The One Ring is the greatest of the Rings of Power and the most powerful artifact in Middle-earth. The Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron in the Cracks of Doom in Mount Doom sometime during the Second Age. It was created with the purpose of focusing and enlarging Sauron's power, which would allow him to become the overlord of Middle-earth. The One Ring could be used to control the wearers of the other nineteen Rings of Power, which were made by the Elf Celebrimbor and his people with the assistance of Sauron himself.
The One Ring was also known as Ruling Ring, the Master Ring, the Doom of Man, the One Ring, the Ring of Power, and Isildur's Bane.
Sauron disguised himself as Annatar, or "Lord of Gifts", and aided the Elven smiths of Eregion and their lord Celebrimbor in the making of the Rings of Power. He then forged the One Ring himself in the fires of Mount Doom. But creating the ring simultaneously strengthened and weakened Sauron's power. On the one hand, as long as Sauron had the ring, he could control the power of all other Rings of Power, and thus he was significantly more powerful. On the other hand, by binding his power within the Ring, Sauron became dependent on it. Without it his power was significantly diminished.
The words of the Ring-inscription are in Black Speech, a language devised by Sauron and used in the land of Mordor. The inscription reflects the One Ring's power to control the other Rings of Power. The writing uses Elvish letters, in a mode adapted to the Black Speech.
Normally the One Ring appeared perfectly plain and featureless, but when heated its inscription appeared in fiery letters. A drawing of the inscription and a translation provided by Gandalf appears in Book I, Chapter 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past".
Gandalf speaks the words in Black Speech in Book II, Chapter 2, "The Council of Elrond":
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
Translated, the words mean:
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Depiction in Video Games
Shadow of Mordor
The Ring is portrayed differently, both in power and appearance, than in Peter Jackson's film adaptions of The Lord of the Rings. Comparing the game appearance to the movie appearance, the Ring appears as a wider band, the runes carved solidly along the edges. In the movies, the Ring takes the appearance of a wedding ring, with a small band which the inscription is carved around.
When Sauron is depicted wearing the One in Shadow of Mordor, we see his right hand enveloped in a glowing orb of gold. This depicts that the Ring's power is being used, further reinforced by a fact which will be described soon. The Ring is shown to have the power of brainwashing of individual people rather than just the Rings of Power, shown when Sauron as Annatar attempts to dominate Celebrimbor into perfecting the Ring. We don't see much more of the power it grants Sauron, as Celebrimbor soon steals the Ring.
For Frodo and Bilbo, as soon as they put on the Ring, they access the Wraith-World and become invisible to all but Sauron until they take it off. For Celebrimbor, who (non-canonically) steals the Ring from Sauron once it's perfected, the Ring only makes him invisible when he chooses to be. We only really see Celebrimbor vanish to escape Sauron's clutches in the Crack of Doom (who, seeing as he isn't yet the Flaming Eye, doesn't have the power to see into the Wraith-World) in the main storyline, but in The Bright Lord, DLC for the game, from the perspective of the Elf-Lord, we see the Ring's power from his perspective. While in the Wraith-World, the Ring glows, making an orb of bluish-silver light. Celebrimbor can also slow time around him, granting him the ability to effortlessly slip through an Orc stronghold within seconds, completely unseen. It also gives him strength enough to significanlty damage Sauron himself. Another power of the Ring Celebrimbor has is the power of Domination. By placing a brand on Orcs, Celebrimbor can change them to serve him. They fight for Celebrimbor to the death, unless Sauron interferes; during the boss fight against him, Sauron breaks the brands and makes them serve him once more. Eventually, as Celebrimbor moves to deliver the killing blow upon Sauron, the Ring changes its size and falls directly onto Sauron's finger, and Celebrimbor dies by Sauron's hand.
Shadow of War
The Ring is not seen as much in Shadow of War, save for a scene depicting Isildur, and the side missions where you play as Celebrimbor himself with the power of the One Ring, which hasn't been changed much; while the time Celebrimbor can use its power has decreased considerably, he can still slow time, become invisible to the eyes of Orcs, and brand them. His strength, however, has seemingly only increased; he uses Azkar, his bow, to unleash a storm of arrows which can instantly kill Orcs and even Olog-Hai.
In the Isildur scene, we see that the only thing Isildur wanted the Ring to grant him was invisibility when he wasn't in battle. When at the River Anduin, the Ring seemingly makes Orc-arrows bounce off Isildur's back, and his eyes glow orange while wearing it. Soon, the Ring, as it did in Tolkien's original story, did betray Isildur to his death, and it slipped off his finger and fell into the river, destined to be discovered by Deagol and Smeagol (Gollum), and then by Bilbo to be handed down to Frodo.
In Shadow of War, Celebrimbor and Talion, his vessel and the protagonist of the Middle-earth games, forge a new Ring of Power, simply named the New Ring. The ring, like the One Ring did when Celebrimbor wore it, glows blue. It too is inscripted with an Elvish poem (unknown as of now). It contains all the One Ring's powers but invisibility. It still dominates Orcs, banishes its wearer from death, and gives the power to damage Sauron.
Still, like the other Rings of Power, it tempts all who see it; Eltariel, an Elven assassin working for Galadriel, is given the New Ring by Celebrimbor, and Talion is left to die (to save himself, he wears the ring belonging to Isildur, who was a Nazgul who lost its ring and was killed by Talion, who replaced him as the ninth Nazgul). Not being fully accustomed to the New Ring's power, Eltariel is unable to defeat Sauron, and he and Celebrimbor are locked in an eternal battle, which sparks the creation of the Eye of Sauron. Eltariel continues to use the new ring after the battle, under the command of Galadriel (as seen in The Blade of Galadriel DLC).
Unknown to most moviegoers, the One Ring's destruction is quite different in the book series than in the movies and Shadow of War. In the game and Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Return of the King, after Gollum bites off the finger on which Frodo wears the Ring in Mount Doom, Frodo gets to his feet and attacks Gollum. Their fight takes them off the edge of the platform they stand on, and while Frodo grabs onto the platform's edge just in time, Gollum falls into the lava below, trying to save the Ring even as he sinks into the lava. The Ring sits on a weak rock for a bit of time, and as Frodo separates his bond from the One by reaching up to grab Sam's hand, it sinks into the lava (in the game, it flashes blue one more time, reminding the viewers of Celebrimbor's fate also being bound to the Ring). This causes Barad-dur to crumble, and Sauron at last meets his death in an enormous explosion which crumbles the ground of Mordor out from under the Orcs, killing a vast majority of those that didn't escape.
In the books, however, Gollum goes out much more clumsily. Instead of getting onto his feet to fight after his finger is bitten off, Frodo is freed of the complete domination of the Ring, and as Sam tries to tend to Frodo's hand as well as possible, Gollum breaks into hysterical celebration, leaping and dancing like he's even more insane than before. He loses himself so completely in the Ring and his happiness that he winds up slipping and falling into the lava, screaming "Precious" on his way down. Either he holds his hands out in front of him or he closes his fists; either way, the Ring goes straight into the lava, not a single last glance.
While these are relatively stark differences in the Ring's destruction, the basic idea is the same: Despite his incredible strength to resist the Ring throughout the rest of the story, Frodo in the end couldn't let the Ring go willingly. Nobody could; it took an accident. Sauron never thought anyone would even make it to Orodruin without falling to the Ring's power, and his confidence was above all what drove him to meet his death.
- When Sauron captured Celebrimbor, he makes him refine the Ring to conceal its power. Celebrimbor, however, not only does this but also gives the Ring a will of its own. He then steals it from Sauron and uses it to try and defeat him and rescue his family. This attempt ultimately fails, resulting in his and his family's death, and causing him to become a wraith bound to Mordor, only able to get to the Halls of Waiting in Valinor upon the One Ring's destruction. Ironically this failure was only made possible due to Celebrimbor earlier giving the ring a will of its own consequently causing the ring to slip off his finger at a critical moment and return to its true master.
- In The Bright Lord DLC, the game reveals further details about the One Ring when Celembrimbor use it to brand Uruks, ghûls, caragors, and Graugs which explains how the One Ring rules them all.