From Did Sauron have the military power to control all Middle-earth? it's evident that Sauron would eventually win even if he never reacquired the One Ring.

Given that, why did the Council of Elrond debate things like sending the Ring across the sea or asking Tom Bombadil to hide it? Sauron conquering Middle-earth hardly seems like a win, and that's the best-case scenario that can result from these plans.

  • 5
    Better that then speeding up the process.
    – ibid
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 7:03
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    When you're also going into the west, an eventual Sauron victory is only a problem for mere mortals! Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 14:57
  • 21
    No bad ideas at the brainstorming session. All avenues might be bad, but discussing it might shake out something someone hadn't considered. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 18:52
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    Because communicating and assessing the importance of various facts and views was the purpose of the debate? Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


As the reader we have a relatively omniscient perspective, enhanced by the fact that at this point many of us have read the books and/or seen the movies multiple times and are quite familiar with not only the motivations and abilities but even possibly the extended history of the characters (including Sauron, Elrond, and Gandalf).

That is decidedly not the case for many of the attendees of the Council of Elrond. Even some of the elves present, and the (at the time of this writing) most upvoted answer on that question you linked makes explicit mention of this. Elrond is a famous loremaster who was present at many epochal moments in the history of Middle Earth and Gandalf even discounting his divine nature has walked the Earth for "300 lives of men" and delved deeply into the recordings of the past. All of the rich detail they know about the ring and the slim chance they have does not seem to be common knowledge, and as that answer points out even their knowledge of the military situation was incomplete. The point of the Council seems to be mostly to share that knowledge, convince everybody else, and get, in the parlance of our world, "buy-in" from those present.

Some present seemingly thought that if they hide it well enough, then they might (in their own minds) be able to stall Sauron for years. Maybe even thousands of years. Maybe forever. The full extent of the might of Mordor was not widely known, even if Gondor was slowly being whittled down (which was itself not widely known, Boromir has to plead his case). The information we know from Denethor's palantir is not available to them. It's obvious to us that without the destruction of the ring the cause is hopeless, just like it was obvious to Elrond and Gandalf, and perhaps Aragorn who was arguably the most widely-travelled person there (even if their knowledge was limited in scope!).

The thing the wise don't know heading in to the council is how they're going to get it to the Cracks of Doom. A question that Frodo of all people steps up to answer, and thus begins the tale.

TL;DR they debated it to convince those who didn't already know better what the proper course of action should be.

  • 16
    Excellent answer! I'd add one more: People as wise as Gandalf and Elrond know that they are no all-wise: "Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?" Hearing others' opinions may help even them.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 13:30
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    It was not obvious even then that the combined might of the free peoples would not be enough. The host upon host drawn in from the east wasn't known to Boromir.
    – Joshua
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 22:23
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    It's not even obvious to me that the military situation was hopeless. They successfully drove the orcs back to Mordor, after all. Maybe they could have gathered all the strongest elves and wizards and dwarves and humans and eagles, persuaded Gandalf use the full extent of his powers, struck a deal with Saruman, bribed the Easterlings to switch sides... Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 10:43
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    They drove back a small portion of the army Sauron sent against Minas Tirith prematurely (in response to Aragorn's confrontation); there aren't really significant numbers of Elves left; the strongest Dwarf kingdom in the West (Erebor) was already under siege, Saruman had already fallen (if he didn't have Sauron to worry about, he'd immediately replace Sauron as the main threat), and Gandalf is not permitted to use his full power to contest Sauron: the war is for the inhabitants of Middle Earth to win or lose, not for Gandalf to win for them.
    – chepner
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 16:23
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    The wise take a long view. Even if Sauron conqured the whole world, that wouldn't necessarily last forever. In Gandalf's dialogue with Denethor he argues that there will be other peoples and other ages, long after their own story is finished. (In that case, Gandalf is arguing for destroying the ring, not hiding it away, but my point is that the wise are thinking about future ages and not just the present one.)
    – workerjoe
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 18:32

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