Three Rings

Last updated

In Tolkien's mythology, the Three Rings are magical artefacts forged by the Elves of Eregion. After the One Ring, they are the most powerful of the twenty Rings of Power. [T 1]


The Three Rings were made by Celebrimbor after Sauron, in the guise of Annatar, had left Eregion. These were free of Sauron's influence, as he did not have a hand in their making. However, they were still forged by Celebrimbor with the arts taught to him by Sauron and thus were still bound to the One Ring. Upon perceiving Sauron's intent, the Elves hid the Three from him. They were carried out of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age, after the destruction of the One Ring.

Commentators have observed that the Three Rings enabled the Elves to halt the passage of time within their realms, especially in Lothlórien where Galadriel wielded Nenya. Others have noted that their power was benevolent, in sharp contrast to the One Ring, and could be used to protect and to heal; and that Tolkien uses the Three Rings to elaborate the angelic and sacrificial aspects of the Elves in the battle between good and evil in the War of the Ring.



The first ring, Narya, was adorned with a red gemstone, which Tolkien states "is set with a ruby". [T 2] It is seen in the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings , along with the other two Elven rings. But unlike them, it is not said what metal Narya was made of. It is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair (in other words, evoking hope in others around the wielder), as well as giving resistance to the weariness of time.

The name is derived from the Quenya nár meaning fire. It was also called Narya the Great, the Ring of Fire, the Red Ring, and The Kindler.

According to Unfinished Tales , at the start of the War of the Elves and Sauron, Celebrimbor gave Narya together with the Ring Vilya to Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor. Gil-galad entrusted Narya to his lieutenant Círdan, Lord of the Havens of Mithlond, who kept it after Gil-galad's death. According to The Lord of the Rings, Gil-galad received only Vilya, while Círdan received Narya and Galadriel received Nenya from the start.

In the Third Age, Círdan, recognizing Gandalf's true nature as one of the Maiar from Valinor, gave him the ring to aid him in his labours. This is not revealed until the end of The Lord of the Rings, as Frodo reaches the quayside to leave Middle-earth, when "Gandalf now wore openly on his hand the Third Ring, Narya the Great". [1]


The second ring, Nenya, was made of mithril and adorned with a "white stone". The name is derived from the Quenya nén meaning water. It is also called the Ring of Adamant, the Ring of Water, and the White Ring.

The ring was wielded by Galadriel of Lothlórien; its radiance matched that of the stars. Frodo Baggins could see it by virtue of being a Ring-bearer, whereas Sam Gamgee tells Galadriel he only "saw a star through your fingers". [lower-alpha 1] It has been noted that "Adamant" means both a type of stone, and "stubbornly resolute", a description that equally well suits the quality of Galadriel's resistance to Sauron. [2]

Nenya's power gave preservation, protection, and possibly concealment from evil because "there is a secret power here that holds evil from the land". However, the facts that Orcs from Moria entered Lothlórien after The Fellowship of the Ring and Lothlórien itself had suffered previous attacks from Sauron's Orcs sent from Dol Guldur indicate that the power of the ring did not constitute military prowess. It was said that, protected as it was by Nenya, Lothlórien would not have fallen unless Sauron had personally come to attack it. Galadriel used these powers to create and sustain Lothlórien, but the Ring also increased in her the longing for the Sea and her desire to return to the Undying Lands.

With the Ring's power gone, the magic and beauty of Lothlórien faded, along with the extraordinary mallorn trees (save the one that Samwise Gamgee grew in Hobbiton). Lothlórien was gradually depopulated, until by the time Arwen came there to die in F.A.  121, it was deserted and in ruin.


The third ring, Vilya, was made of gold and adorned with a "great blue stone", probably a sapphire. The name is derived from the Quenya vilya meaning air. It is also called the Ring of Air, the Ring of Firmament, or the Blue Ring.

Vilya was the mightiest of these three Rings, as mentioned in the ending chapter in The Return of the King . The exact power of Vilya is not stated, though The Silmarillion states that Celebrimbor had forged the Three to heal and to preserve, rather than to enhance the strengths of each individual bearer as the Seven, Nine, and the lesser rings did). Its power of healing may be particularly strong, as Elrond seems to have been the greatest healer in Middle-earth at the time of the Quest. [T 3] The ring may have had the power to control minor elements, given that Elrond was able to summon a torrent of water as the Nazgûl attempted to capture Frodo and the One Ring.

When Sauron laid waste to Eregion, Vilya was sent to the Elven-king Gil-galad far away in Lindon, where it was later given to Elrond, who bore it through the later years of the Second Age and all of the Third.


Jason Fisher, writing in Tolkien Studies , notes that Tolkien developed the names, descriptions and powers of the Three Rings late and slowly through many drafts of his narratives. In Fisher's view, Tolkien found it difficult to work these Rings both into the existing story of the One Ring, and into the enormous but ring-free Legendarium. [3] Some of the descriptions, such as that Vilya was the mightiest of the Three, and that Narya was called "The Great", were added at the galley proof stage, just before printing. [3] [4] The rings had earlier been named Kemen, Ëar, and Menel, meaning the Rings of Earth, Sea, and Heaven. [5]


Gwyneth Hood, writing in Mythlore, explores two Catholic elements of the story of the Three Rings: the angelic and sacrificial aspects of the elves in the War of the Ring. To the hobbits of the Fellowship of the Ring, the elven Ring-bearers appear as angelic messengers, offering wise counsel. To save Middle-earth, they have to accept the plan to destroy the One Ring, and with it, the power of the Three Rings, which embody much of their own power. Hood notes that while Gandalf as one of the supernatural Maiar sent from Valinor is "remarkably unlike an elf", [6] out of the wielders of the Three Rings he is the character who most closely combines the angelic and the sacrificial. [6]

The poet W. H. Auden, an early supporter of Lord of the Rings, wrote in the Tolkien Journal that good triumphs over evil in the War of the Ring, but the Three Rings lose their power, as Galadriel had prophesied: "If you succeed, then our power is dimished[ sic?], and Lothlórien will fade, and the tide of time will sweep it away". [7]

Hood further writes that Tolkien was suggesting technology such as the making of Rings of Power is in itself neither good nor evil; both the Elves and Sauron (with his armies of orcs) use that technology, as they also both make and wear swords and mail armour, and shoot with bows. [6]

Benevolent power

Hood notes, too, that the elves use the power of their rings benevolently, in sharp contrast to Sauron's domineering intentions for the One Ring. Galadriel uses her ring to create a kind of Earthly Paradise in Lothlórien. [8]

Alexis Levitin, writing in the Tolkien Journal, adds that the power for good in the Three Rings is limited in scope, not being usable for war or for dominating others; it can be used for purposes such as to protect a place such as Rivendell or Lothlórien, or to heal. [9]

Halting the passage of time

Commentators such as Kevin Aldrich and David Brin have pointed out that the Elves made the Three Rings to try to halt the passage of time, or as Tolkien had Elrond say, "to preserve all things unstained". This was seen most clearly in Lothlórien, which was free of both evil and the passage of time. [10] [11]


  1. This appears in many editions as "finger"—which sounds more magical, since it suggests that her finger has somehow become transparent—but The Treason of Isengard , ch. 13, note 34, mentions it as an error.

Related Research Articles

Gandalf is a protagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He is a wizard, one of the Istari order, and the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien took the name "Gandalf" from the Old Norse "Catalogue of Dwarves" (Dvergatal) in the Völuspá.

Rivendell valley in Tolkiens legendarium

Rivendell is an Elven valley in the fictional world of Middle-earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was established in the Second Age by Elrond Half-elven, who protected it with the powers of his elven ring Vilya and ruled it until the events of The Lord of the Rings four or five thousand years later. It is an important location in Tolkien's legendarium, featured in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.

Arwen Undómiel is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. She appears in the novel The Lord of the Rings, usually published in three volumes. Arwen is one of the half-elven (Peredhil) who lived during the Third Age.

The Rings of Power are fictional magical artefacts appearing in Tolkien's legendarium. Primarily featured in his epic high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings (1954), these magic rings are depicted as the objects essential in the Dark Lord Sauron's plan to rule over Middle-earth as the "Lord of the Rings". All but one of the twenty rings were created by the Noldorin Elven-smiths of Eregion in the Second Age, led by their ruler Celebrimbor under the deception of Sauron, who guided them in their craft under the guise of a fair-looking emissary named Annatar.

Lothlórien Realm of the Elves in Tolkiens legendarium

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Lothlórien or Lórien is the fairest realm of the Elves remaining in Middle-earth during the Third Age. It is ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn from their city of tree-houses at Caras Galadhon. The wood-elves of the realm are known as Galadhrim.

<i>Bilbos Last Song</i> poem

Bilbo's Last Song is a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien, written as a pendant to his fantasy The Lord of the Rings. It was first published in a Dutch translation in 1973, subsequently appearing in English on posters in 1974 and as a picture-book in 1990. It was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and set to music by Donald Swann and Stephen Oliver. The poem's copyright was owned by Tolkien's secretary, to whom he gave it in gratitude for her work for him.

Dol Guldur was Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood in the fictional world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, before he moves to Barad-dûr in Mordor. It is first mentioned in The Hobbit. The hill itself, rocky and barren, was the highest point in the southwestern part of the forest. Before Sauron's occupation, it was called Amon Lanc. It lay near the western edge of the forest, across the Anduin from Lothlórien. In a passage that appears to apply the name Dol Guldur principally to the fortress rather than the barren hill it rose from, the company of the Ring first catch sight of it from Cerin Amroth in Lórien.

In Norse mythology, a half-elf is the offspring of an elf and a human. Notable examples include the Danish princess Skuld of Hrólf Kraki's saga, and the hero Högni of the Thidrekssaga, and the royal line of Alfheim, which was related to the elves and more beautiful than other people, according to the Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar.

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the history of the fictional universe of Eä began when the Ainur entered Arda, following the creation events in the Ainulindalë and long ages of labour throughout Eä, the universe. Time from that point was measured using Valian Years, though the subsequent history of Arda was divided into three time periods using different years, known as the Years of the Lamps, the Years of the Trees and the Years of the Sun. A separate, overlapping chronology divides the history into 'Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar'. The first such Age began with the Awakening of the Elves during the Years of the Trees and continued for the first six centuries of the Years of the Sun. All the subsequent Ages took place during the Years of the Sun. Most Middle-earth stories take place in the first three Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar.

<i>Lord of the Rings</i> (musical) stage musical

The Lord of the Rings is the most prominent of several theatre adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic high fantasy novel of the same name, with music by A. R. Rahman, Christopher Nightingale and the band Värttinä, and book and lyrics by Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna.

Númenor, also called Elenna-nórë or Westernesse, is a fictional place in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings. It was the kingdom occupying a large island to the west of Middle-earth, the main setting of Tolkien's writings, and was the greatest civilization of Men. However, after centuries of prosperity many of the inhabitants ceased to worship the One God, Eru Ilúvatar, and rebelled against the Valar, resulting in the destruction of the island and the death of most of its people. Tolkien intended Númenor to allude to the legendary Atlantis. Commentators have noted that the destruction of Númenor echoes the Biblical fall of man.

The Maiar are a class of beings from J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy legendarium. Supernatural and angelic, they are "lesser Ainur" who entered the cosmos of in the beginning of time. The name Maiar is in the Quenya tongue from the Elvish root maya- "excellent, admirable".

Aragorn is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He is one of the main protagonists of The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn was a Ranger of the North, first introduced with the name Strider. He was eventually revealed to be the heir of Isildur, King of Gondor. He was a confidant of Gandalf and part of the quest to destroy the One Ring and defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. He fell in love with the immortal elf Arwen, as told in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen; her father, Elrond, forbade them to marry unless Aragorn became King of both Arnor and Gondor.

Elrond Half-elven is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in The Hobbit, and plays a supporting role in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Elves are a fictional race inhabiting Middle-earth in the remote past. Unlike Men and Dwarves, Elves are immortal. They appear in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings, but their history is described more fully in The Silmarillion.

Galadriel is a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien in his Middle-earth legendarium. She appears in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.

In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Moria, also named Khazad-dûm, is an ancient subterranean complex in Middle-earth, comprising a vast labyrinthine network of tunnels, chambers, mines and halls under the Misty Mountains, with doors on both the western and the eastern sides of the mountain range. Moria is introduced in Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, and is a major scene of action in The Lord of the Rings.

One Ring Magical ring that must be destroyed in J. R. R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

The One Ring is a central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954–55). It first appeared in the earlier story The Hobbit (1937) as a magic ring that grants the wearer invisibility. Tolkien changed it into a malevolent Ring of Power and re-wrote parts of The Hobbit to fit in with the expanded narrative. The Lord of the Rings describes the hobbit Frodo Baggins's quest to destroy the Ring.

Sauron Primary antagonist in Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

Sauron is the title character and the main antagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where he rules the land of Mordor and has the ambition of ruling the whole of Middle-earth.

<i>The Lord of the Rings: War in the North</i> video game

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a 2011 action role-playing hack and slash video game developed by Snowblind Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. An OS X port was developed and published by Feral Interactive in 2013. It is the first video game based on both J. R. R. Tolkien's 1954 high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson's film trilogy adaptation released in 2001, 2002 and 2003. This is because, until 2009, Vivendi Universal Games, in partnership with Tolkien Enterprises, held the rights to make games based on Tolkien's literary works, whilst Electronic Arts held the rights to make games based on the New Line Cinema films. In 2009, WB Games acquired the rights for both intellectual properties.



This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. The Silmarillion, "Now these were the Three that had last been made, and they possessed the greatest powers".
  2. Tolkien 1977 , p. 288
  3. Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings, HarperCollins 1994, p. 845


  1. Hammond & Scull 2005, pp. 675–676.
  2. Hammond & Scull 2005, p. 324.
  3. 1 2 Fisher, Jason (2008). "Three Rings for—Whom Exactly? And Why?: Justifying the Disposition of the Three Elven Rings". Tolkien Studies . 5: 99–108. doi:10.1353/tks.0.0015.
  4. Hammond & Scull 2005, pp. 670–676.
  5. Hammond & Scull 2005, pp. 670–671.
  6. 1 2 3 Hood, Gwyneth (1993). "Nature and Technology: Angelic and Sacrificial Strategies in Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'". Mythlore . article 2. 19 (4).CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. Auden, W. H. (1967). "Good and Evil in 'The Lord of the Rings'". Tolkien Journal. 3 (1): 5–8. JSTOR   26807102.
  8. Hood, Gwyneth (1995). "The Earthly Paradise in Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'". Mythlore (80): 139–144.
  9. Levitin, Alexis (1970). "Power in 'The Lord of the Rings'". Tolkien Journal. article 4. 4 (3).CS1 maint: location (link)
  10. Aldrich, Kevin (1988). "The Sense of Time in J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'". Mythlore . article 1. 15 (1).CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. Brin, David (2008). Through Stranger Eyes: Reviews, Introductions, Tributes & Iconoclastic Essays. Nimble Books. p. 37. ISBN   978-1-934840-39-9.