The Nazgûl (Black Speech: Ringwraiths, sometimes written Ring-wraiths), also known by many other names, were evil servants of Sauron in Middle-earth. They were said to be "his (Sauron's) most terrible servants." They served Sauron throughout the Second and Third Ages.
The Nazgûl were once Men, until Sauron gave them nine Rings of Power. These proved to be their undoing, they eventually became invisible to all save he who wore the One Ring. Only through Black cloaks and hauberks of silver mail were they given form. Though their human form was completely gone and invisible to mortal eyes, except through their attire, their hypnotic red eyes, which in a rage appeared in a hellish fire, could still be seen.
During the Second Age of Middle-earth the elven-smiths of Eregion forged the Rings of Power, nine of which were given to the race of mortal men. Nine great and powerful kings of men received these rings, three of which it is belived were lords of Númenor who were corrupted by Sauron. These Rings proved to be their undoing:
Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thralldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron's. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.—The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 289
For a great number of years the nine kings used these rings, which gained them great wealth, prestige and power. However the corrupting effect of the rings made their bodily forms fade over time until they had become wraiths entirely.
The Nazgûl were first seen around 2251 of the second age, and soon became established as Sauron's primary servants, though they were temporarily dispersed after Sauron's first overthrow in 3434 at the hands of Isildur of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
Return of the NazgûlEdit
The Nazgûl soon re-emerged around the year 1300 of the Third Age. Because the ring was not destroyed the Ringwraiths and their master survived. It was around this time that The Witch-king from the capital of his kingdom of Angmar, Carn Dûm, launched attacks aginst the nearby human kingdom of Arnor. His first target in his war against Arnor was the realm of Rhudaur. After conquering Rhudaur and replacing the Dúnedain king with one of the native Hillmen, possibly descended from the kin of Ulfang, in the year 1356 T.A. he moved against Arthedain. The attack on Arthedain resulted in the death of King Argeleb I. Arthedain was not yet defeated for they still managed to maintain a line of defense along the Weather Hills. In 1409 T.A. came the attack on Cardolan. Also during this time, the forces of the Witch-king burned and destroyed the watchtower of Amon Sûl. After the fall of Cardolan the Witch-king launched his final attack on the survivors of the previous attack on Arthedain, and after taking the capital Fornost the last kingdom of the Dúnedain realm of Arnor was destroyed.
A year later, a prince of Gondor named Eärnur arrived with the intention of aiding Arthedain. However after he discovered that he was too late, he and his army marched against the forces of the Witch-king, utterly destroying them at the Battle of Fornost. However, his kingdom of Angmar no more, the Witch-king escaped and retreated to Mordor. At some point, the Witch-king sent Barrow-wights to the Barrow-downs to prevent Cardolan from being resurrected.
Upon his return to Mordor, the Witch-king gathered the other eight Nazgûl. In the year T.A. 2000 the Nazgûl attacked, and after two years, conquered Minas Ithil, renaming it Minas Morgul and acquiring a palantír for their Dark master. It was from Minas Morgul that the nine directed the rebuilding of Sauron's armies and the preparation of Mordor for their master's return. In T.A. 2942 Sauron returned to Mordor openly declaring himself by 2951. He sent two or three of the Nazgûl to garrison his fortress Dol Guldur in Mirkwood.
Hunt for the RingEdit
“ The Ringwraiths are deadly enemies, but they are only shadows yet of the power and terror they would possess if the Ruling Ring was on their master's hand again. ”
Near the beginning of the War of the Ring in T.A. 3017, Sauron ordered his Ringwraiths to recover the One Ring of Power recently discovered to be in the Shire in the possession of a Hobbit named Baggins. The Nine, disguised as horse riders clad in black, attempted to track down Bilbo Baggins whom they believed had the ring. They soon discovered it was Frodo Baggins who had the ring and followed the hobbit and his friends through the Shire. After attacking Crickhollow, they discovered that their target had escaped the Shire, and eventually they located the hobbit in Bree. They sent assassins to take care of the hobbits, however after their assassins failed the Nazgûl again had to locate them. The Nazgûl even fought with the Istar Gandalf while scouting nearby Weathertop. They eventually located Frodo at Weathertop where the Witch-king himself stabbed the hobbit. However before they could acquire the ring, the ranger Aragorn chased the Nazgûl away with fire. The Nazgûl still kept after the hobbit and tried one more time to get Frodo, at the Fords of Bruinen. However they were swept away by the waters of the river, and their horses were killed.
War of the RingEdit
The Ringwraiths were forced to abandon their chase of Frodo and return to Mordor to regroup. After receiving new flying mounts (called simply fell beasts), the nine were used to attack the city of Osgiliath to prepare the way for the assault on Minas Tirith. The Witch-king lead Sauron's forces at what would be his last battle, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. During the battle, the lord of the Nazgûl was slain by Éowyn, the niece of (King of Rohan) Théoden, with help from the hobbit Merry. The remaning eight Nazgûl fought the Army of the West at the Battle of the Morannon. When Frodo Baggins put on the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, Sauron ordered the eight remaining Nazgûl to fly with all possible speed to Orodruin to intercept Frodo. They arrived too late, with the Ring falling into the fire along with Gollum. The Nazgûl were caught in the firestorm of the erupting mountain and were destroyed.
The name of only one of the nine is known, Khamûl, a former lord of Easterlings, and the Witch-king’s second in command. The Nazgûl were led by the Witch-king, commonly believed to have been a Númenórean Lord. Three of the ringwraiths were known to be Black Númenóreans. It is believed by some that Herumor or Fuinur, or both, Numenoreans who rose to great power among the Haradrim, became Nazgûl. Another possible Nazgûl name is Gharkul. In the game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II - The Rise of the Witch-king one of the nine is given the name Morgomir. The Nazgûl have been named in many different sources, though these names are not considered canon. In the early Middle-earth Role Playing games and material derived from them name the eight, other than Khamûl; Er-Murazor (the Witch-king, of Númenórean race), Dwar of Waw, Ji Indur Dawndeath, Akhorahil, Hoarmurath (Númenórean), Adunaphel the Quiet (female Númenórean), Ren the Unclean and Uvatha the Horseman. It is also not likly that any of the nine would have been female. In the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, chiefly based on the Jackson films, the Nazgûl are called The Witch King, Úlairë Attëa (The Easterling), Úlairë Nelya, Úlairë Cantëa, Úlairë Lemenya, Úlairë Enquëa, Úlairë Otsëa, Úlairë Toldëa and Úlairë Nertëa. The 8 new terms are not new names. In Quenya, Úlairë means Ringwraith, and the second name is merely a numeral from two to nine.
The Nazgûl are known by many other names; Ringwraiths', Úlairë, Ulaer, Black Riders, Wraiths on Wings, winged Nazgûl, the Nine, the nine servants of the Lord of the Rings, the servants of the Dark Lord, the Nine Riders, the Black Wings, the Shadows, The Fell Riders, and even the Shriekers by the Uruk-hai of the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
The Nazgul's names are; The Witch King (Tolkien), Lord of the Nazgul - Khamul the Easterling (Tolkien), Leutennant of Dol-Guldur - Morgomir (BFME2), Leutennant of Carn-Dum - Kharsh (BFME2), Would not Surrender to Sauron and so Fell Pray to Morgomir's Blade to Become a Wraith - The Undying (Games Workshop), The Oldest of the Nazgul - The Dark Marshall (Games Workshop), The One who Builds Saurons Armies - The Shadow Lord (Games Workshop), The Ruler of a Small and Insignifigant Kingdom - The Tainted (Games Workshop), The One who Gave Himself to Sauron Willingly.
At the start of the War of the ring the nine Nazgûl rode black horses stolen from Rohan, when riding these horses they were often called Black riders. However after the Battles of the Fords of Isen their horses were lost. At some point after this, the Nazgûl recieved Fell beasts from Sauron to replace the horses.
Weapons and AbilitiesEdit
“ No man can kill me. ”
— Witch King of Angmar
Unless blessed by Elvish magic, the Nazgûl were untouchable to mortal men. They had many weapons, which included long swords of steel and flame, daggers with magical venomous properties, and black maces of great strength. Their arsenal of deadly armaments were not confined to physical means; They had loud screeches, and also had magical weapons of devastating power.
They do not see during the day as mortals do, instead they see shadowy forms. However, because during the night they see many signs and forms invisible to mortal eyes, it is at night that they are to be feared most. At all times they can smell the blood of living things, and they desire and hate it. Their presence can be felt as a troubling of the heart, while they can more keenly feel the presence of others and at all times they sense the presence of the ring and are drawn to it.
They were surrounded by an aura of terror, which affected all living creatures; their breath (called the Black Breath) was poisonous, and their cries caused terror and despair in all who heard them. Some of the Nazgûl appear to have been accomplished sorcerers and used magic to devastating effect. According to Tolkien, though, it was the fear they inspired that was the chief danger: "They have no great physical power against the fearless," he wrote, "but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness" (Letters, 210)
Behind the ScenesEdit
- The term Nazgûl has been used to refer to IBM's cadre of lawyers, with whom it has been said that IBM can blacken the sky - particularly with reference to the SCO v. IBM lawsuit because they supposedly never sleep, are utterly ruthless, and are completely loyal servants to their master. In addition it has been said that they are "probably really nice people. They would be nicer too if they had (say) blood or souls like normal people."
This usage appears to have originated in a comment on Slashdot:
"Not long ago, the Black Gate of Armonk swung open. The lights went out, my skin crawled, and dogs began to howl. I asked my neighbor what it was and he said, 'Those are the nazgul. Once they were human, now they are IBM's lawyers.'" (IBM is headquartered in Armonk, New York).
It also has been suggested that this usage can be traced back to the 1969–1982 IBM antitrust suit with the United States Department of Justice, but this has not been substantiated. Tolkien himself was known to use the term figuratively. In a 1945 letter to his son, he compared his reaction to the aircraft of World War II to how Frodo might have felt if he had discovered Hobbits "learning to ride Nazgûl-birds" (Letters, 100).