One Ring to Rule Them All

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A Study of the History, Symbolism and Meaning of the One Ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth

by David Harvey

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

  • 1.1. Purpose

  • 1.2. Outline

2. How the Ring Came to Be and Its Early History

3. The History of the Ring until its finding by Bilbo

  • 3.1. Unfinished Tales

4. The Meaning of the Ring

4.1. The Nature of the Ring

  • 4.1.1. As a repository of Sauron's Power

  • 4.1.2. As a symbol of Evil

  • 4.1.3. The Mind of The Ring - ability to work away from its Maker

  • 4.1.4. The Mind of the Ring - ability to return to its Maker

  • 4.1.5. The Effect upon a mortal wearer

  • 4.1.6. Is the Ring "magic"?

4.2. The Ring and the Two Worlds

  • 4.2.1. The Nature of the Two Worlds

  • 4.2.2. The Effect of the Ring and the Two Worlds

  • 4.2.3. The Relationship of the One with the Three

4.3. The Ring and Temptation

  • 4.3.1. Free Will, Choice and Temptation

  • 4.3.2. What happens when the wrong choice is made

4.4. The Effect of the Ring

  • 4.4.1. On Gandalf

  • 4.4.2. On Bilbo

  • 4.4.3. On Galadriel

  • 4.4.4. On Boromir

  • 4.4.5. On Faramir

  • 4.4.6. On Sam

  • 4.4.7. On Frodo

  • 4.4.8. On Gollum

4.5. The Destruction of the Ring

  • 4.5.1. By Chance or design

  • 4.5.2. The self-destructive, self-deceiving nature of evil

4.6. Conclusion on the Ring

  • 4.6.1. Both tangible and symbolic

  • 4.6.2. a real embodiment of evil for acceptance or rejection

  • 4.6.3. a symbol of power - evil and unbridled power - harnessing the evil will

  • 4.6.4. the harnessing of evil to do "good" - the means dictates the end

  • 4.6.5. operates on a physical and a spiritual level

  • 4.6.6. is both real and symbolic typifying evil manifested by behaviour and motive and evil as an inchoate anti-moral force

5. Tolkien's Ring and Der Ring des Nibelungen

6. References and Notes

About the Author

David Harvey was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1946 and was educated at Kings Preparatory School and Kings College. In 1964 he was awarded an American Field Service Scholarship and lived in Redwood Falls Minnesota. While he was there he won the Veterans of Foreign Wars speech competition and represented Minnesota at the national finals in Washington DC. He returned to New Zealand in 1965 and graduated Bachelor of Laws in 1969 from University of Auckland. He practised law until 1988 when he was appointed a District Court Judge. In 1980 he won the TVNZ Mastermind Quiz contest with The Lord of the Rings as his specialist subject. He went on to win the International Mastermind competition with the same subject. He has had two books published - Dragon Smoke and Magic Song which is a book of childrens' stories(1984) and The Song of Middle-Earth (1985). He has also published legal articles and has written articles on Tolkien and fantasy for fanzines. He graduated Master of Jurisprudence with First Class Honours last year (1994) from the University of Waikato. He has been reading Tolkien since he was 10 and has read The Lord of the Rings in excess of 35 times. His other interests are reading, writing, drama, opera (esp Wagner), the law, photography and computers. He is married and has a daughter aged 22 who is finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Education and he has a son aged 9 who has read The Hobbit and most of the Lord of the Rings and is anxiously awaiting the Return of the King computer game from Interplay (if they ever get around to it).

1. Introduction

1.1. Purpose

This essay is an examination of the actual and symbolic nature of the One Ring and the part that it plays within The Lord of the Rings.

The One Ring or the Ruling Ring is the central ingredient and focus of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Yet the true nature of the Ring seems to be misunderstood. Is it an inanimate object, vested with magical powers? Or is it more than this? Is it a symbol of the unbridled power of science which has run out of control? Or, if it is a symbol, exactly what does it symbolise? The answers become clear after a study of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings.

To emphasise the unique nature of the One Ring, and the part that it plays within Tolkien's creation, I have also contrasted it with Der Ring in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Not only is such an examination helpful in illustrating the nature of The One Ring but it also emphasises Tolkien's expressed disavowal of a connection or similarity between his creation and that of Wagner.

1.2. Outline

Some of the material and issues covered in this essay have been examined in my book The Song of Middle-Earth[1]. However, it has become clear that the material contained there requires expansion and further commentary.

In this essay I shall examine the history of the One Ring. I shall deal with the making of the Rings, and the One Ring in particular. Then I shall consider the movements of the Ring until it was found by Bilbo. I shall then study the way the Ring works in The Lord of the Rings and examine this in relation to Tolkien's concept of the nature of Evil. Finally, I shall consider the comparison between the One Ring and Der Ring.

It is appropriate to say something about sources of material. I have been of the view that the last word, where there is a conflict between manuscripts or in interpretation, must come from the work published or approved in whole or in part for publication by Tolkien. Essentially, the Canon comprises The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The Letters provide helpful commentary and can be of assistance in interpretation [2]. The volumes of work that have been published over the last ten years or so [3] are of assistance only to provide further explanation or example. If there is a factual or interpretative conflict between this latter work and the Canon, the Canon is to be preferred.

2. How the Ring Came to Be and Its Early History

The Gwaith-i-Mirdain were the Elvish Jewel-smiths. They dwelt in Eregion, west of the Misty Mountains and established their realm at the end of the First Age, after the Breaking of Thangorodrim and the Drowning of Beleriand. They were the most highly skilled of the Elvish craftsmen, with the exception of Feanor himself. The most skillful of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain was Celebrimbor son of Curufin.

After the fall of Morgoth, Sauron assumed a pleasing appearance and humbled himself before Eonwe, the herald of Manwe. However, Eonwe did not have the authority to pardon him and summoned him to Aman where he might be judged by Manwe. Sauron was not willing to submit to such humiliation. He hid in Middle-earth and fell back into his evil ways.

After many years, Sauron's influence became manifest. He felt that the Valar had forgotten Middle-earth after the fall of Morgoth and the destruction that had been wreaked. He began to bring the Men of the East under his evil sway, and, indeed, of all the peoples of Middle-earth, Men were the easiest to corrupt. Elves were more powerful and more resistant to temptation, and it was the Elves whom Sauron wished to bring into his service. He avoided Lindon where Elrond and Gil-Galad dwelt. They doubted the fair shape which Sauron had assumed and they would not admit him to their lands. But they did not know for a fact that the person who described himself as Atannar, the Lord of Gifts, was, in reality, Sauron. Elrond and Gil-Galad sent messages to the other Elves of Middle-earth urging them to beware of Atannar, but their counsel was not heeded. Sauron persuaded the Elves that it was his desire to labour for the good of Middle-earth, observing that it had been left desolate and dark. The Noldor of Eregion were receptive to Sauron's suggestions. They wanted to increase their knowledge and skill and to recapture the bliss of the West to which they had refused to return.

In the city of Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion the Elves surpassed all that had been done before in the way of smith-craft and they made Rings of Power. In this they were guided by Sauron and he knew what they did and he wished to bind the Elves to him. In secret he made One Ring to rule all the others ;

    "and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only as long as it too should last. And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven Rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them."[4]

The Elves became aware of Sauron's ploy as soon as he put the One Ring upon his finger. They took off their rings and three of them they saved - Narya, Nenya and Vilya - The Rings of Fire, Water and Air. Their stones were respectively ruby, adamant and sapphire. They were the last three Elven Rings made by Celebrimbor. They were untouched and unsullied by Sauron and they possessed the greatest powers.

This raises an interesting inference. Sauron demanded that the Elves surrender all their rings to him. He claimed that the Elven-smiths could not have made them without his lore or counsel. Then the text goes on [5] to say that the Three were saved. This suggests that there were more than the Three, and that in some way they were destroyed or lost.

In The Fellowship of the Ring [6] Gandalf says:

    "In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles - yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous"

The first reference that Gandalf makes to the Three comes after he has spoken the verse and identified the One. "The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them."[7]

The relationship of the Three with the One is taken up by Elrond.[8]

    "..... and many eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder as he told of the Elven-smiths of Eregion and their friendship with Moria, and their eagerness for knowledge, by which Sauron ensnared them. For in that time he was not yet evil to behold, and they received his aid and grew mighty in craft, whereas he learned all their secrets, and betrayed them, and forged secretly in the Mountain of Fire the One Ring to be their master. But Celebrimbor was aware of him, and hid the Three which he had made; and there was war, and the land was laid waste, and the gate of Moria was shut."

I believe that it is fair to conclude from this that Celebrimbor and the Elven-smiths made more rings than just the Three. When Sauron donned the One, the Elves, hearing the fateful words spoken by Sauron which were engraved on the Ring [9] and realising that Sauron could see and govern their thoughts, removed their Rings and lost or destroyed them. This conclusion is justified for there is no further reference to the lesser rings being in existence. The Three Great Elven Rings, pure and untouched by Sauron, were hidden and retained by Gil-galad (and later Elrond), Cirdan (and later Gandalf) and Galadriel.

3. The History of the Ring until its finding by Bilbo

The Elves and Sauron became implacable foes and war never ceased between them. Sauron gathered together those of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves that he could and the Nine Rings of the Men. The Dwarves were resilient and tough, and not all of the Seven were retrieved by Sauron. Men proved easier to subvert, and the Nine Kings who wore the Rings of Men all came under the dominion of Sauron and walked under the shadow and dominion of the One as the Nazgul or Ringwraiths.

During the Second Age, the realm of Numenor had developed and become great. During the reign of Tar-Minastir, Sauron fortified the land of Mordor, built the Tower of Barad-dur and strove for dominion of Middle-earth. [10] Sauron hated the Men of Numenor. They had been allied with the Elves and Tar-Minastir gave aid to Gil-galad when the One Ring was forged. Yet Sauron, despite his power, feared the Numenoreans, although it was said that three of the Nazgul (Ulairi in the Numenorean tongue) were great lords of the Numenorean race. When Sauron's terror and mastery over Men had grown great he ventured to assail the strong places of the Numenoreans upon the shores of the sea. These obviously were the Numenorean settlements in Middle-earth.

Pharazon son of Gimilkhad, a restless and ambitious Numenorean, was a leader of the Numenoreans in the wars that were waged in the coastlands of Middle-earth. In these wars he learned of the strength of the realm of Sauron and of his hatred of Westernesse. Upon his assumption of the throne he took the title of Ar-Pharazon and was known as the Golden. With Ar-Pharazon in Numenore, Sauron put forth his might to drive the Numenoreans from Middle-earth and even desired the destruction of Numenor. Ar-Pharazon then determined to humble Sauron, marched upon Middle-earth and commanded Sauron to come before him and swear fealty. Sauron came from Barad-dur, making no offer of battle,

    "For he perceived that the power and majesty of the Kings of the Sea surpassed all rumour of them, so that he could not trust even the greatest of his servants to withstand them; and he saw not his time yet to work his will with the Dunedain. And he was crafty, well skilled to gain what he would by subtlety when force might not avail. Therefore he humbled himself before Ar-Pharazon and smoothed his tongue; and men wondered, for all he said seemed fair and wise.
    But Ar-Pharazon was not yet deceived, and it came into his mind that, for the better keeping of Sauron and of his oaths of fealty, he should be brought to Numenor, there to dwell as a hostage for himself and all his servants in Middle-earth. To this Sauron assented as one constrained, yet in his secret thought he received it gladly, for it chimed indeed with his desire. And Sauron passed over the sea and looked upon the land of Numenor, and on the city of Armenelos in the days of its glory, and he was astounded.;"[11]

The power of the Men of Numenor must have been great, for Sauron still wore the Ring. Yet he did not use it, or they were able to resist it. Indeed he put it aside and left it at Barad-dur, although this is not made clear until a later stage in the text after the Fall of Numenor. I favour the conclusion that the Men of Numenor could resist the Ring. Elendil and Isildur, survivors of the Wreck of Numenor were not cowed by it, as will later become obvious. In addition, Sauron used other weapons in his armoury of evil, for within three years he had become close to Ar-Pharazon, using flattery and knowledge to win hearts. And once the councillors saw the favour that Sauron received from Ar-Pharazon, they began to fawn on him, with the exception of Amandil, lord of Andunie and father of Elendil. Amandil, with three of his servants, later left Numenor and after first steering eastwards went about and passed into the West and nothing more was heard of him. Before he went he had counselled Elendil who gathered the Faithful together and they did not meddle in the evil that Ar-Pharazon was planning.

Ultimately, Ar-Pharazon broke the Ban of the Valar and sailed to Aman, whereupon the Blessed Realm was sundered from the physical world and Numenor was drowned. Elendil, with his nine ships, avoided the wreck of Numenor and sailed on the wings of the storm to Middle-earth. Sauron, who remained in Numenor was filled with fear when the wrath of the Valar was made manifest, but was at the same time triumphant at the thought that he was rid of the Edain. He was taken in the midst of his mirth and his seat and his temple fell into the abyss.

    "But Sauron was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Middle-earth and to Mordor that was his home. There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dur, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure." [12]
    "...... and the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure"[13]

Elendil, Isildur and Anarion came to Middle-earth like birds on a storm. Elendil landed in Lindon and was befriended by Gil-galad and established his realm in what was later to become the Kingdom of Arnor in Eriador. Isildur and Anarion were borne away southwards and established themselves in Gondor where earlier mariners of Numenor had settled. Their chief city was Osgiliath, and they built Minas Ithil, the house of Isildur, and Minas Anor, the house of Anarion. They shared the rule of the realm and built many works, including Isengard where they made the Pinnacle of Orthanc of unbreakable stone.

Sauron prepared for war against the Eldar and the Men of Westernesse and the fires of Amon Amarth, Mt. Doom, were awakened again. Sauron gathered a great strength of his servants from the East and the South and among them were some of the high race of Numenor. Two of these were Herumor and Fuinur who had risen to power among the Haradrim.

Sauron attacked Gondor and took Minas Ithil. He destroyed the White Tree of Isildur. But Isildur escaped, taking a seedling of the Tree with him and he sailed from the mouths of Anduin seeking Elendil. Anarion held Osgiliath and drove the forces of Sauron back to the mountains, but the respite was brief as Sauron gathered his forces again.

In the meantime Elendil and Gil-galad united and made a League known as the Last Alliance and they marched east into Middle-earth gathering a host of Elves and Men. They halted for a while at Imladris, crossed the Misty Mountains and marched down Anduin and engaged Sauron on Dagorlad, the Battle Plain, before the Gates of Mordor. Of the hosts of the Last Alliance Elrond said,

    " I remember well the splendour of their banners.... (i)t recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled....... I was the herald of Gil-galad and marched with his host. I was at the Battle of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor, where we had mastery: for the Spear of Gil-galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aiglos and Narsil, none could withstand. I beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword, and took it for his own."[14]

The siege of Mordor lasted seven years before this great battle. Many sorties were sent by Sauron, and Anarion was slain in the valley of Gorgoroth. At the end, "the siege was so strait" that Sauron himself entered the fray. It is said that he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil and they were both slain. I do not believe that he wrestled in the commonly understood sense, for in such a form of combat Elendil and Gil-galad would be weaponless. "Wrestled" in this context must mean "fought" or "struggled" in its widest context, both physically and mentally.

Clearly the combined strength of the magnificent Men of Numenor and the High Elves of Gil-galad could resist the enormous power of Sauron incarnate wearing the Ring, although obviously the Ring could dominate lesser Men. After Sauron was defeated he "forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years."[15]

And so the Ring passed to Isildur. If it had been destroyed, the power of Sauron would have been forever diminished, and he would have remained a shadow of malice in the wilderness.

    "Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast into Orodruin's fire nigh at hand where it was made. But few marked what Isildur did. He alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Cirdan stood, and I. But Isildur would not listen to our counsel.
    "This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother," he said; and whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it.""[16]

Isildur returned to Minas Anor where he planted the last sapling of the White Tree in memory of Anarion, and instructed his nephew Meneldil before leaving him to rule the Southern Kingdom. Whilst he was at Minas Anor he made a scroll discovered by Gandalf, who, forsaking the chase of Gollum, came to Gondor and received grudging approval from Denethor to examine the old books of lore at Minas Tirith. Isildur wrote of the Ring as follows:

    "The Great Ring shall now go to be an heirloom of the North Kingdom; but records of it shall be left in Gondor, where also dwell the heirs of Elendil, lest a time come when the memory of these great matters shall grow dim.
    It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither of its beauty or its shape. Already the writing upon it, which at first was as clear as red flame, fadeth and is now only barely to be read. It is fashioned in an elven-script of Eregion, for they have no letters in Mordor for such subtle work; but the language is unknown to me. I deem it to be a tongue of the Black Land, since h!~=Ôs foul and uncouth. What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed. But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain."[17]

But the Ring betrayed him.

Isildur rode north to take up Elendil's realm in Eriador, but he was overwhelmed by a host of orcs that lay in wait in the Misty Mountains. They came upon his camp between Greenwood and Anduin near the Gladden Fields. Isildur had mistakenly thought that all his foes had been overthrown and he placed no guards, and nigh all his people were slain.

    "Isildur himself escaped by means of the Ring, for when he wore it he was invisible to all eyes; but the Orcs hunted him by scent and slot, until he came to the River and plunged in. There the Ring betrayed him and avenged its maker, for it slipped from his finger as he swam, and it was lost in the water. Then the Orcs saw him as he laboured in the stream, and they shot him with many arrows, and that was his end." [18]

From then, effectively until Gandalf established that the Ring held by Frodo was in fact the One, the Ring passed out of knowledge and legend. Saruman, at the time of the return of the Shadow to Dol Guldur and the formation of the White Council, began to study the lore of the Rings of Power, their making and their history. This was for his own purpose, for, as it later turned out, Saruman himself coveted the One. But he dissembled and lulled his fellow members of the White Council.

At a meeting between Elrond, Mithrandir and Saruman, Elrond commented,

    "In the hour that Isildur took the Ring and would not surrender it, this doom was wrought, that Sauron should return."
    "Yet the One was lost," said Mithrandir, "and while it still lies hid, we can master the Enemy, if we gather our strength and tarry not too long."
    Then the White Council was summoned; and Mithrandir urged them to swift deeds, but Curunir spoke against him, and counselled them to wait yet and to watch.
    "For I believe not," said he, "that the One will ever be found again in Middle-earth. Into Anduin it fell, and long ago, I deem, it was rolled to the Sea. There it shall lie until the end, when all this world is broken and the deeps are removed." [19]

Elrond was not so confident and expressed the Gandalf the fear that the One would be found, and then war would arise again, and in that war the Third Age would be ended. Elrond was pessimistic, fearing a second darkness, unless an unforseen event delivered victory.

But in his secret thought Saruman desired that none other should find the One, so that he might wield it and order the world to his rule. He had studied the works of Sauron to defeat him, but in that study he came to envy Sauron as a rival. Saruman was of the view that if Sauron became manifest once more, the Ring would seek its master, but if Sauron were driven out, the Ring would remain hidden. Thus, Saruman was prepared to allow Sauron's power to develop, hoping to forestall the White Company and Sauron, and be ready when the Ring should reappear.

He set a watch upon the Gladden Fields, but the servants of Sauron in Dol Guldur were searching there as well. It was clear that Sauron was aware of Isildur's end, and that the Ring was not in the hands of the White Council or their allies. Saruman withdrew to Isengard and fortified it

    "and ever he probed deeper into the lore of the Rings of Power and the art of their forging. But he spoke of none of this to the Council, hoping still that he might be the first to hear news of the Ring. He gathered a great host of spies, and many of these were birds; for Radagast lent him his aid, divining naught of his treachery, and deeming that this was but part of the watch upon the Enemy.
    But ever the shadow in Mirkwood grew deeper (and)
    Therefore at last the Council was again summoned and the lore of the Rings was much debated; but Mithrandir spoke to the Council saying:
    ' it is not needed that the Ring should be found, for while it abides on earth and is not unmade, still the power that it holds will live, and Sauron will grow and have hope. The might of the Elves and the Elf-friends is less now than of old. Soon he will be too strong for you, even without the Great Ring: for he rules the Nine, and of the Seven he has recovered three. We must strike." [20]

Saruman assented. He wished to see Sauron expelled from Dol Guldur, which was near the River, so that he should have leisure to search there himself. But Sauron anticipated the activities of the White Council and cunningly fled from Dol Guldur and re-established himself in Mordor.

Unknown to all, the Ring had indeed been found, and was abroad, for in the year that Dol Guldur was assaulted, Bilbo Baggins the hobbit found the Ring in the depths of the Misty Mountains by the lake where dwelt Smeagol Gollum.

Long before, but long after the disaster at Gladden Fields, Smeagol and his friend Deagol were fishing on the Great River near the Gladden Fields where there were great beds of irises and flowering reeds. It was Smeagol's birthday. Smeagol got out of the boat and went nosing about the banks, but Deagol remained in the boat. Suddenly a great fish took the hook and Deagol was dragged out of the boat and into the River. He let go of his line and his attention was attracted by something shining in the riverbed. He grabbed it, surfaced and swam to the bank. He looked at his prize. It was a beautiful golden ring which shone and glittered in the sun. Smeagol had been watching from behind a tree and demanded the Ring from his friend, claiming it as a birthday present. Deagol protested, saying that he had already given Smeagol a present, and said that he would keep it. With that Smeagol strangled the hapless Deagol and took the Ring because the gold looked so bright and beautiful. He put the Ring on his finger.

He returned home having hidden Deagol's body and discovered that no one could see him, for the Ring made him invisible. He used the Ring to find out secrets and put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful. The Ring had given him power according to his stature. He became unpopular with his family, and ultimately his grandmother expelled him from their home. He wandered, cursing the Sun, and ultimately found his way, like a maggot, into the heart of the mountains. There he lived by an underground lake, surviving on fish and the odd orc who may have strayed lost to his lair. One day he misplaced the Ring, leaving it on a path at the edge of his lake. And there it was found by Bilbo Baggins.

3.1. Unfinished Tales

Before considering the nature of the Ring and the way that it works, it is appropriate at this stage to ascertain if there is any further helpful information contained in what I term the "Apocryphal Writings" of "Unfinished Tales"

"Unfinished Tales" contains four chapters which are of considerable assistance which can provide added insights to some of the matters surrounding the Ring - The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, The Disaster of Gladden Fields, The Quest of Erebor and The Hunt for the Ring.

The History of Galadriel and Celeborn takes us right back to the beginning of the Second Age. It is revealed that Galadriel was perceived by Sauron to be his chief adversary and obstacle, but although he was patient and courteous with her, she treated him with scorn. This antipathy on the part of Galadriel is extant in the Third Age when she comments that Lorien is a bastion against Sauron.

Sauron turned his attention to the Elven-smiths. It transpires that Celebrimbor and his fellow smiths had formed a society or brotherhood and it was this society that was known as the Gwaith-i-Mirdain.

    "Before long Sauron had the Gwaith-i-Mirdain under his influence, for at first they had great profit from his instruction in the secret matters of their craft. So great became his hold on the Mirdain that at length he persuaded them to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn to seize power in Eregion; and that was at some time between 1350 and 1400 of the Second Age. Galadriel thereupon left Eregion and passed through Khazad-dum to Lorinand, taking with her Amroth and Celebrian." [21]

Then the Mirdain commenced upon the making of the Rings of Power, and Sauron left Eregion in 1500. Celebrimbor had not been corrupted by Sauron, although he had accepted him as what he posed to be - Atannar, the Lord of Gifts. Thus, when Sauron donned the One Ring, Celebrimbor went to Lorinand and counselled with Galadriel. It was later understood that all the Rings of Power should have been destroyed at this time, but the Elves failed to find the strength to do this. It was decided that the Three Rings of the Elves, which had been untouched by Sauron and in the making of which he had no part, should be hidden, never used and dispersed far from Eregion where Sauron thought them to be. Nenya, the White Ring, was given to Galadriel. The Ring of Air (Vilya) and the Ring of Fire (Narya) were sent to Gil-galad in Lindon. [22]

Once Sauron became aware of the revolt of Celebrimbor he gathered together a great force and invaded Eriador in SA1695. The chief goal was to capture the House of the Mirdain, which was accomplished. Celebrimbor himself withstood Sauron on the steps of the great door of the Mirdain, but he was captured. In this way Sauron took the Nine Rings and other works of the Mirdain. But he could not find the Seven or the Three. Celebrimbor was tormented and revealed where the Seven were. This he was prepared to do, for he did not value them as highly as the Three. Concerning the Three, Celebrimbor was prepared to say nothing and he was slain. But Sauron rightly guessed that the Three had been committed to Elvish guardians - Galadriel and Gil-galad. Eregion was ravaged. Elrond established a refuge at Imladris, and aid came from the Elves of Lorinand, led by Amroth, and Dwarves from Khazad-dum, led by Durin. Sauron turned on these foes from the South and drove them back, and the Gates of Moria were shut. Sauron turned to Eriador, purposing to invade Lindon, but he was weakened, having to leave forces behind to contain Elrond.

Aid also came from Numenor and after fierce conflict, Sauron was defeated at Sarn Ford and at Gwathlo. The force besieging Imladris was utterly defeated. Eriador was cleared of the enemy, but lay in ruins.

This fragment clarifies a number of issues. It is clear now that Sauron not only misled the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, but corrupted them to the point that they arose in revolt. Further it is clear that they did this before the making of the Rings of Power. It was by divisiveness that Sauron was able to isolate Galadriel and remove her from Eregion. Thence he could proceed to the forging of the Rings of Power to strengthen his hold over the peoples of Middle-earth. He clearly did not anticipate that Celebrimbor would forge the Three in secret with a totally different power and purpose than the Seven, The Nine and the One. This highlights the issue of the purposes of the Ring and the way that it works, and indeed such an analysis cannot be done in isolation, for an understanding of the One necessarily involves a comparison with the Three, and I shall deal with this in the next section.

A matter that has always raised a concern is how it was that the Elves were able to resist Sauron, given that he had the Ring. There are two issues that arise here. First, Sauron used the Ring as a repository of much of his extant power. The Ring did not give him any extra power above and beyond that which allowed him to control the hearts and minds of the wearers of the Seven and the Nine. It does seem that he could manifest some control over the Three if they were revealed [23]. It is also clear that the Elves were in a better position to resist Sauron and his power as a Maia of Aule than the other races of Middle-earth, so his power against them, be it personally or by means of the Ring, was not as devastating. Similarly, Sauron found it difficult to control the Men of Numenor as easily as, say, the Men of the East. They had greater strength of will and were not, initially, swayed by his blandishments.
Secondly, Sauron used main force in his war against the Elves of Eregion, and in terms of numbers was clearly superior. These numbers obviously were under the control of the Ring and did Sauron's bidding. It was the intervention of the Numenoreans that changed the balance in the favour of the Elves. Sauron's defeat resulted in his retreat to Mordor and the ascendancy of the Numenorean settlements on the Western coasts from about SA 1800, thus making any westward movement by Sauron from Mordor impossible.

The Disaster of the Gladden Fields sheds further light upon Isildur's end. He was the first victim of the Ring. In some respects this fragment is more helpful in understanding the way in which the Ring works and provides us with further insights to its nature. I shall cover this in detail in the next section.

The death of Isildur and the ambush of his party took place two years after the fall of Sauron after the siege of Barad-dur. The tragedy of Isildur becomes clear. Assailed by a superior number of Orcs, he sent Ohtar to Imladris with the shards of Narsil. When the Orcs crept forward under shadow of night, Isildur faced the reality of his error and confessed it to his son Elendur. It was suggested that he should use the Ring, but he said:

    "I cannot use it. I dread the pain of touching it. And I have not yet found the strength to bend it to my will. It needs one greater than I now know myself to be, My pride has fallen. It should go to the Keepers of the Three." [24]

Indeed, in the spirit of classic Greek tragedy, it was hubris that was the downfall of Isildur. It was pride that led him to keep the Ring against the counsel of Elrond and Cirdan that it should be destroyed in the fires of Orodruin. This Isildur confirmed in his last words to his son Elendur when he sought forgiveness for the pride that had brought them to their doom. Isildur kept the Ring in a small case of gold, attached to a fine chain. From this he took the Ring and set it upon his finger with a cry of pain, and ran from the ambush to the banks of Anduin, and cast himself into the river. He tried to swim across the river and then north against the current, for "he was a man of strength and endurance that few even of the Dunedain of that age could equal" [25] but inexorably he was drawn towards the tangles of Gladden Fields. He found himself struggling among great rushes and clinging weeds and;

    "There suddenly he knew that the Ring had gone. By chance, or chance well used, it had left his hand and gone where he could never hope to find it again. At first so overwhelming was his sense of loss that he struggled no more, and would have sunk and drowned. But swift as it had come the mood passed. The pain had left him. A great burden had been taken away. His feet found the river bed, and heaving himself up out of the mud he floundered through the reeds to a marshy islet close to the western shore. There he rose up out of the water: only a mortal man, a small creature lost and abandoned in the wilds of Middle-earth. But to the night-eyed Orcs that lurked there on watch he loomed up, a monstrous shadow of fear with a piercing eye like a star. They loosed their poisoned arrows at it and fled. Needlessly, for Isildur unarmed was pierced through heart and throat, and without a cry he fell back into the water. No trace of his body was ever found by Elves or Men. So passed the first victim of the malice of the masterless Ring." [26]

Isildur was one of the great of Numenor and remained Faithful when the majority fell to the blandishments of Sauron and the pride of Ar-Pharazon. The Numenoreans were great in every way - in stature, demeanour, strength, wisdom, knowledge and mana. Isildur demonstrated all these qualities. Yet if there was anything that was a weakness in the Numenoreans it was pride. Pride drove Isildur to choose to retain the Ring after he had cut it from Sauron's hand. From then on he was shackled with that choice. There was pain associated with the Ring - the physical pain of wearing it which went beyond the initial heat it had when it was taken from Sauron. There was, covetousness, the desire to hold it, despite the pain. Even one as great as Isildur demeans himself to the level of Smeagol when he describes the Ring as precious to him. [27]

Whereas the tale of Isildur that appears in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion is brief, the fragment in Unfinished Tales fleshes out the detail, and allows us to understand the tragedy of Isildur. We can see the might of the Dunedain marching north to Imladris, three parts of their journey finished. We are confronted with the sudden attack of the orcs. And from this point, Isildur's foreboding becomes apparent. There is no reason to fear a band of marauding orcs. But he expresses his fear to Elendur. They are caught far from their allies, and they bore "burdens of worth beyond all reckoning". The presence of the Ring could not have been known to the Orcs. They would not even have known of its existence. Only Sauron and the Nine Nazgul were privy to its existence and power. But it was still only two years since it had left Sauron's hand "and though it was swiftly cooling it was still heavy with his evil will, and seeking all means to return to its lord (as it did again when he was recovered and rehoused)"[28].

Such is Isildur's premonition of the end that he gives the shards of Narsil to Ohtar, commanding him to go. The initial attack of the Orcs is beaten back, but there is cunning and fierce and relentless hatred in the orcs, and they fling themselves upon the Dunedain with a reckless ferocity at nightfall.

It is an ingredient of tragedy that the tragic protagonist not only carries within himself the tragic flaw that is his undoing, but that he perceives that flaw and recognises it. Isildur does just this. He recognises that his pride in taking the Ring is his undoing. He has this great repository of power, yet he is powerless to use it. He who mutilated Sauron, the second King of the Two Kingdoms, is but an ordinary man. He faces defeat by night at the hands of Orcs. He has led his faithful followers to their doom. He realises that he is responsible for the death of his sons. And he must abandon his comrades in an effort to save that very thing that has led to his downfall. Isildur's tragedy is complete at the point when he takes his leave of Elendur and places the Ring on his finger. We see at that moment a reminder of his former greatness when the star he wore upon his brow, "the Elendilmir of the West could not be quenched and suddenly it blazed forth red and wrathful as a burning star. Men and Orcs gave way in fear; and Isildur, drawing a hood over his head, vanished into the night."[29]

The power of the Ring to seek out its Maker is further emphasised in the comment that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring but not by its Maker.

    "There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
    Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ringmaker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought." [30]

This tantalising comment suggests that in opposition to Sauron there is a power at work, but Gandalf only hints at the nature of the power, and any part that he may have in it as an agent of that Power receives no comment. What ever the "something else at work" was is not clear, and unless the reader is familiar with "The Silmarillion" the cosmology of Arda is a total mystery. What, then, is meant by the reference to "more than one power at work". Certainly the Ring was at work, and Sauron had also arisen. Is there another power? Is that power Gandalf? If not, is Gandalf an agent of that power and is he privy to its strategies.
This is further enlarged upon in The Quest of Erebor contained in "Unfinished Tales".

In "The Hobbit", it is the Quest for the Dragon's Gold that is the principal goal. The finding of the Ring by Bilbo, although an important part of the story, does not have the great meaning and significance that becomes apparent in "The Lord of the Rings". The elimination of Smaug as a possible tool of the Necromancer of Dol Guldur is an underlying agenda of the Quest. But was the finding of the Ring something that had been planned by Gandalf? In The Quest of Erebor, Gandalf comments as follows:

    "In that far distant time I said to a small and frightened hobbit: Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker, and you therefore were meant to bear it. And I might have added: and I was meant to guide you both to those points"[31];

and on the choosing of Bilbo;

    "I dare say he was "chosen" and I was only chosen to choose him; but I picked out Bilbo......(H)ow would you select any one Hobbit for such a purpose?.....I had not time to sort them all out; but I knew the Shire very well by that time, although when I met Thorin I had been away for more than twenty years on less pleasant business. So naturally thinking over the Hobbits that I knew, I said to myself 'I want a dash of the Took....and I want a good foundation of the stolider sort, a Baggins perhaps.' That pointed at once to Bilbo. And I had known him once very well, almost up to his coming of age, better than he knew me. And now I found that he was "unattached" - to jump on again, for of course I did not know this until I went back to the Shire. I learned that he had never married. I thought that odd, though I guessed why it was; and the reason that I guessed it was not the one that most of the Hobbits gave me: that he had early been left very well off and his own master. No, I guessed that he wanted to remain "unattached" for some reason deep down which he did not understand himself - or would not acknowledge, for it alarmed him. He wanted, all the same, to be free to go when the chance came, or he had made up his courage."[32]

It is clear that Gandalf did not encourage Thorin's quest with the purpose of finding the Ring. That it was found came as a result of a number of events, all of which were meant to happen. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, but not as the result of any underlying direction from Sauron. Was the Ring, then, searching for its Master? That does not appear from the text, although the Ring does have that property [33], and Sauron was re-gaining his strength in Dol Guldur and preparing his fastness in Mordor. Quite clearly, the strategy or Grand Design was the Will of Iluvatar and Gandalf was an instrument in that he put the people in place to fulfil the design. A further question which arises from this is that of the intervention of the Valar or the Deity in the affairs of Middle-earth. At the Wreck of Numenor the Valar put aside their Guardianship and called upon Iluvatar. Upon the bending of the World and the Sundering of Valinor (the spiritual realm) from the Circles of the World (the material realm) the Valar have no direct contact with Middle-earth. They will not accept the Ring if it is sent to them [34]. Only the Elves (and a select few mortals) can regain Valinor by sailing the Straight Road [35]. If the Deity takes a part in the affairs of Middle-earth, it must be in a most indirect way. The reason is that all the activities of free people are governed by the right to choose. This is an essential part of the morality of Tolkien's world [36]. The Deity cannot force a person to act in a particular way. To do so would be to act in as tyrannical a way as Sauron. At all times free people must be able to choose what actions they will undertake, even although the action may be wrong, detrimental or fatal to themselves and others. The opportunities to exercise that freedom of choice occur all the time. From time to time they may be momentous. When Bilbo found the Ring, he had an opportunity to kill Gollum. He did not do so, out of pity. Thus his finding of the Ring was directly coloured by this choice. Had he killed Gollum, his finding of the Ring would have been tainted to his detriment, and possibly to the detriment of the future of Middle-earth. Similarly, we see Frodo exercising the power of choice in Sammath Naur when he says "I do not choose to do this thing." (my emphasis). At this point the whole fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance, and the dire consequences of Frodo's choice are averted by the action of Gollum, whose presence at that point is as the result of a number of choices that have been made throughout "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings"[37].

This freedom of choice seems to allow Evil to gain sway where the wrong choice is made, but there is a balance that exists within Tolkien's world, and that is that Evil carries within itself the seeds of its own downfall. This concept, and the nature of choice and temptation, will be examined in more detail in the next section.

The Hunt for the Ring deals with two versions of the Journey of the Black Riders and their search for the Ring after it became apparent that it was abroad, and an account of some of the dealings of Saruman in the Shire.

We find an interesting reference to Gollum, who is described as;

    "Utterly indomitable he was, except by death, as Sauron guessed, both from his halfling nature, and from a cause Sauron did not fully comprehend, being consumed himself by a lust for the Ring." [38]

Gollum hated Sauron even more than he was terrified of him, perceiving in Sauron a rival for the Ring. He actually misled Sauron to believe that the land of the Halflings was near to places where he had dwelt beside the banks of the Gladden. This insight to Gollum's character reveals a strength of will that is extraordinary, and probably derives from his hobbitish ancestry, since Gollum's people are described as related to the Stoors.39 That he should attempt to mislead Sauron is even more extraordinary and demonstrates the depth of the desire that Gollum had to recover the Ring. Quite clearly this was not perceived by Sauron, he himself being consumed with a lust for the Ring as well. Thus a flaw in one who is evil does not allow him to perceive the true nature of another.

The other interesting information contained in this fragment is that which relates to the Nazgul. We learn, for example, of the disposition of the Nine, and the name of the Nazgul second to the Witch-King - Khamul, the Shadow of the East. But of more significance is the way in which the Ring dominates the Nine. They had no will but Sauron's "being each utterly subservient to the ring that had enslaved him, which Sauron held."[40] and;

    "they were quite incapable of acting against his (Sauron's) will, and if one of them, even the Witch-king their captain, had seized the One Ring, he would have brought it back to his Master......(A)ll except the Witch-king were apt to stray when alone by daylight; and all, again save the Witch-king, feared water, and were unwilling, except in dire need, to enter it or cross streams unless dry shod by a bridge. Moreover their chief weapon was terror. This was actually greater when they were unclad and invisible; and it was greater also when they were gathered together."[41]

It is noted by Christopher Tolkien that the reason for the fear by the Nazgul of water was not explained, in that it is not clear how they crossed other rivers which lay in their path such as the Greyflood which had a dangerous ford formed by the ruins of a bridge. The Rider (Khamul) who pursued the hobbits to the Bucklebury Ferry was aware that the Ring had crossed the river, but the river was a barrier to his sense of movement. At the Ford of Bruinen only the Witch-king and two others, with the lure of the Ring straight ahead of them, dared enter the river. The others were driven to it by Glorfindel and Aragorn.

May I suggest an explanation for the fear of the Nazgul of water. It seems to be tied in with the ancient view of the four elements - earth, air, fire and water - the ancient backbone of all things of this earth. The Nazgul were inhabitants of the shadow world, the world of the spirit, and existed in only a semi-corporeal plane in the material world. This being so, some elements of the natural world must be inimicable to them. In the case of the Nazgul, water is one. But of significance, and which seems to have been overlooked, is fire. Aragorn arms himself and the hobbits with fire on Weathertop [42], and it is with burning brands that Aragorn and Glorfindel drive the Nazgul into the waters of the Bruinen. An additional factor is, of course, that Glorfindel reveals himself in his spiritual guise. Were it not for the fact that there is evidence that the Nazgul fear fire and water, I could not sustain the hypothesis. But it seems clear that, perhaps unconsciously, Tolkien devised two of the basic elementals as a form of opposition to the Nazgul.

The History of Middle-earth series and especially those books dealing with the development of The Lord of the Rings [43] primarily demonstrate how the various ideas began and were developed over the years of the book's creation. In terms of providing insights to the mind of the creator, the process by which his creation was realised and the way in which he worked, the books are invaluable.

However, it is not appropriate for this essay to gather together, for example, the references to the way in which the idea of Isildur developed as the first person apart from Sauron to hold the Ring, and lose it. The matter is fully covered in The Lord of the Rings with supplementary material in Unfinished Tales. Furthermore, I have already in this essay commented in the value of "The History of Middle-earth" as a secondary source. Therefore, in the discussion which follows, I shall refer from time to time to material that appears in "The History of Middle-earth" where it assists to explain or elucidate matters which are dealt with or referred to in the Canon. [44]

4. The Meaning of the Ring

In this section of the essay I shall examine the Nature of the Ring in terms of an evil object and as a symbol. I shall discuss the way in which the Ring works and its effect upon mortal users. I shall then consider the nature of Tolkien's "two worlds" upon which I have touched already, and how the Ring is a bridge between those worlds. Following upon that I shall consider the issue of the Ring and Temptation, which is a dominant theme throughout The Lord of the Rings. I shall then deal with the way in which the Ring affects some of the main characters in The Lord of the Rings and then pass to the destruction of the Ring and the question of whether this was an inevitability or mere chance. Finally, I shall offer some conclusions on the Ring.

4.1. The Nature of the Ring

4.1.1. As a repository of Sauron's Power

Sauron made the One Ring himself. Celebrimbor had no part in it. The One Ring was forged in Sammath Naur in Orodruin, the Cracks of Doom in Sauron's fastness of Mordor. It was conceived secretly, made secretly in an evil place and created for an evil purpose [45] by an evil creator. There is no redeeming feature in the way in which the Ring was made. It was forged in darkness, and not even under a clear sky. The words that were inscribed upon it, although written in Elvish script but the language was that of Mordor.

Into the Ring Sauron let pass a great part of his own former power. The purpose for that was so that he could rule the other rings of power.

    "If he recovers it, then he will command them all again, wherever they be, even the Three, and all that has been wrought with them will be laid bare, and he will be stronger than ever." [46]

Sauron's realm was based upon his evil power, and whilst that power remained in its fullness, his realm would survive. Even although the Dark Tower was broken after the Last Alliance, its foundations were not removed; for they were made with the power of the Ring, and while it remained, they would endure. [47] Only if Sauron's power were diminished by the destruction of the Ring into which he had let so much of it flow, could his works, including Barad-dur, be destroyed utterly.

Gandalf described the Ring as;

    "the treasure of the Enemy, fraught with his malice: and in it lies a great part of his strength of old. Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:

    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them" [48]

It was that Power which entranced Saruman, for he perceived Sauron as the new Power arising, against whom the Elves and the Men of Numenor would avail nothing. He suggested first joining with that Power, but later suggested that with the Ruling Ring, that power would pass to himself.

Sauron's power was immense. But there are only hints of it. Terror and torment are ingredients of his dominion. Control, the deprivation of will, the stripping of the soul bare are all suggested, and it is through Gollum that the true terror of Sauron is reflected. The Power to defy Sauron, as Galdor observed, would have to come from the earth itself and

    "yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills" [49]

and the Elves did not have the strength to withstand Sauron and keep the Ring from him. So tainted was it with Sauron's evil and malevolence that it could not be sent to the Valar beyond the Sea.

To complicate the matter, the Ring could not even be used against Sauron. When Boromir suggested that it should be used as a weapon, Elrond replied;

    "We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so." [50]

Yet Sauron desired power, and the only basis upon which he could make an assessment of his enemies was to consider that they would be motivated by the same desire. It could never occur to him that anyone would not want power, or a source of power, nor that they would want to destroy it. But the power of the Ring is only available to a Ring bearer according to his measure. This is clear from Elrond's comment that to use it a person must have great power of their own. And even so, the evil inherent within the Ring will ultimately take over.

Throughout the "Lord of the Rings", the evil nature of the Ring works primarily upon Frodo and Gollum, and the conflict between these two characters, and their struggle with each other, and Frodo's continuing struggle with the Ring assumes significance. It is at the Last Debate after the siege of Minas Tirith, that the essence and nature of the Ring is again mentioned.

    "For into the midst of all these policies comes the Ring of Power, the foundation of Barad-dur, and the hope of Sauron.
    Concerning this thing, my lords, you now all know enough for the understanding of our plight, and of Sauron's. If he regains it, your valour is vain, and his victory will be swift or complete: so complete that none can foresee the end of it while this world lasts. If it is destroyed, then he will fall: and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of his strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.
    Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary." [51]

It is therefore abundantly clear that the primary significance of the Ring is as a source of power. It is a power beyond the imaginings of the mortals in the story; it is power that corrupts utterly; it is power that is founded upon and is totally evil. Associated with that power, the Ring can make the wearer invisible, and can enhance certain senses and dull others. Furthermore, because Sauron is a Maia and dwells in the two realms, the Ring has that aspect of his power as a property, and provides a bridge between the two worlds.

We are never told of the totality of Sauron's power, but it is vast. Sauron can shape-shift, as he did in the tale of Beren and Luthien. But the real essence and purpose of his power is to control in the same way that his master did.

Sauron is an emissary of Morgoth. He was;

    "only less evil than his master in that for long he served another and not himself. But in after years he rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of his malice, and walked behind him on the same ruinous path down into the Void." [52]

Sauron, the angelic Maia, was corrupted by Morgoth. He became the greatest of Morgoth's servants. Without going through the development of Morgoth's fall and the embracing of evil [53] suffice it to say that Morgoth commenced as a note of discord within the Music of the Ainur and was humiliated with the recognition that discord or Evil could not subdue the Great Plan [54]. Humiliation became hatred and Morgoth started upon his path. He wished to "order all things for the good of the children of Iluvatar, controlling the turmoils of the heat and the cold that had come to pass through him." [55] But self-deception is part of the nature of evil. Morgoth really wanted to rule and to have servants and subjects and be called Lord. He could not be Iluvatar, but he could challenge him. He could not change the final outcome, but he could corrupt those who trod the path. His spirit was not benevolent or kindly. He did not have the Love that accompanies the creation of a thing of purity. Thus, whatever he touched would be tainted. His desire was for control and subjugation - to rule with terror and the deprivation of free will. His subjects would obey him because they had to, not because they wanted to. He would compel obedience - it would not result from a free and unfettered choice.

The weapons by which evil gained control were many. Lies and deception play a large part, as we have seen with the corruption of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain and the deception of Celebrimbor. Fear and terror were particularly effective against the mortal races of Middle-earth, especially the fear of death and the unknown after death. Ambition became perverted by the evil will to become a force that would stop at nothing to attain its end and use any means, including the other weapons from the armoury of evil, to get there. Then finally there was naked, destructive force, using corrupted armies and foul perversions such as Orcs, vampires, werewolves, dragons and Balrogs, and, in Sauron's case, the Nine corrupted Men, the Nazgul. And the Nine Mortal Men were lured by a further weapon unique to Sauron - The Rings of Power.

Evil is a destructive force, for, in the same way that both Morgoth and Sauron were not evil in the beginning, they became evil and were destroyed by it. Evil, if allowed to do so, destroys Good. It takes something pure, and taints, corrupts, perverts, twists and destroys it. The corruption of the Golden Civilisation of Numenor is a classic example. Sauron played upon the fear of death, the Gift of Iluvatar to Men, so that the Gift became a curse. The Numenoreans (with the exception of the Faithful) were reduced to a barbarism of mind and spirit to the point where the prohibitions of the Valar were totally ignored, and the Ban was broken.

And the purpose and function of all these weapons is to control and subjugate. This may not seem to be quite as awful as one might think. But it results in a total deprivation of free will, and without free will, Man is nothing. A body may be enslaved, but that is as nothing if the mind is free. But the deprivation of free will is essentially the death of the soul and the extinguishing of the spirit. Furthermore, in attaining this most destructive of ends, evil will use whatever means it can to achieve it. It may control through lies and deception and corrupt before it destroys. It may control through terror or it may use brute force to impose its will. Thus, the totality of the process is without any moral foundation whatsoever, and is devoid of any positive aspect.

Tolkien describes Sauron as:

    " as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.....Sauron desired to be a God-King and was held to be this by his servants; if he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world." [56]

I have dealt with the issue of the nature of evil to illustrate the depth of the Power that Sauron had let pass into the Ring. To merely say that he had let a substantial part of his power pass into the Ring would be meaningless unless the nature of his power, and the way in, and the purposes for which it was used were understood. But power is an ominous and sinister concept [57] within the fabric of Tolkien's world, except in the hands of the Valar or Iluvatar, at which time it is used sparingly.

Tolkien explains the question of the power vested in the Rings in this way;

    "The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention of slowing of decay (i.e. change viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance - this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor - thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron ('the Necromancer': so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit): such as rendering invisible the material body, and making of the invisible world visible." [58]

The One Ring was linked to all the others and contained all their powers. It controlled them and the wearer of the One could see the thoughts of all those who used the lesser Rings, could govern all that they did and in the end enslave them [59]. The Elves avoided this domination by the One by hiding their Three and not using them openly. This they could only do because Sauron had not "touched" them [60].

Tolkien explains the way in which the One dominated the others in this way;

    "(H)e had been obliged to let a great part of his own inherent power (a frequent and very significant motive in myth and fairy-story) pass into the One Ring. While he wore it, his power on earth was actually enhanced. But even if he did not wear it, that power existed and was in 'rapport' with himself: he was not 'diminished'. Unless some other seized it and became possessed of it. If that happened, the new possessor could (if sufficiently strong and heroic by nature) challenge Sauron, become master of all that he had learned or done since the making of the One Ring, and so overthrow him and usurp his place. This was the essential weakness he had introduced into his situation in his effort (largely unsuccessful) to enslave the Elves, and in his desire to establish control over the minds and wills of his servants. There was another weakness: if the One Ring was actually unmade, annihilated, then its power would be dissolved, Sauron's own being would be diminished to vanishing point, and he would be reduced to a shadow, a mere memory of malicious will. But that he never contemplated nor feared. The Ring was unbreakable by any smithcraft less than his own. It was indissoluble in any fire, save the undying subterranean fire where it was made - and that was unapproachable in Mordor. Also, so great was the Ring's power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it. So he thought." [61]

Tolkien in developing the concept of the Ruling Ring, addressed the issue of why the Dark Lord desired its return, why it was so important, and what was so special about the Ring. It was power and with that power he could see where the other Rings were and be master of their masters [62]. Total domination was the goal. Total, mindless obedience would be the result. A world enslaved would be his kingdom. And ruin, destruction and the putrefaction of all beauteous and living things would be the fate of Middle-earth.

4.1.2. As a symbol of Evil

I have observed that Evil in Tolkien's world is destructive. Throughout it is the antithesis of creativity. The fall of Morgoth began with the discords in the Music of Iluvatar and he degenerated to a vengeful, spiteful figure, consumed by envy and hatred for the beauty of the creation of Iluvatar and the Valar. He destroyed the Lamps of the Valar, and the Two Trees in Valinor. And that which he did not wish to destroy he coveted. And this is exemplified with the Silmarils.

Good is associated with the purity of creation and the preservation of the beauty that has been created. The function of the Elven Rings exemplified and symbolises this. Across the River from the beautiful and mystical Lorien is the corrupt and foreboding darkness of Mirkwood. And further to the South evil has ravaged the land. The Marshes, the borders of Mordor, indeed all of Mordor itself, is the Wasteland, deprived of beauty, freshness, purity and cleanliness that one associates with nature. Very little grows, certainly nothing of beauty, and that which does, like the thorn-bushes in Mordor, struggles to survive and is hurtful. Tolkien makes the contrast clear when Sam and Frodo enter Ithilien. There are green growing things, the fresh smells of the country-side, flowers and herbs and fresh water. Ithilien is still protected by the Men of Minas Tirith and has not fallen under the domination or destructive influences of Evil.

The creative forces of Good, exemplified by the natural realm, are set against the destructive forces of Evil, epitomised by Saruman's Isengard. Saruman thinks that he is a creator, but in fact he is a destroyer. He has ravaged the forests of Fangorn for wood for his fires. His engines are engines of destruction. To build he must first destroy, and the destruction is of the natural world, and of beauty. And what is replaced is ugly. Tolkien deplored industrialism and so often the fume and smoke of factories and the clank and grind of machines are synonymous with and evil influence. The ravaged Shire is an example, with Sandyman's Mill dominating Hobbiton.

Evil does not exist in a vacuum. It must have someone or something to work upon; someone or something to corrupt, pervert, control, dominate and, in the process destroy. These are the hallmarks of Sauron's and Morgoth's evil. And there are two important aspects of evil - evil will and evil power. Evil will is the animus, the mental ingredient that considers the act of evil. It is totally corrupt, for it is of the mind and is ever present. Evil power is the ability to realise the desires of the evil will.

The Ring is a personification of Sauron's evil will and its use will result in an evil end. This becomes clear in Elrond's comment to Boromir [63]. To use the Ring as a means to attaining an end, albeit howsoever noble, will result in a replacement of one form of evil with another. No good end can come from evil means, and in this respect an essential ingredient of the major moral imperative of Tolkien's Middle-earth is demonstrated.

Essentially the primary symbolism of the Ring is as the will to mere power, seeking to make itself objective by physical force and mechanism, and so also inevitably by lies [64].

In the macrocosmic sense, the Ring has an even greater symbolism. It represents the omnipresence of evil. In Middle-earth, evil is not only the antithesis of moral thought and deed. It is personified, present and incarnate. The very presence and existence of the Ring, containing the evil will and power of its maker demonstrates this very tangible reality.

Macrocosmically and microcosmically it is a symbol of the very nature of evil. Its mere existence has a potential to corrupt. It is a source of temptation to those who have borne it (Gollum and Bilbo) those who have seen it (Boromir, Gandalf and Elrond), those who know of its existence (Denethor) and those who suspect that it still exists (Saruman). It is a circle, encompassing all and without end. Evil encompasses the world as it encompasses the finger of the bearer.

Thus, it is clear that the Ring symbolises both Evil and the power that it has. The person who uses the Ring immediately dons the garment of destructiveness and counter-creativity. Even Frodo, who used the Ring rarely, began to develop the characteristics of one who was prepared to use power. In the Taming of Smeagol, he uses the presence of the Ring to bind Gollum. Even at this stage he takes on an aspect of power that Sam has not previously observed. He later goes on to threaten dire consequences should Gollum try to harm him, culminating in his awful threat on the slopes of Mount Doom, and his appearance to Sam as a figure of white with a Circle of Fire. In his efforts to achieve a good end, by even relying on the Ring, although hidden, Frodo contributes to his fall [65]. The Ring, being evil, cannot perpetuate or be used for Good, as I have observed. This demonstrates how inapposite it is to suggest that the Ring is a symbol of the unbridled power of science or the power of the atom. Both can be beneficial for humanity. It is the use to which they are put which is important. The Ring has no such redeeming characteristic. It is altogether evil. Its use is in no way beneficial. With science one can choose the path to take. With the Ring the choice is to use it and fall or not to use it and survive.

To try to read too much into the Ring is a mistake. In my view, it is a symbol of the macrocosmic and microcosmic nature of evil, both as a concept and as a reality, and a tangible link with its very real maker. As Tolkien said;

    "You cannot press the One Ring too hard, for it is, of course, a mythical feature, even though the world of the tales is conceived in more or less historical terms. The Ring of Sauron is only one of the various mythical treatments of the placing of one's life, or power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture or destruction with disastrous results to oneself. If I were to 'philosophise' this myth, or at least the Ring of Sauron, I should say it was a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps rather potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalised and so as it were passes, to a greater or less degree, out of one's direct control. A man who wishes to exert 'power' must have subjects, who are not himself. But he then depends on them." [66]

4.1.3. The Mind of The Ring - ability to work away from its Maker

    "But as for throwing it away that was obviously wrong. These Rings have a way of being found. In evil hands it might have done great evil. Worst of all, it might have fallen into the hands of the Enemy. Indeed it certainly would: for this is the One, and he is exerting all his power to find it or draw it to himself." [67]

The One Ring was, as I have observed, a repository of Sauron's power. It was altogether evil and had no redeeming feature to it. It is both a symbol of evil in general and the tangible evil that exists in Middle-earth. When it is destroyed, the incarnate evil (Sauron) is also disembodied.

Because the Ring is itself evil, it has the ability to work evil. This does not mean that the Ring is capable to conceiving an evil situation. But it is able to take advantage of a situation to turn such situation to its own ends - and those ends are evil ends. A classic example is in the Prancing Pony Inn, when Frodo vanishes after singing the extended version of "Hey-Diddle-Diddle"

    "Frodo leaned back against the wall and took off the Ring. How it came to be on his finger he could not tell. He could only suppose that he had been handling it in his pocket while he sang, and that somehow it had slipped on when he stuck out his hand with a jerk to save his fall. For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick: perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room." [68]

The Ring, a source of evil, was aware of the presence of evil in the room, in the guise of the "swarthy Southerner" who left after Frodo stammered out his excuses. That being so, it took the situation to work to its advantage and to attract the attention of evil minds present.

Thus it is clear that the Ring is reactive to a situation that has an evil potential. This is best observed on the occasions when Frodo is tempted to or does put on and use the Ring.

The presence of the Black Riders as the hobbits travel in the Shire provides Frodo with his first temptations to put on the Ring. It is the presence of evil and other Ring bearers that attracts the Ring. It plays upon Frodo's fear of the Riders and the terror that accompanies them, tempting him to use the Ring to hide. Of course, such a use of the Ring would do precisely the opposite, and amply demonstrates the deceptive quality of evil. Frodo's use of the Ring in Bombadil's house, although as a response to a temptation, does not have an evil end, and is clearly not an action motivated by the evil nature and animus of the Ring.

The Ring nearly destroys Frodo on Weathertop. Again evil is present in the form of the Nazgul, led by the Witch-king, the most potent of the Nine. In such a situation, with such great evil present, the Ring succeeds in turning Frodo to the path of using it, the clear result intended being the death of Frodo and the capture of the Ring by the Nazgul.

One would have expected the Ring to have been used in Moria with the presence of looming evil culminating in the appearance of the Balrog, but it is not. I can only conclude that the presence of Good and goodwill in the form of Gandalf and the other members of the Company has the effect of turning Frodo away from the use of the Ring. The Ring also works its power in the Morgul vale when Frodo, Sam and Gollum see the army of Sauron led by the Witch-king march from Minas Morgul. The presence of the chief Ringwraith in such an evil location is almost overpowering. It is only the presence of Galadriel's phial [69] that diverts him from the evil will of the Ring.

The Ring does not only work on the Ring bearer, using opportunities to turn him to the evil path. It impels him to use the Ring to try to turn others. Frodo offers the Ring to Gandalf [70] and to Galadriel [71], both beings of immense inherent power, Ring bearers themselves and potential wielders of the One. Such temptation and such perversion of the Ring bearer is truly insidious. Not only does the Ring seek beings of power. It also seeks to destroy both those beings and all their good works. It is to be remembered that Gandalf and Galadriel hold Elven rings with all of their positive power. In one blow the Ring would attain control of a powerful wielder and the Elven rings, and would also destroy and corrupt all the good works that have been achieved. In the final analysis the Ring would return to Sauron, for I believe that although Gandalf or Galadriel could resist Sauron, as long as the Ring was extant, Sauron would exist, and the Ring would seek a way of returning to the ultimate source of evil in Middle-earth. I shall examine this aspect of the nature of the Ring in the next section.

The Ring exerts its power over others in an effort to corrupt and pervert. Boromir is driven mad by the thought of it, and the opportunity to wrest it from Frodo presents itself at Amon Hen. Here once again the Ring is working its power of deception and divisiveness. If Boromir had taken the Ring, there is no doubt that he would have used it and revealed himself to Sauron. To make matters worse, he would have come by the Ring in evil circumstances and by using evil means, force. But it is within the miasma of evil intent on the part of Boromir that Frodo dons the Ring to escape. The duplicitous nature of evil again is at work, for clearly Frodo could reveal himself, and at the seat of Amon Hen feels the searching eye. But another force [72] wrestles with evil and diverts the Eye, at the same time willing Frodo to take off the Ring.

At the final point the Ring succeeds in turning Frodo, and in a final battle for its own survival and for the perpetuation of the reality of evil in the symbolic and in the incarnate sense, the Ring tempts Frodo who takes it for his own. The Ring succeeds in the evil land of Mordor in the place of its own creation where the power of evil is at its strongest. At the same time the Ring, having been taken by Frodo in Mordor so close to Sauron, is calling out to its Master in circumstances that, were it not for the intervention of Gollum, the Ring would be recovered by its maker.

Thus we can see that the Ring has the animus of evil, demonstrating both the subtle and brutal ways in which evil can work. It clearly points out to us that evil is always present and can work at a time when we least expect it. But the enduring aspect of truly evil nature of the Ring was its desire to re-unite with the source of its power, and it is this aspect that I shall now turn.

4.1.4. The Mind of the Ring - ability to return to its Maker

An essential property of the Ring that is present throughout its entire history is that it seeks to be reunited with Sauron. This property in fact is responsible for the movements of the Ring from the time of its being taken by Isildur at the end of the Second Age. The matter is explained by Gandalf in the following way;

    "A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it." [73]

    "It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him" [74]

Tolkien comments on the Ring and Sauron in this way;

    "Sauron would not have feared the Ring! It was his own and under his will. Even from afar he had an effect upon it, to make it work for its return to himself. In his actual presence none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold it from him. Of 'mortals' no one, not even Aragorn." [75]

However, the Ring and Sauron were not solely in control, for it is quite clear that there are other powers at work.

    "There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
    Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ringmaker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought." [76]

This must be coupled with the treacherous nature of the Ring - a necessary aspect of evil.

    "He had found out that the thing needed looking after; it did not seem always of the same size and weight; it shrank or expanded in an odd way, and it might suddenly slip off a finger where it had been tight." [77]

The Ring seems to be able to dictate its movements and provide itself with an opportunity to move on. Clearly this must have happened in the caves under the Misty Mountains when Gollum mislaid the Ring.

The finding of the Ring by Bilbo is an extraordinary event, for it is obvious that it was intended. The powers of Good, indeed the plan of Iluvatar, appears to have been to allow the Ring to exercise the "desire" that it has to re-unite with its Maker. The fact that the Ring is unable to work its evil way towards its Maker is because of the way in which Bilbo takes the Ring, without an evil act accompanying it. Similarly, he lets the Ring go and passes it, voluntarily, to Frodo. The possession of the Ring by all the hobbits, including Sam, is not tainted, and in this way the inherent evil within the Ring is frustrated and thwarted.

Furthermore, the way in which the hobbits deal with the Ring, and the fact that it is thwarted in its goal to reunite with Sauron demonstrates the fallibility of the evil will, which, in seeking the ultimate evil goal becomes so one-eyed that it cannot perceive another outcome. The nature of evil, and Sauron's power being what it was, the fact that anyone would take up the Ring and part with it in innocent and commendable circumstances would be inconceivable. Absolute evil has no conception of Good, other than that a good person may be corrupted. It cannot comprehend a positive outcome from any action. It sees its own destruction, or attempts at that end, as being only by way of violence, force or powers which it itself can use. The rejection of power is something beyond its wildest dreams. Thus it is demonstrated that evil carries within it the seeds of its own downfall [78].

4.1.5. The Effect upon a mortal wearer

    "But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.
    A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him."79

The effect of the Ring upon mortals, as described by Gandalf in the above passage, is terrible and complete. Indeed, the use of the Ring for the purposes of mere invisibility is not the only way that the wearer will come under the Eye of the Dark Lord.

The Nine Rings were given to powerful Men. They were corrupted and entered the wraith world, becoming Sauron's most powerful servants, but totally under his domination [80] Sauron could even send them out to obtain the One,

    "since they were entirely enslaved to their Nine Rings, which he now himself held; they were quite incapable of acting against his will, and if one of them, even the Witch-king their captain, had seized the One Ring, he would have brought it back to his Master." [81]

Thus, a Ring of Power could enslave the holder to the Will of Sauron, and certainly this was the case with the One, possessed, as has already been observed, with the evil power and will of its Maker.

    "Alas! Mordor draws all wicked things, and the Dark Power was bending all its will to gather them there. The Ring of the Enemy would leave its mark, too, leave him open to the summons." [82]

The way in which the evil power of the Ring to enslave could be stayed or retarded depended upon the way in which a person came to hold it. Thus in the case of Bilbo, the fact that his taking of the Ring without killing Gollum had a beneficial result in terms of the way the Ring worked upon him;

    "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity." [83]

Yet despite this, the Ring had begun its work upon Bilbo;

    "He said that it was "growing on his mind", and he was always worrying about it; but he did not suspect that the Ring was to blame...........Though he was getting restless and uneasy. Thin and stretched he said. A sign that the Ring was getting control" [84]

But although the Ring did not have control over Bilbo, it had begun its work earlier;

    "Then I heard Bilbo's strange story of how he had "won" it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt. Much like Gollum with his "birthday present". The lies were too much alike for my comfort. Clearly the ring had an unwholesome power that set to work on its keeper at once." [85]

The lasting effect of the Ring could be nullified, or at least postponed if the bearer did not use it.

    "As long as you never used it, I did not think that the Ring would have any lasting effect on you, not for evil, not at any rate for a very long time." [86]

However, the method of acquisition was all-important.

Both Bilbo and Gollum had rationalised their acquisition of the Ring. And having acquired it, it could not be relinquished.

    "A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to some one else's care - but that at an early stage, when it first begins to grip" [87]

In fact it is Bilbo who is the first to voluntarily give up the Ring, and to do that he requires Gandalf's help [88].

The Ring gives power according to stature. It has great strength, and only those who have great power of their own can wield it [89]. Those who are small, mean and petty derive enhancement of that power. The secretive and sly Gollum;

    "(W)as very pleased with his discovery and he concealed it; and he used it to find out secrets, and he put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful. The ring had given him power according to his stature." [90]

That the great among men could not use or overcome the Ring has already been demonstrated by the fact that one as magnificent and powerful as Isildur found it impossible to wield. Only the Wise would have any hope of overthrowing Sauron, and then, having done so, would become another Dark Lord [91].

How is it, then, that Men and other mortals may fall under the power of the Ring, and become wraiths, subservient to the will of Sauron, and the Wise would not? The answer lies in the nature of the Two Worlds, which I shall shortly discuss in detail. The existence of mortals is on the physical plane. They cannot dwell within the realms of the flesh and the spirit. At some stage they must "pass over". Elves and Maia dwell in both realms. It was said of Sauron that he;

    "(W)as indeed caught in the wreck of Numenor, so that the bodily form in which he had long walked perished; but he fled back to Middle-earth, a spirit of hatred borne upon a dark wind. He was unable ever again to assume a form that seemed fair to men, but became black and hideous, and his power thereafter was through terror alone." [92]

It is this duality of nature that allows the Elves and the Maia (the Wise) to take up and use the Ring. But it is mortality that allows mortals to be subverted by the Power of the Ring, to become wraiths.

Common to both mortals and the Wise is the lust for the Ring. Once it has been possessed, it cannot be given up, except as I have already observed. Indeed, to try and destroy it would damage the psyche.

    "When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.
    Gandalf laughed grimly. 'You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not "make" you - except by force, which would break your mind." [93]

Coupled with this is the lure of the Ring. The very thought of it is a continued temptation both to mortals and the Wise. Boromir's fall is as a result of his perception of the Ring as a weapon which could be used to undo the threat of Sauron to Minas Tirith. Yet as a mortal he could neither wield it nor resist it; for he too would become a wraith and pass from the physical world to the world of the spirit, tormented by the Dark Lord.

Gollum's possession of the One Ring was coloured by the fact that he murdered to acquire it. But he had an extraordinary strength, derived from his hobbitish background. Given the length of time that he held and used the Ring, he should have entered the wraith world, but he proved tougher than even the Wise guessed, and Gandalf suggested that this might be from his hobbitish background. He never faded and became thin and tough. He hated the Ring, yet he also loved it, and would never have given it up willingly. Once the Ring had been taken by Bilbo, Gollum remained in the mountains for a year or two. He was bound by the desire of the Ring, but the Ring itself no longer devoured him [94]. There can be no doubt that the desire for the Ring persisted until the end, but such was Gollum's toughness of spirit that he could suppress it, and from time to time a light of goodness would burn [95].

The spiritual destruction that is suffered by Gollum is more on an individual level, and demonstrates how evil works within the mind. He has not become a wraith, and indeed he has resisted the Dark Lord, having, it would seem, misled him even under torture [96]. But in essence, Gollum is destroyed as effectively as if he had become a wraith. His guiding passion is to possess 'the Precious' and it is this which leads to his ultimate doom.

4.1.6. Is the Ring "magic"?

What is meant by "magic". Reference is made by Gandalf to "magic rings" and this concept was particularly clear the early drafts of The Lord of the Rings. However, in The Lord of the Rings the focus has shifted to describing the Ring as a Ring of Power. Perhaps this is because "magic" is associated with parlour-games, sleight of hand and illusion.

The definition of "magic" contained in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is as follows:

    "1. The pretended art of influencing the course of events by compelling the agency of spiritual beings, or by bringing into operation some occult, controlling principle of nature; sorcery, witchcraft. Also the practice of this art.
    b. A magical procedure or rite; also concr. a charm, fetish - 1814
    2. fig. A secret and overmastering influence, resembling magic in its effects 1611.
    3. transf. The art of producing (by legedermain, optical illusion, etc) surprising phenomena resembling the results of 'magic'; conjuring 1831."

A practitioner of magic was known, among other things, as a Mage. A definition of such a person includes attributes of wisdom and learning, and derives from a time when knowledge and learning were restricted to a few, and were seen as immensely valuable. Knowledge was a very real power in times of mass ignorance.

In the primitive or anthropological sense, magic was seen as deriving from a strong belief in a spirit world, communication or invocation of which could result in changes to established natural patterns [97]. Rituals involving imitation or contact, and the use of talismans or charms were important or essential in achieving the appropriate result.

Frankly, I dislike the use of the term "magic" applied to Middle-earth. With very few exceptions, the major characters do not practise magic as I have defined it. Gandalf uses his knowledge to develop truly glorious fireworks, and is able to control fire [98], and declares himself as the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor to the Balrog [99]. The Elves also have powers that are greater than those of mortals. The answer to the problem, I think, lies in an understanding of the issue of power and the levels of power that there are within Middle-earth. This takes us, once again, to the issue of the Two Worlds, and the ability of Elves and Maia to pass between and be aware of the physical and spiritual realms as separate but co-existing realities.

If one is to look for a word other than "magic" to describe the mystical or "magic-like" attributes of items in Middle-earth, the word "virtue" is most apt. I do not mean virtue as valour, worth, merit or moral perfection. I mean it as the embodiment of power or operative influence in a supernatural [100] or divine being, or as a particular quality that things may have [101].

Thus we no longer have magic swords - we have swords possessed of great virtue and repute, wielded by men of great virtue, and the classic example is Anduril. As Boromir said,

    "Mayhap the Sword-that-was-Broken may still stem the tide - if the hand that wields it has inherited not an heirloom only, but the sinews of the Kings of Men." [102]

The scabbard given by Galadriel to Aragorn is possessed of a virtue that prevents the blade drawn from it not to be stained or broken even in defeat, thus counteracting the evil that occurred to the sword as Narsil. Indeed the virtue of Galadriel as a superior being, one of the Noldor or High Elves is demonstrated in all her gifts, especially Sam's box of earth and the Star-glass given to Frodo.

The apparent "magic" present in Lorien derives from the virtue of the Elven Ring held by Galadriel, in that it is preserved with timelessness, for time is a destroyer. Only by nullifying the effect of time and wear, can Lorien remain an echo of the Lands of the West.

Thus, the Ring, possessed of the supernatural power of its maker has the virtue of which Sauron was possessed. Its power to make the wearer invisible seems "magical" but is just one of the powers that it has. The essence of virtue lies in the power associated with it, irrespective of the Good or Evil of that power. And it will be recalled that the Rings are more often referred to as Rings of Power than they are "magic" rings. Although it may seem that there is magic in Middle-earth, there are degrees of virtue and power vested in characters and beings that allow them to achieve certain goals that are not within the natural order of things. Magic may be a convenient word, but it is, in my view, too loose, and carries incorrect and unfortunate connotations.

4.2. The Ring and the Two Worlds

4.2.1. The Nature of the Two Worlds

Within Tolkien's creation it is quite clear that there is a physical world and a spiritual world. This is obvious from the very early writings that formed the foundation for The Lord of the Rings. There is continually a distinction between the "Mortals" like Men and Hobbits, and the "Immortals" represented by the Elves. Mortals, who live only in the physical world, died in the absolute sense and their souls returned to the Halls of Mandos to await the End. Elves, on the other hand, if slain in the physical sense, returned to dwell in bliss in Valinor. They did not, with the exception of Glorfindel, return to the physical world. Furthermore, Elves were aware of their spiritual nature and were able to cross over at will [103].

In an early draft, Tolkien suggests that the Elves dwell in both this world and on the other side without the aid of Rings [104]. Quite clearly it was a power that was present in the Rings to allow the Bearer access to and conscious awareness of the spiritual world. This was made most clear with the Ringwraiths, who had passed over from the physical world to the spiritual side;

    "They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys; and in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us: then they are most to be feared. And at all times they smell the blood of living things, desiring it and hating it. Senses, too, there are other than sight or smell. We can feel their presence - it troubled our hearts as we came here, and before we saw them; they feel ours more keenly. Also....the Ring draws them." [105]

The Ringwraiths clearly dwell in a spiritual world, but certainly not that of Valinor. It is the spirit world of the Shadow, the opposite to Valinor's Bliss, that is their realm.

4.2.2. The Effect of the Ring and the Two Worlds

The significance of the Ring, in its power to reveal and be revealed, its operation as a bridge between two worlds and two modes of being was realised at a very early stage of the creation [106]. Indeed, the following passage from The Lord of the Rings was varied but little in its published form from when it was first written in 1938.

    "Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and pierced him as they rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others: his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown. In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light." [107]

His wound with the Morgul knife draws Frodo into the spirit world [108]. He is even able to perceive the High-Elvish ability to dwell in the two realms before the confrontation at the banks of the Bruinen. When Glorfindel makes his first appearance Frodo perceives;

    "a white light was shining through the form and raiment of the rider as if through a thin veil." [109]

By the time Frodo reaches the Ford, he is almost within both realms [110] mainly as a result of the wound he received from the Morgul-knife. But he was in greatest peril when he wore the Ring. As Gandalf said;

    "You were in gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in the wraith-world yourself and they might have seized you. You could see them and they could see you." [111]

And by the time that he had reached the Ford, Frodo had actually become visible to them, being already on the threshold of their world. But that world is not the exclusive preserve of the Ringwraiths, for, before he slipped into unconsciousness at the Ford Frodo saw a shining figure of white light. This was Glorfindel, an Elf-lord revealed in his wrath, for;

    "(H)ere in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against the Seen and Unseen they have great saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side: one of the mighty of the Firstborn. He is an Elf-lord of the house of princes." [112]

The other world was an early concept within the creation. In the earliest drafts it was dealt with as follows;

    "If the Ring overcomes you, you yourself become permanently invisible - and it is a horrible cold feeling. Everything becomes very faint like grey ghost pictures against the black background in which you live; but you can smell more clearly than you can hear or see. You have no power however like a Ring of making other things invisible: you are a ringwraith. You can wear clothes.....But you are under the command of the Lord of the Rings." [113]

    "(T)heir possessors became not only invisible to all in this world, if they wished, but could see both the world under the sun and the other side in which invisible things move"

4.2.3. The Relationship of the One with the Three

The relationship of the One with the Three is most clearly understood within the context of the Ring as a bridge or a link to the world of the spirit. The Elves, as I have pointed out, were able to dwell in both worlds at once, and the One Ring was a bridge from the physical to the spiritual world. The reassumption by Sauron of the One would allow him to control the Three and dominate not only the physical reality of the Elves, but their spiritual realm as well. It is for this reason that the Elves make the following comments;


    "For in the day that Sauron first put on the One, Celebrimbor, maker of the Three, was aware of him, and from afar he heard him speak these words, and so his evil purposes were revealed."[114]

    "For in the days of Isildur the Ruling Ring passed out of all knowledge, and the Three were released from its dominion. But now in this latter day they are in peril once more, for to our sorrow then One has been found." [115]

The only way in which the Three could retain their integrity and work in secret was because Sauron had not touched them.

    "The Three were not made by Sauron, nor did he ever touch them. But of them it is not permitted to speak. So much only in this hour of doubt I may now say. They are not idle. But they were not made as weapons of war or conquest: that is not their power. Those who made them did not desire strength or domination or hoarded wealth, but understanding, making and healing, to preserve all things unstained. These things the Elves of Middle-earth have in some measure gained, though with sorrow. But all that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing, and their hearts and minds will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose." [116]

Elrond goes on to suggest that the destruction of the One will diminish the Three;

    "Some hope that the Three Rings, which Sauron has never touched, would then become free, and their rulers might heal the hurts of the world that he has wrought. But maybe when the One has gone, the Three will fail, and many fair things will fade and be forgotten. That is my belief." [117]

The link between the One and the Three is exemplified at the Mirror of Galadriel. Frodo perceives Galadriel's ring as the light of Earendil's Star fell upon it. Galadriel explained it in this way, and echoes Elrond's view of the consequences of the destruction of the One;

    "(I)t cannot be hid from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye. Verily it is in the land of Lorien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.
    He suspects, but he does not know - not yet. Do you not see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlorien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart to the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten." [118]

The significance of the Three is described by Tolkien in this way;

    "The Three Rings of the Elves, wielded by secret guardians, are operative in preserving the memory of the beauty of old, maintaining enchanted enclaves of peace where Time seems to stand still and decay is restrained, a semblance of the bliss of the True West." [119]

But all of this will be stripped away if the One returns to Sauron, for as the Ring is a bridge to the spiritual world for a mortal, so is it a bridge into the world of the spirit inhabited by the Elves. For Evil to come into that world would be the ultimate violation.

4.3. The Ring and Temptation

4.3.1. Free Will, Choice and Temptation

It is trite to say that The Lord of the Rings is a story about the conflict between Good and Evil, if it is not understood what the real nature of Good and Evil involves. I have already suggested that the essence of Evil is control and domination, and the essence of Good is free will. The Ring, at once symbolising and personifying Evil, presents all those who are confronted with it with the essential ingredients of Evil. The Ring tempts, subverts and finally, if taken, dominates the individual in the same way as Sauron wishes to dominate and control the world. The Ring removes choice and conquers free will. But it is the nature of Good to allow this to happen, for at all times Good permits the free person to elect whether or not to follow the Good or Evil path, and in this way Good relies upon the inherent goodness that exists within an individual to make the correct choice.

This does not mean that if the wrong choice has been made, a person is lost, for there is always an opportunity for redemption [120]. Once again the opportunity to exercise choice to turn away from the path of evil is available.

Primarily the Ring is a source of temptation. It tempts those who do not have it to seek and obtain it. It tempts those who have it to use it and it tempts those who have had it to recover it.

There is a fine line between choosing to use the Ring and not doing so. Frodo feels the urge to do so whilst he is in the Shire. But it is at Weathertop that the resistance to temptation is overcome by those of stronger will - the Black Riders. When Frodo put on the Ring, it was not mere temptation, although this did overcome him initially.

    "But his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to disregard all warnings, and he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger......(h)e shut his eyes and struggled for a while; but resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand." [121]

After being treated by Aragorn, Frodo;

    "(B)itterly regretted his foolishness, and reproached himself for weakness of will; for he now perceived that in putting on the Ring he obeyed not his own desire but the commanding wish of his enemies." [122]

The essential morality that rules Middle-earth, and indeed which is the basic indicator of freedom is the freedom to choose. All the Free Peoples have the freedom of choice, and this is an essential attribute of Good. As we have seen, Evil seeks domination, rule and control. The forces of Good allow for free will and free choice, even although this may lead to a disastrous end.

The whole Tale of the Ring, especially from Frodo's point of view, is a story of choice and the exercise of free will. Frodo chooses to take the Road to the Fire at the Council of Elrond. In making that choice, he is not only exposing himself to a path fraught with extraordinary danger, but also he is making a choice to expose himself to the continued temptation and challenges of choice that the Ring presents to him.

The confrontation between Boromir and Frodo is perhaps the most graphic example of the issue of choice, for it involves a number of elements.

First, there is the temptation of Boromir. It is quite clear that the Ring had been a source of concern for Boromir from the moment he first saw it. He considered that it should be used as a weapon against Sauron, for the relief of Gondor. His desires are known to Galadriel. Indeed, even in Lorien the members of the Fellowship are tested;

    "All of them, it seemed, had fared alike: each had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired: clear before his mind it lay, and to get it he had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest and the war against Sauron to others.
    'And it seemed to me, too,' said Gimli, 'that my choice would remain secret and known only to myself.'
    'To me it seemed exceedingly strange, 'said Boromir. "Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended she had the power to give. It need not be said that I refused to listen. The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word'. But what he thought that the Lady had offered him, Boromir did not tell." [123]

Sam realised that the Ring was preying on Boromir's mind [124]. Boromir becomes more introspective as the Fellowship journeys down the River. Finally, he confronts Frodo on the slopes of Amon Hen. His attitude is friendly, conciliatory, until he desires a sight of it again. His attitude changes and he refers to the fact that true-hearted men will not be corrupted, and in saying this, he demonstrates hubris. He then reiterates his suggestion made first at Imladris that the Power of the Enemy should be used against him. Then he envisions himself as the Ring bearer, should Aragorn refuse the burden.

    " 'The Ring would give me the power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner.'
    Boromir strode up and down, speaking ever more loudly. Almost he seemed to have forgotten Frodo, while his talk dwelt on walls and weapons, and the mustering of men; and he drew plans for great alliances and glorious victories to be; and he cast down Mordor, and became himself a mighty king, benevolent and wise." [125]

Boromir tries to persuade, adopts a friendly approach, but his goal is the Ring. First he says that he needs it, then asks Frodo to lend it to him, demands it, and then uses force. Frodo puts the Ring on to escape, and Boromir, after a moment, realises what he has done, and claims that a madness has taken him. His fall continues, however, when he does not confess to the Fellowship what has happened. It is only with his last breath that he confesses to Aragorn that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo and that he has paid.

The Ring works on Boromir's weakness, pushing him to choose to take it. Boromir is a soldier and a Captain of Minas Tirith. His "world-view" is in terms of the defence of his City and the defeat of its enemy. He seeks a weapon to achieve those goals, and the Ring presents itself. But the insidious nature of the Ring is that it also works upon Boromir's pride. Not only will it be a weapon to put the hosts of Mordor to flight, but also it will enable him to assume power as a King. But overall, the Ring will give him the power of Command. The free will that Boromir can exercise in yielding to that temptation will result in him depriving others of free will, for clearly the power of Command is the power to compel obedience. A command is not a request, giving the receiver a choice. It dictates a course of action, with sanctions should obedience not follow. We can graphically see the steps of Boromir's fall as temptation grips him, and he finally yields to the destructive power of temptation - he is prepared to use force to take the Ring.

Yet we see the other side, for Boromir is redeemed, in that he acknowledges to himself his wrongdoing. Yet his is a tragic realisation, for his wrong choice has been manifested in destructive action which cannot be undone. It is only by his death that he can wipe the slate clean, and in dying the heroic death can he say confidently that he has paid for his sin, and the payment is complete and redemption may follow.

Boromir's temptation, choice and fall may be summed up in Aragorn's words,

    "In Minas Tirith they endure the East Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings. But now Boromir has taken his road, and we must make haste to choose our own" [126]

Secondly there is Frodo's choice to use the Ring. Horrified by Boromir's aggression and his hideous aspect, Frodo puts on the Ring and flees. He runs to the summit of Amon Hen, and there, on the Hill of the Eye of the Men of Numenor, and with the enhanced power of perception that the Ring gives him, he sees the world in turmoil;

    "At first he could see little. He seemed to be in a world of mist in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him. Then here and there the mist gave way and he saw many visions." [127]

It is at this point that Frodo's real problem begins. He has put on the Ring despite Gandalf's warning not to use it. The Ring remains on him, and begins to work on him. And at the same time it calls out to its Master. Once Frodo has seen the world of destruction which Sauron has set in motion, and he sets his eyes on Barad-dur, all hope leaves him. The Eye seeks him out, and as it does so, the two powers strive within him.

    "He heard himself crying out: Never, Never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell Then as a flash from some other point of power there came to his mind another thought: Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it off! Take off the Ring!
    The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger." [128]

We later find out that Gandalf has interposed himself, and it is Gandalf who suggests to Frodo to take off the Ring. But the use of the two conflicting powers demonstrates Evil and Good vying to influence choice. Evil attempts to compel. Good clears the way for the exercise of free will. Gandalf does not compel Frodo to take off the Ring. Rather he allows Frodo the moment to exercise free will. The conflict that goes on within Frodo is the conflict that every person faces when required to exercise free will in the face of temptation, and in this sense Tolkien is painting a universal picture for us. If Frodo does not take off the Ring, the Eye will seek him out and the Ring will be lost. At the same time, Frodo himself will be lost, and will fall under the sway of Evil. So it is in every case when temptation presents itself.

That the temptation takes place on a high hill is significant too. Christ's temptation in the wilderness took place on a high place when the Tempter offered him the kingdoms of the world and again, the solitary nature of the conflict indicates to us that temptation and the exercise of free will and the choice for good is an individual trial on every occasion.

4.3.2. What happens when the wrong choice is made

Clearly the wrong choice results in a fall, or opens the door for an evil result. I have already observed this in the examination of Boromir's choice. The positive choices that can be made are exemplified when Faramir rejects the Ring when he reiterates his comment "Not if I found it on the highway would I take it." [129]

The positive choice for good is best exemplified in the way in which the Ring is obtained or held in the first place. Bilbo's finding of the Ring is not tainted, because he exercised pity when he had the chance to slay Gollum

    "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not top strike without need. And he has been well rewarded Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity........My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many." [130]

In this way, Bilbo is able to avoid coming under the power of the Ring. The effect of the wrong choice when Bilbo came by the Ring received a blunter expression in earlier drafts. Gandalf says;

    "Pity! It was pity that prevented him. And he could not do so, without doing wrong. It was against the rules. If he had done so he would not have had the ring, the ring would have had him at once. He might have been a wraith on the spot." [131]

Thus it is clear in this rather unsubtle passage that the rightness of choice of action is an essential imperative of the Tolkien cosmos. When Gandalf refers to "the rules" he is clearly talking about the immutable laws that govern action within Middle-earth.

Frodo's acceptance of the burden is also coloured by a particular choice that he makes;

    "'I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the present, whatever it may do to me.'
    'Whatever it may do, it will be slow, slow to evil if you keep it with that purpose,' said Gandalf." [132]

By taking that position, the evil object will be slow to taint the holder. To have chosen a less laudable goal would have been a wrong choice, and demonstrates not only the importance of the right choice, but the importance of a clean motive for the choice as well. A similar motive is clear at Imladris once the Council of Elrond has decided that the Ring must be sent to the fire. Frodo announces "I will take the Ring ....though I do not know the way." [133] Frodo accepts that the Ring must be destroyed and that such is the correct motive. He holds the Ring and has accepted its burden, at least as far as Imladris. He announces that he will continue to shoulder the burden, and act as the agent for the Good end, although he does not know the way in the sense that he is unaware of the road that he must take to get to Mount Doom, and in the wider sense that he is unaware of whatever trials that he will undergo on that journey. He demonstrates the heroic aspect of the exercise of free will which allows a person to accept whatever burden may follow from a difficult but morally and ethically correct decision. And once again, in the confrontation with Evil, he demonstrates that every such confrontation is an individual and personal one.

The issue of choice and its significance is crystal clear when Frodo is at the Cracks of Doom. It is interesting to see how this concept developed. In Sauron Defeated - Mount Doom, Frodo was first to say "But I cannot do what I have come to do. I will not do it." Christopher Tolkien's comment was as follows

    "Frodo's words 'But I cannot do what I have come to do' were change subsequently on the B-text to 'But I do not choose now to do what I have come to do.' I do not think that the difference is very significant, since it was already a central element in the outlines that Frodo would choose to keep the Ring himself; the change in the words does no more than emphasise that he fully willed his act." [134]

With respect I disagree. Although Tolkien may have intended to have Frodo choose not to destroy the Ring, the use of the word "cannot" would have destroyed the issue of the exercise of free will, in that by saying that he cannot, Frodo would have meant "I am not able" and the clear inference is that there is an external influence upon his mind that is interfering with his free will.

4.4. The Effect of the Ring

In this section I shall examine the way in which the Ring works on some of the characters in The Lord of the Rings. The Ring works in different ways, exploiting the individual hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses of the characters who encounter it. In this way it demonstrates the adaptability of evil to seek out a path to an individual by means of which it can work

4.4.1. On Gandalf

Not even Gandalf, one of the Istari, is able to avoid the temptation of the Ring. When it is offered to him by Frodo he dares not contemplate taking it.

    "With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly....Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me." [135]

This is the only time that we see Gandalf confronted by the Ring and the only enunciation of any weakness that he might have. But it shows that not even an angelic character is immune from the Ring's power, and he repeats his rejection of the Ring in response to Elrond's comment "I will not take the Ring to wield it." [136]

Tolkien was of the view that Gandalf would have been a worse Ringlord than Sauron. He would have been righteous but self-righteous, He would have rules and ordered things for good, and for the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom [137]. And therein lies the trap, for Gandalf would be the controller and determinator. His subjects would have no choice, and the Ring would control rather than give free will and free choice.

4.4.2. On Bilbo

I have already commented upon the way in which Bilbo came by the Ring, and how, by exercising pity and mercy, he substantially postponed any ill-effects that the Ring might have had upon him. In The Hobbit the Ring is essentially a "magic token" capable of making the wearer invisible, and it allows Bilbo to accomplish a number of goals that he would not otherwise have been capable of accomplishing [138]. However, in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf has become aware of the fact that Bilbo has a Ring of Power, although it is not until he throws the Ring in the fire at Bag End that he knows for sure that the Ring is indeed the One.

The effect of the Ring upon Bilbo was to keep him "well-preserved" or "unchanged". He used the Ring as a convenience [139] or for a joke [140]. He never used the Ring as a means of control or power, even if he had been able to. But there is no doubt that he is willing to part with the Ring as the result of the persuasion of Gandalf. Bilbo realises that all is not well, although he cannot attribute those feelings to the Ring. He describes himself as "thin, sort of butter that has been scraped over too much bread" [141]

When Bilbo is confronted with the issue of whether or not he has in fact parted with the Ring, he stammers and pre-varicates and then finds that he has put it in his pocket. In The Lord of the Rings this is viewed as Bilbo having difficulty parting with the Ring, because of the hold that the Ring had over him. In an earlier version [142] the matter was put in this way;

    "On that last evening I plainly saw that the ring was trying to keep hold of him and prevent his parting with it. But he was not yet conscious of it himself. And certainly he had no idea that it would make him permanently invisible."

Clearly this is a reference to what I have described earlier in this paper as "the mind of the Ring" playing a part. It is not as directly put in The Lord of the Rings although Gandalf, in his first long conversation with Frodo about the Ring refers to the power of the Ring to expand or shrink, which is clearly a more subtle indication of the "mind of the Ring" and its power of betrayal.

As Bilbo faces the reality of parting company with the Ring, he becomes aggressive and asserts his right to hold onto it. He describes it as his "precious", echoing Gollum's words. In his desire to retain the Ring he has become small, mean and defensive. Yet he manages to put such mood behind him, and evidences self-realisation of his plight;

    "And yet it would be a relief in a way not to be bothered with it any more. It has been so growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me. And I am always wanting to put it on and disappear, don't you know; or wondering if it is safe, and pulling it out to make sure. I tired locking it up, but I found I couldn't rest without it in my pocket. I don't know why. And I don't seem to be able to make up my mind." [143]

Just as he leaves, Gandalf reminds Bilbo that he still has the Ring. Bilbo comments that it is with his Will and all his other documents. He suggests that Gandalf take them. Gandalf refuses, saying that Bilbo should put the items on the mantelpiece. But even at this stage, Bilbo has difficulty. The packet falls to the floor, and before Bilbo can do anything about it, Gandalf has picked the packet up and placed it on the mantle. There was a spasm of anger which passed over Bilbo's face, followed by a look of relief.

Thus Bilbo is able to physically part with the Ring. However, the psychological dependence remains. Gandalf alludes to this;

    "Of course, he possessed the ring for many years, and used it, so it might take a long while for the influence to wear off - before it was safe for him to see it again, for instance." [144]

Gandalf's assessment is quite correct. Bilbo hungers for the Ring, even at Rivendell. He persuades Frodo to let him see it but as he does so, he appears to Frodo as;

    "a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands. He felt a desire to strike him." [145]

However, with the passage of time, Bilbo's desire for the Ring becomes weaker. When the Hobbits return to Rivendell after the destruction of the Ring, Bilbo asks Frodo if he still has the Ring, and is told, of course, that it has been destroyed. A generous inference could be that Bilbo's memory has been affected by his advancing years. Yet the insidious pull of the Ring, although destroyed, still works upon him.

Bilbo's ability to give up the Ring derives partly from the way in which it came into his possession, partly from the fact that he did not put it to bad use, and to a large part from his hobbitish nature. The toughness of will is what allowed Bilbo to make the choice to give up the Ring, and enabled him, ultimately, to part with it without harm. At the same time, the way the Ring works upon Bilbo demonstrates the hold that the evil object can obtain over an individual, with destructive consequences for the character. Bilbo, for a moment or two, becomes like Gollum. Gollum, who is almost totally corrupted by his desire for the Ring, for a moment or two displays admirable traits of tenderness. Gollum's snivelling covetousness is what Bilbo could have become, but fortunately does not.

4.4.3. On Galadriel

Galadriel is the bearer of one of the Three. She makes the comment;

    "I perceive the Dark Lord and know his mind, or all of his mind that concerns the Elves. And he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed." [146]

Frodo, as she says this, perceives Nenya, the Ring of Adamant. It could not be hidden from the Ring bearer who had seen the Eye of Sauron. Galadriel made the comment that the destruction of the Ring would diminish the power of the Elves, and Lothlorien would fade. Those Elves who did not go to the West would "dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and be forgotten."147

Frodo asks Galadriel for what it is that she wishes. Essentially, Galadriel is resigned to her fate - "that what should be shall be" [148] but if it were of any use, her wish is that the One had never been wrought, or had remained lost. At this point, Frodo offers to give her the Ring, if she would ask for it. He comments that it is too great a matter for him. In a way Frodo is being tempted - to pass the Ring on to a person of power. But the real temptation is for Galadriel. She could wield the Ring, and preserve her domain. Essentially her wish would be granted, for she could guard the Ring. She confronts the challenge, analyses her desires and rejects them. She demonstrates the consideration and weighing up of choices and the exercise of free will, even although the course of ultimate good will cause her personal diminishment.

    " 'I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! It was brought within my grasp. The evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Sauron himself stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of his Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?
    And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!'
    She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
    'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.' " [149]

In Letters, Tolkien comments as follows;

    "it was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen in Elrond's word at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve. In any case Elrond or Galadriel would have proceeded in the policy now adopted by Sauron: they would have built up an empire with great and absolutely subservient generals and armies and engines of war, until they could confront Sauron and destroy him by force. Confrontation of Sauron alone, unaided, self to self was not contemplated. One can imagine the scene in which Gandalf, say, was placed in such a position. It would be a delicate balance. On one side the true allegiance of the Ring to Sauron; on the other superior strength because Sauron was not actually in possession, and perhaps also because he was weakened by long corruption and expenditure of will in dominating inferiors. If Gandalf proved the victor, the result would have been for Sauron the same as the destruction of the Ring; for him it would have been destroyed, taken from him for ever. But the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end." [150]

4.4.4. On Boromir

As I have observed in more detail above, Boromir saw the Ring as a weapon, and as a means of overcoming the Enemy. In this perception, he failed to understand the true nature of the Ring. His whole approach to the Ring does not change

    "Why do you speak ever of hiding and destroying? Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy. That is what he most fears, I deem.
    The Men of Gondor are valiant, and they will never submit; but they may be beaten down. Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon. Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory." [151]

At this stage, Boromir does not see he himself wielding the Ring, and in a sense his attitude is that of a soldier, looking for victory. It is only when he is confronted with the chance to seize the Ring from Frodo on Amon Hen that his vision becomes a personal one.

4.4.5. On Faramir

Faramir presents as the other side of Boromir, and essentially shows us what Boromir could have been. He is a descendant of the Men of Numenor, and the guardian of Numenorean traditions [152].

Faramir is totally dedicated, totally loyal and totally fair. When confronted with the suggestion that he was trying to snare Frodo with a falsehood, he comments "I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood" [153] His questioning of Frodo is careful and courteous, although he presses hard about Isildur's Bane, for which action he apologises. He knows that it is a token of power and suspects "that Isildur took somewhat from the hand of the Unnamed, ere he went away from Gondor" [154] and speculates that it must be a fell weapon devised by Sauron. He describes Boromir as "proud and fearless, often rash, ever anxious for the victory of Minas Tirith (and his own glory therein)" and that "he (Boromir) might desire such a thing and be allured by it." [155] Then he makes a comment for himself,

    "I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory." [156]

Faramir is given the test when Sam lets it slip that Boromir desired the Enemy's Ring. Prompted by Sam to show his quality and with some bitterness he makes the comment, no doubt aware of the remarks that he had made earlier about his brother's weakness,

    "The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way - to me? And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!" [157]

In this first passage Faramir identifies the temptation and the choice, and then he goes on to exercise the choice,

    " How you have increased my sorrow, you two strange wanderers from a far country, bearing the peril of Men! But you are less judges of Men than I of Halflings. We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow and be held by them." [158]

Faramir resists temptation and shows himself to be of the highest quality. Sam observes that Faramir has an air, a spirit of nobility and quality that reminds him of wizards and Gandalf. Faramir's comment is that maybe Sam discerns from far away the air of Numenor, and it is clear that Faramir is one of the High Men of the West in attitude certainly, one of the Faithful, with sufficient strength of will and moral purpose to refuse temptation when it is presented [159].

4.4.6. On Sam

Throughout the tale, Sam is never tempted to take the Ring although he has many opportunities to do so. For him the question never arises. To even contemplate such an act would be supreme disloyalty primarily to his Master, but secondly to the quest. Sam is totally devoted to Frodo's interests, and represents an aspect of hobbitish toughness that does not allow the Ring to become an issue for him. Sam epitomises the archetype of the ideal English yeoman possessed of extraordinary strength of will, an aggressive sense of rightness and wrongness [160] and a strong sense of duty. The very title of the chapter [161] where he is put to a number of tests sums up the fact that for everyone life is full of choices that fall thick and fast, and sometimes the choices that are made are incorrect, apparently wrong, often impulsive, but all through the exercise of free will.

Sam is confronted with the horrifying fact that in his desire to destroy Gollum, he had deserted Frodo at need, and he despairs. His love for his Master and his devotion as a servant becomes overtaken by his duty to the Quest;

    "I have something to do before the end. I must see it through, sir, if you understand" [162]

Sam debates with himself whether or not he should take the Ring. He weighs up the options and takes the Ring to continue the Quest. Sam's acquisition of the Ring is accompanied by a noble motive, and not for power or self-aggrandisement. When he uses the Ring, it is to escape from the approaching Orcs. For Sam, the Ring is a burden and a great weight. He can understand the harsh language of the Orcs, and his hearing is enhanced. His sight is dimmed, and he feels horribly vulnerable, and he can feel the Eye searching for him.

It is before the Tower of Cirith Ungol that Sam is truly tempted.

    "His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring's power grew, and it became more fell, untameable except by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dur. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.
    In that hour of trial it was his love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.
    'And anyway all these notions are only a trick, he said to himself." [163]

The Ring tries to work upon Sam's own particular interests, but the common sense of the common man prevails, and Sam's self-realisation triumphs over temptation.

4.4.7. On Frodo

Frodo goes through a number of distinct stages in his relationship with the Ring, culminating in his choice to take the Ring as its Master at the Cracks of Doom.

Frodo is by no means the perfect hero. In fact, his tale is one of tragedy, for the eucatastrophic event of the destruction of the Ring does not result in a result that could be described as one of the classic "happily ever after sort". He has been maimed by knife, by Sting and by the burden of the Ring. He never finds true peace, but is permitted, as a Ring bearer and one who has dwelt in the two worlds, to pass over the Straight Road to Valinor. This outcome, together with a hint of the starglass given him by Galadriel, is referred to by Gandalf;

    "He is still not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can." [164]

Frodo starts holding the Ring to keep it and guard it, which, as I have observed, is a purpose that will result in the Ring being slow to harm him. His possession of the Ring until he reaches Rivendell is based upon that premise. However, although he is warned by Gandalf not to use the Ring both at Hobbiton and in the letter left at The Prancing Pony Inn, he uses it on three occasions nonetheless. When he slips on the Ring at the House of Tom Bombadil it is to see that indeed he still has the real Ring, for when Bombadil put the Ring on he did not vanish, and it had no power over him. Frodo, clearly was both annoyed and concerned at some possible sleight of hand.

    "Frodo looked at it closely, and rather suspiciously (like one who has lent a trinket to a juggler). It was the same Ring, or looked the same and weighed the same: for the Ring had always seemed to Frodo to weigh strangely heavy in the hand. But something prompted him to make sure. He was perhaps a trifle annoyed with Tom for seeming to make so light of what Gandalf thought so perilously important."[165]

Frodo next dons the Ring at the Inn when he is performing the encore of his song. On this occasion the Ring seemed to betray him, and slipped onto his finger as he fell off the table. In my opinion this is clearly a demonstration of the animus of the Ring, for it does not constitute a considered choice on Frodo's part.

There is a temptation to slip on the Ring when the hobbits are prisoners of the Barrow-wight;

    "Then a wild thought of escape came to him. He wondered if he put on the Ring, whether the Barrow-wight would miss him, and he might find some way out. He thought of himself running free over the grass, grieving for Merry, and Sam, and Pippin, but free and alive himself. Gandalf would admit that there had been nothing else to do.
    But the courage that had been awakened in him was now too strong: he could not leave his friends so easily. He wavered, groping in his pocket, and then fought with himself again; and as he did so the arm crept nearer. Suddenly resolve hardened in him, and he seized a short sword that lay beside him, and kneeling stooped low over the bodies of his companions. With what strength he had he hewed at the crawling arm near the wrist, and the hand broke off."[166]

Frodo conceives that he can escape if he uses the Ring, and the desertion of his comrades becomes rationalised as a part of that temptation [167]. However, as a counter to this temptation are the positive virtues of courage and resolve, couple with loyalty. Thus Frodo's innate virtues overcome the temptation.

The most dangerous use of the Ring comes at Weathertop, when, in the presence of the Black Riders, and their fell King, he slips on the Ring. On previous occasions in the proximity of Black Riders [168], Frodo has been tempted to slip on the Ring. Part of the desire to do so comes from the Ring itself, trying to return to its Master and sensing the presence of his most powerful servants. But principally the reason is to hide and to escape. He refrains from yielding to temptation on the first occasion because the Black Rider suddenly sits up, shakes the reins of his horse and moves away. He rationalises his temptation by considering Gandalf's advice as absurd, and he is, after all, on his home territory in the Shire. It is the action of the Black Rider that breaks the spell. Similarly, on the second occasion, just after singing the supper song [169] Frodo feels the desire to slip the Ring on when the shadowy Black Rider approaches. The sound of Gildor's band of Elves causes the Black Rider to retreat, and the temptation is lifted [170].

On Weathertop, Frodo, Aragorn and Merry see Black Riders in the daylight, and there is no desire upon Frodo to use the Ring. It is a totally different matter when they are among them. He feels terror, swallowed up by the temptation to put on the Ring. The Ring calls out to him to reveal himself, and enter the world of the Ringwraiths. There is a conflict in his mind. He recalls the warnings but feels compelled to disregard them. On this occasion, escape is not the motive;

    "...(H)e longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger." [171]

Thus, the power of the Ring in the presence of the servants of Sauron is at its highest. On previous occasions, escape by hiding had been the motive. But by donning the Ring in the presence of the wraiths would make escape impossible. That Frodo does use the Ring, and yet manages to escape is only made possible by his call upon Elbereth and the intervention of Aragorn wielding fire. It is clear from Aragorn's comment that Frodo did not would the pale king with the barrow-dagger.172

At the final climax of the first book, where Frodo confronts the Black Riders at the Ford of Bruinen, there is no suggestion that he should use the Ring. He is not even tempted to do so. There is no urge to use it to escape. He has been borne away by the elven-steed Asfaloth, and charges the Riders to return to Mordor and trouble him no more. They call out for the Ring, but Frodo is not tempted. He invokes Elbereth and Luthien. The Witch-king strikes Frodo dumb, but upon entering the flowing water, the Riders are swept away.

This ends the first phase of Frodo's possession of the Ring. The second phase comes when he elects to take the Ring to Mordor and destroy it, although he does not know the way. Once again his holding of the Ring is for a positive purpose that is in no way self-centered. Quite the contrary, for in making that choice, he is setting the scene for his own test, and for a future of pain and sorrow.

During the attempt to cross the Misty Mountains by the Mountain Pass, and the journey through the Mines of Moria Frodo is not tempted to use the Ring. The Ring comes into sharp focus at the Mirror of Galadriel. This incident represents a double temptation. It is a temptation for Galadriel, as I have already observed. It is also a temptation for Frodo, in that it presents him with an opportunity to relieve himself of the burden. He does not make the decision himself, in that he leaves the matter to Galadriel;
"I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me."173 By making this comment, Frodo is at once echoing and resiling from his statement at Rivendell that he will take the Ring although he does not know the way. There is no doubt that he has been spellbound by the timeless beauty of Lothlorien, and Galadriel's desire to preserve the beauty of the past. There is also a sorrow for the fact that the Elves are prepared to cast away all, rather than submit to Sauron. To see an end to such wonder provides for him the motive to cast the choice upon Galadriel. That she does not submit allows Frodo's position to remain unchanged.

The second test of this phase of Frodo's dealings with the Ring comes at Amon Hen, when he slips the Ring on his finger when Boromir reveals his dark desires. Initially the use of the Ring is to escape, the motive that tempted Frodo in the first phase. However, from there the matter progresses further as Frodo allows the Ring's power to work in conjunction with the power that exists in Amon Hen. He is able to perceive the activity that has been set in motion by Sauron, and ten he feels the Eye. This is a different perception from that he experienced at the Mirror of Galadriel. It is only when the two powers - that of Sauron seeking him, and that of Gandalf giving him the opportunity to exercise free will - wrestle, that he is able to approach the matter clearly, and he takes the Ring off his finger. However, Frodo's use of the Ring has had consequences for him that go beyond the desire to escape, and the other times that he has used the Ring. He has confronted, indirectly, the power of the Ring and of the Dark Lord. From this point his relationship of the Ring has changed. He is unchanged in his desire to destroy it. He must do this on his own and rely upon his own resources. During this third phase, he develops an inner power and strength, and the naivete which coloured his earlier possession of the Ring has gone. He realises the potential of the Ring, how it can and cannot be used, and he has developed insights as a result of his experiences that will colour his actions in the future.

This third phase covers the period from Frodo's decision to strike out on his own until he recovers the Ring from Sam at Cirith Ungol, and essentially centres on two issues - how Frodo uses the Ring with Gollum, and the dealings that he has with Faramir.

In a sense, Frodo uses the Ring to tame Gollum. He does not put it on and command, but he uses Gollum's lust and desire for the Ring to at once eliminate his covetousness and possible treachery, and to have him take them to the Black Gate, and onwards through Ithilien.

Frodo pities Gollum. He says that now that he has met and sees him he pities him. It is this pity that allows him to have the rope removed from Gollum, if Gollum is prepared to make a promise that Frodo can trust. Gollum says he will swear on the Precious, but by doing so he would bind himself to evil, and to break his oath would bind him in Darkness forever. Frodo says that he must swear by the Precious.

" 'All you wish is to see it and touch it, if you can, though you will know it will drive you mad. Not on it. Swear by it, if you will. For you know where it is. Yes, you know, Smeagol. It is before you.'
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in a grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds."174

A similar event occurs before the Black Gate. Gollum pleads with Frodo to give him back the Ring, and Frodo admonishes him severely;

" 'You will never get it back. But the desire of it may betray you to a bitter end. You will never get it back. In the last need, Smeagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care Smeagol.'
Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before."175

Frodo is actually using the Ring, but not by wearing it. He is using Gollum's subservience to the Ring as a means of controlling him, and in a sense is doing what a Ringlord would do - using the Ring to control. He allows Gollum to choose to swear, but really, given Gollum's desire and corruption, has he any other choice if he is to keep the Ring in his sights. Thus we see the transformation of Frodo from one who is naive concerning the Ring to one who is able to indirectly use its power. And his ability to do this is symbolised by the impression that Sam has when his master is in command of the situation. However, it is also to be noted that Frodo pities Gollum, and his actions in releasing Gollum are motivated by this sentiment. Thus, although he indirectly uses the Ring, his motivation colours the effect that it has upon him.

Frodo's approach to Faramir is one of a cautious, wary person on a mission, who will not disclose the purpose of the mission if at all possible. Rather than try and shed the burden, as he tries with Galadriel, now Frodo is careful to preserve it and keep it and the nature of the Quest hidden. Try as he might to return to the issue of Isildur's Bane, Frodo manages to avoid confronting the issue head on, even to the point of prompting Faramir to observe that Frodo was not wholly frank. Frodo counters that he told no lies and of the truth, all that he could. It is not until Sam lets it slip that Boromir desired the Ring, that the full truth comes out.

Once again, with Faramir, Frodo demonstrates the nature of his relationship with Gollum. He is tempted to allow Anborn to shoot Gollum at the Pool of Henneth Annun, and if he were to do this, he would be rid both of Gollum, and a competitor for the Ring.

"Only one true shot and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim on him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it."176

As Frodo come closer to Mordor, the Ring becomes an increasing burden. At Morgulduin, the burden becomes almost unbearable, and once again, in the presence of the Witch-king, he is tempted to put the Ring on

"As he waited, he felt, more urgent than ever before, the command that he should put on the Ring. But great as the pressure was, he felt no inclination now to yield to it. He knew that the Ring would only betray him, and that he had not, even if he put it on, the power to face the Morgul-king - not yet. There was no longer any answer to that command in his own will, dismayed by terror though it was, and he felt only the beating upon him of a great power from outside. It took his hand, and as Frodo watched with his mind, not willing it but in suspense (as if he looked on some old story far away), it moved the hand inch by inch towards the chain upon his neck. Then his own will stirred; slowly it forced the hand back and set it to find another thing, a thing lying hidden near his breast. Cold and hard it seemed as his grip closed on it: the phial of Galadriel, so long treasured and almost forgotten till that hour. As he touched it, for a while all thought of the Ring was banished from his mind."177

The next phase is Frodo's recovery of the Ring until he reaches Mount Doom. Initially Frodo is distraught that he has lost the Ring. He comments to Sam that all is lost. His grief seems not to be for the loss of the Ring to himself, but that the Ring has fallen into Sauron's hands. Although we know that to see the Ring upon Sauron's hand would be a torture for him, that does not seem apparent from what Frodo says. His grief is for Middle-earth that will fall under shadow. But Sam reveals that the Ring has not gone, and he says "I suppose you must take it back"178 although he is reluctant to give it back, not wishing to burden Frodo with it. Frodo becomes acquisitive and covetous. He demands it, denies that Sam can hold it and calls him a thief. In his mind;

"Sam had changed before his very eyes into an orc again, leering and pawing at his treasure, a foul little creature with greedy eyes and slobbering mouth."179

But almost immediately Frodo apologises, and expresses his understanding of what is happening.

"It is the horrible power of the Ring. I wish it had never been found. But don't mind me, Sam. I must carry the burden to the end. It can't be altered. You can't come between me and this doom."180

As they proceed into Mordor, the appalling burden of the Ring causes Frodo to discard the orc-mail that he donned as a disguise at Cirith Ungol. The Ring becomes so heavy, and it etches itself upon Frodo's mind like a great wheel of fire. After the escape from the column of orcs, the hobbits inched their way through Mordor. The Ring was gnawing at Frodo, eating away what little was left of his will.

"Anxiously Sam had noted how his master's left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep to his breast, clutching, and then slowly, as the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn."181

Sam offers to share the burden, not out of any desire to hold the Ring, but for the genuine wish to relieve his master of the burden. Frodo turns on him, telling him to be off, as his hand strays to his sword hilt. Then he says that he is almost in the Ring's power, and it is at this stage that Frodo discards his weapons saying that he will "bear no weapon, fair or foul."182 He is almost totally consumed by the Ring and there is no veil between him and the wheel of fire. It has gone beyond an obsession. The Ring is becoming all. It is at this point that Frodo enters his final phase.

As Sam is carrying Frodo up the tortuous slopes of Mount Doom, Gollum bears them to the ground, and tries to take the Ring from Frodo. Now Frodo takes hold of the Ring as he delivers his dreadful command;

" 'Down, down!' he gasped, clutching his hand to his breast, so that beneath the cover of his leather shirt he clasped the Ring. 'Down, you creeping thing, and out of my path! Your time is at an end. You cannot betray me or slay me now.'
Then suddenly, as before under the eaves of Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than a shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice.
'Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.' "183

And, with Gollum subdued, Frodo takes his leave of Sam to go on alone. It is clear at this point that Frodo has effectively taken the Ring, and that his tragedy is complete. He has issued an awful command, conditional upon a certain action. If Gollum touches him ever again (as indeed Gollum does) then Gollum will be destroyed by the Fire. It is inevitable at this point that Frodo will not complete the Quest, and other forces must work to achieve it. But in the final analysis, Frodo is not bereft of will. His inner strength has not been eroded to the point of madness as is the case with Gollum.

"Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.
' I have come,' he said, ' But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine.' "184

With this statement, Frodo's tragedy is complete, although, as we have seen, his is not a sudden fall, but a decline. Gollum attacks him, and by touching him, is doomed. Frodo is maimed, but survives. And the full tragedy is the fact that he does survive. There is no glorious death, as was the case with Theoden, who redeemed himself out of the darkness of despair into which he fell after listening to the wily words of Grima Wormtongue. Frodo must face the fact that upon the brink he did fail, and he carries this burden with him, along with the wounds by tooth, sting and knife. Probably worse is the wound to his psyche that he did not meet the test. In this respect, Frodo becomes Everyman, for no one is perfect, and we all fail our tests at some stage or another. This does not condemn us to perpetual damnation, and, for the life well-lived there is a reward. The reward that Frodo may have expected is not available to him. "I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me."185 But Frodo's life has been well-lived. His actions have been prompted by laudable motives. Morally correct decisions at times of trial entitle him to his reward in the Undying Lands.

4.4.8. On Gollum

The way the Ring works on Gollum symbolises the destruction of the individual by evil. He is totally corrupted by the Ring, and has no hope of redemption. There are flashes of humanity in Gollum, but in the main he is totally eaten away by the evil of the Ring.

I have already shown that Gollum was able to avoid the horrific consequences of holding the Ring.186 But the portrayal of Gollum reveals one of the most complex of Tolkien's characterisations, especially in The Lord of the Rings.

Gollum is the soul corrupted, and he demonstrates to us the way that Evil works. He is evasive and cunning. He lies and deceives, even himself. He is thin and tough, hating the Ring, but loving it at the same time. He represents a certain duality of spirit, and shows us what Frodo or Bilbo could have become, and, from time to time what they do become when challenged about the Ring. He carries on bizarre conversations with himself and with the Ring. His mind is broken and can focus on one thing - reunification with the fatal object.

But in essence Gollum was small and petty. He was vengeful and hurtful, cowardly and snivelling. After he left the mountains, he was tracked by the Wood-elves.

"The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beats and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles."187

Ultimately, he was caught by Gandalf, who discovered that he had been to Mordor, and put into the care of the Wood-elves. From there he escaped, and found his way to the point where he follows the Fellowship through Moria, into Lothlorien and down the River. He does not reveal himself clearly until he is seen descending Emyn Muil, following Frodo and Sam.

Gollum will do anything to stay near the Ring. He is prepared to bide his time. He makes his promise by the Precious and aids the hobbits. His loyalty is to Frodo, and he has a continuing conflict with Sam. Sam does not trust Gollum, and sees Gollum for what he is - an opportunist claiming loyalty but waiting until the time is right to act. From time to time, Gollum betrays himself, seeking the Ring from Frodo. But it is clear that from the time that he suggests that the hobbits take the peril-fraught way of Cirith Ungol into Mordor that he will manipulate the situation to obtain the Ring. He himself will not hurt Frodo, and thereby will not break his oath. Shelob will take care of Frodo, will throw out the Ring, and Gollum will take it, and then he will pay them all back.

It is the desire for the Ring and the desire for petty vengeance that motivates Gollum throughout. He has no focus but himself and his own desires. He is so inward-looking that he does not understand that if he claims the Ring he will betray himself to Sauron. Nor does he comprehend that he does not possess the power to wield the Ring.

Yet there are occasions when Gollum does display tenderness, and reciprocates the care that Frodo has demonstrated. This is never done openly, but in secret. He also goes and obtains the rabbits and herbs that are requested by Sam, and in doing so demonstrates a child-like naivete and a willingness to please. In this way, the flashes of good still appear. But they are flashes only, and the old, evil, vindictive Gollum is swift to reappear.

At the last it is Gollum's desire for the Ring that destroys him. He cannot bear to be parted from it. He has always opposed Frodo's desire to destroy it. For an ecstatic moment he is reunited with his treasure, only to fall at the end, a victim of the Ring's animus, Frodo's curse and his own unbridled lust, not for power, not for control, but for the mere possession of the Ring, and his own petty, self-serving desires.

4.5. The Destruction of the Ring

At the brink of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo claims the Ring for his own and puts it on. The Dark Lord, in a dreadful realisation that the Ring is not where he thought it was, being wielded by one of the Captains of the West at Black Gate, bends all of his power to Mount Doom. Sam, having been struck from behind by Gollum;

    "saw a strange and terrible thing. Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe...... Sam saw Gollum's long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as they bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm's edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.
    'Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. 'My Precious! O my Precious!' And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone." [188]

It has been suggested that this ending is too facile, and that too much is left to chance. Yet in my view it is totally consistent with Tolkien's "world-view" with the nature of the Ring and the nature of evil.

4.5.1. By Chance or design

I have already observed that there are a number of powers at work in Middle-earth, and that the powers of Good operate to set the environment within which free people may make the choices that can determine their own fate and that of others. Gandalf hints;

    "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many." [189]

Indeed, the ultimate eucatastrophe, and the final triumph of good over evil is presaged in The Silmarillion, when the glory of the Music of Iluvatar will be revealed to all. Thus, there is a certain degree of fate within the Tolkien cosmos, and the circumstances within which the events leading up to the destruction of the Ring take place are not all ordained purely by chance. Certainly there are many occasions when choice may influence events, and it is Frodo's choice to claim the Ring that sets the stage for Gollum's actions. Yet even if Frodo had not claimed the Ring, it is consistent with what has gone before, that Gollum would attempt to seize the Ring at the last post. And because he was so broken and corrupted by the Ring and his lust for it, his ecstatic triumph would have had the desired result - the end of the Ring.

This leads us to the most significant issue that surrounds the destruction of the Ring, and that is that Evil embodied in the Evil object, because it is a destructive force, carries within it the seeds and potential for its own destruction.

4.5.2. The self-destructive, self-deceiving nature of evil

    "But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this we shall put him out of reckoning." [190]

    "But the evil they work according to their maker's design turns often to good that he did not intend, and even to his loss and defeat." [191]

These two comments give clues as to the self-destructive nature of evil. Consider the history of the Ring. It slips off Isildur's finger and betrays him. We know that the Ring works to try and get back to its Master. Deagol finds the Ring, and it is taken from him by Gollum. The evil of the Ring corrupts Gollum utterly. The power of Sauron as Necromancer arises in Mirkwood and the Ring once again stirs. Bilbo finds the Ring, and Gollum, having been deprived of the Precious, seeks to regain it.

Sauron is aware that the Ring is abroad, and that it is in the hands firstly of hobbits and latterly of Men and Elves. He becomes aware of Aragorn as Heir of Isildur when Aragorn reveals himself to Sauron in the Palantir of Orthanc. Clearly, Sauron believes that the Ring will be wielded by Aragorn, and although he has no positive proof, the defeat of his forces at the Pelennor Fields and the end of the Black Captain could lead him to infer that the Ring is in the hands of those who are using main force.

Indeed, the thought of anyone wanting to destroy the Ring has never occurred to Sauron. So obsessed is he with retrieving his power that he cannot conceive that anyone would want to destroy it, but, like him, would desire to have it and use it. This is the very reason why the destruction of the Ring is mooted at Rivendell. And Sauron's self-deception, and the consequences of it become clear when Frodo claims the Ring.

    "(A)nd the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in a consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew the deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.
    From all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free." [192]

The last act played out at the Cracks of Doom demonstrates how the Ring works to its own end. It is at the heart of Sauron's realm, seeking its master. It is claimed by one who does not have the strength to wield it. It wishes to return to its master. Into the equation steps the individual whom it has corrupted, and whose desire for the Ring is all-consuming. Gollum takes the Ring, and the way is open for the Nazgul, flying in a storm of wings, to recover the Ring for Sauron. But so ecstatic is Gollum that he has recovered this object that has so corrupted him, that in gloating triumph he missteps. It is the Ring that has been responsible for its own downfall. In setting the scene for departing from Frodo, it has failed to see how the individual that it has ruined will act. Evil could not foresee that its own nature would turn against it to its ruin. Thus, it leads to its own loss and defeat.

4.6. Conclusion on the Ring

The significance of the Ring can be summarised in the following ways:

4.6.1. Both tangible and symbolic

The Ring at once is the reality of Evil in the world, and symbolises, in all its nefarious ways the very nature of evil and the way that it works.

4.6.2. a real embodiment of evil for acceptance or rejection

Its presence personifies the opportunity that all people have for the exercise of free will and choice, and to make morally correct or incorrect decisions

4.6.3. a symbol of power - evil and unbridled power - harnessing the evil will

It is a symbol of the nature of power and control which will lead to the destruction of a free person's ability to choose the path that he or she may take. The exercise of unbridled power and domination is the antithesis of free will and free choice.

4.6.4. the harnessing of evil to do "good" - the means dictates the end

No good will come from the exercise of an evil means, but evil can be averted if it is not used and the acquisition of the evil object is not accompanied by evil means. Moral goodness will prevail over the evil will.

4.6.5. operates on a physical and a spiritual level

Evil can operate on the physical level to the destruction of others, and on the spiritual level to the destruction of the self. Evil action, accompanied by evil will is totally destructive of freedom

4.6.6. is both real and symbolic typifying evil manifested by behaviour and motive and evil as an inchoate anti-moral force

Evil is a reality in terms of behaviour and motive. It can be observed and demonstrated. At the same time, it is also a concept, the antithesis of moral action and will and is therefore ever present until the Last Battle and the end of all things.

5. Tolkien's Ring and Der Ring des Nibelungen

Tolkien did not like Wagner and his interpretations of the German myths. "He delighted his friends with recitations from Beowulf, the Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and recounted horrific episodes from the Norse Volsungasaga, with a passing jibe at Wagner whose interpretation of the myths he held in contempt" [193] and "The comparison of his Ring with the Nibelungenlied and Wagner always annoyed Tolkien; he once said 'Both rings were round and there the resemblance ceased.' [194]

The origin of the Nibelung's Ring was different to start with. It derived from the sacred Rhinegold, kept and preserved by the Rhinemaidens. They have been charged by their father to guard the treasure so that no false thief should carry it from the waters.

They also reveal that if the Rhinegold is worked into a Ring, it will have inestimable power;

    Alberich: Is the Gold of value
    only for your diving play?
    Then it would be of little use to me.

    Woglinde: He would not abuse
    the golden ornament
    if he knew all its wonders.

    Wellgunde: Inheritance of the world
    would be won by the man
    who from the Rhinegold
    could fashion the Ring
    that would bestow limitless power on him. [195]

However, there is a price to be paid;

    Woglinde: Only he who has
    renounced love's sway,
    only he who has spurned
    the sweets of sensual enjoyment,
    that man alone may attain the necessary magic
    to turn the Gold into a ring.

    Wellgunde: We are safe indeed
    and free from worry:
    since all that lives would love
    and no one will shun love. [196]

The loathsome Nibelung Alberich, having been taunted by the Rhinemaidens, and having had his advances rejected, elects to take the Rhinegold and to forsake love.

    Alberich: If I might win inheritance
    of the world for myself through thee!
    Though I failed to win live,
    yet with cunning could I perhaps extort delight?
    Mock on, then!
    The Nibelung approaches your plaything....
    Then make love in darkness,
    watery brood!
    I extinguish your light,
    I snatch the Gold from the crag,
    I will forge the avenging Ring;
    for - let the waters hear me -
    thus do I curse love!" [197]

He then returns to Nibelheim where he creates the Ring.

The existence of the Ring is revealed to Wotan, chief of the Gods, by Loge. Wotan has to pay the giants Fafner and Fasolt for the construction of Valhalla. The original transaction was that Freia, Goddess of Youth, would be given to them as payment. However, the consideration is renegotiated, and it is agreed that enough gold to cover Freia will be paid instead. This gold must be obtained, and the only place where such an amount exists is Nibelheim. The cunning Loge, who negotiated the original transaction, puts the matter this way;

Loge:....I sought in vain,
and now can see full well
in the whole world
nothing is precious enough
to satisfy a man in substitute
for the delight and worth of a woman!
Wherever life does move,
in water, on land and in the air,
I sought diligently.
I have enquired of all,
wherever force does rouse
and buds do spring:
what do men deem
more potent
than delight and worth of woman?
But no matter where life stirs
my questioning guile
met only with derision.
In water, on earth and in the air
naught will forgo
love and woman.
Only one did I see
who had renounced love -
for red gold
he had forgone the favour of woman.
The pure daughters of the Rhine
lamented their woe to me.
The Nibelung
black Alberich
had courted the favour
of the swimmers in vain;
in revenge the thief
stole the Rhinegold there.
Now it seems the most
precious good to him,
more sublime than token of woman's love.
but should any man succeed in forging it
into a round hoop,
it would help that man to the highest power
and win him the whole world.

Wotan: Of the Rhinegold
I have heard it whispered
that runes of booty
lie hidden in its golden lustre;
a ring would provide
power and riches beyond all measure.

Frika: Would the bright ornamentation
of the golden trinket
be suitable, too,
for the adornment of women?

Loge: A husband's fidelity
would the woman exact
who wore
the bright and gleaming jewel
forged by dwarfs
toiling under the spell of the Ring....

Wotan: Methinks it would be wise
to command the Ring.
But how, Loge,
could I come by the skill?
How could I forge the trinket?

Loge: A magic rune
forces the Gold into a ring;
no one knows it.
But he who renounces blessed love
may easily practise it.
That does not appeal to you;
you have come too late, in any case -
Alberich did not hesitate.
Bravely he won
the magic power -
he has succeeded in forging the Ring!

Donner: The dwarf would make
slaves of us all,
if the Ring be not wrested from him.198

Alberich has compelled his brother and chief smith Mime to craft a Tarnhelm which will allow the wearer to change into anything he wishes. Alberich harasses Mime, and invokes the power of the Ring;

Alberich:....Nibelungs all
bow down now before Alberich!
Omnipresent now he lurks on every side
to keep his eye on you;
rest and repose
are gone;
you must work for him,
where you cannot see him;
there where you are least aware of him,
beware of him still:
you are his slaves for ever!199

Loge and Wotan go to the underground world seeking the Ring. They discover from Mime precisely what Alberich has done;

Mime: With wicked artifice
Alberich has made himself
a golden Ring
from the Rhinegold:
marvelling, we tremble
before its magic power;
with it he coerces us all -
dark legion of Nibelungs.
Carefree smiths,
once we used to make
jewellery for our women,
pretty ornaments,
neat Nibelungen trinkets;
we used to laugh gaily as we worked.
Now the wretch forces us
to slither into crevices;
for him alone
must we toil for evermore.
Through the Gold of the Ring
his cupidity divines
where new lustre
lies buried in the shafts:
there must we search,
trace and dig,
smelt the booty
and forge the molten ore,
without rest or repose
to pile up the hoard for our master.200

Alberich then appears and reveals his plans;

Alberich:...I plan to work wonders -
the whole world I win with it for my own....
You who laugh and love,
cradled in gentle breezes,
up above there where you dwell -
with my golden fist
I will capture all you godly folk!
As I have renounced love,
so all things living
shall renounce it:
lured by gold
you shall ever lust for gold alone.201

However he is tricked by the cunning Loge and captured. He is taken back to the upper world and there forced to disgorge his treasure. In addition, Wotan requires him to surrender the Ring202. This is accompanied by the hideous curse that Alberich lays upon the Ring.

Alberich:...As it came to me through a curse,
may this Ring be accursed!
Its Gold gave me
unmeasured power,
now its magic shall breed
death for him who wears it!
No joyful man
shall have joy of it,
on no happy man
shall its bright gleam smile!
Care shall consume
whoever possesses it,
and whoever possesses it not,
envy shall gnaw!
All shall lust
after its possession,
but none shall delight
in its use!
Its lord shall guard it without profit,
yet it shall attract his destroyer to him!
Predestined to die,
let fear fetter the craven;
while he lives
let the lord
of the Ring waste away
as the slave of the Ring,
until I hold it once more in my hand
that which has been stolen from me!
Thus, in
direst distress
the Nibelung blesses his Ring!
guard it well:
you shall not escape my curse!203

Thus Wotan, in taking the Ring, is doubly cursed. He has forsaken love, and he is subject to Alberich's curse of the Ring. His danger is presaged by Erda the Earth-mother;

Erda: Yield, Wotan, yield!
Fly from the Ring's curse!
Utter ruin
past salvation,
its gain will bring you....
A doom-laden day
is dawning for the gods:
I counsel you, shun the Ring!204

But Wotan does not hold the Ring for long. It passes to the giants as part of the fee for Valhalla, and in an argument that follows, Fafner kills Fasolt, and departs with the hoard, Tarnhelm, Ring and all. He uses the Tarnhelm to assume the shape of a hideous dragon, and re-appears in Siegfried.

The nature of the Ring is further revealed in Wotan's aria to Brunnhilde where he says;

Wotan: When the pleasure of youthful
love began to wane
my mettlesome spirit craved for power.
Spurred on by the fury
of sudden precipitate desires,
I won for myself the world.
Deceitful all unwitting,
I practised treachery,
and bound by treaties
that which harboured evil:
Loge tempted me craftily,
now he's vanished wandering.
But I could not
let loving go -
in my might I longed for love:
born of the night,
the fearful Nibelung,
Alberich, broke its chains;
he cursed love,
and won, through the curse,
the glittering Gold of the Rhine
and with it limitless power.
The ring he wrought
I wrested from him by cunning:
but I did not give it
back to the Rhine.
With it I paid for
the battlements of Valhalla,
the stronghold the giants built me,
from whence I then rules the world.
She who knows all
that has ever been,
Erda, the hallowed
wisest of Walas,
warned me against the ring,
prophesied doom everlasting.
I have touched Alberich's ring -
I clung avidly to the gold!
The curse I fled from
does not now fly from me:
what love I must forsake,
kill what I hold most dear,
deceitfully betray
him who trusts me!
Farewell, then,
glory and pomp,
divine splendour's
flaunting shame!
Let what I erected crumble!
I relinquish my work,
one thing alone I still desire,
the End -
the End!
And for that end
Alberich schemes
A woman is carrying
the fruit of hate;
the force of envy
stirs in her womb:205

The woman is Grimhilde, queen of the Gibichungs and Alberich's child referred to by Wotan is Hagen who appears as Siegfried's nemesis in Gotterdammerung.

The future lies in the hands of Siegfried, a young man who knows no fear. He is the child of the incestuous union of Siegmund and Sieglinde (both offspring of Wotan) and he is raised by Mime. He reforges the magic sword Nothung and slays the dragon Fafner, and takes the Ring. It has been Mime's plan to poison Siegfried and take the Ring for himself, but Siegfried is warned of this by a forest bird whose speech he can understand, having tasted the blood of Fafner, a drop of which fell on his finger. He slays Mime and then goes forth to release Brunnhilde the Valkyrie whom Wotan has cast into sleep and surrounded by Magic Fire. Only a hero without fear will win her.

Siegfried is the classic hero. He resembles Parsifal in his child-like simplicity. He is a child of nature, able to understand the natural world and the speech of birds and animals. He cannot be wounded except in the back, an attribute that is given him by Brunnhilde. He is fearless, and accordingly would turn his back on nothing. He is the salvation of the world. As Wotan says;

"Alberich's curse is impotent
before the noble youth,
for fear remains outside his ken.
The hero will fondly awake
her whom you bore here,
Waking, your child of Wisdom
will perform
a world redeeming act."206

Although Siegfried is the classic hero, and wins Brunnhilde, the machinations of Hagen lead to his downfall. He is eventually slain, and Brunnhilde in grief at deception and realisation that she too has been a victim of Hagen's dealings, leaps into Siegfried's funeral pyre with the Ring. The fire leaps up to consume Valhalla, and the Rhine breaks its banks. The Rhinemaidens triumphantly recover the Ring and their lost gold, and the inference is that the world is renewed.

In essence, therefore, Wagner's Ring is about the power of love juxtaposed against the love of power. It has also been described as the rape of the purity of Nature in the pursuit of power. Whatever power the Ring has, any evil associated with it comes from without, or from the curses. Unlike Sauron's Ring, it does not have or possess the evil power of its maker. In addition, there are no associated Rings over which it has control.

The Ring is not inherently evil. But whoever takes the Ring takes it subject to its curses. In addition, the Ring functions as a means to power. It is the love of power that attracts. It does not have the addictive qualities that are manifested in Gollum, Bilbo and Frodo. But it does have power inherent within it. But that power must be evil, for there is no love associated with it. The power that is given by the Ring could not be used for a beneficial or altruistic purpose, since such purpose requires love as a pre-condition. This being so, there is no matter in contention about the Ring. It is claimed by both Gods, Men and Nibelungs. The Wagnerian cosmos is somewhat simplistic207and there is no essential conflict between Good and Evil. The Gods, Nibelungs and Men are flawed. Tolkien's cosmos and creation in The Lord of the Rings is far more detailed, being part of an overall created mythology, with all of the major cosmological ingredients present. The Elves, as preservers and protectors of creation are not present, although reference is made by Alberich to Wotan as "lichtalben" (light-elf) and to himself as "schwarzalben" (dark-elf).208 Beyond this, any similarity ceases. There arises no issue regarding the destruction of Wagner's Ring, for it is not seen as wholly evil. The issues are whether or not a person will take it subject to its curses and by doing so deny their humanity, and whether the Ring should return to the Rhine whence the Gold came.

Wagner's Ring induces in those who do not have it, a lust to possess it. But it has no animus of its own. It is not irretrievably bound to its Maker. The power that is within it is a magical power derived from its source - the Rhinegold.

It is perhaps simplistic to say that the only similarity that the two Rings have is that they are round, and in saying that I believe Tolkien was being dismissive of Wagner's dealings with German myth. There are similarities, but they are broad and general similarities. Both the Rings are symbols of power and carry power within them. Both the Rings carry with them an ability to inspire a lust for power upon those who do not possess them. Possession of the Ring carries a price to be paid. To take the Ring is an exercise in choice.

Both Tolkien and Wagner were aware of and drew upon the Norse and Teutonic myths. The names of the dwarves in The Hobbit appear in the Poetic Edda, which was one of Wagner's sources, along with the Volsungasaga and the Niebelungenlied. The incestuous union between brother and sister is a common theme in other Northern European myths209, and appears in the Tale of Turin Turambar in The Silmarillion.

Any student of Northern European and early Teutonic culture would be aware of the importance of the "finger-ring" as a token. It was not only a means of adornment, but had a very special significance. Rings were regarded as treasure or wealth. They had a social status. Rings were prized as gifts, to be given and received. That Sauron uses the Rings that he gives to enslave indicates a perversion of the traditional basis of exchanging rings. Rings were then, as now, exchanged in marriage, and were material signs of welcome. Two rings feature significantly in the Norse tales - Draupnir, which appears in the prose Edda, and Andvaranaut (Andvari's Ring) which features in the tale of Ottar's Ransom and which appears in the Prose Edda and the Volsungasaga.

The concept of the Ring as giving the owner mastery of the world was Wagner's own contribution to the myth of the Ring. This power would attract to any wielder of the Ring. Tolkien's Ring gave power according to stature. Gollum could not have ruled the world with it. The evil that was present in Wagner's Ring flowed from the rejection of love (the curse of the Rhinegold) and the destruction of the wearer (Alberich's curse). Wagner could not conceive that man would reject love, but the lust for gold and the power that it brought was a powerful motivator, possibly the strongest after love. Thus, Wagner posits one primal desire against another. Tolkien's Ring works far more subtly, playing upon the desires and wishes and particular motives of those who come upon it.

In terms of creative background, both Rings have a common ancestry and, as ingredients of a mythological setting, have certain symbolic similarities. But it is quite clear that Tolkien's work owes nothing to Der Ring des Nibelungen, and it is impossible to draw comparisons between the two works. The few similarities that there are operate as faint and disparate echoes of one another, coming from a distant and common source.

6. References and Notes

1The Song of Middle-Earth - J.R.R. Tolkien's Themes, Symbols and Myths; George Allen & Unwin 1985; Chapter 5 The Eternal Conflict 64-69
References to Tolkien's works will be to title,chapter number and title of chapter. Given the variety of editions of Tolkien's works it is almost impossible to provide a comprehensive referencing of all quotes. References to "The Lord of the Rings" (LOTR) is by volume (1: The Fellowship of the Ring,2: The Two Towers, 3:The Return of the King) book number, chapter number and chpater title. References to the "Letters" are to the number of the particular letter contained in the selection
2 For example in resolving the issue of whether Glorfindel slain by the Balrog at Gondolin in "The Silmarillion" was one and the same person as Glorfindel who met the Company at the Flight to the Ford in "The Lord of the Rings"
3 "Unfinished Tales" and the nine volumes comprising "The History of Middle-Earth" series.
4 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
5 Ibid
6 1 LOTR I, 2 The Shadow of the Past
7 Ibid
8 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
9 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond - Gandalf recounting the finding of Isildur's scroll
10 The Silmarillion - The Akallabeth
11 Ibid
12 Ibid - As to whether Sauron took the Ring to Numenor, see below and also discussion in 'footnote 28'
13 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
14 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
15 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
16 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond - Elrond speaking.
17 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
18 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age - this account is confirmed in 1 LOTR I, 2 by Gandalf to Frodo but compare these accounts with that given in Unfinished Tales
19 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age - compare with Gandalf's account in LOTR II, 2;

    "But Saruman said nay, and repeated what he had said to us before: that the One would never again be found in Middle-earth.
    ' "At the worst," said he, "our Enemy knows that we have it not, and that it is still lost. But what was lost may yet be found, he thinks. Fear not! His hope will cheat him. Have I not earnestly studied this matter? Into Anduin the Great it fell; and long ago, while Sauron slept, it was rolled down the River to the Sea. There let it lie until the end."'

20 The Silmarillion - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
21 Unfinished Tales - The History of Galadriel and Celeborn
22 After the expulsion of Sauron from Eriador Gil-galad gave Vilya to Elrond and appointed him vice-regent in Eriador. He kept Narya until he set out from Lindon to wage war on Sauron in the days of the Last Alliance. At that time Narya was given to Cirdan who later passed it to Mithrandir.
23 Much is made of the issue of the unrevealed nature of the Three. What does this mean. The purpose of the Three, making, healing and preserving, was utilised in Imladris and Lothlorien, and such was their inherent power. But it was exercised in secret. The power of the Three was never exercised openly and the Eleven Ringlords were never proclaimed although they were suspected. The holders of the Three were never revealed as such, with the exception of Galadriel to Frodo at the Mirror. Had the Elven Ringlords stepped forward and openly used their Rings, perhaps using making, healing and preserving as an open counter-force to Sauron's evil, such would be revelation, and the holder of the One could then counteract them.
24 Unfinished Tales - Disaster at the Gladden Fields
25 Ibid
26 Ibid
27 In the scroll found by Gandalf at Minas Tirith
28 Unfinished Tales - The Disaster of the Gladden Fields Footnote 20. The Ring was still laden with Sauron's evil will and called to his servants for aid.
I have emphasised a sentence in parentheses which clearly furthers our understanding of what Sauron did with the Ring after he was taken to Numenor by Ar-Pharazon. The only reference that appears in Of the Rings of Power in The Silmarillion is that Sauron took up his Ring. Clearly he had left it behind. Such is the nature of the Ring that as its master gains in strength after a setback, it seeks to return to him, that inherent urge of a repository of power to re-unite with the source of power increasing as the source itself increases. But was the Ring seeking to return to Sauron at this stage? The text makes it clear that it was. However, with Sauron diminished, the first step in any return would be for the evil will and malice of the Ring to rid itself of its current possessor, Isildur. Then it could effect its re-unification at a time when Sauron increased in power.
A different and directly contrary impression is obtained from Letters which was written in October 1958. When Sauron was taken to Numenor,
"He naturally had the One Ring, and so very soon dominated the minds and wills of most of the Numenoreans. (I do not think Ar-Pharazon knew anything about the One Ring. The Elves kept the matter of the Rings very secret, as long as they could. In any case Ar-Pharazon was not in communication with them......Though reduced to 'a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind', I do not think one need boggle at his spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon which his power of dominating minds now largely depended."
This direct conflict between clear inferences in the text as opposed to a direct statement by the Creator away from The Canon is one of the important reasons for drawing a distinction between primary and secondary sources. It is also to be remembered that although the letter in question was written in 1958, the passage from Unfinished Tales (itself a secondary source) and The Silmarillion (a primary source) were written later. Thus, as with so many of his ideas, it can be strongly and irrebuttably inferred that Tolkien discarded the view expressed in the Letters.
29 Unfinished Tales - The Disaster of the Gladden Fields. The symbolism of drawing the hood over the head cannot be ignored. Although it was done to quench the light of the Elendilmir, it represents the fall and death of Isildur's star, and a recognition by him of his own end. Vide Julius Caesar who drew his toga over his head ere he died.
30 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
31 Unfinished Tales - The Quest of Erebor
32 Ibid
33 See discussion footnotes 27,28 and section 4.1.4 below
34 1 LOTR II, 2 Council of Elrond
35 And it is implicit that the Ringbearers do so because they have entered both the real and the spirit world per medium the Ring - for further discussion of this see "The Nature of the Ring - The Ring and the Two Worlds" infra
36 See discussion in "The Song of Middle-earth"
37 Among those choices being Bilbo's choice not to kill Gollum, Frodo's to take Gollum as a guide, to request Faramir not to have Mablung slay him with an arrow at Hennuth Annun, to rescue Gollum personally from the pool at Hennuth Annun, and to allow Gollum to lead them through the pass at Cirith Ungol
38 Unfinished Tales - The Hunt for the Ring
39 1 LOTR I, 2 The Shadow of the Past
40 Unfinished Tales - The Hunt for the Ring
41 Ibid
42 1 LOTR I,11 A Knife in the Dark - "Sauron can put fire to his evil uses, as he can all things, but these Riders do not love it, and fear those who wield it. Fire is our friend in the wilderness."
43 The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring and Sauron Defeated
44 The way in which the idea of the Ring and its nature develops is fascinating, but is comprehensively dealt with in "The History of Middle-earth. I am not dealing with the way in which the idea developed - rather I am addressing the question of what the idea means. In the pursuit of this goal, I shall from time to time refer to the secondary sources.
45 That being to rule the other Rings and obtain absolute power
46 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
47 1 LOTR II,2 The Council of Elrond
48 Ibid
49 Ibid
50 Ibid
51 3 LOTR V, 9 The Last Debate. In The War of the Ring - The Houses of Healing there is reference to the power within the Ring, and the nature of Sauron's power - "But when we take arms to attack we are using that power which is pre-eminently found in the Ring.
52 The Silmarillion. At the time of "The Lord of the Rings" Morgoth has been expelled through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World
53 This matter has already been examined in "The Song of Middle-earth" especially Chapter 5 - The Eternal Conflict
54 The Silmarillion - Ainulindale
55 Ibid
56 Letters 183
57 Letters 131
58 Ibid
59 Ibid
60 The matter is explained in this way, referring to the motives of the Elves in making the Three;
"Those who lingered were those who were enamoured of Middle-earth and yet desired the unchanging beauty of the Land of the Valar. Hence the making of the Rings; for the Three Rings were precisely endowed with the power of preservation, not of birth. Though unsullied, because they were not made by Sauron nor touched by him, they were nonetheless partly products of his instruction, and ultimately under the control of the One." (Letters 180)
61 Ibid
62 The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History
63 See footnote 50
64 Letters 180
65 For further analysis of how the Ring affects Frodo see below
66 Letters p 279
67 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
68 1 LOTR I,9 At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
69 Containing the light of Earendil's star, a potent source of good - for a discussion of the symbolism of Light in Tolkien's Middle-earth see The Song of Middle-earth - The Importance of Being Earendil
70 1 LOTR 1,2 The Shadow of the Past
71 1 LOTR 2,7 The Mirror of Galadriel
72 We are later told that the force is in fact Gandalf who has become aware of Frodo's trial. But it is also clear that behind Gandalf there are active forces of good acting in Middle-earth, clear evidence of the other powers at work that intended Bilbo to find the Ring.
73 1 LOTR 1,2 The Shadow of the Past
74 Ibid
75 Letters 246
76 Ibid
77 1 LOTR I,2 - The Shadow of the Past
78 But the evil they work according to their maker's designs turns often to good that he did not intend, and even to his loss and defeat. - The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History
79 Ibid
80 The Ringwraiths had no will but Sauron's own "being each utterly subservient to the ring which had enslaved him, which Sauron held" Unfinished Tales - The Hunt for the Ring
81 Unfinished Tales - The Hunt for the Ring
82 The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History
83 Ibid - the motive for holding the Ring allows the holder to delay evil consequences as exemplified by the following comments between Frodo and Gandalf;
"'I suppose I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the present, whatever it may do to me.'
'Whatever it may do, it will be slow, slow to evil, if you keep it with that purpose,' said Gandalf" (1 LOTR I,2 - The Shadow of the Past)
84 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
85 Ibid
86 Ibid
87 Ibid
88 Ibid. Frodo in fact voluntarily parts company with the Ring when he gives it to Bombadil (1 LOTR I,7) although whether it could be said that he relinquishes total possession is debateable. He offers to give it to Galadriel, although that becomes more of an issue for Galadriel in terms of temptation than it is for relinquishment by Frodo. Sam willingly parts with the Ring, even although he has worn it, and does so without any regret, misgiving or remorse.(3 LOTR VI,1 - The Tower of Cirith Ungol)
89 1 LOTR 2,2 The Council of Elrond
90 1 LOTR I,2 - The Shadow of the Past
91 1 LOTR 2,2 - The Council of Elrond
92 3 LOTR Appendix A - The Numenorean Kings (i) Numenor
93 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
94 Ibid
95 See the conflicts observed by Sam between "Slinker" and "Stinker" 2 LOTR IV, 2 - The Passage of the Marshes and Gollum's demonstration of tenderness towards Frodo 2 LOTR IV,8 - The Stair of Cirith Ungol
96 See page 21
97 For a full discussion of this topic see "The Golden Bough" by J.G.Frazer
98 On Weathertop and at the attack of the Wargs (1 LOTR 2,3 The Ring Goes South; also at the siege of Minas Tirith 3 LOTR V, 4,6 - The Siege of Gondor, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
99 1 LOTR II,5 The Bridge of Khazad-dum
100 Supernatural as being beyond or transcending the powers or ordinary course of nature
101 The concept is particularly well-developed in Michael Scott Rohan's trilogy - The Winter of the World
102 1 LOTR 2,2 - The Council of Elrond
103 For example Glorfindel at the Flight to the Ford and Legolas on the Plains of Rohan dreaming Elvish dreams
104 The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History
105 1 LOTR I,11 A Knife in the Dark
106 The Return of the Shadow - The Attack on Weathertop
107 1 LOTR I,11 A Knife in the Dark
108 For example, as darkness falls after the arrival of Glorfindel, "Frodo felt a great weariness come over him. Ever since the sun began to sink the mist before his eyes had darkened, and he felt a shadow was coming between him and the faces of his friends." and on the ride to the Ford "during the day things about him faded to shadows of ghostly grey. He almost welcomed the coming of night, for then the world seemed less pale and empty."(1 LOTR 1,12 Flight to the Ford)
109 1 LOTR 1,12 Flight to the Ford
110 As Gandalf said to Frodo,"You were beginning to fade....(t)he wound was overcoming you at last." and by way of further explanation "They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-kife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have become a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord." (1 LOTR II,1 Many Meetings)
111 Ibid
112 Ibid - In The Return of the Shadow - At Rivendell, the nature of the Elves and the two worlds is dealt with in the following way - "They fear no Ringwraiths, for they live at once in both worlds, and each world has only half power over them while they have double power over both." and later in The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History, the Elvish ability to dwell in both worlds was that they "perceive and dwell at one both [in] this world and the other side without the aid of rings."
113 The Return of the Shadow - Of Gollum and the Ring
114 Ibid
115 1 LOTR II,2 The Council of Elrond
116 Ibid
117 Ibid - In The Return of the Shadow - In the House of Elrond it was suggested that Sauron could in fact perceive the thought of the Elflords; "Of old he could guess or half see what were the hidden purposes of the Elflords, but now he is blind as far as they are concerned."
118 1 LOTR II,7 The Mirror of Galadriel
119 Letters 131 - In earlier conception Sauron did touch the Three. In The Return of the Shadow - In the House of Elrond it is said "they came from Sauron himself, and can give no skill or knowledge that he did not already possess at their making.....The Elves desired not strength or domination or riches, but subtlety of craft and lore, and knowledge of the secrets of the world's being. These things they have gained, yet with sorrow. But they will turn to evil if Sauron regains the Ruling Ring: for then all that the Elves have devised or learned with the power of the rings will become his, as was his purpose." However in The Treason of Isengard - The Story Forseen from Moria the concept of the unsullied nature of the Three becomes clear.
120 See The Song of Middle-earth for a discussion of the redemption of Boromir, Theoden and the fall of Denethor together with an analysis of Tolkien's justice - Chapter 5 The Eternal Conflict
121 1 LOTR I,11 A Knife in the Dark
122 1 LOTR 1,12 Flight to the Ford
123 1 LOTR II, 7 The Mirror of Galadriel
124 2 LOTR IV, 5 The Window on the West
125 1 LOTR II, 10 The Breaking of the Fellowship
126 2 LOTR III, 1 The Departure of Boromir
127 1 LOTR II, 10 The Breaking of the Fellowship
128 Ibid
129 2 LOTR IV, 5 The Window on the West
130 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
131 The Return of the Shadow - Of Gollum and the Ring
132 Ibid
133 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
134 Sauron Defeated - Mount Doom
135 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past Ibid
136 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
137 Letters 246
138 Such as escaping from the goblin caverns in the Misty Mountains, combatting the spiders, releasing the dwarves from Thranduil's prison and dealing, of course, with Smaug
139 To avoid seeing someone such as the Sackville-Bagginses (1 LOTR I,5 A Conspiracy Unmasked)
140 To vanish at the party (1 LOTR I,1 A Long-expected Party)
141 1 LOTR I,1 A Long-expected Party
142 The Treason of Isengard - The Fourth Phase
143 1 LOTR I,1 A Long-expected Party
144 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
145 1 LOTR II,1 Many Meetings
146 1 LOTR II,7 The Mirror of Galadriel
147 Ibid
148 Ibid
149 Ibid
150 Letters 246
151 1 LOTR II, 2 The Council of Elrond
152 See the "Numenorean Grace" before eating, the habits of courtesy by guest to host, and his account of Numenorean traditions and his account of the twilight of the Men of the West - 2 LOTR IV 5 The Window on the West
153 Ibid
154 Ibid
155 Ibid
156 Ibid
157 Ibid
158 Ibid
159 Although it is not germane to this discussion, Faramir's morality continues in his difficulties with his father Denethor. Despite Denethor's blandishments and challenges to his second son's ability, despite the fact that Denethor berates him for failing to bring the Ring to him, Faramir remains faithful and steadfast to the end.
160 Who else, other than Sam, would address Faramir, Captain of Gondor, in the way that he does?
161 2 LOTR IV, 10 The Choices of Master Samwise
162 Ibid
163 3 LOTR VI, 1 The Tower of Cirith Ungol
164 1 LOTR 2,1 Many Meetings
165 1 LOTR I,7 In the House of Tom Bambadil
166 1 LOTR I,8 Fog on the Barrow-downs
167 Does not all temptation carry with it a rationalisation of what is perceived as a wrongful or morally incorrect act?
168 1 LOTR, I,3 Three is Company
169 Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red
170 It is interesting to note that Frodo is not tempted when the hobbits see a black rider high above them on the Short Cut to Mushrooms. or when they see the dark black bundle of a figure at the Bucklebury Ferry (A Conspiracy Unmasked)
171 1 LOTR I,11 A Knife in the Dark
172 1 LOTR 1,12 Flight to the Ford
173 1 LOTR, II,7 The Mirror of Galadriel
174 2 LOTR IV,1 The Taming of Smeagol
175 2 LOTR IV,3 The Black Gate is Closed
This is a presage of a statement that Frodo makes, which in a sense could explain why Gollum falls into the Cracks of Doom, in that Frodo as Ringbearer has delivered a conditional command - "Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom." 3 LOTR VI, 3 Mount Doom (my italics)
176 2 LOTR IV, 6 The Forbidden Pool
177 2 LOTR IV, 8 The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
178 3 LOTR VI,1 The Tower of Cirith Ungol
179 Ibid
180 Ibid
181 3 LOTR VI, 3 Mount Doom
182 Ibid
183 Ibid
184 Ibid
185 3 LOTR VI,9 The Grey Havens
186 See above - The effect upon a mortal wearer
187 1 LOTR I,2 The Shadow of the Past
188 3 LOTR VI, 3 Mount Doom
189 Ibid
190 Ibid
191 The Return of the Shadow - Ancient History
192 3 LOTR VI, 3 Mount Doom
193 J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter, George Allen & Unwin 1977, p.46
194 Ibid. Pge 202
195 Das Rhinegold Scene 1 - all quotations from libretti are from those which accompanied the Decca recording of Der Ring performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti
196 Ibid
197 Ibid
198 Das Rhinegold Scene 2
199 Das Rhinegold Scene 3
200 Ibid
201 Ibid
202 In the 1976 Cheroux Bayreuth production Wotan (played by Donald McIntyre) cuts the Ring from Alberich's finger.
203 Das Rhinegold Scene 4
204 Ibid
205 Die Walkure Act II
206 Siegfried Act III
207 Although his symbolism is anything but
208 Commentators have suggested that Alberich represents the dark side of Wotan, and they are in fact one and the same entity with a duality of spirit
209 The Kalevala is the most striking example, and one of which Tolkien was most certainly aware

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