The palantíri (singular palantír), also known as Seeing-stones, the Seven Stones, or the Seven Seeing-stones, were spherical stone objects used for communication in Middle-earth. There were eight distinguished ones in total.
The palantíri were made by the Ñoldor in Eldamar, likely by Fëanor himself during his time in Aman in the Time of the Trees, and then given by the Elves to The Faithful Númenóreans, who kept them as heirlooms until the Fall of Númenor during the late Second Age. Seven of these stones were rescued and brought to Middle-earth by Elendil and his sons and set in well-guarded Towers throughout the Realms in Exile.
The Dúnedain placed the stones across large distances to communicate with one another. The stones were housed at these locations: Annúminas, Weathertop, and Elostirion (Tower Hills) in the north, and Osgiliath, Orthanc in Isengard, Minas Ithil, and Minas Anor in the south. There was a Master-stone, separate from the Seven, which resided in Tol Eressëa, in the Tower of Avallónë.
Four of the stones are known to have been lost. The chief stone of the north, at Amon Sûl, and the stone from Annúminas were lost with Arvedui in the cold northern seas. The chief stone of the south, in Osgiliath, was lost in the Kin-strife. The stone of Minas Ithil was captured by Sauron and very likely destroyed in the destruction of Barad-dûr.
The stone of Elostirion was taken back to the Undying Lands on the Ringbearers' ship. Only the stones of Minas Anor and Orthanc remained in Middle-earth, yet the stone of Minas Anor was marred, showing all but the most strong-willed the burning hands of Denethor II.
The palantíri were most readily used by the Heirs of Elendil, as well as those appointed to guard them; the stones responded best to those with the right to use them, hence Denethor's ability to utilize the stone of the White City easily, whereas Saruman struggled with its use, and was eventually overcome by Sauron.
Appearance and properties
The palantíri, in appearance, were dark, perfectly smooth spheres of varying sizes; some were small and portable, around a foot in diameter, while others (particularly the master-stones) were too enormous to be lifted by Men. They were completely unmarked or unmarred, and even when unseated, they remained inviolable. The stones had permanent poles aligned with the center of the earth, with permanent upper and nether poles. The circumferential faces were the ones that allowed viewing, receiving outside visions, and channeling them to the eye of the beholder on the opposite side; if one wished to look east, he would place himself on the western side of the orb, etc. Unlike the master stones, which could rotate and look in any direction, the smaller ones had fixed positions so that when looked at from a wrong direction, the face would appear blank to the surveyor. The palantíri could not transmit sound; they could only show visions or intended thoughts of the users.
In one direction, they could see for leagues, with the farthest places offering the least clarity. Their vision was not based on obstacles but on darkness; they could see through things but would only see shadow- nothing within could be discerned. This was a method of security which protected the sight of the surveyor. Magnification was also possible for those with an extraordinary will; only the most potent and determined could accomplish this. Palantíri could not pierce minds, for the transference of thought depended upon the wills and intentions of those communicating.
When two stones were communicating with each other then another viewer from a third stone would find them blank. The master stones of north and south were able to 'eavesdrop' on these mental conversations however. Some stones were attuned to each other, for example the Ithil-stone and the Anor-stone, as these belonged to the brothers Isildur and Anárion and were mounted in sister cities.
According to Gandalf, it is beyond Sauron and Saruman's skill to create the palantíri and that Sauron cannot make the palantíri "lie" or create false images (though the latter could show selective images to foster a false impression in the viewer).
Using a palantír required a person with great strength of will and wisdom. The palantíri were meant to be used by the Dúnedain to communicate and gain information throughout the Realms in Exile. The Stones responded best to those with the right to use them; the kings themselves or their appointed Stewards or Wardens. During the War of the Ring, the palantíri were used by many individuals. Sauron used the Ithil-stone to take advantage of the users of the other two stones, the Orthanc-stone and Anor-stone but was also susceptible to deception himself.
Denethor II, the last Steward of Gondor, attempted to use the Anor-stone in his later years to gain knowledge, but too often only saw what Sauron wished him to. Sauron convinced Denethor over time that there was no hope for victory. (Denethor's palantír was located in a chamber of the White Tower, above Minas Tirith's throne room.) Denethor thought at first he had the might to stand against Sauron, and for some time was able to withstand Sauron's power mentally but was aged prematurely as a result. But upon seeing in full the advance of Sauron's armies in the days leading up to the Siege of Gondor, Denethor turned to complete despair and was determined then to be burned on a pyre instead of mounting a (in his mind) hopeless defense of Minas Tirith. Gandalf suspected his possession of a palantír after obtaining the Orthanc-stone but was not proved until Denethor displayed it to him and Pippin in the Hallows when his pyre had been prepared.
A week beforehand, Peregrin Took mistakenly used the Orthanc-stone, unwittingly fooling Sauron into believing that he had the One Ring. Aragorn later deliberately used the Orthanc-stone to distract Sauron and display his identity to him, providing Frodo the opportunity to traverse the plains of Gorgoroth to complete his quest and causing Sauron to rush forward his plans to attack Gondor. Aragorn was able to wrench the stone to his will and learned of the Corsair threat approaching from the South.
Bold denotes master stones.
- Master-stone, Avallonë
- Osgiliath stone, Osgiliath (lost)
- Anor stone, Minas Tirith (marred)
- Ithil stone, Minas Ithil (lost)
- Orthanc stone, Orthanc
- Amon Sûl stone, Weathertop, later Fornost (lost)
- Annúminas stone, Annúminas, later Fornost (lost)
- Elendil stone, Elostirion. (removed to Aman)
Portrayal in adaptations
The Return of the King (1980 film)
In the Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Return of the King, Denethor was shown to have a palantír. In it, he has seen that a black fleet of ships was sailing from the East up the river Anduin, believing it to be a devil's armada. However, he failed to realize before his demise that Aragorn was leading those ships.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films (extended editions included), the palantíri seen are those of Orthanc and Minas Ithil, depicted as roughly the size of a softball, with the smooth appearance quartz. The Anor-stone is not revealed to be possessed by that Denethor; however, he states that "Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know.", possibly referring to his use of the palantír.
The Orthanc stone is revealed in the Fellowship of the Ring to be in Saruman's possession when Gandalf consults him regarding the One Ring, and in turn, discovers that he is in league with Sauron. Later, Saruman uses the palantír to commit Isengard to Sauron's war effort, and Sauron commands him to build an army "worthy of Mordor". The Orthanc stone isn't seen again until the early scenes of The Return of the King, at the arrival of the company from Helm's Deep, when Peregrin Took notices it lying in the shallow waters outside Orthanc and retrieves it, but Gandalf quickly demands that he hand it over. Later, in Edoras, Pippin is haunted by his initial encounter with the palantír and sneaks it out of Gandalf's possession to see it again. This time, Sauron is waiting and attacks Pippin's mind. Luckily, Pippin does not give him information about Frodo or the Ring.
The final use of the palantír is shown in the extended edition of the film, following the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, when Aragorn retrieves it in the throne room of Minas Tirith, where he confronts Sauron and reveals himself as the heir of Elendil and to own the reforged sword Anduril. Sauron is holding another palantír in his hand, presumed to be that of Minas Ithil. Sauron attempts to weaken Aragorn's resolve by revealing Arwen's fading life, which in turn causes Aragorn to drop the brooch Arwen had given him, shattering it on the throne room floor.
Under Saruman's use, a haze can be seen swirling about inside of it. When Gandalf throws a cloth over it, his brief contact reveals that the user on the other end is Sauron (having briefly glimpsed the Eye of Sauron). Later, when Pippin uses the palantír, the Eye of Sauron is fully revealed and gives off a fiery glow, seeming to bind Pippin's hands to the orb. The same phenomenon occurs with Aragorn's use of the palantír, although his hands do not seem bound to it.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king, the chief palantír of the north was used to protect fortifications and settlements in Arnor. Although this is also used as a weapon, it is peculiar to the game's plot and is not from the books.
In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, a palantír is the main objective of the assault of Minas Ithil, now known as Minas Morgul. The stone was guarded by Gondor troops and their general Castamir but was given to the Witch-king of Angmar as payment for the general's daughter's freedom. The seeing stone was then safeguarded in Minas Morgul by the Nazgûl, then taken by Talion after he assaults the city.
- The Sigil stones in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as The Elder Scrolls: Online, could be a reference to the Seeing-stones, having a very similar appearance.
- The technology company Palantir, which builds data integration and analysis software, is clearly named after the palantíri. Also, their logo is modeled after a palantír.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Kazakh||Палантири (Cyrillic) Palantïrï (Latin)|
|Serbian||Палантири (Cyrillic) Palantiri (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Палантири (Cyrillic) Palantiri (Latin)|