In this episode of Three Rings for the Elven Kings we’ll be looking at the Ring of Fire, Narya. Narya was Gandalf’s ring — it was worn and wielded by Mithrandir both while Grey and White.
We’re going to assume going forward you have sufficient nerd blood in ya that we don’t have to explain everything.
Narya: Gandalf’s’s Ring
Gandalf’s ring was called Narya. It was one of the three Elven Rings of Power (the only three of the Free Peoples’ 19 crafted without interference by Sauron and the only ones that bore names).
“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”
If you’ve seen, or more importantly read The Lord of the Rings, you’re undoubtedly familiar with that rhyme. The books, in particular, go into much more depth than the films went. It’s possible for some people to view the movies and not realize that there were other magical rings in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Most significant were the Three Elven rings.
The Elven rings are probably the most famous beyond the One Ring that rules all of the others. They were forged by Celebrimbor, an Elvish prince and master smith who learned metal working from the Dwarves. He forged the Three Elven Rings (Narya, Vilya and Nenya) alone and not under the watchful eye of Sauron who was teaching other Elvish smiths how to make rings. Although, Sauron never so much as ever saw or touched these rings, his magical techniques allowed them to fall under the control of the One Ring. His intent was to control the others who bore these rings whom were all in positions of power and would in turn grant him power over all of Middle Earth.
The first of these rings was called Narya; which means the Ring of Fire. It is described as a gold band set with a fiery red ruby.
According to Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, this ring was entrusted to Gil-Galad, the last High King of the Western Elves along with Vilya, the Ring of Air.
Gil-Galad later gave the ring to his Lieutenant, Cirdan of Mithlond (also referred to as the shipwright), who kept it after Gil-Galad was killed by fire from the severed hand of Sauron, after the latter’s death.
Eventually, Cirdan would bequeath this ring to Gandalf the Grey, once he realized Gandalf’s true nature as a protector of Middle Earth and the war to come with Sauron.
In The Silmarillion it is mentioned that the three rings were imbued with powers of healing and protection. Narya was said to have had the power to protect its wielder from weariness and the ravages of time. Perhaps, this is essential for seemingly eternal beings like elves. Narya would use its fire like ability to grant fervent hope and according to Cirdan when he gave it to Gandalf, the ability to “rekindle hearts to the valor of old in a world that grows chill”. Almost like the fire of the Holy Spirit, if you know Tolkien’s Catholic roots.
This rekindling of valor is alluded to in The Return of the King while Gandalf is in Minas Tirith and men begin rallying and showing courage in the face of doom whenever he passes or nears.
Another allusion is that it may have the power of fire. Whether it protects the user from fire is dubious as it didn’t seem to help Gil-Galad all that much against Sauron’s fiery hand unless that was something otherworldly and beyond its power. However, Gandalf seems to imply that he is the keeper of some sort of artifact in his battle with the balrog, Durin’s Bane, in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Additionally, these three rings are invisible while they are worn. This is more explicitly stated at the end of The Return of the King when Gandalf prepares to set sail with the elves after the One Ring is destroyed and the ring is plainly visible on his finger.
For extreme fans of the Peter Jackson movies in the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies it becomes visible on Gandalf’s finger when he is battling an orc at the Necromancer’s hold at Dol Guldur. The enraged orc attempts to dismember Gandalf in order to obtain the ring but Galadriel comes to his aid by warning the orc to yield or die and subsequently blasting him to shards when he fails to heed her warning.
That scene has always had me curious, as I could never find it in the literature. Did the orc know what Narya was? Did he just think it was a valuable trinket? Perhaps he thought it was the One Ring of Power? It personally seems that his actions may have been more geared toward knowing it had some type of power or enchantment as opposed to being some expensive piece of man jewelry. Then again, can any of us truly know what goes through an orc’s animalistic mind?
Regardless, it is safe to say that when the One Ring was destroyed, rings like Narya lost all of their powers and were no longer needed. It’s magic died in the fires of Mount Doom as the One Ring was destroyed.
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