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The One Ring inscription explained - here’s Sauron’s hidden message

If you're not familiar with all the languages of Middle-earth, check out our guide breaking down the meaning and origin of the One Ring's inscription.

The One Ring with its inscription glowing with Mount Doom behind it in Lord of the Rings

What is the One Ring inscription in Lord of the Rings? When it comes to the best cinematic franchises, few can top J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. However, in the realm of Middle-earth, where multiple languages pop up on the big screen and lore is condensed, you may be wondering about those glowing words we see on the One Ring.

Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings has given us some of the best movies of all time. But even if you’re paying attention to Frodo’s quest, there are still details that the films either rush through or skip over entirely. So, while plenty of information and history is explained about the One Ring in the flicks, some of its details get left behind, such as the history behind the language Sauron chose to write his inscription with.

Well, worry not, Tolkien fans, The Digital Fix has your back. Here, we go over one of the best Lord of the Rings characters (Sauron’s famed piece of jewelry) and unpack everything you need to know about the One Ring’s inscription.

What is engraved on the One Ring?

The inscription on the One Ring is written in the language of Black Speech (aka the Language of Mordor that was created by Sauron during the Dark Years). When translated, it reads as: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.”

Obviously, when you watch Lord of the Rings, you’d know that we don’t get to see the English version of this translated quote on the One Ring. Instead, in the movies, we see the phrase as Black Speech but written in the Elf Fëanor’s writing system, Tengwar, glowing on the gold band when the Ring encounters extreme heat.

If we Romanize the Black Speech on the Ring from its original writing, it reads: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.” But whether you prefer Black Speech to the English translation or not, both versions mean the same thing – they serve as a strong reminder about the Ring’s immense power and its ability to conquer all of Middle-earth.

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The One Ring’s full poem

If you are deep in Tolkien lore, you may also remember that this inscription on the One Ring is also part of a poem that Elves had recorded sometime after Sauron had forged the Rings of Power and “gifted” them to the peoples of Middle-earth.

During the second chapter in The Fellowship of the Ring book, Gandalf explains how the glowing inscription on the One Ring is part of an ancient verse in Black Speech and recites the following poem:

“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne; in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them; in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

Gandalf holding the One Ring on a chain in the Shire during Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Obviously, the full poem isn’t as punchy as the “One Ring to rule them all” quote on the powerful piece of jewelry. But the complete context that the poem offers does refer back to the history of the Second Age and reminds us about why the One Ring was forged in the first place – for complete domination.

Peter Jackson’s trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring opens with Galadriel giving viewers similar context about the Ring’s history that the above poem does. Although she doesn’t recite the poem in full, she does explain all of Sauron’s magic rings and his purpose for making them. So, we can forgive Jackson’s trilogy glossing over the original poem.

If you’re after more Middle-earth fun, here are our guides breaking down the best way to watch all the Lord of the Rings movies in order, everything we know about the New Lord of the Rings movie, and everyone in the Lord of the Rings cast.

Or, if you need a break from Sauron, here are our articles on the best fantasy movies of all time, all the new movies heading our way, and everything we know about House of the Dragon season 2.