From Letter 131:

But to achieve this he had been obliged to let a great part of his own inherent power (a frequent and very significant motive in myth and fairy-story) pass into the One Ring. While he wore it, his power on earth was actually enhanced. But even if he did not wear it, that power existed and was in 'rapport' with himself: he was not 'diminished'. Unless some other seized it and became possessed of it. If that happened, the new possessor could (if sufficiently strong and heroic by nature) challenge Sauron, become master of all that he had learned or done since the making of the One Ring, and so overthrow him and usurp his place. This was the essential weakness he had introduced into his situation in his effort (largely unsuccessful) to enslave the Elves, and in his desire to establish a control over the minds and wills of his servants. There was another weakness: if the One Ring was actually unmade, annihilated, then its power would be dissolved, Sauron's own being would be diminished to vanishing point, and he would be reduced to a shadow, a mere memory of malicious will.

The passage in which Frodo claims the ring:

'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!' And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight. Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened.

Does this mean that, at the point where Frodo claims the ring, he temporarily becomes the new Dark Lord, ruling over all of the Nazgûl, orcs and the like?

  • 36
    I think the key point is "if sufficiently strong and heroic by nature". Frodo was resistant to the ring's corruption, but it is not enough to simply state it belongs to you, else Gollum would have been master of the ring for decades before then. To claim the ring, one needs to possess a will greater than that of Sauron himself. Very few have that capability. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 11:33
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    I can’t find the exact quote now but Gandalf once said something similar to “the ring knows only one master, and it yearns to return to him”. Other, very powerful, beings might be able to subjugate it (see Galadriel). But even that is debatable, and certainly not Frodo. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 13:28
  • 17
    If you steal a sword from a warrior - he won’t stop being a warrior, just as you won’t become one.
    – Fingolfin
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:37
  • 4
    @JimBalter In Middle Earth, they sometimes do. :-D
    – clacke
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 6:44
  • 3
    @JimBalter - You dismiss my analogy without taking into consideration the fact that it was given within OP’s context and scope. Swords not having an intrinsic magic power is irrelevant: A warrior is weaker without his sword - Sauron is less powerful without his ring. A peasant is stronger with a sword - Frodo is more powerful with the ring. And despite all, the sword-wielding peasant won't be as strong as the sword-wielding warrior, just like Frodo being the ring bearer won't be as powerful as Sauron with the ring in his possession.
    – Fingolfin
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 11:34

5 Answers 5


Practically the very next passage after Frodo claims the Ring is one where Sauron detects Frodo. He immediately understands that the plan is to destroy the Ring, and with a certain amount of panic, immediately wills the Nazgûl to fly like hell to Mount Doom to retrieve it.

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ring-wraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

Frodo does not appear to have been a lord of anything. He's not commanding Nazgûl or Orcs at this point — pretty clearly no one was influencing Orcs, not Frodo nor Sauron, and the Nazgûl fly at Sauron's command as always. Frodo's choice to put on the Ring at the last minute rather than destroy it is not portrayed as his heroic will overpowering Sauron's — it's the will of the Ring overpowering Frodo and corrupting him into doing the one thing that will prevent it from being destroyed. Frodo isn't lord of himself at that moment, let alone Dark Lord over Sauron's dominion.

@Werrf's answer appears to have already buttoned up Galadriel's input on the likelihood of Frodo pushing his will on the Ring, but I will add @Royal Canadian Bandit's other contribution from comment here — that we already have one example of a hobbit's will versus Sauron's, that of Pippin's, through the palantír. Pippin is forced to commune with Sauron, and although he resists somewhat, it is only because Sauron misreads the situation that Pippin escapes without betraying everything, as Gandalf states:

‘All right!’ he said. ‘Say no more! You have taken no harm. There is no lie in your eyes, as I feared. But he did not speak long with you. A fool, but an honest fool, you remain, Peregrin Took. Wiser ones might have done worse in such a pass. But mark this! You have been saved, and all your friends too, mainly by good fortune, as it is called. You cannot count on it a second time. If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all. But he was too eager. He did not want information only: he wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly.

  • 30
    IIRC, at one point Frodo asks Gandalf why he doesn't have power over other ringbearers when he wears the One Ring. Gandalf says Frodo has never really tried, and it would destroy him if he did. Who knows if Frodo would have been able to command the Nazgul if they reached him at Mount Doom, but it seems unlikely -- results would probably be much like what happened when Pippin encounted Sauron through the palantir. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 11:51
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    Ooh, Pippin and the Palantir is a perfect example. +1 to your comment, good sir. Or ma'am. I can't see you. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 12:39
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    @DisturbedNeo: Thanks. Sir, as it happens, but it's good not to make assumptions. :-) Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 12:55
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit: Tolkien actually talks about what would happen if Frodo tried to command the Ringwraiths in another letter. Basically, they would not have been able to explicitly refuse him, but they would have tried to cajole him away from Mount Doom because Sauron still had primary control via the Nine.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 22:38

No - at that point, Frodo becomes the new Gollum, claiming the ring and wanting to hold it, but unable to use it to anything like its potential.

From Fellowship of the Ring:

"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," [Galadriel] 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 gave 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."

Emphasis mine.

Frodo is just a simple hobbit of the Shire; he has no experience or practice dominating the minds of others. When he claimed the Ring, the Ring had finally dominated his mind. He could not dominate it in his turn.

The Ring gave Frodo power over Gollum; power to dominate him, and power to lay a command upon him that he could not disobey, even after he had claimed the Ring for himself. But Gollum was, of course, a miserable creature of even less power than Frodo himself, and one fully dominated already by the Ring. It's a far cry from dominating Sméagol to dominating one of the Nine.

Frodo might have been able to dominate one or two snagas, subservient orcs, but he could never have begun to consider dominating one of the Nazgûl.



Letter 246 is quite clear on the matter.

Sauron sent at once the Ringwraiths. They were naturally fully instructed, and in no way deceived as to the real lordship of the Ring.


I think they would have shown 'servility'. They would have greeted Frodo as 'Lord' ... Until Sauron himself came ... Sauron would not have feared the Ring! It was his own and under his will.

  • 5
    The full letter goes even further, explaining what the Nine might likely have done, had they arrived in time. +1 for the quote.
    – Unsigned
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 20:21

The reason that Sauron was as weak as he was, that he was unable to take human form, that he could detect the Ring's use, command the Nazgûl from the power behind it, the Ring always seeking to be back with its master, and Sauron's ultimate demise being tied to the Ring is because in order to create the ring Sauron had to infuse it with truly a piece of himself... Why the Ring is always bound to twist good intention into evil and never rest until it's with him. There can be no other true Dark Lord of the Ring because the Ring is Sauron... Sauron and the Ring are two halves of one whole.


I think it might have been possible because Frodo managed to resist the power of the Morgul-blade for so long (by that point the Ringwraiths are probably like oh, just die already). So maybe he could control the Nazgûl and Orcs.

  • 5
    Not in any meaningful way Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:45
  • just thought about it though he could resist the Morgul blade up to a point but then began to fall to its power so he might have been strong enough to go 'Ahem. Hello Mr. Orc, please don't kill me.' Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:49
  • 6
    no. I won't downvote, because you're new here, and there's no sense in kicking a dead horse, but simply: no. Other answers cover the "why not?" extensively. Also, it would simply make no sense from a storytelling point; Frodo dominating Sauron would be equally possible and sensible as if Sauron died because of eating too many burritos.
    – user24069
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 17:30
  • 2
    I'm not sure what resisting a magical poison/curse has to do with dominating the wills of Sauron's minions. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    Sam had only the ring for a few hours but already had heart and will enough to daunt orcs.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 18:13

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