I’ve always considered Middle Earth a fairly low-magic setting. On the other hand, we do see or hear about a number of magic items; I’m trying to figure out how many are discussed in the books.
Off the top of my head, there are …
[li]The twenty rings, minus however many were eaten by dragons[/li][li]The lesser rings forged by Saruman[/li][li]The seven palintiri, minus any that were destroyed[/li][li]Anduril, Glamdring, Narsil, Sting, and a few other swords, I think.[/li][li]The troll’s talking purse in The Hobbit[/li][li]The staves of the various Istari (or was this more symbolic?)[/li][/ul]
I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting. I’m assuming that Frodo’s mithril armor isn’t magical, per se, just incredibly well-made. I’m on the fence about whether various Elven items were magical. So, any additions to the list?
Well, there’s the mirror of Galadriel. You might want to think about asking Sam Gamgee if he considers it a magical item.
Speaking of items from the Golden Wood, there seem to be some quasi-magical properties to the elven cloaks, as well as to the rope that untied itself from the tree stump when Sam yanked on it after the descent from the Emyn Muil. And lembas-bread doesn’t strike me as ordinary cram, if a single cake can keep a strong man healthy through an entire day’s vigorous activity, especially if it is the only food consumed.
Merry’s sword, that was able to pierce the spell binding the Morgul-King’s sinew to his mighty will for a couple of thousand years.
The mallorn-nut, that grew into a respectable replacement for the Party Tree over the course of a single winter and spring. And the rest of the soil in Sam’s little wooden box seemed a bit more potent than Miracle-Gro[sup]TM[/sup].
The magical-ness of some of these items seems rather marginal to me. Elven rope, the Numenorean daggers the hobbits get from the barrow, etc., are examples of superlative craftsmanship, and not properly magical. But the line between craft and magic in Middle Earth isn’t clear at all. The Great Rings are mostly the result of the craftsmanship of Celebrimbor, after all, and yet are clearly depicted as magical. However, I suspect that the Noldor did not view any of their baubles, up to and including the Silmarils, as magical.
Well, JRRT himself said the daggers from Arnor were spelled weapons. He later regretted saying that, wishing to uncouple mortal men from the posession of elven magic (save for exceptional cases like Aragorn), which was really more of a manifestation of the creative power given to the Ainur, and to a lesser extent, the elves. This “magic” was the ability to create or change reality by an act of will, a la The Song of the Ainur, and the eventual realization of Arda by the actions of the Valar and Maiar. Acts of this “magic” by elvenkind could be seen in Finrod battling Sauron in song, and Luthien besting Sauron the same way, and throwing down his tower with her voice.
JRRT wished to emphasize that men’s gifts were more spiritual (no, really!) in nature, and less physically manifesting.
So in truth, some of the more notable creations of the Elves (Silmarils, Palantiri, the Rings) were indeed made via this creative power. The elves didn’t consider it magical, as it was quite ordinary to them. But no mortal craftsman could make rope that came when called, or a seeing-stone that could look back in both time and space (like the one on Elostirion).