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This question was inspired by the Andres F answer to another question. In his answer he stated

"we are told that if she ever took the One Ring, she would become way more powerful than Sauron ever was."

So, it makes me wonder: If Galadriel had claimed the One Ring, would Sauron have become her servant, or would have Galadriel become his servant?

  • Gave the right answer to your question. Better late than never... – user8252 Aug 29 '12 at 22:30

11 Answers 11

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Tolkien commented on that subject in the letter 236: Tolkien's letters

Of the others only Gandalf might be expected to master him – being an emissary of the Powers and a creature of the same order, an immortal spirit taking a visible physical form. In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond. But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen in Elrond's words at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve. In any case Elrond or Galadriel would have proceeded in the policy now adopted by Sauron: they would have built up an empire with great and absolutely subservient generals and armies and engines of war, until they could challenge Sauron and destroy him by force. Confrontation of Sauron alone, unaided, self to self was not contemplated. One can imagine the scene in which Gandalf, say, was placed in such a position. It would be a delicate balance. On one side the true allegiance of the Ring to Sauron; on the other superior strength because Sauron was not actually in possession, and perhaps also because he was weakened by long corruption and expenditure of will in dominating inferiors. If Gandalf proved the victor, the result would have been for Sauron the same as the destruction of the Ring; for him it would have been destroyed, taken from him for ever. But the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end.

So we see that:

  1. Even with the One Ring, Galadriel would not match Sauron one on one
  2. She might be deluding herself when dreaming of overthrowing Sauron with the One

To add, Gandalf (Olorin) was of the same stock as Sauron, a Maiar, and essentially of stronger will than even any of the First Born. Gandalf would have been the likely successor of the ring, and sagely resisted the temptation in Book 1 of LOTR. Frodo, excellent keeper that he is, seeks to unload it upon the two greatest forces on two legs in Middle Earth, and both resist, recognizing his earnestness and the futility of acceptance.

  • This perfectly corroborates my answer as well. Delusion and deception are powerful weapons against any enemy, especially with those who believe they are powerful. – Thaddeus Howze Aug 30 '12 at 1:49
  • Yes. But in your answer you make a confusion between Feanor and his brother Fingolfin. Yet I do agree that if there any elf able to match Sauron 1vs1, it is Feanor. But we simply do not have enough data to know. – user8252 Aug 30 '12 at 6:48
  • in fact Gandalf states in his resistance that if he took the ring he'd just become another dark lord, even more terrible than Sauron – jwenting Mar 2 '13 at 6:19
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    Keep in mind that this scenario is self to self - as Tolkien says, she (or Gandalf) would spend their time raising huge absolutely subservient armies and they'd almost certainly be the ones actually facing Sauron. It also seems like Sauron's main advantage is because he is the rightful owner of the Ring - so otherwise he would be screwed, even self-to-self. – Shamshiel Nov 7 '14 at 13:39
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    The essential problem is that if it is absolute canon that nobody with the ring can withstand Sauron, then wielding the ring isn't a credible temptation anymore. The thought that the Ring might allow this short term crisis to be averted is the temptation, and the knowledge that the powerful would just become a new dark lord is what separates the Wise from the not so wise. – Oldcat Nov 7 '14 at 21:10
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It seems likely that Galadriel would have destroyed Sauron (and the Ringwraiths).

She intimates as much in "The Mirror of Galadriel".

And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

The way the Ring corrupts the Wise is by promising them power to do "good". So she would start by crushing her enemies, but would end up wanting more and more power until she became herself evil.

Also, note Sauron at this time holds the Nine and most of the Seven as well as the Lesser Elven Rings. He would therefore be extremely susceptible to control by the One Ring.

Also note that Galadriel herself is already extremely powerful (and old). She is second in power among Elves only to Feanor himself "but is wiser than he". With the One she would be immensely strong, and easily able to dispatch Sauron and Saruman (and probably anybody else short of a Vala).

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    This is my opinion as well. She is already very powerful; with the Ring she would become unstoppable, and at first would use her power to do good. Also, have a +1 for quoting a great passage from the book :) – Andres F. Feb 29 '12 at 12:31
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    Beautiful quote, perfectly apt, my favorite scene in the whole book (and they just murdered it in the movie...). – Beta Feb 29 '12 at 17:49
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    "Second in power only to Fëanor himself" – citation? She's certainly the most powerful in Middle-Earth at the end of the Third Age, but what about all the mighty Noldor that are long dead by that time. Galadriel is hardly mentioned in the Silmarillion; then of course, she hadn't swoarn the Oath. — What about the that dwelt in the West all the time (Noldor and Vanyar)? — Sure Galadriel has power-s Sauron doesn't, but those would hardly be the kind of powers with which to overthrow Sauron. – leftaroundabout Feb 29 '12 at 19:48
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    @leftaroundabout "Galadriel was the greatest of the Noldor, except Fëanor maybe, though she was wiser than he, and her wisdom increased with the long years." - Unfinished Tales-“Of Galadriel and Celeborn.” – WOPR Mar 1 '12 at 8:15
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    No problems. Tolkien's conception of Galadriel changed constantly so I'm not sure the accepted answer is necessarily correct at the time of LOTR being written, but I'm happy to lose the accept on the basis of canon (and because it means I get a gold badge ;) ) – WOPR Dec 29 '12 at 8:14
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I think it is reasonable to assume that Sauron would have become her servant, because she would be so powerful. But he would not do so willingly, and would, without doubt, know enough about the ring to manipulate Galadriel, slowly but definitively. Saurons existence would have weakened Galadriel, so she might have decided to destroy him.

I think the point is that she was already very powerful. The ring would just have focussed that power, strengthened it and corrupted her. And, in the end, she would be the servant of the ring, which, I surmise, would draw power from her too.

The result, whatever, would be destruction on a scale not envisaged in the books. I suspect that, in the longer term, it would not really matter who controlled the ring, the end result would be the same. The only difference is the timescale.

[edit] Following @Richards comment, I think Galadriels rule would be very different from Saurons. She would rule many others, all those who had rings. She would control the other ring holders and reign over middle earth through them. It would probably seem like a benign dictatorship for a while, until people crossed her.

  • Galadrial know who held the three elven rings, so would have another advantage. – Richard Feb 29 '12 at 9:21
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    Sauron had already become a servant of a higher power multiple times. The obvious example was his time as lieutenant to Morgoth, prior to his fall. Once Morgoth fell, Sauron took over as "chief evildoer" in Middle Earth but was once again reduced to the role of the servant when the fleet of Ar-Pharazon arrived from Numenor. He surrendered and travelled back with the Numenorians, eventually corrupting them from the inside... much like he would be likely to do with Galadrial, if she did not destroy him immediately and be corrupted by the Ring instead/as well. – dlanod Feb 29 '12 at 9:54
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    @dlanod - yes - I think that is the image I had, that he would work as he always had as a "servant", but seeking to gain his masters power, by corruption from the inside. – Schroedingers Cat Feb 29 '12 at 12:11
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    Supporting the notion that she would rule very differently: no-one likes Sauron (most of his servants fear him, at least in his current incarnation), whereas everyone would love Galadriel. She would be beautiful and terrible. She says as much in the book (see WOPR's answer). – Andres F. Feb 29 '12 at 12:34
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Sauron was a Maiar, one of the servants of the greater Valar, Aulë and a divine being himself. Galadrial no matter how awesome she was with her ring, (made by Sauron) she was one of the Noldor and not even in the same league as Sauron, even as diminished as he was.

Yes, she was immortal. Yes, she was a Noldor, one of the greatest of the Elven families and yes, Fingolfin did manage to harm one of the deities Morgorth of the Valar in a duel. And yes, Morgorth did walk with a limp forever after, but let's remember the end of that duel. Feanor was crushed and died in his battle against Morgorth.

Being nearly as powerful as a famous hero, does not mean that she was the equal of a godlike being like Sauron. And her having a sense of power could have easily been the Ring altering her perspective of her capabilities and the outcome of any interaction with Sauron.

As far as I can tell, Sauron would have LOVED for her to have gained the One Ring. She would then proceed to do his dirty work and conquer Middle Earth for him without ever realizing she was doing his work.

At the end, Sauron would have used his will to overcome her and possess her body, using her as a powerful and immortal remote.

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    Who is Morgorth? :) – TML May 21 '14 at 20:00
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    It was Fingolfin, not Fëanor, who wounded Morgoth in a duel. – LAK Nov 7 '14 at 19:21
  • Thanks for the reminder. I had been meaning to get back and correct this. Done and done! – Thaddeus Howze Nov 7 '14 at 19:35
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    I'm not sure. Your answer is well-reasoned, but reading the book I get the sense Sauron actually fears (and expects) another powerful being seizing the Ring as a weapon. Remember Sauron actually poured his own power into the Ring (see the relevant letter from Tolkien), actually diminishing his own essence. It's not clear to me an already powerful Galadriel imbued with the power of the Ring couldn't take on a diminished Sauron. Like stealing a nuke and using it against its owner. Of course it's highly debatable whether the Ring -- having Sauron's essence -- could be used against him at all. – Andres F. Nov 22 '14 at 22:49
  • 'how awesome she was with her ring, (made by Sauron)' Sauron absolutely did not touch the Three Rings. '‘The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them.' Elrond reiterates this point later and it's also mentioned in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age. Sauron never found the Three and he didn't create them. The only Ring he truly made entirely his own was the One; it's just the elves learnt the craft from Sauron. – Pryftan Jul 18 '17 at 0:49
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I would have to say neither. The One Ring was designed to control the others, not to control its wearer. It would have corrupted her, but not controlled her. But I don't think it would have forced Sauron to become her servant. Having the ring claimed by a wielder capable of accessing its true power would have weakened Sauron (although not nearly as much as its destruction did), but it wouldn't have enslaved him like the Ringwraiths were.

However, I think it very likely that Sauron would have tried to become her servant, not because he had to, but in hopes of finding an opportunity to reclaim the One Ring.

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    I agree with what you say in the last paragraph. That's pretty much the same with Gollum trying to serve Frodo, not out of kindness, but of necessity, greed and ambition. – Janoma Feb 29 '12 at 10:30
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2 things to remember:

  1. Finrod, Galadriel's older brother, went toe to toe with Sauron in a duel of power in the First Age to aid Beren.

  2. Much of Sauron's native strength went into the forging of the One in order to control the others.

Given those two factors. Galadriel in possession of the One would have greater strength on her side and she could see into his mind already as she was trained by Melian. She would break Sauron and probably dispatch him. Plus imagine her getting revenge after 6,500 years for Sauron capturing and leading to the death of her beloved brother.

  • This is my opinion as well. Galadriel is already a powerful Elf from a lineage of powerful Elves. Sauron is god-like, but poured much of his essence and power into the Ring, and as a result lost them. – Andres F. Nov 22 '14 at 22:52
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One thing that is being overlooked about the claiming of the One Ring. Sauron feared that his enemies would take the ring and use it against him. He feared the line of Numenor would use the ring. Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and even Glorfindel could have overthrown him with the ring. Gandalf, Galadriel, and Glorfindel had all lived in Valinor during the light of the two trees so I believe that there power would be stronger than those elves that were born in Middle Earth. Sauron was not without fear.

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Your question doesn't really have an answer. The Ring is powerful AND evil. By it's very nature it corrupts. But the Ring isn't so powerful as to allow either to just casually kill the other with a wave of the hand and a slight wish. Armies and other more mundane means would have to be involved. So, perhaps he would have found a way to regain the Ring, perhaps she would have won and either destroyed him or made him her servant.

But the Ring corrupts, and one of it's top ways of doing so is the desire for power, particularly power for it's own sake. Having the Ring, and choosing to take it's power instead of destroying it...you are preserving the evil along with the power. Who would choose to preserve such evil?

None of the Wise are so powerful as to be able to take the power and destroy the evil. Choosing the power is thus embracing the evil. Had she taken the Ring, she would have become a Dark Queen. Whether Sauron would have survived that is pretty much immaterial.

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Everyone has done a wonderful job assessing the Ring and Sauron's abilities and nature. The struggle against Sauron is indefinite as long as the Ring is whole. And moreover, her reign of terror may have stirred the Powers from Valinor... and her goal was to rejoin them not confront them. I am in the camp that Galadriel could have harnessed the Ring to a peerless level, even beyond Luthien, and could reduce Sauron to shadow albeit an enduring one. Elvinkind is preserved, Lothorien grows and elves under her reign prosper for a while. But slowly the joy of water and moonlight escape the world. Although the magic is preserved beauty fades. Purpose and joy dwindle. Too hot then the day star will shine and wither away all of middle earth outside Galadriel's borders. Songs are no longer sung and the only light that endures glimmers ever radiantly on the crown of her dark majesty, whom stronger than the foundations of the earth wrestled from water and fire the two other simarils.

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I think that with the power of the one ring Galadriel would have been able to banish Sauron from the world but never truly defeat him due to the horcrux effect of the ring. It would mean constant vigilance and incredible will power to keep him from re-entering the world.

My reasoning: -Galadriel is more powerful or at least as powerful as her brother who was defeated by Sauron. The battle was not easily lost then and Sauron would be weakened without the one ring having placed much of his power in it. -At the same time Galadriels power would be amplified by the one ring.

  • Sauron was desperate for someone to claim the ring, especially if they were foolish enough to imagine they could up against him. – Valorum Nov 22 '14 at 17:27
  • @Richard I think he was expecting that to happen, because that's what he would do with any devastating weapon. But I'm not sure he would be glad about it. Maybe glad that the situation finally played out like he had envisioned, and maybe overconfident he would win (because evil beings like Sauron always imagine they will win), but I get the feeling he was also worried someone powerful enough -- not a Hobbit or a lesser Man -- would actually use the Ring against him. – Andres F. Nov 22 '14 at 22:54
  • @AndresF. - There's a quote from JRRT stating that Sauron was hoping someone would stand against him (especially if they raised an army) because that would just make getting the ring back easier. His fear is that it would remain hidden. – Valorum Nov 22 '14 at 23:03
  • @Richard I'd be grateful if you could find the exact quote (all I can find about the matter is letter #246). The feeling I get from the books is that Sauron was paranoid and fearful of someone powerful -- not a Hobbit or an Orc -- finding the Ring. He was preparing for battle against such an enemy, I think. He probably thought he'd win, but that doesn't mean it didn't make him nervous. Then again, it might be a misreading on my part :) – Andres F. Nov 22 '14 at 23:27
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    To quote; "Sauron would not have feared the Ring! It was his own and under his will. Even from afar he had an effect upon it, to make it work for its return to himself. In his actual presence none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold it from him." – Valorum Nov 22 '14 at 23:35
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Galadriel could not have hoped to enslave sauron. By his nature as a servant he would have brought Galadriel her doom. And to destroy him permanently she would have to destroy the ring I think. Certainly she would have the power to crush the ringwraiths and destroy saurons domain and perhaps even defeat him in combat. But that fight couldn't have a decisive end in her favor. The ring is more then a weapon. Sauron is alive within it. She would have to relinquish the ring in order to destroy it, in order to destroy him.

protected by Community May 23 '17 at 7:12

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