The Palantíri. These were made at some point between the Ages of
the Trees and the First Age of the Sun. They were later given to
the Númenoreans, to the Lords of Anadûnê, the family of Elendil.
The Elendilmir is an unusual item. For one thing, there were two
nearly identical items by this name, for another, it seems not to
have been affected by use of the One Ring. It is recorded that when
Isildur wore the One Ring in his attempt to escape the orcs it remained
visible. As quoted, the records say that "the Elendilmir
of the West could not be quenched, and suddenly it blazed forth
red and wrathful as a burning star."(UT.274) Historically, the
Elendilmir was the symbol of the kingship of Arnor. However, later
on, the stone is described as a white jewel.
Another jewel with visible magic was the Elfstone, also called
the Elessar, which Galadrel gave to Aragorn as her gift. It was
from this that he later took his name. Like the Elendilmir, this
item had a rather confusing history, over which the historians and
scholars still argue. Some say that there are two stones by this
name. Surviving records state this.
According to the document titled "The Elessar", the stone was created
in Gondolin. The maker's, Enerdhil, intent was to make a stone the
colour of leaves in which the light of the sun was trapped. Apparently,
one could look through the stone and see things as they were before
they were hurt. Also, and this may be the source for Aragorn's healing
abilities, the hands of one who had held it were able to bring healing
However, this is only true if the stone given to Aragorn was the
original stone, that is, if one goes by the theory that there was
a copy made. Apparently, Eärendil wore the stone on his travels
searching for the Undying Lands, and so it was lost to Middle-Earth.
However, this is where the historians and scholars differ. Some
say that it was brought back to Middle-Earth by Olórin. Others say
that the stone Galadriel gave to Aragorn was a copy, possibly made
Most of the items listed above which are visibly magic seem to
give off light. The Elendilmir, the Phial of Galadrel, and Glamdring,
Orcrist and Sting all give off some form of light. The Elessar is
somewhat debatable, and the description of the palantir at Isengard
is somewhat ambiguous.
Unfortunately, the gifts that Bilbo gave at his eleventy-first
birthday do not seem to fit in with this. The text clearly states
that some were "obviously magical"(LOTR.39).
Of course, they could have come from the Wood-elves. The others
are stated to have come from Dale, and the fact that many were of
'dwarf make' was a wonder to the hobbits.
Elven magic; this is where most of the magical items created in
the Second and Third Age seem to have come from. Most of the recorded
examples were the gifts and some of the supplies given to the Fellowship
in the Third Age. These included the elven-cloaks, the Phial of
Galadriel, the sheath for Andúril, the box of earth, and the rope
that Sam used. Also, lembas, the waybread of the Eldar, could be
figured into this group, although scholars debate this even still.
However, it seems that the Eldar have a different definition of
'magic' than the rest of Middle-Earth, and we do. Galadriel is recorded
as saying, when she is asked by Sam, "For this
is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand
clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word
of the deceits of the Enemy" (LOTR.381) Also, Frodo recorded
this discussion with Sam:
"If there's any magic about it, it's right down
deep where I can't lay my hands on it in a manner of speaking."
"You can see it and feel it everywhere," said Frodo.
"Well," said Sam, "You can't see nobody working it." (LOTR.380)
The magic that Sam is referring to here is most likely the work
of Nenya, the ring that Galadriel bore. Especially given that after
the One Ring was destroyed, the power in the other Rings was lost.
When Arwen went to Cerin Amroth to die, all the mallorn trees were
dying and the magic had been lost.
All three of the people who are recorded as using magic with visible
effects are bearers of the Three Rings of the Elves; Galadriel,
who wields Nenya, the Ring of Water, Elrond, Vilya, the Ring of
Air, and Gandalf, who carried Narya, the red Ring, the Ring of Fire.
To an extent this seems to influence the magical abilities. Both
the Mirror of Galadriel and the Phial of Galadriel are water based.
Gandalf specialized in Fire. But, the two examples we are given
of Elronds' abilities do not fit this theory. The first being his
protection of Rivendell through the flooding of the Bruinen, and
the second was his healing of the Morgul-knife wound.
Gandalf's magic, when we see it, is mostly that of fire, lightning
and light. In fact, to some peoples, fire was a large part of his
identity. To the majority of the Shire, Gandalf was known for his
fireworks and as a troublemaker. Bilbo himself said when he first
met Gandalf,"Not the man that used to make such
particularly excellent fireworks."(H.17)
Most of the times that we see Gandalf using magic in the Hobbit
and the Lord of the Rings, he used fire, light, or lightning. The
first example of his magic is right in the first chapter, 'An Unexpected
Party', when he uses the top of his staff to form a light, in this
Again, most of the time Gandalf's magic is seen it is because of
an emergency situation, at least in the Lord of the Rings. However,
in the Hobbit, there are a couple of times when he uses it for simple
amusement. Both of the times involved smoke rings. The first was
on page 23, in the chapter 'An Unexpected party', and the second
was in the chapter 'Over Hill and Under Hill', page 66. It seems
that he could direct the smoke and change its colours. Most of the
set pieces in his fireworks display were likely magical as well.
It is doubtful that any non-magical form of fireworks could have
effects such as the singing birds or the scent of flowers, just
to name two of the most likely.
Actually, Gandalf uses his staff for a lot of the magic we see
in both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. This ranges from offensive
magic, as with the Wargs in the Hobbit, to lighting the way. Also
he used it during the storm in the High Pass to light the fire.
It is used for light at least three times; the first was in 'An
Unexpected Party'. The second time was when they took shelter in
the cave. The third time was in the Lord of the Rings, when the
Company was travelling though Moria. There is another possible time
in the Goblin's lair under the Misty Mountains, where the book says
that "a pale light was leading them on" (H.71)
and "then Gandalf lit up his wand" (H.72) However
this is the only mention of a 'wand', so it is likely his staff.
Gandalf is also clearly able to call fire. He does so once in the
Hobbit, when they are trapped in the trees by the Wargs. Possibly
the effects of the pinecones he was lighting, but the fire was unusually
coloured. One of the lit cones is stated to have had blue fire;
another was green, as well as the more usual reds. The other three
times are in the Lord of the Rings, first when the Company was trapped
by the snow storm, and the second in the fight with the Wargs. The
third time was when he revealed himself to Aragorn, Legolas and
Gimli, as Gandalf the White.
In the first of the two examples from the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf
uses his staff as the medium for the fire, in that the firewood
surrounded the tip of the staff when he called the fire. Unlike
the time in the Hobbit though, this time words were used as a part
of the exercise, what Gandalf called a word of command: "naur
an edraith ammen" (LOTR.308), which translates as "Fire for
our salvation"*. The magical fire called, was blue and green at
first, but clearly became normal soon after. In the same chapter,
he reveals that he has limits to what he can do, when he says to
Legolas, "But I must have something to work on.
I cannot burn snow" (LOTR.309) He also reveals that magic use
can be used to identify a person when he lights the fire in the
The second example occurs when the Company was threatened and at
attacked by the Wargs after the failed attempt on the Pass. This
time there was already a fire lit, so Gandalf used a piece of that,
but again, he uses Elvish words as he tosses the burning wood overhead.
"Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!"
(LOTR.316) This translates as "Fire against the werewolf-host"*.
With the words, the trees overhead all burst into flame. This time,
nothing was said about the colour, so presumably there was nothing
unusual about it. Perhaps the colours only happened when he wasn't
working with existing fire.
The third example was when Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn met him as
Gandalf the White for the first time. He set one of Legolas's arrows
on fire. Again nothing is said about any unusual colours, but as
Gandalf the White, he had much more power. Also nothing was said
about any words being needed. That too could have been an effect
of his not being so limited as before.
Perhaps, in the example recorded in Bilbo's journal, Bilbo simply
couldn't hear any words, so nothing was said about it, after all,
the fifteen of them were spread pretty far apart in a very chaotic
situation. In both of the other examples, the Company was very close
together, although it was stated in the second example that "his
voice rolled like thunder" (LOTR.316).
Gandalf, when he returned as Gandalf the White, tended to use light,
and not fire more. The use of light as both an attack and defence
was demonstrated in his rescue of Faramir from the Winged Nazgûl
before the Siege of Minas Tirith.
Galadriel, the bearer of another of the Three, the Ring of Water,
was the ruler of Lothlórien. We see more of her magic than of most
of the other characters in Frodo's journals. She seemed to, at least
partially, see things far away, as in her comments about Gandalf's
fate, even before the Company told her anything. She could also
see 'into' a person, as the remaining members of the Company discovered
on their first meeting. From the descriptions, this was not exactly
a comfortable experience. Frodo recorded Faramir as doing something
similar when he questioned Gollum, but that could have been simple
observation. On the other hand, Faramir was of Númenorean lineage.
It was Galadriel who shielded Frodo from the Eye when he was looking
into the Mirror. She knew what he was seeing that time. Now whether
she saw the other scenes too, or not is not said, but the words
Galadriel used make it seem possible. Probably Frodo didn't know.
Galadriel was able to use Nenya to defend her land from Sauron,
as she told Frodo.
"But do not think that only by singing amid the
trees, nor even by the slender arrows of elven-bows, is this land
of Lothlórien maintained and defended against it's Enemy. I say
to you, Frodo, that even as I speak to you, I perceive the Dark
Lord and know his mind, or all of it that concerns the Elves. And
he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!"
Now, the question this raises is 'could Gandalf and Elrond do this
also, or was this Galadriel alone?' How much of this was due to
Nenya, and how much was Galadriel? It is likely that to a certain
extent this was an ability of the Eldar, as the chapter 'Homeward
Bound' describes Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Celeborn speaking
mind-to-mind. True not all of the four were Eldar, but the two that
weren't were close enough. Elrond was one of the Peredhil or half-elven,
and had chosen the fate of the Eldar. Gandalf was revealed to be
a Maia, one of those who aided in the creation of Eä. Also, it is
a power of the Ring, one that Galadriel warned Frodo not to use.
From the descriptions it is one that took a lot of power. It can't
be only the Rings, as Celeborn didn't have one.
As for the magic of the Enemy, there are several examples of this
in the Lord of the Rings. These range from the Nine and the One
Ring to the Morgul Knife and the Mouth of Sauron himself. However,
we are not told much about them.
There were also objects with spells laid on them by the Enemy.
For example, the battering ram used to break the gates of Minas
Tirith, which they called Grond, was said to have spells of destruction
laid on it. Whether they had any extra power from Sauron, or were
only cast by the men and orcs in his service is not known.
It is said that the Mouth of Sauron was the Lieutenant of Barad-Dûr.
Frodo's journals record that he was one of the Black Númenoreans,
but not a Ringwraith. Somehow he had survived for several hundred
years at the least. It was rumoured that he learned much sorcery
What he was riding was also obviously a magical creature. Most likely
it was once a horse, but it was recorded as having flames in its'
eyes and nostrils. Also, that it's head was more like a skull than
a living head.
The Morgul Knife was an unusual item. It was the only one of its
type mentioned in any of the surviving writings, but likely was
only one of many. This item was one of the most frightening in its
capabilities. Gandalf said that a heart-blow would have instantly
transformed the victim into a wraith, and the fragment of the blade
that had remained in the wound was slowly doing the same thing.
Generally, a heart-wound would have been fatal, so possibly any
instantly fatal wound would have had the same effect.
Presumably the weapon itself had some form of corrupting influence.
Glorfindel, when he saw it said to Aragorn,"be
wary, and handle it as little as you may!" (LOTR.227) Even Glorfindel,
an elf who had returned from the Undying Lands, was uncomfortable
with the hilt of the knife. The blade had disappeared in the growing
dawn light after the attack.
Some fairly odd things happened around the Nazgûl too. For example,
the Black Breath, as Aragorn called it. In Gondor it was known as
the Black Shadow. What it was exactly is unknown, but it was described
as an illness that came on those who had spent time near the Nazgûl.
It is very likely that the amount of time exposed had an effect
on the severity. Certainly it was often fatal, as was nearly the
case with Éowyn and Merry. That time it was an effort for Aragorn
to heal them. On the other hand, Merry came under it's influence
briefly back in Bree, yet had no long term effects and needed no
help recovering from it.
Any blade that wounded the Nazgûl, or at least their leader went
up in smoke. As Strider said, "all blades perish
that pierce that dreadful King" (LOTR.214). This was proven
with Merry's blade during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Also,
the Witch-King broke Frodo's sword at the ford of Bruinen without
touching it in any way.
Another oddity is the Watchers at the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Were
they stone? Living beings? As they no longer exist, it's hard to
say, but the best explanation that scholars and historians have
is that somehow they were spirits inhabiting the stone. There is
a precedent for this sort of thing with the Druedain in Beleriand.
There are tales of them being able to animate stone statues for
Both Sauron and Saruman seem to have had the ability to use animals
as spies, but there are at least two ways that this could be done,
and one of them is not magical at all. It's a given that some animals,
for example the fox in the Fellowship of the Ring, the thrushes
and the ravens from Bilbo's journal were all fully intelligent,
so conceivably some of the animals could choose to work for a specific
person or group. The other possibility is that the animals were
controlled somehow by the one who was spying, perhaps looking through
it's/their eyes. It's implied that Saruman, or Sauron, were using
the Crebain as spies.
Saruman seems also to have had the ability to cloud minds and to
change peoples perceptions of himself. Not only in reference to
his appearance, but he could also influence them, as Théoden and
the Riders discovered, through the use of his voice. While the first
was definitely a form of magic, the second could have been achieved
through practise, and have little or nothing to do with magic.
The Númenoreans, at least the noble houses, seem to have had some
forms of magic also. Look at Denethor, Faramir and Boromir as some
of the examples of magical abilities. Also, Malbeth the seer. What
about the Dead Men of Dunharrow and Isildur's curse? Men of Númenorean
descent made the weapon that Merry used against the Witch-King.
And then, there is Aragorn's healing skills.
One of the most impressive tales from the early Third Age is that
of Isildur and the Dead Men of Dunharrow. These people had sworn
an oath to to Isildur to fight against Sauron. But, when he summoned
them to fight, he found that they had returned to their original
allegience to Sauron. Apparently, he cursed them to remain on the
earth until they had fulfilled their oath to a future heir. As Aragorn
found, when he ventured the Paths Of the Dead, they did remain,
but whether it was Isildur's power, or something else is not know.
It is very possible that the Valar, seeing the future need, stepped
in and made Isildur's words come true.
There are several instances of prophecy involving those of Númenorean
descent in the surviving writings. Ranging from Halbarad's seeing
of his death, to the recorded prophecies by Malbeth the Seer they
are of varying importance.
The rhyme that both Boromir and Faramir dreamed, sending Boromir
to Rivendell is another interesting example of magic within those
of Númenorean blood. On the other hand, that could be the influence
of the Valar, which actually seems more plausible. Boromir is recorded
as having described the dream in the following manner:
In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark
and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered,
and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand. (LOTR.263)
Traditionally, the realms of the Valar were in the West, and still,
even today, the Eldar sail to the Undying Lands from our western
At the time of the War of the Ring there was an almost forgotten
tradition, relating to the Kings of Gondor, in the city of Minas
Tirith. The tradition was, as Ioreth said several times, that "the
hands of the king are the hands of a healer" (LOTR.894). Luckily
for many, that tradition was found to be correct after the battle
of the Pelennor fields, for Aragorn was able to save many who would
otherwise have died, including Éowyn, Faramir and Merry, each of
whom had had an important role in the events of the War of the Ring.
What's odd about this tradition is that Aragorn says in the Houses
of Healing "Would that Elrond were here, for he
is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power" (LOTR.897).
There are two possible ways to interpret this statement. One, that
all those of Númenorean descent had
some measure of healing power, though maybe not enough to really
make any difference. Or, two, that it was just the Royal family.
The latter actually makes more sense given the family trees in
question. Elros, the first king of Númenor was the brother of Elrond.
Elendil, the high king of Arnor and Gondor, was descended from the
Royal Family of Númenor. This means that Aragorn was a relation
of Elrond, though many generations apart. Given the statement about
Elrond having the greatest power at healing, it seems that the ability
is one that had something to do with the brothers status as half-elven,
even though Elros chose to become one of the Atani, while Elrond
chose the Eldar.
Elrond was able to heal the Morgul-knife wound, which Glorfindel
had not, and Glorfindel was one of the most powerful of the Eldar,
who at some point after the fall of Gondolin, returned from Valinor
to Middle-Earth. It seems from this that Elrond's healing ability
was unique to the Peredhil, and passed down through the generations,
though the strength, perhaps, grew less.
It seems as though some of the line of the Stewards had the ability
to 'read' people. Whether other Númenoreans had this ability also
is unknown, there is no evidence either way. References to the Stewards
being able to do so include Faramir's interview of Gollum;"'There
are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms
behind them,' said Faramir. 'But in this I judge that you speak
the truth...."(LOTR.717) and Gandalf's words to Pippin, where
he says "He can perceive, if he bends his will
thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men, even of those
that dwell far off". (LOTR.789-790)
It is possible that Faramir's words, as recorded by Frodo, are
merely stating his observational abilities, with nothing extra,
but, when put together with Gandalf's warning about Denethor, it
seems much more likely that this is something magical, though inborn,
like the healing ability that Aragorn had.
In regards to Gandalf's words about Denethor, it is possible that
he used the Palantir to do so, but it seems like something long
term, while he only started using the Palantir within a couple of
years of the War of the Ring, or at least that's what the records
Magical writing is an interesting problem. It doesn't fit under
magical things, but neither is it a person or race. While the map
that Thorin used to guide them to the Lonely Mountain was a thing,
as was the One Ring, the West Gate of Moria, where the third example
was, is something different, a magically locking door, of which
there were more than one, even at the time of the War of the Ring.
The writing on the map was described by Elrond, as written in Bilbo's
journals, as "Moon-letters are rune-letters, but
you cannot see them...not when you look straight at them. They can
only be seen when the moon shines behind them..." (H.60) Some,
at least according to Elrond, could only be seen if the phase of
the moon and the day of the year matched up with when the letters
were written. This was the case with Thorin's map.