Of the Three Elvish Rings of Power and When Not to Wear Them

Sauron and the Elves of Eregion, headed by Celebrimbor made a whole mess of rings. He gave each of them some sort of power, having a hand in their construction. Before the rings could be completed, Sauron left Eregion for Mordor and began working on the One Ring that would rule over all of the others.

Sauron had been able to convince all of the Elves, except for Galadriel and Celeborn, that he had been redeemed. Even Celebrimbor had been certain that Sauron had turned over a new leaf, but when he discovered that Sauron was making a Ruling Ring, he revolted and went to see his main crush, Galadriel, who had since moved to Lorinand.

This discovery was a pretty big thing. As explained yesterday: 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.

Both Galadriel and Celebrimbor knew that they should destroy all of the rings (remember, at this time, nobody but the Elves had them – they had not yet been given to the Men or Dwarves). However, they “failed to find the strength,” and could not do it.

Sometime after the lesser rings had been made and after Sauron departed, Celebrimbor had made the Three Rings of the Elves. For some reason or another (perhaps because the process was the same), while they weren’t tainted with Sauron’s touch, they were still very powerful and ultimately under the control of the One Ring. This gave them a fairly special category. These, most importantly, should be hidden and never used.

Since Sauron knew the Three Rings were in Eregion, it was decided to disperse them. Galadriel would take Nenya, the White Ring. The two other Rings were given to Gil-galad in Lindon. He either kept both of them or gave Narya, the Red Ring, to Cirdan of the Grey Havens shortly after receiving it (Tolkien had contradicted himself in a couple of places, this being one of them).

When Sauron found out about Celebrimbor’s discovery of the One Ring, he attacked Eregion, capturing Celebrimbor and confiscating the Nine Rings, though he couldn’t find the Three Elvish Rings or a certain Seven more which had been hidden. After a bit of torture, however, Celebrimbor revealed the location of the Seven, but was able to keep his mouth shut about the Three. Sauron had him killed for this and used his dead body as a flag (seriously, what the hell, Sauron?).

After a bit of battle here and there, Sauron believed that the Three Rings of the Elves were in Lindon with Gil-galad. He nearly succeeded in getting them, but the Numenorean Navy saved the day and he was beaten back before he could get to the Three Rings. With Sauron now back in his place, they could finally figure out what to do with the Rings.

Galadriel’s Ring, Nenya, was already in her possession, but, like the other Rings, it could not be used, otherwise Sauron would discover it. The Ring named Vilya, also known as the Ring of the Air and the Blue Ring, was kept by Gil-galad until just before his death, when he gave it to Elrond. It was said to be the mightiest of the Three.

The Third Ring, Narya, was the Ring of Fire, the Red Ring. This was given by Gil-galad to Cirdan (at some point), who gave it to Gandalf upon his arrival in Middle-earth “for your aid and comfort.” Cirdan could see “further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth”). He told Gandalf that in the days to come “it should be in nobler hands than mine, that may wield it for the kindling of all hearts to courage.”

Gandalf arrived in Middle-earth in the Third Age. This was after the One Ring had been lost by Isildur. With the One Ring out of Sauron’s control, the Three Rings of the Elves could finally be used.

Nenya’s power when worn by Galadriel strengthened Lorinand, making it beautiful, but it had an intense side effect. She had been banned from returning to the West and before she had her Ring, her desire to return was pretty great, but manageable. After receiving the Ring, however, it became nearly unbearable and she began to really not enjoy Middle-earth. Another, more beneficial, side effect was that the Witch-king would not defy its power and could never attack.

Elrond’s Ring, Vilya, had a similar power, but did not cause him to long for the West. In this way, Rivendell was protected and pretty much everything Bilbo says about the place regarding time has to do with Elrond’s Ring. It didn’t stop or slow time, of course, but it preserved things, giving the illusion that time might have slowed a bit.

The Last Ring, Gandalf’s red Narya, helped in doing what Cirdan said it would when he gave it to the wizard: “For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill.”

Another benefit of any of the Rings was that if Frodo failed in his mission to destroy the One Ring, and Sauron discovered it and wore it again, Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf would know immediately.

Once the One Ring was destroyed, Elrond was pretty sure that the Three Rings of the Elves would be rendered powerless. So no matter what happened, whether Sauron obtained the One Ring or the One Ring was destroyed, the power of the Three Rings of the Elves was soon to expire.

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

A Few Notes

  • There’s a bit of fuzziness about whether it was Sauron or the Elves who gave the Seven Rings to the Dwarves. Tolkien hints at both. In the Silmarillion, it says that Sauron gave the Seven to them, but in the Appendices of the Lord of the Rings, the Dwarves claim to have gotten them from the Elves.
  • Most of this came from Unfinished Tales, which gives quite a bit more detail than even the Silmarillion. In many cases, this was Tolkien’s last writings on the subject.

About the Photo
Hey look! It’s Vilya in Rivendell! Just kidding, it’s Seattle’s ferris wheel rising above some fountain by the piers. But still…


  • Day 159
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 784 (330 from Rivendell)
  • 10 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 107 miles to Lothlórien
  • 995 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching southish to the Sirannon! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

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5 thoughts on “Of the Three Elvish Rings of Power and When Not to Wear Them

  1. When I read the title for this post, at first I imagined a “What Not to Wear: LOTR” episode. Which would be amazing.

    Nice details about the three rings!

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