I do not think the "Three Elven Rings of Power" are even alluded to (as separate items) in The Hobbit, but they may, no doubt, be classed with the generic "magic rings" (note the plural!) referred to in "Riddles in the Dark." PB ed p. 87:
"But who knows how Gollum came by that present, ages ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world? Perhaps even the Master who ruled them could not have said."
The texts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is most often the source of a reader's' introductory experience with the Three Elven Rings. Here, the specific rings are mentioned in the index of things as:
Narya, the Great -- III, 383 Nenya, Ring of Adamant -- I, 472; I, 503. III, 381 Vilya, III, 381
Incidentally through the LotR, we learn that each of these rings is associated with a "proper gem," and a specific colour. Narya has a fire-red stone, Nenya has a white stone (crystalline pure? diamond) set in a mithril band; and Vilya features a blue stone in a gold setting.
Other than the number of these Elven Rings, their colours, and their names, we learm little more about them. "The Shadow of the Past," PB ed. FotR, pp81 - 82, tells us that the Elves made the Three without Sauron's hand ever being laid upon them, and so, out of all the Great Rings, these three alone are "unsullied." On p. 318, "The Council of Elrond," we are told that Celebrimbor of Eregion made the Three and hid them from Sauron, and we find out that the One Ring, The Ruling Ring is able to overmaster the Three, and undo all the "good" that they ever achieved. We also find out from Gloin, p. 351 - 352, that the Three cannot be directly used as weapons, but promote "understanding, making, and healing..."
Somewhat later in LotR we learn that the Three are held, secretly by Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond. In FotR "Lothlorien" and "The Great River," we learn that the source of Galadriel's great power is her ring, and that largely through this ring, Nenya, all the special light and time alterations, all the healing goodness of that place are derived.
Finally, almost at the very end of the narrative text we have one more interesting nugget of ring lore: "Elrond..., and upon his finger was a ring of gold with a great blue stone, Vilya, mightiest of the Three." (emphasis mine)
If we move to the appendices, we learn more concerning the Three in a page and a half note found under appendix B, pp 455-456 "The Third Age." Originally, the rings were held by Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Cirdan "the three greatest of the Eldar." Elrond "inherits" Vilya after Gil-galad dies.
We also learn in this appendix note, that Cirdan gave his ring, Narya, to Gandalf sometime after the year 1000 in the Third Age (see p. 455 RotK appendix B).
Based on this information alone, it would appear quite reasonable to accept the bald statement that Tolkien makes concerning the relative strengths of the Three, "Vilya [is] the mightiest of the Three." Which would, I think, allow us to assume that Elrond, as bearer of the "mightiest," must be the most powerful, greatest Elf left in Middle-earth, right?
Maybe not. For we do possess a great deal more Ring Lore that tends to complicate the happy simplicity laid out in LotR.
Fundamental to an understanding of the relative powers of the Three Elven Rings is the "back-story" essay "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," pp 353 - 378. Additionally, material from Unfinished Tales (see especially p. 251, note 22; and p. 256) may be seen as directly contradicting the RotK assignment of "mightiest" to Vilya.
After reading these sources, and comparing them with LotR, how is the argument impacted -- that Elrond and his ring Vilya are as powerful (or greater) than Galadriel and her ring Nenya?
Incidentally, how does the possession of the Red Ring Narya by a Maiar, affect the power of that ring? Is Narya, in the hands of a Maia-Wizard, "mightier" than either Nenya or Vilya in the hands of "mere" Elves?
Maybe we can even check the early version scripts of LotR -- the four volumes of the "History of the Lord of the Rings," (HOME VI, VII, VIII, IX) -- to see if/ when/ why Tolkien decided to call Vilya the "mightiest" in the final, published version? Did he simply goof it up, or was this alteration deliberate?
Last Edit: Jan 20, 2005 4:38:37 GMT -6 by Andorinha
There were a couple of topic lines dealing with the Elven Rings at the old TR, as I recall. I found one of them, started by DaleAnn that has some good references appended to it. Apparently Tolkien's conception of the Rings of Power went through a number of alterations before he published the LotR. This line, " The Evolution of the Elven Rings -- Seen through References in HoMe" was started 3/7/2003. I have the page bookmarked, but do not have the discussion section available.
Thank-you Andorinha. This is the one I was looking for.
The Rings were not named until the galley proofs. (pg. 111 of Sauron Defeated So basically, it was at the last second that Tolkien chose Vilya to be the mightiest.
Andorinha wrote: "Based on this information alone, it would appear quite reasonable to accept the bald statement that Tolkien makes concerning the relative strengths of the Three, "Vilya [is] the mightiest of the Three." Which would, I think, allow us to assume that Elrond, as bearer of the "mightiest," must be the most powerful, greatest Elf left in Middle-earth, right?"
I think it could be an equally valid assumption that Elrond needed the mightiest Ring since he was the "weakest" of the three Elves.
Andorinha wrote: "Fundamental to an understanding of the relative powers of the Three Elven Rings is the "back-story" essay "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," pp 353 - 378. Additionally, material from Unfinished Tales (see especially p. 251, note 22; and p. 256) may be seen as directly contradicting the RotK assignment of "mightiest" to Vilya.
After reading these sources, and comparing them with LotR, how is the argument impacted -- that Elrond and his ring Vilya are as powerful (or greater) than Galadriel and her ring Nenya?"
The "very rough manuscript" in "the first stage of composition", UT pg. 260, entitled "The Elessar" was written at the same time or slightly earlier than "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn". According to C. Tolkien "Concerning G and C" was certainly after LotR, but, I can't find a more precise date by skimming the text. It could have slipped Tolkien's mind that he had already named Vilya, the mightiest. Or...
...If "The Elessar" naming Nenya as the chief Ring was written before the galley proofs of LotR were sent, Tolkien might have decided against Nenya, the Chief in order to make Vilya, the Mightiest. Thanks, Fan
Fanuidhol, first I'll add a congratulatory "hurrah" for your "evolutionary leap" to hobbit status, though I must admit that some of my best friends are orcs!
Next, the note on pp 111-12 of HOME IX, concerning the late date of the name assignments of the Three Elven Rings is something I missed entirely. I would have thought that since the ring names do show up in Unfinished Tales and the Silmarillion, that they were in place long before the LotR galley-proof period, circa 1953, I believe. I think then, if this note is correct (and I have no reason to suspect it is not), JRRT must have taken his older stories (some dating from the 1930s) and added these names sometime in the mid-late 1950s (or later!) as he was revising all his ME histories in the hope that he could soon have an authoritative version of his Silmarillion published in his lifetime. From reading the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and even Lost Tales, I cannot recall either JRRT or his editor Christopher Tolkien saying anything about the late assignment of names. This begs the question: how much of the ring lore found in Sil and UfT is post LotR, post 1954? Certainly accepting a post LotR date for "The Elessar," and "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn," would clarify/ simplify the picture here. Then we might be able to see his alteration of the relative ring powers as a product of his later thought on the LotR, probably looking forward to producing a revised version at a later date with more emphasis being placed on Galadriel's role as "chief" of the ME Elves? Otherwise, as you mention, in the rush to publish, he may have simply overlooked the fact that he had already attributed pre-eminence to Elrond's ring...
LOL! I fear I see another long-term, painstaking project developing here!
I'll re-read the relevant sources and see if I can get some kind of a synthesis set up. My feeling from the way JRRT "lionizes" Galadriel in many non LotR sources, is that he did see her as the chief of the Elves remaining in ME after the Second Age, and that the comment listing Vilya as the Mightiest was just a mistake. Now, I'm not so sure. I'll return to this point a bit later after I marshall my thoughts more effectively!
Getting off topic, but, since Stormrider started it :
Stormrider wrote: "I think you two might like to take a vacation to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and to the Bodleian Library of Oxford University for an exciting information gathering extravaganza! Have either of you been to either place? If you have a research project on Tolkien and his life's work, the archivists will allow you a deeper look into all the manuscripts."
MSSU, just 45 minutes from my house, offers a 3 week summer trip to Oxford every year. You have no idea how tempting it is!!!
I used to wonder how much, especially for Gandalf, the possession of the Elven Rings fortified their Keepers in their struggles against accepting the One Ring -- still an open question. It just occurred to me to ask: would the power of these Three Rings be quashed in the actual presence of the One, after all, it was designed especially for their domination and control? Perhaps, faced with the One Ring right at hand, these three Keepers were temporarily stripped of "ring assistance," and had to face their challenges naked before its temptation? That would be more in fitting with JRRT's value system, wouldn't it?
I also find that when we start added up the number of persons who had the will to refuse the One Ring, we might want to add the two Mortal Men, Aragorn and Faramir. They were also among the number who could have taken the One Ring, but didn't (especially Faramir!). They had no Elven Rings to aid them, yet they were also able -- relying on their own character strengths -- to resist the One...