96

Just before Gandalf breaks his staff and casts him out of the order of Wizards, Saruman has a minor meltdown in which he accuses Gandalf of grabbing power. He makes specific reference to a handful of symbolically-powerful objects (emphasis mine):

‘But you [Saruman] will first surrender to me [Gandalf] the Key of Orthanc, and your staff. They shall be pledges of your conduct, to be returned later, if you merit them.’

Saruman’s face grew livid, twisted with rage, and a red light was kindled in his eyes. He laughed wildly. ‘Later!’ he cried, and his voice rose to a scream. ‘Later! Yes, when you also have the Keys of Barad-dûr itself, I suppose; and the crowns of seven kings, and the rods of the Five Wizards, and have purchased yourself a pair of boots many sizes larger than those that you wear now. A modest plan.’

The Two Towers Book 1 Chapter 10: “The Voice of Saruman”

The Keys of Orthanc and Barad-dûr are pretty obvious, as are the “rods of the Five Wizards”1. However, who are the “seven kings”?

My first thought was that this was a reference to Gondor, not because of the “kings” or “crowns”, but because of the “seven”; in particular, it recalled this line (emphasis mine):

Pippin was silent again for a while. He heard Gandalf singing softly to himself, murmuring brief snatches of rhyme in many tongues, as the miles ran under them. At last the wizard passed into a song of which the hobbit caught the words: a few lines came clear to his ears through the rushing of the wind:

Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.

The Two Towers Book 1 Chapter 10: “The Voice of Saruman”

However, that doesn’t make a bucketful of sense: Gondor only has one King (two if you count the quasi-independent Kingdom of Arnor; four if you further count the subdivisions of Arnor: Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur).

My next thought was that this is a reference to the seven fathers of the Dwarves. Gandalf does explicitly say that Sauron gave seven rings to “dwarf-kings”:

The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them. Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed.

The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1 Chapter 2: “The Shadow of the Past”

However, Saruman’s statement seems over-broad if that were the case; in almost all other cases, when talking about a specific race the speaker will preface their statement with that race (e.g., “elf-eyes”, “dwarf-rings”, “dwarf-kings” above, etc.), so it would seem unusual that, had Saruman meant the crowns of the Dwarf-kings, he would not have said “the crowns of the seven Dwarf-kings”.

Has Tolkien ever been more explicit about which seven kings Saruman is referring to, or does anyone have a more educated guess?


1 Even if Saruman isn’t referring to five literal rods, there’s a symbolism here; Saruman thinks Gandalf is seeking domination over the Istari. This says quite a bit more about Saruman than it does Gandalf.

  • 1
    Checking my electronic copy, it just has "seven kings" (i.e without the "the"). I can cross-check with Hammond & Scull and HoME 8 later on today; this may be a second-edition change or one of CT's subsequent corrections. – user8719 Apr 7 '15 at 13:29
  • 1
    "Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone" – Joe L. Apr 7 '15 at 13:49
  • 9
    More importantly... Who is the owner of those large boots? – Ceiling Gecko Apr 9 '15 at 12:31
  • 3
    @Ceiling Gecko: Tom Bombadil? – Joe L. Apr 10 '15 at 13:09
  • 2
    He means the King of the Isles and Rivers, the King of the Rock, the King of Mountain and Vale, the King of the Reach, the Storm King, the Prince of Dorne and the King in the North. – melboiko Jun 6 '17 at 9:27
70

I've cross-checked this text with the following sources:

  • The original draft text presented in History of Middle-earth 8.
  • A 7-book edition of Lord of the Rings based on the 2004/2005 text.
  • The 2013 collectors edition of Lord of the Rings.
  • Discussion of the chapter in Hammond & Scull's Readers Companion.
  • Discussion of the 2004/2005 edition changes, also in Hammond & Scull's Readers Companion.

In all cases the text states "crowns of seven kings" (i.e without the "the"), and there is no discussion of any changes made to this paragraph, in any edition, in Hammond & Scull's book.

The only reference to "the seven kings" I can actually locate is, in fact, in Peter Jackson's movie; for example in this clip:

I don't have a First Edition to cross-check with, but it seems irrelevant on account of the original History of Middle-earth 8 text: the correct reading is, in intention, "crowns of seven kings", and any case where "the seven kings" may be mentioned is in error, perhaps quoting the movie script rather than the books. It's also notable in this regard that, in the original text, "Five Wizards" is capitalized whereas "seven kings" is not.

The correct answer is therefore: there are no specific seven kings.

  • 1
    I could have sworn that my copy of the book said "the seven kings", but I guess that was just my mind playing tricks on me. Fair does – Jason Baker Apr 7 '15 at 22:53
  • 14
    While noting the textual detail is worth doing, I don't think this invalidates the question in any way. Even lacking the definite article, a plain reading of the text still insists that Saruman has something specific in mind. It might be symbolic rather than referring to a literal seven kings, so it might refer to a "what" rather than a "who." Regardless, I think the answer to this question necessarily needs to include the interpretation of the phrase. – jpmc26 Apr 8 '15 at 1:03
  • You may very well be right; it does seem odd to me include a non-specific "seven crowns" in the middle of a list of specific, powerful items. – Paul Draper Apr 8 '15 at 17:42
  • 4
    Seems reasonable enough, really. He's freaking out and accusing Gandalf of things at random. The number was probably the first that came to mind larger than maybe 3. He probably sees each accusation as more grave and serious than the last. Power over Barad-dûr < Power over some selection of kings < Power over the Istari. – AlbeyAmakiir Apr 10 '15 at 1:39
  • 3
    I'm utterly befuzzled at downvotes for an answer that's based on direct citations from the source texts and with no personal opinion or speculation in it, but hey-ho, it's not like I need the rep. – user8719 Apr 11 '15 at 11:02
45
+50

There are a number of good candidates for The Seven Kings in The Silmarillion, but I don't see anything definite.

  1. The Silmarillion, Valaquenta:

The Great among these spirits the Elves name the Valar, the Powers of Arda, and Men have often called them gods. The Lords of the Valar are seven; and the Valier, the Queens of the Valar, are seven also. These were their names in the Elvish tongue as it was spoken in Valinor, though they have other names in the speech of the Elves in Middle-earth, and their names among Men are manifold. The names of the Lords in due order are: Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë, Oromë, Mandos, Lórien, and Tulkas; and the names of the Queens are: Varda, Yavanna, Nienna, Estë, Vairë, Vána, and Nessa. Melkor is counted no longer among the Valar, and his name is not spoken upon Earth.

  1. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch. 2 Of Aulë and Yavanna:

It is told that in their beginning the Dwarves were made by Aulë in the darkness of Middle-earth; for so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfilment of the designs of Ilúvatar. And Aulë made the Dwarves even as they still are, because the forms of the Children who were to come were unclear to his mind, and because the power of Melkor was yet over the Earth; and he wished therefore that they should be strong and unyielding. But fearing that the other Valar might blame his work, he wrought in secret: and he made first the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves in a hall under the mountains in Middle-earth.

  1. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch. 3 Of the Coming of the Elves:

But at the bidding of Manwë Mandos spoke, and he said: ‘In this age the Children of Ilúvatar shall come indeed, but they come not yet. Moreover it is doom that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars. Great light shall be for their waning. To Varda ever shall they call at need.’
Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn... And high in the north as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom.

[Valacirca - The Sickle of the Valar, name of the constellation of the Great Bear]

  1. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch. 5 Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië:

The seven sons of Fëanor were Maedhros the tall; Maglor the mighty singer, whose voice was heard far over land and sea; Celegorm the fair, and Caranthir the dark; Curufin the crafty, who inherited most his father’s skill of hand; and the youngest Amrod and Amras, who were twin brothers, alike in mood and face. In later days they were great hunters in the woods of Middle-earth; and a hunter also was Celegorm, who in Valinor was a friend of Oromë, and often followed the Vala’s horn. [Fëanor and his sons instigated a lot of the events in the Second Age, both good and ill]

Considering the bombastic nature of Saruman's taunt to Gandolf, I tend to think he's speaking figuratively, symbolically, rather than literally. As I think about it more, I think the symbolism of the seven stars of Valacirca (possibility #3) is a very strong possibility, more fitting for an overblown insult than any literal set of kings.

  • 2
    But the seven sons were very definitely not kings. – Matt Gutting Apr 7 '15 at 14:42
  • 21
    The Seven Lords of the Valar seems to me to be a likely one for two Maiar to goad each other with. – user8719 Apr 7 '15 at 14:56
  • 2
    @Darth Melkor: A valid point, but given the bombastic nature of Saruman's taunt to Gandolf, I tend to think he's speaking figuratively, symbolically, rather than literally. That's what makes me think the seven stars of the Valacirca are more likely to be the subject of the "seven kings" reference. – Joe L. Apr 7 '15 at 19:13
  • 1
    Gandolf? :P – Federico Apr 7 '15 at 19:40
  • @Federico: Oops. :\ – Joe L. Apr 7 '15 at 21:40
16

These are rulerships over the land and people within it.

The line, "...the crowns of seven kings..." is spoken in contrast to several other items Saruman supposes Gandalf wants:

  • Keys of Barad-dûr
  • crowns of seven kings
  • rods of the Five Wizards

The keys of Barad-dûr refer to Sauron and all his evil followers - they bow to no kings, but they bow to Sauron.

The rods of five wizards refer to the only Maiar on the world - and their attendant power. They also bow to no kings.

And finally, the seven kings simply refers to all the contemporary kings, kingdoms, and races of that time - those who held power over all else on the world. King of Rohan, King of Dale, King of Gondor, etc - there are many kings in Middle Earth ruling over portions of the land. There are many races, each with their king or kings - Elves, men, dwarves, hobbits, etc.

In other words, Saruman was accusing Gandalf of gathering enough power to rule the entire world and all within it - becoming the ultimate ruler/king/etc. The very same Thing Saruman was actually doing.

  • 1
    Except there aren't many kings in Middle Earth. Hobbits and Elves don't have kings (the Elves have Lords and Ladies, a nod to the Fey but not kings or queens), the Dwarves have but One king and man at most five, two of whom rule beyond the generally acknowledged borders of Middle Earth, leaving only the King of Dale, the King of Rohan and arguably the King of Gondor, although at the time there isn't one, plus the dwarven King Under the Mountain, 4 kings. If you stretch the borders and include Harad and Rhun you get 6. – Ash Nov 20 '17 at 12:59
  • @Ash I stated, "all the contemporary kings, kingdoms, and races of that time - those who held power over all else on the world." - He's not talking only about official kingdoms, but also races and similar seats of power and control. The elves don't have "kings" but they clearly have a leadership structure, for instance. If you can control the "seven kings" along with the other two items in his list then you are in control of every individual in Middle Earth. – Adam Davis Nov 20 '17 at 13:44
  • You stated " there are many kings in Middle Earth" there aren't. – Ash Nov 20 '17 at 16:23
  • @Ash Again, when Saruman states it I assert he's not talking about "King" kings, but rulerships, leaders, etc. However, even if we're discussing "King" kings, you admit there may be as many as 6, and Saruman states 7, so I don't see a problem describing that as "many", though perhaps "several" would be better for you. I appreciate your perspective, however, and hope to see you contribute an answer to this question that clarifies this point. – Adam Davis Nov 21 '17 at 13:12
  • 1
    The very last paragraph is valid on its own. Full of resentment, bitterness, contempt. He knew that Gandalf wasn't doing these things - they were mere reflections of what he - Saruman - would have liked to have accomplished but knew he had failed on that part. – Pryftan Jan 17 '18 at 1:10
11

I think the emphasis here should be on the number seven rather than "seven kings". The number seven has had a cultural significance since ancient times. For example, there are seven deadly sins, seven days in a week and seven celestial bodies visible with the naked eye (the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).

I think Tolkien used the number seven here not because there were a group of seven kings in Middle-earth's history - there isn't - but because Tolkien recognised the number seven as traditionally a significant number, and used it here to give Saruman's goading of Gandalf a bit of extra impetus.

3

The crowns of seven kings just uses the significant number of seven in relation to exalted and important things which are usually hard to get, the crowns of kings.

It is not supposed to be The Crowns of THE Seven Kings.

There were more than seven kings in Middle-Earth in Third Age 3019. There are seven kingdoms in Europe today, even though it is very royalty-poor compared to previous eras, and most of Middle-earth was inhabited by allies and worshipers of Sauron who would use his magic to increase their numbers, not decease them. So there would be many kingdoms in Rhun and Harad and beyond in Middle-earth, beside possibly seven kings of the seven races of the Dwarves, the King of Dale, the King of Rohan, and the King of the wood-Elves.

I don't remember ever hearing of a set of monarchs called The Seven Kings of (something) ruling seven kingdoms at the same time that were classified together.

For example in 154 BC Han Dynasty China fought the Revolt of Seven Kings as I remember it from a course in Chinese history. It is true that the Wikipedia article calls it "The Rebellion of the Seven States" or "Revolt of the Seven Kingdoms".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebellion_of_the_Seven_States1

But those names for the event using "the" are clearly inaccurate since the article itself mentions five other kingdoms that didn't join the revolt. Thus the correct name must refer to "the Revolt of Seven Kingdoms" out of the twelve or more kingdoms", not "The Revolt of the Seven Kingdoms".

So The Seven Kings would be an entirely new expression in Middle-earth or our modern Earth.

0

I believe that "the crowns of seven kings" is a metaphor for the palantiri. There are seven of them and they were scattered across the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor. As they were brought from Numenor by Isildur and his sons who became rulers of these kingdoms, you could even consider the palantiri to be the 'crown jewels' of Gondor and Arnor.

(They would also be the "seven stones" Pippin heard about in the song you quoted.)

  • 2
    Tenuous at best. – Ian Thompson Apr 8 '15 at 8:59
  • 11
    I'm not convinced ... besides the not-so-obvious metaphorical meaning, there is the fact that owning all the seven palantiri would make them less useful, as their inter-communication ability would be pointless. – lfurini Apr 8 '15 at 9:30
  • 11
    @lfurini --- Maybe Smeagol could use two at once. – Ian Thompson Apr 8 '15 at 9:39
  • I think that it would be very uncomfortable to wear a Palantir on your head! – M. A. Golding Jul 8 '15 at 2:50
  • I thought of the Seeing-stones too but that's only because of the number. Nobody knew (maybe Gríma did but nobody else - unless you count someone in Mordor, that is) that Saruman was using a palantír and he wasn't at all impressed when Gríma threw it. He even shrieks when he realises what Gríma had done. So I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the palantíri. – Pryftan Jan 17 '18 at 1:15
0

One possibility is the seven kingdoms of men who fought against Sauron and his allies. This excludes any kingdoms in Rhun, Umbar, Harad and Far Harad, Khand, and Numenor, because at one point or another they all allied with Sauron. However, it leaves these seven:

  1. Gondor
  2. Arthedain
  3. Cardolan
  4. Rhudaur
  5. Rohan
  6. Dale
  7. Rhovanion

But I think the most plausible explanation is the movie got it wrong and Tolkein simply meant to refer to seven random crowns. The full quote is

"Yes, when you also have the Keys of Barad-dur itself, I suppose; and the crowns of seven kings, and the rods of the Five Wizards, and have purchased yourself a pair of boots many sizes larger than those that you wear now. A modest plan. Hardly one in which my help is needed!"

So I think Tolkein was having Saruman juxtapose two random and probably useless things with two specific and ideally useful things to illustrate how ridiculous his goals were. Otherwise he would've referred to Seven Kings as a proper noun like he did the Five Wizards.

-1

Is it possible the 7 kings he was referring to were the seven sons of Feanor? Feanor, who (likely) made the Palantir. All but one of said sons are dead/ presumed dead, making this an impossible task, therefore potentially aligning with the intent of Saruman. ie; 'Once you've achieved the impossible, then I'll give you the keys.'

Just as an aside, I was also thinking that it could be the 7 High Kings of the Noldor. If we start with Finwe, include Maedhros and conclude with Gil-Galad, then there were 7 High Kings of the Noldor. This seems remotely plausible...

  • 2
    Can you post a quote or reference to back this up? – Vanguard3000 Aug 18 '17 at 0:30
  • I'm not sure I understand how I'd do such a thing. – Raz Aug 18 '17 at 2:44
  • If memory serves me rightly Fëanor did indeed make the palantíri. But I don't think there is any evidence that Fëanor's sons are what Saruman was referring to. Saruman is at this point bitter and resents Gandalf very very much. If anything the suggestions Saruman makes here is things he himself would have liked to have accomplished. He wanted Gandalf's help (despite not knowing that Gandalf knew the location of the One Ring) but that was for his own purpose rather than for them (and Gandalf points out to Saruman that there is no need for the word 'we'). – Pryftan Jan 17 '18 at 1:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.