The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Given to Barahir in the winter of I 455
Still held by his descendants into the Fourth Age
Origins
Originally the ring of Finrod Felagund
Races
Originally borne by an Elf, but later held by a house of Men
Divisions
Finrod was of the Noldor; Barahir and his descendants were of the Edain (and later Dúnedain)
Family
Handed down through the descendants of the House of Bëor
Settlements
Particularly associated with Nargothrond during the First Age; held at Rivendell during much of the Third Age
Pronunciation
Barahir is pronounced 'ba'raheer'
Meaning
Barahir means 'fiery lord'

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  • Updated 5 February 2020
  • This entry is complete

Ring of Barahir

The gift and token of Finrod Felagund

"This is a ring of worth beyond your reckoning. For its ancientry alone."
Words of Arvedui to the Lossoth
The Lord of the Rings Appendix A I (iii),
Eriador, Arnor and the Heirs of Isildur

An exquisite jewelled ring, made by the Noldor in Valinor, that would play a part in the history of Middle-earth. The ring bore the emblem of the House of Finarfin: two serpents beneath a crown of flowers, upheld by one of the serpents and devoured by the other. The serpents on the ring were crafted with eyes of emerald, and the crown of flowers was formed from gold. The ring was originally held by Finrod, the eldest son of Finarfin, and he bore it with him when the Noldor departed from Aman and pursued Morgoth into Middle-earth.

The Ring in the First Age

In Middle-earth, Finrod founded a kingdom of his own, carving out the great underground citadel of Nargothrond above the banks of the river Narog. He ruled there for centuries, helping to hold the Siege of Angband that contained Morgoth in the North, until that Siege was broken in the cataclysm of the Dagor Bragollach. Finrod marched northward to meet the challenge, but found himself cut off from his main force in the Fen of Serech. When hope seemed lost, Barahir of the House of Bëor came to Finrod's aid and rescued him from sure disaster.

In gratitude for Barahir's aid, Finrod swore an oath of friendship with him and his house, giving him his ring as a token of their alliance. Thus the ring passed into the keeping of the House of Bëor, and would in time become known as the Ring of Barahir.

Barahir himself did not hold the ring for long. His own country of Ladros fell under the power of Morgoth, and he was forced to live as an outlaw in this own land. Some five years after the first assaults of the Dagor Bragollach, Barahir and his small band of companions were betrayed by one of their own, and slaughtered by the Orcs. Seeing the glittering ring that Barahir bore, the Orcs' chieftain cut off his hand as a trophy and carried it away.

That would have been the end of the Ring of Barahir, but the Orcs had unknowingly left a survivor of their raid. Barahir's son Beren, who had been away from camp when the Orcs attacked, tracked them and attacked them in turn. The chieftain who held the hand of Barahir was slain, and Beren recovered his father's hand and the ring that it bore.

After four years alone in the wilderness, Beren found his way into the land of Doriath. He was sent on a Quest to recover a Silmaril by King Thingol to win the hand of his daughter Lúthien. Beren set out to seek the aid of Finrod, holding the ring aloft as a token of friendship to the hidden guardians of Nargothrond. Finrod recognised the ring he had given to Barahir and felt bound by his oath of friendship to grant help to Beren. Finrod's choice to join a quest for a Silmaril placed him in opposition to the Sons of Fëanor, throwing his realm into disarray and leading directly to his own death in the dungeons of Sauron.

Beren and Lúthien ultimately survived the Quest of the Silmaril, and though both later suffered untimely deaths, they were returned to life by the Vala Mandos. They raised a family on Tol Galen, and the Ring of Barahir would become an heirloom, borne by their son Dior and passed on to his descendants. Thus it came into the keeping of Dior's grandson Elros at the close of the First Age.1

The Ring in the Second Age

When the island of Númenor was settled at the beginning of the Second Age, Elros became its first King and took the royal name Tar-Minyatur. So the Ring of Barahir was held by the royal line of the Númenor for four generations, until the fourth King, Elros' great-grandson Tar-Elendil, gave it to his daughter Silmariën. The ring thus passed out of the Line of Kings, and was held instead by the Lords of Andúnië, whose line Silmariën founded.

If the Ring of Barahir had remained an heirloom of the Kings, then it would have been lost with all Númenor's other royal treasures in the Downfall suffered by the island in II 3319. It was in the keeping, however, of the Lord of Andúnië, Elendil, who set sail from Númenor with his sons before the island was destroyed. Thus the ring was carried away from Númenor and back to Middle-earth, where it was held by the royal line of the Dúnedain.

The Ring in the Third Age

We have no direct information about the ownership of the Ring of Barahir during the early years of Arnor and Gondor, but it seems to have been held originally by High King Elendil in Arnor, and then inherited by his grandson Valandil who succeeded Elendil as King of the North-kingdom. Whatever its exact history, we know that it was ultimately held by the Heirs of Isildur in the North, and indeed after this time the ring is directly associated with the northern House of Isildur.

The ring must have been kept for nearly two thousand years by the Kings of Arnor in Annúminas, and later by the Kings of Arthedain in Fornost. The next definite appearance of the ring in history was in III 1974, when King Arvedui abandoned Fornost to the forces of Angmar and escaped into the icy north. We know that Arvedui had the ring with him at this time, because he gave it to the Lossoth, the Snowmen of Forochel, in exchange for their aid.

A ship was sent from Mithlond to rescue Arvedui, but when it attempted to set out on the return journey, it foundered and sank with the last King of Arthedain aboard. Because Arvedui had passed the Ring of Barahir to the Lossoth, though, it was saved from the depths of the Icebay. In time the Dúnedain were able to ransom the ring back and return it to its status as an heirloom of their Chieftain's house. With the loss of Fornost the Northern Dúnedain no longer had a city of their own, and the ring was kept instead by Elrond at Rivendell.

It seems that the ring was not kept permanently at Rivendell,2 but would at times be carried by the Heirs of Isildur. At least, when Elrond judged that Aragorn had come to manhood, he gave him the ring and also the Shards of Narsil. This was in the year III 2951, when Aragorn was twenty years old. From that time, he adventured across Middle-earth until he met with Arwen in Lórien in III 2980. The two had first encountered one another in Rivendell, but now they plighted their troth on the mound of Cerin Amroth, and at that time Aragorn gave the Ring of Barahir to Arwen.

This is the last we hear of the Ring of Barahir, so its ultimate fate is unknown. Arwen presumably wore it at her wedding to Aragorn after the War of the Ring, and as an heirloom of the House of Isildur we might reasonably expect that she would have passed it on to her son Eldarion. If so, it would have survived long into the Fourth Age, held by successive High Kings after Eldarion's time.


Notes

1

Dior must have passed the ring to his daughter Elwing, but she ultimately crossed the Great Sea into the West and did not return. The fact that the Ring of Barahir remained in Middle-earth at this time means that Elwing must have passed it on to her son Elros at some point before the breaking of the Havens of Sirion, from which she departed from Middle-earth forever.

2

We're not privy to the detailed arrangements surrounding Elrond's keeping of the Ring of Barahir. Aragorn's experience would have been unusual, as his father died while he was still a child, and so it would be natural for Elrond to hold the ring while its true owner grew up. The fact that Elrond gave him the ring when he reached manhood would seem to imply that it was normally carried by the Chieftain of the Dúnedain, but if so, given the dangerous lives they led, it seems fortunate indeed that the ring survived to Aragorn's time. Perhaps more plausibly, the Ring of Barahir might have been kept safe in Rivendell except when needed by its true owner for some particular purpose.

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About this entry:

  • Updated 5 February 2020
  • This entry is complete

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