HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

Palantíri

Type: Artifacts

Meaning: that which looks far away

Other Names:
palantír (singular)
palantíri (plural)
Stones
Seven Stones
Seeing-stones
Stones of Seeing
accursed stone(s) of wizardry (by Gimli)

individual palantíri:
Master Stone of Osgiliath
Anor-stone, palantír of Anárion
Ithil-stone, palantír of Isildur
Orthanc-stone

Description:
Table of Contents:

Description

Properties

Rightful Users

The Seven Seeing Stones
— The Palantíri of Gondor
— — Osgiliath
— — Minas Anor (Minas Tirith)
— — Minas Ithil (Minas Morgul)
— — Orthanc
— The Palantíri of Arnor
— — Amon Sûl
— — Annúminas
— — Emyn Beraid

History
— Time of the Trees
— Second Age
— Third Age
— Fourth Age

Etymology

Notes


Description
Many treasures and great heirlooms of virtue and wonder the Exiles had brought from Númenor; and of these the most renowned were the Seven Stones and the White Tree....

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

'The palantíri came from beyond Westernesse, from Eldamar. The Noldor made them. Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the time cannot be measured in years.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

These stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days, when the Elves might come no longer to that land under the shadow of Sauron.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

The last leaders of the Faithful, Elendil and his sons, escaped from the Downfall with nine ships, bearing a seedling of Nimloth, and the Seven Seeing-stones....

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Númenor

'The name meant that which looks far away.'....

'What did the Men of old use them for?' asked Pippin....

'To see far off, and to converse in thought with one another,' said Gandalf. 'In that way they long guarded and united the realm of Gondor.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

'By Men they were almost forgotten. Even in Gondor they were a secret known only to a few; in Arnor they were remembered only in a rhyme of lore among the Dúnedain.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

[The] Seven Stones of old were by the people generally forgotten, and the rhymes of lore that spoke of them were if remembered no longer understood; their operations were transformed in legend into the Elvish powers of the ancient kings with their piercing eyes, and the swift birdlike spirits that attended on them, bringing them news or bearing their messages.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri


Properties
Now these Stones had this virtue that those who looked therein might perceive in them things far off, whether in place or in time. For the most part they revealed only things near to another kindred Stone, for the Stones each called to each; but those who possessed great strength of will and of mind might learn to direct their gaze whither they would. Thus the Númenóreans were aware of many things that their enemies wished to conceal, and little escaped their vigilance in the days of their might.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

By themselves the Stones could only see: scenes or figures in distant places, or in the past. These were without explanation; and at any rate for men of later days it was difficult to direct what visions should be revealed by the will or desire of a surveyor. But when another mind occupied a Stone in accord, thought could be "transferred" (received as "speech"), and visions of the things in the mind of the surveyor of one Stone could be seen by the other surveyor.... These powers were originally used mainly in consultation, for the purpose of exchanging news necessary to government, or advice and opinions; less often in simple friendship and pleasure or in greetings and condolence. It was only Sauron who used a Stone for the transference of his superior will, dominating the weaker surveyor and forcing him to reveal hidden thought and to submit to commands. [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 5


Rightful Users
The palantíri were no doubt never matters of common use or common knowledge, even in Númenor. In Middle-earth they were kept in guarded rooms, high in strong towers, only kings and rulers, and their appointed wardens, had access to them, and they were never consulted, nor exhibited, publicly.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

These Stones were an inalienable gift to Elendil and his heirs, to whom alone they belonged by right; but this does not mean that they could only be used rightfully by one of these "heirs." They could be used lawfully by anyone authorized by either the "Heir of Anárion" or the "Heir of Isildur," that is, a lawful King of Gondor or Arnor.... In Gondor latterly..., the command and use of the Stones seems mainly to have been in the hands of the Stewards.... Since the Stewardship had become hereditary from 1998 onwards, so the authority to use, or again to depute the use, of the Stones, was lawfully transmitted in their line, and belonged therefore fully to Denethor.

It must however be noted with regard to the narrative of The Lord of the Rings that over and above such deputed authority, even hereditary, any "heir of Elendil" (that is, a recognized descendant occupying a throne or lordship in the Númenórean realms by virtue of this descent) had the right to use any of the palantíri.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri


The Seven Seeing Stones

The Palantíri of Gondor
'They set up Stones at Minas Anor, and at Minas Ithil, and at Orthanc in the ring of Isengard. The chief and master of these was under the Dome of Stars at Osgiliath before its ruin.'1

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

In the great days of Gondor no beacon was built on the Hill [Halifirien] while the palantíri still maintained communication between Osgiliath and the three towers2 of the realm without need of messages or signals.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Cirion and Eorl

But the minor Stones, those of Orthanc, Ithil, and Anor, and probably Annúminas, had also fixed orientation in their original situation, so that (for example) their west face would only look west and turned in other directions was blank. If a Stone became unseated or disturbed it could be re-set by observation, and it was then useful to revolve it.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

'[The White Council] had not yet given thought to the fate of the palantíri of Gondor in its ruinous wars.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

After the days of the Kings, and the loss of Minas Ithil, there is no further mention of their open and official use. There was no answering Stone left in the North after the shipwreck of Arvedui Last-king in the year 1975. In 2002 the Ithil-stone was lost. There then remained only the Anor-stone in Minas Tirith and the Orthanc-stone.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri


The Palantíri of Gondor: Osgiliath
'Each palantír replied to each, but all those in Gondor were ever open to the view of Osgiliath.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

[Only] the surveyor using the Master Stone of Osgiliath could "eavesdrop." While two of the other Stones were in response, the third would find them both blank.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

At smallest they were about a foot in diameter, but some, certainly the Stones of Osgiliath and Amon Sûl, were much larger and could not be lifted by one man.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

The Stone of Osgiliath had been lost in the waters of Anduin in 1437, during the civil war of the Kin-strife.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 3

Eldacar... was besieged in Osgiliath, and held it long, until hunger and the greater forces of the rebels drove him out, leaving the city in flames. In that siege and burning the Tower of the Dome of Osgiliath was destroyed, and the palantír was lost in the waters.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion


The Palantíri of Gondor: Minas Anor (Minas Tirith)
[The] Anor-stone, about which all the records of the Stewards are silent until the War of the Ring, was kept as a closely-guarded secret, accessible only to the Ruling Stewards and never by them used (it seems) until Denethor II.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

It was afterwards believed that needing knowledge, but being proud, and trusting in his own strength of will, [Denethor] dared to look in the palantír of the White Tower. None of the Stewards had dared to do this, nor even the kings Eärnil and Eärnur, after the fall of Minas Ithil when the palantír of Isildur came into the hands of the Enemy; for the Stone of Minas Tirith was the palantír of Anárion, most close in accord with the one that Sauron possessed.

In this way Denethor gained his great knowledge of things that passed in his realm, and far beyond his borders, at which men marvelled; but he bought the knowledge dearly, being aged before his time by his contest with the will of Sauron.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion: The Stewards

[When] and why Denethor had dared to use the Stone was and remains a matter of conjecture.... [It] is probable, considering Denethor and what is said about him, that he began to use the Anor-stone many years before 3019, and earlier than Saruman ventured or thought it useful to use the Stone of Orthanc. Denethor succeeded to the Stewardship in 2984.... His "grimness" was first observable to others after his wife Finduilas died in 2988, but it seems fairly plain that he had at once turned to the Stone as soon as he came to power, having long studied the matter of the palantíri and the traditions regarding them and their use preserved in the special archives of the Stewards, available beside the Ruling Steward only to his heir. During the end of the rule of his father, Ecthelion II, he must have greatly desired to consult the Stone, as anxiety in Gondor increased, while his own position was weakened by the fame of "Thorongil" and the favour shown to him by his father. At least one of his motives must have been jealousy of Thorongil, and hostility to Gandalf, to whom, during the ascendancy of Thorongil, his father paid much attention; Denethor desired to surpass these "usurpers" in knowledge and information, and also if possible to keep an eye on them when they were elsewhere.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

Casting the pieces into the blaze [Denethor] bowed and laid himself on the table, clasping the palantír with both hands upon his breast. And it was said that ever after, if any man looked in that Stone, unless he had a great strength of will to turn it to other purpose, he saw only two aged hands withering in flame.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 7, The Pyre of Denethor


The Palantíri of Gondor: Minas Ithil (Minas Morgul)
But it was not until 2000 that [the Nazgûl] issued from Mordor by the Pass of Cirith Ungol and laid siege to Minas Ithil. This they took in 2002, and captured3 the palantír of the tower.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion

'Who knows where the lost Stones of Arnor and Gondor now lie buried, or drowned deep? But one, at least Sauron must have obtained and mastered to his purposes. I guess that it was the Ithil-stone, for he took Minas Ithil long ago and turned it into an evil place: Minas Morgul, it has become.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

[The palantíri] were indeed unbreakable by any violence then controlled by men though some believed that great heat, such as that of Orodruin, might shatter them, and surmised that this had been the fate of the Ithil-stone in the fall of Barad-dûr.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri


The Palantíri of Gondor: Orthanc
The Orthanc-stone appears to have been at this time long disregarded by the Stewards: it was no longer of any use them, and was secure in its impregnable tower. Even if it too had not been overshadowed by the doubt concerning the Ithil-stone, it stood in a region with which Gondor became less and less directly concerned. Calenardhon, never densely populated had been devastated by the Dark Plague of 1636, and thereafter steadily denuded of inhabitants of Númenórean descent....

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

[After Cirion granted Calenardhon to Eorl] Gondor still retained under its own command only the fortress of Angrenost, within which was the third Tower of Gondor, the impregnable Orthanc where was held the fourth of the palantíri of the southern realm.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Cirion and Eorl

Isengard remained a personal possession of the Stewards, but Orthanc itself became deserted, and eventually it was closed and its keys removed to Minas Tirith. If Beren the Steward considered the Stone at all when he gave these to Saruman, he probably thought that it could be in no safer hands than those of the head of the Council opposed to Sauron.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

A friend [Saruman] long seemed, and maybe in the beginning he was one in truth. Though afterwards there was little doubt in men's minds that Saruman went to Isengard in hope to find the Stone still there, and with the purpose of building up a power of his own.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: The House of Eorl

'But there is nothing that Sauron cannot turn to evil uses. Alas for Saruman! It was his downfall, as I now perceive. Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves. Yet he must bear the blame. Fool! to keep it secret, for his own profit. No word did he ever speak of it to any of the Council.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

'Now it appears that, as the rock of Orthanc has withstood the storms of time, so there the palantír of that tower has remained. But alone it could do nothing but see small images of things far off and days remote. Very useful, no doubt, that was to Saruman; yet it seems that he was not content. Further and further abroad he gazed, until he cast his gaze upon Barad-dûr. Then he was caught!'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

[It] is said that Sauron had..., by means of the palantíri, at last begun to daunt Saruman, and could in any case often read his thought even when he withheld information.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 14

Pippin sat with his knees drawn up and the ball between them4.... At first the globe was dark, black as jet.... Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away. Soon all the inside seemed on fire; the ball was spinning, or the lights within were revolving. Suddenly the lights went out. He gave a gasp and struggled; but he remained bent, clasping the ball with both hands. Closer and closer he bent, and then became rigid; his lips moved soundlessly for a while. Then with a strangled cry he fell back and lay still....

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír

'You have looked in that accursed stone of wizardry!' exclaimed Gimli with fear and astonishment in his face. 'Did you say aught to — him?'....

'You forget to whom you speak,' said Aragorn sternly.... 'Did I not openly proclaim my title before the doors of Edoras? What do you fear that I should say to him?'.... 'Nay, my friends, I am the lawful master5 of the Stone, and I had both the right and the strength to use it, or so I judged. The right cannot be doubted. The strength was enough — barely.'

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 2, The Passing of the Grey Company

But King Elessar, when he was crowned in Gondor, began the re-ordering of his realm, and one of his first tasks was the restoration of Orthanc, where he proposed to set up again the palantír recovered from Saruman.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: The Sources of the Legend of Isildur's Death


The Palantíri of Arnor
'The three others were far away in the North. In the house of Elrond it is told that they were at Annúminas, and Amon Sûl, and Elendil's Stone was on the Tower Hills that look towards Mithlond in the Gulf of Lune where the grey ships lie.'6

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 11, The Palantír


The Palantíri of Arnor: Amon Sûl
Lawful possession of the Stones belonged to the King [of Arnor]...; but the Kingdom became divided and the high-kingship was in dispute. The Kings of Arthedain, who were plainly those with the just claim, maintained a special warden at Amon Sûl, whose Stone was held to be the chief of the Northern palantíri, being the largest and most powerful and the one through which communication7 with Gondor was mainly conducted.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 16

[The] Stones of Osgiliath and Amon Sûl, were much larger and could not be lifted by one man.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

Both Rhudaur and Cardolan desired to possess Amon Sûl (Weathertop), which stood on the borders of their realms; for the Tower of Amon Sûl held the chief Palantír of the North, and the other two were both in the keeping of Arthedain....

The Tower of Amon Sûl was... razed; but the palantír was saved and carried back in retreat to Fornost....

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur

After the destruction of Amon Sûl by Angmar in 1409 both Stones were placed at Fornost, where the King of Arthedain dwelt. These were lost in the shipwreck of Arvedui, and no deputy was left with any authority direct or inherited to use the Stones.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 16

So perished Arvedui Last-king, and with him the palantíri were buried in the sea.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur


The Palantíri of Arnor: Annúminas
Lawful possession of the Stones belonged to the King (who normally used the Stone of Annúminas)....

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 16

With Arvedui were lost the Stones of Annúminas and Amon Sûl (Weathertop).

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 2


The Palantíri of Arnor: Emyn Beraid
It is said that the towers of Emyn Beraid... were raised by Gil-galad for Elendil, his friend; and the Seeing Stone of Emyn Beraid was set in Elostirion, the tallest of the towers.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

But we are told it was unlike the others and not in accord with them; it looked only to the Sea. Elendil set it there so that he could look back with 'straight sight' and see Eressëa in the vanished West; but the bent seas below covered Númenor for ever.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur: The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain, Footnote

Thither Elendil would repair, and thence he would gaze out over the sundering seas, when the yearning of exile was upon him; and it is believed that thus he would at whiles see far away even the Tower of Avallónë upon Eressëa, where the Master-stone abode, and yet abides.8

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

One only remained in the North, the Elendil Stone on Emyn Beraid, but this was one of special properties, and not employable in communications. Hereditary right to use it would no doubt still reside in the "heir of Isildur," the recognized chieftain of the Dúnedain, and descendant of Arvedui. But it is not known whether any of them, including Aragorn, ever looked into it, desiring to gaze into the lost West. This Stone and its tower were maintained and guarded by Círdan and the Elves of Lindon. [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

The only Stone left in the North... was guarded by the Elves, and though we never knew it, it remained there, until Círdan put it aboard Elrond's ship when he left....

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur: The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain, Footnote


History

History: Time of the Trees

circa 1400
Fëanor creates the Palantíri

History: Second Age

circa 3100
Eldar give the Palantíri to the Faithful of Númenor

3319
DownFall of Númenor
Elendil and the Faithful escape the DownFall of Númenor
3320
Foundation of the Realms in Exile: Arnor and Gondor
— — Palantíri divided among the Realms in Exile

History: Third Age

861
Division of Arnor
946
Amlaith, King of Arthedain, dies
Cardolan and Rhudaur dispute possession of the Palantír of Amon Sûl

1409
Witch-king of Angmar invades Arnor
Palantír of Amon Sûl removed to Fornost

1432-1448
Kin-strife in Gondor: Overview
1437
Castamir captures Osgiliath and deposes Eldacar
Palantír of Osgiliath lost in the burning of Osgiliath

1974
End of the North-kingdom
Witch-king of Angmar occupies Arthedain
1975
Arvedui, King of Arthedain, dies in a shipwreck in the Bay of Forochel
Palantíri of Annúminas and Amon Sûl lost at sea

2002
Fall of Minas Ithil
Palantír of Minas Ithil captured

2758-2759
Invasion of Rohan from West and East: Overview
2759
Saruman invited to Isengard
Saruman begins to use the Palantír of Orthanc

2984
Denethor II becomes Steward of Gondor
Denethor begins to use the Palantír of Minas Tirith

3000
The shadow of Mordor lengthens
Saruman ensnared by Sauron via the Palantíri

3019
5 March
Parley with Saruman in Isengard: Overview
Gríma Wormtongue hurls the Palantír from Orthanc after the Parley
Pippin looks into the Palantír of Orthanc
Aragorn takes possession of the Palantír of Orthanc
6 March
Aragorn looks into the Palantír of Orthanc

14-15 March
Siege of Minas Tirith: Overview
13 March
Faramir falls in the retreat over the Pelennor
Denethor deceived by Sauron via the Palantíri
14 March
Denethor driven to madness
15 March
Denethor II commits suicide by burning
Palantír of Minas Tirith burned

25 March
Destruction of the One Ring
Fall of Barad-dûr
Palantír of Minas Ithil presumed destroyed in the Fall of Barad-dûr

3021
29 September
Departure of the Ringbearers
Palantír of Emyn Beraid sent West

History: Fourth Age
'Only one now remains that you could use,' answered Aragorn; 'for you would not wish to see what the Stone of Minas Tirith would show you.9 But the Palantír of Orthanc the King will keep, to see what is passing in his realm, and what his servants are doing.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Many Partings

[All] those that were brought to Middle-earth long ago were lost.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age


Etymology
palan (Quenya) 'far and wide' in Palantíri, Tar-Palantir....

tir 'watch, watch over' in Minas Tirith, palantíri, Tar-Palantir, Tirion.

The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names


Notes
1   Earlier, discarded locations in the South-kingdom mentioned in The History of Middle-earth include the Hornburg and Erech; in an early draft the Stone of Erech was said to be a palantír.
2   Minas Ithil, Minas Anor, and Orthanc.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Notes, Note 34

3   In the entry in the Tale of Years for 2002, and also in Appendix A (I, iv), it is stated as a fact that the palantír was captured in the fall of Minas Ithil; but my father noted that these annals were made after the War of the Ring, and that the statement, however certain, was a deduction. The Ithil-stone was never found again, and probably perished in the ruin of Barad-dûr....

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 4

4   If a Stone became unseated or disturbed it could be re-set by observation, and it was then useful to revolve it. But when removed and cast down, as was the Orthanc-stone, it was not so easy to set right. So it was "by chance" as Men call it (as Gandalf would have said) that Peregrin, fumbling with the Stone, must have set it on the ground more or less "upright," and sitting westward of it have had the fixed east-looking face in the proper position.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

5   [Any] "heir of Elendil"... had the right to use any of the palantíri. Aragorn thus claimed the right to take the Orthanc-stone into his possession, since it was now, for the time being, without owner or warden; and also because he was de jure the rightful King of both Gondor and Arnor, and could, if he willed, for just cause withdraw all previous grants to himself.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

6   Mithlond is apparently itself an earlier, discarded location of a palantír in the North-kingdom, according to The History of Middle-earth.
7   Doubtless they were used in the consultations between Arnor and Gondor in the year 1944 concerning the succession to the Crown. The "messages" received in Gondor in 1973, telling of the dire straits of the Northern Kingdom, was possibly their last use until the approach of the War of the Ring. [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 1

8   This appears to be the only reference to a master palantír on Tol Eressëa.
9   [If] any man looked in that Stone..., he saw only two aged hands withering in flame.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 7, The Pyre of Denethor

Contributors:
Lyllyn 28Mar04
Elena Tiriel 1Dec04, 22Sep05, 14Oct05, 5Nov05, 21Sep07, 14Mar08, 12May08

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