This (and others eg: this ) answer states that Frodo claiming the ring alerted Sauron immediately of its position, which makes sense: How else would Sauron realize where the Ring and Frodo were at that exact moment. And it also explains why Sauron did not know where the ring was beforehand.

However there is a problem with this: Why did Sauron not find out about where the ring was when it was in Gollum's possession? Gollum obviously claimed the ring as his own (he even dreamt about becoming Gollum the Great, unfortunately I'm not able to find the passage in the books). In addition Bilbo claims it as well (right before he leaves it for Frodo), without alerting Sauron (Sauron learns about the Shire from Gollum, not through some form of comunication with the ring)

Is there an in canon explanation, or have I simply misunderstood something?

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    Gollum was using the Ring in a cave under the Misty Mountains. There is no cell reception down there :p
    – Joseph R.
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 14:07
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    @JosephR. He should consider switching to Verizon. I hear they give a Dark Lord discount.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 14:34
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    @Zibbobz Man, I have to work up to being a Dark Lord. My minions are just on the Fiends & Family plan.
    – Falsenames
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 18:45
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    @Zibbobz Switching carriers doesn't help. Get your book facts straight: Under the Mountain where the Night is fell/Thou shalt find no reception for thy cell. -- The Lay of Andruid -- The Book of Dropped Calls.
    – Joseph R.
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 1:16
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    I looked up Sauron's number in the Necronomicon but didn't find it - I guess he has an unlisted ring. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 2:04

9 Answers 9


Joseph R's answer is a good one -- by wearing the Ring, Frodo did make himself more noticeable to the Ringwraiths nearby, but not to others far away. So proximity matters. But the most important proximity is that of the Ring itself to Mount Doom in particular. The Ring becomes more powerful as it approaches Sammath Naur, the place of its forging and its unmaking.

The last volume shows this happening in multiple ways: the Ring tempted Frodo more strongly as they approached Mount Doom; it became more burdensome to Frodo; and it may even have changed size and become heavier.

Furthermore, I don't think the increase in power is linear. I believe the power of the Ring increases rapidly -- say, inversely proportionally to square of distance -- as it approaches Mount Doom. If that's correct, then the power of the ring would have been many orders of magnitude higher when Frodo put it on at the end of the journey than at any earlier time. Even when Sam put it on at Cirith Ungol, they were still many miles away, and the ring would have been far less powerful.

I don't have a copy of the book handy to confirm this, but I believe this interpretation explains almost every detail in the book concerning Sauron's perception of those who wear the ring. It doesn't explain why Sauron perceives Frodo on Amon Hen, but the properties of the Seat of Seeing provide an alternative explanation in that case.

At no point in many hundreds of years had the Ring been so close to the place of its forging. Frodo's actions on Mount Doom were entirely unprecedented -- nothing that Gollum did with the Ring when he possessed it could have had the same effect so far from Sammath Naur. While the fact that Frodo "claimed" the Ring may have made his actions still more noticeable to Sauron, I think the Ring's proximity to Mount Doom was the primary factor.


Gollum was claiming an almost dormant ring, plus he was not claiming the One Ring, he was just claiming possession of a gold ring that turned you invisible. It was coincidental that it was the One Ring - it was not that which caused Gollum to claim it. Gollum was not claiming it against Sauron, but just trying to treasure a simple magical ring.

On the other hand, Frodo claimed a fully empowered One Ring, fully knowing that it was the One Ring, and claimed it as his against Sauron.

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    +1, and Frodo also claimed it in the Sammath Naur: "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".
    – user8719
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 10:20
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    I always thought the Ring being the Ring was what caused Gollum to claim it, not just that it was a pretty trinket. I hope so, at least, because I would hope he wouldn't have killed his own cousin, birthday or not, for just anything. Then again, he may have fallen for one of the Mens' or Dwarves' Rings just as hard, if that's what you meant, @Envite.
    – trysis
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 22:55
  • What about the intro to Gollum. There is a sentence "there it consumed him" (red. the ring on Gollum). For some reason beyond me, the Ring didn't make Gollum bring it to its master.
    – DoStuffZ
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 6:41
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    Could you explain what you mean by a fully empowered ring compared to a dormant one? I didn't think they ring changed its power over the course of the books...
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 14:55
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    @Chris I mean that the Ring, while with Gollum, was just awaiting and not actively trying to return with Sauron. The most powerful thing it did was escaping from Gollum's sight (not even from his finger) and become in Bilbo's path. This is what I meant with "dormant". While at Orodruin, the Ring has been continouosly trying to betray Frodo and return with Sauron in the fastest possible way (remember the Ring talking to Frodo directly, changing Boromir's honour into greed, and finally succeeding in altering Frodo enough to have him claim it. This is what I meant with "fully empowered".
    – Envite
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 8:10

The difference is that Gollum never really understood exactly what the ring was. To him, it was the one beautiful thing in his miserable life, his precious. In short, he was claiming the ring itself as his, not the full power behind it. For Sam, it was a useful tool to save his friend/master and get out of a tight spot. Just a tool, nothing more. But when Frodo claimed it, he was claiming the power incorporated in the ring, not the ring itself. That's what got Sauron's attention, hard.


I think another factor to consider is that of proximity. Frodo claimed the Ring right on Sauron's doorstep. This was definitely not the first time that Frodo had put the Ring on. During other times though, putting the Ring on alerted Sauron's spies who were nearby: Bill Ferny and "the Southerner", the Ringwraiths, etc... but not Sauron himself.

By the same token, when Bilbo and Gollum used the Ring, they were a world away from Mordor and so went undetected by Sauron.

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    It is not the same to use the ring than to claim it. What Frodo did at Sammath Naur in Orodruin (Mount of Doom) was the last: Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls. 'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!' And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight.
    – Envite
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 15:12
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    @JosephR. The question was about "calling the ring his own", so it is about claiming. Just putting it is not in scope (albeit an interesting theme on itself). The fact is that puuting the ring on does not alert Sauron nor the Ringwraiths by itself. Instead, what it does is "switching" the bearer to the spirits world, where he can be easily seen by spirits like the Nine, but not by normal people (thus getting invisibility).
    – Envite
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 15:24
  • 4
    I'd actually argue that both answers are correct here, and that the real correct answer is a combination of the two. If you go back and read the book you'll see that the Ring evidently gained more "presence" the nearer the Hobbits got to the heart of Sauron's realm, so proximity was what caused the Ring to become fully empowered at the last crucial moment.
    – user8719
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:46
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    Would some of the times when Gollum put it on under the Misty Mountains have been when Sauron was still in Mirkwood, and would that change this answer in any way? Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 20:51
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    @DavidConrad Great point. But wasn't Sauron's power not fully recovered when he was in Mirkwood? Wouldn't that explain him not being able to "feel" the Ring?
    – Joseph R.
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 20:53

I think that the biggest factor in Sauron's knowledge of the Ring's position is based on his level of power.

Remember that the very beginning of Fellowship of the Ring takes place about 60 years after the end of The Hobbit. There was also a year in there between when Bilbo found the Ring, and the end of the book. Gollum had the Ring for 500 years before Bilbo picked it up.

One other piece of the timeframe that was overlooked in the movies is that between Bilbo's 111th birthday, and when Frodo, etc. finally leave The Shire, there was a gap of another 20 years while Gandalf was researching about the Ring.

During the events of The Hobbit, it is assumed that Sauron has still been completely destroyed as nothing has been heard of him in thousands of years. It isn't until a year or two before Denethor sends Boromir to the Council of Elrond that Minas Tirith has any inkling of rumblings from Mordor.

So all through Gollum and Bilbo's possession of the Ring, Saruon is nothing more than a whisper, slowly building his strength. It isn't until probably the last 5 years that Frodo is just sitting on the Ring that he finally starts to regain his followers and they capture Gollum and find out about The Shire. Then when they're finally on their trek, Sauron is finally able to start to exert some will over the Ring and use it from afar.


Here I must accept the difficult challenge of proving a negative!

Gollum and Bilbo never claimed the Ring, in the sense that Frodo did on Mount Doom. For neither Gollum nor Bilbo (during the time they possessed the Ring) ever knew the nature of what it was they possessed.

Frodo alone was let into the secret of the Great Rings, by Gandalf, in Chapter 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring. Bilbo never knew, until Book II, at the Council of Elrond, long after he had given up the Ring, the full story of it.

And Gollum never knew.


When Frodo claimed the Ring near its origin (Mount Doom), Sauron became aware not only of a pretender claiming his power, but also of potential danger to the ring and himself (possibly through the ring, which was a sentient artifact). He was no fool and instantly became aware of the plan his enemies were implementing before him.


I think that the main issue here is timing. Obviously, if the ring had been at his doorstep, he would have had it, but as it stood, he didn't know where it was.

If you recall from The Hobbit, during the same time that Gollum was under the mountain having alone time with his precious, Sauron was still trying to rebuild. He had managed to set up a stronghold in Dol Guldur, in the south of Mirkwood, but he had kept his true identity secret. That last part was very important as it gave him time to regain strength.

If he had known exactly where the ring was at that point, and had tried to call the 9 ringwraiths to him to go get the ring, the White Council of wizards and the elves would have been on top of him. In fact, that is exactly what happened when Gandalf found out who he was, and they were able to best him relatively easily at that point. Right about the same time Bilbo and the dwarves were on their way through Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain, the White Council drove Sauron disguised as the Necromancer out of Dol Guldur.

It was then that he fled to Mordor, brought the 9 to himself, and began rebuilding his army. Only then was he finally strong enough to fully search for the ring.

Again, the timing was key. Gollum could have claimed the ring all day long, but Sauron, still trying to rebuild, had not yet cast his full will and resources out to recover it as the risk of being revealed was still too great at that time.


Frodo claimed not only the ring at the end, but Sauron's throne and powers. Bilbo and Gollum claimed the ring itself, and were obsessed by it. They did not even realize they would become Sauron's counterpart (or, for that matter, that Sauron existed.)

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