I have not read the book but have seen the movie.

The ring almost tries to possess everyone like Boromir, Sam, Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo, etc. But why does it never affect Gandalf and Aragorn. Was it weak in front of them, or was their willpower very strong?

  • 4
    I see it this way, The One Ring can be seem has an addiction, like drugs. Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel and Faramir (in the book) had enough willpower to avoid start using the ring, although temptation was there, they just know better. But all hints that if any would take the ring they would sooner or later fall prey to the "power addiction" inherent to the ring, making the ring more powerful then any willpower. Jul 17, 2014 at 9:29
  • 2
    Please don't remove the tolkiens-legendarium tag. This is the overarching franchise tag and should be used on all questions about the world of LotR.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 16, 2017 at 9:53

6 Answers 6


The way Tolkien describes the Ring it's clear that its effects are addictive. There is an initial temptation to use it, but to have the Ring fully take control of a user, the user must be in possession of it and have continued to use it for an extended period for it to have the full effect.

I'll refer you to Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth for a more complete discussion of this observation.

The Ring actually does offer some temptation to Gandalf in the books (I can't recall if the same happens in the movies), as is described in Shadow of the Past:

'But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?'
'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself...'

The reason why Boromir succumbed so easily is that he saw the Ring as a means of gaining power to defend Gondor; as Tolkien describes in Letter 246:

It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power.

This same letter also provides an explanation of why others in the story also rejected the temptation of the Ring:

But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen in Elrond's words at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve.

I'm not aware of any concrete explanation of why Aragorn rejected it; perhaps his friendship with Gandalf had given him the necessary knowledge of what to do, or perhaps it was the case that his main desire was for Arwen. Likewise I'm not aware of an explanation for Faramir's rejection (which is quite different in the books to what's presented in the movies).

  • 5
    According to my (very vague) knowledge about The Ring, then it chooses someone who will be likely to want more, like Boromir. That's also the reason why Hobbits are less affected by The Ring, they are happy as they are - Could it be that Aragon is happy with his life and simply is not a character who "wants more" than what he already has?
    – Fizk
    Jul 16, 2014 at 13:43
  • @EsbenBoye-Jacobsen - that sounds like a viable theory.
    – user8719
    Jul 16, 2014 at 13:45
  • 1
    From how I am interpreting the movie, I think Aragorn may have not seen himself worthy of ruling over anybody. Therefore seeing himself unworthy of rule may have made the ring useless. But I'm interpreting that Aragorn has low self-esteem. I need to read the book
    – Mallow
    Jul 16, 2014 at 16:38
  • 5
    @Mallow: The presentation of Aragorn's motives is very different in the movies and the books. In the books, Aragorn is 100% on board with I want to be king, no question about it. The movie interpretation makes Aragorn a "reluctant hero" who rejects his destiny and has to be talked into embracing it. This is yet another one of those choices which I understand why the movie makers made -- it it gives the character more of a dramatic arc -- but which is unfortunately very out of step with the character in the books. Jul 16, 2014 at 16:43
  • 5
    It's important not to reject the idea of 'inherent integirity' - i.e. that some people are simply more honest, noble and self-sacrificing than others. Tolkien would not have rejected it, and there are hints that some people - Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel - reject the Ring because of who they are, rather than because they have other agendas. Faramir and Boromir have very similar aims, and Faramir even more incentive to use any means to defend his homeland, yet Boromir falls to temptation and Faramir does not. Gandalf and Saruman have the same goals - only one succumbs. Jul 16, 2014 at 18:10

First, as has been noted, the ring did tempt Gandalf (it's even mentioned in the beginning of the LOTR trilogy in the books).

Since Gandalf thought that the Ring would master him, I think it's safe to say that the Ring was stronger than his will.

What about Aragorn? Remember, when Aragorn struggled against Sauron using the palantir, he managed to wrest control of the Stone from the Dark Lord. However, Gandalf did not think that the Ring could be sent with Aragorn either.

Instead of being stronger than the Ring, those who resisted (Faramir (read the trilogy for about him; the movie ruined it), Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn, etc.) were wise enough to know that if they claimed and tried to use the Ring, it would master them. Thus, they chose to reject taking or using the Ring, reducing its chances to control them.


They both had very strong willpower, but if either of them had actually put the ring on, I believe that it would have overpowered them. As Galadriel says "with the ring I would become the all powerful queen and everyone would love and fear her." Both Gandalf and Aragorn were able to resist the outside temptation. In the end though the Ring's power would overpower anyone.


The way I see it, there is a difference between "willpower to resist temptation" and "willpower to resist corruption". The first one is perfectly possible, the second one is a lot harder, downright impossible for most.

Compare it to an ordinary drug almost everybody has tried; coffee. It promises something very simple, you will be able to stay awake better and focus better. For many people this is a reason to start drinking coffee. However, in the long run you will start performing worse without coffee, you will "need" that coffee in the morning to function properly. Somebody who is aware of this fact may decide not to use coffee, despite the fact that it might offer a (temporary) solution to his problem (staying awake.)

Now consider that the ring isn't something only mildly addictive like coffee, but something with its own, sinister will. Once you have used it, doing something without using it would seem silly. Why do things the hard way when the power of the ring makes everything so easy? Its addictive and corrupting powers are extreme, even if Gandalf were to use the ring for good, it would eventually twist him because the ring only serves one master.

So why do Aragorn and Gandalf have the ability to resist picking up and using the ring, but Boromir does not? Simple; they have a better understanding of what they are dealing with. When you haven't put on the ring yet, you are not yet addicted. The ring can promise you power, a solution to all your problems, but you are under no compulsion to act on these promises.

Somebody who overestimates themselves and believes "they can handle it" (Boromir) will try using the ring for good, not realizing that in the long run, they are going to get addicted and corrupted. Somebody with a better understanding of history / their own limits (Aragorn / Faramir / Galadriel / etc.) will understand that no matter how good their intentions or how noble their soul, they will eventually become corrupted by the ring and start the circle anew.

That is why they needed somebody who could part with the ring after having used it, and that is where the hobbits come in. They are naturally resistant against its effect, possibly because the desire for power does not seem to be something that comes naturally to hobbits. While it is clear that they will eventually succumb to the corruption (see Gollum), it takes a far longer time and the harm they can do with the ring is fairly limited compared to Gandalf or Elrond having the ring, making Frodo the perfect guy to bring the ring to Mordor.

  • " While it is clear that they will eventually succumb to the corruption (see Gollum)" - Frodo and Bilbo both started to succumb as well.
    – Jack
    Jul 17, 2014 at 19:50
  • True, but they only started to succumb. Look at Bilbo, he was still able to give the ring away after possessing it for such a long time, something an ordinary human would not have been able to do. (In fact, the ring has survived primarily because even after having it for only a few minutes, the bearers refuse to get rid of it.
    – Theik
    Jul 18, 2014 at 7:38
  • The only bearer that could/would have destroyed it in a few minutes after receiving it was Isildur.
    – Jack
    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:55

It is very clear in the films that the ring could tempt Gandalf and Aragorn just not as easily as others.

With Gandalf at Bag End

Frodo: "Take it Gandalf! Take it!"

Gandalf: "No, Frodo."

Frodo: "You must take it!"

Gandalf: "You cannot offer me this Ring!"

Frodo: "I'm giving it to you!"

Gandalf: "Don't tempt me Frodo!

Gandalf is very quickly angered with the suggestion that he should have it. Which shows that he knows, or at least fears that it could influence him.

And with Aragorn at the Argonath

Aragorn: [intensely] "Where is the Ring?"

Frodo: "Stay away!"

Aragorn: "Frodo!"

Aragorn: "I swore to protect you!"

Frodo: "Can you protect me from yourself?!"

Frodo: "Would you destroy it?"

The Ring: "Aragorn… Aragorn… Elessar…"

Given a chance the ring would work on Aragorn, but others were an easy target.


It seems to me that which is "more powerful" often depends on the circumstances, and not only a single contest of will is involved. Gandalf and Aragorn both apprehend that they would be overpowered IF they wore the ring. However they also have the knowledge and wisdom to choose not to do that, which avoids that situation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.