9

My understanding of ring lore is that Sauron, disguised as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, taught Celebrimbor and the elves of Eregion how to make rings of power, and together they made the Seven and the Nine. But they were tainted with Sauron's influence and Celebrimbor began to suspect Annatar. So he made the Three by himself, in secret and without Annatar's guidance, (as referenced in this answer here, though the text has been removed from the source Wiki article), and Sauron made the One in secret too. When he put on the One Ring, Sauron and the bearers of Three sensed each other, the elves knew Annatar for Sauron, and the elves removed the Three and hid them.

But the One Ring bears the infamous inscription:

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 One Ring must have been forged with this inscription, right? So how did Sauron learn about the existence of the Three before he forged the One?

EDIT: I answered this myself when I realized the verse is not on the ring, only the couplet

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

So if I may modify my question: Is there any evidence that he did know of the Three before he put on the ring?

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    Undeleted after discussion with the OP in chat. – Rand al'Thor Mar 9 '17 at 1:43
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    A quick discussion on the matter took place in chat, for anyone interested – Edlothiad Mar 9 '17 at 1:47
8

At the time when Sauron made the One Ring, there were many other rings in existence:

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. And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power, p. 344

The inscription on the One Ring would apply to them. There were also other rings of various potency that are not counted among the Rings of Power:

‘In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles – yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.’

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Shadow of the Past, p. 61

All of them, as far as I can tell, were controlled by the One Ring. As for the Three, if Sauron never touched or even saw them, it is unclear how he came to know about them:

But the Elves fled from him; and three of their rings they saved, and bore them away, and hid them. Now these were the Three that had last been made, and they possessed the greatest powers. [...] But Sauron could not discover them, for they were given into the hands of the Wise, who concealed them and never again used them openly while Sauron kept the Ruling Ring. Therefore the Three remained unsullied, for they were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and the hand of Sauron had never touched them; yet they also were subject to the One.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power, p. 345

It may be that he initially wasn't aware of them, but only inferred their existence through the actions of Elrond, Galadriel, Círdan and later Gandalf.

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    Beat me to the punch! – Edlothiad Mar 9 '17 at 0:19
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    As discussed in the chat there is some debate as to whether the craft of ringmaking, as taught by Suaron (Annatar) is in itself corrupted and therefore makes Sauron aware of the rings being made. While it does seem that true corruption occurs when Sauron touches a ring. There seems to be some supporting evidence for the craft itself being corrupted, although it is far from clear. – SynchronizeYourDogma Mar 9 '17 at 1:52
  • @Withywindle, just the quickest way to do it (and neatest imo), deleted the help comment now :) will delete this one in a second – Edlothiad Mar 9 '17 at 1:55
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    Can you source your quotes? – OrangeDog Mar 9 '17 at 15:56
  • @OrangeDog Apologies. The deletion threw off my usual editing. It's done now. – isanae Mar 9 '17 at 22:56
5

I actually answered this myself. The verse

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.

is not inscribed on the One Ring. It is the epigraph to the book. Only the couplet

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

is found on the ring. So it is still entirely possible that Sauron did not learn of the three until he first put on the ring.

  • How does the verse suggest that Sauron didn't learn of the three until he put on the ring? – Edlothiad Mar 9 '17 at 1:56
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    If Sauron had inscribed the whole verse onto the One Ring when he forged it, that would mean he must have already known about the "Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky" before he could have ever put it on. But I realize now he didn't, so he wouldn't necessarily have known about the Three. – J Doe Mar 9 '17 at 2:00
3

From Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age:

Sauron made in secret One Ring to rule all of the lesser rings; their power was bound with it, and they lasted only so long as it did. Because the Elven rings were artifacts of great power, the One Ring was greater still, and with it, Sauron could both see what was done with the other rings and govern the thoughts of those who wore them.

The Elves perceived immediately what had happened and took off their rings. Sauron came against them then in open war, demanding the return of the rings that had been made with his help, but the Elves fled from him and took with them three of their rings.

It is reasonable to assume that as the bearers became aware of Sauron, so Sauron became aware of them (as that was the point of The One). Because they then took off their rings and hid them, he could no longer perceive where they were or who had them. The Three are the only three (of any significance) that escaped the aforementioned war - the rest were captured by Sauron.

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