58

When Frodo put on the One Ring, both the Nazgul and Sauron himself found Frodo. However when Bilbo had the ring and possibly used it many times, Sauron sought Gollum to get a hint on where to look for the ring and send the Nazgul after it.

Sauron sought Gollum before Bilbo wore the ring at his birthday party, slightly after that time, he was very effective at locating Frodo when Frodo put on the ring. So I guess it's not a matter of Sauron gaining any extra powers with time.

Also Bilbo seemed to use the ring without it bothering him at any point, unlike Frodo who seemed to be very troubled when using the ring. How is that possible?

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    If you read the letters, you'll find that Tolkein hadn't thought about 'Rings of Power' yet while writing The Hobbit. Only when pressed by Allen & Unwin to write a sequel did he hit on the idea of making the Ring central to the story. – Spencer Oct 15 '16 at 14:06
82

Sauron doesn't find Frodo when he puts on the Ring.


In the narrative of LotR Frodo puts on the Ring 6 times:

  • In the House of Tom Bombadil: Sauron doesn't find Frodo.
  • In the Prancing Pony: Sauron doesn't find Frodo.
  • On Weathertop: Sauron doesn't find Frodo, but Frodo puts the Ring on in the presence of the Nazgul who are then able to physically harm him.
  • On Amon Hen: Sauron doesn't find Frodo; Frodo's gaze is drawn towards Barad-dur, Frodo feels the Eye, and only at that point does Sauron become aware of Frodo.
  • At the Breaking of the Fellowship: Sauron doesn't find Frodo (it's significant that this is only moments after the previous time).
  • At the Cracks of Doom: Frodo claims the Ring for himself and then Sauron becomes aware of him.

This is not including an unspecified number of times when Frodo may have worn the Ring between Bilbo's party and the Shadow of the Past.


In the above list there are only two times when Sauron is aware of Frodo: the first time is after Frodo explicitly goes looking for Sauron, and the second time is when Frodo is in the heart of Sauron's realm and claims the Ring for his own.

It's very significant that the first of these times happens on Amon Hen, the ancient Numenorean hill of seeing:

He was sitting upon the Seat of Seeing, on Amon Hen, the Hill of the Eye of the Men of Númenor.

And that immediately afterwards, when Frodo resolves to leave the Fellowship, he puts the Ring on again without any similar difficulties. This makes it clear that the Hill and Seat of Seeing were an influencing factor in what happened first time round.

As for the second time:

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm,the Power in Barad-dur was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him...

It should be clear that it's not putting on the Ring that was the main factor here (although it was still a very dangerous thing to do at this particular place), but rather Frodo's claiming of it.


So to answer your questions:

  • The Reason why Sauron doesn't find Bilbo when he puts on the Ring is because putting on the Ring isn't enough for Sauron to find you.
  • Sauron was not effective at finding Frodo; Frodo wore the Ring at least 4 times (out of 6) without Sauron finding him.
  • Frodo's troubles when using the Ring occur in very specific circumstances:

    • in the Barrow (where despite temptation he doesn't use it)
    • in the presence of the Nazgul (where he only used it once: on Weathertop)
    • on Amon Hen, and only at the very end, after Frodo had explicitly gone looking for Sauron
    • at Orodruin, in the heart of Sauron's realm, after claiming it for himself.
  • Otherwise Frodo can use the Ring without trouble - in Bombadil's house, at Bree, at the Breaking, and a possible unspecified number of times in the Shire - in just the same manner as Bilbo did.

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    So unlike the movie, were Sauron locates Frodo, the narrative doesn't have any evidence of this property of the ring? – Ray Feb 9 '14 at 13:38
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    @Yoda - not quite: it's more accurate to say that this is not a property of the Ring in the books. Frodo even says in Lórien: "I am permitted to wear the One Ring" - which he would not be if Sauron could easily find him. There's no evidence because this is not a property of the Ring, so there's nothing for there to be evidence of. – user8719 Feb 9 '14 at 14:59
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    Added this to pre-empt a possible plot inconsistency: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/53598 – user8719 Apr 8 '14 at 22:05
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    Disagree with this answer, as it does not apply were Sam to have put on the ring within sight of Gorgoroth, as the Ring was strongly urging him to do. The book even puts great emphasis on the clouds obscuring the Dark Tower as Sauron attempting to hide his thoughts from his enemies but ironically obscuring his (magical) vision of the (un-beringed) Hobbits on the plain below. Proximity, (magical) line of sight, and putting on the ring in Sauron's domain are all important. – Ber Jan 4 '17 at 12:27
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    It's also worth noting that even if Sauron does detect and see the wearer of the Ring, it doesn't automatically give him a location, but at most a general direction. When Sauron perceives Frodo on Amon Hen, once Frodo takes off the Ring, Sauron's gaze is described as jumping around with no more than a rough idea where to look. – Mark Olson Sep 5 at 12:31
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In addition, there appears to be an in-universe answer to this.

No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason.
[...]
‘He’d spot me and cow me, before I could so much as shout out. He’d spot me, pretty quick, if I put the Ring on now, in Mordor.
Return of the King pg. 1178-1179

If I understand this correctly, now that he's in Mordor, wearing the ring will reveal Sam to Sauron's eye. The conclusion is that if a person is not in Mordor wearing the ring would not reveal the wearer to Sauron. In addition the reason for this is also given above, the One Ring grew in power once it was in Mordor.

In the 'Breaking of the Fellowship' Frodo is betrayed by Boromir and puts on the One Ring, he is not in Mordor, but once he sees the fortress of Barad-dur, the Eye begins to sense him and It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him. Very soon it would nail him down, know just exactly where he was. Clearly the Eye was not able to see him directly but began searching once the Ring was in sight of the dread tower of Mordor.

He seemed to be in a world of mist in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him.
[...]
But against Minas Tirith was set another fortress, greater and more strong. Thither, eastward, unwilling his eye was drawn. It passed the ruined bridges of Osgiliath, the grinning gates of Minas Morgul, and the haunted Mountains, and it looked upon Gorgoroth, the valley of terror in the Land of Mordor. Darkness lay there under the Sun. Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising. Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him. And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him. Very soon it would nail him down, know just exactly where he was. Amon Lhaw it touched. It glanced upon Tol Brandir – he threw himself from the seat, crouching, covering his head with his grey hood. He heard himself crying out: Never, never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell. Then as a flash from some other point of power there came to his mind another thought: Take it off ! Take it off ! Fool, take it off ! Take off the Ring!
Fellowship of the Ring pg. 523

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    Frodo could not possibly have physically seen Barad-dur (or a lot of other things he saw in that vision), the Hill of Seeing, perhaps combined with the Ring, conferred upon him some kind of Palantir-like sight. Even if the Hill of Seeing had been as tall as Everest, Frodo wouldn't have been able to see Barad-dur - it was too far away. Remember too that Sauron had a Palantir and the Eye could see anything in Middle Earth, if it knew where to look. Line of sight was irrelevant. – Shamshiel Dec 24 '15 at 18:48
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    Odd. That's what the book says. Check it out. – Athena Widget Dec 24 '15 at 19:24
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    I know; I quoted the same part on your question. :) Frodo was sitting in the Seat of Seeing on Amon Hen, the "the Hill of the Eye of the Men of Númenor". And we know it isn't even a very high hill, given the ease and time with which Frodo ascended and descended. Aragorn also hoped for visions on the Seat, but didn't get them. Yet Frodo, sitting on the Seat with the Ring, saw for hundreds of miles in every direction and with incredible detail - impossible without magic. – Shamshiel Dec 24 '15 at 22:40
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    I had missed where it literally calls it "a vision" - "Then here and there the mist gave way and he saw many visions: small and clear as if they were under his eyes upon a table, and yet remote." More examples in that same vision: the Land of the Beornings ~700 miles away, the Sea, about ~350 miles away and behind a mountain range (like Barad-dur), etc. – Shamshiel Dec 24 '15 at 22:49
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    @Ed999: Eru explicitly made the world round after the Downfall of Numenor. Men even sailed all the way around the world at that time. There's no reason magical devices (palantir) or visions (Amon Hen) would be limited in scope because of the curvature of the planet. – Shamshiel Mar 24 '17 at 19:55
8

While Sauron's power grew over time, he was not (yet?) powerful enough to locate the Ring. But the Ring was always trying to reach its Master.

The power of the Ring waxed and waned. The longer you bore the Ring, the more power it gained over you. The Ring grew in power when it came closer to Mount Doom, the place of its forging. And your motivation mattered: Gollumn was more vulnerable because he started his bearership with Murder.

So when Bilbo was the Ringbearer, the Ring was at the ebb of its power. Bilbo had gained the Ring in a game of Riddle, far away from Mount Doom. He used the Ring not to become King of the Shire, but to avoid minor nuisances. So the Ring gained control over Bilbo only slowly.

When Frodo bears the Ring during The Fellowship, it is still relatively weak. At Weathertop it even helps Frodo. It is only the leader of the Nine that manages to stand up to the Wielder of the Ring, and only for one stab.

During the Two Towers, at Amon Hen, the Ring has grown more dangerous. Here the Ring tempts Frodo to use its power to reach out to Sauron. It makes sense that Sauron could feel the Ring reaching out for him. Perhaps it is more surprising that Gandalf noticed Frodo at that time! Gandalf was able to tell Frodo to remove the Ring before it was too late.

In the Return of the King, Samwise becomes the Ringbearer for a short time. While the Ring is now very powerful, it still needs time to gain control of its bearer. Samwise uses the Ring to rescue Frodo, and surrenders the ring of his own free will. Samwise's humble motivation weakens the Ring.

So Bilbo did have it easier than Frodo. And on close reading Samwise has a tougher job than it appears at first, wearing the Ring in Mordor without falling to its power. Evil has little influence on the plain gardener, who is perhaps the chief hero of the story.

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3

That doesn't happen in the book

The scene where Suaron immediately 'finds' Frodo when he puts the ring on in Bree exists only in the films; but while it's an invention, it's a good way to visually express a broader idea, that the Ring does not grant invisibility against the more powerful servants of Sauron.

The Nazgul, which are the principle threat at the time, do not perceive the everyday world very clearly:

'Can the Riders see?' asked Merry. 'I mean, they seem usually to have used their noses rather than their eyes, smelling for us, if smelling is the right word, at least in daylight. But you made us lie down flat when you saw them down below; and now you talk of being seen, if we move.'

'I was too careless on the hill-top,' answered Strider. 'I was very anxious to find some sign of Gandalf; but it was a mistake for three of us to go up and stand there so long. For the black horses can see, and the Riders can use men and other creatures as spies, as we found at Bree. They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroyed; and in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us: they they are to be most feared. And at all times they smell the blood of living things, desiring and hating it. Senses, too, there are other than sight or smell. We can feel their presence - it troubled our hearts, as soon as we came here, and before we saw them; they feel ours more keenly. Also,' he added, and his voice sank to a whisper, 'the Ring draws them."

Later, we see the behaviour of the Nazgul, both before and after Frodo puts on the ring.

Over the lip of the little dell, on the side away from the hill, they felt, rather than saw, a shadow rise, one shadow or more than one. They strained their eyes, and the shadows seemed to grow. Soon there could be no doubt: three or four tall black figures were standing there on the slow, looking down on them. So black were they that they seemed like black holes in the deep shade behind them. Frodo thought that he heard a faint hiss as of venomous breath and felt a thin piercing chill. Then the shapes slowly advanced.

...

Immediately [upon putting the Ring on], though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings...the third was taller than the others...in one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with pale light. He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.

Each time the Nazgul come close to Frodo, he feels the desperate urge to put on the ring. And we see here what happens when he does - he immediately stands out to them, glowing like a beacon, and they go from slow, careful advance to leaping forward to strike him and seize the Ring.

So this is what the filmmakers were trying to convey - that putting on the Ring did not hide one from the servants of Sauron, it in fact made you more visible to them, but they still had to be nearby to actually grab you.

In the film's universe, this is why it happened

In the internal logic of the film, though, there are probably several combined reasons for why that happened in Bree but did not happen when Bilbo wore the ring.

First, when Bilbo kept the ring, Sauron had no idea where it was. When Bilbo last used it, at his Birthday Party, Sauron had not yet captured Gollum, and did not know that the Ring had been found - he thought it still in Anduin or rolled down to the sea. His eye was not yet turned toward the Shire.

Second, once Sauron was aware and looking for the Ring in the Shire, searching from afar, Frodo never put the ring on. In the film, the Prancing Pony was the first time he put the ring on (on screen).

Third, the Nazgul were there, in and around Bree, hunting for the ring. They are mindless puppets, slave to their master's will, and at the same time an extension of that will; they were so close that Sauron's presence was stronger than it usually would be.

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1

The existing answers all address the issue of Sauron not "finding" Frodo and/or Bilbo when either of them put on the ring. However they don't address how Sauron actually found Frodo in the book: good old detective work! Sauron tortured Gollum until he told all that he know of Bilbo—his name and the name of his home, the Shire—and then the Ringwraiths (or other servants of Sauron) spent time travelling around and asking for news of him, including to Erebor. They slowly figured out where the Shire was, and then worked through the Shire asking for 'Baggins', with one of the Ringwraiths ending up talking to the Gaffer at The Hill, who directed him to Buckland. At this point it came down to old-fashioned tracking, and even when Frodo put on the Ring in Bree, it was a spy who noted what had happened that slipped out and informed on him.

After Moria, it is hinted that Gollum informed Orcs on the eastern side of the Anduin of the Fellowship's presence. Aside from Amon Hen, as mentioned in another answer, one other place where mere proximity of the Ring seems to have made a difference is when the Witch King's army is passing out of Minas Morgul: Frodo almost puts on the Ring, and the Witch King pauses, as if sensing a presence, but the moment passes.

Later, the Watchers at the gate of the Tower of Cirith Ungol know someone has passed, and raise the alarm, but this is functionally like a siren going off. News of the 'spies' is sent to Barad-Dûr via a messenger on foot. I note also that Sam wearing the Ring in the pass of Cirith Ungol, on the doorstep of Mordor, seems to have no effect whatsoever; it's the shouting and fighting with Shelob that alerts the two companies of Orcs to presence of Frodo, Sam and Gollum (and the fact Gollum, Shelob's "sneak", had been seen).

So in every case when Frodo is "found" or nearly so, it has a completely physical explanation. Since for the time that Bilbo has the Ring, or most of it, Sauron is ignorant of the Ring being found again, and is not yet looking for 'Baggins'. I note that Sauron's servants were physically searching at and near the Gladden Fields in TA 2939, two years before Bilbo finds the Ring, but they clearly aren't successful. The next relevant entry in The Tale of Year in LotR Appendix B is that it is discovered by TA 3009 that Gollum had been captured in Mordor, sometime after TA 2980 when he gets to the Ephel Dúath and meets Shelob. Gollum is released from Mordor in TA 3017 (The Hunt for the Ring ("The Hunt") in Unfinished Tales says that Gollum is captured in 3017, inconsistent with The Tale of Years). The messengers to Erebor are much closer to the time of the Council of Elrond. The search of the Nazgûl for the Ring, according to The Hunt, starts after Osgiliath was attacked in TA 3018. The texts differ, but the Nazgûl only discover the relevant information about where the Shire is from either Wormtongue or Saruman, after this time. So there is no way they could even discover where Bilbo was, while he still had the Ring.

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I agree with the comments with regard to proximity to Barad-dur and to presence in Mordor.

However the answer depicting the Jackson-esque second age (end of the second age) Sauron as that which Gandalf found in Dol Guldur is incorrect. In Dol Guldur Sauron was a shadow of his former self still regaining power.

Also note - Gandalf was never captured in Dol Guldur, in the Books he broke into the dungeons to find Thorins father.

The Sauron 'Eye' was a ringless Sauron (still waiting to gain his full power and physical appearance) and if he regained the Ring he would have regained his former power and would then have returned (we assume) to something similar to the end of the second age depiction. Then he would have been virtually undefeatable based on who was left to fight him in Middle Earth.

I also believe the eye described by Tolkien was not meant to be taken as literally as Jackson depicts it, it is essentially a metaphor for the shadowy Sauron searching for the Ring. Sauron may have appeared to some as a burning eye, but not as literally as Jackson shows him.

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Bilbo found the ring 60 years before the LOTR. At the time, Sauron was the Necromancer, in Dol Gulder. He doesn't even know the ring has been found, until Gollum was brought to Mordor.

In "the Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug," Gandalf is captured in Dol Gulder, where he discovers Sauron looking like this enter image description here

In the Lord of the Rings, Sauron looks like this enter image description here

Sauron was less powerful in the Hobbit, the same reason, why he didn't find Smeagol, when he became Gollum.

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