Take the 2-minute tour ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Recall that Sauron has inscribed the One Ring with the following words.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In this inscription, what or who does the “them all” refer to? Does it refer to the other rings of power? The lords that bear the other rings of power? Or all the masses of elves, dwarves and humans? Or is it left deliberately vague who or what the ring is to rule?

See also an earlier question Is the ring poem slightly inaccurate? Who wrote it?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 40 down vote accepted

This is made clear in the essay Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, published in The Silmarillion:

Now the Elves made many rings; but secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last.

The choice of phrase can hardly be accidental here: it's explicit that the purpose of the One Ring was to rule the other Rings, and not to rule their bearers.


Note from the accepted answer to the question you link (which is IMO correct) that the "one Ring to rule them all..." part (i.e the Ring inscription itself) was composed first, with the other lines added by person or persons unknown at a later date. At the time the other Rings were made, there was actually no distinction between the Seven and the Nine, with only the Three being in any way different.

share|improve this answer
5  
+1 for being the only answer so far to address the inherent ambiguity of the original text, and bring citations as to the correct interpretation. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jun 3 at 16:25
    
Brilliant answer, great find on the quote. –  Simon Jun 4 at 8:09
    
Hmmm. "Last only so long as it too should last"? But in the movie, Galadriel still wore her ring of power after Sauron's had been destroyed. Oversight by Jackson, or excessive literalism on my part? –  Blazemonger Jun 4 at 21:17
1  
Gandalf wore his (at the Havens) in the book too, but does just wearing one necessarily equate with using it's power? Or was it more the case that wearing them openly at the end was symbolic of the departure of the Ringbearers? See also Gandalf's words to Aragorn: "the power of the Three Rings also is ended". –  Jimmy Shelter Jun 4 at 21:20
    
@Blazemonger "Oversight" is a much kinder term than I'd have selected, but yea, basically Jackson could no more be bothered to follow the books on this one obscure detail than he could in the broad strokes of the plot, or any other aspect of his work. –  Matthew Najmon Jun 5 at 2:51
show 4 more comments

The full verse is:

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.

The verse as a whole describes the Rings of Power. The first half enumerates them, and the second half establishes the One as their master. Since the other rings are associated each with a whole race, the implication is that the One is meant to rule over all races via the other rings, but the literal wording refers to the rings themselves.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"them all" refers to the other rings Sauron created the one ring with the intention of ruling the 3 Elven rings, the 7 Dwarven rings and the 9 rings of men.

The other 19 rings were made by Elven Smiths of Eregion, led by Celebrimbor.

He was hoping to use the rings of power to seduce the Great Rulers of Middle Earth towards evil. IIRC in the books Elrond has one Elven ring, Galadriel has another and Gandalf has the third of the Elven rings. It is believed the Dwarven rings were lost and, we all know the tale of the nine.

For those that don't: The nine rings of men were given to powerful men, Kings and Warriors 3 were Numenorean, these men were corrupted by the ring and transformed into the Ringwraiths.

I would say it does not only refer to the rings but also the rulers who wear the rings by proxy anyway.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.