8

By the time of the War of the Ring, Sauron had retrieved and now held in his possession the Nine Rings of Men and (at least some of) the Seven Dwarven Rings. Since the Ringwraiths no longer possessed their rings yet still maintained great power, could he have re-gifted these 10-16 rings to more men in the Third Age and created more Nazgul, Or would it have just served to weaken those already enthralled to him? Certainly the surviving Dwarven rings could have been re-distributed toward the aim of creating new servants?

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    The Dwarven rings failed in their purpose. I don't think Sauron (or Tolkien) would have considered repurposing them for men, since that's not really how the rings worked. – Quasi_Stomach May 16 '17 at 18:16
  • Related - scifi.stackexchange.com/q/35209/11841 – enderland May 16 '17 at 18:59
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    @Quasi_Stomach That was due to differences between men and dwarves and Sauron not understanding dwarves very well rather than the rings. It questionable if there even was a difference between the Seven and the Nine other than who they were given to. – suchiuomizu May 16 '17 at 22:26
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He could... but probably not very usefully.

Gandalf's explanation of the 'Ringwraithification' process (LOTR - "The Shadow of the Past")

"A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the Dark Power that rules the Rings."

Becoming a Ringwraith is just a consequence of a mortal using a Great Ring a lot, over a long period of time. Therefore, Sauron doesn't have to do anything special (or hold the One Ring) to make it happen -- so it would work in the late Third Age just as well as in the Second.

Gollum isn't a counterexample to this because he didn't use it "often" for most of the time he owned it; he only wore it frequently at first.

The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"-

Gollum used to wear it at first, till it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch next his skin, till it galled him; and now usually he hid it in a hole in the rock on his island, and was always going back to look at it.

So, if Sauron handed out the three remaining of the Seven (he still needed the Nine) to mortals [Men or Hobbits -- Dwarves seem to be a separate thing], and they used them often enough for long enough, they'd eventually become new Ringwraiths.

That doesn't mean this would be useful for Sauron, though.

When he made the original Ringwraiths, he had the One Ring to control them, so he could eventually get their Rings back from them. Without the One, he'd have no way of preventing them from running off and setting up on their own.

Also, we don't know how long the process of becoming a Ringwraith takes: Sauron stole the Nine Rings centuries before the Nazgul appeared. Given that Sauron had only declared himself openly less than 70 years before LOTR, he might not have had time.

6

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...

Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

The conclusion seems plain: Sauron needs the One Ring in order to be able to control the others; given that it was no longer in his possession at the end of the Third Age he would therefore not have been able to distribute the other rings and create new Ringwraiths (at least not under his control).

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    "Sauron needs the One Ring in order to be able to control the others." But if he needs the One Ring to control the others, how did he control the Ringwraiths during the centuries when the One Ring was lost? – RichS May 16 '17 at 19:10
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    @RichS --- I think Sauron initially controlled the Nazgul by holding the one while they held the nine. Later he controlled them by holding the nine himself. – Ian Thompson May 16 '17 at 19:11
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    @IanThompson So during the 3000 years when the One Ring was lost, Sauron held the nine rings in a safety deposit box somewhere? What would happen if somebody stole those nine rings? Could that person control the Ringwraiths? – RichS May 16 '17 at 19:12
  • @RichS --- Sauron reappeared around TA1100. The Nagul reappeared around 200 years later. My guess would be that Sauron restored them somehow, but held onto the rings to keep control of them. That said, I seem to remember some disagreement over this ... I'll look for the relevant quotes. – Ian Thompson May 16 '17 at 19:15
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    @RichS --- Of course, Saruman did have a safety deposit box in which he intended to place the ring (see the Disaster of the Gladden Fields in the Unfinished Tales). Perhaps this was a pale imitation of the safety deposit box in Barad-Dur. – Ian Thompson May 16 '17 at 19:28

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