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  • Updated 13 November 2016
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Guardian of the Third Ring

The Keeper of Narya

When Sauron's making of the One Ring was revealed, Celebrimbor sent two of the Three Rings - Vilya and Narya - north to Gil-galad for safekeeping. Gil-galad in turn gave Narya the Red Ring, also called the Third Ring, to Círdan the Shipwright, and so it is to Círdan that the title 'Guardian of the Third Ring' is given in records. Círdan held the Ring for nearly three thousand years, but when the ships carrying the Istari arrived out of the West, he chose to pass the Ring on to one of the Wizards, whom he perceived as being wiser and more far-seeing than the others. Thus Mithrandir, also called Gandalf, became the Guardian of the Third Ring for the latter part of the Third Age.

I Gil-galad Guardian from II 1693 (8 years)
Seeking to conceal the Three Rings from Sauron, Celebrimbor sent two of them, Vilya and Narya, north to High King Gil-galad. Of these Gil-galad in turn passed the Blue Ring to Elrond to help him protect the newly founded Rivendell, and (at least according to most accounts) the Red Ring, the Third Ring, to Círdan the Shipwright. It seems that Gil-galad was thus the Guardian of the Third Ring for just a handful of years (though one account suggests the possibility that he held it for a great deal longer).1
II Círdan Guardian from II 1701 to c.III 1000 (c.2,740 years)
Gil-galad passed the Red Ring to Círdan the Shipwright, the ancient Elf who held the Grey Havens of Mithlond and oversaw the vessels carrying his fellow Elves away from Middle-earth into the West. Círdan guarded the Third Ring in secret by the western shores until the end of the first millennium of the Third Age. At that time ships came into Mithlond from across the Great Sea carrying emissaries from the Valar, though Círdan was one of the few who understood their purpose. Among them was one clad in grey, a being who would become known in Middle-earth as Mithrandir or Gandalf. Círdan divined that this being was the wisest of the new arrivals, and seeing the long and difficult work ahead of the Wizard he granted him the Ring of Fire to aid in his struggles against Sauron.
III Gandalf Guardian from c.III 1000 to III 3021 (c.2,021 years)
When Círdan passed the Third Ring to Gandalf, he did so in the hope that it would be used to bring courage and hope to the people of Middle-earth. Gandalf kept his possession of the Ring a close secret. Beside Círdan, only Elrond and Galadriel, the Keepers of the other two Rings of the Elves, knew that he held it, though Saruman also discovered this secret for himself. This secrecy means that we have no real understanding of the ways in which Gandalf put the Red Ring to use, though its nature as the Ring of Fire hints that it may have aided him directly in his fiery magic as well as raising the hearts of others. We do know how his tenure as Guardian came to an end, at least in Middle-earth: with Elrond and Galadriel he boarded the White Ship at the end of the Third Age, and thus the Three Rings of the Elves were all carried away from Middle-earth into the West.

Notes

1

Most relevant references either imply or state outright that Gil-galad passed the Red Ring to Círdan at the same time he passed the Blue Ring to Elrond (probably in II 1701, or at least soon after Sauron's expulsion from Eriador). The clearest example comes from Unfinished Tales Part Two, IV The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, where we're told, of the time immediately following Sauron's defeat: '...at this time Gil-galad gave Narya, the Red Ring, to Círdan Lord of the Havens...' On this basis Gil-galad would have been Guardian of the Ring for just eight years.

One account is entirely at odds with this narrative, however. From later in the same source, we're told that Gil-galad '...gave [the Ring] to Círdan when he set out from Lindon in the days of the Last Alliance'. If this is correct, then Gil-galad was Guardian of the Third Ring not for eight years, but for a total of no less than 1,738 years.

See also...

Third Ring

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