The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Forged between c. II 1500 and c. II 1600. With the destruction of the One Ring in III 3019, the surviving Rings lost their Power.
Makers
The Elves of Eregion, under the instruction of Sauron.
Sauron was said to have had no part in the making of the Three Rings, while he alone made the One Ring.
Other Names

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  • Updated 20 September 1998
  • This entry is complete

Great Rings

The Rings of Power

Encyclopedia of Arda Timeline
Years of the Trees First Age Second Age Third Age Fourth Age and Beyond

The powerful Rings forged in Eregion in the Second Age, mostly with the aid of Sauron, of which nine were given by him to Men, and seven to the Dwarves; three the Elves retained. The One Ring is also counted among the Great, but that was forged by Sauron alone in Orodruin.

Though the nature and powers of the rings varied, one aspect that they shared was the power of elongating or 'stretching' of life - the bearer of a Great Ring did not age. This effect applied only to mortal bearers of the Rings; the Elves and Wizards were already 'immortal' by nature, and this power did not seem to affect them. This explains the peculiar longevity of Bilbo Baggins and especially Gollum (a creature of hobbit-kind, Gollum should have lived no more than 100 years or so, and yet under the influence of the One Ring, he survived for more than 500 years beneath the Misty Mountains).

Another common power conferred by the Great Rings was that of invisibility. At first, this was a temporary effect, and occurred only when the bearer actually wore the ring. After a time, though, this invisibility would become permanent (hence the nine Ring-wraiths, though their Rings were held by Sauron, were always invisible). This invisibility seems to have been due to the wearer being transported to the 'wraith-world', a strange 'dimension' that co-exists with the real world.

Tolkien's various references to the Great Rings seem to make it clear that they all had the power of invisibility. However, the Three Rings of the Elves seemed to be exempt from this - although the Rings were normally invisible themselves, their bearers did not vanish (this is perhaps due to Sauron's having no part in their making).

The Seven Rings of the Dwarves, which were among the Great Rings, raise a question. We know that one of these Rings was held by the Kings of Durin's Folk, and yet through all the hundreds of years they bore it, there is no record of this Ring displaying any of its powers. Though the Dwarf-kings no doubt kept it secret and used it little, there are strong hints that the Dwarves were more resistant to the effects of the Great Rings than other mortal kinds.


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