Philosophy And Fantasy

Symbolism of the Ring

Symbolism of the Ring:
The Embodiment of Evil

"One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the Darkness bind them"
(1 LotR II,2 The Council of Elrond)

One of the masters of British Literature, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien has
the unique ability to create a fantasy world in which exists a nearly
endless supply of parallelisms to reality. By mastering his own world and
his own language and becoming one with his fantasy, Tolkien is able to
create wonderful symbolism and meaning out of what would otherwise be
considered nonsense. Thus, when one decides to study The Ruling Ring, or
The One Ring, in Tolkien’s trilogy "Lord of the Rings", one must not simply
perform an examination of the ring itself, but rather a complex analysis of
the events which take place from the time of the ring’s creation until the
time of its destruction. Concurrently, to develop a more complete
understanding of the symbolic nature of the ring, one must first develop a
symbolic understanding of the characters and events that are relevant to
the story. This essay begins with a brief background of Tolkien’s life,
followed by a thorough history of the "One Ring" including its creation,
its symbolic significance, its effect on mortals, and its eventual
destruction. Also, this essay will compare Tolkien’s Ring to the Rhinegold
Ring of Norse mythology, and will also show how many of the characters in
the trilogy lend themselves to Christ-figure status. By examining the Ring
from these perspectives, a clearer understanding of its symbolic
significance will be reached.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, an English scholar and storyteller, became
fascinated by language at an early age during his schooling at,
particularly the languages of Northern Europe, both ancient and modern.
This affinity for language did not only lead to his profession, but also
his private hobby, the invention of languages. He was also drawn to the
entire "Northern tradition", which inspired him to study its myths and
sagas thoroughly. His broad knowledge eventually led to the development of
his opinions about Myth, its relation to language, and the importance of
stories. All these various perspectives: language, the heroic tradition,
and Myth, as well as deeply-held beliefs in Catholic Christianity work
together in all of his works, including The Lord of the Rings (LotR).
The creation of the "One Ring" or the "Ring of Sauron" goes back to the
years following the fall of Morgoth. At this time, Sauron established his
desire to bring the Elves, and indeed all the people of Middle-Earth, under
his control. It was his opinion that Manwë and the Valar had abandoned
Middle-Earth after the fall of Morgoth. In order to bring the Elves under
his control, Sauron persuaded them that his intentions were good, and that
he wanted Middle-Earth to return from the darkness it was in. Eventually
the elves sided with Sauron, and created the Rings of Power under his
guidance. Following the creation of these rings, Sauron created the One
Ring in secret, so that he would be able to control the other rings and
consequently control the Elves. The creation of the Ring, and the essence
of its power is revealed in the following passage.
"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." (from The Silmarillion,
Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)

The power of the One is recognized by the Elves as soon as Sauron puts the
Ring on his finger. They realize that he can control their thoughts, and
they decide to remove their rings and not use them. The history of the
ring, then, follows that the Elves and Sauron became bitter enemies, and
the One ring remained in Sauron’s possession until it was taken by Isildur
after Sauron’s defeat, and was then lost in the river for many years.
Eventually, it was found by Deagol, who was in turn murdered by his brother
Smeagol. Smeagol is the