31

My understanding is that those stabbed by a Morgul blade slowly turn into a wraith.

Is there a reason the Nazgûl and the Witch King of Angmar did not go around stabbing people and turning them into wraiths?

  • 13
    What would be the point? They might become wraiths but they wouldn't become ringwraiths. Sauron has plenty of low grade servants, he doesn't need any more. – TheMathemagician May 7 '13 at 1:22
  • 3
    @TheMathemagician Add in the distinction between the two (for those of us who are uncertain of the powers of each), and that'd be a decent answer – Izkata May 7 '13 at 2:09
  • 2
    It may not be cannon but, as a gamer, I think this is a very interesting question. Sauron might have lots of servants but a small army of wraiths -- even "low grade" ones would have to be a pretty imposing presence. And even if Sauron didn't want/need them, if the true ringwraiths have some power over the wraiths they create, they could build their own troop of minions. – Ron Smith May 7 '13 at 19:58
  • Not a full answer, but how many Morgul Blades were there? IF there were only one or two wouldn't it make sense to save them for high priority targets like Frodo? – jacen.garriss May 12 '13 at 16:01
  • @TheMathemagician Sauron doesn't want more servants? Are we talking about the same Sauron? – Misha R Feb 17 '16 at 7:04
37

I'm reasonably sure the only person other than Frodo who Tolkien mentions being stabbed with a Morgul-blade is Boromir, a Steward of Gondor. The section of Appendix A to Lord of the Rings about the Stewards says:

In the last years of Denethor I the race of uruks, black orcs of great strength, first appeared out of Mordor, and in 2475 they swept across Ithilien and took Osgiliath. Boromir son of Denethor (after whom Boromir of the Nine Walkers was later named) defeated them and regained Ithilien; but Osgiliath was finally ruined, and its great stone-bridge was broken. No people dwelt there afterwards. Boromir was a great captain, and even the Witch-king feared him. He was noble and fair of face, a man strong in body and will, but he received a Morgul-wound in that war which shortened his days, and he became shrunken with pain and died twelve years after his father.

That is, not everyone stabbed with a Morgul-blade becomes a wraith; some of them just end up with painful and eventually-deadly wounds. Since becoming a wraith is otherwise correlated with Rings of Power, it seems like a reasonable guess (though not one otherwise supported, to the best of my knowledge) that Frodo would only have become a wraith because he was stabbed while being a Ringbearer, as Jardyn suggests in the other answer.

  • 1
    Remember that some in Minas Tirith knew about athelas, which stops the poison in a Morgul blade. Maybe he got lucky :) – jwenting May 7 '13 at 6:04
  • 2
    I'm not sure that Athelas is valid here; Denethor I was a Ruling Steward so there was no King, and remember: "the hands of a King are the hands of a healer" - a King was needed to stop the Black Breath so one would expect that a Morgul Blade's wound would be something beyond that. Aragorn couldn't fully heal Frodo (admittedly he wasn't a King then) and it took all of Elrond's skill to partially heal him - the effects of his wound lingered and were instrumental in him going West. – user8719 May 7 '13 at 16:41
  • Faramir was not stabbed with a Morgul blade. "Even as the Nazgul had swerved aside aside from the onset of the White Rider, there came flying a deadly dart, and Faramir, as he held at bay a mounted champion of Harad, had fallen to the earth." The Reurn of the King – S. Albano May 7 '13 at 23:17
  • Morgul is a term for the arts of the enemy. Minas Morgul is translated as the Tower of Sorcery. It used to be Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon. – S. Albano May 7 '13 at 23:19
  • @S.Albano I’m confused—where did anything about Faramir being stabbed with a Morgul blade come from? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 17 '16 at 0:50
30

Aside from the other answers, it's wrong to think of a Nazgul as some kind of Mr Stabby Mc Stabstab that likes to run around Middle Earth creating little wraiths.

Nazgul are sinister, not psychopaths. They're a tool, a weapon that is only used at the greatest need. Witness Radagast's conversation with Gandalf in FotR:

'"I have an urgent errand," he said. "My news is evil." Then he looked about him, as if the hedges might have ears. "Nazgul," he whispered. "The Nine are abroad again. They have crossed the River secretly and are moving westward. They have taken the guise of riders in black."

'I knew then what I had dreaded without knowing it.

'"The enemy must have some great need or purpose," said Radagast; "but what it is that makes him look to these distant and desolate parts, I cannot guess."

"The Nine are abroad again" - "The enemy must have some great need or purpose" - these are not beings that run around willy-nilly, as I said.

"Purpose" is a key word here, we need to look at what the Witch King's purpose was in stabbing Frodo. Was it to make him a wraith? Certainly not. His purpose was to get the Ring back for Sauron; making Frodo a wraith was a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We learn a good deal more in The Hunt for the Ring, published in Unfinished Tales. First of all:

At length he resolved that no others would serve him in this case but his mightiest servants, the Ringwraiths...

This backs up my first statement - the Ringwraiths are not a tool that Sauron uses lightly; they are his mightiest servants that he uses only for the gravest tasks.

Next:

Yet this weakness they had for Sauron's present purpose: so great was the terror that went with them (even invisible and unclad) that their coming forth might soon be perceived and their mission be guessed by the Wise.

So, if the Ringwraiths did run around Middle Earth creating little wraiths, their presence would very soon become known. That would hugely impair their ability to act in secret:

his (Sauron's) chief purpose was that the coming forth of the Nazgûl should appear only as part of his policy of war against Gondor... the Nazgûl were commanded to act as secretly as they could.

It's clear that running around Middle Earth creating little wraiths would be quite contrary to Sauron's purpose.

So in conclusion we have two reasons against running around creating lots of little wraiths: there's no additional purpose to doing so, and doing so would risk comprimising the Nazgul's secrecy, and thereby go against Sauron's plans.

  • 1
    Nice answer ! Your first sentence made my day ^^ – Xaltar May 24 '13 at 13:45
  • Actually, that doesn't really answer the question, since the Nazgul could have had men (or dwarves?) brought to them to make into wraiths. Especially Easterlings, Haradrim and such. – einpoklum Jan 22 '14 at 14:52
  • @einpoklum - "the Nazgul could have had men (or dwarves?) brought to them to make into wraiths. Especially Easterlings, Haradrim and such" counters reason 2 but not reason 1: "there's no additional purpose to doing so". – user8719 Jan 22 '14 at 16:46
  • @JimmyShelter: Well, first, "Great need or purpose" is required for them to leave Mordor, I was talking about routine evildoer recruitment procedures... also, after the council attacks Dol Guldur, it can be argued that Sauron is trying to get things going quickly, so you have this kind of need or purpose. – einpoklum Jan 22 '14 at 16:53
12

As I understood it the reason that Frodo was in danger was because a fragment of the morgul blade snapped off and remained in his body, working its way towards his heart. In the books it is mentioned that at that point he would have become a wraith and was only saved because Elrond removed the fragment. This would not necessarily happen in all cases though, so I have never inferred that simply being stabbed by such a blade could cause this to happen - only if it fragmented in the wound. As Gandalf explains to Frodo in Rivendell:

They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command

  • 2
    I always understood this passage to mean that the purpose of a Morgul blade was to remain in the wound – The Fallen May 7 '13 at 14:07
  • @SSumner - That doesn't mean it always works, or that the Nazgul always strike for the heart and/or for the blade to snap. – Rex Kerr May 7 '13 at 14:36
  • 1
    It seems to me that though they might not always strike for the heart, when using that particular weapon, they intend for the tip to snap – The Fallen May 7 '13 at 15:53
  • SSumner's reading is IMO correct; the Witch King did not stab Frodo with his sword but with a knife held in his other hand: "In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife", "He stooped again and lifted up a long thin knife", "It was this accursed knife that gave the wound" - this wasn't a regular attack so what the Nazgul do during a regular attack is not particularly relevant. – user8719 May 7 '13 at 23:03
4

My understanding of it is that if the person stabbed does not have a ring of power, he will die, however if he/she does, then the blade has a sort of corrupting and enhancing power on the ring.

3

Sauron gave 9 rings to 9 powerful leaders of Men. These 9 all became Ring Wraiths upon their deaths because of the Rings. Frodo being the Ringbearer, if he would have died while holding the ring would have become a Wraith as well. Further if Frodo would have died due to to wound inflicted by the Nazgul, he would have been subservient to the Nazgul as a Wraith.

2

My understanding is that there were wraiths... and then there were wraiths. The Nazgul were powerful and feared as wraiths because of the rings they possessed. But a typical person who became a wraith would exist only as spirit, with little ability to influence the physical world.

2

Note that fragment of the Morgul-blade snapped off and remained in his body. The remaining part of blade "seemed to melt and vanished like a smoke in the air".

This weapon almost certainly may be used only once and probably is troublesome in storage (destroyed by light) and hard to produce.

Therefore producing new wraiths, probably far less powerful than Nazgûl using this method is inefficient use of available resources (both Ringwraiths and materials necessary to produce blades).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.