The Council of Elrond had to get to it at some point. The Rings of Power were things of legend, and this conversation was long overdue.
We all know the poem:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in the halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne….
At this point in the discussion, the council learns that the seven given to the dwarves were lost and the nine given to men were claimed by the Nazgul, but, asks Gloin, “what of the Three Rings for the Elves? Very mighty Rings, it is said. Do not the Elf-lords keep them? Yet they too were made by the Dark Lord long ago. Are they idle? I see Elf-lords here. Will they not say?”
Oddly enough, Gloin’s misconception of the Rings of Power ended up being many readers’ misconception about the Rings of Power. While Elrond sets him straight on just who didn’t make the Elven Rings, let’s take a look at how the Rings came to be.
Around 1500 of the Second Age (about 4500 years before the Council of Elrond), according to the Silmarillion, Sauron was on his best behavior, at least outwardly. He had seemingly befriended the Elves living in Eregion (called Hollin at the time of the Lord of the Rings). In fact, he was “friends” with nearly all the Elves except Gil-galad and Elrond who didn’t trust him (also Galadriel and Celeborn if you believe the later version of the story).
But Sauron had not changed – he was still evil and was looking for a way to take over Middle-earth. To Elves, he claimed to be starting a huge rebeautification project. Using Gil-galad’s and Elrond’s distrust against them, he openly lamented their refusal to help him with such a worthy cause.
In doing this, he was able to cozy up to the Noldorian Elves living in Eregion. They were great with metals and crafts and Sauron convinced them to make Rings of Power. This would have been a lovely idea, but his end goal was to make One Ring to rule them all.
The Elves made many rings, guided by the hand of Sauron. In secret, around 1600 of the Second Age, Sauron made the Ruling Ring and didn’t tell anyone about it. Though it’s never stated just how many rings they made, according to Gandalf in “The Shadow of the Past” chapter, some of the rings were more potent than others, and as the Elves continued to make the rings, they got better at it and could create more powerful ones.
With the One Ring, Sauron could see all that was done with the lesser rings, but there was a huge catch. The Elves, when wearing the lesser rings, were immediately aware of Sauron. This lasted about as long as it took them to remove the rings and never wear them again.
Sauron was furious and went to war with the Elves, demanding they return all of the rings. The Elves refused and scattered. It was then when Sauron began to search for any and all rings of power. He was able to gather (at least) sixteen, but mostly wanted the three Elven Rings.
These Rings were different. While all of the other rings were made under the watch of Sauron, these three, named Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, were made by Celebrimbore without any help from the Dark Lord. But because they were originally made to be used with the other rings, they were still under the rule of the One Ring.
This was why Gloin thought it a good idea to use these three Rings to do battle with Sauron. All Elrond would tell him was that they were not idle, but could not be used for war since that wasn’t their power. They were made to slow the ravages of time so that wherever they were worn would age more slowly than the rest of Middle-earth, thus preserving all that was Elvish. Sauron was obviously looking not to use them, but to destroy them and send the Elves packing.
In his war against the Elves, starting in the late 1690s (nearly 200 years after the rings of power were first made), Eregion was destroyed and many fled to Rivendell. Unable to take this new Elvish city, Sauron took the sixteen rings of power that he had managed to gather.
You’ll notice that neither Men nor Dwarves had entered the story as of yet. That’s because they didn’t come in until now. The Rings of Power weren’t originally made for them. Sauron had wanted to corrupt the Elves, and in his failure, he turned to see what he could do with Dwarves and Men.
The seven rings he gave to the Dwarves did nothing but make them lusty for gold – something he didn’t care about at all. They were more or less useless. Sauron was able to recover some of the rings, but most were destroyed by the fires of dragons.
Men, on the other hand, were pretty easy to win over. He gave them nine rings, which almost immediately made the wearers become kings, sorcerers, and warriors (they did not seem to be this before wearing the rings). The gift gave them unending life, but they became the Nazguls, first appearing in 2251 of the Second Age. It must have taken 500 or so years for them to turn completely.
Those nine rings, along with however many of the remaining rings of the Dwarves, were kept by Sauron in Mordor. And though the three Elvish Rings of Power were ridiculously powerful, the only thing they could really do was keep Elvendom alive in Middle-earth longer than it otherwise would have been.
Once the One Ring was destroyed, Elrond was pretty sure that the Three Elvish Rings would be rendered as useless as those of the Dwarves. This meant that if Sauron was defeated and the Ring destroyed, the Elves would have to soon leave Middle-earth.
A Few Notes
If it hadn’t been for the Rings being at Rivendell and Lothlorien, all of the Elves would have to be slumming it like Thranduil’s people.
Tomorrow, I’ll go on a bit more about the individual Elven Rings and who had them and when. You know, probably.
About the Photo
Ring of Power! Get it? C’mon.
- Day 158
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 779 (325 from Rivendell)
- 15 miles to the Doors of Moria
- 112 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,000 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching southish toward the Sirannon! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)