There are many rings in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings mythology, but not all of them are described in detail. We are bringing you all the known rings of power as well as lesser rings from Middle-earth in this article. So how many Rings of Power are there in The Lord of the Rings?
There are 20 known rings of power in The Lord of the Rings. Sauron initiated the creation of 16 rings in total including the most powerful “the One Ring”, while the remaining three rings of power were crafted by Celebrimbor.
Except for those 20 known rings of power, there are also some lesser rings, and we will cover them here as well. Let’s see what are those 20 rings of power in the Lord of the Rings series, what can they do, how powerful they are, and who wields them.
The One Ring
“One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne…”
The One Ring is a central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1954–55). It first appeared in the earlier story The Hobbit (1937) as a magic ring that grants the wearer invisibility. Tolkien changed it into a malevolent Ring of Power and re-wrote parts of The Hobbit to fit in with the expanded narrative. The Lord of the Rings describes the hobbit Frodo Baggins’s quest to destroy the Ring.
What are the powers of the One Ring?
The Ring’s primary power was control of the other Rings of Power and domination of the wills of their users. The Ring also conferred power to dominate the wills of other beings whether they were wearing Rings or not—but only in proportion to the user’s native capacity. In the same way, it amplified any inherent power its owner possessed.
A mortal wearing the Ring became effectively invisible except to those able to perceive the non-physical world, with only a thin, shaky shadow discernible in the brightest sunlight. The Ring also extended the life of a mortal possessor indefinitely, preventing natural aging.
Gandalf explained that it did not “grant new life”, but that the possessor merely “continued” until life became unbearably wearisome. The Ring did not protect its bearer from destruction; Gollum perished in the Crack of Doom, and Sauron’s body was destroyed in the downfall of Númenor. Like the Nine Rings, the One Ring physically corrupted mortals who wore it, eventually transforming them into wraiths.
Hobbits were more resistant to this than Men: Gollum, who possessed the ring for 500 years, did not become wraith-like because he rarely wore the Ring. Except for Tom Bombadil, nobody seemed to be immune to the corrupting effects of the One Ring, even powerful beings like Gandalf, who refused to wield it out of fear he could become like Sauron himself.
Within the land of Mordor where it was forged, the Ring’s power increased so significantly that even without wearing it the bearer could draw upon it, and could acquire an aura of terrible power.
When Sam encountered an Orc in the Tower of Cirith Ungol while holding the Ring, he appeared to the terrified Orc as a powerful warrior cloaked in the shadow “[holding] some nameless menace of power and doom”.
Similarly at Mount Doom, when Frodo and Sam were attacked by Gollum, Frodo grabbed the Ring and appeared as “a figure robed in white… [that] held a wheel of fire”. Frodo told Gollum “in a commanding voice” that “If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom”, a prophesy soon fulfilled.
As the Ring contained much of Sauron’s power, it was endowed with malevolent sentience. While separated from Sauron, the Ring strove to return to him by manipulating its bearer to claim ownership of it, or by abandoning its bearer.
To master the Ring’s capabilities, a Ring-bearer would need a well-trained mind, a strong will, and great native power. Those with weaker minds, such as hobbits and lesser Men, would gain little from the Ring, let alone realize its full potential. Even for one with the necessary strength, it would have taken time to master the Ring’s power sufficiently to overthrow Sauron.
The Ring did not render its bearer omnipotent. Three times Sauron suffered military defeat while bearing the Ring, first by Gil-galad in the War of Sauron and the Elves, then by Ar-Pharazôn when Númenórean power so overawed his armies that they deserted him, and at the end of the Second Age with his personal defeat by Gil-galad and Elendil.
Tolkien indicates that such a defeat would not have been possible in the waning years of the Third Age when the strength of the free peoples was greatly diminished. There were no remaining heroes of the stature of Gil-galad, Elendil, or Isildur; the strength of the Elves was fading and they were departing to the Blessed Realm; the Dwarves had been driven out of Moria and were unwilling to concentrate their strength in any event, and the Númenórean kingdoms had either declined or been destroyed and had few allies.
“Three rings for the Elven kings under the sky…”
Nenya (Q, pron. [ˈneɲa]) was one of the Rings of Power; specifically, it was one of the Three Rings of the Elves of Middle-earth. Also known as the Ring of Adamant and the Ring of Water, it was made of mithril and set with a white stone of adamant.
Nenya was made by Celebrimbor of Eregion alone between c. S.A. 1500 and c. 1590, along with the other two Elven Rings, Narya and Vilya. After Celebrimbor discovered that Sauron had forged the One Ring in S.A. 1600 he went to Lothlórien to seek the counsel of Galadriel.
They were unwilling to destroy the Rings so Galadriel advised Celebrimbor to keep them hidden, unused, and dispersed far from Eregion. Celebrimbor followed this counsel, first by giving Nenya to Galadriel. The power of this Ring strengthened and beautified the realm of Lothlórien, but it also increased Galadriel’s desire for the Sea and return to the West.
The ring wielded by Galadriel was not normally visible. On 14 February T.A. 3019 Frodo Baggins saw Nenya on Galadriel’s finger, for it could not be hidden from the Ring-bearer. Samwise Gamgee told Galadriel he only “saw a star through your fingers”.
Nenya’s power was preservation, protection, and concealment from evil. After the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron, its power faded along with the other Rings of Power. Galadriel bore Nenya on a ship from the Grey Havens into the West, accompanied by the other two Elven Rings and their bearers. With Nenya gone, the magic and beauty of Lothlórien also faded and it was gradually depopulated until by the time Arwen came there to die in Fo.A. 121 it was deserted and in ruin.
Narya (pron. [ˈnarʲa]), the Ring of Fire or Red Ring, was one of the Rings of Power, specifically one of the “Three Rings for the Elven Kings under the sky”.
Created by Celebrimbor after Annatar had left Eregion, it was free of Annatar’s (Sauron’s) influence due to the fact that the Elves hid their three rings from him upon discerning his intent, but it was still bound to the One Ring.
In The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, Gil-galad receives only Vilya, while Círdan receives Narya from the very beginning. In the Third Age, Círdan gave the ring to Gandalf for his labors.
According to the Unfinished Tales, at the start of the War of the Elves and Sauron Celebrimbor gave Narya together with the Ring Vilya to Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor. Gil-galad entrusted Narya to his lieutenant Círdan, Lord of the Havens of Mithlond, who kept it after Gil-galad’s death.
It is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, as well as (in common with the other Three Rings) hiding the wielder from remote observation (except by the wielder of the One) and giving resistance to the weariness of time:
“Take this ring, master,” he said, “for your labors will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it, you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill.”― Círdan the Shipwright
Vilya (Q, pron. [ˈviʎa]) or Wilya (pre-SA and Vanyarin, [ˈwiʎa]), as a proper noun, was one of the Rings of Power made by the Elves of Eregion. Vilya, Nenya, and Narya were the Three Rings of the Elves, more powerful than the rings given to Dwarves or Men. Like the other Elven Rings, Vilya was jeweled: it contained a great blue stone set in a gold band, which contributed to its titles as the Ring of Sapphire and the Blue Ring.
A lesser-used title of Vilya was the Ring of Air, signifying its pre-eminence even over the other Rings of the Elves; it was generally considered that Vilya was the mightiest of these three bands.
By S.A. 1590, Celebrimbor, the lord of Eregion, had forged all Three Rings independently of Annatar, a guise of the Dark Lord Sauron. As a result, none of the Three were stained by his evil. However, like all the Rings of the Elves, Vilya was still under Sauron’s influence when he wielded The One Ring, which held dominion over all the others.
When Sauron made his Ring in S.A. 1600, Celebrimbor became aware of his designs and in 1603 gave the Three Rings to Elven guardians, with Vilya sent to Gil-galad in Lindon. Sauron waged war against the Elves in Eriador but was eventually defeated. Afterward, Gil-Galad gave Vilya to Elrond, who bore it through the later years of the Second Age and all of the Third.
Upon Sauron’s destruction in T.A. 3019, the power of Vilya faded and it went over the sea along with Elrond at the end of the Third Age.
“Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone…”
The Seven Dwarf-rings were the Rings of Power given to seven Dwarf Lords by Sauron in the guise of Annatar. Apparently, the Lords were the Kings of the Seven Houses, as Gandalf mentions that the Rings were given to the “Dwarf-kings”. Dwarf clans mentioned in The History of Middle-earth: Durin’s Folk, Firebeards, Broadbeams, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks, and Stonefoots.
The most famous was the Ring of Thrór: in Dwarven tradition it was said Celebrimbor gave the Ring to Durin III king of Durin’s Folk before the Downfall of Eregion, but this seems unlikely as Celebrimbor was said to have yielded the Seven – all the Seven – to Sauron after torture.
The Dwarf Lords proved resistant to the malevolent magic of the rings, which could not even turn them invisible, as they are hard to tame, and thoughts of their hearts are hidden. The rings, used only for the gaining of wealth, amplified their wearer’s natural skills and desire for dominion which as a consequence, made them greedy and exceedingly rich; the Rings gave them the power to multiply whatever they mined. It is said that thanks to them the Seven Hoards were made. But also the Rings kindled greed and wrath in the Dwarves, bringing evils that in the long-term benefitted Sauron.
Four were swallowed or destroyed by Dragons, but Sauron succeeded in finding two. The last one was worn by Thráin II, but in T.A. 2845 he was imprisoned by Sauron in the dungeons of Dol Guldur, and the ring was taken from him.
“Nine for mortal men doomed to die…”
The Nine Rings were those of the Rings of Power that Sauron used to corrupt Men to his service; those who took the Nine Rings became the Nazgûl.
The rings were made along with the others in Eregion and were forged by Celebrimbor. Those were locked away in one of the safes of Eregion, but all were captured by Sauron. He gave nine of them to nine kings of Men, three of which were Númenóreans and one was an Easterling.
The owners of the nine eventually became the Nazgûl.
During the end of the Third Age, possibly Sauron had taken the Nine Rings with him in order to augment his power.
Effect of the Nine Rings
The Rings of Power gave their wearer powerful magical abilities and gave them the ability to influence peoples’ will.
On Men those effects could be special: The rings gave a very long life, but the wearer would begin to feel worn out and eventually fade away into a wraith. The nine kings given the rings turned into Ringwraiths because Sauron was able to take control of the rings.
Possession of the Nine Rings
In The Council of Elrond, Gandalf says that the Nazgûl kept their Rings by saying “The Nine the Nazgûl keep”. However, in most other references, it is mentioned that Sauron had taken them. Furthermore, Frodo doesn’t see any Rings on them on Weathertop, and it is believed that if they did wear the Rings, they would have been fully invisible (including their cloaks).
It’s possible that the line in the Council of Elrond represents Tolkien’s earlier intention that the Nazgûl should still be wearing their Rings; if that’s so, he later changed his mind and simply missed revising that sentence.
The Ring Of Barahir
The Ring of Barahir, originally Ring of Felagund, was an Elven artifact that was originally given by Finrod Felagund to Barahir and afterward was kept by the Edain as an heirloom in the later Ages.
The ring had the shape of two serpents with emerald eyes, one devouring and the other supporting a crown of golden flowers, the emblem of the House of Finarfin.
The Ring was fashioned in Valinor by the Noldor and was owned by the Elven Lord Finrod. He took it to Middle-earth during the Exile of the Noldor, along with other treasures he brought from Tirion, and wore it with him in Nargothrond.
During the Dagor Bragollach, the Adan Barahir saved his life, and Finrod gave him the ring as a token of eternal friendship between Finrod and the House of Barahir.
Barahir wore the Ring for the rest of his life until his hand (wearing it) was taken by Gorgol the Butcher, leader of the Orcs who killed him, as proof of his feat. But Beren went through great perils to avenge his father and retrieved his hand. Beren laid the hand to rest with the rest of his father’s remains, but kept and wore the Ring.
When Beren was assigned the Quest for the Silmaril, he went to Nargothrond and used it as a token to seek Finrod’s help. Finrod fulfilled his pledge and even found his death in the dungeons of Minas Tirith in order to save Beren.
The Ring’s fate in the following centuries is only vaguely recorded. Through Dior, his daughter Elwing and her son Elros, it found its way to Númenor. Apparently, it remained an heirloom of the Kings of Númenor until King Tar-Elendil did not give it to his heir Tar-Meneldur, but to his eldest daughter Silmariën, who was not allowed to succeed him on the throne. She, in turn, gave the ring to her son Valandil, the first Lord of Andúnië. The Ring was handed down to the succeeding Lords of Andúnië until the last of the Faithful. Thus it survived the Downfall of Númenor when the Faithful escaped to Middle-earth.
In the Third Age, the ring was again passed in a direct line from Elendil, the last of the Lords of Andúnië, as an heirloom of the Kings of Arnor, and then Kings of Arthedain until the fall of Arthedain.
The last King of Arthedain, Arvedui, gave the ring to the chief of the Lossoth of Forochel, thankful for the help he received from them. Years after T.A. 1975, it was ransomed from the Snowmen by the Rangers of the North, and it was kept safe at Rivendell.
Eventually, in T.A. 2952 it was given by Elrond to Aragorn son of Arathorn, when he was told of his true name and lineage, together with the shards of Narsil. In T.A. 2980, while in Lórien, Aragorn gave the ring to Arwen Undómiel, and thus they were betrothed.
Nothing is said of the fate of the ring in the Fourth Age, but unless it went with Arwen to her grave at Cerin Amroth, it most likely passed to the Kings of the Reunited Kingdom, descendants of Aragorn and Arwen.
The Lesser Rings
The lesser rings were forged by the elves as essays in the craft of ring making. These rings were made sometime between S.A. 1200, when Sauron came in disguise to Eregion, and 1500 when they began crafting the greater Rings of Power.
Unlike the greater rings, these were round and unadorned, without gems, much like the One Ring. As described in the works of The Silmarillion, the elves made many other Magic Rings, but they were mere practice for the craftsmen who created them. Their ultimate fates are unknown, nor is it known whether or not their powers were bound to the power of the One. If they were, then their power would have failed with the destruction of the One.
Gandalf mentioned these rings to Frodo when recounting the origins of the Rings of Power. Supposedly also did the messenger of Sauron, who asked Dáin Ironfoot to find and return to Sauron “a little ring, the least of rings”, that is, the ring of Bilbo Baggins.
Early on in The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf references the Lesser Rings: elven rings made in the elvish realm of Eregion. According to Gandalf, these are mere practice rings — or “trifles,” as he calls them – that is nowhere near as impressive as the Rings of Power.
We can assume that Gandalf was hoping Bilbo’s ring would turn out to be one of these lesser rings, as his initial lack of urgency with regards to the One Ring seems to suggest that he did not instantly recognize it as such.