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Maiar Lore The 'Lord of the Rings' Movies Don't Tell You

May 10, 2021 274 votes 36 voters 2.0k views15 items

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The Lord of the Rings trilogy and subsequent Hobbit trilogy detail the world of Middle-earth and its many inhabitants. These include Hobbits, Elves, Orcs, Goblins, Men, and more. In the "more" category, you have beings like Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf, and others who are shown but are barely explained. Who are these people, and how did they get their powers?

While the movies are scant on this information, J.R.R. Tolkien was not. He wrote additional books like The Silmarillion and a plethora of notes explaining as much as possible about the enigmatic characters called the Maiar. This list takes a look at the lore that didn't make it into the movies and details some of the most important Maiar lore the Lord of the Rings movies don't tell you.

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    Sauron's 19 Rings Of Power Were Formidable Maiar Weapons

    Sauron's One Ring may be the most powerful weapon in all of Middle-earth, but it's only so powerful because of its subordinate Rings of Power. Sauron taught the Elven smiths to craft the rings during the Second Age. In all, 19 Rings of Power were created, as explained in Tolkien's epigraph to The Lord of the Rings:

    Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

    While the 16 Rings of Power given to Men and Dwarves utterly corrupted them, the Three Rings given to the Elves did not. They were crafted without Sauron's touch, keeping him from using them to his advantage. When he learned this, he began the War of the Last Alliance, which ultimately led to his defeat.

    The Elves continued to wear these Three Rings, which remained incredibly powerful. Gandalf wore Narya, the Ring of Fire, at the Grey Havens. Nenya, the Ring of Water, belonged to Galadriel. Vilya, the Ring of Air, belonged to Elrond, who wore it throughout the Third Age.

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  • 2

    The Maiar Are Shapeshifters

    While the Maiar aren't bound to a particular form, that doesn't begin and end with a single choice. Essentially, this means if a Maia wanted to alter their form at any time, they have the power to do so. There isn't a limit to their ability to transform, so they can become a bat, a bird, an Elf, a Man, or whatever they felt they needed to be at any given point in time.

    This wasn't seen in any of the films outside of a slight transformation Gandalf underwent from Grey to White, but it's hinted at in some of Tolkien's writing. They also have the ability to teleport vast distances across Middle-earth, but this was also left unseen among the movies. In fact, Gandalf could have teleported numerous times had he wanted to, but he preferred to travel atop the back of Shadowfax.

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    The Maiar Aren't Bound To A Particular Form

    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    The Maiar are much like the Valar but are less powerful. Still, they share many similarities, including the ability to freely change their form into whatever they desire. A Maiar can also move about Middle-earth without any form, as Olórin and Gandalf did when they first walked among the Elves of Middle-earth. 

    When a Maiar's body is destroyed, they don't perish and can return to physical form sometime in the future. During this period, their spirit wanders without any true form, but it doesn't necessarily last forever. They can be restored by the Valar, or they can regain the strength to retake physical form once more.

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    Gandalf's History Is The Best-Known Of The Istari

    If you only know Gandalf from watching the films, there's a good chance you don't know much about him. On the surface, he is an enigmatic wizard, but he's far more than that. Gandalf was originally called Olórin, dispatched to Arda to help the Valar shape the world. That makes him a near-primordial spirit and a member of the Istari, who are five Maiar spirits specifically sent to aid the Free Peoples of Middle-earth against the rising threat of Sauron.

    Olórin, known as the wisest of the Maiar, was created by Ilúvatar before the Music of the Ainur, making him older than the Eä (Universe). He was particularly fond of the Elves and walked unseen among them, or appeared as one of them for a long time. He was dispatched back to Middle-earth at the dawn of the Third Age to council the Free People, and during this time, he took on the name Gandalf the Grey.

    He remained in this visage as a stranger who visited the many Free People of Middle-earth, yet he was always aware of the danger Sauron's return would induce. After helping to form the Fellowship of the Ring, he fought against a Balrog and emerged as Gandalf the White. He remained as such, replacing Saruman, who joined forces with Sauron during the War of the Ring. When the conflict came to an end, Gandalf joined Frodo, Bilbo, and Elrond, and finished his 2,000 years on Middle-earth, never to be seen again.

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