Gandalf’s curious assertion about a power of the Great Rings

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
In Bag End, Gandalf says to Frodo, “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.”

At the Council of Elrond, Gandalf says, “I learned also that he (Gollum) had possessed it (the Ring) long. Many lives of his small kind. The power of the ring had lengthened his years far beyond their span; but that power only the Great Rings wield.”

So, twice, Gandalf asserts this power to the Great Rings. This brings up three questions:

  • Why does Gandalf make this assertion when it is false?
  • How would Gandalf have discovered this if it were true?
  • Why would this be a power of any use to some of the Great Rings?
The assertion is false. As first time readers, we do not know this when Gandalf makes the assertions, but when we come to Appendix A, we will learn, “The only power over them (the Dwarves) that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all other good things seemed profitless, and they were filled with wrath and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them. But they were made from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will; and for the same reason their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it.” Dwarves are mortal. The Seven are Great Rings. But keeping one of the Seven does not stop a Dwarf from dying or extend life.

There is no path of logic by which Gandalf could deduce this assertion. He could deduce it from observation of the Nine and the Ring-wraiths, but that would be contradicted by the Seven and the Dwarves. There is no evidence from the Three, as their keepers have never been mortal. There is evidence from the One (Gollum and Bilbo), but this applies only to the One, not to all ‘Great Rings’. So, where does Gandalf get this assertion from?

Why would the Great Rings even have this power? Sure it might be useful for the Nine and the Seven, both to lure users to them, and to mitigate succession problems for Sauron amongst his servants. But why would it be a useful feature for the Three? Elves are immortal anyway. And so is Sauron, so why would it be a useful feature for the One?

So, it is a curious assertion for Gandalf to make. It is also a curious feature or power to have built into some of the Great Rings.

As far as Gandalf goes, I think he is deliberately obfuscating. He claims that Great Rings have the power to extend life in Bag End to Frodo just because he wants to build up to his reveal that Frodo’s ring is not just a Great Ring, but the One Ring. The same is true in Rivendell. Gandalf (like JRRT) takes a delight in the build-up and foreshadowing before the dramatic reveal. He does this both in Bag End and in Rivendell. There is no need to suspect that he really believes that all Great Rings deliver deathlessness to all mortals. Wizards are subtle. Note what Gandalf actually says: “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die “; yes, that ONE of the Great Rings; “but that power only the Great Rings wield”; yes, but not ALL of the Great Rings. There is no need to take as literal truth every statement that Gandalf makes. There is certainly no need to be taken in by every insinuation which Gandalf implies. He induces inferences beyond the facts quite often. Beware.

As to why this power might be present in Great Rings (such as the One) which should not need it, perhaps it is an enabling power which is necessary for the other (more useful) powers of the Ring to work. In this case, shouldn’t it be a feature of all Great Rings, so why does it not work in the Seven, on Dwarves? All I can guess is that Sauron’s great ring conjury was flawed. We know that there is a jar in the rhythm in the Black Speech. Does that indicate a jar in the spell? If the spell is flawed, then that could well be why the Seven don’t work as planned, why the Three can be hidden and not found?
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
So, twice, Gandalf asserts this power to the Great Rings. This brings up three questions:

  • Why does Gandalf make this assertion when it is false?
  • How would Gandalf have discovered this if it were true?
  • Why would this be a power of any use to some of the Great Rings?
• Gandalf may be engaging in rhetoric, and therefore ignoring certain elements that counter his argument. His assertion might not be totally false, in that a Dwarf ring given to a different mortal might be affected this way. The apparent fallacy might say more about Dwarves than the Rings, in fact we are given the passage from Appendix A that you've quoted as support for such an argument.

• I'd suggest this is one of those times where Gandalf no longer doubts his guess; he presents it as fact for the purposes of rhetoric.

• Maybe it's a side effect: The Three and the One have no need of it, but it also wouldn't be noted by the bearers. The Seven seem to be resisted by the Dwarves; we don't know what effect they would have on other mortals. The Nine display it, but it doesn't prove that it was intentional.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Dwarves are very often an afterthought; a people who don't fit into the day to day of Middle Earth. When a character says Mortals, they invariably mean Men (with Hobbits tacked on by us, but really even Hobbits are or were unknown enough that for people within Middle Earth it would usually just be Men). They rarely seem to mean "all of the humanoids of Middle Earth who die from old age". Even though Dwarves fit into the dictionary definition of "mortal", they seem to not really be contained within the capital-M "Mortals".

I realize that Tolkien didn't capitalize that "m" in "mortals" in Bag End. But it feels like a capital-M "Mortals" to me. He's talking about Men (and Hobbits).

It is a strange thing for Gandalf back in Bag End to speak with such authority about the effect of a Great Ring on the life span of a mortal. Where is the evidence? I believe at that point he hasn't nailed down Gollum's story (which, ultimately, is the ONLY example). Isildur never had the Ring long enough to see any effects, neither has Frodo. Bilbo is well preserved, yes, but he still has yet to live beyond the span he likely would have reached even without a ring.

Is the evidence all from the Nine? I am sure that much more detail is known about the life and times of the Nazgul by the Wise within Middle Earth than is ever put into the published Lord of the Rings (or even the posthumously published design notes and drafts). So is it reasonable for Gandalf to extrapolate from the Nine to the One?

ETA: Is it maybe something Saruman gleaned from his study of Ringlore, and shared before he stopped sharing his lore so freely? LIke, "Hmm, I can see here from this particular bit of Black Speech writings we captured from the Barad-dur after the War of the Last Alliance that a Great Ring might have this physiological effect on one of the lesser races...", that sort of thing.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi amys revenge,

Actually, Gandalf has nailed down Gollum's story. He quizzed Gollum soon after discovering the Isildur scroll in Minas Tirith, and before arriving at Bag End to test the Ring in the fire.

I think that Gandalf does not know that all of the Great Rings extend life in all mortals. He intimates that, but never exactly and definitively says it. Gandalf is subtle. He fires for effect. He cannot resist foreshadowing and inducing inferences in his audience that go beyond the actualities.
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
He cannot resist foreshadowing and inducing inferences in his audience that go beyond the actualities.
As we only have these written records to go by we can't judge the actualities.

A better way to represent what I think you are trying to convey would be 'He cannot resist foreshadowing and inducing inferences in his audience that go beyond the presented evidence.'
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Anthony,

Your phrasing is better, but I think I would go further. Gandalf does not merely induce inferences that go beyond the presented evidence. He induces inferences that are contradicted by the presented evidence. As in the inference discussed here that Gandalf stating, "A mortal who keeps one of the Great Rings does not die". The inference is that all mortals who keep any Great Ring do not die. Not true (according to the evidence). Dwarves.
 
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Anthony Lawther

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

Your phrasing is better, but I think I would go further. Gandalf does not merely induce inferences that go beyond the presented evidence. He induces inferences that are contradicted by the presented evidence. As in the inference discussed here that Gandalf stating, "A mortal who keeps one of the Great Rings does not die". The inference is that all mortals who keep any Great Ring do not die. Not true (according to the evidence). Dwarves.
This goes back to Mike's suggestion that the Dwarves, being essentially the stepchildren of Illuvatar, are not being considered as mortal here.

I maintain that this has more to do with the Dwarves being made to be extremely resistant to domination, than the capability of the Rings, or Gandalf's representation of their capability. If we had seen a Man hold a Dwarf Ring to determine any unnatural impact on longevity we'd have the missing data point. If Gandalf or Saruman had a conversation with a smith of Eregion, be it in Valinor before their departure or in Middle-Earth after their arrival, it would be known by the Wise without it being evidence presented to the audience.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Anthony,

Mike's suggestion that the Dwarves are not considered mortal here is a perfect example of inferences being induced that are contradicted by the evidence. We know that Dwarves are mortal, and that they die. There is plenty of evidence. To infer that Gandalf somehow does not interpret Dwarves as mortal is just the sort of inference which Gandalf often delights in inducing.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
The more I think on it, the more I'm certain that Gandalf (almost certainly through the Ringlore of Saruman back when he still shared Ringlore) is considering the Nine, and that there is some technical/technological reason tied to Ringlore to suggest that the twisted immortality granted to Men (and by extension, to Hobbits) by the Nine would also be granted by the Seven, or the Three, or the One.

And I think there must be some common Westron usage where "mortals" applies only to Men, the Secondborn Children of Iluvatar. That nobody in-world would even think about arguing. Something like how nobody in this thread has objected to the use of "Men" by saying "Oh, so just men then? What about women?" The word mortals can mean "all creatures that die of old age" or it can mean "Men (and their sub-race of Hobbits in some cases)" and context lets you know which is which. Like we all can tell in this discussion that by "Men" we mean the race, and not the gender.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi amy's revenge,

If in Westron there was a word or a common usage which meant 'those who are human and die' (thus excluding Dwarves), do you think that JRRT would have carelessly translated this Westron word into the English word 'mortals'?

I doubt it.

'Mortals' in English means those who die, as opposed to 'immortals', meaning those that don't. Dwarves die. They are mortal. The Seven Great Rings do not affect that.

If one infers that Gandalf's statements mean "All mortals who keep any of the Great Rings do not die", one is inferring beyond what Gandalf actually says, and that Gandalf is incorrect and his utterance is in contradiction to the evidence.

If one infers (on what possible basis?) that when Gandalf says, "A mortal who keeps one of the Great Rings does not die", he means by 'mortal' a Man or Hobbit but not a Dwarf, one is inferring well beyond the presented evidence.

Is it not a simpler explanation that Gandalf is inducing inferences which he knows well that he is inducing and which he knows well are not completely true?
 

Clueless Noob

New Member
First, the distinction of "7" and "9" was only in distribution, not innate qualities. Celebrimbor made some lesser, practice rings, then made The 16 with Annatar's help; and then made The 3 on his own. These 16 were originally intended by Annatar to be held by the Elves, so that he could rule them with his One Ring and subjugate the Elves. But he accidentally outed himself as Sauron, so the Elves discovered his plan and wouldn't wear those rings. When Sauron stole The 16, he gave 1 to each head of the 7 clans of the dwarves* (thus "seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone"), and passed the rest out to Men of significant rank.

Second, the rings were intended by the Elves to be used for preventing decay (I don't remember the exact quote, but it's in one of the Letters). What is "aging" but the slow process of decay? Of course the rings would convey long life to the wearer as part of the "prevent decay" subroutine in their operating system. This would not have any impact of the Elves for whom they were forged, since "immortality" was part of their nature to begin with. So Gandalf is completely correct that a mortal who possesses a Great Ring will not die. His body will be prevented from decaying. But the mortal does not get more "life" to go with it - the fea is still bounded while the hroa is extended. Kind of like butter (fea) that has been scraped over too much bread (hroa).

As to dwarven ring-posessors, can someone please remind me what actually happened to them? I think I remember that they were all terminated in some rather unpleasant way. We know from the Pellenor Fields that the WK was killed when Merry and Eowyn stuck pointy weapons into him. He was, presumably (depending on how we interpret "the nine the Nazgul keep" and "the nine he [Sauron] has gathered to himself"]) wearing his ring at the time but was still snuffed. I do not think we can conflate "killed" and "died". The Rings are, to my way of thinking, forcing an Elvish trait (serial-longevity) onto creatures not designed for it, and we know Elves can be "killed" but do not "die".

*Durin may have gotten his Ring directly from the Elves.
 
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Anthony Lawther

Active Member
Wherever possible during Exploring the Lord of the Rings we restrict ourselves (at least in our first analysis) to the material only in the published text that we are studying, and even try to resist looking forward to the later chapters and the Appendices.

While the Silmarillion and History of Middle-Earth material can seem to be quite enlightening for understanding the text, much of it was written after the fact for just this purpose, and was therefore not available to a first time reader.

@Clueless Noob has presented this type of material, which can be interesting but also stifles attempts to interpret the material as presented in the original work.

Up to the Council of Elrond, I can't find any evidence that the Seven didn't extend the lives of their bearers. Any evidence we have seems to come later.

Back to the discussion about the effects of the Rings on Dwarves, while allowing material from 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age'.
This could be similar to the philosophical quest of the irresistible force and the immovable object.
From the Shadow of the Past: "‘A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.’"

If the Rings magically affect 'all Mortals', but the Dwarves were made to resist corruption, then in the same way that it amplified their greed but failed to make Dwarves invisible, it could be that the life-extension ability didn't work (well) on them; There is some evidence that at least some of the Dwarven Kings lived longer than the average Dwarf. There is no clear evidence to attribute this to Ring possession, affluent lifestyle, or simple genetics.

In short, Gandalf may be guilty of using absolute language where it wasn't warranted, but was rhetorically useful.
In Bag End, Gandalf was trying to convince Frodo that his ring was dangerous, whether it be the One or not, as the test with the fire had not yet been conducted.
At the Council of Elrond Gandalf presents from a different perspective when talking about Gollum "The power of the ring had lengthened his years far beyond their span; but that power only the Great Rings wield."; he is attempting to convince people that the ring they are discussing is a Great Ring, and indeed the One Ring.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Clueless,

You make some very good, and well informed points. However, let me go a little deeper to build on Anthony's comments on why we are dubious about evidence from other Tolkien sources outside of TLOTR.

As Anthony says, we like the perspective of the first-time reader. This perspective is a good way to appreciate TLOTR as a work of literature, rather than a compendium of lore. Also, most of us are anything but first-time readers, so adopting this perspective helps us 'recover' (in JRRT's sense of the word) that wonder which we felt when we read this book for the first time.

Though that is our preferred perspective, it is not our only one. We also like the perspective of the reader who 'has read the whole of TLOTR (but not any other Tolkien stuff). This was the perspective of all readers for 23 years, from 1954 - 1977 (when The Silmarillion was published).

This whole thread question would not arise for the first-time reader until they reached Appendix A. It is only then, that they might think, "Hey! So why did Gandalf say all that stuff about Great Rings back in 'The Fellowship". I was careful to point that out in my first post on this question, so it was clear that the perspective of the question was that of a reader who had finished TLOTR.

We are cautious about using as evidence any Tolkien material which comes from elsewhere than TLOTR.

JRRT kept changing all this other material. The Valar from 'The Book of Lost Tales' for example, are very different from the Valar from Tolkien's writing in the late 1950s.

The Silmarillion itself does not always include JRRT's latest versions of his stories. Look at the last class on 'Morgoth's Ring', on U-tube, for a very good example of a later version of the story of Ungoliant and Melkor poisoning the Trees which is very different from the story in the published 'Silmarillion', but which Christopher Tolkien chose not to use, as he thought its style was inconsistent with other Silmarillion material.

So, if we wanted to consider this material as 'evidence' applicable to TLOTR, which versions should we consider?

We know that JRRT never arrived at a version of the Silmarillion material which he was happy to publish. He never succeeded in marrying the 'Silmarillion' stuff with TLOTR. We know that when he was trying to marry the two, he kept making changes, great and small, to his Silmarillion stories. We can guess that if JRRT ever had created a final version which satisfied him, it would be different in many and unknown ways from anything we have now.

We love the Silmarillion, but it is difficult to regard it as 'canon'.

Better, perhaps, to look at TLOTR and The Silmarillion as two different works of art, to be studied separately.

They are, however, of course connected in some ways. So, it is interesting sometimes to look outside of TLOTR to see what else JRRT had to say on some topic. One should be careful however, as whatever he had to say might well change if he had ever devised a 'Silmarillion' which he was happy with.

Hope that helps amplify Anthony's post and clarify why, though your comments are all well researched and correct, we are dubious about using sources outside TLOTR to explain in-book questions.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Clueless,

On your question about what happened to the Seven rings for Dwarf-lords, we don't know too much.

Gandalf says (to Frodo in 'The Shadow of the Past'), "Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he (Sauron) has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed."

We do not know who were the first possessors of any of the Dwarf rings, save the first made, which was given to Durin III. (by the Elven-smiths themselves and not by Sauron - as believed by the Dwarves, according to Appendix A.)

So, this ring presumably passed from Durin III to Durin IV to Durin V to Durin VI to Nain I, Thrain I, Thorin I, Gloin, Oin, Nain II, Dain I, Thror, Thrain II, before it was taken from Thrain II with torment in Sauron's dungeons in Dol Guldur.

Of all these holders, we only know the fates of a few. It was in the time of Durin VI that the Balrog appeared in Moria. Durin VI was slain by it, and a year later, his son Nain I was also slain by it, but the ring must have somehow been passed down to Thrain I.

We don't know how Thrain I, Thorin I, Gloin, Oin, or Nain II died, but we have no reports that they were slain. Dain I was slain by a fire-drake at the doors of his hall. But the ring somehow passed to Thror.

Thror gave the ring to his son Thrain II before he returned to Moria and was killed by Azog.

So, 13 Dwarf-kings of Durin's line presumably held this ring, Of the 13, we know that 5 were slain. Two by the balrog. One by a fire-drake. One by an orc. One by Sauron. We do not know how the other 8 died. We might guess that they died of natural causes, as un-natural causes seem to have been reported, but this is speculation. Thror had given the ring to his son before he was slain. This might have been true of some of the other bearers as well, as the ring seems to have passed down the line even in circumstances where it might have been lost with the death of its bearer.
 

Clueless Noob

New Member
Anthony: "Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence"

Flammifer: "Objection sustained"

Me: "Withdrawn"**

However, why shouldn't Gandalf lie? He's not the morally pure character that some critics of LOTR seem to think. None of the characters we've met so far are the blindingly good / bad people that some have claimed.
-In The Hobbit, Gandalf tricks Bilbo into joining the quest.
-At the end of the Party, Gandalf is about to "open up a can" (as the kids say) on Bilbo.
-And lets not forget that he tortured Golum for information.

OR

He's not really lying. He's using what I call "constructive untruths". When I'm trying to teach a freshman chemistry class, I specifically call out my lecture on quantum mechanics by saying, "this isn't right, but it's good enough for what you actually need to know." Gandalf just doesn't give disclaimers.


**I know the rules - I just forgot where I was. Several of my co-workers and I use way too much of our employer's email services to argue with each other about these things. We enjoy using the most obscure references to make our points. "I'll see your Osanwe-Kenta reference and raise you an Elvish word gloss found in Parma Eldalamberon #3".
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Clueless,

Good points. In this case, I more or less favor your second hypothesis, that Gandalf is using 'constructive untruths'. There is no reason for Gandalf to really lie on this point. Why would he particularly want people to believe that all Great Rings confer immortality on all mortals?

By the way, I'm not sure that 'constructive untruths' exactly describes what Gandalf is doing. He never actually says, 'all Great Rings confer immortality on all mortals'. Instead, he induces listeners to infer that that is what he says.

I think what Gandalf does (fairly often) might be called, 'constructive inducement of misleading inference'. He does this to achieve the effect he wants. In this case to warn Frodo about dangerous effects of rings, to add evidence that the halfling's ring is the One Ring, and particularly, in both these cases, to further his delight in a slow build up, with foreshadowing, before a dramatic conclusion. In this case the conclusion being the proof that this ring is the One Ring.
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
I think what Gandalf does (fairly often) might be called, 'constructive inducement of misleading inference'. He does this to achieve the effect he wants. In this case to warn Frodo about dangerous effects of rings, to add evidence that the halfling's ring is the One Ring, and particularly, in both these cases, to further his delight in a slow build up, with foreshadowing, before a dramatic conclusion. In this case the conclusion being the proof that this ring is the One Ring.
In short: Rhetoric
 

Enoch_Arden_5

New Member
Why would the Great Rings even have this power? Sure it might be useful for the Nine and the Seven, both to lure users to them, and to mitigate succession problems for Sauron amongst his servants. But why would it be a useful feature for the Three? Elves are immortal anyway. And so is Sauron, so why would it be a useful feature for the One?
In Tolkien's writings, it actually seems pretty apparent that all the great rings were originally intended for the elves.

"Therefore they hearkened to Sauron, and they learned of him many things, for his knowledge was great. In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power. But Sauron guided their labours, and he was aware of all that they did; for his desire was to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance." - Silmarillion

Sauron originally helped the elves create the 16 rings of power that later became the nine and the seven for the purpose of giving them to and ensnaring elves. After Sauron created the Ring and the elves rebelled, Sauron gave the 16 rings to 7 dwarves and 9 men.

"But Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of Power; and he dealt them out to the other peoples of Middle-earth, hoping thus to bring under his sway all those that desired secret power beyond the measure of their kind. Seven rings he gave to the Dwarves; but to Men he gave nine, for Men proved in this matter as in others the readiest to his will." It is not "he gave THE SEVEN rings to the dwarves and THE NINE rings to men." He gave seven of the rings to dwarves and nine to men, and it appears to be Plan B.

In one of his letters Tolkien states, "Eregion was captured and destroyed, and Sauron seized many Rings of Power. These he gave, for their ultimate corruption and enslavement, to those who would accept them (out of ambition or greed). Hence the ‘ancient rhyme’ that appears as the leit-motif of The Lord of the Rings." He gave them to people who were willing to take them as an alternative to giving them to the elves, as originally intended. This would also provide another reason for the rings being unsuccessful with the dwarves. They were not made for dwarves or men, but men are at least more similar to elves than dwarves are. Both men and elves are children of Iluvatar, whereas dwarves are more the children of Aule (the children of Iluvatar's adoption).

Since all the rings of power were intended for the elves originally, they all had a certain function which would be really appealing to the elves; as Tolkien says in letter 131: "The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. change viewed as a regrettable thing)." The elves' main desire was to preserve all things unchanged, and this was the main power of all the rings of power. It seems that preventing age and death (change viewed as a regrettable thing) was an initially unintended side effect of mortals wielding rings of power. This would also explain how, by the time of the LOTR, Gandalf was able to say so confidently that the great rings would extend the life of the wielder.
 
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Anthony Lawther

Active Member
In Tolkien's writings, it actually seems pretty apparent that all the great rings were originally intended for the elves.

"Therefore they hearkened to Sauron, and they learned of him many things, for his knowledge was great. In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power. But Sauron guided their labours, and he was aware of all that they did; for his desire was to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance." - Silmarillion

Sauron originally helped the elves create the 16 rings of power that later became the nine and the seven for the purpose of giving them to and ensnaring elves. After Sauron created the Ring and the elves rebelled, Sauron gave the 16 rings to 7 dwarves and 9 men.

"But Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of Power; and he dealt them out to the other peoples of Middle-earth, hoping thus to bring under his sway all those that desired secret power beyond the measure of their kind. Seven rings he gave to the Dwarves; but to Men he gave nine, for Men proved in this matter as in others the readiest to his will." It is not "he gave THE SEVEN rings to the dwarves and THE NINE rings to men." He gave seven of the rings to dwarves and nine to men, and it appears to be Plan B.

In one of his letters Tolkien states, "Eregion was captured and destroyed, and Sauron seized many Rings of Power. These he gave, for their ultimate corruption and enslavement, to those who would accept them (out of ambition or greed). Hence the ‘ancient rhyme’ that appears as the leit-motif of The Lord of the Rings." He gave them to people who were willing to take them as an alternative to giving them to the elves, as originally intended. This would also provide another reason for the rings being unsuccessful with the dwarves. They were not made for dwarves or men, but men are at least more similar to elves than dwarves are. Both men and elves are children of Iluvatar, whereas dwarves are more the children of Aule (the children of Iluvatar's adoption).

Since all the rings of power were intended for the elves originally, they all had a certain function which would be really appealing to the elves; as Tolkien says in letter 131: "The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. change viewed as a regrettable thing)." The elves' main desire was to preserve all things unchanged, and this was the main power of all the rings of power. It seems that preventing age and death (change viewed as a regrettable thing) was an initially unintended side effect of mortals wielding rings of power. This would also explain how, by the time of the LOTR, Gandalf was able to say so confidently that the great rings would extend the life of the wielder.
All of your references are from after the publication of the LOTR. Tolkien appears to have been a very good reader of his own work, and found explanations (after the fact) for the questions raised by the published works. In this manner he appears to take a different approach to many more modern authors, by interpreting the work as a peer, rather than a keeper of secret knowledge to be doled out to a confused audience when they run across an inconsistency.

So from a 'I've read everything Tolkien ever wrote' perspective your explanations hold up, while from an 'I've only ever read the Hobbit before' or an 'I'm reading the LOTR for the second time ever' perspective things aren't quite so clear, making some of Gandalf's assertions appear to be either baseless, or at least mysterious.

To best understand when the concept of 19 of the 20 Great Rings being originally intended for the Elves occurred would require delving into the History of Middle-Earth to see where in the chronology of writing this explanation first appears.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
This goes back to Mike's suggestion that the Dwarves, being essentially the stepchildren of Illuvatar, are not being considered as mortal here.

I maintain that this has more to do with the Dwarves being made to be extremely resistant to domination, than the capability of the Rings, or Gandalf's representation of their capability. If we had seen a Man hold a Dwarf Ring to determine any unnatural impact on longevity we'd have the missing data point. If Gandalf or Saruman had a conversation with a smith of Eregion, be it in Valinor before their departure or in Middle-Earth after their arrival, it would be known by the Wise without it being evidence presented to the audience.
Hi Anthony,

True, that we have not seen a Man hold a Dwarf Ring. So, we don't know for sure that a Dwarf Ring would not confer immortality on Men. However, we can perhaps deduce from the absence of evidence.

Sauron holds (we are told) three Dwarf Rings. If these worked on Men in the same way as the Nine do, then wouldn't we suspect that Sauron should now have 12 Ring-wraiths as his servants, rather than 9?

Not only would it make sense for Sauron to re-inforce his Nazgul corps by dishing out Dwarf Rings in his possession to suitable Men, but a followership of 12 would surely seem a more significant number than 9 to a good Catholic like JRRT?

I take the fact that there are only 9 Ring-wraiths as 'evidence' (in an absence of evidence way) that the Dwarf rings do not confer immortality and 'wraithyness' on Men.
 
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