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We know that The One Ring had an inscription on it, revealed when heated by fire:

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

Was that inscription an intended feature? (meaning, Sauron meant for the Ring to display it)?

Or was it merely an artifact of the technology/magic used to produce it?

The inscription of the One Ring, written in the Black Speech of Mordor using the Elvish Tengwar script.  Transliterated, it reads "Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul"

I would prefer referenced canon answers.

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    Great question, wish I'd thought of it...
    – WOPR
    Jul 30, 2013 at 13:20
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    Would you think about making my answer the accepted one? It seems to have acquired more votes than the previous answer. Jul 31, 2013 at 21:13

3 Answers 3

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The Markings were made intentionally. From the council of Elrond, Gandalf tells of his trip to Saruman and Gondor. Gandalf describes what he learned from Saruman:

"The Nine, the Seven, and the Three," he said, "had each their proper gem. Not so the One. It was round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings; but its maker set marks upon it that the skilled, maybe, could still see and read."

Isildur wrote this about the Ring.

It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither its beauty nor its shape. Already the writing upon it, which at first was as clear as red flame, fadeth and is now only barely to be read ...

The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed.

This seems to prove that Sauron intentionally made the Ring with the inscription, because the heat of his hand made the inscription easy to see and obvious to all. The first quote says that the "maker set marks in it", so to me this proves that Sauron intentionally put them there.

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    "...but its maker set marks upon it ..." is close to conclusive I think
    – WOPR
    Jul 30, 2013 at 13:19
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    It is the best canonical answer I can find. Jul 30, 2013 at 13:28
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    This is a definitive answer, as good and conclusive as I can imagine regarding the OP. EDIT: Oh and +1 :)
    – FoxMan2099
    Jul 30, 2013 at 14:54
  • The question is though why would Sauron intentionally put the inscription on the Ring when it actually would serve him better to keep his plan of world domination secret.
    – Valandil
    Nov 22, 2016 at 18:45
  • @Valandil No one saw him make the Ring, no one would have seen the markings or known the plan until it was too late if things worked as intended. The only complication was that the elven ringbearers sensed what was happening and who Sauron really was, the second he put the One Ring on (the rings not working at all on the Dwarves was lesser complication, but would not have mattered that much if not for the Elves going to war with him and Numenor getting involved). May 7, 2021 at 1:49
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To nitpick, only the third last and second last lines were inscribed on the Ring:

One Ring to rule them all,

One Ring to find them

One Ring to bring them all

And in the darkness bind them

These words were definitely spoken by Sauron as part of the forging of the Ring, as Gandalf mentions at Rivendell:

Out of the Black Years came the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed.

However whether Sauron deliberately inscribed those words or they appeared as a side effect of the spell, since they obviously played a part in it given they were spoken as part of the forging, is unknown. Only Sauron would be able to answer that in-world.

Out of character, obviously Tolkien would have been able to answer it but he never seemed to address it through his writings.

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  • What about notes and other gazillion stuff that Christofer published? I know it's not guaranteed to be addressed, but wouldn't be surprised if it is. Mar 9, 2012 at 0:10
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    This is actually the first time I've heard it raised that it could have been a side-effect of the forging, which is quite an interesting idea. Up until now I (and most others, judging by sites I read) assumed it was inscribed deliberately by Sauron. It may have been omitted simply because everyone assumed that was the case.
    – dlanod
    Mar 9, 2012 at 0:23
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    It's doubtful Sauron would deliberately inscribe the well known passage on the ring as its not like he needed to warm the ring up to find out it was actually his if he lost it. And what benefit would it be for your enemies to know they have the one ring when they warm it up with a fire etc... my vote is for side effect in-universe, out-of-universe this was just a great visual way to show how uber the ring is and who it belonged to.
    – Jared
    Mar 9, 2012 at 4:03
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    @Jared I agree, assuming that Sauron had the choice he wouldn't have inscribed it. Given the "linguistic/musical/medium of communication" nature of magic, it is conceivable that the words and the spell are essentially bound together...
    – Francesco
    Sep 1, 2012 at 15:16
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    Magic / communication correlation seems probable, consider also the door into Moria which spelled out the riddle to solve in order to enter - another connection of written word and magic
    – flq
    Jul 30, 2013 at 13:09
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I can't give you a solid canon answer, but I think . . .

If the inscription itself has the capability of powers (magical, evil, healing, controlling, etc) then it's a feature of the ring.

If the inscription is merely decorative and serves to make a general statement about the ring, then it's merely an artifact aspect of the ring. It would be like the inscription inside a wedding band: Schmoe and Eunice Brown - April 12, 1990 - Married this day. This is merely informative and basically not useful.

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