We’re familiar with wraiths from The Lord of the Rings book and the movies, but how does one go about actually making a wraith?

It should probably go without saying, but I’ma have spoilers below. If spoilers for 60-something- and 40-something-year-old books and 20-something-year-old movies are an issue for you, you have been warned.

You know, wraiths – these dudes:

Still from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

It’s probably easier than you’d expect, but requires time, and in some cases, planning.

Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring… It’s Annatar!

(If you know who the artist is, please let me know so I can credit them)

Annatar, the Giver of Gifts, came to the elves as an ambassador of the Valar and offered his services and knowledge to the Jewel-smiths of Eregion (also called the Gwaith-i-Mírdain). Elrond, Gil-Galad, and Galadriel all thought he was super sus, but Celebrimbor and the other Jewel-smiths gladly accepted Annatar’s help. Over several hundred years, Annatar helped the Gwaith-i-Mírdain expand their already-immense crafting talents and they eventually began forging the Rings of Power. Together with Annatar they made sixteen rings of power to give to the dwarf-lords and great kings of men. Annatar then left Eregion, and Celebrimbor created three additional Rings of Power (Narya, Nenya and Vilya, the Rings of Fire, Water and Air), intended for the elves and, most importantly, untouched by Annatar.

Why most importantly? Well, because Annatar was actually SECRET SAURON. He had left Eregion to go forge the One Ring to bind the Rings of Power, and their wearers, to his will.

Because the three Elven rings were forged without the corrupting influence of Annatar, the elves wearing these rings (Gil-Galad and Galadriel) realized what was going on and removed them to make sure that Sauron wouldn’t be able to somehow twist them to his will.

As far as the other rings went, they were indeed given to the dwarf-lords and kings of men. The dwarves proved to be naturally resistant to the influence of Sauron and so they were able to wear the rings without falling under his power (though they did increase their already-strong gold lust). The men who received rings, on the other hand, wore them and became fully corrupted by Sauron. They were slowly drawn permanently into the Unseen and became the ringwraiths.

Morgul bullshit

Although we only see one Morgul-knife specifically mentioned in The Lord of the Rings book, it’s possible there were more of these blades. Elrond explains that the Morgul-knife was used by the Nazgûl to poison enemies.

United Cutlery Hobbit Morgul-Blade

The knife was fashioned so that it would break off when used, leaving a shard of the knife in the wound while the rest of the weapon turned to dust. The shard would works its way to the stabbee’s heart. As the shard remained in the body, it would slowly draw that person into the Unseen, and if not removed in time, the person becomes a wraith.

Hröa vs. fëa: FIGHT!

Yet another way of creating wraiths is for Elves to stay in Middle Earth too long.

Living things exist in two parts: the fëa, or the spirit, given life by the secret fire of Illúvatar, and the hröa, or the body, made of material from Arda. Elves are bound to Arda and are not permitted to leave it. As immortals, they do not die of disease or old age, but because of the Marring of Arda by the taint of Morgoth, Elves can be slain. When an elf’s body dies, it returns to Arda, while the spirit is called to the Halls of Mandos to await his judgement and possibly be reincarnated. 

An elf’s spirit may choose to remain in Middle-earth instead of heeding the Call of Mandos, but doing so meant that they would not be given a new body, essentially turning them into wraiths. Choosing to ignore Mandos’s summons often meant that the elf’s spirit was tainted or had ill intentions, and these spirits might choose to serve Morgoth or Sauron instead of the Valar.

Due to the Marring of Arda, Elves’ bodies would also weaken over time in Middle-earth, causing their spirits to consume their bodies. This is why the Elves sail into the West, where their bodies would not be subject to this waning. 

Hence, when the Witch King called forth the Barrow-Wights, he must have been calling these elven spirits who remained in Middle Earth, as it is unlikely would have had the power to call them back from the Halls of Waiting (since Mandos calling the fëar back to the Halls was at the bidding of Manwë, the King of the Valar and of Arda).


So there you have it. If you have the right materials (or are just a lazy elf), you, too, could become a wraith!

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