19

We know that the One Ring would have corrupted any mortal (humans, dwarves, hobbits, etc) or Elf who claimed it. Only Gandalf or another Maia (Saruman, say, or Radagast) could even have tried to wrest control of the Ring from Sauron — but even they would not have been immune to its corruption, merely becoming a different sort of evil than Sauron. Gandalf, for example, would have imposed his idea of "good" through evil means.

What, though, of the Valar? They were on a spiritual plane greater than that of Sauron, perhaps1 the only such beings.

In particular, there is this line:

“But Gandalf has revealed to us that we cannot destroy it by any craft that we here possess,” said Elrond. “And they who dwell beyond the Sea would not receive it: for good or ill it belongs to Middle-earth; it is for us who still dwell here to deal with it.”

The Fellowship of the Ring

The matter of the Valar being vulnerable to the corruption of the Ring is not mentioned; Elrond seems to think they are unwilling to deal with it, not unable.

Could the Valar, as significantly greater entities than Sauron, have resisted the Ring's pull? Or would they have been as vulnerable to it as mortals, elves, or Maiar?

1: Eru was of course greater, but the question of whether Eru would be vulnerable to the Ring is frankly silly. If Sauron would not have feared the Ring because it was his creation, how much less would Eru?

  • 11
    The Ring corrupts because it gives you power: it is a tool of 'command and domination', of persuasion and influence, charged up with much of Sauron's power. (The real 'corruption' of the Ring is nothing more than the normal desire for power over others - that's why it corrupts people who've never even seen it.) The Valar are much more powerful than Sauron to start with: the Ring has nothing to offer them that they would not already be capable of. – Shamshiel May 14 '17 at 15:50
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    @Shamshiel - This seems hard to reconcile with Tolkien's own statements. He always seems to write as though the Ring is intrinsically corrupting. For example, of its effect on Gandalf: "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." – Adamant May 14 '17 at 17:58
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    Besides, it's really hard to believe that the corrupting power of the Ring is mere human (or hobbit psychology). Frodo, with his whole goal being to toss the Ring into Mount Doom, decided to declare himself Ring Lord in the end. Ordinary weapons or instruments of power don't do that (the Three Rings didn't, for example). – Adamant May 14 '17 at 18:00
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    Tolkien also speaks of "the domination of the Ring": "The domination of the Ring was too much for the mean soul of Sméagol. " Or further: "It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power." So the Ring makes people believe themselves to be omnipotent, far beyond its actual power. It's hard to say that this is just what people would ordinarily do. – Adamant May 14 '17 at 18:01
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    And also: "If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power." The line about "its point of maximum power" should be telling: the Ring itself is strongest at Mount Doom. The Ring itself, in other words, is directly affecting Frodo. And: "Also so great was the Ring’s power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it." – Adamant May 14 '17 at 18:38
27

Tolkien tells us that the power of the Ring is Sauron's power.

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.

The Silmarillion: Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

So Sauron needed to give the Ring much of his power in order for it to overpower the Elves and the Elven-Rings. As the Ring's power is that of Sauron (a Maia), it seems unlikely that any of the Valar would succumb to it. Tolkien is clear that the Maiar are less powerful.

With the Valar came other spirits whose being also began before the World, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree. These are the Maiar, the people of the Valar, and their servants and helpers.

The Silmarillion: Valaquenta, (2) Of the Maiar

  • 1
    How would you resolve that with Gandalf fearing to take it or Saruman falling under its spell? They may not be Valar, but are of a similar kind. Is it merely a matter of degree of power? – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 14 '17 at 5:17
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    Gandalf certainly thought there was a difference. In the Istari chapter of Unfinished Tales it states that he was afraid of Sauron when he found out Manwe chose him to be one of the Istari. The Istari were also a little different from the average Maiar, being tied to their bodies and potentially weaker/more 'flawed' than their 'natural' states. – suchiuomizu May 14 '17 at 5:54
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan Both Saruman and Gandalf were Maiar as was Sauron. They were in the same league and it is normal to fear or be overpowered by enemies in your same league. Valar are in a higher league, Sauron's power stands no chance against the weakest of them. – Jose Antonio Dura Olmos May 14 '17 at 10:59
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan Not all Maiar are equal in skill and power, just like humans and elves are not. Sauron was among the greatest of Maiar. And Gandalf was "constrained" somewhat by his human form. See this question scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/60443/… – Matt Thrower May 15 '17 at 8:15
20

They wouldn't be tempted in the first place. All the Valar have decided to abandon Middle Earth in its entirety to live in the Undying Lands, while the Ring tempts people with visions of power over others. Note that Galadriel associates going West with resisting the Ring's temptation:

“I pass the test”, she said. “I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”

Additionally their power is such that if they truly wanted something, they could probably accomplish it without the Ring's assistance and probably do a better job besides. Why would someone choose a morally hazardous method that is also less effective at doing what they want?

If they, for some reason, actually used the Ring's power that would definitely be a step on the path of corruption, but so would trying to dominate others without the Ring.

  • So you think that if they used the Ring's power it would have a corrupting effect on them? – Adamant May 14 '17 at 5:56
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    I think that using the Ring would be a sign of corruption, not a cause. – Forrest Venable May 14 '17 at 5:58
  • Are you trying to say going into the west means you're not vulnerable to the Ring? – Edlothiad May 14 '17 at 15:25
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    @Adamant: The ring is an instrument of command and domination. Subverting the will of others is evil; thus using the Ring is both corrupt and corrupting, but no more so than if the Valar decided to do so without the Ring. The Ring just represents power, power that can only be used in an evil way (subverting the will of others); using the Ring or your own power to dominate others is corrupting. – Shamshiel May 14 '17 at 15:56
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    Galadriel did not return before because of the Ban placed on the Noldor for the kinslaying preformed by the Noldor. After they were redeemed and allowed to return Galdriel stayed out of pride. However, after she rejected the ring, she had countered what she came to ME for, and redeemed herself (as it was the same reason as Melkor and Sauron, to rule). And therefore permitted herself to return. She was glad to return to Valinor – Edlothiad May 14 '17 at 17:50
9

No, they are not vulnerable to The One Ring

I'll approach this answer from 2 sides.

  1. Why they wouldn't be tempted by the Ring
  2. Why the Ring would never be in question

Finally, I'll add in some additional information.

Why would the Valar not be tempted by the Ring?

The Valar were the greatest power after Eru himself. They had no need for the One Ring. The temptations of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings is always the desire for power. This is because Sauron had poured much of his power into the Ring. The Valar were greater than Sauron though, with power greater than his. His measly contribution from the Ring would do nothing for what they could not already do.

With the Valar came other spirits whose being also began before the World, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree. These are the Maiar, the people of the Valar ...
The Silmarillion

The Valar were the "Lords" of the Maiar, and their teachers. They had a power beyond that of any Maiar, even Mairon, considered one of the most powerful Maiar, before his corruption into Sauron.

Why would the Ring never matter to the Valar?

The only reason the Valar would have required to deal with the One Ring is if Sauron would've won. However we know that didn't happen so there's no point speculating.

Back to the Ring reach Valinor. Had Elrond not suggested keeping the Ring away from Valinor and it had been sent there, they would've needed the Valar's permission to find "The Straight Way" and sail to Valinor. Although as said by Elrond, only those permitted would find it.

And they who dwell beyond the Sea would not receive it: for good or ill it belongs to Middle-earth; it is for us who still dwell here to deal with it.
Fellowship of the Ring: Book Two, Council of Elrond

And further in the Silmarillion we are told only those permitted to find the Straight Road will find it.

Therefore the loremasters of Men said that a Straight Road must still be, for those that were permitted to find it.
The Silmarillion

Extra info

The Valar did not abandon Middle-earth. They had simply lost interest in its development. However as the Children of Eru were still there they had sent aid. This was in the form of Five Old men with their powers significantly damped that all failed. Fortunately for them, one of the old men got a blessing from Eru to return, in what some believe was his full Maiar form (ask another question if you want more on that).

With this Maiar/proto-Maiar in action, the Valar were able to get their desire and destroy the darkness left in Middle-earth (for the time being). Due to the heroics, the Ring Bearers (as well as members of the Fellowship, Gimli) were given blessing by the Valar to be free from their pains in the Blessed Realm, and fade peacefully.

This all points to the Valar not abandoning Middle-earth, but instead not returning with their full power to destroy half the continent again.

5

The Valar have such vast power that the Ring, containing a portion of the power of a Maia would be nothing to them and so they would have no reason to wear it. The visions of power the Ring can project into the mind of someone to corrupt them is a joke to the power they already hold. They participated in the very creation of the entire world. When they needed a ferry for a nation, they just pushed an island over the sea like nothing -- they actually did it twice. The mere mention of Elbereth deals a serious blow to the leader of the Nazgûl. And so on.

  • A Maiar raised an Island? The same Maiar also fastened said "Island" which was floating, technically, to the sea bed and made Tol Eressëa. Makes the Island feat quite a bit lesser. The Nazgûl are also not Sauron, and are far enough below him to carry out his will undeniably. – Edlothiad May 14 '17 at 15:44
  • Tol Eressëa was torn off Beleriand and pushed across the sea by Ulmo. – chx May 14 '17 at 15:49
  • No. The floating Island was pulled by Ulmo's creatures (and possibly Ulmo). It became Tol Eressëa after Ossë sand to Olwe and convinced him to tell Ulmo to stop early. Ossë than fastened it to the sea bed, and it was then named Tol Eressëa. – Edlothiad May 14 '17 at 15:51
  • "The Lonely Isle' (also simply Eressea), on which the Vanyar and the Noldor and afterwards the Teleri were drawn across the ocean by Ulmo, and which was at last rooted in the Bay of Eldamar near to the coasts of Aman." – chx May 14 '17 at 15:54
  • "As Ulmo ferried the floating island with Olwë and his Lindar to Eldamar, they heard Ossë's song and begged Ulmo to stop off the shore, which he did. Ossë fastened the island to the bottom, and it became Tol Eressëa, the lonely isle off the Bay of Eldamar." – Edlothiad May 14 '17 at 15:55
0

This is a fascinating question, and there are some intriguing possibilities, most of which involve asking other difficult questions. My short answer is "no", for the following reasons.

1) According to Gandalf and Elrond at varying times in LOTR, the ring is described as being Sauron's alone, having been drawn from a repository of power that was native to him in his beginning. While the corrupting power of the ring is clearly illustrated in the cases of Isildur, Smeagol, Bilbo, and Frodo, and its tempting power illustrated in the cases of Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Samwise, there is nothing that states that the full inherent power of the ring would actually be available to any of those potential users. While Gandalf does explain that the ring gives power according to the user's potential or "stature", this has never actually been tested (with the possible exceptions of Smeagol and Bilbo, who never progress beyond the ring's more basic attributes of invisibility and long life). Isildur seemed to have tried, and Unfinished Tales suggests that he was not able to bend the ring to his will and in LOTR, the post-Battle of the Pelennor Fields council imagines that Sauron would scoff at Aragorn attempting to do so. Both Galadriel and Samwise imagine that they can overthrow Sauron with the use of the ring, but this is likely a method by which the ring attempts to reveal itself to Sauron. The fact that Gandalf, who fears to use the ring, and Saruman, who desires it, are both of the same angelic order as Sauron adds weight to the argument that the ring would be usable in all its power by other Maiar and, therefore, they could be vulnerable. However, the balance of the evidence seems to point to the ring's full potential being available only to Sauron, with the domination and control of other minds being its primary attribute. The Valar, being of a higher level in the angelic order, would not likely be tempted by the ring, it being merely a part of Sauron's original, native power, which would be far below what they would themselves possess. In the same way that the first rings forged by the elves of Eregion were "trifles" and "mere essays in the craft", but perilous for mortals, Sauron's ring would likewise be considered a trifle by the Valar.

2) Depending on where you stand on the identity of Tom Bombadil, we may have already seen the effect of the ring on a Vala. I am not resurrecting that unanswerable question, but if Tom is indeed a Vala, we can see when the hobbits visit his house that the ring has no visible effect on him when he places it on his little finger, and he can seemingly make it disappear for a moment (though that may have been a simple parlor trick). Gandalf knows more than anyone who Bombadil is, and argues against giving him the ring for safekeeping, noting that he would likely lose it or throw it away, such things having no particular hold on his mind. That might indicate that he is not in the "position" to concerned with matters of grave importance to men, elves, and even Maiar, suggesting that he might be operating on a higher sphere.

3) An interesting point to consider is whether or not Morgoth would be at all interested in the ring. We read in the Silmarillion that much of his power had been diminished through selfishness and the domination and subjugation of lesser beings. If he were able to return from the Void before the destruction of the ring, perhaps he would be vulnerable to its allure.

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