A palantír (pl. palantíri (Quenya for One Who Sees Afar)) is a seeing-stone of great power, made in the dawn of time in Valinor. Some suspect that Fëanor, greatest of all smiths, crafted them, but their origin is lost in time.
The number of palantíri that exist is unknown. The master-stone is known to remain in the tower of Avallónë on Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle close to Valinor.
Some palantíri were given to the Dúnedain of Númenor in the Second Age. Of these, seven were brought with Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion, as they fled to Middle-earth. Three stones remained in Arnor with Elendil, and four went to Gondor with Isildur.
The palantíri are exceptionally powerful scrying tools. They can be used to see things at great distances, with a few limitations. Whatever is looked upon must have a light source; the stones cannot see anything in darkness. So e.g. one could look deep into the heart of a mountain, but only if someone inside had a torch or other light source.
The palantíri do not project sound, though in theory one can read lips.
Palantíri require a very strong will to operate safely; their use in the books is associated with a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Saruman, Sauron, and Denethor were all misled by things they saw in their respective palantíri, even though these three had exceptionally strong wills. There is also a suggestion that the palantíri, like some other notable objects of power, may have a tempting or corrupting influence on the unwary; c.f. Pippin's temptation.
Stones of Arnor
- Elostirion in the Tower Hills - This stone remains at present in the Tower Hills between the Shire and Ered Luin. This stone only looks westward though, towards the great sea.
- Amon Sûl in the Lone-lands - The great stone of the North was kept at Weathertop, where it was the source of great discontent and jealousy between Rhudaur, Cardolan, and Arthedain. The forces of Angmar invaded and destroyed Amon Sûl in T.A. 1409, but the palantír was spirited away to Fornost. When Fornost, too, fell, centuries later, the palantír was taken by Arvedui to Forochel. The stone is at the bottom of the Ice-bay now.
- Annúminas in Evendim - This stone was taken to Fornost when Annúminas fell into disuse. Like the stone of Weathertop, it perished in the Ice-bay of Forochel.
Stones of Gondor
- Osgiliath in Gondor - This stone was placed in what was then the capital of Gondor. When the forces of Mordor invaded in T.A. 2475, they sacked the city and the stone was lost in the river Anduin. Calenglad hypothesizes that this is the stone that Mordirith recovered (which was later taken by Amarthiel). Calenglad took this stone and gave it into the keeping of an unspecified person who would keep it safe.
- Minas Ithil in the Ephel Dúath - This stone was captured by the Nazgûl in T.A. 2002, and remained with Sauron in Barad-dur. After the War of the Ring, it was spirited away by a morvul.
- Orthanc in Isengard - This stone spent many years in the tower of Orthanc, in the keeping of Saruman. It was eventually thrown from the tower and picked up by Peregrin Took before ultimately ending up in the hands of Aragorn.
- Minas Tirith in Gondor - This stone is presently in the keeping of Denethor II, Steward of Gondor.