Following on from "Why didn't Sauron find Bilbo when he put on the ring like Frodo?" and its (possible) duplicate "Why was Bilbo not discovered by Sauron during his extended stay with the Wood Elves?", there is a possible plot inconsistency uncovered.

In Gandalf's note to Frodo (delivered by Butterbur at the Prancing Pony) we read a warning to not wear the Ring:

PS. Do NOT use It again, not for any reason whatever!

However, later on in Lórien (after the Galadriel-freak-out scene) we see Frodo saying:

I am permitted to wear the One Ring.

What happened between the two events to change this?

  • 2
    Perhaps "permitted to wear the ring" didn't literally mean "allowed to put it on my finger" but meant something like "been given permission to carry it"... but then that doesn't quite make sense in context. Certainly no one had come up to him and said "You may now wear it whenever you want."
    – Mary ML
    Mar 12, 2015 at 6:18
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    I'm tempted to point out the difference between wearing the Ring on his finger and wearing it on a chain around his neck.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 16, 2015 at 1:48
  • 1
    If two characters contradict each other, that is not necessarily a plot inconsistency. Gandalf's instructions have not changed, but Frodo has just given himself permission to wear the ring. So what?
    – user14111
    Jul 5, 2022 at 8:05
  • 1
    Frodo was always permitted to wear the Ring -- whatever "permitted" means, as it implies having gotten permission...from Whom? What Gandalf said was not to wear it and he said this because he knew it would be unwise. More mundanely, I am permitted to drive my car -- it says so right on my drivers' license -- but that does not mean it is always wise for me to do so, e.g., in bad weather or terrible traffic...or when the Nazgul are out hotrodding.
    – Mark Olson
    Jul 5, 2022 at 13:38

2 Answers 2


Simple enough. Gandalf's note opens with:

Bad news has reached me here. I must go off at once.

This is an obvious reference to Radagast's message to him from Saruman (relayed at the Council of Elrond):

"I have an urgent errand," he said. "My news is evil." Then he looked about him, as if the hedges might have ears. "Nazgûl," he whispered. "The Nine are abroad again..."

Gandalf himself says shortly afterwards:

However, I wrote a message to Frodo, and trusted to my friend the innkeeper to send it to him.

So the "bad news" in Gandalf's note is the fact that the Nine were loose, and Gandalf's caution to not use the Ring is on account of fear of what the Nazgûl may do (as proved to be the case at Weathertop).

However, after Rivendell the Nine were unhorsed; again as Gandalf notes (in Many Meetings):

Their horses must have perished, and without them they are crippled. But the Ringwraiths themselves cannot be so easily destroyed. However, there is nothing more to fear from them at present.

It's also the case that after Rivendell Frodo was in powerful company: Elves, Men, Dwarves and Wizards. Before, and for all Gandalf knew at the time, he may have been travelling alone.

So the key difference is the Nazgûl - before Rivendell they were hunting for a relatively defenceless Frodo in the Wild, after Rivendell that was no longer the case.


While Jimmy Shelter's answer about the change of circumstance might be right, I also think you need to consider that the use of English language has transformed since Tolkien wrote the line "I am permitted..."

In the context of the conversation with Galadriel:

“I would ask one thing before we go,” said Frodo, “a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?”

I don't quite read this as "I am permitted by circumstance" but, rather, Frodo has previously worn the Ring on occasion, and yet has not experienced the all of the abilities that Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel have ascribed to it.

  • The only objection I can think of to this is that most of the time Frodo had the Ring, he wasn't aware of what exactly it was that he had, let alone the existence of the other Ring-bearers. Since he knew, and prior to Lorien, he had worn it three times - in Bombadil's house, at the Prancing Pony and on Weathertop. It's a weak objection, I'll grant, but it seems to me that he had not the opportunity.
    – user8719
    Apr 9, 2014 at 12:05
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    Granted - but it could just be a case of "it turns me invisible without me making any effort, so why can't I do the other things easily" - Galadriel instantly ripostes that it would take much effort, and quite possibly break Frodo
    – HorusKol
    Apr 9, 2014 at 22:58
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    Another variable to factor into this equation is that the effect of wearing the One Ring is cumulative so, over time, Frodo's subjective experience of possessing, to say nothing of wearing, the ring intensifies.
    – Sevan
    Feb 23, 2015 at 20:00
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    @HorusKol - is there any chance that when Frodo said "I am permitted to wear the Ring" he meant "on a chain around my neck", as opposed to "on my finger"?
    – Wad Cheber
    May 16, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/230125/…
    – KutuluMike
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:26

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