75

'Alas! yes,’ said Elrond. 'Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast then into Orodruin’s fire nigh at hand where it was made. But few marked what Isildur did. He alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Círdan stood, and I. But Isildur would not listen to our counsel.

‘”This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.

Both knew the power of evil and could guess the amount of suffering caused by not destroying the ring. Why didn't they take it from Isildur by force? Even if they had killed him, it would be a small price to pay for saving thousands. It would even be an ethical decision towards Isildur. It was clear that he is getting corrupted in the very moment he decided to keep it (or perhaps even fight to keep it), and it was clear that he would suffer a lot from its influence and die in sorrow and pain - as Elrond himself says "Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him."

  • 3
    @ROFLwTIME I'd say that Frodo didn't want to destroy the ring at the end only because he was under its influence too long. If he could destroy it at the time he learned about its origin in Shire, he would do it. – Petr Pudlák Jul 22 '13 at 14:24
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    @PetrPudlák I'd go a bit further and add the council as example: Gimli clearly tried and wanted to destroy it. I don't think the Ring would just go "ahaha, let him try, ololol waiting for that face!". But on the other side... that would add a whole new touch to the Ring's "personality". :) – Mario Jul 22 '13 at 16:21
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    @Mario Gimli only tries to destroy the ring in the movies. The movies -- while fun -- tend to be more heavy-handed than the book, and untrue to its subtler themes (also see: the metaphor of Sauron's eye taken too literally). – Andres F. Jul 22 '13 at 20:44
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    @PetrPudlák - doubtful; "When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away, but he found that he had put it back in his pocket". – user8719 Jul 24 '13 at 3:15
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    Why didn't they take the ring that grants its bearer immeasurable power from its bearer by force? – Paul D. Waite Aug 25 '14 at 23:15

12 Answers 12

128

Because taking the Ring is dangerous.

Isildur took it and was ensnared almost immediately; it wasn't long before he was describing it as "precious" in scrolls:

It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain. --Council of Elrond

Smeagol took it and was ensnared almost immediately. He killed his best friend, and went around doing mean and nasty things.

Bilbo didn't take it. He found it, and managed to get away, but he can be regarded as a special case:

Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity. --Shadow of the Past

Boromir tried to take it, and it had him even without him having to touch it.

It's almost certain that both Elrond and Cirdan knew what would happen if they had tried to take the ring from Isildur by force. They were around for the original forging, Cirdan was an original Ringbearer (Elrond only got his from Gil Galad later on), they know the power of the Rings and they know the power of the One. Try to take the Ring by force, and it would have claimed them instead.

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    Taking the "how someone got it" into consideration is actually an interesting thought I haven't considered so far. But I don't remember. Wasn't Smeagol the one who just "found" the ring as well? Or was it his friend whoes name I've forgotten? – Mario Jul 23 '13 at 9:05
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    Mario: Déagol found the ring. When he wouldn't willingly give it to Sméagol (for a "birthday present"), Sméagol...took matters into his own hands. – Ash Jul 23 '13 at 10:17
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    @JimmyShelter Sam was (very briefly) a ring-bearer and surrendered the ring back to Frodo, but again, he "found" it after Frodo left it behind, so he also fits the pattern. – KutuluMike Oct 14 '13 at 20:45
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    Cirdan knows about it because "as soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them" (Rings of Power); Elrond knows from Gil-galad ("At that time also Gil-galad gave Vilya, the Blue Ring, to Elrond" - UT, Galadriel & Celeborn). – user8719 Jan 21 '14 at 22:03
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    Taking the Ring is dangerous, but all they had to do is This Is Sparta him into the lava. Or drag his body with the Ring on it. – Petersaber Jul 31 '15 at 6:19
56
+50

I'm not sure Elrond or Cirdan really had that much knowledge of the Ring's significance. No one but Sauron had actually worn the ring. All they knew for sure was that the One Ring could be used by Sauron to control the other rings. No doubt Elrond understood the general nature of power and evil and had a pretty good guess that keeping the Ring was a bad idea, that no good could come of it, and that the reasonable thing to do was to destroy it.

But to murder King Isildur, your greatest ally and leader of the army of Men, because you think he's making a big mistake? That's really extreme! It is easy to talk about killing people for the greater good, much harder to do in practice when you are a good person like Elrond. You don't just murder your friends on the spur of the moment because you strongly disagree with what they just did. It just isn't realistic, that is not normal behavior.

Also, I don't think it would be very easy to kill Isildur. The movie scene isn't canon. I suspect they had defeated Sauron on a part of the battlefield where no one else of significance was present, but Isildur wasn't necessarily totally out of earshot of his troops. Isildur is a great warrior. The negative consequences of attacking Isildur are obvious and vast, the negative consequences of not destroying the Ring are nebulous and can only be guessed at.

Also, while I'm not so sure about this, didn't the White Council seem rather reluctant to believe that the Necromancer was Sauron? Suggesting that Elrond didn't understand, even then, the true nature of the Ring, and that its existence meant that Sauron would inevitably return. I don't think anyone (except Saruman) truly understood the full nature and danger of the Ring until Gandalf did his research on Bilbo's ring.

  • Not only were Elrond, Cirdan and Isildur friendly and as such unwilling to go into combat for the sake of the ring, but if I remember correctly, Elrond and Isildur are family, Isildur being Elrond's nephew. This adds to Elrond's probable unwillingness to stir up contention -or worse, commit an act of violence- because of Isildur's decision to keep the ring. It just doesn't seem reasonable for an uncle to attack his nephew because his nephew is making what appears to be a bad decision. – Saya Perez Oct 15 '15 at 10:51
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    @SayaPerez: Isildur was Elrond's great-great-...(24 generations)-grand nephew. That doesn't mean your point isn't valid... but realistically speaking, Isildur isn't more closely related to Elrond than any other man. – leftaroundabout Oct 19 '15 at 19:01
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    'For Isildur would not surrender it to Elrond and Círdan who stood by. They counselled him to cast it into the fire of Orodruin nigh at hand, in which it had been forged, so that it should perish, and the power of Sauron be for ever diminished, and he should remain only as a shadow of malice in the wilderness.' So yes they did know or if they didn't know they had a pretty good idea about it. I like your point about extreme actions. Re the film: they cut out the Battle of Dagorlad which was 7 years. White Council: see above. And I am pretty sure they did know the danger.... – Pryftan Aug 16 '17 at 19:30
  • ...But they didn't know where the Ring was at the time. And Saruman of course wanted it for himself so he was persistently saying it'd never be found so he could look. And indeed he does eventually look around Gladden. They knew very well the danger of the Ring. Saruman overruled some of their actions and by the time they went for the attack in Mirkwood Sauron simply retreated to Mordor. – Pryftan Aug 16 '17 at 19:32
25

I always thought - only judging by the movies - that this would be similar to the scene where Frodo offers Gandalf the Ring after discovering its true nature.

Elves are more powerful beings than men, yet they might still fall to the might and influence of the Ring as well (as seen with Galadriel). And that's probably what Elrond and Cirdan feared most as well.

They couldn't dare to take or pick up the ring (or at least they didn't try to do so; also don't forget about Isildur's people probably being rather unhappy, seeing their new king slain (or at least assaulted) the same day... from elves!?).

Something similar is also depicted as Gandalf is handling the Ring with extra care after throwing it into the fire. He knows it's not hot coming from the fire, yet he carefully avoids touching it, where he could have done so to show Frodo that it is indeed not hot.

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    He simply couldn't have pushed Isildur in, claiming that he slipped or took his own life? It was, after all, his 'one chance' to destroy evil forever. Totally worth it, in my book. – Jersey Jul 22 '13 at 14:58
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    @Jersey My sentiment exactly. Although I'm not sure if it's not just in the movie, that Isildur with Elrond got to Orodruin, maybe in the book Isildur took the ring at the battlefield, so there was no chance of just pusshing him in. – Petr Pudlák Jul 22 '13 at 16:13
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    You could as well ask whether he'd been able to willingly commit something evil to prevent further evil. After all, Isildur wasn't someone bad and neither did he intend to harm anyone with the Ring; just influenced already and susceptible due to his own personality (similar to Boromir). – Mario Jul 22 '13 at 16:23
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    "Elves are more powerful beings than men, yet they might still fall to the might and influence of the Ring as well": the danger of The Ring was proportional to the power of the person so an elf taking The Ring (especially an elf as powerful as Elrond) would have been game over. – mu is too short Jul 23 '13 at 2:27
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    It's probable that a willingness to commit evil on Elrond's part would have been enough for the Ring to snare him before he pushed Isildur in. Gandalf, by the way, did touch the Ring in the books - twice in Shadow of the Past, before and after putting it in Frodo's fire - so it's obvious that touching the Ring on it's own isn't enough. – user8719 Jul 24 '13 at 0:13
14

Aside from the other great answers, look at the political situation. Isildur was the king of the men in Middle Earth. The Elves had collected their friends of power to join them as allies and fight Sauron. After winning, they go off somewhere and rob - or maybe even kill- the king of a continent spanning nation "for the greater good".

Good luck avoiding constant war between men and elves after that!

  • Only if there were men within sight of Isildur and the others. The book is unclear on this point. If there were no other witnesses, then Elrond and Cirdan could have blamed Isildur's death on Sauron. (Of course, all the other problems with them trying to take the Ring would still apply.) – Royal Canadian Bandit Jan 20 '14 at 11:13
  • Sauron? The fellow that was just publicly killed by Isildur in battle and had his ring cut off and taken? – Oldcat Jan 20 '14 at 19:19
  • That's my point. We don't know if there were any other witnesses to Sauron's "death". Maybe all the Last Alliance armies knew was that Elendil, Isildur, Gil-galad, Elrond and Cirdan marched off into the volcanic fumes to fight Sauron. If Elrond and Cirdan come back and explain that Sauron killed all the others, who is going to argue with them? – Royal Canadian Bandit Jan 23 '14 at 9:22
  • If you have any source for the fact that the leadership faced Sauron anywhere but on the battlefield by the Black Gate, please name it. My understanding is that Sauron fell on the battlefield in front of the troops. – Oldcat Jan 23 '14 at 18:57
  • I'd like to see the source for your "understanding" too. All I'm saying is that the book is extremely vague on this point -- for example, the quote in the original question only talks about a "last mortal contest". – Royal Canadian Bandit Jan 24 '14 at 9:45
8

I have voted for an answer here and agree to much of what is said. However, there is much to be added also.

Elves and rings, a brief introduction:

Although Sauron knew that men were easier to sway, he sought to bring the Elves into his service, as they were far more powerful. By about SA 1500, Sauron put on a fair visage in the Second Age, and calling himself Annatar, the "Lord of Gifts", he befriended the Elvish smiths of Eregion, and counseled them in arts and magic. Not all the Elves trusted him, particularly Lady Galadriel, Elrond, and Gil-galad, High King of the Ñoldor. However, few elves listened to them, despite their status.

However, as soon as Sauron put the Ring on his finger the Elves sensed his treachery, and removed their rings and hid them.

We can only speculate as to what kind of evil creatures and instruments of Sauron elves would have been had they been swayed by these rings. The result itself would have been catastrophic as an elf would pose as a great weapon and a great servant of Sauron's purpose as we have seen the Nazgûl become.

We could say that Lady Galadriel, Elrond, Gil-galad and Cirdan were far more aware of this, than other elvish leaders.

Gil-galad was entrusted by Celebrimbor with the rings Vilya (Ring of Air) and Narya (Ring of Fire), two of the Three Rings, which he passed on to his herald Elrond and his lieutenant Cirdan prior to his demise at the Siege of Barad-dûr.

The third ring went to Lady Galadriel:

She was also the bearer of Nenya, one of the three Elven rings.

We can conclude that they all knew what The One Ring was and what it could do to them, as they all were in contact with the other rings and Saurons treacherous and deceptive nature to sway the power in his own purpose to his own will. Those that bore the rings and kept them hidden were the elves that sensed Saurons intentions. The keepers of the three hidden rings, Galadriel, Elrond and Cirdan.

Gil-galad was killed by Sauron on Mount Doom that day while Sauron was wearing the One Ring.

He fought bravely against the Dark Lord, but Sauron picked the High King up into the air and threw him against the rocky plateau of Mount Doom, breaking his body

Elves wouldn't toy with such a powerful device that lead people into their own doom. They would stay away from it, or destroy it if they could. That day much blood had been spilled and much was lost so Elrond did what he thought best.

Elrond said he would not force the Ring from Isildur, and left the problem to be dealt with by Men.

Much later in the Third Age, Elrond regretted that he didn't make Isildur cast the ring and destroy it in the fires, but it was too late and it had been lost again. We could ask - "Was Elrond afraid?" Certainly he was, for his race and for the fate of the world.

7

Good question. Elrond expected Isildur to destroy the Ring after all the pain and death it and its master had caused. When he didn't it

a. Threw him a loop.

b. He was afraid.

Like Orlorin, he feared what the power of the ring would do to him. He was confused and angry at Isildur's cowardice and yet he himself was far too terrified to wrest it from Isildur's hand. So in the end he and Isildur were cowards, afraid to do what was right. I think translates into Elrond's bitterness later on. He was still ashamed at what he hadn't done.

  • Cowards? No. Tolkien makes that very clear. It was part of the Ring's very nature. You note that even Frodo couldn't do it. And he was reluctant to throw it into his fire and puts it back in his pocket. Frodo was strong enough to get it to Mount Doom and that should be praised highly but if it wasn't for his kindness to Gollum/Sméagol the quest would have utterly failed. – Pryftan Aug 16 '17 at 19:46
2

There's one misconception that I think the film gives, which probably gives this question more interest than it really should. Isildur doesn't visit Mount Doom with Elrond in the books, he was only "counseled" to take it there. The film suggests that by him standing within Mount Doom that he at least considered throwing the ring into the fire. Isildur never considered it. He took it as his own, for the work of his father and himself.

I see it this way. The ring is treacherous, it holds the power of Sauron and it bids to do his work, regardless of whether it's in his possession or not. Had Elrond and Cirdan decided to take the ring by force, there would inevitably be a war between Elves and Men, the very thing Sauron wants.

The very fact Elrond and Cirdan are ring-bearers is testament to their nature - they are wise, patient and have foresight of the implications of their actions. I'm sure they could see, and we as readers can see that preventing a war is a very wise thing to do.

Add this to the fact that the Last Alliance was quickly disbanding, so there was no telling if they'd have been able to fight their way through the remaining Orc armies to get to Mount doom anyway, and you're left with little more than persuading Isildur to do the right thing.

2

There is one thing that no one has mentioned yet and unless you read The Silmarillion then you might not think of this as anything of value but- Isildur is a Númenórean. As a Númenórean he was one of the smartest, strongest, most skilled humans ever to live on the face of Arda. At their peak, just a few years prior to the Last Alliance they were EVEN MORE POWERFUL THAN THE ELVES and had gotten Sauron to submit willingly to them vs being dragged out of his tower by force. They were so powerful and great that the elves in the Undying Lands did not believe they could stop the Númenóreans from making it to their lands, the aftermath of which was the world to shift and Númenor to sink beneath the waves because of their somewhat deserved hubris. While the entire force of men were not Númenóreans and Isildur is alone with three of the most powerful Elves who ever lived that doesn't mean they could just slay him without an epic fight. The Elves and Dwarves haven't gotten along and think of how bad their fights were. Men vastly outnumber Elves in Middle Earth and it would be a bad idea for the Elves to start a new war with men.

1

As is stated above by several commentators, they (Cirdan and Elrond) most definitely knew about the malicious intent of the Ring. Their restraint in dealing with Islidur's hubris is not only because of their wisdom but in my opinion, it was the only thing they could do based on their past experiences. Second Age politics aside, we have to realize that both Elrond and (especially) Cirdan were alive during the events of the Sillmarillion. The crux of the Noldor's rise and eventual fall in the First Age was all based on rash actions: unbreakable oaths, violence against one another, treachery, animosity. And it was all done in the name of redressing the evils of Morgoth, a noble endeavor. As Cirdan was a witness to this (being an ancient Teleri of Thingol's kin) and Elrond was well versed in the lore of his own people, they already knew what kind of result force and betrayal would have, even if it was rationalized as being for the "greater good." They had no choice but to let Isidur's decision run it's course and hope for a positive end. And though the result was bought at a significant price, in the end their decision proved right; the Third Age ended in peace and much better overall than the previous two.

(At this point, I turn to speculations on the results of taking/destroying the ring by force. It plays right into the enemy's hands. It wouldn't even have mattered if the ring was destroyed as a result. That door of malice would have been opened between Elves and Men and most assuredly, Sauron, in whatever capacity was left to him, would have taken advantage of it and awakened anew. In fact, there are Tolkein drafts of a Shadow returning as a result of great and evil deeds done by Men(?) in the Fourth Age.)

  • 1
    What does this add that the existing answers do not already cover? – amflare Dec 14 '17 at 20:50
  • It speaks to Elrond and Cirdan's mentality and more precisely, the reason for that mentality. Based on the above comments, it seemed as if there were some commentators who thought that the Elves' restraint was due to fear or ignorance. I just wanted to clarify why they made the decisions that they did for those who hadn't read the Silmarillion. Elrond and Cirdan's actions were definitely addressed and defended by other commentators, the underlying reasons and the events behind them were not. – Finrod 7 Dec 14 '17 at 23:03
0

In addition to Jimmy Shelters great answer(which provides a lot of insight) one more reason can be given(and at the time of the Isildur incident maybe more important point): Politics.

If the elves took the Ring from Isildur by force, they'd just start a war between elves and men. Men are proud people and would never tolerate their victorious king to be overpowered.

This must have been an important consideration, since Elrond and Cirdan did not know about Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam and Boromir - all this happened a long time after Isildur claimed the Ring. Since the One Ring has always been in Sauron's keeping until Isildur took it, they probably did not know anything about those subtle effects!

  • 2
    I'd argue that they very likely did know of it's effects on account of "as soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them" in Rings of Power. At the very least, as Ring-bearers themselves they would have felt it's temptation being in proximity to it. – user8719 Jan 21 '14 at 22:12
  • In addition to what user8719 says: 'For Isildur would not surrender it to Elrond and Círdan who stood by. They counselled him to cast it into the fire of Orodruin nigh at hand, in which it had been forged, so that it should perish, and the power of Sauron be for ever diminished, and he should remain only as a shadow of malice in the wilderness.' So yes they did know. Of course the last paragraph I'm having a hard time comprehending because Sméagol, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Boromir - they weren't alive at the time so I don't see the relevance. But maybe I missed it? – Pryftan Aug 16 '17 at 19:51
-1

Isilidur wouldve fought to the death before handing over the ring,such is the rings nature.Elrond & Cirdan wouldve understood that,not to mention Isildur was pretty good with the sword being from the mighty race of Numenor.

-2

The answer is that none of the Elves, Elrond, Cirdan, Gil-Galad, Galadriel - knew what the One Ring was, other than it sought to enslave the wearers of the other rings.

The Ring is part of Sauron himself, he put his will to dominate and his power into it.

On this basis none of the Elves would have touched it willingly. Galadriel turns Frodo's offer down in LOTR of taking it, as does the equally powerful Gandalf. They both know that the Ring would, ultimately enslave them too and Sauron would take the Ring from them easily in the end.

Elrond doesn't take Isildur to Mount Doom to destroy it and does not press him to, other than council him, because in truth he does not know that it is the embodiment of Sauron's power.

Isildur keeps the Ring because everyone but the Elves are drawn to it - Saruman is (he is not a servant of Sauron as the movies show, he wants the Ring for himself), Men are, in Boromir and Boromir's father. Some Hobbits are - Gollum, Bilbo and Frodo.

  • If they knew that the Ring was part of Sauron and sought to dominate the bearers of the other rings, what did they not know about it? – Adamant Nov 14 '16 at 22:19
  • Saruman and Gandalf weren't around at the time. But let's say they are. Saruman actually does become a 'servant' of Sauron though he started out with his own mind and desire for the Ring. He was a traitor all around. And Galadriel was only able to resist it because she gave it much thought in the past. As for Gandalf: he could have claimed it and mastered it but as Tolkien notes he'd have been worse than Sauron; Sauron however would have been defeated as much as if the Ring was destroyed. And yes they did know what the One Ring was. That's why they urged Isildur to throw it into the fire. – Pryftan Aug 16 '17 at 19:57

protected by Edlothiad Dec 14 '17 at 20:48

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