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The Lord of the Rings, chapter 7- The Mirror of Galadriel:

"But suddenly the mirror went altogether dark, as dark as if a hole had opened in the world of sight, and Frodo looked into emptiness. In the black abyss there appeared a single eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly the whole mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The eye was rimmed with fire, but itself glazed, yellow as a cat's, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing"

We know that Sauron himself isn't physically an eye and it is hinted the eye of Sauron is more of a metaphor, but if the eye is more a metaphor, why does Frodo see the eye itself rather than feel it metaphorically speaking? Is it because as the bearer of the One he can perceive the thoughts and will of the other bearers of the rings of power?

Further on in the chapter Galadriel herself says:

"You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the eye of him that holds the seven and the nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger?"

Here she hints as the bearer of the one he can perceive and see the holders of 3,7 and 9 which we kinda already knew, but I still don't get why Frodo sees the eye of Sauron, something that is metaphorically used.

Did Galadriel herself maybe command the mirror to show Frodo the eye? Or did Frodo just perceive the holder of the seven and the nine?

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    Metaphors can be visual in nature. – Harry Johnston Jan 9 '16 at 22:49
  • Because she forgot to update her (eye of) firewall. – Valorum Jan 3 '17 at 15:54
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Galadriel is certainly capable of commanding the Mirror; she says so herself:

'What shall we look for, and what shall we see?' asked Frodo, filled with awe.

'Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,' she answered, 'and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 7: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

Whether she did or not is unknown, and unclear. If she did force Frodo to see the Eye, her reasons are her own and she never shares them.

If she doesn't, however, there is no in-universe reason for why Frodo sees the Eye; the functioning of the Mirror is mysterious and unpredictable, as Galadriel admits:

What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 7: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

However, I question why Frodo shouldn't have seen a metaphorical depiction. What Frodo sees isn't Sauron himself, but Sauron's search for him; consider what he actually sees:

Then the Eye began to rove, searching this way and that; and Frodo knew with certainty and horror that among the many things that it sought he himself was one.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 7: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

That's really the most important thing Frodo could have seen from the mirror: not Sauron himself, but Sauron's desire for the Ring; it's hard to show something like that non-metaphorically.

There's no evidence that Frodo seeing the Eye has anything to do with being able to perceive the other Ringbearers. In fact, Frodo can't see the thoughts and minds of the other Ringbearers (not yet, anyway. If he put some work in, perhaps he could); unless put in a situation where he can actually see their Rings, he doesn't even know who they are. What he can see is the Rings themselves. Galadriel answers this also, in more context given around one of the quotes in the question:

'I would ask one thing before we go,' said Frodo, 'a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?'

'You have not tried,' she said. 'Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring-bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger?

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 7: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

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    "Frodo can't see the other Ringbearers": Clearly this is wrong. In the battle under Weathertop, Frodo does see the Ringwraiths, the bearers of the Nine. And at Lorien, he sees Galadriel's ring - which Sam, standing beside him, can't see - and sees her wearing it. The reason he doesn't see Gandalf's ring is it's literally hidden: Gandalf never wears it openly upon his hand. In Galadriel we see that wearing one of the Three doesn't make you invisible, and that mortals (i.e. Sam) can't see the Three. But Frodo, merely by possessing the One, sees both her and her Ring, and while she is wearing it. – Ed999 Jan 3 '17 at 14:58
  • @Ed999 You're right that he can literally see Galadriel's Ring when it's in front of him, uncovered; what I meant (and what I'll edit to make more clear) is that he can't perceive the identity of the other Ring-bearers from afar, in reference to this line: "'I would ask one thing before we go,' said Frodo, 'a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?'" – Jason Baker Jan 3 '17 at 15:08
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After Bilbo discarded it when leaving BagEnd, Gandalf looked closely at Ring and saw the Eye but it could not see him.

Clearly Galadriel had the Power to see the enemy but deny him. When Aragorn used the Stone from Saruman's Tower he was able to dominate and use it as he chopse whoch Saruman presumabvly once could but grew englamoured. Mere Denthor on tuther hand fell right in and didn't even know that he was being used.

  • In Tolkien's book, the only marking on the One Ring is the inscription engraved upon it in Elven characters: two lines from a stanza long known in Ringlore ("One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them..." etc). The image of the Eye of Sauron is not engraved upon the Ring. – Ed999 Jan 3 '17 at 15:04
  • @Ed999 This answer is from the perspective of the films, where Gandalf sees a brief flash of the Eye when he attempts to pick up the Ring from Bilbo's floor. It's not an engraving, but a vision – Jason Baker Jan 3 '17 at 15:15

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