A prophecy

"He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." —Glorfindel, The Return of the King, Appendix A (iv)

has been interpreted by many to mean "no man" could kill the Witch-king of Angmar.

I was thinking about the battle on Weathertop when Strider fought the Nazgûl with sword and fire to save Frodo. I'm pretty sure there were a few Nazgûl missing during the attack, and I'm not positive that the Witch-king himself was there, but it made me wonder if any of the other eight Wraiths could be destroyed by man? Strider, with all of his skills, didn't kill a single one.

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    The Witch-King was indeed there. He was the one who stabbed Frodo on Weathertop.
    – The Fallen
    Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


Though the Ringwraiths were among the greatest of Sauron's servants, they also had certain weaknesses that could be used against them. One of these was daylight itself. With the exception of the Witch-king of Angmar, none of them (especially Khamûl) could not operate as well under the Sun and generally feared it. It can be seen that all nine Nazgûl were attacking Minas Tirith, this was because the dark clouds of Sauron covered most of the sunlight.

A Nazgûl set on fire, one of its few weaknesses. They could also not cross running water unless they had to, although the only evidence of this was at Bruinen, and the water there was enhanced with Elven magic. Their greatest weakness was apparently fire. At Weathertop, Aragorn used fire to drive the Ringwraiths away from Frodo. At the Ford of Bruinen, Aragorn and the hobbits that accompanied Frodo used it again to assist Glorfindel and drive the Ringwraiths into the raging water.

Even the Witch-king feared fire; though it's possible it had less of an effect on him over the other eight Nazgûl. If an enemy was strong, enough so to resist fear, then the Ringwraiths, except the Witch-king, had little real power over them individually.


Meriadoc stabbed the Witch King in the leg from behind with the Barrow-blade. Injured, the Witch-king screamed in pain and Éowyn stabbed her sword into his crown and body, thus killing the Lord of the Nazgûl and fulfilling the prophecy of Glorfindel.


[T]the Ring was cast into the fires of Mount Doom [...]. Sauron was immediately defeated by the loss of the Ring, Mount Doom underwent a gigantic volcanic eruption and all eight Nazgûl were destroyed, their form and power dissipating forever.

Nazgûl article on "Lord of the Rings" Fandom page.

The only Nazgûl that was reported to have been killed was the Witch-king. While it's likely that the other Nazgûl could be killed by women, it's not clear if there are other means available to kill the Witch-king and the other Nazgûl (even though there were several ways to cause them pain).

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    This assembled facts really well, but didn't answer the question. Too much speculation. Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 6:16
  • 2
    It was a speculative question with not much of a clear answer based on the known facts.
    – Force Flow
    Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 15:21
  • That's not the best source to point to... Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 23:06
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    If you go around in long, flowing robes, fire is not going to be your friend.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jan 31 at 20:51
  • 1
    Just an observation: in some folklore, witches cannot cross running water either. Maybe Tolkien was inspired by this, given that he took a lot from folklore for his stories.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 15 at 13:43

Not by the hand of man can he fall is not the prophecy. It doesn't say anything about can or can't, just will. That's how events will work out. It will be a combination of Merry's enchanted Barrow-blade, purpose-built as it happens, and Éowyn's sword once the Witch-king has been rendered physically vulnerable.

Glorfindel is telling Eärnur not to bother chasing the Witch-king as he flees. Eärnur won't kill him, and nobody else will soon, either. (Return of the King, Appendix A)

The Witch-king himself seems to have heard the prophecy and made the unwarranted assumption that it means can't: No living man may hinder me. (Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 6, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields")

There's no reason to suppose any of the other Nazgûl lived charmed, well, what, stretched-out lives either.

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    "Glorfindel is telling Eärnur not to bother chasing the Witch-king as he flees." The phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" comes to mind. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 3:23

It seems very likely that they could, with Barrow-blades (the passage indicates that Merry's sword took out his "shield"). The "no man" thing was a prophecy, not a protection, as Lesser son states. At Mount Doom, it's not clear whether their deaths were from flying lava, or a direct result of the destruction of the Ring. I don't have anything else to add to Force Flow's answer. All in all, we don't know, but probably it required some kind of magic.

  • 1
    I think it would not be speculation to say that a regular man could kill a Ringwraith with a weapon enchanted with the idea of it being especially harmful to a Ringwraith. Nowhere does Tolkien say that a regular man could not kill a regular Ringwraith but knowing how magic works in Middle Earth a regular man would probably need either a weapon like the barrow blade or a weapon like Anduril.
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 17:46

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