After the fight with the Balrog Gandalf says to his fellows "Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done." (The two towers, ch. The white rider).

The three rings (and the one ring) are, albeit magical and special, physical objects: which can, as we know, be physically destroyed.

As far as I understand Gandalf already at the time of meeting the Balrog was the ring bearer of Narya. So, why doesn't he lose his ring before his "resurrection"? Since he comes back "naked" it would seem natural that all his physical possessions are gone with the Balrog.

  • 39
    You do not want to know where he kept the ring while naked.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:42
  • 16
    For some reason Pulp Fiction came to my mind.. ;-)
    – Francesco
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:50
  • 8
    @Francesco - wait, so Vincent's briefcase contained Narya? Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 15:22
  • 3
    @Francesco So you're saying he hid it in the only place he could, ...
    – NominSim
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 16:19
  • 4
    He also grab the sword, so maybe he was really sent back naked, to the same point where he died (peak of the mountain), and there he grabbed Narya and Orcrist.
    – Envite
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 8:13

4 Answers 4


After his death, Gandalf was send back by Eru, the supreme being. Eru was probably able to send Gandalf back with his ring.

The Ring might be attached to its owner in a magical way. Saruman was also unable to take Gandalf's ring during his imprisonment in Orthanc.

  • 34
    "Eru ex machina" Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 16:09
  • 2
    Good point about Saruman. Do you know about any source which references a specific intervention (the ex machina by @markbeadles)?
    – Francesco
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 11:47
  • 5
    It's also in Letter 156, stating that because Gandalf "passed out of thought and time", he had to have been sent back by "the Authority" (Eru) as this was beyond the abilities of the Valar. (Comment by dlanod)
    – Andomar
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 13:35
  • 3
    'Out of thought and time' & 'the Authority' (the TimeLords?)? Makes me want to think Gandalf is a timelord....
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 12:38

Gandalf's body "died" on the peak, naked he was sent back, then he was returned to middle earth. Perhaps he was returned directly to the same spot he died. OR from wherever he re-appeared, he clearly took the trouble to journey back to the location of his death so he could retrieve his ring & his sword. Makes perfect sense, more difficult quests have been undertaken for lesser treasures.

  • 11
    Sure, who hasn't looted their own corpse???
    – John C
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 17:51
  • 1
    Just to clarify, Gandalf was returned directly to the same spot he died.
    – Herohtar
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 16:09

Sauron also kept his ring when his body got destroyed. Tolkien says that people shouldn't "boggle" at how a spirit can keep hold of a ring.

In October of 1958, Tolkien wrote a long letter to Dr Rhona Beare (then a student at Exeter University, responding to a list of twelve questions she sent him on behalf of a group of "fellow-enthusiasts for The Lord of the Rings"). One of her questions was "How could Ar-Pharazôn defeat Sauron when Sauron had the One Ring?" In Tolkien's answer he confirms that Sauron brought the ring to Númenor. He then talks about Sauron's destruction there and says to not "boggle" at how his spirit carried it off.

Sauron was first defeated by a ‘miracle’: a direct action of God the Creator, changing the fashion of the world, when appealed to by Manwë: see III p. 317. Though reduced to ‘a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind’, I do not think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon which his power of dominating minds now largely depended. That Sauron was not himself destroyed in the anger of the One is not my fault: the problem of evil, and its apparent toleration, is a permanent one for all who concern themselves with our world. The indestructibility of spirits with free wills, even by the Creator of them, is also an inevitable feature, if one either believes in their existence, or feigns it in a story.
Letter to Rhona Beare, 14 October 1958, Letter of JRR Tolkien #211

Tolkien does not seem to have ever explained how a spirit could carry a ring, but he explicitly says that it's what happened, so I think it would make sense that Gandalf's spirit also kept his ring.


If you find a dying balrog smashed into the side of a crumbling mountain, it is probably not a good idea to check whether it and the party responsible for killing it are really dead. Narya would have been safe near the peak, right where Gandalf abruptly left it. Besides, Gandalf believes there were no witnesses.

'There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.' Suddenly Gandalf laughed. 'But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me; and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

  • Can you clarify your answer? Also, it's good form to cite your sources. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 8:05
  • It would help if you specified where that quote is from.
    – Moogle
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 8:44
  • 8
    Ah... the following paragraph in The Two Towers may be more familiar. It begins: "'Naked I was sent back -- for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone." That is, the location he returns to is the same that the Balrog led him to, except it is now flatter. The passage does not suggest to me that he left bodily, with all possessions.
    – user130144
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 8:53

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