The Nazgul and the Gaffer, Maggot, Butterbur ...

Patrick M. Hausen

New Member
Hi all,

listening to the coverage of Butterbur's reaction to the Nazgul I like to think that they (the Nazgul) simply have not realised their full potential yet.

How the named react to the Nazgul is a stubborn bravery founded in - on the one hand - righteousness, no doubt. But definitely to the same or even greater extent complete ignorance. Which, as I think is the point of the text, must not necessarily be a bad thing.

More interesting is why the Nazgul let themselves be treated this way. And to adapt a quote by a certain Inigo Montoya, they have been out of the terrifying business for way too long.

The reactions of these people who simply refuse to be terrified leaves them completely dumbfounded. So they don't know what to do but shrug it off (if they have shoulders, that is ;)) and move on.

This of course will change drastically over the course of the book.

I appreciate your thoughts and comments,
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My take on why the Nazgul don't respond to rudeness from either Men or Hobbits is that they simply don't care. They do have a sense of humor--one of them chuckles in response to Farmer Maggot's taunts--but otherwise, they got what they want in each of these interactions and the rest of it has no importance to them.

Blad The Inspirer

New Member
They do have a sense of humor--one of them chuckles in response to Farmer Maggot's taunts
One thing to note is that Maggot is not sure if the rider was laughing or not: "It might have been laughing, and it might not," but my guess is that you are right. One quote from the beginning of chapter 11 suggests this:

"Let the little people blow! Sauron would deal with them later. Meanwhile they had another errand..."

That quote has always had a laughing/mocking tone in my mind.

My suspicion is that the black riders have the ability to terrify and slaughter Maggot and Butterburr, but they don't do it because they are doing their best to remain undercover, and they have the self-restraint necessary to refrain from killing villagers if killing them might make the job of finding the ring more difficult. I think that self-restraint is one of the many reasons* Sauron selected them for this task. In chapter 11 at the end of the encounter at Crickhollow it states that "they rode down the guards at the gate and vanished from the Shire," suggesting that they could terrify or kill these people if they wished, and indeed do so as long as it doesn't hinder their hunt for the ring. We can also see that the rider in Bree has a pretty strong effect on Merry, not to mention the report from Boromir at the Council of Elrond, where he recounts his experience with a Nazgul in Ithilien:

"A power was there that we have not felt before. Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came, a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled."

That being said, it is hard to deny that the ringwraiths do "level up" as the story progresses. I am still curious as to why exactly that happens. I am sure there is a good explanation to be found, but I have not found it yet.

*I think Sauron sent the riders on this mission instead of some of his other servants for several reasons: there is no chance of them betraying him, they will hunt the ring relentlessly, they are more intelligent than most of his servants, they can communicate with each other more effectively than, say, orcs would be able to, and they have the ability to turn their prey into a wraith.
I think they do have some "sense" for the ring, but I don't think it is one of the main reasons Sauron sent them. Most of the textual evidence suggests that their sense is not that strong, until Frodo actually puts it on. Combine that with the fact that they can't see nearly as well (at least during the day) as most other creatures, and I kind of feel like someone with perfect vision who was not ring-sensitive would have served just as well.


Member is hard to deny that the ringwraiths do "level up" as the story progresses. I am still curious as to why exactly that happens.
(1) They are getting closer to Sauron in Mordor, and he's the source of their power.
(2) Sauron himself is growing in strength, a process that has been going on since the day Isuldur chopped off his finger.
(3) The amount of territory they have to cover narrows as the story progresses until they reach the Pelennor Fields where all nine can work together.
(4) The Nazgul were recently resurrected and are learning how to use their powers as time goes on.

My best guess: All of the above.