Sauron in the second age gave seven rings to the dwarf lords. This had many effects with the main one being greed and avarice.

The reason he gave the dwarves these rings was presumably so that he could corrupt and control them whilst he wore the one ring. If this was not his objective then why give the rings to them in the first place?

Sauron was actively searching for the one ring when he returned, to the extent that the Nazgûl were an inch away from making Frodo into a ringwraith, which would no doubt have ended with Sauron getting the ring eventually.

Sauron being an archetypal dark lord would have been cocky enough to believe that there were no circumstances under which he would not eventually get the ring back.

My question is: if he expected to get the ring back, wouldn't it have been better to leave the dwarves with their remaining rings?

My reasoning: surely he would have been able to carry on the corruption more easily through the ring than by manually finding the dwarves and destroying them with armies.

(BTW I accept that Thrain just happened to come to Dol Guldur and retrieval of the ring may have been a happy coincidence for Sauron).

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    Is there ever any canonical evidence that he did want the other rings back? My understanding was he was just looking for the one, and was totally fine with the other ones being worn by and corrupting the inhabitants of Middle Earth.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 15:00
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    Well it is stated that Sauron has recovered 3 of the rings and that dragons have destroyed the other four. I find it unlikely that all three rings would have just wandered into his hands (a la Thrain II) Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 15:01
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    the rings did not work as intended on the dwarves. they were ment to corrupt the dwarves like the 9 did to men, but the dwarves are pretty much uncorruptable. the rings merely enhanced their usual characteristics aka greed. and the dwarves never really come to help anyway, they are usually to focused on their own things.
    – Himarm
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 15:05
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    When he recovered the surviving Dwarf-rings, Sauron has no idea where the One Ring was or when he might obtain it. Thrain was captured some years before the events of The Hobbit. At that time the One Ring was hidden with Gollum beneath the Misty Mountains, and no one else (including Sauron) knew what had happened to it after it was lost by Isildur. Presumably Sauron had other plans for the Dwarf-rings, as part of an overall strategy to conquer Middle-Earth without first finding the One Ring. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 15:24
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    I'll have to find the evidence from the books, but Gloin tells the Council of Elrond that Sauron did offer to return the rings to the dwarves if they tell him where Bilbo Baggins is. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 19:57

6 Answers 6


Because as Himarm mentions above, they couldn't be enslaved via the rings, and in fact (from Sauron's point of view) the only effects they had on the dwarves were positive:

For the Dwarves had proved untameable by this means. The only power over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all other good things seemed profitless, and they were filled with wrath and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them. But they were made from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will; and for the same reason their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it. All the more did Sauron hate the possessors and desire to dispossess them.

From Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, part III: "Durin's Folk", emphasis mine.

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    Werrl, "hearts inflamed by greed of gold" may not be viewed unilaterally as positive as such. Beats being enslaved, though...
    – Fhtagn
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 11:35
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    Given that Sauron did regain three of the Seven, yet there didn't appear to be an increase in the number of Ringwraiths, it seems the Seven were somehow "attuned" to dwarves and would not have the same affect as the Nine on Men. The emphasized sentence explains why Sauron would want them back even without another use for them.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 16:41
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    Making them insanely greedy isn't "positive". It just wasn't negative enough to please Sauron.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 5:02
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    Weren't Dwarves already really into collecting gold and gems? Did the rings really do anything at all to them? Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 19:16
  • @chepner or it takes a few thousand years for them to have that effect
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 16:21

Because Sauron is stronger with them. Tolkien stated explicitly in one of his letters (number 131; see e.g. the accepted answer to "What are the powers shown by the Rings of Power?") that all of the Rings of Power "... enhanced the natural powers of a possessor". Though Sauron was no longer intending to use them for their original (failed) purpose of creating Dwarvish ringwraiths, and even if he hadn't been motivated by spite to take them from the Dwarves, he would still have wanted them to make himself stronger. It seems likely to me that gathering the Rings of Power over the years was a big part of his recovery after losing the One.

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    This is an excellent and, as far as I can tell, original observation.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 17:38

My question is if he expected to get the ring back, wouldn't it have been better to leave the dwarves with their remaining rings?

Just because the rings were given to the dwarves doesn't mean that they stayed with them. After so many years most of the rings would have ended up in lost treasure chests or kept by powerless dwarves; it would be much better to retrieve them and either redistribute them to influential dwarves or keep them/give them to humans.


I've only been into the series for about a year now, so I am still learning. This is all speculation. Sauron lost his physical form when killed by Isildur, but being a Maia his soul is immortal. However, unlike Gandalf, who gets to "Jesus it", Eru ain't giving him another body to go mess stuff up even more, so all he has is magical influence on the world.

Seeing that the rings themselves make the wearers "corruptible," but really meaning that Sauron can control them, my guess is that this goes even more for the One Ring, and it probably has a pretty high cap on what creatures it can effect, thus why Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel won't touch it. Granted, someone like Tom Bombadil could wear it, for he is more powerful than the most powerful Maia.

Either way, my guess is that he wanted the ring, and he was planning on giving it to Saruman, who would then eventually give Sauron full control of a Maia body, as he once had, restoring him to his peak power. The dwarves and elves were never going to get controlled by him, and he already had full control of the Ringwraiths, so I honestly don't see any other reason why he would need the ring.

  • Sauron already has a body by the time of the war of the ring, Golum see hinself when he is tortured.
    – wolfpirate
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 21:10

I think Plutor hits the nail on the head ... the Seven didn't work to his ends, so he wanted them back (like a child who wants to take his football and go home). While this may seem like a pithy comparison, do not forget the jealous nature of men ... (and Sauron, by extension, is a classical representation of a jealous, pouty greek deity).

The ring is allegorical of addiction, and grants its bearer all the pain and perceived power therein. If the ring drew Isildur, Deagol, Smeagol, Bilbo, Frodo, Galadriel, Boromir, Sam, Faramir, and Gandalf, why would Sauron's thirst for it be any less (he is a pusher snorting his own junk, Gandalf just says no) ... To me, that is the allegory (whether Tolkien admits to allegory or not).

Sauron's life force was not only dispersed in the One, but in the Seven and the Nine as well ... see 'Morgoth's Ring'.


We read that the Seven (along with the Nine) were "sullied" by Sauron's touch. In Tolkien's legendarium, this means that he put a bit of his corrupt spirit into them.

This sort of thing happens at various points in the legendarium; Morgoth diffused his spirit into Arda, the Eldar put a bit of themselves into their works (so that ropes can do interesting things, even when a Man is using them), and the spirit of an Elf who remains in Middle-Earth for too long will dissipate into the world, causing that Elf to "fade".

We read that some of the Seven were consumed by dragon fire; unlike the One Ring, they could be destroyed by this means. With the loss of each such ring, the bit of his spirit that was in each was destroyed (just as the vast portion that he put into the One would be destroyed when Gollum had his oopsie). It was now clear to Sauron that allowing the Dwarves to retain any of the remaining Seven left him vulnerable (with, as others have pointed out, not much gain), so he retrieved them and kept them.

With the Nine things were different. The Nazgul had different motivations than the Dwarves (power vs. material gain). They were working very effectively against Sauron's enemies, and were less likely to build up a hoard that would attract a ring-destroying dragon, and therefore allowing them to keep the Nine presented much less risk and much more gain.

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