In JRR Tolkien's work the Ring of Barahir (RoB) was one of the key heirlooms of the Heirs of Elendil.

There is a relevant passage I recall, (I think it is from "Appendix A" of LotR, but my copy of RotK is not available).

This passage tells the story of the flight of Arvedui, the last King of Arnor (and ancestor of Aragorn). He fled before the assault of Angmar and its Witch-king (later the chief of the Nazgûl). He took ship for the ice-bay and found refuge with the locals (snowmen?). They advised him to wait until later in the year, but he tried to sail home. He was caught by a storm, frozen in, and his ship crushed and sunk. But he left the Ring of Barahir as a pledge of repayment for the food and help he had received.

It was redeemed by the Dúnedain later, and the text goes on to say "thus was preserved the oldest work of men's hands in Middle-earth". (This is quoted from memory.)

And there is the problem. The RoB had been given to Barahir by Finrod Felagund, Elven King of Nargothrond as a token of gratitude for having covered Finrod's retreat, I think from the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Barahir's son Beren used the RoB to establish his status as an Elf-friend entitled to some respect at his initial presentation to Thingol, and later claimed the aid that Finrod had promised his father during his quest for the Silmaril. Finrod died defending Beren.

But given this origin it would seem very likely that the RoB was made by some Elven craft worker. How could it be "the work of men's hands"? Who actually made it?
It was indeed very old, older than Elrond, as it was given to Elrond's Great-Great-Grandfather. It is indeed one of the symbols of Aragorn's lineage from the First Age, and particularly from Beren and Lúthien.

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    I’m reading through it right now and don’t see line remotely similar to "thus was preserved the oldest work of men's hands in Middle-earth". No claim or implication that an Elf did not make it. I see it now, you mixed things up. That line was said about the Scepter of Annuminas, not the Ring of Barahir. Sep 24, 2022 at 3:10
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    A footnote in Appendix A refers to the scepter of Annúminas (not the ring of Barahir) as "perhaps the most ancient work of Men's hands". Said sceptre was handed down among the Lords of Andúnië.
    – chepner
    Sep 24, 2022 at 15:34
  • @suchiuomizu Thank you. It seems that my memory was in error. This makes much more sense. Sep 24, 2022 at 15:42
  • @chepner Thank you and suchiuomizu. It seems that my memory was in error. This makes much more sense. Sep 24, 2022 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


As @suchiuomizu noted in the comments, the ring was not the work of men. In the same chapter of The Silmarillion in which Beren used the ring to establish his bona fides with Thingol (Ch. 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien"), Tolkien tells us that the jewels in the ring were "devised" by the Noldor in Valinor:

His words were proud, and all eyes looked upon the ring; for he held it now aloft, and the green jewels gleamed there that the Noldor had devised in Valinor. For this ring was like to twin serpents, whose eyes were emeralds, and their heads met beneath a crown of golden flowers, that the one upheld and the other devoured; that was the badge of Finarfin and his house.

We are not explicitly told that the ring itself was crafted in Valinor, yet it seems likely. Another possibility is that the jewels mentioned above were among the treasures Finrod had brought from Valinor, and that they were crafted into a ring by the dwarves of the Blue Mountains who had helped build Nargothrond. Tolkien does not imply that the dwarves did so, but in The Silmarillion (Ch. 13, "Of the Return of the Noldor") he describes the crafting of the Nauglamír:

[T]hat stronghold was called Nargothrond. In that labour [of building the stronghold] Finrod was aided by the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains; and they were rewarded well, for Finrod had brought more treasures out of Tirion than any other of the princes of the Noldor. And in that time was made for him the Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves, most renowned of their works in the Elder Days.

So, it's likely the ring was crafted in Valinor, but it's also possible it was crafted by dwarves at around the same time they created the Nauglamír. Either way, the ring was not crafted by men.

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