Would they become wraiths and dominated by Sauron, or would they just be able to be mind-read?


Sauron would see everything that had been done by the power of the Elven Rings and gain control of the wearers.

And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them. 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 he would be master of them, and of all that they wrought. Then in anger and fear they took off their rings.

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

So it would appear that Elves -- certainly Celebrimbor of Eregion, and seemingly one or more of the other Elven-smiths as well -- were wearing the Elven Rings for a brief instant when Sauron first put on the One Ring. Unfortunately for Sauron, the process also worked in reverse for them: Celebrimbor at least understood exactly what had happened and hid the Three Rings before Sauron and his army came to Eregion to take all the Rings by force.

Per Gandalf, the process of becoming a wraith is tied to use of a Ring:

And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings.

The Shadow of the Past - The Fellowship of the Ring

If the wearer has control of the Ring (rather than vice versa), it appears becoming invisible is an at-will power. Galadriel is wearing her Ring in "The Mirror of Galadriel" but is, of course, quite visible to Frodo and Sam. Likewise, Tom Bombadil dons the One Ring and it does not automatically turn him invisible as it does the hobbits. Likewise, Sauron's possession of the One Ring would not, in itself, accelerate the process of turning the owners of the Elven Rings into wraiths -- though being under his mental control wouldn't be a huge improvement...

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    I would question whether invisibility was an "at-will power" of any of the great rings. I don't recall any examples of the true owner of a ring of power becoming invisible. Likewise Bombadil cannot be sited as a supportive argument as the ring had no power over him. – TGnat Mar 14 '11 at 14:05
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    Hmm; I'm afraid you are quite right to question that inference. I had always assumed that the visibility of Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf while wearing the Elven Rings meant that at least some wearers could choose whether or not to exercise a power of invisibility. But a letter by Tolkien says that the Three Rings "... did not confer invisibility"; the ability of the other Rings to do so was "more directly derived from Sauron". – MLP Mar 14 '11 at 16:06
  • I recall a discussion on a newsgroup many years ago where the argument was made that Elves are different from men (possibly because they have been in Aman and are immortal) so they would in no case become wraiths or "super-Nazgul", but they would be enslaved. – WOPR Mar 14 '11 at 23:08
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    The earliest drafts of LOTR mention elf-wraiths created by the Rings (though Tolkien's first inclination was that the Necromancer did not control them). The Dwarves, on the other hand, are presented from the very first as resistant to this power of the Rings. In letters, Tolkien mentioned that Elves and Men were similar enough biologically to have children. In some very late essays, Tolkien mentions that the Valar would refuse to re-embody slain Elves who had done great evil. So I would definitely side with those who argued that Elves could become wraiths. – MLP Mar 15 '11 at 4:06
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    @MLP it was always my feeling that the three did not grant invisibility - that would've been pretty useless for elven creations destined to making the world better . However for the other rings, they were all made by the same dude who did seem to think invisibility was cool, since he put it on his own ring. I don't think major elves like Galadriel or Elrond could've been quickly corrupted through the use of the rings, it seemed (according to the books) that it was more an issue of palantir-style thought transfer which implied at least a mental fight with the dark lord. – Morg. Oct 6 '11 at 6:22

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