Why Didn't the One Ring Turn Sauron Invisible?

When writer J. R. R. Tolkien first wrote The Hobbit, the ring Bilbo finds was meant to be a simple ring of invisibility. It wasn't until he began expanding Middle-earth and writing The Lord of the Rings that it became Sauron's One Ring. Its invisibility property still carried over, which begs the question: why wasn't Sauron invisible when wearing it in the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring?

Bilbo, Frodo, Gollum and Isildur all wore the Ring at some point, with each of them becoming invisible. Each time they disappear, their perspective of the world around them becomes gray and wispy. When Frodo wears the Ring on Weathertop, he sees past the Nazgûl's cloaks and darkness and views them as frail versions of the kings they once were instead.

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The reason for this is that the ring bearers aren't becoming invisible in the traditional sense. Rather than simply disappearing from sight, they actually get transported into the Wraith-world, a world layered on top of the physical world and usually only accessible by wraiths themselves. This is why the Nazgûl appear differently to Frodo, as they are ring-wraiths whose real forms are bound to that world, despite being able to manifest a body in the physical world.

The Witch-king of Angmar even stabs Frodo with a Morgul-blade, which slowly turns its victim to dust. Lord Elrond explains that if a shard of the blade stays in the victim, they will become a wraith, making them appear invisible much as the One Ring does.

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So if a side-effect of the Ring involves transporting its user to the Wraith-world, that still doesn't explain why Sauron isn't transported. This is because Sauron, much like the Ringwraiths, doesn't have a proper physical body. The dark lord dwells in the Wraith-world and can create a body in the physical world to interact with and appear to people. And so, if Sauron wears the One Ring, there's no physical body to transport to the Wraith-world as Sauron's spirit is already technically there.

Even if Sauron had a real body, it's unlikely the Ring would transport him to the Wraith-world anyway. While every ring bearer gains a large amount of power from it, the Ring is bound to Sauron and will only truly answer to him. So it's fair to say that Sauron would have the power to control the "invisibility" and swap between worlds at will.

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Ben Hardwick (55 Articles Published)

Ben has taken a 'Film Production & Cinematography' university course, and recently completed a 'Scriptwriting' masters course, both completed at Bournemouth University. Throughout the courses, he has worked on a number of short films and documentaries. And found that his passion lays in scriptwriting, where he can combine his love of movies, writing, and storytelling. With taking courses involving film, Ben has extensive knowledge of movies both new and old, and keeps up to date on all the latest goings-on in the film industry. Especially within his favourite franchises, such as Star Wars. In his spare time, Ben is usually watching movies, playing games and running D&D games for friends (and hopes to one day actually be a player).

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