Great Rings

   The Rings of Power.
   The nineteen powerful Rings forged in Eregion in the Second Age, mostly with the aid of Sauron, of which nine were given by him to Men, and seven to the Dwarves; three the Elves retained. The One Ring is also counted among the Great, but that was forged by Sauron alone in Orodruin.
   Although the Elven-smiths of Eregion forged many rings in the mid-Second Age, only these nineteen are concerned Great. The nature and abilities of each of the Great Rings differed, but each shared two powers.
   The first of these was the prolongation or 'stretching' of life - the bearer of a Great Ring did not age. This effect only applied to mortal bearers of the Rings; the Elves and Wizards were already 'immortal' by nature, and this power did not seem to affect them. This explains the peculiar longevity of Bilbo Baggins and especially Gollum (a creature of hobbit-kind, Gollum should have lived no more than 100 years or so, and yet under the influence of the One Ring, he survived for more than 500 years beneath the Misty Mountains).
   The second power conferred by the Great Rings was that of invisibility.
   At first, this was a temporary effect, and only occurred when the bearer actually wore the ring. After a time, though, this invisibility would become permanent (hence the nine Ring-wraiths, though their Rings were held by Sauron, were always invisible). This invisibility seems to have been due to the wearer being transported to the 'wraith-world', a strange 'dimension' that co-exists with the real world.
   Tolkien's various references to the Great Rings seem to make it clear that they all had the power of invisibility. However, the Three Rings of the Elves seemed to be exempt from this - although the Rings were normally invisible themselves, their bearers did not vanish (this is perhaps due to Sauron's having no part in their making).
   The Seven Rings of the Dwarves, which were among the Great Rings, raise a question. We know that one of these Rings was held by the Kings of Durin's Folk, and yet through all the hundreds of years they bore it, there is no record of this Ring displaying any of its powers. Though the Dwarf-kings no doubt kept it secret and used it little, there are strong hints here that the Dwarves somehow had a greater immunity to the effects of the Great Rings than other mortal kinds.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth glossary. . 2003.

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