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The One Ring extended Gollum/Sméagol's life and vitality by 478 years and Bilbo's vitality by 60 years. Did it have the power to make them truly immortal if they had kept it, or did it just grossly slow down the aging process? The ring was made by a Maia for a Maia (spirit), not a mortal.

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1 Answer 1

A mortal wearing a ring of power does not age, nor can he die of natural means (Gandalf says this in FOTR when he tells Frodo of the rings of power)

For evidence see the Nazgul, who were men that lived in the middle centuries of the 2nd age, they survived until the end of the 3rd age after being gifted rings of power, a period of around 4-5 thousand years.

Also see Gollum who lived 500 years after taking the ring.

However, whether the rings were capable of immortality without corruption is debatable, I find it hard to believe that the rings were ever created with the intention of corrupting men to evil (Sauron was involved in their creation (except the 3 elven rings)) but I think that it was the creation of the One that corrupted the mortals wearing the rings.

That said the dwarves were originally made by Aule to be resistant to corruption and the devices of Melkor, and as such they resisted the rings more than men, and did not recieve immortality from them. However the Dwarven rings corrupted them with their specific weakness (Gold lust).

Finally any mortal wearing a ring could still be killed, and regardless of how long they lived and their power they would still go to their respective fate. Men (hobbits as well) would go to "Mans Doom" and leave Arda, and Dwarves would be gathered by Mandos.

The fact that a man with a ring of power can be killed is evidenced in several places:

  • Isildur's death at the Gladden Fields
  • Deagol's death in the same place
  • Gollum's death in Mt.Doom
  • Angmar's death at the battle of the Pelennor Fields

So in answer to your question:

  • Men with a ring of power do not age
  • Men with a ring of power can be killed
  • Dwarves with a ring of power age normally
  • Maia and Elves are of course immortal anyway and therefore Rings have no effect in that regard.
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Please note: the Nazgûl do not wear the nine rings. The rings were kept by Sauron to govern them. –  Envite May 19 '14 at 8:16
Also note that while the ring seemed to keep Bilbo young (i.e. not age), he aged much faster once he left the ring behind. It seems like the ring only really prevents aging as long as one wears it. –  LarissaGodzilla May 19 '14 at 8:32
+1; indeed it seems that the effect of the Rings was more to exploit a species-weakness than to confer anything specific like immortality. So Elves got preservation and stasis, Dwarves got gold-lust, and Men (and Hobbits who are just a sub-species of Men) are the ones who got immortality (or at least undyingness). Gandalf says that he would use the Ring from a desire to do good, so that's his "species-weakness": doing good. –  Darth Satan May 19 '14 at 9:03
@LarissaGodzilla it was still over 20 years from the time Bilbo left the ring until we see him at Rivendell. And a counter-example is Gollum, who still remains vigorous 70+ years after losing the ring, even after having had it for so long. –  Daniel Roseman May 19 '14 at 9:58
@Plutor It is literal. The souls of the Nine became tied to the rings and Sauron kept the rings in order to control them. –  Envite May 19 '14 at 12:27

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