To my understanding and what the movies seem to portray, the Ringwraiths are invisible to mortal men. This would almost assume that if they were to take off their cloaks they would become invisible.

I feel that if they could have been much more effective in taking the ring from Frodo at Weathertop should they have been unseen.

Why wear cloaks?

  • 16
    Because cloaks are cool and look super-evil
    – Valorum
    Nov 26, 2014 at 22:03
  • 1
    I always imagined them cloaked in the spiritual equivalents of what they wore in life. Since they were dead, they didn't actually need clothing for protection. It was more of an afterimage of their former lives as rich and powerful Men. Nov 26, 2014 at 22:04
  • Oh, I understand that, but surely they could wear them AFTER taking the ring?
    – Phil
    Nov 26, 2014 at 22:05
  • 1
    thanksgiving mystery, im not sure if the rings granted invisibility but if so, the cloaks and weapons would be invisible, however we know that their weapons are not invisible, so to hide weapons they would wear the cloaks, i understand they could just go strangle frodo, but that would be a poor story. they also interacted with hobbits and men asking for directions ect, this could not have been done without the cloaks. It also seems to be their thing to let you know their here, they inspire fear, invisible things are boring, and then Tolkien would a had a way to make then visible ect.
    – Himarm
    Nov 26, 2014 at 22:14
  • 1
    Because the undead also need to be uncold and unwet.
    – Mark Olson
    Jul 6, 2022 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


They don't normally need to. As Boromir comments at The Council of Elrond:

Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.

For the start of their journey to the Shire they actually remained invisible, as we learn in The Hunt for the Ring (published in Unfinished Tales):

The Lord of Morgul therefore led his companions over Anduin, unclad and unmounted, and invisible to eyes, and yet a terror to all living things that they passed near. It was, maybe, on the first day of July that they went forth. They passed slowly and in stealth, through Anórien, and over the Entwade, and so into the Wold, and rumour of darkness and a dread of men knew not what went before them. They reached the west-shores of Anduin a little north of Sarn Gebir, as they had trysted; and there received horses and raiment that were secretly ferried over the River. This was (it is thought) about the seventeenth of July. Then they passed northward seeking for the Shire, the land of the Halflings.

Indeed the primary purpose of wearing cloaks appears to be to enable them to interact with people, in addition to the well-known questioning of Hobbits in the Shire, The Hunt for the Ring notes a number of other such interactions:

  • With Saruman
  • With Wormtongue
  • With some spies of Saruman's in Minhiriath.

As for the effectiveness of invisibility in taking the Ring from Frodo on Weathertop, you're seeing a plot-hole where none exists. The Nazgûl's primary weapon isn't invisibility, it's fear, again from The Hunt for the Ring:

...so great was the terror that went with them (even invisible and unclad)...

This extract even goes so far as to suggest that the fear they cause is even reduced when they are invisible.

We see this in the Weathertop scene, where the book describes the Hobbits' reactions:

Terror overcame Pippin and Merry, and they threw themselves flat on the ground. Sam shrank to Frodo's side. Frodo was hardly less terrified than his companions; he was quaking as if he was bitter cold...

So the Nazgûl hardly need to be invisible, they just need to scare the living bejeezus out of people, and there is a suggestion that they can more effectively do so if they can be seen.

  • 1
    It would only make sense that they would be more effective in battle situations if they were unseen... Dec 3, 2014 at 15:22

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