The first episode of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is arriving in just a few short weeks and anticipation is at an all-time high. Fans are in deep speculation mode, pouring over trailers and Vanity Fair articles for details, attempting to glean whatever they can with what little we know. So far, we know a few details. The show will take place in the Second Age of Middle-earth and will have familiar characters like Galadriel and Elrond. Sauron is the villain, and there’s no chance of seeing Frodo or Gollum or Aragorn because they aren’t alive yet. And thanks to the era and title, we know that the series will detail the creation of the Rings of Power. But what exactly are the Rings of Power, where did they come from, how many are there, and why are they important?
Here’s everything you need to know about these important rings straight from J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films. We’re running down the inception of the Rings of Power, their creation, and why they’re so central to the Second Age of Middle-earth.
Where Have We Seen The Lord of the Rings’ Rings Of Power Before?
If you’ve watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, then you’re aware of the Rings of Power, even if you don’t remember their exact function. The first movie opens with a prologue—narrated by Galadriel—that sets the stage and also explains a little bit more about each of the rings. While the rest of the movie largely follows only one of the Rings of Power, this early focus reminds us of their importance.
How Many Rings of Power Are There and Who Received Them?
Galadriel’s opening speech in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring gives us a lot of background about the Rings of Power. It shares the following information:
The world is changed. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the great rings. Three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest, and fairest of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf lords, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else, desire power. For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made.
Galadriel reveals to us that there were nineteen Rings of Power created in total, plus, of course, one more ring of a different sort. We count three Elven rings, seven dwarven rings, and nine rings to the mortal men, addition takes us to nineteen rings. Then, the last line, of course, refers to the One Ring, the one that Frodo carries to Mount Doom to destroy. But where did all these rings come from? For those who may not know, the title of The Lord of the Rings books refers to Sauron, the Lord of the Rings himself. But let’s back up a bit. Why did Sauron even create the rings of power in the first place and what was his master plan?
Why Were the Rings of Power Created and Who Made Them?
Before Sauron was a great big eye atop a spooky black tower, he was a Maia, one of the primordial spirits of Middle-earth. The Valar, who were gods of Arda (Tolkien’s word for “Earth”), created the Maiar to shape and protect the world. Sauron’s original name was Mairon, and he was known as a great craftsman. But like all good villains, this incorruptible soul was, well… pretty corrupted. Mairon fell under the power of Morgoth—another spiritual being gone bad—and became the Dark Lord Sauron. After Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron became the prime evil of Middle-earth.
Sauron took up residency in Mordor and sat dormant for centuries, hatching a master plan. When he emerged, he assembled an army of Orcs, Trolls, and Men, before setting his eyes on the Elves. Elves were the cleverest of Middle-earth’s creatures and therefore the hardest to thwart, so Sauron had to get crafty. He disguised himself as a fair being called Annatar (Sauron was also a shapeshifter) and befriended the Elf smiths of Eregion, an Elvish realm near Moria. He trained these Elves in magic, then convinced Celebrimbor—a prince and master craftsman descended from one of the earliest and most powerful clans of Elves—to help make the Rings of Power.
While Celebrimbor and his smiths created rings for the Elves, Sauron forged his own master ring in secret, in the fires of Mount Doom. His ring would control the other rings when worn by the Elves, making Sauron the most powerful being in Middle-earth.
Unluckily for him, the Elves were no fools. As soon as Sauron put on the One Ring, they sensed his treachery. Sauron flew into a fit of rage and demanded they return his gifts. Three rings were successfully hidden, but the others either fell into Sauron’s hands or were lost. He gifted the remainders to the mortals of Middle-earth: the Dwarves and Men. The Dwarves were mostly immune to Sauron’s magic (although their rings did give them a lust for gold), but the Men were susceptible to their corruption. All nine fell to darkness when they put them on, and in turn became the Nazgûl. (Also known as the Ringwraiths, those nasty hooded dudes who hunt Frodo and his Hobbit pals in The Fellowship of the Ring.)
Sauron now had the Nazgûl as his evil henchmen, but failed to conquer the Elves. Still, his lust for power only grew, and he formed a new plan: to thwart the Men of Númenor. From there, a lot of bad things happened. Bloody wars and new allegiances and the literal reshaping of the world. Sauron was defeated at the end of the Second Age and the One Ring taken from him by a Man called Isildur. Isildur died, the One Ring fell into the hands of Sméagol, Sauron came back into power, and the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings then transpired.
What Kinds of Powers Do the Rings of Power Have?
They are the Rings of Power for a reason… because all of them have distinct powers. The Elvish rings even had names! Because all of the rings were originally intended for the Elves, they in turn gave their mortal wearers extended lifespans. (That’s why Bilbo is able to live past age 111.)
The Three Elven Rings of Power and Who Wore Them
The Elvish rings are Narya (the Ring of Fire), Nenya (the Ring of Water), and Vilya (the ring of air). Gil-galad (and later Gandalf) wore Narya, Gil-galad and later Elrond wore Vilya, and only Galadriel wore Nenya.
The Dwarven Rings of Power
The rings given to the Dwarves had no real power over them (because Dwarves are among the most stubborn creatures), instead becoming a part of their hoards of gold and jewels. After the Men became Nazgûl, it’s unclear where their rings went, only that they were controlled by Sauron most effectively.
The One Ring
The One Ring was the most powerful and had all of the abilities of the other Rings of Power. When heated, the One Ring revealed an inscription, which translated to read: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness find them. It was eventually destroyed by Gollum when he fell into the fires of Mordor after stealing it from Frodo. The ring’s destruction finally killed Sauron for good.
The Rings of Power in the Television Series
The Amazon series will likely depict most of the events we just went through, from Annatar’s deception of the Elf smiths right up to Sauron’s initial defeat by Elendil at the end of the Second Age. But just how the events play out is still a mystery. We know the show’s creators are condensing the timeline so that characters like Celebrimbor and Elendil are alive at the same time. This makes narrative sense for a TV show, but it does make us wonder what other liberties they’ll take.
Will the story of the Rings of Power play out exactly as it does in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, or are we in for more surprises? We’ll find out when The Rings of Power comes to Prime Video on September 2.