The Three Elven Rings – Narya, Nenya and Vilya held important roles – they were made by Celebrimbor during the time of besieging by Sauron in the Second Age.
The powers of the Three most powerful Rings lasted until the end of the Third Age when they had faded – they were:
- Narya: Ring of Fire
- Nenya: Ring of Water
- Vilya: Ring of Air
Sauron’s Deeds + Making of the Three Elven Rings
Sauron the Maia – who was called Gorthaur in Beleriand – was seduced by Melkor in the Beginning of Arda before he became one of the greatest and most trusted servants of the Enemy. He was also the most perilous, as he could assume many forms.
After many years of peace, Sauron said that the Valar had forgotten Middle-earth as a result to Morgoth’s overthrow. He hated the Elves, and feared the Men of Númenor.
He had the easiest time swaying men compared to the Elves, though he went everywhere except Lindon as Gil-galad and Elrond doubted him. He took the name of Annatar, Lord of Gifts.
His counsels were most greatly received in Eregion, where he had posed as an emissary of the Valar – though it was mainly for them to be able to stay in Middle-earth. They made the Rings of Power when the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all they have contrived before – and thus, he also secretly made the One Ring to Rule Them All – while the Elves had made many rings with great power.
As a result, there were three rings that held the greatest powers – Narya, Nenya and Vilya – the Rings of Fire, Water, and Air and set with ruby, adamant, and sapphire. They were made by Celebrimbor alone.
Sauron most desired to possess them, and bring the Elves to his vigilance. Out of anger and fear, the Elves took off their rings and fled from Sauron – and bore the Three Rings away and hid them. Celebrimbor was slain by Sauron, but Sauron did not get the Three Rings – though he did get the Nine Rings for the Men, and Seven Rings for the Dwarves.
The Seven and Nine were made with Sauron’s aid, while the Three were made by primarily the Elvish guardians, Galadriel and Gil-galad.
Until the very end, the guardianship of the Three Rings was only known to those who had possessed them. It was later revealed that the three greatest of the Eldar – Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Círdan – first held the Rings before Narya was given to Gandalf and Vilya was given to Elrond.
Origins and Powers of Narya
Narya was adorned with a red stone. It was held by Gandalf – and openly worn by him at the Grey Havens. Called the Red Ring of Fire, it was originally entrusted to Gil-galad by Celebrimbor – and given to Círdan by Gil-galad.
He had seen further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth.
This Ring came from over the Sea, and was also called the Third Ring, but this was only known to Círdan for a period of time as he knew about the landings of the emissaries from the western shores – the Valar who sought counsel. When Sauron’s shadow stirred again, they had to try and resist him (UT).
There were five (5) chiefs from the North of Middle-earth, but Círdan saw the greatest spirit and the wisest, and granted to Gandalf the Third Ring, Narya the Red before he left for the Sea.
“And the Grey Messenger took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; yet the White Messenger (who was skilled to uncover all secrets) after a time became aware of this gift, and begrudged it, and it was the beginning of the hidden ill-will that he bore to the Grey, which afterwards became manifest.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, “The Istari”
As a result, Gandalf’s spirits were warm and eager, which was enhanced by the Ring and he was able to fight the powers of Sauron opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles – and reveal his power to Sauron.
He mostly journeyed on foot, leaning on a staff, so he was called the ‘Elf on the Wand,’ by the Men of the North – while neither seeking power nor praise.
It was not known that Gandalf had born the Ring of Fire until he had arrived at the Grey Havens.
Origins and Powers of Nenya
Nenya was held by Galadriel, and is also known as the “Ring of Adamant.” It was also called the White Ring. She had received it from Celebrimbor when she counseled the Elves to keep the Rings – especially the Three Rings – far from Eregion.
It held a great power among her, which was the ability to conceal all evils, though it later increased her desire for the Sea, causing her to gradually lose the joy she had in remaining in Middle-earth.
While Sauron posed as an emissary in Eregion, he perceived Galadriel to be his chief adversary and obstacle. She scorned him – while there was no explanation of why she did, it can be implied it was because she was able to perceive his true nature. But she permitted him to remain in Eregion.
However, Sauron formed a society, or a brotherhood in secret unbeknownst to Galadriel and her husband Celeborn, in order to further seize his own power. Galadriel left Eregion and was able to defend against Sauron and take up rule in Lorinand.
Sauron left, and Galadriel received Nenya from Celebrimbor after she counseled him asking him to keep the Three Rings as far away from Eregion as possible. This was also around the time when Vilya was given to Elrond.
Galadriel was able to use the Ring in Lóthlorien to conceal evils though it is not normally visible. However it was visible to the bearer of the One Ring, while Sam mainly saw a star through Galadriel’s fingers.
Origins and Powers of Vilya
Vilya was given to Elrond by Gil-galad before he died – since Gil-galad wanted Elrond to be his vice-reagent in Eriador during a council they had. They had formed the Last Alliance of the Second Age, thus the Ring (and all the Rings) started in the Second Age and continued on through the Third.
Vilya was also the ‘mightiest of the three [Rings].” This was also around the time when Nenya was given to Galadriel.
It can be implied that Vilya has helped Elrond carry out his healing powers and deeds in Rivendell – an enchanted sanctuary in the “extreme eastern margin of the western lands” which he had founded (L 153).
Imladris was an Elvish stronghold which remained as such throughout the Second and into the Third Ages.
Many Elves dwelled in his home after the fall of Gil-galad making Imladris the chief dwelling of the High Elves in Eriador except the Elves of Lindon. However, it was certainly not limited to the Elves, as evidenced by Thorin and Company, The Fellowship of the Ring, and Bilbo’s retirement.
After the Destruction of the One Ring, the powers of the Three Rings faded, and their bearers can no longer stay in Middle-earth. However, they were wearing the Three Rings on the ship and were greeted by Círdan the Shipwright.
This was because Sauron failed at the time of the Ring’s destruction, and he vanquished and “passed away like a shadow of malice.” (Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power”)
However, it also renewed the might of the Dúnedain, and the Heir of Isildur was crowned King of Gondor and Arnor. The White Tree flowered again in Minas Anor, as Gandalf found a seedling in Mindolluin.
The Last of the Noldor had set sail from Middle-earth and into Valinor, which ended the story and song of the Eldar and marked the Beginning of the Fourth Age.
However, some of the Elves remained, including Celeborn who went to Rivendell after Galadriel’s departure, but it is implied that the last have sailed in FoA 120 – which also marked the death of Aragorn, and later, Arwen, and the fall of Rivendell.