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Monday, April 15, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - N is for Nazgûl


The Nazgûl, also called the Black Riders or the Ring Wraiths, are the main villains of The Lord Of The Rings. There are nine of them, riding around on black horses, serving Sauron the Dark Lord. The horses are ordinary animals, stolen from the land of Rohan, which is why they can be drowned early in the novel, when the Nazgûl are chasing Frodo across the river Bruinen, on the way to the elf colony of Rivendell. Unfortunately, the Nazgûl are just fine. Being washed away by the elf Elrond is just a nuisance for them, making them temporarily lose shape.

They are the nine mortal kings who were silly enough to accept rings from Sauron. Well, were mortal - they are still around after centuries. And they are scary! Even orcs can be uncomfortable with them, as Sam Gamgee, hero Frodo’s servant, overhears when two orcs are talking nearby (We will talk about orcs tomorrow). 

The rings of power they wore corrupted them and, while they got a lot of power and wealth in their mortal lifetimes, they eventually found themselves working for Sauron. They wear black robes, but are more or less invisible otherwise, except to Frodo when he puts the Ring on. Actually, wearing the Ring is what lets them see him!

What he sees when he is wearing the Ring terrifies him. While fighting them on Weathertop hill, he is wounded by a Nazgûl blade. He is taken to Rivendell and treated, but he never really recovers from the wound. 

Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, suggests that people who accept these rings really turn themselves into Ring Wraiths. I see his point. The Black Riders were ambitious and greedy in the first place. They were, let’s face it, not nice people even as human.

Their leader is known as the Witch King of Angmar, the one who wounded Frodo. He is very self confident because a prophecy has said he can’t be killed by any man. Boy, is he surprised when he is confronted on the battlefield by warrior maiden Eowyn, who says, “I am no man!” as she pulls off her helmet and stabs him. 

And part of his destruction is caused by a stab in the leg by hobbit Merry Brandybuck - also no man! Those two were not supposed to fight. Eowyn was supposed to stay home and be acting ruler, Merry is rather too short and is told he can’t go. But Eowyn, disguised, whose men certainly know who “Dernhelm” is, smuggles Merry with her. Both of them are badly wounded, but save the day. 

Really, it serves the Witch King absolutely right! It’s a bit like “Macbeth, you’ll be fine as long as Birnam Wood doesn’t come to Dunsinane” and that “no man of woman born” can harm him. And then the army creeps up to the castle with branches, and it turns out that Macduff was born by Caesarean section. Both Macbeth and the Witch King should have paid attention to the technicalities. By the way, Tolkien hated that scene about Birnam Wood, he thought it was cheating. It’s how he got the idea for those walking trees the Ents.  

The Ring Wraiths are truly scary. I’m wondering if J.Michael Straczynski sneaked them into his SF TV series Babylon 5. There are the villainous Shadows, who capture people and connect them to black spaceships, to do their bidding. Of course, the “Black Riders” of Babylon 5 are not willing or corrupted, they are captives, including a woman loved by Alfred Bester, the show’s main villain. But there are other Tolkien elements in the show, so I wouldn’t be surprised. 

The Ring Wraiths are not people who can inspire sympathy or even pity. They did it to themselves. The fact that even orcs are not fans says something about them.

Tomorrow- orcs! 


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I agree that the Ring Wraiths are truly scary! They terrified me while reading LOTR!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Agreed, Debra! They wer3 horrible people even when human.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

If even orcs don't like you, you know you're really bad :-)

Ronel visiting for N: My Languishing TBR: N