Seven Rings for the Dwarven Kings....

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
In a number of discussions to this point, the number of Rings and their recipients seems to be taken as happening by design, as described in the Ring-rhyme.

I wondered what evidence there was for this, and haven't found anything truly satisfying. This blog entry draws an interesting conclusion:
The Seven and the Nine weren't created for the Dwarves and Men respectively, but by Elves and for Elves, with the guidance of Sauron. Their distribution to these other groups is Plan B. The only reference I've found for the Seven being given to the leaders of the seven kindreds is not a Tolkien publication. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to access a copy, so I can't pursue the source of the claim further.

While there is a nice coincidence between Seven Rings and Seven Dwarven Kings (and a pleasing rhyme) the stories as developed by Tolkien don't fall out that way.
When reading Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age in The Silmarillion, it is easy to read the passage where the Elves recognise that Sauron has put on the One and remove their rings as talking solely about the Three, but a closer reading suggests that it is all of the other Rings of Power: The Three, The Seven, The Nine, and the lesser rings.
Sauron's assault on Eregion then secures him all but the Three which he then redistributes (details in Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth and Letter 131.)

As Nogrod and Belegost are (all but?) destroyed with the sinking of Beleriand, and in the following century Dwarves from here began relocating to Khazâd-Dum, would there be enough power left in those houses to warrant the receipt of Rings of Power? Giving multiple Rings to multiple Kings living in the one place would seem to be likely to cause more friction among those populations than we have textual evidence for.

Given Gil-Galad's proximity to the Ered Luin, it seems unlikely that Sauron could get Rings to the Dwarves there (if the Lords of Nogrod and Belegost didn't relocate) without discovering a way to besiege or even overcome the Elves remaining in Western Eriador.

Finally, given that the general trend within the corpus of Arda is for a spectrum of resistance to or compliance with the Enemy that spans West to East, is it reasonable to conclude that the Dwarves furthest East were most easily swayed to Sauron's cause, as appears to be the case with Men?
If so, is it reasonable to think that those houses furthest East might have been given multiple Rings, with the descendants of Nogrod and Belegost missing out?

I haven't found textual evidence either for or against this position, but I'm interested in the thought of others, or if others can find the evidence I've missed.
 

JJ48

Active Member
In Letter 131, Tolkien addresses this somewhat.

But at Eregion great work began – and the Elves came their nearest to falling to ‘magic’ and machinery. With the aid of Sauron’s lore they made Rings of Power (‘power’ is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales, except as applied to the gods). The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. ‘change’ viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance – this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor – thus approaching ‘magic’, a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron (‘the Necromancer’: so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit): such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible. The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed to the preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility. But secretly in the subterranean Fire, in his own Black Land, Sauron made One Ring, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so that its wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them. He reckoned, however, without the wisdom and subtle perceptions of the Elves. The moment he assumed the One, they were aware of it, and of his secret purpose, and were afraid. They hid the Three Rings, so that not even Sauron ever discovered where they were and they remained unsullied. The others they tried to destroy. In the resulting war between Sauron and the Elves Middle-earth, especially in the west, was further ruined. 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,
Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
In Letter 131, Tolkien addresses this somewhat.

But at Eregion great work began – and the Elves came their nearest to falling to ‘magic’ and machinery. With the aid of Sauron’s lore they made Rings of Power (‘power’ is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales, except as applied to the gods). The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. ‘change’ viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance – this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor – thus approaching ‘magic’, a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron (‘the Necromancer’: so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit): such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible. The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed to the preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility. But secretly in the subterranean Fire, in his own Black Land, Sauron made One Ring, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so that its wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them. He reckoned, however, without the wisdom and subtle perceptions of the Elves. The moment he assumed the One, they were aware of it, and of his secret purpose, and were afraid. They hid the Three Rings, so that not even Sauron ever discovered where they were and they remained unsullied. The others they tried to destroy. In the resulting war between Sauron and the Elves Middle-earth, especially in the west, was further ruined. 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,
Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
Yes, JJ48.

That is one of the references that provides an argument against it being the original plan. I've added some emphasis above to point out the relevant parts.

This suggests strongly that the rhyme post-dates the sacking of Eregion by a significant margin, and doesn't immediately support an intent of seven Rings for seven Dwarven Houses (or any other distribution amongst Dwarves), but is instead descriptive of the final distribution.

On reflection, the main questions I'm asking are:
How much do we assume that this coincidence is evidence of intention and design (by Sauron)?
Is it reasonable to believe that Sauron expected that he would take the Seven and the Nine from the Elves at some point and redistribute them to Dwarves and Men, or is it more reasonable to see this as Plan B (as I infer from Letter 131)?
Either way, is it supportable to definitively state one Dwarven Ring per Dwarven House (as opposed to Dwarven Hoard)?

The numerical coincidence might instead be seen as the work of Eru influencing Sauron to ensure that the smallest harm could be done in the circumstances. After all, how much worse might things have been if there were 16 Nazgûl?
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

Sauron has recovered possession of some of the seven 'Rings for Dwarf Lords'. However, the numbers of the Nazgul corps have not been increased.

This seems to suggest that the rings (or some of the rings) are not multi-purpose, multi-user, swiss army knives.

If the rings which Sauron recovered from the Dwarves (once he realized that rings did not really affect Dwarves in ways which he deemed useful to him) were not redeployed to make more Ringwraiths, from Men, this suggests that they could not be redeployed that way.

This makes the possibility that perhaps they were indeed made for Dwarves, and could not be used by others, more likely.

Remember that the sources you are using are Tolkien's letters. While this is certainly evidence of Tolkien's thoughts on a subject at one point in time, I do not think we should regard them as canon. Tolkien changed his thoughts . When he was writing for publication, he revised and made changes up until the last minute. Had Tolkien considered the question, "What did Sauron do with the rings he recovered from the Dwarves?" he might have modified his thoughts on the history of the rings again.
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

Sauron has recovered possession of some of the seven 'Rings for Dwarf Lords'. However, the numbers of the Nazgul corps have not been increased.

This seems to suggest that the rings (or some of the rings) are not multi-purpose, multi-user, swiss army knives.

If the rings which Sauron recovered from the Dwarves (once he realized that rings did not really affect Dwarves in ways which he deemed useful to him) were not redeployed to make more Ringwraiths, from Men, this suggests that they could not be redeployed that way.

This makes the possibility that perhaps they were indeed made for Dwarves, and could not be used by others, more likely.
Another perfectly plausible explanation is that he hasn't found any more Men that he finds worthy. If these Rings are a one-shot deal with Men then you don't hand them out carelessly. He also offers (three of) them as inducement to the Dwarves of Erebor, so he may not have given up on the idea of enslaving Dwarves; allowing ourselves a Silmarillion thought: maybe he relishes the challenge of swaying his former master's creations.

In The Shadow of the Past Gandalf states
In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles - yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.
and
The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them. Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed.'
The fact that the Seven appear to have been made by the Elves, yet given to the Dwarves by Sauron (or else I would expect Gandalf to say gathered or even stolen, rather than recovered), seems to counter the idea that they were made specifically for the Dwarves. It is possible that some chicanery of Sauron's (a disguise?) could explain the Dwarves' belief that (some of them) were given to them by Elves, but it doesn't explain how Sauron got them in the first place.

Remember that the sources you are using are Tolkien's letters. While this is certainly evidence of Tolkien's thoughts on a subject at one point in time, I do not think we should regard them as canon. Tolkien changed his thoughts . When he was writing for publication, he revised and made changes up until the last minute. Had Tolkien considered the question, "What did Sauron do with the rings he recovered from the Dwarves?" he might have modified his thoughts on the history of the rings again.
You've made your thoughts on the canonical status of later publications clear in the past. I'm trying to avoid reliance on these, using them only for information on how his thoughts changed as time went by, and instead trying to recruit others to look for evidence within the LotR text (and Appendices!) that I may have missed.

Nothing you've said here has me convinced that I've missed anything so far, so I continue to believe that multiple interpretations are possible, and that the Dwarves and Men could be Plan B as hinted at in Letter 131.

I'm also interested in the presence or lack of evidence to support the common belief (assumption?) that it is one Ring per Dwarven House.

Opinions and suggestions can be fun, but evidence (or lack thereof) is what I'm looking for here.
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

Regarding your question about textual evidence. Here's the evidence I can find from TLOTR.

In 'The Shadow of the Past', Gandalf tells Frodo, "The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them. Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed. Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them."

By implication, this suggests that only the Three were 'hid from him'. It states that the Seven were possessed by 'Dwarf-kings'. It states that Sauron gave the Nine to Mortal Men. We don't know when, or by whom, the Dwarf-kings were given their rings. We don't know when the Mortal Men were given their rings.

In 'The Council of Elrond', Elrond states, "But Celebrimbor was aware of him, and hid the Three which he had made;".

This again implies that only the Three were hidden.

In Appendix A, Durin's folk, it says, "Of this Ring (Thrain's Ring) something may be said here. It was believed by the Dwarves of Durin's folk to be the first of the Seven that was forged; and they say that it was given to the King of Khazad-dum, Durin III, by the Elven-smiths themselves and not by Sauron, though doubtless his evil power was on it, since he had aided in the forging of all the Seven.... The Dwarves now believe.... that the singular misfortunes of the heirs of Durin were largely due to his (Sauron's) malice. For the Dwarves had proved untameable by this means (Rings). The only power over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things..... 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's will; and for the same reason their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it."

This states that the Dwarves believed that they had received their rings (or at least this ring) from the Elves, not from Sauron. It also implies that the Seven were made as a class, or group of rings, presumably for Dwarves.

I have an hypothesis on why Tolkien had a problem with Rings, and why he was trying to create the history he outlined in his letter. This is based on the hypothesis that Tolkien wrote TLOTR as it came to him. It came to him from a mix of sources and impulses: Norse and German legends and mythology, Finnish and Celtic legends and mythologies, Catholicism, and his own experiences.

Tolkien said, in another letter, that TLOTR was, "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision". The hypothesis is that Tolkien's later thoughts and writings about TLOTR and it's universe, fall mainly into the 'revision' category. He became more concerned with aligning his work with Catholic teaching.

Now, someone who knows more about Catholic teaching than I might be able to elaborate, but, is it possible in Catholicism, for a person to be unwillingly possessed and enslaved by an evil and demonic person or artifact, or is free will, a constant?

I think Tolkien's thought (when composing this letter) may have been, if the Elves gave the Nine to Men, good Men, allies, and then Sauron through the One, just invaded their minds, enslaved them, and made them involuntarily evil, that does not fit the faith very well. Better have Sauron give the rings to Men who are corrupt and inclined to evil, who accept them willingly, trading their souls for power.

However, this does not really solve the problem that the Rings of Power do not really fit Catholic teaching very well. After all, the One Ring, seems to act in this very way. Enslaving the wearer even against their will (though in a sneaky, gradual and corrupting way). But it seems irresistible. Even Gandalf, Galadriel, fear that the Ring would overpower their own self determination and enslave them.
 

Forodan

Member
If the rings which Sauron recovered from the Dwarves (once he realized that rings did not really affect Dwarves in ways which he deemed useful to him) were not redeployed to make more Ringwraiths, from Men, this suggests that they could not be redeployed that way.

This makes the possibility that perhaps they were indeed made for Dwarves, and could not be used by others, more likely.

Remember that the sources you are using are Tolkien's letters. While this is certainly evidence of Tolkien's thoughts on a subject at one point in time, I do not think we should regard them as canon. Tolkien changed his thoughts . When he was writing for publication, he revised and made changes up until the last minute. Had Tolkien considered the question, "What did Sauron do with the rings he recovered from the Dwarves?" he might have modified his thoughts on the history of the rings again.
No, I don't think that Sauron not re-deploying captured rings implies they cannot be used in any other way. At the time he is capturing these rings, he does not possess the One. Therefore, he would not have been able to subvert/co-opt the wearers of the other rings if he handed them out again. If he had recovered the One, then he would certainly have found a use for the recaptured rings. Note the promise of the emissary to Erebor. "Rings he will give for it, such as he gave of old." Well, sure, give him back the Master Control and he'll gladly give you a slave collar ^H^H^H^H^H^H ring to wear...

Whether those rings are exclusively usable by Dwarves remains an open question. On the one hand, if Rings of Power could be "keyed" would the One work for anyone but Sauron? We don't have any instance of anyone with reasonably high "magical ability" trying to use the One, only mortals with almost none, so we can't be sure. But the discussion we witness among "the Wise" doesn't seem to imply any fear that it simply won't work for the "wrong" people. The concern is that it corrupts the user, not that it is locked to Sauron. On the other hand, it is interesting that the only case we see of rings being offered is to Dwarves, and we know that the only rings unaccounted for are the ones formerly held by Dwarves. Hmm...
 
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Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Forodan,

I like your theory that the reason that Sauron did not re-cycle the Dwarf rings he had recovered was that he had lost the One, and so couldn't.

But, had he lost the One when he recovered some of the Dwarf Rings?

We don't know. But, he forged the One in SA 1600, and did not lose it until SA3441. So he had 1,841 years to recover one or two Dwarf rings and re-cycle them while he still had the One Ring to use in the process.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Now, someone who knows more about Catholic teaching than I might be able to elaborate, but, is it possible in Catholicism, for a person to be unwillingly possessed and enslaved by an evil and demonic person or artifact, or is free will, a constant?

I think Tolkien's thought (when composing this letter) may have been, if the Elves gave the Nine to Men, good Men, allies, and then Sauron through the One, just invaded their minds, enslaved them, and made them involuntarily evil, that does not fit the faith very well. Better have Sauron give the rings to Men who are corrupt and inclined to evil, who accept them willingly, trading their souls for power.
Relevant quote from A Wizard of Earthsea: "It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul." I suspect this applies also to Catholic doctrine, too: you are always free to resist evil. That's why The One has to be so sneaky about it, and has so much trouble with Bilbo. Unlike Gollum, he never consents. Frodo is an interesting contrast: he resists to the last, but is finally overwhelmed, and only a eucatastrophic attack by Gollum saves him in the end.
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Yes. I can see Tolkien being worried about the powers of the Rings, after he had published TLOTR, if he was trying to consciously make the work more Catholic in revision. So, in the Letter 131, that Anthony referenced above, I suspect that part of that letter was motivated by Tolkien not liking one word in TLOTR. That word may have been 'ensnared'. Where Gandalf says, "Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them". 'Ensnared', sounds involuntary. Like an animal walking into a trap. Like the ring could take over the mind of a Man, once innocently put on, whether he willed it or not, and enslave him totally.

In Letter 131, Tolkien modifies the language to, "These he gave, for their ultimate corruption and enslavement, to those who would accept them (out of ambition or greed)." Now, the Men (and perhaps Dwarves) are making a decision, out of ambition or greed, to corrupt and enslave themselves. This might make the acceptance of the Rings more aligned to Catholic thinking.

Does Tolkien, however, still have a problem with the One Ring? This Ring certainly seems to ensnare Frodo. Even if through a slow and gradual process. Frodo seems to make a choice on Mt. Doom, when he says, "I do not chose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!" But, is this Frodo, with free will intact saying this? Or has Frodo become a slave of the Ring? Ensnared. Nothing in Frodo's character has led us to believe that he wants to wield the Ring in any way. Yes, we have seen him coveting, and wanting to possess the Ring. But this has always seemed more of a Ring-induced desire, than an inherent Frodo desire.
 
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Beech27

Member
The Catholic view is that man is never so free as when he pursues the good, and never so enslaved as when he rejects it. The Catechism refers to this as the "slavery of sin." So I think the rings fit well enough. Though we might not say that men were enslaved by them, but rather that they enslaved themselves to them.
 
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