On The Rings of Power few people in Númenor love their old friends the elves. But Queen Regent Míriel’s anger at Galadriel has nothing to do with jealousy over eternal life. It’s because Míriel knows of a prophecy that says the elf’s arrival marks the island’s doom. She even let Galadriel herself see Númenors’ fate in the palantír. But why would either of them believe in that magical stone’s vision? Because both women know where it comes from and what it can do. And so do The Lord of the Rings fans.
What Are The Lord of the Rings‘ Palantíri?
The palantíri date back to the Time of the Trees before the First Age. The Ñoldor elves made them in Aman, the continent of the Valar. While each was a perfectly smooth, unmarred, unbreakable black stone sphere, they differed in size. Some measured just a foot in diameter, while others were too large for men to carry.
The master craftsman Fëanor, the elf who made the silmarils, was likely also responsible for creating the stones. If he did, however, he was long dead by the time the elves gave the palantíri to the men who helped them defeat Morgoth. Those men then took the palantíri with them when they moved to Númenor, the island the Valar had gifted them.
How Many Palantíri Are There?
The palantíri are also known as the Seven Seeing-stones, but only because that’s how many made their way to Middle-earth. The exact number of palantíri ever made is unknown, but at least eight stones of distinction once existed.
We know the fate of that eight stone, too. The Master-stone, the grandest of all them all, ended up on “The Lonely Island” of Tol Eressëa just off the coast of the Valar’s Aman during the Third Age.
What Are the Powers of the Palantíri?
The Númenóreans primarily kept the palantíri as mementos. But those stones were anything but keepsakes, for no other objects in the world had their powers.
That included how they made communication across great distances possible. Those strong and wise enough to use the stones could mentally speak with a person staring into their own stone far away. For though the palantíri transmitted no sound, they could reveal visions and thoughts of the willing who knew how to gaze into them correctly. Some even made it possible to eavesdrop on other users when they communicated via their stones.
The palantiri also allowed a user to see great distances if they knew how to place them in the proper direction. They could look into their stone to see the lands and sights a different stone looked over. It’s why they tended to be kept in towers. And so long as there was light, they could even see into otherwise hidden places like caves. The strongest users could even see through time itself.
No one, not even Sauron, could make their own palantír. Nor could anyone force a stone to show false visions. But even the most powerful, wisest figures could fall prey to the perils of the Seeing-stones.
Did They Use Palantíri in The Lord of the Rings?
The Lord of the Rings fans, as well as the hobbit Peregrin Took, know why few could use the palantíri without risk. Those stones played a huge role during the Third Age when Sauron returned to power.
The Númenóreans who made their way to Middle-earth at the end of the Second Age (the Dúnedain from which Aragorn descended from) brought the stones with them to speak with each other from their many strongholds across vast distances. Over the years some stones were lost, but three were pivotal during the War of the Ring.
Sauron used the Ithil-stone (captured by the Nazgûl) to spy on and monitor events in Middle-earth. Thanks to his palantír he was also able to corrupt Saruman when the wizard used the Orthanc-stone. The Dark Lord also showed selective visions to the Steward of Gondor, Denethor II, who thought he could master his own stone for virtuous reasons. But Sauron filled Denethor’s heart with despair and paranoia.
The palantíri also helped win the War of the Ring. Aragorn ultimately used Gondor’s palantír against Sauron. He looked into the Seeing-stone and announced himself as the returning king of Gondor to distract Sauron. That bought Frodo enough time to destroy the One Ring.
Why Does the Palantíri’s Vision Scare Míriel and Galadriel on The Rings of Power?
For all its wondrous abilities, a palantír can be used for many nefarious reasons. It can spy on entire kingdoms, ensnare a user in the grasps of a more powerful enemy, and present a twisted version of reality. But it cannot lie. And if the last known Seeing-stone in Númenor is showing a great wave of destruction coming for the island, there’s only one place it can be coming from – the Valar themselves.
Those supreme beings have shown Míriel a terrible vision across time. It’s a vision of an end that begins with the arrival of Galadriel. But just because an island might be doomed doesn’t mean its people must be.
A palantir is a way of communicating across great distances. The Númenóreans just have to listen to what the Valar are saying. Because if they don’t, the tears of the Valar, represented by every white leaf of Nimloth that hits the ground, won’t be all that falls in Númenor.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.