Did Sauron Really Believe the One Ring Had been Destroyed?

Did Sauron Really Believe the One Ring Had been Destroyed?

Well, let’s just dive right in and second-guess the author, shall we?.

It ought to go without stating but I’ll state it first: There is no other way to supply an authoritative, conclusive response to this concern. But 160512135256-mount-doom-exlarge-169let’s start by differentiating in between Gandalf and J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien himself made a similar point in Letter No. 153 (composed in reply to Peter Hastings, who thought Tolkien was being inconsistent):.

… Treebeard is a character in my story, not me; and though he has a fantastic memory and some earthy knowledge, he is not one of the Wise, and there is quite a lot he does unknown or understand …

Of course, Gandalf is not Treebeard; in fact, Gandalf is among the Wise, but even so his understanding has limitations and his knowledge and insight in some cases fail. He is not best nor omniscient (both attributes Tolkien reserved just for God).

Gandalf informed Frodo exactly what he had actually deduced of Sauron’s thought. It is rational to presume that Sauron thought the Ring damaged due to the fact that A) he was weaker than he had been when he possessed the Ring and B) he did not begin searching for the Ring up until Gollum was captured and revealed it still existed.

Isildur, Elrond, and the One Ring.
Isildur, Elrond, and the One Ring: Did Tolkien oppose himself when Gandalf said the Elves could not destroy the Ring and yet Sauron thought they had?
Exactly what I believe we can presume from these obvious discrepancies in the text is that Sauron, reconstituting himself without the Ring, could discover no sign that it still existed (even though Tolkien as author mused in his personal notes that Sauron was still “in relationship” with the Ring). What else should one assume if there are no plaintiffs to the Ring and it is not with the maker? If Gandalf’s deduction is correct then Sauron overestimated the knowledge and power of the Elves, which is not necessarily contradicted by the later remarks in the book.

After all, upon Sauron’s death on the slopes of Mount Doom the Elves (and Dunedain) had control over Mordor and Mount Doom itself. At the time they for that reason had the methods to damage the Ring. Isildur’s inability to do the deed was what saved Sauron but after he re-incarnated himself Sauron had no concept of exactly what occurred. Isildur was dead. Had he kept the Ring it would, most lihqdefaultkely, have extended his life and ultimately turned him into a wraith. Nobody appeared with the Ring in their belongings, either as a living being or a wraith.

Mordor stayed in Gondor’s control until the Great Plague of 1636. Hence, Gondor had the capability to destroy the Ring for over 1600 years, and Sauron created a brand-new body for himself sometime in the 11th century of the Third Age. He did not sense or find the Ring during those centuries, not amongst his servants nor amongst his enemies. For this reason, what else should he have concluded except that the Ring had been ruined? He eventually discovered that was not so, and just after he had gone back to Mordor.

With three thousand years to ponder the implications of the Ring’s survival Elrond, Gandalf, and others with complete understanding of the Ring’s history and purpose might have been more sure of what would occur when the Ring was destroyed than Sauron himself. While (prior to he questioned Gollum) Sauron might have feared that the Ring was gone he was still able to incarnate himself. For that reason his reasoning was flawed due to the fact that of his lack of knowledge. But once he seized control of Mordor once again there was not any method the Elves and their allies could destroy the Ring securely. And when Sauron discovered the Ring still existed he also found why it had actually been lost for three thousand years. He therefore fell back upon the belief that somebody with higher ambition than Gollum possessed would ultimately wish to utilize it.

I think Gandalf’s reasoning stands up to analysis here. Each of the points you raise stands but in a various context. As the characters’ understanding of the real facts of the circumstance altered their assessments changed. Also, Gandalf and other members of the White Council had been tricked by Saruman, who was the first to understand that the Ring was still somewhere in Middle-earth. He told them it had rolled down the Anduin and entered into the Sea, lost forever. He could not get away with saying it had been destroyed due to the fact that they would have known it could not be destroyed other than in Mordor, and nobody ever dropped it into the Cracks of Doom.

Hence, the Wise understood Sauron was still able to re-embody himself due to the fact that the Ring still existed, but they believed it might not be found once again. Sauron thought he was strong enough to take shape again without the Ring but he thought that the Ring had actually been damaged. After Sauron learned about the Ring from Gollum his knowledge of the facts changed. When Gandalf validated that Bilbo’s ring was certainly the One Ring his understanding of the facts changed too. Now the possibility of un-making the Ring presented itself to Gandalf and the possibility of someone else declaring the Ring presented itself to Sauron. So their thoughts entered various instructions as they tried to second-guess each other. Gandalf understood there was only one place the Ring might be destroyed and Sauron understood it was only a matter of time before someone aimed to take the Ring.

So I think it’s reasonable to say that when he understood the Ring had not been destroyed Sauron became more persuaded than ever that nobody would ever try to ruin it. After all, in 3 thousand years no one had been able to do that.

Who Were the High Kings and what they rule?

Who Were the High Kings and what they rule?

This raises a concern that used to vex individuals enough to argue backward and forward for days, although I would not call it one of the “Excellent Dispute” questions. The list of the High Kings is supplied in Appendix A to The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien compared the (High) Kings of Arnor and the Kings of Arthedain in two methods.

Initially, he noted them under those world names (Arnor and Arthedain).

32475254b971f97e4c807265f8e5d4b6Arnor. Elendil † S.A. 3441, Isildur † 2, Valandil 249, Eldacar 339, Arantar 435, Tarcil 515, Tarondor 602, Valandur † 652, Elendur 777, Eärendur 861.

Arthedain. Amlaith of Fornost (eldest child of Eärendur) 946, Beleg 1029, Mallor 1110, Celepharn 1191, Celebrindor 1272, Malvegil 1349, Argeleb I † 1356, Arveleg I 1409, Araphor 1589, Argeleb II 1670, Arvegil 1743, Arveleg II 1813, Araval 1891, Araphant 1964, Arvedui Last-king † 1974. End of the North-kingdom.

Second, as you’ll see above, the kings of Arthedain took their names in Sindarin, whereas the kings of Arnor took their names in Quenya (a truth Tolkien mentioned in among the footnotes).

It holds true that Isildur was the only other king besides Elendil who was acknowledged as a King of Gondor however the High Kingship, as it were, continued through Eärendur. This truth is established in the first sentence of the narrative section entitled “The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain”:

After Elendil and Isildur there were 8 High Kings of Arnor. After Eärendur, owing to dissensions amongst his kids their world was divided into three: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. Arthedain remained in the North-west and consisted of the land in between Brandywine and Lune, and also the land north of the Great Roadway as far as the Weather condition Hills. Rhudaur remained in the North-east and lay in between the Ettenmoors, the Weather Hills, and the Misty Mountains, however consisted of also the Angle between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. Cardolan was in the South, its bounds being the Brandywine, the Greyflood, and the Great Road.

Hill of Tara in Ireland, ancient seat of Irish High Kings.
Hill of Tara in Ireland, ancient seat of Irish High Kings. Legend states High Kings ruled here approximately 5,000 years back.
The title of “High King” is, in Middle-earth, peculiar just to Tolkien’s Elvish and Dunadan cultures. We find the title no place else among his various cultures, although that does not suggest he planned it to be limited to those cultures. It’s just that he never ever utilized the title for any other peoples.

High Kings are understood from our own history, particularly in the British Isles. The Irish and Scots called High Kings. The Anglo-Saxons had a number of Bretwaldas, who have been compared with High Kings by some historians (and many individuals with an interest in history).

A high king is generally named or acknowledged among several closely connected people, clans, or communities. They are joined by language, culture, law, custom, and most likely likewise blood. In some cultures the high king may wield considerable authority by right of conquest or careful bargaining. Agamemnon apparently held substantial power over lower Achaean kings, for example.

In Middle-earth we understand about the High Kings of the Noldor-in-Exile. These were, in succession, Fingolfin, Fingon, Turgon, and Gil-galad. Gil-galad was the last of the High Kings of the Exiles. Thingol was also acknowledged as a High King however he was likewise Lord of Beleriand and King of Doriath. He wielded real authority over all Beleriand, whereas the High Kings of the Exiles appeared to be more ritualistic until Gil-galad. Gil-galad likewise became High King of the Fairies of the West. Readers do not always agree on what that title indicates, however both Noldor and Sindar lived in Gil-galad’s realm and Tolkien makes it clear that some Sindar (especially Cirdan) continued to live in Lindon or other lands that acknowledged Gil-galad’s authority even after the “Sindarin adventurers” passed eastward to establish realms beyond the Misty Mountains. In this context I believe Gil-galad’s title implies “Elves of the West (of Middle-earth)”, not “Elves of the Uttermost West” or Valinor.

Gil-galad wielded genuine power over all the Elven lands in Eriador and Beleriand (which Lindon was the last residue). It’s not universally concurred that he wielded much power over the Noldor of Eregion, although he sent out Elrond with an army to Eregion’s aid, and Elrond in turn ran away north with survivors of Eregion to establish Imladris, where he became Gil-galad’s viceroy in Eriador.theonering

For this reason, prior to Elendil became High King of the Dunedain-in-Exile (or High King of Arnor and Gondor as some design it), Tolkien had actually already developed some precedents for how high kingships might be acknowledged according to the laws and custom-mades of the Eldar. The Numenoreans had no requirement for high kings prior to the facility of the Realms in Exile.

I believe exactly what Tolkien may have wanted was that Elendil and his children, being separated, chose individually to develop worlds among the Dunedain and friendly peoples in Middle-earth. Obviously, they had the palantiri by which they stayed in communication however their realms were initially inapplicable. Over the course of the 100 years before Sauron revealed himself (by assaulting Gondor) the kingdoms established the highway system that connected Osgiliath with Annuminas. Together they bigger the city of Tharbad and established dual garrisons there.

The truth both worlds preserved garrisons on their particular sides of the river appears to imply that the authority of each world was respected by the other however not dealt with as secondary. They kept a shared border, as it were. If Tolkien meant this to indicate there were practical limitations to Elendil’s power and authority he does not offer other assistance for such an idea.

On the other hand, Elendil was plainly the senior commander of Dunadan forces in the War of the Last Alliance. Isildur marched with his father while Anarion protected Gondor. Hence, when push pertained to push Elendil exercised the highest authority among men.

Offered these few realities about Elendil and Isildur we have to ask exactly what the ramifications of Isildur’s actions were when he “dedicated to [Meneldil] the rule of the South Kingdom” (as Boromir put it in Rivendell). Isildur actually passed his local authority as (Co-) King of Gondor to Meneldil (Anarion’s boy). In Incomplete Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth Tolkien recommends in “The Catastrophe of the Gladden Fields” that Meneldil did not desire Isildur or his children to stay in Gondor as joint kings, but that is insufficient proof to support much of a supposition. However, we could infer from these passages, along with the story of Arvedui and the Council of Gondor, that Meneldil translated Isildur’s action as a fait accompli for all future generations: that guideline of the South Kingdom was only to be worked out by the Line of Anarion. Meneldil appears to have passed this interpretation to his successors and their counselors.

Isildur and his heirs could have had an alternate analysis of the circumstance. In Isildur’s mind he was still senior king and rightful Lord of Gondor. Meneldil’s authority came down from Isildur along with from his daddy. Thus, Isildur’s beneficiaries kept this point of view but they officially yielded usage of the “High King” title when they divided Arnor into three worlds. Nonetheless, Arvedui attempted to assert that perspective when he claimed the throne of Gondor. However Gondor’s council turned down that interpretation of the law, despite the fact that they just chose not to respond to Arvedui’s last communication on the matter.

For my part I acknowledge the line of the High Kings due to the fact that Tolkien developed that precedent. But I can not tell you whether anybody after Isildur would have had the ability to intervene in Gondor’s affairs. I question they would have captivated such a believed after Arnor was divided into three realms. At that point I think Amlaith and his siblings knew the High Kingship had actually ended.

Could Sauron have Unmade the One Ring?

Could Sauron have Unmade the One Ring?

ANSWER: As given above, this question does not adequately represent exactly what I was initially asked but it would make a ridiculously long short article title. Here is the original message sent by a reader numerous months back, in its entirety. I shall do my finest to answer it completely:

Michael, do you think that, if Sauron ever restored the one ring, he might have “broken” or “un-forged” it so as to launch and regain the excellent part of the power that was intrinsic in him from the start? Just like Feanor breaking the Silmarils and releasing the light of the 2 trees.

Maybe he would lose the ring-wraiths, but he already had enormous powers over his servants and other individuals of middle-earth at the time of the War of the Ring, while not being in possession of the ring.

It seems like a Sauron with all the powers he had in the First Age would be unstoppable, and he would not have a vulnerability through a separate, physical ring that could be lost, drawn from him, or damaged.

Do I think Sauron would have wished to unmake the One Ring? No. The way Tolkien composes Sauron’s character, destroying the Ring never ever strikes him. He is just intent upon restoring it so that he can be whole once again according to the method he intended himself to be.

sauron-e1348474315182That is, when Sauron made the One Ring in the top place it was to improve his own personal power, to make himself more like Morgoth. Sauron wanted to increase his power, not reduce it. Here is how Tolkien described the result of the Ring in Letter No. 211:

… You can not press the One Ring too hard, for it is of course a mythical function, despite the fact that the world of the tales is developed in more or less historic terms. The Ring of Sauron is just one of the different mythical treatments of the placement of one’s life, or power, in some external object, which is therefore exposed to catch or destruction with devastating lead to oneself. If I were to ‘philosophize’ this misconception, or a minimum of the Ring of Sauron, I must say it was a legendary method of representing the fact that potency (or maybe rather potentiality) if it is to be worked out, and produce outcomes, has to be externalized therefore as it were passes, to a greater or less degree, out of one’s direct control. A male who wishes to put in ‘power’ must have subjects, who are not himself. But he then depends upon them.

Considered that he never noticed the danger that Frodo’s mission represented, Sauron never considered the possibility of ruining the Ring. So Tolkien informs us.

Naturally, what we are asked to consider is not whether Sauron would simply damage the Ring however whether he would think about aiming to recuperate the power he had actually bestowed upon the Ring to himself. Is that possible inning accordance with the undeclared guidelines of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth?

I don’t think there is any definitive answer to this concern. In my opinion Sauron’s choice was irrevocable. If he could have recuperated the power from the Ring, why didn’t he do so when it was unmade? He was rendered helpless. Had he tossed the One Ring into the fire himself I do not think his fate would have been any different. However could he have just willed the power back into himself? Perhaps with long and mindful study he might have created a way to transfer power from the Ring to himself. Tolkien discussed in a note released in Morgoth’s Ring that Morgoth had distributed a few of his power into the creatures that served him. Hence, the transfer of power from one reasonable being to another is possible in Tolkien’s world.

The Ring was a rational being, or part of a rational being. It acted with its own will and purpose, but that was actually Sauron’s will and purpose. Some individuals have actually compared Sauron and the Ring to a multiple personality, where one personality remained Sauron (deteriorated) and the other personality ended up being the Ring (likewise damaged). Together they were more powerful than the initial personality.

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Sauron’s strategy was always to keep the Ring with him. He never planned to lay it aside or be parted from it in any way. Tolkien says that when Númenor was damaged Sauron’s spirit was easily able to carry the Ring with him back to Mordor, where he incarnated himself once again. Hence, when Isildur took the Ring from Sauron’s dead body, prior to his spirit might recover its focus sufficiently to take the Ring to security, Sauron’s scheme fell apart. He had no contingency prepare for recovering the Ring.

It might be that Tolkien felt Sauron didn’t understand that he would become weaker with each death. Tolkien notes that it took Sauron longer and longer to re-incarnate himself each time. Had he merely been killed at the end of the Third Age, without the Ring being damaged, he would presumably have actually needed much more than a thousand years to become strong enough to form a brand-new body once again.

Here is an excerpt from “Note on Motives in the Silmarillion”, a philosophical essay Tolkien composed in 1959 or later on, in which he talked about a few of the distinctions between Sauron and Morgoth:

Sauron was ‘greater’, successfully, in the Second Age than Morgoth at the end of the First. Why? Since, though he was far smaller by natural stature, he had actually not yet fallen so low. Eventually he likewise squandered his power (of being) in the endeavour to gain control of others. However he was not obliged to use up a lot of himself. To gain supremacy over Arda, Morgoth had let the majority of his being pass into the physical constituents of the Earth– for this reason all things that were born upon Earth and survived on and by it, monsters or plants or incarnate spirits, were liable to be ‘stained’. Morgoth at the time of the War of the Jewels had actually ended up being permanently ‘incarnate’: for this factor he was afraid, and waged the war nearly entirely by methods of gadgets, or of subordinates and dominated creatures. Sauron, however, acquired the ‘corruption’ of Arda, and only invested his (much more minimal) power on the Rings; for it was the animals of earth, in their minds and wills, that he desired to dominate. In this way Sauron was also better than Melkor-Morgoth. Sauron was not a newbie of discord; and he probably understood more of the ‘Music’ than did Melkor, whose mind had always been filled with his own plans and devices, and provided little focus on other things. The time of Melkor’s greatest power, for that reason, remained in the physical starts of the World; a large demiurgic lust for power and the achievement of his own will and designs, on a fantastic scale. And later on after things had actually become more stable, Melkor was more interested in and capable of handling a volcanic eruption, for example, than with (say) a tree. It is undoubtedly probable that he was just unaware of the small or more delicate productions of Yavanna: such as little flowers.

To state that Sauron was more powerful in the First Age than toward the end of the Second Age is a mistake. His power was always with him until the Ring was taken from him. While he wore the Ring Sauron was more powerful than he had actually been prior to the Ring’s making. Even if he thought it might be possible to restore himself to what he had actually been in the past, he would have viewed that as an action backwards and away from his desire. He just would not have actually done it.

How elf reincarnation works?

How elf reincarnation works?

ANSWER: The topic of Elvish renewal or reincarnation or rekindling has spurred much dispute for years. The truth people keep inquiring about this in spite of all the books and research study documents that have been published shows the issue: there is no reliable, conclusive, appropriate answer the settles these concerns. J.R.R. Tolkien himself could not settle the problem for himself, much less for the rest people.

A reader wrote in with the following:
I understand that both Glorfindel and Finrod were reincarnated due to the fact that of their actions in Middle-Earth. However when I was reading about Finrod on Tolkien Gateway, I discovered this quote:
” He and Glorfindel were the only elves who were understood to have actually been reincarnated before the War of Rage”

I believe that’s a really intriguing sentence, since I can conclude that after the War of Wrath more Elves were reincarnated. Does this mean that the Elves who died throughout the First Age or faster were then reincarnated (other than the children of Fëanor)? Or just heroes who committed excellent and brave deads? Does this likewise mean that all the Elves from later ages were reincarnated after their deaths? If they did, were they brought back to live soon after their deaths or only like a thousands years later on?

d54af5bc10681fa822ab82212d472fffThere are many assumptions bound up in these concerns. These assumptions are a common misconception amongst Tolkien fans, a misconception to which people like me most likely make a terrific contribution through our efforts to provide definitive descriptions of essentially everything in Tolkien’s fiction.

However what about the Elves? Are they dead or not?
However exactly what about the Elves? Are they dead or not?
That is just an impossible job and Sites like this one have developed an implausible impression of limitless resources on nearly every subject. Exactly what is limitless is the supply of reader questions, which as lots of analysts have actually kept in mind through the years suggests that Tolkien’s fiction touches millions of people deeply. Middle-earth is here to stay. Regrettably it is incomplete.
The description of Elvish “rehousing” is insufficient. It is unfinished and difficult to convey in an order, conclusive, authoritative way. Of course, that is what I state however others will go into their copies of Morgoth’s Ring and glibly mention numerous essays and potion workings to offer you with some sort of response.

Christopher Tolkien aimed to explain how his daddy altered his mind on whatever however the lesson seems to have been lost on everybody with a viewpoint. This is one of those concerns were opinions are not only less than valuable they are more then harmful.

Tolkien’s personal notes and ideas on these matters were experimental and filled with contradictions. He tried to fix a few of those contradictions and ultimately moved away from the concept that an Elvish spirit, separated from its initial body by physical death, might be reborn. He gravitated towards the idea that a brand-new body, identical to the very first, would be built, either by the Elvish spirit itself or by the Valar.

But these ideas were irregular with what would become released in The Silmarillion, which was Christopher’s posthumous cooperation with his father. The Silmarillion takes a step backwards and at the same time presents new confusion and disparity. In truth, Christopher took care to caution readers in the Foreword to The Silmarillion to expect these type of problems.250px-the_lord_of_the_rings_film_series_-_elrond_2

As for the quotation from the Tolkien Entrance, that paragraph omits or neglects Luthien’s own resurrection (obviously in her original body) together with Beren. And in other works Christopher shared in The History of Middle-earth Míriel was reanimated, also in her own body. She more-or-less “woke up”.

As readers we typically assume that a lot of the Elves who passed away in Beleriand and in other places in Middle-earth were ultimately restored to life in Aman. I have never ever tried to argue for any particular time frames, other than when speculating that Gildor Inglorion could have been Finrod’s son born in Aman. That would put Finrod amongst the living in the Second Age however The Silmarillion never ever says when he was released from Mandos.

The whole concept of the Valar collecting “never-ceasing” Elvish spirits in Mandos bothered Tolkien, or at least struck him as somewhat not likely. He made a minimum of two efforts to offer a logical description for exactly what was happening and why. In doing so he introduced transitional concepts into his conception of the Legendarium, which in Tolkien’s usage was not the gathered works released in his name (the way the Tolkien neighborhood utilizes the word today). Tolkien’s Legendarium was a location in his own imagination that he was struggling to explain through his fiction. He never completed the job.

We can not indicate the legions of reanimated Elves due to the fact that we have no chance of validating how, when, where, or why they need to have been brought back to life. This was an incomplete and uncertain concept that works only since Glorfindel and Finrod are stated to have actually been restored, but the stories of their remediations have never ever really been informed. Tolkien did not write them down.

Do the Nazgul have physical bodies?

Do the Nazgul have physical bodies?

RESPONSE: The reader who asked this question followed up with: “if they don’t, can they be hurt by physical means? Can they be harmed by wonderful weapons?”

This is among the all time Great Debate questions. You will never ever find a response that satisfies everybody. But the majority of people appear to agree that these are three various kinds of animals. Let’s look at exactly what we know about each of them:

A Nazgul on a horse in the Shire. Were they guys or ghosts or something else altogether?
A Nazgul on a horse in the Shire. Were they men or ghosts or something else entirely?
The Nazgûl are no longer living men, however they were when living men who– having actually used and used Rings of Power for some unidentified length of time– slowly faded up until they lost most if not all their physical presence. They are like ghosts but not actually ghosts because they did not experience a minute of particular death.

nazgul_by_martawadman-d9uio7n

In order to engage with the physical world the Nazgûl required clothes that was, obviously, enspelled (although Gandalf only states to Frodo in Rivendell “the black robes are real bathrobes that they wear to provide shape to their nothingness when they have dealings with the living”). These spells enabled the Nazgûl to move about as if they had physiques, even to smell fragrances that regular, living men (or hobbits) could not smell. Who cast the spells? Tolkien doesn’t say, although the Nazgûl just solution to Sauron so I believe it unlikely anybody aside from Sauron would have offered the Nazgûl their semi-physical shapes.

We understand that this magic might be broken or compromised by the swords of Westernesse that Tom Bombadil recuperated from the wight’s barrow, because Merry’s sword-stroke achieved that much. And yet it required Éowyn’s own stroke, with her (apparently) normal sword to dispatch the Lord of the Nazgûl once and for all.

During her fight with the Lord of the Nazgûl, right after he shattered her shield and broke Éowyn’s arm, his eyes flashed. This is, to my understanding, the only time that anybody not wearing a Ring of Power is said to have actually seen any physical element of among the Nazgûl. Was this his human kind briefly making itself noticeable since of his anger or was it something else, perhaps showing the wicked power he wielded as a servant of Sauron?

Merry’s stroke triggered the Lord of the Nazgûl excellent pain, enough to make him sob out, however the sword was captivated so does that make a difference? Would any regular blade have caused him discomfort? We just understand from exactly what Aragorn said just after the encounter at Weathertop that any blade that struck the Lord of the Nazgûl was damaged. Éowyn’s own sword was ruined when struck the Lord of the Nazgûl a last time, and she and Merry obviously heard him yell as his spirit flew up into the air.

She did not kill the Lord of the Nazgûl but his spirit ran away the battlefield. He lost the form of corporeality for all intents and purposes. But when his spirit passed over Frodo and Sam they both also heard it. A physical guy’s body would not have actually flown up into the air like that. The battleground was strewn with the bodies of the killed. No one else flew up when they were struck by a weapon. So whatever the Lord of the Nazgûl was at the time, he was not a living, biological creature.

nazgul_by_styoo-d6mxkzr

When Frodo confronted the Nazgûl at the Ford of Bruinen Tolkien composed that “they appeared to have cast aside their hoods and black cloaks”; hence, when the Rangers and Elrond’s folk searched for indication of the Black Riders after the flood and they discovered only dead horses and a tattered black cape, the cape itself does not represent much. Gandalf concluded “I believe that we might hope now that the Ringwraiths were scattered, and have been required to return as finest they could to their Master in Mordor, empty and shapeless.”

Being “empty and shapeless” is Tolkien’s way of stating they were not physically manifested. Did he imply they were ghosts? That’s the million dollar concern.

The Barrow-wights were spirits sent out by Sauron to inhabit old remains. They are based on animals from real folk tradition. Tolkien does not say exactly what kinds of spirits they were. We just understand that Sauron might not produce spirits as Ilúvatar could, hence they needed to be spirits that came into existence outside of Sauron’s power. Were they lesser Maiar? Were they trapped spirits of Fairies or Guy? Sauron and Morgoth both had the power to record spirits of the recently slain and keep them in Middle-earth.

The Barrow-wights represent a class of servants that may have been significant however unnecessary to the story. In the very first age Sauron was a “master of phantoms” however in the initial sense of the word a phantom was an illusion, not a genuine creature. The wights were not impressions however genuine spirits doing Sauron’s will. We don’t know their numbers or their particular powers however the wight that recorded Frodo and the hobbits was carrying out a ritual when Frodo summoned Bombadil.

The wight’s bony corpse was animated by Sauron’s will or the wight’s will however it was simply a physical remains. For this reason, when Frodo cut off the wight’s hand it truly did separate from the body. Being already dead the remains needs to have felt no discomfort, although Frodo heard a shriek followed by “a snarling noise”; and whatever power it possessed continued to stimulate the severed hand.

The wight was plainly able to interact with the physical world. And though Tolkien doesn’t say whether the blade Frodo grabbed was enchanted, it did shatter when he cut off the wight’s hand.

The horror that the wights instilled in the Dunedain, making it impossible for them to recover Cardolan (according to a note released in The Peoples of Middle-earth), recommends that the Dunedain might not easily beat the wights and that maybe the wights were too strong for the Dunedain to get rid of. Possibly the fairies could have driven out the wights however Tolkien does not address the question why they cannot do so.

I don’t think the spirits of the wights could have been damaged. Nor do I believe they could have enchanted the corpses by themselves. They needed Sauron’s power to animate the dead but they themselves were not living creatures and could not have been killed anymore than the Nazgûl could be.

Some people fast to point out that in early drafts of the story Tolkien intended for the wights and Nazgûl to be of similar kinds, but this kind of thinking ought to be declined. We have no idea that Tolkien meant to retain that connection. Thus, any speculation that the Barrow-wights were lower ringwraiths is wild, unverified inference based upon a lack of denial instead of a declaration of truth by the author.

The Dead Male of Dunharrow are merely ghosts. The book states that after Isildur cursed them they slowly died and started to haunt the hills around the Ered Nimrais. The physical weapons of Sauron’s servants obviously did them no harm when the Dead Guys took the ships at Pelargir. Of course, the narrative suggests that nobody remained to combat them, either. So we’ll never understand if Tolkien felt there were weapons that might hurt them.

In a note about Baldor, Tolkien wrote that he was attacked by living men, guardians of the temple he had actually discovered who followed him into the Courses of the Dead.