The Nazgûl (from Black Speech nazg, "ring", and gûl, "wraith, spirit"; also called Ringwraiths, Ring-wraiths, Black Riders, Dark Riders, the Nine Riders, or simply the Nine) are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. They were nine Men who succumbed to Sauron's power and attained near-immortality as wraith, servants bound to the power of the One Ring. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, originally published in 1954–1955. The book calls the Nazgûl Sauron's "most terrible servants."
According to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the Nazgûl arose as Sauron's most powerful servants in the Second Age of Middle-earth. They were once mortal Men, three being "great lords" of Númenor. Sauron gave each of them one of nine Rings of Power. Sauron also gave seven Rings of Power to the Dwarves, and Celebrimbor forged three, untainted by Sauron's evil, for the Elves. It was Sauron's design to control all these rings and their bearers through the One Ring, forged in secret for this purpose, but only the Nine succumbed completely to its power and its seduction:
The corrupting effect of the rings extended the bearers' earthly lives far beyond their normal lifespans. Some passages in the novel suggest that the Nazgûl wore their rings, while others suggest that Sauron actually held them.
When Gandalf first taught Frodo Baggins about the Rings of Power, he says "The Nine he had gathered to himself; the Seven also, or else they are destroyed. The Three are hidden still." Also, Galadriel tells Frodo, "You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine." However, at the Council of Elrond, Gandalf says "The Nine the Nazgûl keep."
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