The second installment of my endless Lord of the Rings series at Part Time Monster. Originally published Jan. 7, 2014 as “A Brief History of the Rings of Power.” I’m re-running this whole series from the beginning as a Thursday feature here. New installments are published at Part Time Monster on Mondays.
Picking up where I left off before Christmas: I have this idea to analyze The Lord of the Rings as a series of encounters between the One Ring and the other characters. Before I begin that task, I think it might be useful to lay out the history of the rings of power so we can get a feel for their historic significance to Middle Earth. My two primary sources for this history are “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” (Silmarillion, 285-304), and “The Tale of Years,” published as Appendix B to LOTR (Return of the King, 363-378).
“Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” is a book of lore written sometime during the Fourth Age, probably by a Dunadan scholar, and after all the participants in the War of the Ring were either dead or departed (Foster 386).
“The Tale of Years” was compiled by the Tooks of the early Fourth Age and kept in their archive at the Great Smials; material gathered by Merry at Rivendell is incorporated into this account, and it is notable for its accuracy (Foster 474).
Together, they provide an account of the creation of the rings of power and a timeline for the existence of the rings in Middle-earth. So, now I will try and piece together an account of the rings of power, from their inception until the eventual destruction of the One Ring. Let’s begin with a timeline, just so we can know how much history we are dealing with here.
The Second Age
The rings of power are forged by Noldorin Elves of Eregion beginning around SA 1500, using skills they learned from Sauron. The three rings of the Elves, the last to be forged, are completed in 1590. Sauron himself forges the One Ring and completes the Barad-dur about 1600; as soon as he puts on the One Ring, the Elves understand his design and remove their rings (Silmarillion 288).