Fëar Hröar and the Ring
Fëar, hröar and the Ring!
I have always wondered about the One Ring and the fact that it could made a Human or a Hobbit invisible. How could a ring do such a thing? Would an Elf be rendered invisible too?
Let us look at Sauron - he's an ëalar
|'spirit' (not incarnate, which was fëa, S[indarin] fae). ëala 'being'.|
|From Morgoth's Ring: Later Quentas|
Sauron decided to clothe himself, he became incarnated himself, and the longer a spirit uses a hröa, it becomes more depended on it.
|Here Pengolodh adds a long note on the use of hröar by the Valar. In brief he says that though in origin a "self-arraying", it may tend to approach the state of "incarnation", especially with the lesser members of that order (the Maiar). "It is said that the longer and the more the same hröa is used, the greater is the bond of habit, and the less do the 'self-arrayed' desire to leave it.|
| From Ósanwe Kenta Essay: Note 5 from the Vinyar Tegnwar # 39|
Because Sauron was a Maia, (one of the most powerful), when he made his OneRing, he had the ability, if you will, to control his spirit and hröa more than an elf or a man, and that is why he wouldn't become "invisible" when he put it on.
Let's take a look at the Children of Ilúvatar:
|The nature of an Elvish fëa was to endure the world to the end, and an Elvish hröa was also longeval by nature; so that an Elvish fëa finding that its hröa endured with it, supporting its indwelling and remaining unwearied in bodily delight, would have increased and more lasting joy|
|From Morgoth's Ring: Myths Transformed|
Men on the other hand, had another path. Their fëar were not meant to endure the length of Arda, so after a while, when their bodies were slain, they left Arda. Also Men had less control over their hröa than an elf would.
|Indeed in their earlier days death came more readily; for their bodies were then less different from the bodies of Men, and the command of their spirits over their bodies less complete.
This command was, nonetheless, at all times greater than it has ever been among Men. From their beginnings the chief difference between Elves and Men lay in the fate and nature of their spirits. The fëar of the Elves were destined to dwell in Arda for all the life of Arda, and the death of the flesh did not abrogate that destiny. Their fëar were tenacious therefore of life 'in the raiment of Arda', and far excelled the spirits of Men in power over that 'raiment', even from the first days protecting their bodies from many ills and assaults (such as disease), and healing them swiftly of injuries, so that they recovered from wounds that would have proved fatal to Men.|
| From Morgoth's Ring: Later Quentas|
|‘In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles - yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.
‘A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.’|
| From LotR: A Shadow of the Past|
A mortal while using the Ring more and more fades. I wonder if this is the same principle but in reverse of an ëalar. Sauron who was a maia, (being who is naturally discarnate), fashioned for himself a hröa, and the more he used it, the more he was bound to it.
On the other hand, we have a mortal, and the more he wears the ring, the more he becomes invisible, the more he fades, as if somehow loosing control over his hröa.
Let's see the "invisible" part of it.
|Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others: his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown. In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light. He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.|
| From LotR: A Knife in the Dark|
Notice that when Frodo puts the Ring on, he is "transported" to the spirit world, he can see the fëar of the Nazgûl. It is my belief that because Frodo is a hobbit, he has not the control over his hröa that an Elf or a Maia would, and therefore he is unable to control the Ring causing him to become "invisible". This applies to Men too because Hobbits are related to Men.
My guess is that an experienced elf or a Maia could wield the Ring without becoming "invisible".
What about the effects of the Ring on the fëar and hröar of a Men?
|Very soon then the fëa and hröa of a Man in Aman would not be united and at peace, but would be opposed, to the great pain of both. The hröa being in full vigour and joy of life would cling to the fëa, lest its departure should bring death; and against death it would revolt as would a great beast in full life either flee from the hunter or turn savagely upon him. But the fëa would be as it were in prison, becoming ever more weary of all the delights of the hröa, until they were loathsome to it, longing ever more and more to be gone, until even those matters for its thought that it received through the hröa and its senses became meaningless. |
| From Morgoth's Ring: Myths Transformed|
The ring grants you more life, but does it really? The ring prolongs the endurance of the hröa but it's not a good thing for a Men or Hobbit because they become trapped by it, and in time they begin to feel the effects of it like Bilbo and Gollum.
|'I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!’ he snorted. ‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’|
| From LotR:Many Meetings|
My conclusion is that the Rings grants you in a certain way, the scenario of what would happen if a Men was granted immortality of the hröa, (up to a certain point). Something that goes against the will of Ilúvatar ends bad. The wearer would not be blessed but cursed.
What about a dwarf?
|The only power over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all other good things seemed profitless, and they were filled with wrath and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them. But they were made from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will; and for the same reason their lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it.|
|From LotR: Appendix A, III, "Durin's Folk", of the Dwarves: |
It appears that the dwarven rings couldn’t make them invisible.
Also look in The Return of the Shadow : Of Gollum and the Ring
|The dwarves it is said had seven, but nothing could make them invisible. In them it only kindled to flames the fire of greed, and the foundation of each of the seven hoards of the Dwarves of old was a golden ring.|
It seems that the answer is no. Would the One Ring make them invisible? Probably no.
So what about Elves and Maiar then?
|The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance - this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor - thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron ('the Necromancer': so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit): such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible.|
| From the Letters # 131:|
What this implies to me is that the Ring, in some way affected the relationship between the fëar and hröar of a being. Because Men and Hobbits had not the control over their hröar as Elves did, they somehow lost control in a way, and their hröa became "invisible", all the while they could see the fëar of other beings, exp. Nazgûl.
|`Yes, at present, until all else is conquered. The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him. And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.'
[From the LotR: Many Meetings ]|
|Of the others only Gandalf might be expected to master him - being an emissary of the Powers and a creature of the same order, an immortal spirit taking a visible physical form. In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond. But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. |
| From the Letters of JRRT # 246:|
I think that this shows that if an ëalar like Gandalf could have mastered the Ring, he wouldn't be invisible while wearing it, others of his kind would be able to wield the Ring and not become "invisible".
The Elves part is more tricky. It seems that Galadriel could not control the Ring the way that Gandalf could. Does this means that if Galadriel would have wielded the Ring, would she have become "invisible"? There is no evidence in the Corpus of that, but given what is stated in the Letter, I would say that she being an elf of great insight and native power could if using the Ring remain visible. I think that only an elf of great stature could achieve that.
Can we assume from the fact that while the Elrond, Gandalf and Galadriel wore the Elven Rings, that they didn’t become invisible and apply it to the One Ring?
|The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed to the preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility. |
| From the Letters of JRRT: # 131|
Unfortunately that is not the case, The Three rings did not confer invisibility.
What about Tom Bombadil?
Regarding Tom Bombadil, why wasn't he turned "invisible", while wearing the Ring? We know that Gandalf could have mastered the Ring because he was of the same order as Sauron, could this mean that Bombadil had abilities of the same type? Could Bombadil be an ëalar that entered ME in the beginning and he didn't fit in the category of Vala/Maia?, and therefore Bombadil is just Bombadil? It leaves me wondering.
|Comments and Discussion|
Just a couple of thoughts this essay brought to me…
I think that what Frodo sees cannot be really fëar. I don’t think a fëa can be seen at all!! For the simple fact that as far as I know no one so far has ever been able to determine clearly what in fact the “soul” is and how it looks like!
- “Notice that when Frodo puts the Ring on, he is "transported" to the spirit world, he can see the fëar of the Nazgûl.”
IMHO, the soul = fëa could be some type of energy – still not understood, not studied, hence – not defined and therefore, being impossible to be compared to known things, it becomes a subject to rather “free” interpretations by humans.
In Tolkien’s books, just as well as in most other pieces of written fiction, especially in genres like fantasy, I would rather assume that again, we are dealing with just the “pattern”, forced upon our minds, making us believe that the inhabitants of the “invisible” world (call them “ghosts” or “fëar” or “souls” ) are pale, glittering with some bluish or greenish hue, FORMS , usually with “burning” eyes, whispering with harsh and most often unpleasant voices.…BUT! always with the form of a human body, no matter how and in what way distorted.
Because, in fact, this is an image born by a human mind – an image based however on the human perception of the material = visible world surrounding us; some sort of a projection of the material world in our attempt to make it somehow “unusually” looking!
And as Hobbits are humans, so this is how Frodo sees the Nazgûl.
But who can claim it to be the true image of a fëa?!!!
These images are just… a bit scary perhaps, but by no means – too “unusual” and I am sure – too far from the reality.
In this line of thoughts, I can’t recall from the little I have read, not one explicit description of the fëar of the Elves or especially of the form of the Ainur >> Valar/Maiar? when not clad in bodily forms. And these I assume could too be called fëar, couldn’t they! Such description is not given (correct me if I’m wrong!) neither by the author himself nor by the fictional characters who have had the chance of meeting the high spirits.
Just on the contrary! The spirits are described with lots of details BUT!! always and only when clad in bodily shapes.
Why? IMO, because a human is just incapable of describing something that is totally unknown, incomparable to the known or at least understood.
So,what we have here is another attempt, masterfully using methods and means of written fiction, to present the idea of what might happen to humans when or/and if they are frequently submitted to factors – most human btw! - like lust for power and domination or fear and cowardice (as is most often the case with Gollum and Frodo) in the aim to achieve something in a “non-conventional” way.
And here comes another “Why?”…. Well, IMO again, perhaps because of the principle so strongly and wholeheartedly accepted in the Christian human society – a society Tolkien was brought up in - “Do not question the powers of God and don’t ever try to understand or wield them!”(this is not a quote from the Bible or any holly book – just a summarized expression).
Just a thought about Gandalf. He refused the ring because it would master him through pity and the desire to do good, so he himself did not believe that he could master without becoming like the DarkLord eventually - it would control him.