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Gandalf wasn't an elf, but rather he was one of a few wizards sent to help Middle Earth. So, how did he end up with one of the Elf Rings? And, why did Frodo not notice it, when he easily noticed Galadriel's ring?

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    those damn wizards have sticky fingers ;P Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 23:25
  • 'Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.'
    – WOPR
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 23:00
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    ‘Never play Sabacc with an old bloke in a big grey hat’ Commented Feb 16 at 22:32

2 Answers 2

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Gandalf was given Narya by Círdan the Shipwright because he believed that Gandalf had the highest inner greatness of all the Istari (Wizards). The scene is described in The Silmarillion:

Take now this Ring, for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill.

There's more about this in Unfinished Tales, such as Saruman's knowledge of Gandalf's possession of the ring:

And the Grey Messenger [Gandalf] took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; yet the White Messenger [Saruman] (who was skilled to uncover all secrets) after a time became aware of this gift, and begrudged it, and it was the beginning of the hidden ill-will that he bore to the Grey, which afterwards became manifest.

Gandalf hid the fact that he had the ring, unlike Galadriel or Elrond, and so it was assumed that Círdan was the holder of the third Elven ring (until the ring bearers left Middle-earth). At the end of Return of the King, we are told:

As he turned and came towards them Frodo saw that Gandalf now wore openly upon his hand the Third Ring, Narya the Great, and the stone upon it was red as fire.

We aren't told exactly how Gandalf concealed the ring; presumably some sort of magic is involved.

The ring's bearer between its creation and Círdan passing it to Gandalf is not clear: Unfinished Tales says that Círdan received the ring from Gil-galad, who received it from Celebrimbor, but The Lord of the Rings says that Círdan received the ring directly from Celebrimbor, at the same time that Galadriel received her ring.

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  • I thought that Gandalf revealed that he had Narya once, when he was the "White Rider", maybe at the end of Two Towers or beginning of ROTK? The Nazgul were closing in (on Minas Tirith?) and Gandalf comes riding along and stops a Nazgul (not the Witch-King, one of the other two with him), with a beam of red light. I'm sorry, I should give you a page number. Could that be an instance of Gandalf using the power bequeathed by Narya? Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 8:16
  • @FeralOink In the (Jackson) films Gandalf drives off the Nagzûl with a light from his staff. I'm fairly certain this doesn't happen in the books.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 9:19
  • Okay, that seems more familiar, that the light emanated from Gandalf's staff, not his ring. Thank you! Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 9:25
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    This does happen in the books, but it's not red light: "One wheeled towards him; but it seemed to Pippin that he raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed upwards". This may be the same kind of light as is seen from afar during Gandalf's battle with the Nazgul on Weathertop and his battle with the Balrog on Celebdil.
    – user8719
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 1:06
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    "Gandalf hid the fact that he had the ring, unlike Galadriel or Elrond, and so it was assumed that Círdan was the holder of the third Elven ring" Galadriel and Elrond also hid that they were Ringbearers. At the Council Elrond refused to name the bearers of the Elven Rings and the only reason Galadriel was revealed earlier was Frodo could see Nenya after having the One Ring as long as he did. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 22:54
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Of course, Tony Meyer's answer answers where Gandalf got the Ring. Why did Frodo never notice it? He didn't yet have the ability.

In Fellowship of the Ring, in The Mirror of Galadriel:

Frodo gazed at the ring with awe; for suddenly it seemed to him that he understood.

‘Yes,’ she said, divining his thought, ‘it is not permitted to speak of it, and Elrond could not do so. But it cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye. Verily it is in the land of Lorien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.

Emphasis added

Before that point, Frodo had been the Ring-bearer, but had not yet seen the Eye. It isn't clear why this allows him to see the Rings of Power, but it must be magic.

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