On the Natures of the Great Rings

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4, 6-7

[page 4] On the Natures of the Great Rings {Tengwar writing} Of the natures of the Great Rings little is known, aside from suggestion of their powers and effects. The names of the Three, however, provide some very interesting suggestions. _Vilya_ is the Quenya word for 'air' or 'sky', the name of the tengwa . _Narya_ is called the ring of fire. The root _nar_ is used to mean 'sun', as in the Sindarin __narbeleth_, 'sun-waning'. This is obviously a form of the Sindarin _anor_, Quenya _anar_, 'sun'. Related also in form and meaning is the Sindarin _naur_, 'fire', as in the Sammath Naur, the Chambers of Fire, and Gandalf's fire-spell, "_Naur an edraith ammen, naur dan i ngauroth_." This leaves the problem of _Nenya_. The root _nen_ occurs elsewhere in two names, Nenuial and Nen Hithoel. Nenuial is translated as 'Lake evendim' where _uial_ is the Sindarin word for 'twilight', leaving _nen_ to express 'lake'. Nen Hithoel is the name of another body of water, the lake above Rauros. _Hith_ is a Sindarin word meaning 'mist', as in _hithlain_, 'mist-thread' (of. Qu. _hisië_, 'mist'), so a good translation of Nen Hithoel would be something like 'Misty Water'. It is thus reasonable to translate _nen_ as 'water', permitting the translation of the names of the Three Rings as Air, Fire, and Water. The colors are even appropriate: Vilya, the ring of air, or sky, is blue: Narya, the ring of fire, is red; and Nenya, the ring of water, is clear, or white. What about earth? Earth is the domain of the Dwarves, and it is reasonable to suppose that the rings of earth are the seven dwarvish rings. An interesting possiblity is that these Seven corresponded to gold, silver, lead, iron, copper, tin, and mercury. (This is not to suggest that the rings were actually composed purely of these substances-- a ring made entirely of mercury would scarcely require Dragon Fire for its destruction! It may well be, however, that alloys of these elements were used for the rings.) The omission of mithril from this list may seem strange, and indeed the Dwarves, or the Elves who made the Rings, may have reckoned the metallic elements differently; however, it seems probable that mithril was not considered an element, and furthermore Nenya was the ring of mithril. The first ring forged, the Ring of Thrain and his ancestors, may well have been the ring of gold, as it is closely linked with gold. It needed gold to produce gold, and the owners were preoccupied with gold as a result of the ring. On the other hand, this may have been true for all the rings, in the sense that they intensified the Dwarves' avarice. This was in [page 6] fact their main effect on the Dwarves; Sauron was never able to dominate them through the rings. This leaves the Nine and the One, and here there is very little to go on. It may be that the Nine were not differentiated at all, except possibly for the ring held by the Nazgul King. The Nazgul seem to have lost their individuality and identity except as instruments of Sauron. They are never differentiated, except for the King, and they are never named.2 Assuming, however, that the Nine did have individual natures such as those or the Three and the Seven, an interesting suggestion has been made by Inurion Randebaran, that the Nine corresponded to the nine planets. These would be Mercury, Venus, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Pluto was probably not known to astronomers of the Second Age; Neptune is not usually considered visible, but would have been so to elvish eyes.3 In this case the One may have represented the Earth around which the others revolved. (In a more advanced astronomy, one the Nine may have represented the Earth, while the One represented the Sun. The Sun, after all, is power, though usually of a more benevolent sort. Gollum's aversion to the sun, and his attempts to hide from it, may be significant in this connection.) The comments made on the natures of the Nine and the One are, of course, pure speculation, as are to a somewhat lesser extent the suggestions about the Seven. The linking of the Three with Fire, Air, and Water, however, is solidly based. The nature of this linkage is not clear. It is certainly true that Gandalf, the weilder of the ring of fire, had great power over fire. The Mirror of Galadriel and possible effects like the former protective nature of the River Nimrodel indicate Galadriel's power of water. It may well be that there were corresponding powers that were associated with the others of the great rings, but there are few records of such matters. The hobbits who wrote and preserved the Red Book of Westmarch almost certainly did not write of such things, though Frodo probably did understand much of which he did not speak. But those who forged the rings and those who wielded them are gone, and now none remain who know their secrets. {Image: Two sets of interlocking rings are printed below the text, one a set of three, the other a set of four. Inside each ring is the alchemical symbol for a planet. The first three rings represent jupiter, the sun, and the moon. The next four rings represent Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Mercury.} [page 7] _Notes_: 1. Mithril almost certainly is not an element according to modern chemistry; there are none that have its properties. It is more plausibly considered to be some sort of alloy, and may well have been considered so by the Dwarves. In any case it was generally used in the form of an alloy. (What about nickel, Silmarien? --IK) 2. Gothmog, the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul (III 121) is considered by some a possible exception; however, he may well have been an Orc, or even a Man, second in command to the Nazgul themselves. 3. The inclusion of the Earth would somewhat assume a heliocentric picture of the solar system. The elvish word for a year, astronomically considered, is _coranar_, 'sun-round', but this gives no indication of what is going around what. It is reasonable to assume a fairly highly-developed astronomy, as is indicated by the calendars. The elves had the ability, the inclination, and the time to study the stars carefully.

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