What are the Rings of Power? In the Lord of the Rings movies, we hear about the Rings of Power, but other than the One Ring, we learn very little about Sauron’s magic rings. Thankfully Amazon’s fantasy series, also called the Rings of Power, is shedding some light on these powerful artefacts.
In the TV series, we’ve seen Celebrimbor begin work on a great forge that he plans on using to make something spectacular. What he doesn’t know is that soon he’ll fall under the spell of someone called Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, who’ll teach him smithing skills beyond imagining.
Yet you probably shouldn’t trust supposed gods bearing gifts because Annatar is not who he says he is. He’s really Sauron, Morgoth’s greatest servant, and he wants Celebrimbor’s help in creating the Rings of Power through which Sauron hopes to take control of all of Middle-earth. But what are these rings? Well, we’ve documented the entire history of the Rings of Power, including their bearers, powers, and how they were destroyed.
The Nine rings explained
The Nine Rings were given to the leaders of mortal men. While the individual rings are not named, we do know what powers they possessed. The nine boosted the natural abilities of the wearer, allowed them to become invisible, and gave them the ability to see into worlds invisible to mortals.
Using the power of the nine, each of these men became ” kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old.” The rings seemed to have some ability to interfere with the Gift of Men (a mortal life) as each of the bearers became immortal.
As you might expect, though, the immortality these rings offered wasn’t true eternal life. Instead, the rings spread their years thin and with each year that passed, the ringbearers lost more and more of themselves to Sauron until, eventually, they were transformed into ethereal wraiths wholly bound to the Dark Lord’s will.
The nine wraiths became known as the Nazgûl and were Sauron’s most feared servants. The Nine Rings were still worn by the Nazgûl when Sauron was destroyed, and the wraiths were freed from their servitude.
The Seven Rings explained
Like the rings gifted to humanity, the Seven Rings given to the lords of the seven clans of dwarves don’t have specific names. They shared similar powers to ‘The Nine’ in that they enhanced the natural qualities of the bearer and extended the lives of their bearer, but they did not make the wearer invisible.
The dwarves used their rings to gain wealth beyond imagining and increase their treasure hordes. The natural tenacity of the dwarves meant that even with the power of the rings, Sauron could not directly control the dwarf lords, but his influence made the mountain folk more belligerent and greedy.
Four of the Seven Rings were destroyed before the events of the Lord of the Rings movies. Supposedly they were consumed in dragon fire, the only thing other than the fires of Mount Doom capable of destroying a Ring of Power.
The remaining three rings were taken back by Sauron at some point, and during the War of the Ring, he tried to use the rings to bribe the dwarves into telling him about the One Ring, but they refused. These rings were presumably lost when Sauron’s fortress Barad-dur fell.
The Three Rings explained
The Three Rings were given to Elven kings and are the ones we know the most about, aside from Sauron’s ring. Unlike The Nine and The Seven, the three were made by Celebrimbor, not Sauron.
Still, because the elven smith used Sauron’s knowledge and magic to create these rings, they were still bound to The One Ring. The Three Rings were named after the three elements of water (Nenya), fire (Narya), and air (Vilya), and each had a different power.
Nenya was a mithril ring with a white stone set in its centre. The ring’s primary power was defensive, allowing its wearer to protect and conceal themselves and their location from evil. It was worn by Galadriel, who used the ring’s powers to found and protect Lothlórien.
Narya was an ornate ruby ring that allowed the bearer to ignite the spark of hope in the bearer and those around them. It also made the wearer immune to the weariness of time and some control over fire. Narya was first worn by the elven king Gil-Galad before being given to Gandalf when he arrived from Valinor.
Finally, Vilya was the greatest of the elven rings and had the ability to heal. It was worn by Elrond, who became known as the greatest healer in Middle-earth thanks to the ring’s magic. Elrond may have used the power of his ring to unleash a flood when the Nazgûl crossed the Ford of Bruinen.
All three elven rings survived the Third Age and the War of the Rings. However, when the One Ring was destroyed, the magic of the rings began to fade slowly, leaving them nothing more than pretty trinkets.
The One Ring explained
The greatest of the Rings of Power, the One Ring, was forged in secret by Sauron himself. The dark lord poured all of his hate and power into a plain golden band, binding himself to it in the process.
This was a double-edged sword for Sauron. When he wore the ring, he was mightier than ever before, but he was significantly diminished without it.
For most who wore the One Ring, it simply made them invisible, but this was the least of its abilities. The ring’s primary power was its ability to dominate the bearers of the other rings.
So great was Sauron’s power during the Second Age that the elf kings never wore their rings, terrified if they did that, Sauron would reach out and seize control of them. The One Ring also amplified the powers of its bearer, greatly enhancing the natural abilities of its wearer.
Like the other rings, The One Ring could also significantly extend the lives of mortals, allowing Bilbo and Gollum to live far beyond the natural lifespan of their species.
Unlike the lesser rings, Sauron’s ring possessed a sort of sentience. It sought to return to its master by any means possible and would try and tempt its bearer to claim the ring for themselves by promising them power or great reward.
The One Ring would also try and betray its owner slipping from their fingers in the hope of being picked up by another bearer. Sauron was the ring’s first bearer, but Isildur claimed it following the dark lord’s defeat.
After that, the ring was thought lost when orcs attacked Isildur, and it was thought lost for over a thousand years. Eventually, it was picked up by Deagol, but his stewardship of the ring was brief, as his cousin Smeagol murdered him to claim it.
Smeagol took the ring into the mountains and, over the centuries, was warped into the creature Gollum. When the Hobbit Bilbo discovered Gollum’s cave, the One Ring saw an opportunity to escape and slipped from Gollum’s pocket. Bilbo carried the ring for several decades before leaving it to Frodo.
During the War of the Ring, Frodo took the ring to Mordor, intending to cast it into Mount Doom. That didn’t go exactly to plan, but the job got done, and the One Ring was destroyed. Upon its destruction, the surviving Rings of Power lost their magic.