Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/26/22: Highfalutin Magic Rings

I’m talking about the ones featured in The Lord of the Rings: sophisticated, powerful, conventional (in appearance) tools of mass destruction, masquerading as fine jewelry any 20th century European might want to wear. Foremost among them was Sauron’s One Ring, of course, of unadorned gold, with a mysterious script running around the inside as demonstrated so powerfully in the Peter Jackson movie. But there was was also Nenya, worn so prettily by Galadriel in the above Hildebrandt Brothers illustration, and Narya and Vilya. Vilya belonged to Elrond, while Narya turned up later on the hand of Gandalf. But neither played a role in the story like the One Ring and Nenya did.

This intentionally naive illustration by artist Jeffrey Scott demonstrates the hierarchy and powers of the rings. The seven Dwarven rings and the nine human rings were never named. The Dwarven rings didn’t figure into the series at all, while the nine rings served to bind their owners to Sauron’s will.

These rings, aside from the powers of Sauron, Gandalf, and Saruman (and that door into Moria) were the only manifestations of magic in the main series, and the delinations of those powers was all rather vague and the magic system never really spelled out. This didn’t hurt the books, though — it gave them a mysterious grandeur.

Back to that Galadriel illustration. Does anyone else see a resemblance to this painting of Cinderella (on the right) by the early 20th century artist Maxfield Parrish?

Outside of the fact that Cinderella’s plumper, the light effects and soft, sculptural quality are the same. I sense a fomenting inspiration here.

For all the Tolkien imitations that arose after the 1960s, the fantasy books I read, anyway — none relied so heavily on magic rings. Except C. S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew, but he was a contemporary not an imitator. Perhaps that would have been cribbing from the master too obviously.

In the spirit of Tolkien’s grandly named set of rings, here’s a few I randomgenned myself.


Singular Magic Rings

Iluyaë, The Ring of The Hunt, also known as The Ring of the Moorlands: This ring is made of polished bone painted with creatures of the moors and forests. It allows the user to command a pack of hounds – even supernatural ones – to scent out and pursue another creature, holding them at bay ready to be frozen by a Timestop spell from the same ring.

Vhusya, The Crocodilian Ring: Fashioned of tightly braided gold wire, it contains a small, clear crystal containing a crocodile fetus. The wearer is able to summon and command any kind of crocodile as well as becoming invisible at will.

Dokhyen, The Virgin Ring: Made of a strange greenish metal etched with ancient symbols, this ring gives the caster command over unicorns and breathtaking good looks… as long as they remain a virgin. Traditionally given to the Guard of the Sacred Labyrinth.

Bhulyest, also known as the Goldsmithing Ring: Made of gold set with a single yellow diamond. On the opposite side from the diamond is a mysterious glyph. The user can command any item of gold, making it move or fly, and given gold ore, can work it as well as a goldsmith.

Oshuyar of the Shoreline: Allows the wearer to summon and command lungfish, animate strands of seaweed, and create seafoam. They can also use magic portals to access other parts of the ocean. In the right hands, the wearer can even transform into a giant sea dragon. The ring is made of clear polished glass set with a purple gem.

Ocho-Abayë, The Ring of the Insect Shrine: Made of a brass-colored metal and set with a brilliant emerald, this ring lets the wearer summon swarms of poisonous centipedes.

Thiyest The Unseen Ring: This ring is completely invisible, but on the finger it feels like warm metal. When worn by a mage, it allows them to inscribe seashells with spells, so they can act similar to scrolls.

Jihayar, The Ring of Cacophony: Made of carved lava rock inset with gold bars, and crowned by a fire opal, this ring was given by the gods to a hero they once favored. It allows the user to command the element of fire, gaze at the sun or other light sources without flinching or blinking, and disperse and calm wild beasts. In addition, the wearer can petrify harpies, sphinxes, lamias, and other fell female monsters from Greek mythology. What the ring is most known for, however, is creating a loud noise that sounds like a group of armed men fighting to the death.

Nejya, or Nejya the Veiled: Made of a shiny metal like platinum and set with a glowing pale pink gem, this ring is powerful enough to defeat even fate. It allows to user to alter the destiny of any being emotionally close to them, saving them from a (usually bad) outcome: a sailor lost at sea will turn up hale and hearty, a friend turned into a vampire will change back, etc. Note that some gods or godlike beings will not like this power used so profligately.

Rhilya, also known as The Red Ring and The Red Ring of the Conqueror: Made by the Mage-King Axuyar to dominate an entire continent, this ring is made of a strange reddish metal with the Elvish glyph for “Highest” set in a dozen small rubies. Rhilya’s powers include enhanced senses of sight and hearing for the wearer, the ability to control harmonics, daemon summoning and command, the power to disperse shadows or gather them together, and melt any item made of bronze-grade metal or below.

Yar, The Ring of the Prairie: Yar is one of those rare rings that are actually sentient, and as such can communicate telephathically with its wearer. Yar knows everything there is to know about horses, and with it the wearer can locate, summon, command, tame, and ride any non-magical equine. In addition, Yar is capable of resurrecting a deceased horse once per week, and while wearing Yar the user becomes very strong and hardy, like a healthy horse. He or she can also act as high-level blacksmith to shoe horses. Yar is carved from a smooth, dark brown stone, purportedly a meteorite fallen from space.

Xiya The Unlucky, also known as Xiya The Unwelcome: Xiya is made from a single piece of ivory set with a large black pearl. On first glance it appears beneficial, granting the wearer eternal youth and beauty (they do not age, but may be killed) and lets them turn non-organic matter into dust. The bad part is, the wearer will develop a craving to eat members of their own species – eventually, they will give into  cannibalism. Thus the name “Unlucky.” If the wearer gives Xiya away before they taste the flesh of another, they will be free of the curse. However, it takes a very strong-willed individual to do this; most beings will become addicted to youth and beauty as well as the ring’s destructive power. Once the wearer becomes a cannibal, there is no saving them. They will eventually devolve into a primitive cave troll-like being and lose their intelligence and soul.

Shuvya: Pronounced shoov-yah, this ring lets the wearer become a satyr or faun. It’s carved from a piece of amber and set with three gems. While in faun form the wearer can create portals between any two doors on the same world. The doors can be inside, in wardrobes or carriages, or outside, like in gates – it doesn’t matter as long as they are doors.

Uleyaë, The Ring of The Atmosphere: Made of silver and etched with obscure symbols, this ring allows the wearer to summon and communicate with any creature that flies.

Khiphiyar, The Adoration Ring: Anyone who wears this ring will be cherished and adored. So much that, if they can’t handle the situation, they might be whisked away and kept captive by one of their admirers. In the right hands, however, the ring can be a potent tool. It is carved from a piece of rough rock and haphazardly set with small garnets.


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