36

The elven rings lost their power, so presumably the human rings did as well, but the hobbits who had put on the Ring (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam) were still affected by it (immortal-ish). Would the Nazgul have been destroyed since they were so closely connected to the One Ring? (I seem to recall that happening in the movie but not the book.) Did they instantly die of old age because their rings lost power? Or were the effects still active on them like on the Hobbits? Did they waste away and just vanish from the world entirely? Or are they still wandering Middle Earth as helpless ghosts?

Closely connected side question: what happened to their souls? Human souls were supposed to transcend the world and go to Eru, as I recall, did that (eventually) happen?

  • 5
    I feel like my "heat-seeking guided rocks" answer wouldn't be very well accepted here, since i have a feeling that's only in the movies. Still though, Mount Doom has REALLY good aim. – acolyte Jul 5 '12 at 15:33
  • If the Nazgul had instantly died with the destruction of the Ring, they would have fallen from their saddles on the way to Orodruin. – EvilSnack May 21 '17 at 19:35
28

No reference is found in any canon works, but Wikia says:

The Nazgûl were destroyed, their form and power dissipating with that of their master.

This makes sense, since their extended existence was supported by One Ring's power.

As far as their souls, it isn't very clearly stated anywhere either, with the only guideline being Gandalf's saying to Witch-King of Angmar at Minas Tirith:

"You can not enter here," said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"

This might be read as some reference to NOT going to Eru, but vague enough that I'm not prepared to categorically say so.

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    I always assumed that Gandalf meant the void where the Valar sent Morgoth: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_of_Night – Raven13 Dec 5 '11 at 22:23
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    "You can not enter here," said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!" — I just LOVE this line. – Alenanno Feb 9 '12 at 10:36
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    Galdalf's way of saying, "Go to Hell." – jpmc26 Feb 4 '15 at 17:05
20

The Nazgul were destroyed in the destruction of the Ring, though it is ambiguous as to whether that's because of the Ring's destruction or because they were caught in the eruption of Mount Doom. Given the eagles later make it through the eruption to rescue Frodo and Sam, I think it is reasonable to assume the former.

And into the heart of the storm, with a cry that pierced all other sounds, tearing the clouds asunder, the Nazgûl came, shooting like flaming bolts, as caught in the fiery ruin of hill and sky they crackled, withered, and went out.

This lines up with what was expected in the books:

If [the Ring] is destroyed, then he will fall; and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble (Return of the King)

The latter I take to include the Nazgul, as their Rings will lose all power when the One Ring is destroyed and they are, in effect, a creation of Sauron.

As to what happened to their souls, neither of the canon sources on the demise of the Nazgul indicate what happened to them. The above obviously offers no guidance, and when the Witch-King fell nothing was noted either:

with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Éowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.

There's no explicit mention of Hell in Tolkien's mythologies nor in his Letters other than very early versions of the Silmarillion in HoME, generally referring to Angband, which is not really applicable in this case as that was a real place - not an underworld.

  • There's no explicit mention of a hell, but Morgoth was banished to a darkness beyond the world, wasn't he? Sauron's power is broken and he is dissipated to linger, but never again trouble the world, unable to act. Unless, of course, I'm remembering wrong. – Thom Brannan Mar 1 '13 at 4:42
9

From a canonical point of view, it cannot be known. But likely the Nazgul would not go to the "same place" as Sauron or Melkor/Morgoth. The Nazgul were after all in origin human. And only Iluvatar knows where the race of Men go after death, for this was not known even to the Valar or Maia.

Sauron may have been capable of keeping them in a place between life and death (just like long life was granted to the Numenorians by the Valar), but the Silmarillion clearly states that all men are ultimately subject to the Gift of Iluvatar - death, and that they are not bound to the world like the Valar, Maia, end Elves.

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    Morgoth no longer abides in Arda: he was cast out into the Void by the Valar after they broke Thangorodrim, beyond the Door of Night which is guarded by Eärendil and whence the Enemy shall re-enter the world at the End of Days. I do not think the same can be said of the dissipated Maia spirits of Saruman and Sauron, which likely remain within Arda but powerless. – tchrist Feb 15 '12 at 23:13
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    That does not imply that Morgoth is no longer bound to Arda. If you abide by the canon of the Silmarillion, Iluvatar made being bound to Arda a condition upon all Ainur who wanted to descend into it. – Gulhir The Grey Feb 25 '12 at 13:10
2

I don't have the quote(s), but it was made clear that the destruction of the One Ring would end the power of the 3 Elven Rings, even though they were never touched by Sauron. Therefore, surely the Seven and the Nine would lose their power also.

The question then becomes, would the 9 rings losing their power cause the Ringwraiths to immediately die of old age, or would it simply cause them to immediately begin aging normally again? The 3 don't give us any helpful evidence, since their wearers were all immortal anyway. Bilbo doesn't provide hard evidence, because he was still within the natural limits of age for a hobbit. (He set a new record, but not by much, and the previous record-holder was an ancestor.) It is worth noting, though, that Bilbo at the end seemed VERY old. He apparently aged faster than normal without the ring.

Gollum provides the only hard evidence. When the One Ring was taken away from him, depriving him of its power, he didn't immediately die of old age. However, one might counter-argue that the One Ring still existed. Unfortunately, Gollum crisped himself simultaneously with the One Ring, depriving us of an iron-clad test.

1

This is a very interesting question. The quick bow tied response would be that the rings that the nine held lost their power just like the elven rings did. It was by the power of these rings that each of the Nazgûl were able to live long past their appointed lifespan, and, hinted by the movies, come back even after their physical forms were defeated, obviously repeatedly.

Although, quite honestly, from a logical chronological progression of the story those rings losing their power as a result of the destruction of the master ring does not make sense because presumably they were made before the One Ring was made, as were the nine rings of the men and the seven rings of the dwarves. So one could speculate that even though the master ring was destroyed, because the other rings were not, that the remaining eight wraiths were still around into the fourth age, however diminished. In Morgoth's Ring, it is mentioned that in the fourth age, humans begin to replace orcs as forces of darkness, but I have not found any text to support the existence of the Nazgûl past the third age.

I myself have participated in a tabletop role-playing game experience where the game master made that leap: that the Nazgûl were still around in the fourth age. It completely freaked everyone out. This particular game master used the chronological technicality to justify the existence of the wraiths, his words were "yeah, the original Witch King was destroyed, but what's to stop someone finding his ring and putting it on? And you know those rings were made before the one ring was made so they have power individually!" Again this was just for the particular experience of the game he hosted, but I thought the interpretation had merit.

The counter argument to this view is that Tolkien as a narrator gives himself a lot of room for interpretation. There is room within the story arc to suggest that the nine and the seven rings might have been forged after Sauron crafted the master ring, but that would contradict the idea that once Sauron created the master ring, the elves that held their rings took them off.

This is one of those shifty gray areas where you can speculate all you like.

0

Well while it is true that the lesser 19 lost their power after the destruction of The One, a few of the Nazgul were very powerful even before the gaining possession of the rings. Chiefly The Witch King, he was a powerful sorcerer before his Nazgul state as well as the heavy implecation that he was of Numenorian decent which gives him 400-500 year lifespan. What I am getting at here is he and possibly the other 8 may still be alive. And by alive I mean a wandering spirit like Sauron or Saruman, and like Sauron they may be able to slowly gain the power to take form again. The reason I say this is because of ambiguous wording on Tolkien's part

with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Éowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.

And considering the 3rd age ended within hours after he "Died" it brings up questions as to his existence past the 3rd age.Of course it does not clearly state anything but still leaves it open to believe that The Witch king could return albiet being centuries later.

protected by Edlothiad Jan 28 '18 at 10:06

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