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The only way to destroy the Ring is by throwing it into the fire of Orodruin. This fact doesn't seem to be common knowledge and many people in the story (like Gimli) only learn about it at the council in Rivendell. How come Gandalf and Elrond know about this? And why are they so sure that it is the only way to destroy it? Taking the ring to Mordor means taking a great risk, so they must have been really confident that it is the only option. Where did they gain that knowledge?

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    Because Gandalf has studied ringlore for decades and is quite literally the world's third greatest expert on them. – Valorum Aug 5 '17 at 15:37
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    IIRC, they knew that Orodruin was the only volcano whose fires were hot enough to melt the ring. If it was hot enough to forge the ring in the first place, they hoped (assumed?) it was still hot enough to destroy it. Incidentally, the movie shows the ring being cast, not forged, even though both books and movies say it was forged. – RichS Aug 5 '17 at 15:48
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    @Loki - Saruman was the greatest 'expert' in Ringlore. Sauron, presumably knows more about the rings of power than even Saruman since he made the One Ring and enchanted it. Celebrimbor would have been numero uno but dead men tell no tales. – Valorum Aug 5 '17 at 18:22
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    @RichS I'm pretty sure it had less to do with the heat of the fire and more to do with the mystic connection the ring had to the place of its making. – Paul Aug 5 '17 at 19:03
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    Dragon fire could not destroy the One Ring. – Ian Thompson Aug 6 '17 at 12:55
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Knowledge of how to destroy the Ring dates back to at least the end of the Second Age, after Isildur took the Ring, and as described in the chapter The Council of Elrond:

'Alas! yes,' said Elrond. 'Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast then into Orodruin's fire nigh at hand where it was made. But few marked what Isildur did. He alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Círdan stood, and I. But Isildur would not listen to our counsel.'

It's notable that this occurred before Gandalf (or Saruman, for that matter) arrived in Middle-earth, and that Elrond and Círdan are (at that time) both Ringbearers: Elrond holding Vilya and Círdan Narya.

It may be assumed that Gandalf (and Saruman) received this information from either Elrond or Círdan (or both), and it must be concluded that this information therefore did not come from Ring research by any of the Istari, since it was clearly known before they arrived.

In Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age we read the following:

But the Elves were not so lightly to be caught. As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them, and of all that they wrought.

This seems the most likely source of the knowledge of where and how the One Ring must be destroyed. Otherwise it is not explicitly stated anywhere.

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    This answers how Gandalf learned of the ring's history from Elrond, but does not answer how anyone would know the only way to destroy the ring. Can you provide quotes from the books showing how they know of the one way to destroy the one ring? – RichS Aug 5 '17 at 18:46
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    If anyone knew, it would be Celembrimbor, and he presumably would have passed the information to (Galadriel and) Gil-galad, who in turn informed his lieutenants Elrond and Cirdan when he passed rings to them. – Buzz Aug 5 '17 at 22:01
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    You know you should REALLY merge your accounts. – Edlothiad Aug 5 '17 at 22:38
  • @Buzz: bonus points for Galadried in parenthesis :) – Teem Porary Aug 6 '17 at 5:47
  • @RichS --- I've tried to work out how Gandalf knew that casting the ring into the fires of Mount Doom was the only way to destroy it. It's too long for a comment, so I've posted an answer. However, I don't think a definitive answer exists. – Ian Thompson Aug 6 '17 at 12:58
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As Victim of Circumstance makes clear in his answer, the fact that the One Ring could be destroyed at Mount Doom was known to the elves at the end of the second age, and this information probably came from Celebrimbor. However, at the Council of Elrond, Elrond says

Gandalf has revealed to us that we cannot destroy it by any craft that we here possess.

So, the elves did not know that the ring could only be destroyed at Mount Doom. Only Gandalf seems to have known any more about the destruction of Rings of Power, and he knew a lot. Aside from pointing out that the Elves could not destroy the One (and that dragons destroyed four of the Seven), Gandalf rules out several other possibilites:

... he [Tom Bombadil] cannot alter the Ring itself.

(The Council of Elrond)

Not even the anvils and furnaces of the Dwarves could do that.

(The Shadow of the Past)

... nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself.

(The Shadow of the Past)

In fact, Gandalf states unequivocally that

There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there.

(The Shadow of the Past).

I think it's important to stress that Ancalagon (had he been alive) could not destroy the Ring because it was 'made by Sauron himself'. My own reading of this is that Gandalf knew destroying the ring without returning it to Mount Doom would require a power greater than Sauron's. How else could he have known that no other method would work, when none had been tried? However, as Gandalf himself puts it:

I knew much and I have learned much. But I am not going to give an account of all my doings to you.

  • Perhaps all those methods were attempted and he read accounts of how they failed. – John Meacham Aug 6 '17 at 23:16
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    @JohnMeacham --- Aside from Sauron himself, the ring had two bearers before Bilbo: Isildur and Gollum. Neither of these looked for a way to destroy it. Also, Ancalagon was dead when the ring was created, so nobody could test whether he could destroy it. Nevertheless, Gandalf knew that Ancalagon lacked the necessary power. – Ian Thompson Aug 6 '17 at 23:31
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    @JohnMeacham As Ian points out nobody tried to destroy the Ring. Tolkien notes in the Letters that Frodo actually failed the quest: he didn't fail morally because he spent all his effort and will to get to the Cracks of Doom; but after the years of having it and after the struggle to get to Sammath Naur and that being its most powerful place he could not do it. If Gandalf hadn't counselled (and Frodo hadn't pitied Gollum) Frodo on 'Pity' then the quest would have failed; the Nazgûl would have come and ... – Pryftan Aug 7 '17 at 17:32
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    @JohnMeacham .. and while they wouldn't hurt him or assault him right there they would try to manipulate him to come see his new kingdom. In either case Sauron would have come and Frodo would be utterly destroyed. So not only did Isildur fail to destroy the Ring, Gollum never intended to and while Frodo set out to he never was able to get himself to do so. In other words nobody ever tried those things. – Pryftan Aug 7 '17 at 17:34
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It was an intelligent guess, presumably made by Elrond during the Second Age

Since it was forged by Sauron in Orodruin itself, it was generally assumed that the One Ring could only be destroyed in the same fire that "created" it. Forging in a real world context literally involves the material to be melted (slightly) first, and then shaped into an object, which is in this case, a Ring. If the fires were hot enough to melt it the first time, it would definitely be hot enough to melt it again.

INTO THE FIRE

What did the Elves know about the Ring?:

  • The Elves knew that an all-powerful and all-dominant Ring was forged by Sauron in Mount Doom, thanks to Celebrimbor, who perceived Sauron when he first put on the Ring.

    But the Elves were not so lightly to be caught. As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them, and of an that they wrought. Then in anger and fear they took off their rings.

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

  • This information was very likely to have been relayed down to Galadriel and Gil-galad when Celebrimbor gave them the Elven Rings, and to Elrond and Cirdan when Gil-galad passed them his Rings.

What didn't the Elves know about the Ring?:

How, exactly, to destroy it. Putting two-and-two together, they reckoned that the Ring could only be destroyed in the place it was made in.

  • 'Alas! yes,' said Elrond. 'Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast then into Orodruin's fire nigh at hand where it was made. But few marked what Isildur did. He alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Cirdan stood, and I. But Isildur would not listen to our counsel.

    The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter II, The Council of Elrond

    The Ruling Ring passed out of the knowledge even of the Wise in that age; yet it was not unmade. For Isildur would not surrender it to Elrond and Círdan who stood by. They counselled him to cast it into the fire of Orodruin nigh at hand, in which it had been forged, so that it should perish, and the power of Sauron be for ever diminished, and he should remain only as a shadow of malice in the wilderness.

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

  • Second Age: So when the time came to destroy the Ring, Elrond and Cirdan counselled Isildur to destroy it in the fires where it was forged.

  • Third Age: Fast forward, Elrond merely repeats this information at the Council of Elrond.

  • Third Age onwards: Thereafter this so-called "information on how to destroy the Ring" was taken up by the Istari, who came only at around Third Age Year 1000-ish. Saruman, being a Maia of Aule himself, might have given his two-cents on how the Ring could be destroyed (when he was still "good"), but this cannot be confirmed.

As far as we know, as this is never discussed explicitly, it can be assumed as an intelligent guess.

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    You'd think, knowing all of this, that Elrond would have searched the river after Isildur died... Imagine how easy it would have been to toss it in Mt. Doom when Sauron wasn't around. – reirab Aug 7 '17 at 7:24
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    @reirab People in the real world already have difficulty finding human corpses in a river, and that's with technological help like diving suits and ultrasound imaging available. A ring is much smaller than a corpse and also doesn't want to be found. There's no way he'd have found the ring. – b_jonas Aug 7 '17 at 15:40
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    @b_jonas Part of the problem there, though, is that corpses can float downriver and the searches rarely last more than a few days. A ring will mostly just sink and stay put. And he had, what, 3,000 years to dredge the river and with a whole army to do it? – reirab Aug 7 '17 at 16:28
  • @reirab Well, Redcloak orders his hobgoblin minions to search for Xykon's phylactery giantitp.com/comics/oots0662.html , and they manage to find it giantitp.com/comics/oots0823.html , but I still think finding the ring would be impossible. – b_jonas Aug 7 '17 at 16:33
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    @reirab confusing the right elf at just the right time is all that is needed for the ring to stay unnoticed. Or, for that matter, manipulating a fish or a crab to swallow it and hitch a ride. – MauganRa Aug 8 '17 at 11:39
1

This is only a theory. There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer.

The Council of Elrond didn't know how to destroy the ring, not with certainty. They gathered the best experts available to discuss the possibility. Throwing it into Orodruin was their best guess, not their definitive solution.

From a narrative standpoint, this makes Frodo's errand even more desperate. If they'd guessed wrong, Sauron would have the ring back, and he would rule Middle-earth.

1

The Ainur may be childlike, but they aren't stupid.

Sauron forged the One Ring in Orodruin. This requires it to be hot enough to melt. We know that it was at one point melted, because Sauron emblazoned it with a little poetry written in his pet conlang.

He also funneled a large slice of his fëa (read: SOUL) into it. Saruman and Gandalf would know this - Saruman being an engineer, and Gandalf being the bearer of one of the Three Rings (and therefore having a connection to the One). This is why it corrupts its non-hobbit bearers: Sauron literally has a telepathic connection to the present ringbearer. (Hobbits are less affected because they are naturally resistant to telepathy.)

Therefore, throwing the One into Orodruin would melt the Ring, and destroy the energy pattern locked inside it, thereby killing Sauron.

(Of course, Saruman had planned to extract Sauron's fëa from the Ring so it could be safely used by anyone, but that didn't go through.)

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    Can you back this up with quotes from the books? – Ian Thompson Aug 6 '17 at 22:40
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    It absolutely did corrupt the hobbits; it's just they were more resilient to some of the corruption i.e. took longer. And look at Gollum: a distant Stoor if not a Stoor outright. And furthermore, it did NOT kill Sauron; he was diminished to a shadow that could never threaten Middle-earth again but he did not die. He lingered on as a shadow. – Pryftan Aug 7 '17 at 17:39
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    I should also say that if the hobbits had taken the Ring by force like poor Sméagol did it would have taken them much quicker. That's part of the Ring's nature. – Pryftan Aug 7 '17 at 17:39
  • Forging does not require the metal to be hot enough to melt. In fact, that would make it impossible to forge. A forge makes it soft enough to hammer. Casting requires the metal be heated until it melts. – RichS Aug 8 '17 at 0:46
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    @MauganRa Indeed. But some people suggest it did kill him. For example the actual answer I was responding to. But perhaps I take it too literally and in any event it's all things considered the same result: no longer a threat. – Pryftan Aug 9 '17 at 22:33
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Gandalf is one of the lesser gods of creation, the Maiar, what he does and doesn't know is never made clear but as a servant of Eru Ilúvatar his power in Arda is almost limitless, although the restraints placed on it's use are almost total, but his knowledge base is unavoidably huge. He arrives in Middle-Earth after the fall of Númenor and Eregion to Sauron's machinations and the sealing off of the utmost west, therefore he knows the history of the One Ring (I seem to recall that he's one of the Maiar who is actually there when Númenor and Eregion go down in ruin, or just before, but I could be wrong). He actually knows more about the Ring than he does about Middle-Earth, he's not native to the world we see him in when we read The Lord of the Rings. There's a lot about this in the appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings, more of it, in particular the origins of the Wizards, is in The Book of Lost Tales under Istari but most of it is in The Silmarillion, particularly the fall of Númenor and Eregionand the end of the second age, which is a heavy read to say the least but worthwhile if you actually want to understand the world of Tolkien.

Edit: Apparently I'm wrong and Gandalf doesn't know what's going on, Celebrimbor doesn't make it out of Eregion but Elrond does, he may or may not know what's going on, Celebrimbor is a ring-smith in his own right it would make sense for him to know but he's dead.

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    Gandalf states that he's forgotten the things he knew before and the life he had before. That means regardless of the supposed knowledge he had of the rings, he's forgotten it. – Edlothiad Aug 7 '17 at 12:38
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    No it's when he's first sent to Middle-earth. When he become Gandalf the White he forgets everything he's done up to that point, people speculate this is because he's been given back his memories of Aman which led to him becoming confused. The Istari were given a brain wipe and made to forget most of their past lives. This would aid them in not taking forms of power and/or majesty – Edlothiad Aug 7 '17 at 12:51
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    Here you go. For it is said indeed that being embodied the Istari had need to learn much anew by slow experience, and though they knew whence they came the memory of the Blessed Realm was to them a vision from afar off, for which (so long as they remained true to their mission) they yearned exceedingly. From the UT – Edlothiad Aug 7 '17 at 12:59
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    And what's wrong with The Silmarillion ? I do have a theory but maybe I'm wrong. I'm curious if it really is this: is the problem all the names and locations it's hard to keep track of ? And maybe something to do with the different stories all in one (even though they tie together) ? I quite like TS though I don't read it as often as the others. Not saying you need to read it though although certainly Tolkien at least at some point thought it'd be easier (I think the opposite for most people but some actually did send him letters asking him about more history). – Pryftan Aug 7 '17 at 17:44
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    @Pryftan It is a good story so is Dune that doesn't make them less awkward to read just more rewarding in the end. – Ash Aug 8 '17 at 11:13

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