Ringwraiths or Nazgûl

by Varda -(Valar)
Updated Nov. 17, 1999; June 26, 2000, June 24, 2003

Mankind > Ringwraiths > Ringwraiths or Nazgûl 

    The ringwraiths were also known as Nazgûl (in the Black Speech), Úlairi, the Black Riders, Fell Riders, and the Nine Riders.  In the Lord of the Rings books, they were usually referred to as ringwraiths before they attained fell beasts, and as Nazgûl afterwards.
    They were the nine mortal men of the poem of the rings, doomed to die or at least become wraiths as they fell under the power of the rings from Sauron.  They were all swallowed by their own greed for the greater power promised them by Sauron if they wore the rings. They did have the power they desired, for a while, but then their mortal forms faded until they became ghostlike creatures called "wraiths".
    Among those that Sauron snared as Ringwraiths were three great lords of the Númenórean race, chosen for his hatred of those folk. (Sil, Akallabeth)
    The Nine depended on their steeds for sight, themselves using a form of scent, their sight being on the ghost's plane.  Thus they saw those influenced by the Valar, such as elves, as brilliantly white.  Special weapons having Valinorian influence also appeared as if lit.  The ringwraiths themselves appeared as deepest shadow with glowing eyes, to those who could see. In the mortal plane, only their clothing showed, so they wrapped completely in hooded robes to pass among men.
    Their horses were especially brave, of the breed from Rohan, to stand their terror. Also they underwent special training for the task.  These helped the Riders pass as human or at least human-form creatures.  The horses were lost at the Ford.
    Flying beasts, unnamed horrors from outside the earth, replaced the horses, necessary for the stepped up work and distance the Nine next had to travel.  No longer needing anonymity, the Nine used them for speed and terror, rarely needing to use their considerable physical prowess in physical battle.
    During the First Age, a Noldo prince (elven race) could defeat a Nazgûl and even fought Balrogs.  During the time of the Lord of the Rings, the elven race had declined and such dangers were rare for the Riders.
    The Witch-king headed the Ringwraiths until his death. Then his second, Khamûl took over until all the ringwraiths were destroyed in the wreck of Sauron.
    Khamûl is named in the books.
    Fuinor and Herumor are possibly two other ringwraiths named in the Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age".  They were "black Númenóreans", some of many who had been turned to Sauron while he sojourned among them after his "capture". These two, among others, escaped the sinking of  Númenor by sailing to Middle-earth, where they rose to become Lords of the Haradrim. It is never said that they became ringwraiths, but they fit the profile.
    Other names and origins for the Ringwraiths are given by Iron Crown Enterprises in their card game, as allowed by the Tolkien estate for game purposes, but not as canon. These names are included for role-playing and so that the reader of this encyclopedia will know the source of the name when he sees it. This list is ordered by rank: The Witch-king is called Murezor. Khamûl remains the same. Dwar from Waw. Indur from Kornande. Akhoril from Númenor. Hoarmurath from Dir. Adunaphel the Quiet from Númenor. Ren the Unclean from Eastern Endor. Uvathar the Horseman from Eastern Endor.

References:  Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion, Iron Crown Enterprises

LotR: Ringwraiths
Sil: Ring-wraiths, ringwraiths