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Frodo sees Nenya on Galadriel's finger after looking into the Mirror of Galadriel, and yet Sam is unable to see it. Galadriel also says the following:

It is not permitted to speak of it, and Elrond could not do so. But it cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye. Verily it is in the land of Lorien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.

So does this mean that Frodo would have been able to see both Vilya on Elrond's finger and Narya on Gandalf's finger? I am assuming that the Three are like the One in the sense that they must physically be worn in order to utilise their power. Or does the quote by Galadriel mean that literally only one who is Ring-bearer and one who has seen the Eye is able to see the other rings?

Of course, being able to simply see the rings does not imply he would necessarily know what they were, but clearly Sam was unable to see Galadriel's ring at all. Could Frodo see Narya and Vilya when in Rivendell?

3 Answers 3

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No, the fact that Frodo saw Galadriel's Ring does not mean he saw Elrond's and Gandalf's. After all no mention is made of it, and it is a "big deal" that he saw it on Galadriel's finger. It seems unusual to let it pass if he noticed either Gandalf's or Elrond's so I think it's reasonable to assume that he did not, in fact, see it.

Having said that, I think the key is in the paragraph you quoted:

But it cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye.

Frodo never saw Gandalf or Elrond between seeing the Eye in Galadriel's Mirror and destroying the One Ring. I think it was the combination of the two, being the Ring-bearer and also witnessing Sauron's Eye, that allowed Frodo to perceive Galadriel's Ring given her comment. After all, even in Galariel's case, Frodo did not notice her Ring until after witnessing the Eye in her Mirror.

The Three were definitely seen in the conclusion of the LotR:

Elrond wore a mantle of grey and had a star upon his forehead, and a silver harp was in his hand, and upon his finger was a ring of gold with a great blue stone, Vilya, mightiest of the Three. But Galadriel sat upon a white palfrey ... On her finger was Nenya, the ring wrought of mithril, that bore a single white stone flickering like a frosty star.

...

Frodo saw that Gandalf now wore openly upon his hand the Third Ring, Narya the Great, and the stone upon it was red as fire.

So it may also be that either Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf had used their powers to hide the Three, or the Three had an equivalent power that could be turned on and off, and Galadriel chose to reveal her's to Frodo deliberately. It's implied, though not explicit, that Sam could see the Three at this time.

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  • Also, Sam saw something on Galadriel's finger, suggesting that she deliberately reviled it. Maybe you could add that to your answer. Still, +1 for the good work.
    – MadTux
    Mar 13, 2013 at 11:28
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    "revealed" as in "showed", not "reviled" as in "hated", right? Oct 19, 2016 at 20:28
  • By that point Sam had also been a Ring-bearer. I don't recall if it's explicit that he also saw the Eye, but it seems likely as he was in Mordor at the time.
    – OrangeDog
    Feb 14 at 13:09
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Additionally, Gandalf (and the others) would probably not have worn his ring openly. Galadriel wore it whilst safe in her own lands. I would think Gandalf kept it on a chain around his neck or in a safe place on his person.

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    What about after he died? "Naked I was sent back" - what did he do with the ring? Jul 30, 2012 at 7:06
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    I'm not sure why, but for some reason the gold watch out of Pulp Fiction springs to mind...
    – Ash
    Jul 30, 2012 at 12:01
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    @Daniel Roseman: Wasn't he was sent back to the same place he died, the top of Zirak-Zigil? Whether he was reincarnated into a new body, or simply returned to life in his renewed old one, he could have gathered all his stuff (Glamdring and Narya in particular) before being carried back to Lorien by Gwaihir. I wonder where he got his new staff, though. Lorien, presumably, though I don't recall whether it's ever mentioned.
    – LAK
    Mar 18, 2015 at 19:39
  • Hmm, he says of his time in Lorien: "Healing I found, and I was clothed in white", but nothing about a staff specifically. Still, Tolkien leaves it uncertain whether Gandalf's staff is indeed anything special, or just an ordinary piece of wood that he is able to empower. Mar 18, 2015 at 19:49
  • @DanielRoseman "naked" may mean without a body, rather than without clothes.
    – OrangeDog
    Feb 14 at 13:06
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I am assuming that the Three are like the One in the sense that they must physically be worn in order to utilise their power.

Evidently so. From The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age:

As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger [the Elves] were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them, and of all that they wrought. Then in anger and fear they took off their rings.

So yes, it appears wearing the Rings was necessary in order to use them, and to be dominated by Sauron via them. We can conclude that during the time of LotR, Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf were wearing theirs, just not "openly."

Also, immediately following in the same paragraph:

But [Sauron], finding that he was betrayed and that the Elves were not deceived, was filled with wrath; and he came against them with open war, demanding that all the rings should be delivered to him, since the Elven-smiths could not have attained to their making without his lore and counsel. But the Elves fled from him; and three of their rings they saved, and bore them away, and hid them.

And a little lower down:

But Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of Power; and he dealt them out to the other peoples of Middle-earth, hoping thus to bring under his sway all those that desired secret power beyond the measure of their kind. Seven rings he gave to the Dwarves; but to Men he gave nine, for Men proved in this matter as in others the readiest to his will.

From these passages we can see all the rings means all nineteen, which is the sum of nine, seven, and three. The Elves took all of them off. The seven for the Dwarves, and the nine for Men, were originally made by Elves for Elves. The whole situation was a set-up for Sauron to control the Elves, but it didn't work. He hadn't taken into account the fact rings can be removed. Giving rings to the others was an improvised plan B.

The failed project to control the Elves was the reason Sauron put so much of his power into the One Ring to begin with. I won't spoil the outcome for those just now coming across this story.

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