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The movies tell you that the Witch-king is another just Nazgul, albeit their king, but the books seemed to suggest that he was a man. And the fact that he was the Necromancer briefly mentioned in The Hobbit just serves to further cloud things. My question is, who and what is the Witch-king?

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First off, the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, that you recall mentioned in "The Hobbit", was NOT the Witch King of Angmar, but his boss - Sauron himself.

Second, just like ALL Nazgul, the Witch King was a human. They were all kings of old who were given the 9 Rings of Power, and succumbed to them.

Tolkien Gateway has a very good article on the Witch-King.

... Sauron ... gave nine of them [Rings] to Mannish kings, sorcerers, and other warriors.[Silmarillion].

With these rings the Nine achieved glory and grew wealthy, with the ability to turn invisible at will, not aging, but hating life as they were slowly drawn under Sauron’s dominion. Eventually all became Ringwraiths, the Nazgûl.

The one later known as the Witch-king was one of these, likely one of the unnamed three lords of Númenor to take the rings [Silmarillion]

He first appeared in the histories as a Ringwraith in S.A. 2251. Being the most powerful of the Nazgûl, he became their chief, the most dreaded servant of his master Sauron.

Sources:

  • The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", p. 289
  • The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor", p. 267, Ballantine Books p. 320
  • That defiantly answers my question. I knew what the nazgul were, but I wasn't clear on whether or not he was actually one of the nine. – Lord Apricot Mar 20 '13 at 20:55
  • Before the Peter Jackson movies it was implied that the witch king was the necromancer only after the hobbit movies did I see any reference to Sauron being the Necromancer. – TheShade Dec 15 '14 at 0:51
  • @TheShade Not true at all – The Fallen Dec 15 '14 at 1:39
  • Commenting because I don't have books handy to confirm: during the period the Witch-King was active, he wasn't known to be one of the Nine. It was only afterwards that it was discovered/realized that he was, in fact, the chief of the Nazgul. – chepner Mar 16 '16 at 20:07
  • @TheShade In both the books and the Jackson LotR films the Necromancer of Dol Guldur is shown to be Sauron after becoming incarnate long after his defeat during The War of the Last Alliance. I can't say for sure what the perspective would be in The Hobbit films, if we were to take those as the only canon. – Integration Feb 19 '17 at 20:05
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All nine of the Nazgul were at first men, powerful ones in fact, they were each individually corrupted by the rings Sauron gave them.

Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. -Silmarillion pg 346

Some texts say that three of them were great Lords of Numenor (the Witch King being one of these). After becoming corrupted they each were completely under the will of Sauron. Specifically, the Witch King was just considered the mightiest of the Nazgul as well as the lieutenant of Sauron. He was a fantastic strategist / tactician apparently, as was shown in his Campaign against Arnor.

EDIT: Oh, also, the Necromancer was in fact Sauron as DVK already mentioned.

  • also immensely powerful not just a strategist but also a Dark Lord if you will but a lesser Dark Lord from Sauron and The might Morgoth – The Extinct Surgeon Dec 21 '13 at 10:31

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