Downfall of the Witch-King

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:04 am

I see so they were in fact invisible after all. Going deeper into that matter could lead you on a merry chase so I think I'll leave that one as it is, and as quite satisfied.

Haha and poor Eowyn! As far as I remember Merry got most of the credit for their little tag-team heroics, and she even came off the worst of it (Bar are invisible friend)!

So in the end, as it is with much of Tolkien's works, the nature of the Nazgul and their being is highly debatable, and nobody, not even the man himself knows the answer to all these questions. I submit to the fact that we will never know the ultimate fate of the Witch-King, perhaps his being did survive the Battle of the Pelennor, or even out lasted the destruction of the One Ring, only to wander aimlessly as a mavolent spirit, to weak to effect the world, (I believe this is what happened to Sauron/Sauruman?).
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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:54 am

Huan the Hound wrote:Really clarified a lot, cheers man! But I have to say your thesis has now left me with a hundred more questions that need answering haha

Haha, great, you're most welcome! Welcome to the world of Tolkien-nerdiness then! :lol:

The question whether the Nazgul were invisible or not is very interesting, but I must say that this is also what I have always thought. I thought they were just invisible by themselves ('Unclad') and could only be given physical shape by throwing some cloth over them. I think there are several references were the Nazgul are said to be invisible in principle, and Coen cited one. However, I think most of these references are character giving information about the Nazgul, character who have only partial knowledge of the Nazgul. Because, to be fair, who could say they could have investigated them to conclude that they had no undead flesh? The quote about Merry's sword, however, was not said by a character, but by the narrator, so this must be held more authoritative.

So, the real question is how we have to interpret the Witch-King's undead flesh. This is really a hard question, because I think this is the only (!) reference to this. I might have to look up some more on it.
Anyway, I disagree with your opinion, Coen, that the undead flesh would be invisible as well. Now, I favour him being invisible too, but I'm not sure if we can be very sure. I think his undead flesh must have been part of the Seen, whereas the Witch-King's spirit would be in the Unseen (the Wraith-world). The undead flesh was definitely physical, because it could be cleft. From what I've gathered of the spirits in Middle-earth, the spirit is always invisible (for people in the Seen), while all physical things are visible to things in the Seen. I don't know for sure, of course, but saying the undead flesh is part of the Unseen (i.e. it's invisible) seems to be stretching it a bit to me.

Note, by the way, that it says "cleaving the undead flesh..", and not "his undead flesh". Why would this be relevant, you might ask. Well, because of this: Tolkien doesn't say that the undead flesh is necessarily his own! Who's would it be then? Well, the Witch-Kings boss was quite a renowned Necromancer, and while we are not given any details on that whatsoever, couldn't it be that Sauron made some kind of undead flesh part of the Witch-King physical form? I certainly think that would be plausible. I also believe that the Witch-King looked slightly different from occasion to occasion. Seeing the little descriptions from the battle of Fornost, the Fellowship of the Ring and from the Pelennor Fields, he seems to be a little different every time. Also his strength seems to vary. Could it be that this was because at different points he 'took up' different physical forms, perhaps sometimes with a bit of undead flesh? If taking up some undead flesh, he would surely have been helped by his boss.
Then the sinews would then have been the connection (the 'nerves') between the assumed form (undead flesh) and his spirit.
Note that all of this is just a hypothesis to 'explain' why he might have undead flesh. I had never considered this before yesterday, but the idea sounds quite appealing to me.

As for who gets the kill-point: I'd say they worked together pretty well. Merry made sure he became vulnerable, but Eowyn dealt the final strike (otherwise her sword wouldn't have shattered).

Now, back on the point of Merry's shining blade, it is indeed fascinating to see that the Dunedain of Arnor had proper swords to use against wraith and spirits. Merry's sword however came from a royal guy's tomb, so those blades might not have been as easy to come by as normal swords. I'm not saying there were very few such blades, I'm just saying that we have no idea how many such blades there were. I would like to speculate that there were few that were as potent as Merry's blade, though, and that others were not quite as harmful to spirits (but perhaps more than normal blades).
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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Mon Nov 04, 2013 1:51 am

I'm a bit confused about why invisible flesh has caused such debate here? Being invisible doesn't mean you aren't there any more.
In my mind, the wraiths are made invisible by the same type of magic of the one ring - it makes you unable to be seen by those in the physical world, but you could still, for example, kick Gollum in the head (as Bilbo did).
The wraiths provide a slight dilemma in that they can be given visible form by wearing robes and armour, while those who wear the one ring become completely invisible - clothes, sword and all. This could be explained by force of will, and the ability to control the power of the ring, something that Sauron and the wraiths have, but the Hobbits don't. I imagine that if the wraiths wanted to become completely invisible they could, but their ability to interact with the physical world has become so diminished over the years that they require the robes to hold their attention to the physical world. I'm sure I've read something to this end before, no idea where though. I'm sure I remember something about 'fading' from the physical world to spirit world, perhaps when Aragorn is talking about the Morgul Blade and Frodo's wound?
I've no doubt in my mind that the wraiths still have a human body - just given immortal life by the power of the rings. The fact that they are also powerful spirits with magical ability (and the ability to see in the spirit world) is separate, and I assume was also given to them by the rings/Sauron through the One ring.

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:18 pm

Apart from all the discussions about invisibility and the existence of flesh, what always intrigued me most about that passage in the text was this:

Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.


That wording is so ambiguous - at first glance "was never heard again" implies that the Witch-king was destroyed permanently, but the qualifier "in that age of this world" limits his absence to "that age" (the Third, which ended shortly after the event anyway...) and kind of implies a re-emergence at some later point - what else would the point of the qualifier be? I'm pretty sure the Ringwraiths were permanently destroyed when the One Ring was toasted, seeing as they were bound to it, but that half-sentence still bugs me. :roll:

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:12 pm

Zogash wrote:Apart from all the discussions about invisibility and the existence of flesh, what always intrigued me most about that passage in the text was this:

Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.


That wording is so ambiguous - at first glance "was never heard again" implies that the Witch-king was destroyed permanently, but the qualifier "in that age of this world" limits his absence to "that age" (the Third, which ended shortly after the event anyway...) and kind of implies a re-emergence at some later point - what else would the point of the qualifier be? I'm pretty sure the Ringwraiths were permanently destroyed when the One Ring was toasted, seeing as they were bound to it, but that half-sentence still bugs me. :roll:



I think you have that down very well in your interpretation. I would think that if the ring wasn't destroyed the ring wraith could probably have come back again although probably very slowly due to the fact that it was defeated by a person. I would think the destroying of the ring permanently destroyed the wraiths since they were bound to it's will. At least that's what I remember reading somewhere anyway.
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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:16 pm

I know its a bit of an old post but its simply so so interesting - especially regarding the invisible / visible undead flesh which was raised by Feanor ( you've really impressed me ! tks for the interesting posts :) )

Whilst I'm not completely 'in tune' with the books - I'd like to agree with the undead flesh theory as it would make sense , at least in my head - whilst maybe disgusting if I ever had to see it in the films. The questions I really wish to ask - if any answerable - are these ;

These we're all once great kings of men - what happened to their bodies ? Did Sauron kill them first then re-awaken them as his evil servants ? / Somehow turn them into spirit form through magical spell by binding them to the ring ?
( as far as I'm concerned Tolkien never really explained this ? )

The above question could shed some light on the question of invisibility - knowing their origins that is.

Wouldn't it be better for nazgul if they were completely invisible to not use clothing and simply roam around middle earth when and were they wish and appear to others when needed ( like Sauron did as the Necromancer in the 2nd Hobbit film ) ? They could have done basically anything and everything for their master like that , no ?

It almost feels like by wearing robes they were hiding maybe some of their body parts. Maybe it can be reasoned that while they had some of their flesh , they did not ''have all of it'' ? Parts of their limbs, chest attached together maybe and thats it ? It would explain why they were headless .... maybe ?

There was much talk about the witch king - and his 'prophecy' . I believe like someone mentioned that it was just foresight of what was going to happen. If this was so, does this mean that all 9 could be 'killed' ? The ring does indeed eternally bind them to the one unless it was destroyed & perhaps UNTIl they've died ?

My final thought about their Physical Form

It can be argued that the river should have killed them if they had undead flesh. However for the WK it seemed that Merry managed to penetrate some sort of ''protective field'' that enclosed the witch king through use of his sword - which then allowed Eowyn to finish him off like a completely normal person.
Maybe it is this enclosing protective/ magical spell /curse/sorcery which give the so called undead bodies & spirits of the ringwraiths their unnatural ability to survive and survive a number of hits and blows without being completely killed ?

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:09 pm

Forgive the thread necromancy – pun sort of intended.

Well we know that if a man wears his ring of power too much, he fades permanently. So invisibility is easily explained to me. We also know it doesn’t give a man more life. They just continue on. So these men that should have dies thousands of years ago, have become invisible and continued on, unnaturally, for thousands of years. I think their bodies are still there, but have become increasingly irrelevant to them – they should have decayed long ago. Maybe they have effectively decayed or faded away to near nothingness. It seems to me that Tolkien wanted to have it both ways. On the one hand, they are spirits who need clothing to have a form at all, and on the other hand have undead flesh.

But there may be something else going on. We have to consider the Morgul Blade. A weapon that can create new wraiths, almost immediately, without the need of a ring of power. It may be that after their rings rendered them total slaves to Sauron, they were introduced to another magic/process that turned them into undead wraiths. It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but the Morgul Blade has always bothered me and this is the best answer I can come up with. This would also make sense in the context of Mary’s sword. The men of Arnor had undead nasties to deal with other than the witch king, so making weapons with this ability would be prudent if they have the ability.

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:58 am

Any idea if that was discussed in the similarion?

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:03 am

Does the Morgul Blade turn its victims into wraiths? I remember something (from the movie) that Strider said that if Frodos wound isn't healed, so he will "become like one of them (the wraiths)". (something like that..). But that could be understood that the victim just turns into some sort of ghostly figure living in the twilight world, sort of suffering there forever. Not turning into a creature like the ringwraiths.

But maybe that's not what Rtifs2 meant. And maybe I don't remember correctly. And maybe the subject is dealt in the books.

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Re: Downfall of the Witch-King

Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:05 am

Lovin the Lore chat.
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