Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

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Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age is the fifth and last part of The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is relatively short, consisting of about 20 pages.

The work is a fictional historical essay dealing with the preamble to the events described in Tolkien's epic novel The Lord of the Rings, and the events themselves, in the style of The Silmarillion. As the name implies, the events of the essay are focused around magical artifacts: the Rings of Power, and also the history of the Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth. The fact that those events are explored in a mere handful of pages suggests that if the events described in the rest of The Silmarillion had been written in the style of The Lord of the Rings they would have filled hundreds of volumes.

After Tolkien's death in 1973, his son Christopher completed this part, assisted by Guy Gavriel Kay. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age bears some similarities to Elrond's narrative in The Fellowship of the Ring during the chapter "The Council of Elrond"; both do not divulge any details about how Arnor was destroyed and how Gondor became kingless. The closeness is perhaps intentional; as Elrond told the Second and Third Age through his eyes, The Silmarillion is supposed to be told through the point of the view of the Eldar.

Information on the background and development of this essay can be found in The Treason of Isengard.


The Second Age

In the First Age, the cunning and malevolent being Sauron had been the chief servant of the evil demigod Melkor (later called Morgoth) and he was instrumental in Morgoth's many attempts to become ruler of Middle-earth. At the end of the First Age, the Valar (whose power governs the world) unite with Men and Elves to defeat Morgoth, who is captured and cast into the Void. But Sauron (along with other servants of Morgoth, including Balrogs and dragons) manages to escape his master's downfall. Those men who fought on the side of the Valar are allowed to live on the island of Númenor close to Aman where the Valar live, while Middle-earth itself is largely abandoned to Sauron and his minions at the beginning of the Second Age.

The Rings of Power

However, not all of Middle-earth remains under Sauron's sway. Those Elves who had survived the vicissitudes of the First Age begin a new kingdom in Eregion, and during the Second Age, the Elves of Eregion forge many magical rings, including 19 Rings of Power with the aid of Sauron. At this time Sauron is still able to put on a fair appearance and manages to fool the elves into believing his intentions are good. But he deceived them, for in secret he had made the One Ring for himself in order to enslave them and all the other peoples of Middle-earth.

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