When The Lord of the rings: The Fellowship of the Rings started, things were perfectly peaceful. It had been years since The Hobbit, and Bilbo was celebrating his 111th birthday, and everyone was ready for a party. There was plenty of food, drink and fireworks, but at the end of the night Bilbo left for Rivendell. That meant that the magic ring that Bilbo had won in a riddle battle with Gollum was left to Frodo. So, Gandalf ordered the young Hobbit: “Keep it a secret. Keep it safe.”
After that, there was a 17-year time jump (although it only feels like a few seconds in Peter Jackson’s adaptation) where not much happened in the Shire. Then out of nowhere Gandalf appeared with bad news. Bilbo’s magic ring was actually Sauron’s One Ring, and the Dark Lord was desperately searching for it. To make matters worse, Sauron had captured and tortured Gollum, who had given up the words: “Shire” and “Baggins”.
Were the Nazgûl alive or dead?
Frodo and Sam fled the Shire, meeting Merry and Pippin on the way, but Gandalf did not tell them the whole truth. Sauron wasn’t just quietly searching for the One Ring. The Dark Lord had dispatched the Nazgûl, nine ringwraiths disguised as black-robed horsemen. They had an aura of fear and no mortal could resist them for long.
Sauron created the Nazgûl centuries before, during the Second Age of Middle-earth. At one time, they were all kings of men who desired power more than all other people in Middle-earth. So when Sauron offered them rings of power, they eagerly accepted, to their detriment. They were granted a long life, but over time, they faded out of existence. Eventually, they weren’t alive anymore, but they weren’t dead either. The Nazgûl were trapped in a true spectral world, on the border between life and death. All they could do was obey Sauron in his endless quest for total domination.
Why the Nazgûl did not kill Frodo
The Nazgûl pursued Frodo and his companions from the fringes of the Shire to Bree and beyond. It all came to a head at the old watchtower of Amon Sûl, which was also called the Weathertop. That is where the Nazgûl finally caught up with the Hobbits. Gandalf had sent Aragorn to look after them, and he did the best he could. But the ringwraiths still reached Frodo. He resisted them and did not want to give up the One Ring, so the Lord of the Nazgûl stabbed Frodo. Except he didn’t stab to kill. He used his dagger, not his sword, and stabbed Frodo in his shoulder, not in a vital area. So it’s clear that the Nazgûl didn’t really want to kill Frodo, but why?
There may be an important reason why the Nazgûl didn’t kill Frodo. The theory is that the Nazgûl were forbidden to touch the One Ring. If one of them had taken the evil jewel, they could have seized it and created a rival for Sauron. Therefore, the Dark Lord had given his servants specific instructions. They were supposed to stab Frodo with a Morgul sword, which would turn him into a ringwraith. If that happened (and it would have happened without the healing power of Elrond’s ring), Sauron would have been able to see and control Frodo with his will. He would have had Frodo bring the One Ring to Mordor, and Middle-earth would have been doomed.