The Ring

   Sauron's One Ring to bind all Rings.
   The powerful artefact of Sauron more properly called the One Ring or the Ruling Ring.
   The Ring was born out of a plan Sauron devised to enslave the peoples of Middle-earth. He took on the form of a wise adviser, under the name Annatar, and offered great knowledge to the Elves. Many rejected him, but Celebrimbor and the Elves of Eregion accepted his offer, and he schooled them in the making of Rings of Power. At last, Annatar and the Elves made sixteen jewelled Rings that would in time become the Seven Rings of the Dwarves and the Nine Rings of Men.
   Now Sauron put his scheme into motion. Returning to his land of Mordor, to the forges of Sammath Naur in the heart of Mount Doom, he began the secret making of another Ring. He filled it with his own power and malice, to wield power over all the other Rings of Power, and bind their wearers to his will.
   His plan failed. The Elves, too, had made themselves Rings, so powerful that when Sauron took up his Ruling Ring, they perceived that they were betrayed. Taking off their own Rings, they escaped the trap that Sauron had set for them. In anger, Sauron swept out of Mordor with his armies; Eregion was destroyed, Celebrimbor was slain, and Sauron recovered fifteen of the Rings of Power (the Three Rings of the Elves had been sent into secret hiding, and one of the original sixteen had already been given by Celebrimbor to Durin III of Khazad-dûm).
   Under the binding power of the Ring, Sauron subverted nine Men, whose Rings of Power twisted them slowly into wraiths, the Nazgûl, whose only will was Sauron's. He attempted the same with Dwarves, but they proved resistant to the Rings' powers, and those of their Rings that were not destroyed the Dark Lord reclaimed. The power of Sauron's Ruling Ring was such, though, that it wielded power of the wills of lesser beings whether or not they wore another Ring. In Tolkien's Letters, we're told that he used it to bring about nothing less than the destruction of Númenor, by twisting the will of its King, Ar-Pharazôn, and his followers.
   What Sauron could not have foreseen was that the Downfall of Númenor would ultimately bring about his own destruction, and the loss of his Ring. Nine ships escaped the Downfall and landed in Middle-earth, carrying Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion. Together, they founded great realms in Middle-earth, and allied themselves with Gil-galad and the Elves against Sauron. So began the long War of the Last Alliance, in which Sauron was at last defeated, and his Ring taken by Isildur. But Isildur did not hold the Ring for long. He was set upon by Orcs on the banks of the Great River, and the Ring was lost in its depths, where it would lie for two and a half millennia.
   It was found at last by Déagol, a creature of hobbit-kind, and then passed through a strange series of events. No sooner had Déagol recovered it than he was killed by his companion Sméagol, who stole the Ring for himself. Driven out by his family, who gave him the name Gollum, he wandered into the depths beneath the Misty Mountains, and there he lurked for more than five centuries, his life stretched by the power of the Ring. By a twist of fate, he lost it, and it came into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, lost and wandering in the depths where Gollum dwelt.
   Bilbo carried it through adventure and battle, eventually bringing it back to the Shire. It passed to his heir Frodo, and at last its identity was discovered by the Wizard Gandalf. Over the centuries, Sauron had recovered much of his strength, and he too learned that the Ring had been found, and discovered that it was held in the Shire. So began the War of the Ring, a desperate race to destroy Sauron's Ring in the fires of its birth, before its Lord could reclaim it and use its power to enslave the World.

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

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