It is clear that the three Elven rings were not made by Sauron. The inscription on the One Ring, made by Sauron, was in some way related to its power, even if we cannot say if it was by fancy (it makes for a nice trick :) ), if it was required by the spell or whatever: it is just like that. What is clear is that when Sauron put it on and the Elves understood the plot, a lot of action started rolling.

Now my point is: the ring poem (while being great, of course) seems slightly inaccurate.

We know that it is a verse "long known in Elven-lore", as Gandalf explains to Frodo in Shadows of the Past.

Was it written by the Elves? Why am I even asking, since Elves clearly love poetry and songs? Because:

  1. It explicitly mentions, at least two times, the (translation of the) evil inscription on the Ring.
  2. It is describing the actions and the purposes of the Lord of the Rings: but the Lord only gave out the Seven and the Nine, but not the Three which were exceptional: he had power over them because they were "made" with the same techniques but he had not planned them, they were made independently and one can imagine that they "caught him by surprise".

So, isn't it a bit strange that the verse long known in Elven lore seems to place the Three on the same footing, as if the purpose of the One Ring had been from start to rule them all? Isn't a bit strange that Elves used for their verses the very words of the spell (which were surely regarded as very evil: in our world it would be similar to quote in a poem words spoken by some dictator...)?

P.S. Yes, it is conceivable that Sauron would make some rings for the Elves, to keep them under his control: but this still had not happened and things went in a different direction.

3 Answers 3


That's a very good question! My suspicion is that the inscription is of Sauron's doing, but the full verse was created separately.

The full verse in question:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Gandalf mentions Sauron's forging of the Ring and the inscription mentioned as being heard:

Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.

At this point the inscription lines exist. We can deduce that the rest of the verse did not yet exist, as the Seven and Nine were only doled out once these rings were seized from the Elves – after the One Ring was forged:

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… 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.

Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of Power; and he dealt them out… 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.

Given that timeline it becomes obvious that the rest was written at a later date. Who by, it isn't revealed. It may have been the Elves, Sauron or some other person on either side. Just because the verse was "long known in Elven-lore" does not mean that it was written by an Elf just that they knew of it.

Since Elves who were around at the forging of the Ring still lived in Middle Earth (Cirdan, Celeborn, Galadriel, Elrond and potentially others), the suspicion would be that they would know who wrote the verse if it had been composed by an Elf. This person isn't revealed, but as Francesco pointed out, whoever wrote the verse would need to be somewhat cognisant of Ring-lore, i.e. knowing the verse heard by the Elven-smiths of Eregion, knowing of the existence of the Three, Seven and Nine and their purpose. That would limit it to either an Elf, one of the Wise (i.e. an Istari) or Sauron or one of his close lieutenants, if they were so inclined to write poetry in their spare time.

  • 6
    Actually I think your first point is a good one. That definitely points towards an Elf, given my human theory was mainly supposition based on the races. On the second point, I don't view "Mordor where the Shadows lie" as being derogative. After all this is a being that called himself the Necromancer. I think he views shadows and death as a good thing.
    – dlanod
    Aug 1, 2012 at 8:32
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    With regards to orcs: I'd exclude any poetic inclination: and more than that I'd exclude that elves would use their verses, being not exactly on good terms. Dwarves have their song (Gimli quotes them) but the verse says "in THEIR halls of stone" and not "in OUR..." so I think that we are talking either Elves or Maiar (Sauron himself, other Istari).
    – Francesco
    Aug 1, 2012 at 8:39
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    @Francesco I agree with dlanod that "land of Mordor where the Shadows lie" is not derogatory, it's simply descriptive. Morgoth and Sauron both hated the Light. Aug 1, 2012 at 14:48
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    I think it's worth mentioning, too, that the One Ring inscription, while written with Elvish letters, was in the Black Speech. Aug 1, 2012 at 14:48
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    @MarkBeadles point taken. I said derogatory because the poem (to me) describes a progression (rather: a regression) from the skies, the halls... to the darkness and the shadow (repeated, as a lament). It is (to my ears) not triumphant, like it would be if it were from the point of view of Sauron, glad that his plot is working, but is a "lament". A lament which uses the words of the enemy: which is strange, hence my question :-)
    – Francesco
    Aug 1, 2012 at 14:53

The poem was probably made by the elves, except for one part of it, the part on the ring itself, the inscriptions (Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul), those were made by Sauron himself and inscribed in the Black Speech of Mordor.

From One wiki to rule them all:

These words, in the Black Speech of Mordor, are physically painful to any Elf who hears them (as well as any other words of that language), most probably because of the power and the shadow they bring (the Shadow being the more harmful to the elves). The inscription uses Elvish lettering because all forms of writing Tolkien describes at that time were invented by the Elves.

The elves newer uttered the parts that was made in the Black Speech. A probability is that the elves made the poem as a tale, but later someone else expanded it, including the inscriptions on the ring itself. The last two lines of the ring poem were probably repeated, ending the tale.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, 
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, 
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, 
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The elves have a way of expressing themselves through words in a poem or song, describing or telling a tale with words. They themselves loved words, poems and song. They loved to tell a tale through song. If it wasn't made by the elves, it was probably improved by the elves, they are the only people old enough to remember the real events of the poem itself.

  • @Francesco Sure, updated!
    – Secko
    Aug 1, 2012 at 14:54

I think the Black Speech inscription must have existed first (the part that begins with "One ring to rule them all"), before the rest of the poem, since it happened first, chronologically: when Sauron deceived the Elves.

We know it's not made by Elves, since they hate Black Speech and would never voluntarily speak it or write it (see everyone's reaction to Gandalf speaking it during Elrond's Council).

The rest of the poem might very well be a later addition, and might have been written by Elves. It must be a later addition, since it describes Sauron's treachery, which implies the One Ring was already made and already had its nasty inscription.

So I don't see that it is misleading. It is a poem describing Sauron's treachery, which meant the One Ring "rule them all", but it doesn't imply the Elves knew from the start this would happen. It doesn't imply Sauron made the Three Rings, either, just that they were "for the Elven-kings" -- which is true if they made the rings themselves!

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