Cue Seinfeld joke here.

But seriously, we know that the Elves have three rings of power, and that they’ve been wearing and using them for a while. Why weren’t they affected like Men?

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

Whenever we’re talking about the three rings, we need to talk about Celebrimbor. You can read more about Celebrimbor here, but in short he was Fëanor‘s grandkid and one of the greatest Elven smiths. He lead the Gwaith-i-Mírdain (“Jewel-smiths” or “Elven-smiths”) of Eregion. When Annatar (“Giver of gifts” and SECRET SAURON) came to Eregion, the Gwaith-i-Mírdain eagerly started learning ring crafting from him and, with his help, made the 9 rings of Men and the 7 rings of the Dwarfs.

Celebrimbor, however, didn’t entirely trust Annatar and so he crafted the three greatest of the rings of power alone, after Annatar left Eregion. Each of the three rings had a different stone and different powers. Because Annatar was not involved with their crafting, they were free from Sauron’s corruption, but were still tied to the One Ring because the craft that Annatar had taught them included binding magic worked into the rings. This meant that the One Ring would still have power over the three.

Still from The Lord of the Rings “The Fellowship of the Ring”, 2001

When Annatar forged the One Ring and put it on, Celebrimbor and the Gwaith-i-Mírdain realized that Annatar was actually Sauron and saw his treachery, so Celebrimbor hid all of the rings. The three he sent out of Eregion for safe-keeping. The keepers of the three rings, knowing they were linked to the One Ring, only put the rings on after Sauron was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance. Since the One Ring was lost, it was finally safe for the bearers to wear their rings, and they each used their rings for good to help bolster Middle-earth against evil. 

Narya, the Ring of Fire

Narya was a gold ring set with a ruby and gave the wearer the power to inspired others to resist tyranny and evoke hope from them, as well as giving the wearer resistance to becoming weary as time goes on. Celebrimbor sent Narya to Gil-galad in Lindon. When Gil-galad was killed, Círdan the Shipwright came into possession of the ring, who later entrusted it to Gandalf who he saw as the most powerful of the Istari (much to Saruman’s chagrin) to aid him in his quest. Narya may have enhanced Gandalf’s power over fire as well as helped him bolster spirits at Helm’s Deep and at Gondor.

Narya (Ring of Fire) by GemsRainbowCo

Nenya, the Ring of Water

Nenya was a mithril ring set with an adamant and gave the wearer the power of preservation, protection, and concealment from evil. This ring radiated light – Sam mentions that he could only see “a star through your fingers” (Frodo, however, could see the ring Nenya, likely because of his presence in the Unseen). Celebrimbor entrusted Nenya to Galadriel. She used the ring to create an area of peace and protection, Lórien, ensuring that it would not fall unless directly attacked by Sauron himself. The ring also increased Galadriel’s longing for the sea and wish to return to Aman.

Bague Elfique V2 by DGartefacts

Vilya, the Ring of Air

Vilya was a gold band set with a sapphire and was the mightiest of the three. Vilya’s power isn’t mentioned in the text, but it’s reasonable to assume that it had healing and protection powers similar to the other two rings. Like Narya, Celebrimbor gave Vilya to Gil-galad and it passed to Círdan (although in some accounts it was given directly to Círdan), who entrusted it to Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell, and he used the ring to protect and preserve his lands. It’s also postulated that Vilya gave the wearer power over water (e.g. Ford of Bruinen) and foresight, as Elrond possessed both of these powers, but these may also have been powers Elrond had naturally apart from the ring.

Blue ring, elves ring, ring of air by Eliqium

What happened to the three after the destruction of the One Ring?

When the One Ring was destroyed, the power in the three also waned and the protection they afforded to Rivendell and Lothlórien faded. All three rings were borne to the Undying Lands by their wearers when they boarded Círdan’s ship at the end of the third age.


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