Celebrimbor and the Making of the Rings

During this week's class, I was very troubled by the notion that Celebrimbor poured not only his own power but that of the other elf-lords into the Great Rings. Corey proposed this as an explanation for the failure of Elvendom in Middle Earth after the destruction of the One.

I'm troubled because it implies that Celebrimbor forcibly extracted some of the spiritual strength (or whatever) of the other elves to make the rings. We don't see any evidence that this is possible, and it seems to me unlikely that Celebrimbor would have done this if here were merely deceived by Sauron rather than being entirely fallen.

I prefer to think that the elves could no longer maintain their separate realms within Middle Earth without the power of the Three. Their power had waned as they exerted their strength to maintain these realms, and they chose to leave rather than to lose the beauty and peace of their land apart. Notice that we get no information that Thingol's realm, which has stronger natural defenses, was abandoned at the same time of Lorien.
 

Matt DeForrest

Active Member
It may be that the Elves recognize that, in order to protect their lands they run the risk of exercising Dominion over them — the difference between wanting the Rings or create an area like Bombadil’s realm instead of Mordor. That seems to be what Galadriel is weighing when she considers becoming a Queen Beautiful and Terrible as the Dawn.
 

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
This seems like a suitable necro-thread to resurrect, rather than starting another.

In the beginning of Session 180, Corey was talking about the general Elvish motivation, how destroying the One was counter to normal Elvish strategy, and that they wouldn't want to do this because they knew that it would diminish the Three. However in about 800 words' (a month's?) time Elrond will state sadly that they don't know what the fate of the Three will be if the One is destroyed; it may be freedom or it may be failure.

Another point has been raised previously, regarding where the power of the Three came from, with various suggestions being made, but this one has just occurred to me: As the ring making occurred under the tutelage of Atanatar (Sauron), perhaps the process involved drawing power from Sauron (with his knowledge and consent, but without Celebrimbor's knowledge) as part of the preparatory step to make them susceptible to control by the One once it was crafted.

This could explain Sauron's determination to possess them when his remote control is denied, the 'amplifying' effect, why the Three were vulnerable to control even though Sauron never touched them, and also explain the failure of the Three after destruction of the One and the great diminishment of Sauron.

In short, maybe ALL of the Rings of power contained at least a little bit of Sauron's power, but only the One was created for domination and contained far more of Sauron's power to do so.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
Anthony, I don't think so. The elves have their own magic. I think what Sauron taught was how to put that powerful magic into rings. The domination of the One Ring over the Three is not because Sauron planted anything in them, but perhaps because there was something in the process of creating rings of power that enabled him to make the One. It didn't always work, as we see with the Dwarves, but the elves hid their rings because they didn't want Sauron have access to the specific magic in them. He wouldn't have needed to plant a bug.
 
Great thoughts Anthony.
For my money, "Sauron never touched them" doesn't only refer to physically touching them, but also spiritually (so no power drawing). I imagine that after Sauron put on the One Ring the elves did some deep diagnostics to ensure that their rings were not corrupted, and I also don't think Rivendell/Lorien could have been maintained for so long if Sauron's power and malice were involved.
 

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
I hear what you are both saying, but I’m struggling to understand why the Three fail after Sauron’s fall if the only connection to Sauron is the equivalent of an Instructables piece.
If the purpose of the piece of Sauron’s will in the other Great Rings is to act openly as a straight amplifier of the wielder’s power, and secretly as a receptor for control from the One, then their power could operate uncorrupted when Sauron is without the One. I see it as being more like a secret backdoor than like a virus.
This seems to fit with the subtle approach we see Sauron take elsewhere. If, as the timeline suggests, the Great Rings are left to operate for at least a decade with no sense of any outside influence then their wielders are less likely to be on their guard when the One is forged and activated. This turns out to be only partly so. The failure of the Seven to dominate the Dwarves seems to say more about the Dwarves than the Seven.

I’ll be most interested to hear what Corey thinks about this possibility.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
He hasn't touched the Three, but his knowledge was used in their making. Ring magic is altogether tied to the One, even the power of those that he hasn't touched at all. When the One is destroyed, all Ring magic is destroyed. The elves are not sure, and some hope for the release of the Three, but I think all Ring magic is connected, and in itself is discordant with the music, and it will all disappear when the One that is evil is destroyed.
 
I'm going to agree selectively with the points above.
1. I agree with Rachel that the rings are discordant and so have to fail.
2. But along with Anthony, I struggle to understand why the three fail when the one is destroyed, given that Sauron never touched them. Knowledge doesn't cease just because the teacher does.

Who will read this riddle for us? :)
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I struggle to understand why the three fail when the one is destroyed, given that Sauron never touched them. Knowledge doesn't cease just because the teacher does
You could just say it's due to narrative causality: the whole arc of Elves fading and leaving ME to the Age of Men requires it. It doesn't have to be scientific, modern, or amenable to logical explanation; it is part of the capital s Story.

Sometimes in these discussions we overthink the nuts and bolts; I believe this excess tendency to mechanical explanation even affected JRRT, especially later in life when he rejected the Rounding of the World as "astronomically absurd". So what? Arda is a created world, not constrained by anything but its Creator. (Of course, he was still wedded to the idea that ME was the distant past of our own world, but why that meant for him that ME couldn't/shouldn't include logically-impossible miracles is something I have trouble understanding, while being perfectly comfortable with a round world that used to be flat but now has always been round. Ok, so I'm weird; it's all right.)

Why do the other magic rings fail when the One is destroyed? By magic!
 

Forodan

Member
The question of 'where' the power for the Rings comes from is misunderstanding what is going on. As Tolkien says more than once in the Letters, the Rings of Power are a metaphor for technology and machinery. You might as well ask where someone gets the 'power' to build a water-wheel or a windmill. They are tools, though tools of a peculiar sort that require spiritual strength rather than physical strength to use. I think it's unfortunate that Tolkien didn't think to use that explanation himself and instead had to keep saying that only "those who have already a great power of their own" are able to wield a Ring of Power.

The explanation for why the Three would fail when the One was destroyed is trickier. The analogy to physical machinery doesn't work very well for this situation. In this case we have to remember that Sauron is another order of being than even the 'immortal' Elves. He is part of the world itself in a way that mere 'body-wearing' souls are not, and has an understanding of how things like the mind and will operate in the world that are literally not possible for lesser beings to have. He could therefore have designed the 'technology' of the Rings in such a way from the very beginning that it was possible to seize control of all such 'devices' in the world by building the Master device which he was planning all along, The One Ring. And who knows what that might mean for the operation of all those lesser devices if the Master device that was used to seize control of them is destroyed?
 

Forodan

Member
Yeah, that's a different metaphor from our real-world experience that fits a different aspect of the not real world of magic. There are a number of real-life examples that partially fit the Rings of Power in different ways, but none of them perfectly.

There is a particular confusion or conflict I've been struggling with in thinking about this. There are 'tools' -- things you hold in your hand, like axes and hammers and spades and spears -- and there are 'tools' -- huge machines like water-wheels and windmills, or starships for that matter. It certainly needs at least some degree of personal skills to use a hand-held tool. But real-life hand-held tools are especially strict in skill requirements and have limited effects. On the other hand it might not require a great deal of skill to flip a lever and start a water-wheel or windmill grinding corn or something like that. And the effects of these large-scale tools that don't have such strict personal skill requirements can be huge. Rings of Power seem to be both of these types at once.

* First of all using anything, basic tools of ordinary arts or trades, let alone magical devices, requires some sort of basic knowledge. Of course you can't just pick up a chisel and produce a sculpture to rival Michelangelo. It needs years of experience to learn how stone reacts to your chisel and how to shape it to match your imagination -- or model. Why would this be any different with 'magic' -- which is really an older way of thinking about technology. Remember Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." which is another way of saying "Any technology you don't understand seems like magic"... A crossbow is a fearsome magical weapon if you don't know how it works. A shaft just 'magically' flies from the weapon and appears in the target, inflicting terrible wounds. This is what Galadriel warns Frodo of by way of explanation when he asks why he hasn't been seeing into the souls of other Ring-bearers. He would have to make the effort to learn how to use The One Ring. But that leads to the second point...

* Second, everyone has 'native strength' and 'native ability' in magic just as with physical strength and talent. You can exhaust yourself in magical efforts as surely as in physical efforts, just like someone swinging a sword gets tired after a while. And of course, different -- persons? beings? -- have differing levels of strength. Sauron is clearly very strong, along with being very skilled/knowledgeable. (These two are not quite the same thing, but closely related) It requires a certain amount of 'strength' in the magical/spiritual sense to be able to use the Great Rings at all. But also you need to have the actual capacity to use whatever power the magical thing is imbued with. Whatever someone already has, or is, will be enhanced. New power will not be acquired. This again is like hand-held tools. Gollum didn't learn anything magical from possessing the One Ring. He just became a superb sneak murderer, which he was already. As Galadriel warned him (and Gandalf in a slightly different way), Frodo wouldn't be much of a Dark Lord even if he tried to learn how to use the true power of the One Ring. Most likely he could not develop it's true power at all...

And yet, Gollum did not have the ability to turn invisible before possessing the One Ring... so this similarity to hand-held tools is not absolute. And when someone who does have sufficient 'inherent' power and/or talent to use a Great Ring, like Galadriel, puts it to use, this 'hand-held' device can have geographically broad-ranging effects like a massive machine. Has anyone ever tried to calculate how many hundreds of square miles Galadriel controls in Lothlorien? And whatever that control is, she is able to ward the armies of Sauron from her realm, as long a he himself does not show up to lead them. It's as if the Ring is a catalyst or focusing device for something else -- which leads me back to the water-wheel or windmill metaphor as an example of collecting power from somewhere else and re-channeling it. It's a skill-based thing, and a massive-machine thing at the same time.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
I prefer to think that the elves could no longer maintain their separate realms within Middle Earth without the power of the Three. Their power had waned as they exerted their strength to maintain these realms, and they chose to leave rather than to lose the beauty and peace of their land apart. Notice that we get no information that Thingol's realm, which has stronger natural defenses, was abandoned at the same time of Lorien.
Resurrecting a paragraph from originator of this necro-post that says something like what I was going to say. The Elven Rings maintain with magic the peaceful realms of Imladris and Lorien. In Lorien it's even stronger - Lorien exists in Middle-earth, but outside of time. It's by giving up that power as well as the One Ring when it is offered to her that Galadriel gets her ship.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="
" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 
Top