Q on The One Ring

(If I start the 1000th LOTR thread, do I get a prize?)

I’ve been re-reading the trilogy for the umteenth time, and I can’t figure out when it’s safe to wear the Ring, and when it’s not.

Bilbo uses the Ring occasionally for years to escape the Sackville-Bagginses, and Sauron never seems to catch on that his Ring is in use. Ditto Gollum for invisible fish-catching.

Later Frodo uses it several times, and sometimes he seems to be spotted by Sauron, taking it off his finger just before Sauron pinpoints his exact location. Other times, he seems to get away without being seen by the Eye. Or maybe I am misunderstanding this.

Sam uses the ring after Frodo is stung by Shelob, and gets away with it because he is just outside the borders of Mordor proper. When he crosses the mountain pass into Mordor, he knows he can’t use it again, or he will be seen by Sauron.

So can Sauron only detect the use of the Ring when it’s actually in Mordor, or can he sense it being used at other times, and if so, why didn’t he seek out Gollum or Bilbo?

Why the urgency of Gandalf’s warning in a letter to Frodo (in FOTR) not to use It again under any circumstances? Just the corruption factor, or fear of detection too?

I don’t understand this One Ring at all, it seems.

Up until Gollum was captured, Sauron didn’t know that the One Ring was still around, so maybe he wasn’t looking for it. That might not explain any discrepancies after that point, however.

Did Sam put on the Ring when he was on the borders of Mordor?

For starters, while Bilbo had the Ring, Sauron wasn’t actively searcing for it, and didn’t even know it had been found (until Gollum ratted him out).

Once Sauron knew it was at large, he focused all his power and spied on locating it. Kind of how you don’t notice a lot of sounds until you’re listening for them.

One of the reasons Gandalf and Aragorn decided to attack Mordor after the Pellenor fields battle was won was to draw Sauron’s eye toward them, and away from Sauron’s search for the ring. IMHO that’s how Samwise got away with wearing the ring on the verge of Mordor.

As I understood it, just wearing the ring wasn’t enough. Wearing it made it easier for the ringwraiths to detect the wearer. However, that was because by wearing it, you entered into their world. It wasn’t like, as portrayed in the movie, that they could sense it being worn from miles away.

The case where Frodo puts it on and is almost seen by Sauron was a special case. He was in a particular place (Amon something or other?) that had the property of allowing you to “see” whatever was going on in the world. I presume that it also allowed you to be seen by anyone in the world, at least anyone who knew how to look.

There’s also a difference in merely wearing the ring and using the ring. One presumes that what really filled Sauron in on the situation was Frodo’s act of claiming the ring. Presumably, making use of the ring’s power would set off all kinds of alarm bells for Sauron.

On the other hand, perhaps not. IIRC, Gandalf hints that the Sauron may believe that the failure of his attempt to invade Gondor and the death of the head ringwraith was due to someone using the ring against him. If Sauron really could detect the ring being used anywhere, he would have known it wasn’t being used.

We should also note that Sauron had no experience with, nor had contemplated, that the ring might be used by others. It’s not like he could check to see if one of his “buddies” was “on-line”. Sauron also had no conception that someone might try to destroy the ring. Even Gollum was pretty clueless about this right up to the brink of the cracks of doom, when it should have been clearer and clearer to him, he wasn’t stupid, merely craven.

The One Ring is never safe to use, not even when Sauron was not looking for it. When you wear the One Ring and have it in your possesion, it takes over your life and your mind and while Bilbo might have lived long for a hobbit, his mind was probably shrivaling up and dying inside.
The One Ring, calls to it’s master, the call is increased when it is worn by another.

I don’t think it’s conceived well enough to all have nice laws governing what’s possible, but Sauron gaining power might well have had something to do with it.

It should also be noted that during all of the time Gollum possessed the ring and most of the time Bilbo possessed it, Sauron was a broken power, lacking even a physical form. He couldn’t die entirely, partly because the Ring still existed.

But he didn’t have the wits or strength to care about much of anything, least of all his Ring, until a time shortly before the beginning of the action of Fellowship of the Ring.

And suddenly, I believe we have exactly the right answer. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.

It’s true that Sauron was the Necromancer in Mirkwood that the Council defeated during “The Hobbit”, but a) he still wasn’t up to full strength yet, and b) he was just setting up for his return to Mordor. So while he was already searching, he had more pressing matters to handle first.