Inspired by this question here, not sure about the LOTR novels (no copy of my books with me) but, in the movies Gandalf touches the Ring once after Bilbo drops it, and gets a vision immediately of Sauron's eye. And later when Frodo returns and after Gandalf throws the ring in the small fire, he uses tongs to take it out [see 0.46 seconds in vid] Does this happen in the novels or does Gandalf only touch it once as it is in the movie?

Gandalf and the Ring

How many times did Gandalf touch the Ring in the novels then? Over at a Tolkien forum somewhere a user said Gandalf touched the Ring while changing its' chain in Rivendell in the novel--- is it true as well?

  • Does The Hobbit count?
    – Spencer
    Jun 12, 2021 at 20:48

3 Answers 3



  1. He unfastened it and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it. Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and solid gold.

  1. For a moment the wizard stood looking at the fire; then he stooped and removed the ring to the hearth with the tongs, and at once picked it up. Frodo gasped.

Both incidents happen in The Shadow of the Past. And yes, Peter Jackson's version of Gandalf using tongs is accurate.

Some (as you have stated) may argue that Gandalf touched it thrice: the last time being at Rivendell. However, there is no proof of this at all. In fact, we are not told who had changed the Ring's chain.

When he had dressed, Frodo found that while he slept the Ring had been hung about his neck on a new chain, light but strong. Slowly he drew it out. Bilbo put out his hand.

  • 9
    Whoever it was that changed the chain might not even have needed to touch the ring; they could probably have threaded it through, fastened it around Frodo's neck, and pulled the old one free, all without any actual contact. Jun 14, 2017 at 8:34
  • Yep, my thoughts exactly. Too bad we don't know.
    – Voronwé
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:40
  • 2
    There was also the incident after Bilbo's going-away party, but IIRC it was in an envelope at the time so I guess that doesn't count. Jun 15, 2017 at 0:54
  • Bombadil touches it as well
    – NKCampbell
    Oct 12, 2020 at 20:16

imho, Gandalf never touches the ring in either the movie nor in the books.

In the movie, Gandalf goes to pick up the ring off the floor after Bilbo drops it. He gets within about a centimetre of touching it, then gets the vision of the eye and pulls his hand away immediately without ever touching it. He leaves it on the floor, to be picked up by Frodo a few minutes later when he comes through the front door.

Then in the fire he uses tongs, not because the ring is hot (he drops it straight into Frodo's hands) but because he doesn't want to touch it.

In the books, I read it that he uses the tongs to move the ring to the hearth, then picks it up (also with the tongs). Then gives it to Frodo (also with the tongs) as in the movie.

Then later in the books, when Frodo unfastens the ring to give to Gandalf, the reason he unfastens it is because it is on a chain round his neck. Otherwise what is he unfastening? Gandalf holds up the ring by holding the chain, not touching the ring.

Gandalf makes it clear throughout both the books and the movie that he does not want to handle the ring.

  • 5
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you reconcile this with the quotes in the previous answer? If not with his fingers, how did Gandalf hold it up?
    – DavidW
    Oct 12, 2020 at 20:11
  • 3
    The ring itself may not have been hot, but the fire around it surely was!
    – Ángel
    Oct 12, 2020 at 20:20

This is why I tell my students not to use the word "it" without clear context.

Gandalf held it up

Could refer to the Ring, or the chain.

... he stopped and removed the ring to the hearth with the tongs, and at once picked it up. Frodo gasped. 'It is quite cool', said Gandalf.

Could refer to the tongs, but a stronger argument suggests that "it" is the Ring itself. Did he know it was cool from touching it, or from his prior research?

In the absence of authorial verification, I choose to believe that Gandalf never actually touched the Ring. But it's certainly ambiguous.

Bear in mind that the Red Book was written from memory after the fact, and rewritten by many Hobbits and Men before Tolkien translated the version he found. Who can say how closely any scene follows the actual events?

  • 3
    This is simply incorrect. Tongs are, as your students would no doubt advise you, plural. He would have picked them up. I guess you could argue that the it (singular) referred to the hearth, but Gandalf is a wizard, not a strongman
    – Valorum
    Jun 12, 2021 at 21:03
  • 1
    And Frodo would not have gasped if Gandalf hadn't done something unusual, like pick up a metal object just removed from hot coals with his bare fingers. May 1, 2022 at 9:40
  • "To Frodo’s astonishment and distress the wizard threw it suddenly into the middle of a glowing corner of the fire." You may choose to believe he held the Ring up by the chain, but it's not likely he threw the Ring with the chain into the fire. Together with "removed the ring to the hearth with the tongs, and at once picked it up" it is hard to believe Gandalf never touched the Ring. Jul 31 at 20:41

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