Saruman provides an exculpatory clue as to why Gandalf dithered around for 60 years....

Kate Neville

Active Member
Thus spoke Saruman: “[The One] was round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings…” (my emphasis)

Hah! Clearly, during his seminar to the Council on The Development and Manufacture of Rings of Power, Saruman had taught that the beta versions of the rings -- the lesser rings -- were plain: simple rings of bronze or silver or gold. Only the more powerful rings (like the ones held by our esteemed members Lady Galadriel and Lord Elrond) were embellished with gems, runes, or Celebrimbor's favorite quotes.

Bilbo's ring (which Gandalf was unlikely to have seen more than once or twice, briefly) was a simple gold ring, which apparently only carried the power of invisibility. Bilbo certainly hadn't evidenced any inclination to dominate the will of anyone during the Quest. On the contrary, he'd freely sacrificed his share of the dragon's hoard in order to stop a war. Gandalf would have every reason to believe that it was, in fact, one of the lesser rings of old, possibly picked up by some orc or troll or man during the original Second Age War of the Elves and Sauron and looted from looters over the years until it ended up under the Misty Mountains in the hands of the orc-eating Gollum. After all, Orcrist and Glamdring -- the sword of Turgon! -- had ended up in a troll cave. But for the shadow which fell on Gandalf's heart, he might not even have set a watch on Mirkwood and known that Gollum had left. Lulling is the bane of insightful inquiry.

Still, Saruman must have indeed been an extraordinary lecturer -- with beautiful power-points, of course. Even half-awake students soaked up the salient information.
 
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