Throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gandalf wields one of Sauron’s Rings of Power, but how did he get it? And what happened to him afterwards?
This is how Gandalf put his wrinkled hands on a ring of power in The Lord of the Rings, and what happened to the trinket after the end of the trilogy. The story of the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings is a famous. Sauron impersonated Annatar and taught the best elven blacksmiths to build rings of power. Nine went to the kings of men, seven to the dwarves and three to the elves, with Sauron himself making the one ring to control the others. The nine kings were transformed into Nazgûl (Ringwraiths) by the influence of the rings, while the seven dwarves were lost and scattered. Only the three elven rings remain in play when the Lord of the Rings start.
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Neither the original the Lord of the Rings neither JRR Tolkien’s books nor Peter Jackson’s film adaptations dwell on this trio of rings. But while none play a significant role in the trilogy, all three are present. One is seated on Elrond’s (Vilya) finger, the other is wielded by Galadriel (Nenya) and the final ring, Narya, is used by none other than Gandalf. Since all three rings are of Elven origin, it’s only natural that Elrond and Galadriel each have one, but how does Gandalf come into possession of an Elf Relic? The answer lies in a secret, hidden figure who briefly appears in the the Lord of the Rings movies.
Although he appears as a humble wizard in human form, Gandalf is a maia sent from the Eternal Lands to aid in the battle against Sauron. He arrives at Gray Havens, exactly where he and Frodo leave in the last moments of Return of the king. This land is ruled by Círdan, one of the oldest elves in Middle-earth, and a renowned shipbuilder with a social status similar to that of Elrond. Círdan held Narya at the start of the Third Age, but after Gandalf sailed from the west, the elf correctly deduced that this wizard was an agent of the divine, and handed Narya over, predicting that the ring would would prove useful. Círdan can be seen in several places in the the Lord of the Rings movies. Played by Michael Elsworth, he is first shown alongside Galadriel receiving the Three Rings in the opening story lesson, and then later on the boat that Frodo takes from Middle-earth in Return of the king.
How Gandalf uses Círdan’s ring in the Lord of the Rings is somewhat ambiguous. Tolkien describes Narya as having the power to inspire others against tyranny. So when Gandalf tells Frodo to leave Bag End, implores Aragorn to reclaim his birthright, or rallies the Rohirrim to his side in Helm’s Deep, it’s hard to say how much of his influence comes from the sorcerer’s sage charm, and how much can be attributed to Narya.
As for what will happen to Narya afterwards, the three elven rings are brought back to the Eternal Lands in The king’s return. When the ship departs with Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, all three still wear their respective rings of power, removing them completely from Middle-earth. Rather than endanger the Eternal Lands, however, the rings had already been rendered inert by the destruction of the One Ring and the disappearance of Sauron, after which they were only costume jewelry. Since Gandalf is firmly keeping his possession of Narya at its lowest, the Lord of the Rings Get away with not explaining how he got it, but Círdan’s story of faith in Gandalf is fascinating nonetheless.
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