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It seems, with the exception of the magic done by Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf, most of the magic seen in Middle-Earth at the end of the Third Age is set firmly in the past, or done by evil. The exceptions to this seems to have been the Eldar, such as Galadriel, the Istari, who were actually Maia, and to a certain extent, Men of Númenorean descent.

The same holds true for magical items, such as the knives used by Merry and Pippin, or the swords Glamdring and Orcrist, that they were made a long time in the past. Glamdring and Orcrist were made in Gondolin in the First Age, apparently for the king, Turgon and lost in the fall of that city. Sting was found in the same cache as Glamdring and Orcrist, so it is assumed that it was made at the same time. All that we have discovered for certain is that it was made in Beleriand. Frodo believed that it had been used on creatures similar to Shelob on the borders of Doriath.

Glamdring, Orcrist, and the knife that Bilbo christened Sting all glowed with a blue light when evil was near. Although, during Gandalf's fight with the Balrog, Glamdring is described twice as white and not blue. The first description states that "Glamdring gleamed, cold and white"(LOTR.348) and the second that "Glamdring glittered white in answer"(LOTR.349). Perhaps it was the scale of the evil. After all, compared with a Balrog, orcs are very low on the scale. The blue light if it shone brightly enough could become white, and it was described as a cold white light. Nowhere else in the books is it stated that the light the blades gave off could be seen from a distance away from the handler.

The Narsil? Well, no dates are given, but it was Elendil's sword, so it had to have been made before the end of the Second Age, but was it passed down through his family before he got it? Some sources state that it was made by Telchar in the First Age of the Sun. It is unknown if it had any overt powers such as those possessed by Sting. The sword was broken at Elendil's death and not re-forged until the year 3018 of the Third Age for Aragorn, who christened it Andúril, or 'west-brilliance'. According to the Lord of the Rings, there were many runes engraved upon the blade when it was re-forged. Presumably they were for protection as Frodo recorded in his writing,"for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor" (LOTR.294).

The dagger used by Merry in the fight with the Witch-King had no overt powers, but it was said to have been created with spells and charms to bring down the evil of Angmar, and the surviving books say that it was the best weapon to have used on the Witch-King. This weapon and the ones used by Pippin and Sam on the quest were found in the Barrow. Probably they were made in the early Third Age after 1300. It was about this time that the Witch-king took up residence in Angmar. Scholars believe that it was about three hundred years later that the Barrow-wights first appeared.


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 to others.

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 by Celebrimbor.

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."
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.

A Palantir

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 case blue.

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 pass.

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!" (LOTR.384)

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 from Sauron.
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 short times.

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.
Traditionally, the realms of the Valar were in the West, and still, even today, the Eldar sail to the Undying Lands from our western coasts.

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 say.

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.


The lettering on the West Gate of Moria was also visible only under the light of moon and stars. Made of a substance called Ithildin, it took specific words to make it visible, words which, according to Gandalf, few knew by the time of the War of the Ring. However, it sounds as though, once upon a time, it was a very well known secret.

Third and finally, the One Ring. The writing on this item was made visible by heat or fire. Unlike the other two examples, the Ring was made for evil purposes. Actually, in it's natural place, on Sauron's finger, the writing would have been visible at all times, for he gave off heat enough that the Ring severely burned Isildur when he picked it up.

The One Ring

Locking and hiding doors was another interesting use of magic, and one which has been written about several times. Writings about three examples have survived. First we have the doors to the stronghold of the Wood-Elves in Mirkwood, and then the hidden entry into the Lonely Mountain, which Bilbo wrote about in his tale "There and Back Again". The third example was the West Gate of Moria, which Frodo described in his books.

According to Bilbo's journal, the gates to the Wood-Elves stronghold were sealed with magic. It looks as though they were also opened and closed by magic. However, that is about all the information we have about these doors. There is no clue as to the trigger for opening and closing them.

The trigger for the hidden door to Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, was a combination of time and a key. From the outside, the door would only be revealed on Durin's Day, which was "the first day of the dwarves' New Year... the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter. We still call it Durin's Day when the last moon of Autumn and the Sun are in the sky together."(H.60) Even when the door was revealed, a key was still needed to open it.

We know the most about the West Gate of Moria, which was actually, it appears, the simplest one of all. All that this door needed to be opened was the password; 'mellon', or 'friend'.

The West Gate

Magical places, like the Dead Marshes defy explaination. It is believed that something done by the Enemy caused the dead to become visible in the water, even a thousand or so years later, but nobody knows for certain. It's implied by Sméagol that there were spirits who lured people into drowning after dark in certain areas of the Marshes. Certainly the faces were recognizable, both as individuals and by race. Originally the area that later became known as the Mere of Dead Faces was originally one of the graveyards from the war of the Last Alliance, which was later swallowed by the marshes. Nothing was said about it after the War of the Ring, so who knows if the area was still haunted after Sauron's defeat.

Overall, magic seems to have been found mostly around certain sources; the Eldar, Númenoreans, the Istari, and the Enemy. Very little seems to have been overt, and then only if there was no other choice, ie Gandalf's using it to save the lives of the Company. Magical items by the end of the Third Age were generally things which had been created long ago, though it's possible that that changed briefly after the War of the Ring, but no information has survived to this day.

*Thank you to the folks of the LotR Fanatics Plaza Forums, especially Taramiluiel, for the translated elvish words.

Books Used in this Document:
    - The Lord of the Rings
    - The Silmarillion
    - The Unfinished Tales
    - The Hobbit
    - The Complete Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster
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