Bilbo, on Frodo, even on Sam, and certainly on Gollum. Just because the physical object ceased to exist, does not mean that the effects could be wiped out overnight. Think of it as recovering from a debilitating illness: perhaps the germs are eradicated from your body, but your body still has to recover from its weakness.

The Havens were merely the beginning of the journey; Frodo went to the Blessed Realm where he would feel the effects of the Ring less and would be able to rest in true peace.


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Q: I have a couple of questions. In The Return of the King it is said that Aragorn gave the slaves of Mordor the land around Nurn, does Tolkien then mean that he gave the land to orcs and trolls, the offspring of evil? Or does he mean that he gave the land to the human slaves of Mordor? And, its said that Aragorn makes peace with the Haradrim of the south, but I read later that Gondor and Rohan had war with someone in the south. Is this correct, does it then mean that the Haradrim broke the treaty or that Gondor had other enemies in the south?

–Thomas Jansen

A: You got it right on the second guess. King Elessar gave the freed human slaves of Sauron the arable lowlands south of the Plateau of Gorgoroth (which were somewhat more hospitable due to the presence of water). The Orcs got absolutely nothing, as they were out of the picture entirely. The creatures bred by Sauron lost all will and purpose when their master was destroyed, and those that did not kill themselves in dismay were mostly annihilated by the Lords of the West or fled from sight and memory.

And yes, the Haradrim were probably just like other Men (and modern-day counterparts); prone to lapses of integrity and political stability. My Green Books friend Ostadan says that "it is a mistake, I think, to assume that the Haradrim or Easterlings were homogenous in culture, politics, etc." Tolkien only gives a passing hint in Appendix A but I’m sure there were plenty of conflicts and uprisings during Elessar’ s long reign.


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Q: Dear Green Books Staff; I've read Lord of the Rings several times, and to me one of the most mysterious and interesting characters is that of the Dark Lord, Sauron. Throughout the story, numerous references are made to The Eye of Sauron. While at times this seems to be only a metaphor for his sleepless vigilance and that of his spies, there are instances in which it seems more literal. I certainly don't picture him as some sort of dark cyclops, but several occurrences seem to suggest that he is capable of seeing across large distances through some sort of psychic ability. When Frodo is sitting upon the Hill of the Eye, he narrowly misses the gaze of the dark tower, and later while climbing Mount Doom, he can see a red beam of light coming from the topmost tower of Barad-dur, supposedly watching the events transpiring before the gates of Mordor. Does Sauron, as a Maia, have the natural ability to see things a long way off, or (the more likely explanation to my mind) is there a Palantir in the Dark Tower?

-Zach Krupp

A: In a letter to Mrs. Eileen Elgar (Letters #246) Sauron's physical appearance is described "Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic." A picture of him is in one of Tolkien's jacket designs shown in "Artist and Illustrator."

And of course there is a Palantír in Barad-dűr (the Ithil stone)-that is the whole point of the Palantíri in the story!


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Q: Green Books Staff: In The Hobbit, the Goblin King shrieks at the sight of Glamdring. Now it may be that I am remembering the Rankin/Bass cartoon, but if memory serves it is also from the text. How could he shriek at Glamdring and call it by name? I highly doubt that an Orc would speak or be able to read the High Elven script of Gondolin; not even Gandalf could decipher that at first glance. The sword may have had great renown, but who would fear or recognize it unless they had actually seen it? The Goblin King may have heard remote stories about the blade, but a tale of a deadly sword from the First Age would not be enough to identify the sword by sight only.


A: I disagree. Goblins and orcs are long-livers, and no doubt the tradition of Biter and Beater had been passed directly down over the generations, descriptions and all. And don’t forget the most telling feature of the swords–it is dark in the caves of the goblins, and undoubtedly Orcrist and Glamdring were glowing fiercely the whole time. It wouldn't take a rocket-scientist goblin to recognize the vicious swords of their nightmare legends.


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Q: Hullo. Do you think that Tolkien used the story of Macbeth as a inspiration for his Witch-king? I say this only because Macbeth was assured that he could not be killed by "one of women born," and therefore believed that he was invincible. The Witch-king was told, or somehow knew, that he could be killed by "no man," and also thought he was invincible. Now both of these claims have sort of a same trick to them, it doesn't rule out any humans from killing them, just no male and no normal birth child, respectively. This hubris ultimately leads to both their downfalls, Macbeth by MacDuff who was delivered by C-section, the Witch-king by Éowyn a woman. I just wondered if Tolkien was relating to Shakespeare here and if there are any other influences of him in Tolkien's work. Thank you.


A: This is a very cool idea but you won’t find much to support it. We know Tolkien didn’t care much for Shakespeare, but that is not to say his creative mind was completely devoid of the Bard’s work. In Letters, No. 163, he complains that his boyhood education included precious little about "the English language and its history" and that learning Shakespeare in this context was lacking. He wanted more "chief contacts with poetry" but had to settle for translating Shakespeare into Latin. Good grief, I would hate that too.

I pulled out my History of Middle-earth and found some unusual things. Originally, Éowyn was not to slay the Witch-king at all. A very early outline preceding the first drafts of "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields" shows the "Wizard King" flying away unharmed on his monstrous bird while Éowyn lay slain on the Field. This early form of the head Nazgûl was not called "Witch-king" until later. In this outline he would survive and later play the Mouth of Sauron role, parleying with the Lords of the West outside the Morannon. The death of the Witch-king was not written until later, but funny enough it would be at the hands of Éowyn and Théoden together (no sign of Merry at all in these sketches). But this changed again.

Another early outline reveals the prophecy of the Wizard King thusly: "Yet it was foretold that he should be overthrown, in the end, by one young and gallant." Nothing too specific here that seems like a MacDuff connection. Tolkien kept changing his mind (and the specifics) as his writing evolved, and the prophecy became: "…but in the hour of his victory to be overthrown by one who has never slain a man [> by one who has slain no living thing]." And there was some dialogue of Dernhelm revealed as Éowyn and she admits aloud she has killed no living thing. So at last here comes the "trick condition" that allows the Witch-king to die by her hand. As much fun as it is to watch the story change directions, you still can’t know for sure what Tolkien was up to. It’s nearly impossible to tell if he took a direct impression from Shakespeare at this point.

Ah, then there are the Ents. The tragedy of Macbeth had a specific impact on how the Ents came to be! In the same Letter, Tolkien says:

But looking back analytically I should say that Ents are composed of philology, literature, and life.... Their part in the story is due, I think, to my bitter disappointment and disgust from schooldays with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of ‘Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill’: I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war.


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Q: Are the hobbits descended from men? I know that Tolkien says that Hobbits were closely related to Men, and where taller back in the day, but does he mention from where else they come from? Thanks, love the site and the Q and A's.

–Jonathan Culling


Q: One question has been bothering me for a while. Not being a complete Tolkien scholar on the order of all you admirable folks, I wondered: where do hobbits go when they die? We know Elves go to wait in the Halls of Mandos, we know Men have received the Gift of Ilúvatar (hope I got that right), but since we are so endeared to hobbits, I would love to know if Tolkien ever specified what happened to them after death?


A: In a footnote to his long letter to Milton Waldman (Letters #131) Tolkien specifically says that "The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves)–hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk."

This is clearly also true from the mythical standpoint. In Tolkien's world, here are two races of the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men. Hobbits, as a variety or branch of humanity, partake of the same fate as the Big Folk. We know little of when or where Hobbits first emerged, except to note the linguistic kinship between the Hobbits' most ancient names and words and the languages of the upper Anduin and Dale (and Rohan) as described in Appendix F.


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Q: To the Green Books staff: My two-part question comes from the final dialogue of Saruman and the hobbits after the attempted stabbing of Frodo. Saruman is flung to the ground, but Sam is prevented from striking at Frodo's bidding. Saruman responds, "You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy." So, according to Saruman, his revenge would have been sweeter had Sam been allowed to strike. I was wondering if Saruman believed that his wrongful death at the hands of the hobbits would have allowed him passage into the West.

There is no mention of Saruman being surprised that Frodo's mithril coat turned his knife. Tolkien does write, "There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred," but I have always thought that these were due to Frodo's wisdom rather than his armor. So if Saruman learned of the coat, which he could have from the palantír or from Treebeard's accounts that might have included the parley with The Mouth of Sauron, is it possible that he laid a trap that would have denied Frodo passage to the Havens because of his willingness to have Saruman slain?

Or was he trying to do both thing simultaneously? Wherein does the treachery lie?

May the stars shine upon your faces.


A: Wow. Double-cross upon double-cross! J The answer to your first question is, I believe, ‘no.’ Anybody with any sense at all, and Saruman still kept at least a little, would know that he had forfeited his right to go home by his evil actions, even if he was slain at the hands of the hobbits. But, what he wanted to see happen was for a hobbit to strike him down and thus the hobbit would be denied any eternal reward, or so he hoped. You know how when somebody mistreats you and you want to strike back, somebody always says, "Don’t lower yourself to their level?" It’s quite true… the hobbits lost nothing by forbearance and sparing Saruman’s life, but they would have had everything to lose had they slain him. Saruman’s revenge would have been complete if he could have dragged them down with him, but we see, he was unable to do so.

So that answers your second question, as well. Regardless of whether he knew about the coat or not, Saruman figured that through an attack on Frodo, he could get either Frodo or Sam or some of the other hobbits to kill him, thus denying whichever one of them did the deed and whichever of them allowed it to happen, their eternal reward. Again, he knew he was going down and just wanted to take some of them with him. Happily he did not succeed.


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Q: Why were the Elves taken or pushed towards Valinor by Oromë? To make way for Men?? Morgoth was out and about in Middle-earth at the time–were the Men to be just left to Morgoth?


A: A rereading of the story "Of the Coming of the Elves" in The Silmarillion is probably in order here. When the Elves awakened, Manwë led the Valar to a great battle against Melkor and brought him, a prisoner, to Valinor. "Then again the Valar were gathered in council," and decided (not unanimously) to summon the Quendi to Valinor, partly out of fear for the safety of the Quendi, and partly from love of the Elves and desire for their fellowship. "Mandos broke his silence, saying: "So it is doomed." From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell." It wasn't one of the Valar's better ideas.


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Q: I was just thinking: In Tolkien's mythology we see several examples of Elves returning to the "physical world" after a sojourn in the Halls of Mandos. Finrod "walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar," and Glorfindel even returns to Middle-earth. This begs a few questions: These two examples both died in some heroic fashion, sacrificing themselves for others–is this some sort of condition for release? If released, do you think they are restored to their former power? Would Finwë, or even Fingolfin, upon release by Mandos, be restored as High King of the Noldor in Valinor? Just a silly thought, but wondering what you think, or if there is any writing along these lines. Thanks!

–Jim Keane

A: "Morgoth's Ring" has much discussion on this ("Laws and Customs Among the Eldar"). The length of time that they dwelt in Waiting was partly at the will of Námo the Judge, lord of Mandos, partly at their own will."

In a much later essay, ("Peoples of Middle-earth") specifically concerning Glorfindel, he expands on this:

It was ... the duty of the Valar, by command of the One, to restore [Elves] to incarnate life, if they desired it. But this ‘restoration’ could be delayed *[Or in the gravest cases (such as that of Fëanor) withheld and referred to the One] by Manwë, if the fea while alive had done evil deeds and refused to repent of them, or still harboured any malice against any other person among the living....

He goes on to describe Glorfindel's history and sacrifice, and his short stay in the Halls of Waiting. Then:

For long years he remained in Valinor, in reunion with the Eldar ... and in the companionship of the Maiar. To these he had now become almost an equal, for though he was an incarnate .... his spiritual power had been greatly enhanced by his self-sacrifice.

The practice of titular leadership among the Eldar is doubtless different from the practice among mortals, but Tolkien said little on this subject.


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Q: Hi, folks at TORN! I have only one short question: In the last chapter of The Return of the King, "The Grey Havens," Tolkien describes Círdan the Shipwright as having a long beard. Why? I was pretty sure that Elves didn't have beards. This one really sticks out like a sore thumb, and it's the only thing that really bothers me with LotR.



Q: Círdan is among the oldest of elves. He possibly awoke beside the shores of Cuiviénen. But, despite his great age, he is immortal. So, why does he look old when we meet him at the end of the RotK? Shouldn't he be ageless like the other elves?

–The Hobnoblin

A: I don’t think there’s any reason to suppose that just because Elves are deathless, they cannot show the effects of age, especially Elves who live in Middle-earth. The simplest answer is that Tolkien tells us he showed the effects of his age, therefore, show them, he does.



In Vinya Tengwar #41, and attributed to "a note elsewhere in the papers associated with this essay [The Shibboleth of Feanor]: 'Elves did not have beards until they entered their third cycle of life. Nerdanel's father was exceptional, being only early in his second. '" (cf Peoples of Middle-earth pp. 365-66 note 61). These "cycles of life" are, as far as I know, nowhere else referred to, and this passage may, for all we know, have been written precisely because of the apparent anomaly of Cirdan.

If Men with Elvish ancestry inherited the Elvish characteristic of beardlessness, it may be that Men do not live long enough to reach the third cycle of life.


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Q: The Balrog in Moria didn't attack Balin’s dwarves. Indeed, it had been idle for so many eons that no one had any idea it was there. So why did it suddenly decide to assert itself in full glory when the Fellowship was passing through? At least three possibilities come to mind: (1) it was somehow drawn by the Ring or (2) by the presence (or magic) of Gandalf; or (3) it was just a dramatic coincidence introduced to enliven the narrative. Which is it, and what evidence do we have to go by?


A: You seem to have answered your own question. But we have to wonder what kind of details were not recorded in the Book of Mazarbul that might enlighten us further on Balin’s plight. Gandalf found many pages burned, torn, and illegible. Maybe, just maybe, the Balrog did indeed come forth to assault Balin and his team during the five years he reclaimed Moria. It is a meager assumption, but still…

The Balrog seemed dormant away in a dark corner for some time, as you say (it was actually over 1,000 years since it slew Durin VI to the time Balin and his troupe sought Moria again). Also note Sauron was not nearby in Dol Guldur (in the Appendix Tolkien mentions this possible original catalyst). Now, as the Fellowship travels through Khazad-dûm, the only thing different in the equation is the Ring. I believe it is the Ring’s influence here that provoked the demon, more than anything else. Almost like having the will of Sauron very near, reaching out in an immediate, kinetic way. Remember, too, that the Watcher in the Water went straight for Frodo before anyone else. The nefarious ripple-effect of the Ring on other servants of the Shadow cannot be underestimated.


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Q: Question One: In The Silmarillion, when Aulë creates the Dwarfs, Eru says that they will only move when Aulë’s attention in focused on them. Yet, Morgoth created the dragons who seemingly have there own consciousness and in the case of Smaug, he is able to speak after Morgoth is thrown in to the Outer Sea. Is Morgoth just that much more powerful that he can give them minds of their own without the help of Eru? What about the Eagles? They can speak as well.

Question Two: Who created the Ents, and again why can they speak on their own?

–Smeagol M. Gollum

A: The Ents are the "Shepherds of the Trees" spoken of in the tale of Aulë and Yavanna; the Eagles are likewise creatures of Manwë brought into being by Eru. The Dragons can speak, but this does not necessarily indicate that they have souls of their own; or they may be spirits of malice dwelling in bodily "rainments" conceived for them by Morgoth (not unlike Balrogs in some sense).


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Q: I am a 15+ time reader of the trilogy. One question that has bothered me every single time is what prompted Aragorn to warn Gandalf specifically about entering Moria? Aragorn made very clear that while he had concerns for the party as a whole, he feared most for Gandalf.

After all, Gandalf had far more powers that the other eight combined. If any of them could survive Moria, it would have been him. Yet Aragorn was especially afraid for him.



A: Yes, if any of them could have survived Moria on their own, it certainly would have been Gandalf. But he was very much not on his own. He had a responsibility to the rest of the party and most especially to protect the Ringbearer. Therefore he would be put in danger in that responsibility, no matter what enemies they met in the caverns. Taking that line of reasoning farther, it was a matter of history that something evil slept beneath Caradhras… Durin’s Bane. Not everybody in the party was clear on what Durin’s Bane was, but it’s reasonable to suppose they knew it would be a powerful entity approaching the level of Gandalf, and that if Gandalf were required to face something equal to him in power, he would be the only one who could face it, and therefore would be in far more danger than the others.

It’s reasonable to suppose Aragorn could have worked out this line of thought, and as events prove, he was correct.


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Q: If the spiders in Mirkwood are offspring of Shelob, then why can't Shelob talk like they can?

–Robert Miquel

A: Bilbo had a way of "embellishing" his tales, as Ostadan pointed out to me. The details in The Hobbit, like the servant animals in Beorn’s house and the talking spiders, are offered in the vein of fairy-tale. As Bilbo was the recorder of his own adventures in the Red Book, we get to enjoy the most spirited and amusing fairy-tale trappings of the story as the author would wish.

When Tolkien sat down to work on LOTR, he once again started out with the same light-hearted idiom of storytelling (like when the fox stops and wonders to itself what the hobbits are doing walking through the Shire at night). However, Tolkien soon got more than he bargained for as the work progressed, and he abandoned this tone. Shelob would appear in the narrative as a thing of unqualified terror and evil–not a whimsical spider you would throw rocks at. And that’s how the story "grew in the telling."


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Q: Reading the Appendices of the ROTK it mentions the Stoors–hobbits–who lived in "The Angle." Did we ever hear anything else of The Angle... and that they went back over the Misty Mountains to dwell in the Gladden Fields? Were they then hobbits who lived in the Gladden Fields WELL after Sméagol, Déagol and co.?


A: This area was the juncture of the Rivers Hoarwell and Loudwater. No, I don’t find any other material about hobbit migration except what’s in the Prologue. There in Section 1 Tolkien gives us details of how the Stoors, Fallohides, and Harfoots traveled westward over the Misty Mountains. You’ll find plenty there. In Appendix A we learn that a population of Stoors living in the Angle were upset with the climate and the threat of the Witch-king; thus they packed up and started moving. Basically, many went to live with their Shire-kin to the west, some south to Dunland, the remaining returned east to the Vales of Anduin. These later groups would be the Stoor-ish antecedents of Sméagol. I don’t find anything about what happened to them after Sméagol was ostracized.

I can’t imagine they lived there very long, with Orcs repopulating the mountain passes, and Sauron growing in power again under the eaves of Mirkwood, sending his creatures everywhere (especially to Moria). Perhaps they died out or departed for Eriador once more. Saruman went searching near the Gladden Fields about four centuries after Sméagol’s clan lived there, and he found nothing.


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Q: "The Quest of Erebor" in Unfinished Tales clearly explains Gandalf's reasoning & intuition regarding Bilbo's inclusion in the party of dwarves. Bilbo was much quieter than dwarves and carried a different scent; that alone would make him a valuable commodity in the dragon extermination business, but Gandalf goes on to say, "I knew in my heart that Bilbo must go with him (Thorin), or the whole quest would be a failure..." Ok, so if it was so darned important for Bilbo to go on the quest, why on earth did Gandalf allow Thorin's note to Bilbo, which detailed their business agreement and meeting time, to be hidden under the clock on the mantelpiece?

–Shannon Wynn

A: Because it was humorous. J Gandalf knew very well that he would be around the next morning to make sure Bilbo caught up with the Dwarves, and the exact moment of his starting off wasn’t very important. This is duality again… the contrivances of storytelling giving way to the sensibility of everyday actions.


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Q: My question is about the seven Dwarven Rings. In The Silmarillion it says that Sauron had three of them and that the others had been lost. Why didn't Sauron give them to some of his servants to use? Surely three more Ringwraiths couldn't hurt. I don't think that it would be that only Dwarves could use the rings as Gandalf is able to use one of the Rings of the Elves. Thanks.


A: Yes, Gandalf is able to use one of the Elven rings, but the Dwarven rings had a different sort of power. The Elven rings were more powerful, used for making, mending, and "rekindling hearts grown cold." Moreover, they were not under direct control of the One Ring. The Dwarven rings were, and their power was bent towards acquiring wealth, not controlling the minds of others or freezing their hearts with fear, which were the primary powers of the Nazgûl. Perhaps Sauron knew the power of these rings would be of little use to him, AND, more importantly, without the One Ring, he wouldn’t necessarily be able to control the wearers of the Dwarven rings, just as he could not control Frodo directly or wholly. The Nine had come under his sway back when he possessed the ring, but at this point he did not possess it–it’s probable he would not have had the control he needed if he had allowed the remaining Dwarven rings to pass to others.


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Questions 10/01
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Was Minas Ithil similar to Tirith?
 • Did Sauron have a personality?
 • Why the anniversary pain?
 • Elessar's gift to the slaves of Sauron
 • The Eye of Sauron just a metaphor?
 • Glamdring's reputation among Orcs?
 • The Shakespeare connection
 • Destiny of Hobbits after death
 • Saruman's double treachery
 • Why summon the Elves to Valinor?
 • What of resurrected Elves?
 • What's with Cirdan's beard?
 • What provoked the Balrog?
 • Why can Dragons speak?
 • Why did Aragorn warn Gandalf?
 • Why doesn't Shelob talk?
 • What about the Stoors from The Angle?
 • Why leave a note on the mantel?
 • Dwarven rings make new Ringwraiths?


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