9

The Dwarf Rings are being mentioned at the start of LOTR but no mention is made of them elsewhere despite the nine and three gathering heaps of attention.

While the dwarfs of ME are renowned for sticking to their mining and delving and smithing, only rarely coming out for light and (let's face it) the Elves aren't exactly the friendliest bunch, surely some news of the Dwarf Rings would have come to the attention of the Free peoples?

So what happened to the seven Dwarven rings?

  • I've seen a mention that 4 of the dwarven rings were destroyed by dragon fire. I can't find where that's cited though. – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 1:12
  • The dwarf ring Thorin's father was had was presumably lost during his captivity in Dol Guldur. Gandalf got the map to the Lonely Mountain, but not his ring. – Oldcat Dec 10 '14 at 1:15
  • Oh yes thank you. I do recall mention of Thrain's ring in Dol Guldur. So that still leaves six rings. Two notable mentions of dwarfs fighting dragons were of course at Erebor although that was more at Esgaroth and Glaurang was slain by Bard not by the dwarfs. The other I'm pretty sure it's the Dagor Bragollach but that was in the First Age and well and truely before the creation of the Rings. – Omar Devon Little Dec 10 '14 at 1:53
  • 2
    Actually, on reflection I don't think the dupe is appropriate. The linked question is specifically asking about the lesser rings, i.e. not the Three or Seven or Nine, and no answer makes mention of the fate of the Seven as this question asks for – Jason Baker Dec 10 '14 at 2:11
  • Also I found the reference @Richard. In Fellowship chapter 2, "Shadow of the Past", Gandalf says "Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three [Sauron] has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed." However I haven't been able to find any information about the circumstances regarding the other six Dwarf rings (i.e. the ones that weren't Thrain's). It's possible Tolkien never wrote it down – Jason Baker Dec 10 '14 at 2:18
17

All of the Dwarf rings are accounted for, either through destruction or recapture. This is mentioned many times in Lord of the Rings, for example Gandalf's words in Shadow of the Past:

Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed.

That the ring of Thrór was the last one that the Dwarves possessed is also well recorded; in the Council of Elrond we see Glóin saying the following:

The Seven are lost to us – if Balin has not found the ring of Thrór which was the last...

And also Gandalf's story of his visit to Dol Guldur recounted in the Quest of Erebor (published in Unfinished Tales):

I had entered Dol Guldur in disguise, and had found there an unhappy Dwarf dying in the pits. I had no idea who he was. He had a map that had belonged to Durin's folk in Moria and a key that seemed to go with it, though he was too far gone to explain it. And he said that he had possessed a great Ring.

Nearly all his ravings were of that. The last of the Seven he said over and over again.

This establishes that the fate of the seven Dwarven rings was quite well-known to the Wise.

Sauron kept the three he had recovered for potential future use as bargaining tools; we see an example of this in the story of the messenger from Mordor that Glóin recounts in the Council of Elrond:

Then about a year ago a messenger came to Dáin, but not from Moria – from Mordor: a horseman in the night, who called Dáin to his gate. The Lord Sauron the Great, so he said, wished for our friendship. Rings he would give for it, such as he gave of old.

As for the destruction of the other four, I'm not aware of any source text that explicitly states which dragons had destroyed them, or when they were destroyed, although a hint is given in the Appendices (to Lord of the Rings) recounting the Dwarves stay in the Grey Mountains:

But there were dragons in the wastes beyond; and after many years they became strong again and multiplied, and they made war on the Dwarves, and plundered their works.

How this can be reconciled with the statement in the Silmarillion that "it is said that the foundation of each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old was a golden ring", I do not know, although the use of "it is said" here is telling: this is evidently a Dwarven origin-myth and perhaps should not be taken literally.

This is essentially all the information that Tolkien ever gave about the seven. We don't know who the other two Dwarves that Sauron recovered the other two rings from were. We don't have clear details on when the other four were destroyed. We don't know which Dwarven households originally held them.

4

The rings given to the heads of the seven dwarven peoples are accounted for. Remember the Dwarves were given them by Sauron after 'The War of Elves and Sauron' occurred in the middle of second age.

The lead up to this is important. Sauron aided Celebrimbor, the High Smith of the Noldor colony of Eregion and grandson of Feanor to create 16 of the 20 Great Rings - those 'for' men and dwarfs - while 'in disguise' as a seemingly helpful emissary of the Valar called 'Anatar' or Lord of Gifts. Eventually his true identity was discovered when away in Mordor he forged the One and all the current ring-bearers heard him speak the ring verse in to their minds. Despite Sauron's demands Celebrimbor only willingly handed over the Great Rings which Sauron had directly aided in the smithing. Despite losing 'The War of Elves and Sauron' very badly and being tortured to death for their location, he took the whereabouts of The Three pristine elven rings to Mandos with him. This latter fact was disastrous to Sauron and indeed everything that followed; all his eventual defeats including the very 'War of The Ring' came about because The Three were both clean AND hidden from him - free to work in opposition to his will over the millennia.

Sauron's plan all along was to create a group of rings, magically connected to his own ruling ring. These would first be distributed to the most powerful denizens of middle-earth and then he would spring his trap; wearing the master One ring to allow him to control their minds and so all the significant kingdoms in existence at that time. His 'Annatar' fana was unmasked before he could quite complete the plan and unknown to him Celebrimbor made three rings for the greatest of the elves and totally without his input. It was because of this reason that The Three could not be perverted or do harm to their bearers.

In fact it turned out only The Nine really worked as planned, bending and corrupting the minds of their human wearers - opening them to Sauron's total control.

The Dwarves had initially been made by the Vala Aule to be totally and utterly indomitable; 'tough' beyond description, both physically and mentally. Even wearing one of the rings that Sauron had owned a hand in making the Dwarf Lords simply could not be controlled. The worst their rings did was intensify their innate characteristics - the love of material things and the desire to acquire more. It is in fact this effect which Peter Jackson in his 'The Hobbit' films so mystifyingly explains away as some totally non-canon 'madness' of 'Durin's line' and even to some extent makes it seem as if the Arkenstone is to blame.

Later, maybe even before the War of the Last Alliance it is said that the Dragons which plagued the latter-day kingdoms of the dwarves also happened to destroy their attendant rings - presumably while devouring/breathing fire upon the current wearer! This always has seemed a cop-out to me; surely if the One was indestructible then the other Great Rings were as well? Nonetheless it is an established fact, referred to many times in-story... So, yes - the Seven have a completely canon and very detailed history.

  • This is a very strong answer. It could be dramatically improved if you could offer some quotes to back up your assertions. – Valorum Dec 13 '14 at 18:29
  • My thanks again @Richard! I do genuinely value your input - you seem to have honest, constructive and noble intentions behind your suggestions - unlike certain other commentators! The history here is accurate. I'm just a bit old and tired to be leafing through source material and typing in quotes on a cold Saturday evening. I left University in the late forties and haven't looked back since!!! Maybe I'll get around to it later, always assuming this answer isn't deleted - but if I make readers think; be inspired in Tolkien enough to learn things for themselves that is enough for me. – user38114 Dec 13 '14 at 18:37

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