Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
More LOTR mythology explained
Published on January 13, 2004 By Draginol In Books

Recently I wrote two articles that tried to explain Tolkien's mythology on Lord of the Rings in fairly plain terms. You can read them here and here.

Jaime writes:

Brad- thanks for your helpful, plain language articles. Just rewatched the first movie with a bunch of friends, and even those of us who read the Silmarillon, etc. couldn't remember them well enough to answer some background questions that your articles answered nicely. We still have some questions I thought you might know the answers to:

1) What's the deal with the 19 other rings? Who made them- it says in the movie  "they were all deceived' and we know Sauron could control them through the one ring, so did he make them and hand them out in disguise?

2) We know that the corrupted kings who bore  the 9 rings for men became ringwraiths. Were they numinor kings? And why was Isildur spared? And what happened to the elf and dwarf rings- were their bearers able to keep using the rings?

3) Nobody could remember- what's the deal with Aragorn being exiled? How long has it been since Gondor had a king, and why is Aragorn recognized as the heir but still in exile?

4) Is Elrond the elf King, or just a leader elf?

1) There 20 rings total (including the one Sauron made).  But Sauron only made 1 ring.  The other 19 were created by the elves. Of those 19 that Jaime refers to, all but 3 of them were "touched" by Sauron.  You see, at one time, Sauron was able to take the guise of a noble and wise person. Remember in The Fellowship of the Ring when Saruman at first came across as Gandalf's friend? Sauron was able to do this to the elves but much more so. The elves had no idea that Sauron was a bad guy at this point and Sauron taught them the craft of creating these rings. So the elves created these rings. The greatest of the elven Ring Makers was the lord of Eregion named Celembrimbor.  He created the 3 most powerful of the rings which had special powers. Elrond, Gladriel, and Gandalf wore those rings (you can see the rings on their fingers in the movie even though they aren't really mentioned much).

Eregion was a land that was just west of Moria and was destroyed in the last war with Sauron and the elves aren't there any more. That's why the entrance to Moria that the fellowship traveled through was there in the first place - an easy way for the elves to visit the dwarves who, at that time, got along okay.

What I find amazing about this plot is how applicable it is today. Think of middle earth magic like software. Sauron, taking the guise of a wise, trustworthy teacher, showed the elves how to create these rings (software). But in doing so, he knew where all the back doors were, all the ways he could hack into the rings.

Then in secret he went and forged one ring that would be able to harness all the power of all those rings as well as those who wore them. Once he did that, the elves got rid of all but the 3 rings which they simply took off.  But to make a ring of such power to control so many powerful rings as well as such powerful minds, Sauron had to invest much of his native essence into that ring. Magic, in middle earth, is spiritual energy. It doesn't just come from no where. And it's not re-generating (i.e. it's not like mana). Every time you use some you have to invest some of your life force so to speak into it. Eventually all magical things fade. The 3 rings, it should be pointed out, were actually created to postpone the fading of all magical things and did a good job at it.

Anyway, Sauron recovered all but the 3 elven rings and then distributed them.  7 to dwarves and 9 to men.  The 9 men who took them became kings in their time but eventually became mastered by Sauron and a slave to his ring and faded into being wraiths -- the Ring wraiths aka the Nazgul.

2) The ringwraiths were "dark" Numenorians.  Before the fall of Numenor, Numenor had established colonies of conquest in Middle Earth. In their time, some of these leaders became petty kings who came in contact with Sauron and were granted one of the rings.  Isildur wasn't "spared", he and his family never trusted Sauron and thus were never ensnared.

A little note on how powerful Numenor was - Sauron pissed off the Numenorians at their high point by contesting them for control of Middle Earth. Sauron, at the height of his power, with a massive army went to meet the Numenorian army. But the Numenorian army was so powerful that Sauron's army fled without a fight and Sauron was taken prisoner and taken back to the island of Numenor. Of course, Sauron has other forms of power than brute force and as was written elsewhere eventually corrupted the Numenorians from within.  But it does go to show how powerful Numenor was. Sauron had his ring with him at the time and his army and was still so outclassed by the Numenorians that his army cowered in the presence of the Numenorians. Kind of makes Gondor look pathetic eh?

Now, with regards to the dwarf rings - they were eventually all lost. The rings were cursed since they were ultimately controlled by the 1 ring. Dwarves couldn't be controlled by Sauron but he could encourage their darker natures to grow and the result was that each of the 7 dwarf kings became fantastically rich as the rings they worse ultimately led them to great riches which became the foundation of the 7 golden hordes of treasure. Unfortunately, dragons eventually came in and took those hordes and consumed most of the rings. The Hobbit actually deals with 1 of those hordes whose dragon, Smaug, probably consumed one of the 7 rings. The dwarven rings I believe are all lost by the end of the stories.

3) That is a bit sketchy I agree. So here's my take on it. Aragorn was born in the north and early in his life he fell in love with Arwen. But Elrond made clear to him, "My daughter will marry no other than the king of Arnor and Gondor and the opportunity for reunion will be a long while coming by the terms of men." And so Aragorn went out into exile into the world to became the world's greatest warrior biding his time for the opportunity to one day reclaim the kingship. He did so quietly and under many names for he knew that Sauron would return and that eventually the 1 ring would be found and only then would he be truly tested.

Gondor had been without a king for a long while, hundreds of years. My knowledge on that a part is sketchy. The last king of Gondor I believe died in a plague.

4) That's a bit sketchy too. Not all elves are the same. Elrond, like Gladriel, is of the Noldor. That is a type of elf race. He is also partly a Sindarian elf. Heck, there's some Maiar blood in him too but we'll try not to get too complicated. 

By the time of Lord of the Rings, there just aren't enough Noldor elves left to be using the term King anymore. He's the lord of Rivendell. The last high king of the Noldor was named Gil-Galad who died fighting Sauron.  The opening scene of Lord of the Rings should have showed two people being killed by Sauron and not just Isildur's father. The other person who Sauron killed in single combat was Gil-Galad, high king of the Noldor.

But that was the last alliance of men and elves and after that the Noldor slowly migrated back to the far west and their numbers dwindled to the point where the "realm" of Elrond is basically a large bed and breakfast type place called Rivendell.

Elrond, by the way, was born in Middle Earth and was going on 7,000 years old by the end of the story.

on Jan 13, 2004
Further clarification...

The 3 Elven Rings are given to the 3 nominal Elven Leaders on Middle Earth. You'll note that in the openning scene of the Fellowship, they are: Nenya (or Ring of Water) given to Galadriel, Vilya (or Ring of Air) given to Gil-galad, and Narya (or Ring of Fire) given to Círdan of Grayhaven. Galadriel kept her ring until the end of the war, Elrond inherited Vilya when Gil-galad fell to Sauron at the end of War of the Last Alliance, and Círdan gave his ring to Gandalf when the Istari arrived at Middle Earth.
on Jan 13, 2004
Oh, on the part of the previous King of Gondor. The plague wipe out a large percentage of the population, but that's not what did him in. He answered the challenge of the Witch King, and went into Minas Morgas, and was never heard from again. Since he left without heir, a Stewart rules in his place (witness the throne room in Minas Tirith, the Stewart's throne, and the King's throne high atop).
on Jan 13, 2004
Okay, this is a nitpick, I know, but it's "steward", not "Stewart" or "Stuart". The latter are names that come from the noun, but are not substitutes for the noun itself. It means one who is employed to manage the affairs of a household.
on Jan 13, 2004
There were two lines of kings of numenor, one was isildur and the other was anarion. Anarion founded Gondor and His line died when the king went to fight the Witch King. The other was from Isildur and was in the north in Arnor. That king died when His boat foundered in the Ice Bay of Forochel and He drowned. Since Arnor was destroyed, the line of the kings became anonymous rangers that lived in Rivendell.

The story doesn't get interesting until Aragorn visits Gondor under the surname Thorongil about 80 years before the time of the Lord of the Rings. Back then when Denethor II was young and His father, Ectelion II was the steward. Ectelion knew who Aragorn was and he and all of the Men of Gondor really, really loved Him. Denethor resented that affection for Aragorn from a really young age. Aragorn during this time destroyed the fleet at Umbar and then left after a while. Denethor would not give the kingship of Gondor to anyone but He who comes from the line of Anarion, NOT Isildur. Since Aragorn is from the line of Isildur and not Anarion in Denethor's mind he doesn't qualify. In other words, Denethor is being petty because He doesn't like Aragorn and hasn't for a long time.

(2)As for the ringwraiths, they were kings from the east. The only one who was from numenor was the Mouth of Sauron.
on Jan 13, 2004
Tytan: Cool. I didn't know about that!
on Jan 14, 2004
The Witch King is also from Numenor, he is referred to several times as the "Black Numenorean" in Tolkiens books. Also there were at least two other Numenorean nobles who turned into Nazgul. Its all in the Silmarillion. And the mouth of sauron wasnt a Nazgul afaik. He was just another creature commanded by Sauron.
on Jan 14, 2004
Actually, Elrond was one of the Peredhil (i.e., half-elven). At the end of the first age, the Valar gave Elrond the choice to choose his race: he chose to become Elven. He was a ring-bearer. He bore the greatest of the Elvish rings, Vilya. Gandalf and Galadriel bore the other two Elvish rings.

Sauron possessed at least one of the Dwarven rings of power. He took it from the Thrain II (king of Durin's Folk) whom he captured and imprisoned in Dol Guldur (Sauron's fortress in Mirkwood near Lorien, before the War of the Ring).
on Jan 14, 2004
Well you're right in there being Numenoreans......there were three(I stand corrected). However, the text does not connect the names of the three numenoreans with any of the Nine:

snip from

"What are the Names of the Nine Nazgul?

One of them, the second in rank after the Lord of the Nazgûl himself, was named Khamûl, and also known as the Black Easterling. This is the only one of the nine Nazgûl explicitly named by Tolkien.

This may come as a surprise if you've come across one of the many sources that list a set of names of the other eight: Murazor (the Witch-king himself), Dwar, Ji Indur, Akhorahil, Hoarmurath, Adunaphel, Ren and Uvatha. These names are common across the Web, and often have detailed biographies to go with them. They're also consistent with what Tolkien had to say about the origins of the Nazgûl: in the Akallabêth it is stated '...among those whom he ensnared with the Nine Rings three were great lords of Númenórean race', and indeed three of these names are Númenórean in form: Murazor, Akhorahil and Adunaphel.

None of these eight names, though, have their origins in Tolkien's own work. Instead, they come from a series of role-playing and trading card games produced by Iron Crown Enterprises. The names of Murazor, Dwar and the rest emerged from the unavoidable need for these games to develop and expand Tolkien's universe to meet the needs of the gaming fraternity. The games' popularity accounts for the regular appearance of the names, to the extent that they're now frequently presented as the 'true' names of the remaining eight Nazgûl.

Some readers have even suggested that these names are so widely accepted that they should be considered the de facto names for the eight otherwise unnamed Ringwraiths. On a personal level, or in the context of the games that spawned the names, this isn't an unreasonable approach: if Tolkien never told us the name of, say, the Witch-king, there seems little obvious harm in imagining that his name was originally Murazor (or anything else, for that matter). Things become a little more problematic where the names are published without explanation: we receive plenty of e-mail from puzzled readers trying to work out which of Tolkien's books the names come from (hence this entry in the FAQ).

As for The Encyclopedia of Arda, this site is very specifically aimed at exploring Tolkien's own works, so it really isn't appropriate to include names or biographical details that we know did not come from Tolkien himself. Indeed, the same principle applies to characters who appear only in the recent movies, so it's not our intention to provide entries for (say) Hoarmurath, Uvatha or - for that matter - Lurtz from Peter Jackson's movie of The Fellowship of the Ring."

Fascinating stuff..............

Suggested reading for research:

The Complete Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster
Tolkien The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day
The Tolkien Handbook by Colin Duriez
Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien by Paul H. Kocher
on Jan 14, 2004
I will say that I believe it is implied that the Witch-King is a numenorean, but tolkien never comes out and says it. As He always says: "The power of fantasy flourishes on reticence."