TORN’s latest library piece tries to uncover the origins of the Ringwraiths.
Some of Tolkien’s most mysterious and alluring characters in Middle-earth, the Nazgûl have remained in the shadows (no pun intended) ever since their appearance in The Lord of the Rings.
The following article has examines many of Tolkien’s sources in an attempt to “map out” the possible locations where the Nazgûl may have originally come from.
Needless to say, this is all based on speculation … but there’s never a harm in that!
The identity and origin of the Nazgûl
There have been many theories and speculations on the possibilities of who and where Sauron’s greatest servants came from.
To better understand their origins, we must carefully analyse a specific period in time, and cross-reference it with different sources – trying to build a framework of all the events that occurred at that point in time.
That is the purpose of this essay. To shed light on the information that is available to us and construct a theory on several possibilities through calculated conclusions.
Needless to say, though everything presented her comes from Tolkien’s own sources, the end result is entirely based on speculation from the texts and my own interpretations; and are not intended to be perceived as fact.
What we know
It is a known fact among Tolkien readers that the only indications we have to any of the Nazgûl’s past histories, concern mainly three things:
1) Three of the Ringwraiths were originally men of Númenor
2) The leader of the Nine was known as the Witch-King
3) The second in command was Khamûl, an Easterling
The rest of our knowledge on Ringwraiths is based on their characteristics and behaviours channeled through their actions in The Lord of the Rings and a couple of descriptions in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
Thus, from here onward we must speculate and reason out what is made available to us – hoping to shed some light on the matter.
Constructing a theory
In order to begin our quest in exploring deeper the history of the Ringwraiths, we must first go through the different sources we have at our disposal – mainly, timelines and specific quotes that point towards the unknown aspects of these beings.