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We know they were pretty powerful guys in most aspects, did Tolkien ever mention if the Eldar would be able to destroy the One Ring?

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    If Feanor is known for anything, it would be for his willingness to destroy one of a kind objects for the greater good. He would never think about keeping for it for himself or making any bold oaths while doing so. – suchiuomizu Mar 18 '15 at 2:30
  • True, but Feanor is lesser than Sauron and people who are lesser than Sauron seem affected by it for example it affected, Gandalf, Galadriel who is Feanors equal. Seems to me that the ring would not effect you if you are greater than Sauron in power hence you are greater than the ring. – user31546 Mar 18 '15 at 2:33
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    @user31546 You're probably right, but it's a matter of nature rather than raw power. Sauron is a greater kind of creature than Galadriel, a mere Elf, or Gandalf (also a Maia, but trapped in a mortal body with mortal whims and urges). To truly be resistant to the power of the Ring, you either need to be a higher being (like Tom Bombadil, or likely the Valar) or have no ambition whatsoever (like Sam) – Jason Baker Mar 18 '15 at 2:52
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    Poor sam, although he did want to turn mordor into a massive garden. Would of been a beautiful sight to see haha – user31546 Mar 18 '15 at 3:10
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    I don't have enough to leave an answer, but I do have something to add. Feanor is an elf of extreme talent in making things. He is also proud, fiery, and charismatic. He is an elf of great stature. But therefore, because of the nature of the Ring, Feabor is actually in MORE danger from it than others might be, not less. The Ring would LOVE to have someone like Feanor get their their hands on it. – Zachary F Mar 22 '15 at 6:05
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Probably not

Frodo doesn't interact with many of the Eldar during his quest, but of all the ones he does, by far the best example is Galadriel.

The first thing we need to ask is: could one of the Eldar resist the temptation of the Ring

Galadriel's exposure to the Ring is a fairly well-known passage in Fellowship of the Ring (emphasis mine):

'I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask [to take possession of the One Ring]. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands[.]

[...]

'And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely. In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!'

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken

The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2 Chapter 8: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

From the above quote, two things are clear:

  1. Galadriel was sorely tempted by the Ring
  2. She resisted the temptation

The fact that she was able to resist the temptation is notable, because it's something very few characters are able to do: other than Galadriel, I think only Gandalf1 resists the temptation to take the Ring when offered, Faramir was able to resist the temptation to take it (although we don't know what it promised him), and only Sam and Bilbo (the latter with much prodding from Gandalf) are able to give it up once they have it2. Tolkien writes about this briefly in Letter 246 (emphasis mine):

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

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 246: To Mrs. Eileen Elgar (Incomplete). September 1963

This suggests that great Lords (and Ladies) of the Eldar are able to resist the Ring, at least in small doses, but only provided they had adequate time (and consider that Galadriel has had almost 5000 years3 to ponder this question) to convince themselves they must.

The problem with this is that it doesn't take into account the cumulative nature of the Ring; it wears down your resolve over time. The longer they had the Ring in their possession, the more likely they would be to give in. Tolkien suggests that, ultimately, they would ultimately be unable to resist, as he says later in Letter 246:

In any case Elrond or Galadriel would have proceeded in the policy now adopted by Sauron: they would have built up an empire with great and absolutely subservient generals and armies and engines of war, until they could challenge Sauron and destroy him by force.

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 246: To Mrs. Eileen Elgar (Incomplete). September 1963

The upshot of this analysis is that if Fëanor or Fingolfin independently managed to get to Mount Doom, arrive there at the same time as Frodo, and wrested the Ring from him, they could probably have convinced themselves to destroy it, assuming they'd had enough time to mentally prepare themselves.

Under basically any other set of circumstances, the odds are essentially nil.

Okay, but could they actually do it?

This is getting into speculative territory, but the answer is "probably not"

Tolkien suggests that it would be impossible - this is ultimately the moral of Frodo's own failure to destroy the Ring, which he states most clearly in Letter 191:

But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures4, however 'good'

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 191: To Miss J. Bum (Incomplete). July 1956

He says more in Letter 246:

At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum – impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted.

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 246: To Mrs. Eileen Elgar (Incomplete). September 1963

Tolkien suggests that, sensing its imminent destruction, the compelling power of the Ring would have been too great for any incarnate being to resist.

For my part, I find it notable that Tolkien specifically points out the hardship Frodo endured to get to Mount Doom, and how that wore down his resolve. If the task had been easier, would someone be able to destroy it? Frodo couldn't, but a being of more willpower, and enduring less torment, may have been able to. Or maybe they would have been overwhelmed by the desire of the Ring, as Frodo was.

Probably that last one, sadly.


1 And Tom Bombadil, obviously

2 As Lexible points out in comments, Aragorn (and many other characters) successfully resist the urge to use the Ring during the Council of Elrond. However the delegates fell into one of a few categories with regards to the Ring:

  1. They didn't know about it, so weren't thinking of it to be ensnared. Gimli and Glóin fall under this category
  2. They probably knew, but didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Most of the Elves probably fell under this category, as well as the four younger Hobbits; the Ring seems to grab onto ideas in your head about what you'd do if you had it (See Galadriel, Boromir, Sam, Gandalf, ...), so the best defence is to not think about that
  3. They thought about it a lot, but had the strength of character to resist. Gandalf and Elrond definitely, and very probably Glorfindel and Aragorn
  4. They thought about it a lot, and didn't have the strength of character to resist. Boromir.
  5. Bilbo. He'd already given up the Ring and, although he was tempted by it, that's probably what allowed him to resist

3 According to "The Tale of Years", Sauron forged the One Ring c. S.A. 1600, and the Fellowship reached Lothlórien early in T.A. 3019. The Second Age lasted until S.A. 3441, which works out to about 4860 years.

4 Tolkien discussed what he means by an 'incarnate' creature in Letter 156 when discussing the Istari:

By 'incarnate' I mean they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and of afflicting the spirit with physical fear, and of being 'killed'

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 156: To Robert Murray, SJ (Draft). November 1954

This definition includes every living thing in Middle Earth5, including Gandalf and Saruman. It excludes the Valar and the other Maiar, who are described in Letter 200:

They were thus in the world, but not of a kind whose essential nature is to be physically incarnate. They were self-incarnated, if they wished; but their incarnate forms were more analogous to our clothes than to our bodies

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 200: To Major R. Bowen (Incomplete). June 1957

5 With the possible exception of Tom Bombadil

  • Nice answer jason, i personally think that no incarnates could willingly destroy the ring the temptation just seems to strong. You bring up great points, but i personally agree if feanor or fingolfin wrested the ring from frodo in mount doom they wpuld destroy it, the temptation imho would be too great. – user31546 Mar 18 '15 at 3:20
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    Jason, doesn't Aragorn also resist the Ring? He's not directly tempted with it as I recall (correct me if I am in error), but he is certainly tempted to the degree that Boromir is tempted. – Lexible Mar 18 '15 at 5:25
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    @Lexible He "resists" by not becoming enamored by the idea of the Ring, the way Boromir does, but I believe the scene where Frodo actually offers him the Ring is only in the movies. I'm happily corrected, though, if you (or anyone else) can find a quote – Jason Baker Mar 18 '15 at 13:04
  • @JasonBaker He resists the temptation for those allied against Sauron to use it at the Council of Elrond. – Lexible Mar 18 '15 at 15:59
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    Faramir also refuses the ring and seems untempted by it. And it isn't so much power as innocence protects you from it which is why it seems to have more of an affect over time. – nick Mar 18 '15 at 21:47
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No. Not even Sauron could have destroyed the Ring.

Also so great was the Ring's power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his [Sauron's] own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it. So he thought. It was in any case on his finger. (Letters)

They might be able to convince themselves that the Ring should be destroyed, like Frodo did, but they would be unable to do it, just like when Frodo first learned that the Ring should be destroyed.

But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?’ cried Frodo again. ‘If you had warned me, or even sent me a message, I would have done away with it.’

‘Would you? How would you do that? Have you ever tried?’

‘No. But 1 suppose one could hammer it or melt it.’

Try!’ said Gandalf. Try now!’

Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.

(LotR, Shadows of the Past)

Bilbo merely passing the Ring on was itself an incredible feat, almost miraculous.

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    Frankly, I think your answer was stronger before the edit. Although Frodo was unable to throw the Ring into the fire (which, by the way, he knew would not harm it), Gandalf was able to. Also, on reflection, even that first quote seems to indicate that it was Sauron's belief that nobody could destroy the Ring, which was incorrect; I'm looking at how Tolkien writes "So he thought" – Jason Baker Mar 19 '15 at 14:33
  • Frodo did not know (or think) that he wouldn't be able to hurt the Ring - Gandalf knew it wouldn't hurt the ring. What I'm mostly trying to do is distinguish between resisting the temptation of the Ring (which many people could do) and actually performing the act of destroying the Ring (which is seems very doubtful anyone could do.) In the end Frodo was "spiritually enlarged" and probably most able of anyone in the world, but in the end even he was unable to do it, even though he knew rationally what the consequences would be. – Shamshiel Mar 20 '15 at 13:37
  • Disagree. Moments before urging Frodo to throw the Ring into the fire, Gandalf threw it in himself to reveal the hidden writing – Jason Baker Mar 20 '15 at 13:40
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    @JasonBaker: Sure, but it's not in there long (though Frodo is still quite distressed) and Frodo evidently thinks by throwing it in the "hottest part of the fire" he can melt it; of course, Gandalf then explains to him his fire isn't hot enough for even regular gold. – Shamshiel Mar 20 '15 at 13:43

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