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The Three Rings were completed c. II 1590; the Keepers and their Rings passed into the West III 3021
The Three Rings were made by Celebrimbor and the Mírdain of Eregion
Two Elves descended from the Noldor,1 and one Maia
Two of the Three Rings were held in Rivendell and Lórien


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 March 2023
  • This entry is complete

The Keepers of the Three Rings of the Elves, a term used particularly to refer to the those who held the Rings at the end of the Third Age, and departed over the Sea with them. The Three Keepers were Elrond (who kept Vilya, the Ring of Air), Galadriel (the keeper of Nenya, the Ring of Water) and Gandalf (who kept Narya, the Ring of Fire).

Elrond Elrond bore Vilya, the Ring of Air. He was given his Ring by King Gil-galad when he set out to found a refuge in Eriador, and with it he maintained that refuge - Rivendell - through the later half of the Second Age and the entirety of the Third.
Galadriel Galadriel bore Nenya, the Ring of Water. She was the first of the Three Keepers to receive a Ring of Power, having been given it directly by its maker, Celebrimbor. She used its power to protect the land of Lórien, where she dwelt until the end of the Third Age.
Gandalf Gandalf bore Narya, the Ring of Fire. Long before Gandalf came to Middle-earth, Gil-galad had given this Ring to Círdan, but Círdan in turn passed it on to Gandalf when he arrived at the Grey Havens in about the year III 1000. Using its power, the Wizard was able to bring hope and courage to the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

These Three Keepers were not those originally destined to bear the Three Rings. Celebrimbor's original intentions when he completed those Rings in about the year II 1590 are not recorded, though he doubtless intended to be a Keeper himself. Indeed, it was through the power of the Three Rings that he became aware that his teacher Annatar had in fact been the Dark Lord Sauron. Sauron had made himself a Ruling Ring to control the lesser Rings of Power, but he had not foreseen Celebrimbor's creation of the Three Rings independently of his own dark malice.

With centuries of planning ruined, Sauron marched in fury from Mordor to recover the Rings of Power by force. Galadriel advised Celebrimbor that the Three Rings were no longer safe in his own land, and he agreed to disperse and hide them. He gave one, Nenya, to Galadriel at this time, and she thus became the first of the Three Keepers to hold a Ring. She took it with her to Lórien, but while Sauron still bore the One Ring, she could not use its power.

Celebrimbor sent the two remaining Rings to Gil-galad, the King of the Elves, in the distant northern land of Lindon. This proved fortunate, because Sauron soon came in full force against Celebrimbor's land of Eregion. Celebrimbor himself was tortured and slain, and Sauron took all of the Rings of Power that remained in Eregion. The Dark Lord purposed to continue his war until all the Elves were utterly defeated and the Three Rings were in his grasp, but his plans were foiled by the Númenóreans, who sailed to the aid of the Eldar and drove Sauron back to his own land of Mordor.

With the loss of Eregion, the Elves no longer held a realm within Eriador, and Gil-galad sent Elrond out to establish a new refuge within that region. At that time he passed Vilya, the Ring of Air, to Elrond to aid him in his work, and so Elrond became the second of the Three Keepers. The refuge he made in a hidden valley would become known as Rivendell, and he would long maintain it as a haven of peace on the edge of wild and dangerous lands.

The third of the Three Rings was Narya, the Ring of Fire. Gil-galad held this for a time, but then passed it to Círdan the Shipwright. When Sauron fell in the War of the Last Alliance, his Ruling Ring was taken by Isildur and later lost, and so the Three Keepers had no further need to fear its influence. They still wielded their Rings in secret, but they were able to use their powers to hold back the ravages of time and preserve their people across the long years of the Third Age.

A thousand years passed in Middle-earth before ships arrived out of the West to land at Círdan's Grey Havens. These vessels carried emissaries from beyond the Sea, beings who would become known as the Wizards among the peoples of Middle-earth. Perceiving great wisdom within one of these emissaries, Círdan chose to give up his Ring Narya, and so the Wizard who would become known as Gandalf came to hold the Ring of Fire, the last of the Three Keepers to receive their Ring.

Gandalf received the Red Ring Narya in about the year III 1000, and over the two millennia that followed, he used it to build resistance to the growing Shadow in Middle-earth. Meanwhile the refuges of the Elves in Rivendell and Lórien remained peaceful and protected through the power of the Rings held by Elrond and Galadriel. At last, however, the long-lost Ruling Ring of the Dark Lord was found again. The only hope of the Wise to keep it from its master was to destroy it, though in doing so the power of their own Three Rings would come to an end.2

The Quest of Mount Doom saw Frodo Baggins set out as the Ring-bearer to carry the One Ring to Mount Doom and cast it into the Fire where Sauron had forged it long beforehand. The Ring was indeed destroyed, and as had been foreseen, the power of the Three then failed. The Three Keepers then grew weary of Middle-earth, and they boarded a vessel at the Grey Havens. This White Ship carried them across the Great Sea into the West, and so the Three Keepers and their Rings departed from Middle-earth forever. Elrond and Galadriel had used the power of their Rings to hold back the fading of the Eldar in Middle-earth, but with the departure of the Three Keepers, the Third Age came to a close and the Dominion of Men truly began.



As a daughter of Finarfin, Galadriel was clearly one of the earliest generations of the Noldor. Elrond's descent was more complicated: he came from the Noldor through his ancestor Turgon, but he could also trace his line back to the Vanyar, the Sindar, the Edain and even to Melian the Maia.


It is perhaps surprising that the Three Rings, in whose making Sauron played no part, should fail when the One Ring was destroyed. The mechanism at work here is not explained in any detail, but Sauron had intended to use his Ruling Ring to dominate all the other Rings made using his own lore, so perhaps it might be expected that the destruction of the One Ring would also nullify the Three Rings (and presumably all the other Rings of Power, too). In fact, it should be said that even the Keepers had some doubt about what the outcome of the Ring's destruction would be, but both Elrond and Galadriel stated that they thought the power of the Three Rings would come to an end, and in the event they proved to be correct.


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 March 2023
  • This entry is complete

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