View Full Version : The One Ring?

04-08-2001, 06:56 PM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Newly Deceased
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I was woundering if anyone really knows what the Ring is a symbole of?

Someone told me that &quot;When people claim to find symbolism in LOTR, they're wrong.&quot; And that Tolkien mentions in his preface that he didnt add any symbolism into his epic.

Can anyone help me on this topic?



04-09-2001, 12:59 AM
The One Ring came to life only because Bilbo of the Hobbits came upon wonderful magic ring which made it's bearer invisible. When JRRT started to write a sequel of very succesful book upon the request of a publisher, he found himself unable not to connect the whole hobbitish world to the main stream of his writings - Middle Earth, and this connection came through the ring found by Bilbo - which was made to be greatest of many similar rings, yet only One to be their master.

And if any needs to have a symbolism in the matter of rings, one can consider it as a symbol of technology ill used, which leads to the victory over the nature, yet helps not to comprehend it or live in harmony with it, which helps the user to obtain power, yet corrupts him through it, for power may become source of the greatest of sins - pride.

04-09-2001, 06:13 AM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Shade of Carn Dûm
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

While Tolkien did not seek to write an Allegory, he well understood that folk would find symbolism in his work.

He himself (I believe) wrote that if the Ring symbolizes anything it symbolizes Power (as in power over other people to overrule their wills in favor of one's own).

<center><font face=verdana size=1> http://www.barrowdowns.comBarrow-Downs</a>~http://www.geocities.com/robertwgardner2000Bare Bones</a>~http://pub41.ezboard.com/btarostineruhirTar Ost-in-Eruhir</a>~http://www.geocities.com/robertwgardner2000/gilthalion.htmlGrand Adventures</a>~http://www.barrowdowns.com/fanfichobbits.aspThe Hobbits</a>~http://www.tolkientrail.comTolkien Trail</a> </center></p>

04-09-2001, 11:29 AM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Haunting Spirit
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

Well if Tolkien said it himself then I would take it at that. But if any of our more knoledgabe Ghosts like Mithadan, Durelen, or Lindel would find other stuff to make it better understandable I would go with them. Oh and our Ghost with the Most RKittle.


04-09-2001, 12:13 PM
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

Maybe the One Ring is a symbol of the entire Cosmos, in the same way that Shakespeare's theatre was called the Globe.


04-09-2001, 12:59 PM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Hidden Spirit
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

But the entire cosmos isn't evil, so it couldn't be that.

What's a burrahobbit got to do with my pocket, anyways?</p>

04-09-2001, 01:06 PM
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

at least not a creation by evil.


04-10-2001, 09:38 PM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Haunting Spirit
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: The One Ring?

I suspect tht different people read the books differently. If you wish to look for symbolism, you can probably find it. Or you can follow someone else's ideas of the symbolism that appears. Or you can read it as a rousing good adventure tale and forget searching for symbolism. What might happen is that you hurry through it once, since it's such a good story. And you are going to read it again, so next time search for all the symbolism you can find. And enjoy!


11-06-2001, 07:19 PM
Hi All!
I'm new to this so bear with me.
I read somewhere that the hobbit and the LOTR are very similar in the journeys undertaken - small parties, rivendell, a journey underground, a mountain at the end (there were more but i can't remember them all). Any thoughts on whether this was deliberate or otherwise on the part of the author?

11-06-2001, 08:01 PM
Welcome to the Barrow Downs, Peregrine! Honestly, I never considered the similarities between the two quests before. Perhaps this is because of a fundamental difference between them. The Hobbit is a "rousing good adventure" as someone else said. A classic quest to recover something lost or stolen and in doing so to defeat the evil dragon that guards the treasure. LoTR is different. It is not a quest undertaken for personal gain, but rather for a greater cause -- the defeat of a common enemy. In the Hobbit there is no desparation or motive other than revenge and money. In LoTR it is an undertaking against overwhelming odds where to fail or to not act would result in ruin. I also like to think that LoTR turned into a continuation and a finale to JRRT's Silmarillion, where the presence of Elves and the direct interaction with the powers comes to an end with the defeat of the ancient evil.

11-09-2001, 11:49 AM
I don't think there is any symbolic sense in the One Ring which has been intended by Tolkien.

But perhaps he unconsciously choosed a ring because it is very near to the archetypos of the Ring Snake (Ouroboros), a snake which bites its own tail. This is one of the oldest symbols of our collective unconsciousness. This symbol is known all over the world and in all time periods, from ancient rock art to modern tatoos.

Moreover it is a well known alchemistic symbol - and wasn't Sauron kind of an alchemist when he forged the One RIng?

(For details on the Ouroboros see for example this web page (http://abacus.best.vwh.net/oro/ouroboros.html) or this web page (http://www.dragon.org/chris/ouroboros.html))


[ November 09, 2001: Message edited by: Ghâshgûl ]

Eowyn of Ithilien
11-09-2001, 03:13 PM
I suppose he was in a way, although he was giving the gold power, not life-he wasn't creating the gold

11-16-2001, 11:54 AM
Hello all,

Although there is a good argument for just reading and enjoying the quest, part of the allure of these wonderful stories, from "The Silmarillion" to "The Return of the King," is the search for meaning and substance above and beyond the telling of the tale. It's only natural for one to do so. The ring classically symbolizes a "oneness" of sorts, no beginning, no end. Only Professor Tolkien would know the mind of Sauron and its intentions. Alchemy and snakes aside, both viable explanations, The Good Professor, adamant in his stance on allegory as it pertains to his creation, would shrug this off and focus, not on what the Ring symbolizes, or may symbolize, but on what it actually is: "One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them."

11-27-2001, 01:29 PM
As far as I understand, Professor Tolkien objected to the idea of LOTR as an allegory because he thought it implied a nice little moralistic tale that (coincidentally) wasn't strictly true. He considered LOTR true in all of the ways that truly matter, even if it wasn't factual. He also didn't like how symbolism and allegory can be stretched beyond reason and break down at some point, and I'm not sure he thought the underlying truth he was trying to get at ever did that. He also objected when anything labeled an allegory was generally ignored as a piece of literature. He insisted, however, that there must be an underlying kernal of truth in stories.

In that sense, the Ring could hint at many different things. For me, the Ring brought to mind the idea of temptation, the lure of evil, and solutions to problems that seem easy but are wrong. And the problems of power, especially absolute power. We would indeed have to grow incorruptible to wield power well.

[ November 27, 2001: Message edited by: lamarquise ]

11-28-2001, 03:15 AM
For a couple of great essays on Tolkien's deeper meanings, check out Tolkien: A Celebration - collected writings on a literary legacy edited by Joseph Pearce. I bought it this summer and have learned much from the essays. It also has a lot of excellent discussions on Tolkien's Christian allegory as well.

11-28-2001, 03:28 PM
Someone once described fiction as "lies that tell truths." I think that this is what Tolkien aimed for (and hit right in the bullseye!).

(When I typed this, it first came out "truths that tell lies"! Ouch.)

Mister Underhill
11-28-2001, 09:41 PM
In modern Western culture, a ring traditionally symbolizes marriage. A ring for each party of the union symbolizes the union and serves both as a sentimental reminder of the commitment and a warning against temptation. Additionally, it provides a signal to others that the wearer is “off the market”. Symbolically, a circle is drawn around the parties of the union, providing a barrier against threats from without while simultaneously preventing the departure of those within.

Can we read the Ring as a symbol for a disillusioned view of marriage? Consider: the Ring seems innocuous enough at first, and even highly desirable. It is a plain, elegant golden ring, and it even confers a useful ability upon the wearer – it makes him (or her) invisible to others (a metaphor for the relational unavailability conferred by marriage?). Who wouldn’t want it? Only later does the wearer realize that he (or she) has become its slave and subject to its domination.

Possessing it causes the normal flow of time to be disrupted. Years seem like months, time stretches out, the possessor becomes faded and tired, but merciful death never comes. Only through the destruction of the Ring can the bearer know peace.

Consider Sauron’s bond with his ring-mates. He offers rings as gifts, promising great boons, but it’s only after those he has wooed have accepted the gift (and completed the symbolic union) that the real terms of the commitment become apparent. Of course by then it’s too late, and the doom of the wooed has been sealed.

Finally, Frodo’s journey. Frodo possesses the Ring for years without even realizing its withering effect upon his mental freedom. Once he learns its true nature, he realizes that it must be destroyed. No one else can complete this task for him – it is his alone to perform. But to do so, he faces a great personal test – a battle of wills. The nearer the Ring comes to its destruction, the more burdensome it is to Frodo, and the less his will to finally unmake it. Once the circle finally is destroyed, his burden is lifted – yet the ordeal leaves scars that will never fully heal.

Wow. Either a liberal arts education is a very dangerous animal or else John and Edith had the mother of all bad marriages.

11-28-2001, 10:20 PM
Mr. Underhill, I have the utmost regard for you and wish you only good things, but your wings and rings crackpot theories are losing you valuable points as we speak!

We could, if desired, relate the Ring to drug usage and the stupor with which it inhibited the bearer/user, but does that make it reasonable to assume the JRR intended it to mean such? No! So many people spend far too much time looking for and then actually thinking that they see underlying meaning in the most barefaced of facts. It reminds me of those people who think Vitamin C actually helps their immune system. You, too, have fallen victim to the PLACEBO EFFECT! *dramatic chord* Look at all of the relationships in the books. Sam and Rosie: happy marriage! Aragorn and Arwen: happy marriage! It goes on...Celeborn and Galadriel, well, you've read the books, you know the people. I guess that sums up my rant for now.


Mister Underhill
11-28-2001, 10:29 PM
And you have fallen prey to the true purpose of my cockamamy symbolism interpretation: to elicit a longer than one-sentence post from you! Ah, sweet victory! It's Miller Time! smilies/biggrin.gif

We'll turn you into a true debater yet. smilies/wink.gif

11-29-2001, 02:26 AM
Any interpretation is valid from a personal point of view, including cockamamy marriage theories (thank you *tree for writing Exactly what I was eagerly composing in my mind, even my examples!). It's just not Tolkien's intention. Iamarquise is right (welcome, by-the-way), Tolkien intended to portray fundamental truths of human nature. The one ring is a handy means to explore the the nature of evil, corruption, it's seductiveness, how even good intentions can lead down that path. There's a difference between symbolism, allegory, and a thing used to explore truths.
Allegory points out a particular moral, preaches. Symbolism uses an item to mean something other than itself, so the "thing" becomes overwhelmingly important. Using a thing to explore and reveal truths is this close to Allegory, but you are left to draw your own conclusion(s). Thus the meaning of the one ring is subtle and multi-faceted. Just like the nature of evil.

11-29-2001, 08:00 AM
Without venturing into the issue of what the Ring means (I am of the view that people often look too deeply into LoTR for hidden meaning despite JRRT's frequent denials of allegorical content), I would find it difficult to believe that the symbolism of the Ring is related to a jaundiced view of marriage. Consider the author! JRRT was exceedingly happy in the institution of marriage and the relationship between he and his wife was, in part, the basis for the tale of Beren and Luthien (consider the inscriptions on their gravestones).

Mister Underhill
11-29-2001, 09:30 AM
Sheesh, guys -- I like to think I don't have to add the winking smiley every time I venture into the land of satire.

But then I guess I've made my own bed with prior outlandish theories and must now lie in it...

P.S. -- I'm convinced that the above interpretation would have earned me an "A" in more than one of the critical studies film classes I took in college!

[ November 29, 2001: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]

11-29-2001, 07:12 PM
Have no fear, Underhill, relief is here! “Can we read the Ring as a symbol for a disillusioned view of marriage?” In a way, yes!
I think where we can further this highly intrigiung theory is the special nature of all Ring-bearers, with the partial exception of the Three.
With some consideration devoted to this, it becomes apparent that the Rings could indeed in a way be symbols of one kind of marriage. Of course, a kind that is in contrast to the ideal marriage of Middle-Earth or our world, but a marriage, a very concrete bond for life, nevertheless.

Here, our Forum Rowdy’s theory can be divided into two equally important branches – one is that the Rings are only symbolic for marriages in a very abstract manner, the aforementioned bond of life the bearer accepts by taking and wearing the Ring. From that time on, he will never be the same (at least if he wore the Ring long enough), his future will in one way or another always be influenced by his wearing a Ring in the past. Similar devotions could be to an army, a profession or religion, and, of course, a person in marriage. Here, the Elven Rings can be used as an example, too, unlike in the second branch of meaning; the passing of the bearers of the Three was special due to their wearing a Ring during their lifetime.

This second idea focusses on the other 17 Rings solely, although it has to be considered that our knowledge of the Seven is to small to be used in the argumentation, so the way the Nine and the One influenced their bearers becomes important.
We have one simple fact: long-time Ring-bearers are bachelors, all bearers except Galadriel who had one of the Three were male. And the more we look at the matter, the more we come to the conclusion that the 10 Rings are symbols for women, for the feminine side. By using a Ring, the bearer enters the spiritual realm – in all ancient beliefs, women are thought to be more on this side than the other sex. Often, they are viewed as having more or less direct connections to ‘the other side’, be it the Vólva of the North, Virgin Mary, etc. In a way, we could thus interpretate the using of a Ring as transgressing to the feminine side.
Furthermore, the Rings themselves are in a way feminine. They emphasize the feelings and emotions of their bearers greatly, including the negative sides of their character. It is a common view that women are more ‘emotional’ than men. While I personally am neither consenting nor dissenting here, we can assume such a view would not be too wrong in the context of JRRT’s Middle-Earth, which is all we should we discuss here anyway.
Who takes a Ring, takes it in place of a woman, of a bride. The analogy to marriage is only logical that way. Bilbo never married, even though he was a good match for any hobbit woman, but the Ring finally spoiled this for him. Frodo was a similar case, especially since he was ‘burnt out’ after its destruction. Gollum was changed by it much and treated the Ring very much like a beloved person. Sam did not wear it long enough to pass so far into the feminine spirit realm that he would have been spoiled for common marriage, but his passing shows how the influence of the Ring evokes a longing women apparently could not satisfy in the bearers.
The Nazgûl were all male, and no offsprings of them are ever recorded, so we can assume their lives were likewise. They became androgyn spirits, hovering between the spheres. Sauron himself transgressed to there more and more. Is his forging the Ring, putting his own power into it, and thus trying to amplify it, comparable to a Promethean act of forming humans, in this case, women, after his own liking?

This sort of marriage is obviously evil, even if it was only because the Rings, i.e. the feminine side, was. Therefore, such comparisons, that marriage in Middle-Earth was something noble and good that could be compared to a Ring-marriage simply do not hold. Tolkien would never have argued that one bonding himself to the Ring is doing gravely wrong; in fact, the Ring-bondings are a clear and impressive opposite to the happy marriages of The Lord of the Rings, and as such, they are both vitally important, and also sensibly perceivable and not so easy to be denied by a rebuttal.

11-30-2001, 01:13 PM
Tolkein says he had no specific topical reference in his forwerd but anyone can take what they want out of the books.

12-01-2001, 08:45 AM
The One Ring, as not just the product of Sauron's craft but the emobiment and carrier of much of his will, simply represents the power of Evil. This doesn't make the situation very clear, because the very nature of evil in Middle-earth is hard to define, fully. At the core of all evil intent, however, is desire -- the desire of and for self-gratification rather than selflessness. All the people who choose to possess the Ring do so for the gratification of their one overwhelming desire: Boromir for the protection of Gondor and his own renown, Isildur as an heirloom and "wergild", Saruman for the knowledge that it will bring him, Sauron for the power to make his desire the only one in the world capable of being realised (rendering the world a stage upon which only his will can be enacted).

Even those who reject the Ring recognise that in order to do so they must reject their own desires: Sam for a garden and sunlight, Gandalf for the "strength" to end Sauron's reign, Galadriel for a kingdom of her own.

It is through these choices that the Ring comes to represent a non-particular, even Universalised form of Evil. It promises people whatever they want, just to try to trick them/compell them into choosing their own desire for [whatever. In other words, it tempts them to make an evil choice by turning away from the Good.

I suppose the best way to answer the question of what the Ring represents is simply by saying what it is not: it is the evil that results when one turns from Good; it literally is the shadow cast by an ill-will.

Mister Underhill
12-02-2001, 11:41 PM
Hello and welcome, TW, and congratulations on an interesting first post. You’ve made a fascinating argument with your anti-definition of the symbolic meaning of the Ring. Your interpretation seems to fit well with certain traditional Christian themes: the Ring symbolizes the ultimate rejection of selflessness and, if we take the next logical step, the ultimate defiance of God’s (or in this case, Eru’s) will. I’d like to cogitate on that for a while before I reply more specifically. In any case – welcome, and keep on posting!

Old Man – well done! Aliquando et insanire iucundum est.

Gadzooks, but you’ve unearthed a whole new stratum of subtext. Let me see if I can dig a few artifacts of my own from your find.

I’m most interested in two aspects of what you’ve said: first, your intriguing observation that the rings – and especially the Ring – represent not only substitutes for women (the circle being an ancient and potent symbol for the feminine), but also a sort of means of accessing the feminine sphere of mystical energy; secondly, your characterization of Sauron’s forging of the One Ring as a Promethean act of creation.

Sharkû has taken some heat outside of this thread for this audacious first point, but his argument has quite a bit of mythological weight behind it. In LotR, we have two expressions of the rings as instruments of access to the feminine spirit realm. The first, of course, is Sauron’s twisted, corrupted version. I’ve always thought it curious that Sauron’s power should be increased merely by dividing a portion of his power and strength from himself and putting it into a ring. But viewed in the context of the mythological construct under discussion, the increase of his power through this division begins to make more sense. Sauron pre-Ring is pure yang, pure aggressive male energy – potent and powerful, to be sure, but incomplete. By separating a portion of his native energy from himself and imbuing the feminine symbol of the Ring with it, he creates a yin to complement himself, and his power is increased. Here I would say that a comparison to Adam and Eve is even more apt than your Prometheus analogy, Sharkey. Of course, it is a distorted, dysfunctional, evil twist on the story, and hence all that proceeds from it is evil and corrupted. Sauron has committed the ultimate objectification of the feminine – literally embodying it as an object that is completely subject to his will and only useful as a tool for gratifying his desires. Interestingly, this interpretation also helps us understand Bombadil’s utter disinterest in the Ring. Bombadil is already part of a complete, healthy union with Goldberry, so the false lure of the Ring as a complementary yin holds no temptation for him.

The second, more pure expression of the rings as implements by which access is gained to the feminine spirit realm are the Three. They are not offensive weapons, but instruments of healing, nurturing, and protection. Still, even these “good” rings are objectifications of the feminine, and we see that ultimately they exhibit the same fundamental flaw as the One, and what they have wrought must ultimately wane and fail.

With regards to the broader, more abstract marriage symbolism, the Three are not anomalous – they adhere to the symbolic structure under discussion. When the twisted terms of the union with Sauron are revealed, the bearers of the Three reject it with a vivid and easily recognizable symbolic act -- they take off their rings when Sauron dons his, and refuse to wear them until such time as Sauron no longer wears his.

There’s also no contradiction of the interpretation in the fact that Galadriel is a female and wears a Ring. While she is literally married, Tolkien goes to some trouble to demonstrate that on the symbolic plane, Galadriel has a high proportion of masculine energy – she’s as tall as Celeborn, has an unusually deep voice, and, although she is ostensibly coequal with her mate, in truth there is little question of who is the real master of Lothlórien. This is the realization of a long-held ambition: in The Silmarillion, we’re told… “…she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.”At her first meeting with the Fellowship in Lórien, she stares down each member until they avert their eyes (with the exceptions of Aragorn and Legolas, who do not submit), a classic alpha-male method of establishing dominance. Her ring completes her and balances her masculine energy in a way that Celeborn cannot – to such an extent that when its power is negated by the destruction of the One, she sails to her own symbolic death in the West without him.

Still, she is a woman, and her own native access to the feminine spiritual realm is extraordinarily magnified during the time that she does wield her ring – little is hidden from her foresight (intuition; Gandalf and Elrond also exhibit this power – enhanced by their rings?), and she gains the power to extend the umbrella of her maternal protection over her entire realm.

Fascinating! By viewing LotR through this mythological prism, certain events that are befuddling without it begin to make sense.

12-03-2001, 01:19 AM
I think allegory can be read lots of ways, depending on whoever or whatever you are comparing it to. That is why I do not like it. smilies/smile.gif And the fact that Tolkien so specifically stated that there were no allegorical meanings in his books seems to be the bottom line to me. I like what The Wise wrote though.

12-04-2001, 03:23 PM
Excellent, excellent, we may still have to stay with this topic for quite a while, as with each thought, many new seem to arise!

The “Ring symbolizes the ultimate rejection of selflessness and, if we take the next logical step, the ultimate defiance of God’s (or in this case, Eru’s) will” (Underhillo).
A fundamentally true statement, and still one that can well be used for our theory, which admittedly takes LOTR one step further than textual immanence. For this is a basical point both in the simple, evident meaning behind the Rings, as well as their value as the symbols of the field women-marriage-female energy. Underhill introduced the excellent term yin for the latter.
Forcefully claiming the energy of the Rings, or forging them, in Sauron’s case, is nothing else but the rejection of selflessness, already in the most simple understanding that is the forceful rejection of loneliness, of celibate ascesis, which is the virtue of the Saints. The Rings, in turn, pervert this principle; and stand, in this sense, for the negative side of mutual relations: denial, lust, greed, the first plains of hell.

The artificial indulgence of the Rings is ultimately blasphemous, and as it is hereby shown, on a level which goes beyond that of mere longing for power. The latter is basically extroverted; power is hardly existent if it cannot be, or is not, used. The Rings, however, show a more introverted, eventually purely selfish, function. Certainly this is the case with the Nine and Seven, and also still with the One, as the control over the others, were it was executed at all, was in the end only directed at the benevolence of its maker.

The Adam and Eve-analogy is again very sharply perceived. I would even consider taking that into the theory that Sauron’s sardonic twist of it does have some imagery hinted or elaborated on in the Old Testament, such as the prior existence of man, and the notion of the woman being subdued to man. Eventually, these are just two points, which I leave to others to comment on, admitting that examples may carry away, but that I cannot provide them for this very point.
Unfortunately, viewing women as “object[s] […] completely subject to […] [one’s] will” is something that can still be found more than several thousands after the events of the Second and Third Age; and sad though it is, it still shows that this apparently is one point of view that is rooted deeply in the consciousness of evil, further proving the theory right.

In those very few cases where Tom Bombadil can be used as an example, he is an outstanding one. His personal nature may be a further reason for disinterest in the Ring. Actually, if we recall The Tales of Tom Bombadil, his marriage with Goldberry did have some more or less forceful aspects; it was a classical ‘winning’ of a wife and her love rather than complete harmony from the beginning. Could it be he already spent his aggressive potential there?
Whatever, it is clear that, like Underhill pointed out, he has no desire for the feminine call of the Ring. Probably this lies in his fulfilling marriage with Goldberry, maybe it also lies in his nature, i.e. that he, as an enigma, never had enough ‘yang’ to ever desire a balancing ‘yin’.

Again, I can only bow before the precise analysis of the case of Galadriel.

Apart from the projection of this complex of theories on the texts, it now seems important to me to legitimate the ideas propelled by Underhill and yours truly with the concrete sub-text provided especially in the Silmarillion.

At the heart of this stands the undeniable quote from the Valaquenta, “But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female; for that difference of temper they had even from their beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice” (Italics mine).
Not only is hence our prior assumption of a division of psychic energy being divided into male and female proven correct once more, it also shows that indeed the genders are decided by the utter bipolar spiritual energy. The Valar did not create the genders after their own appearance, their own appearances are the ultimate embodiments of the characteristics of the genders in Ëa.

Therefore, these very embodiments can be taken as paradigms for the characteristics of the genders in all Middle-Earth. They are, as a consequence of their own divinity, not prejudiced within its context. Whether, or to what degree, the author’s own system of values and morals influenced even the fundamental truths of his work, is a question which is not obligatory to be answered where the proofs can be provided by the immanence of the text alone already.

Consequently, the 14 Valar exemplify well the two different sides of (applied) male and female spiritual energy. Any doubts expressed towards the prior theory, which would ground upon a more balanced and equal view of these two sides, cannot stand before the examples of the Valar. The male side is indeed physical power (Tulkas, Oromë), potence (Manwë), destruction (Melkor), creation of inanimate things (Aulë). Those which are less concrete with that scheme, still oppose their female counterparts – Irmo cannot bring healing like Estë, Mandos does not weep like Nienna, and Ulmo does not even have the notion, or rather, emotion, to take a wife.
The Valier, in turn, fit into the scheme of the female energy standing more for emotions, and for “healing, nurturing, and protection” (Underhill). Varda possesses the compassion Manwë may lack on his lofty hight seat, Yavanna the love for the living things, and their protection, and wheras the male Valar seemed at times grim and fell, the Valier rather dance and let flowers bloom.

Gandalf may have been more able to resist the Ring because he, as a Maia, rarely took visible form, and in had turn remained longer in the spiritual plain, when he was still in Valinor (cf. UT). The sooner one takes permanent form, such as Melkor or Sauron, the harder the toil of remaining with one source of energy only becomes.

Apart from that, resisting the Ring obviously seemed easier when the spiritual balance between male and female was already completed by an Elven Ring – Elrond mustered the resolve to send the Fellowship to destroy it, although he had it in his house and in front of his eyes for weeks, Galadriel and Gandalf passed the tests with which Frodo confronted them.

Furthermore, the nature of the four main bearers of the Elven Rings is interesting. Mithrandir is a Maia, whom I have mentioned above; Galadriel, as explained by Underhill, had a great amount of male energy. If I recall correctly, UT emphasizes this aspect very much, too, with her delighting in many sports and armed games of the men, or something to that effect. On the other hand, we have Elrond, who practically became a widower in 2510 TA, and thereafter probably needed Vilya greatly because of that. Círdan, in turn, is not traditioned to ever have taken a wife at all.

Books have their fates, not only in the taking of the reader.

12-10-2001, 02:21 PM
I'm new to this forum so forgive me if I am not entirely clear on the contours of the debate that I am about to intervene in. . .

The idea of the Ring as being wrapped up in some form of feminine energy or symbolism could not, I feel, be more wrong (and my apologies for being so blunt). Yes, it is round and thus 'yonic', but this hardly seems a sufficient reason for rendering the Ring itself as feminine. If anything, in the very fact that the Ring becomes a source of power -- in order for it to be used -- it must first have a finger thrust through it, would suggest an entirely different form of engendering. The empowering moment in regard to the Ring is that in which the feminine symbol is pentrated and claimed by the male/masculine hero/villain. I think it is no mistake the Frodo's 'victory' at Mount Doom comes about when his penetrative/possessive finger is removed. The Ring is not, then, a feminine symbol at all, but a symbol of a violent, penetrative, possessive masculinity.

But this kind of interpretation is all highly dependent upon Freudian psychology and mythological systems that may have been in Tolkien's mind when he wrote the book, but certainly not consciously developed. (As Tolkien himself has written in his letters, the book is consciously Catholic in its formulation.)

The only form of Feminine evil that I can find in the narrative is Shelob. And if you have a penchant for Freudian and/or mythological imagery you can have a field day with her: she lives in a deep, round, cave that is dark and impenetrable by the male heroes; her smell is overpowering and horrific (compare that to the beautiful smell that Frodo notices around Arwen); she does not feed or nourish the male heroes, but feeds upon them; she does not think of the other (ie 'feminine' compassion) but only of the self; she is not Sauron's servant, but a kind of equal to him; the hero/masculine sword is useless against her, only the phial of Galadriel can drive her back until she impales herself upon Sam's 'little weapon'. Most important, however, is that she does not care about "towers or rings." The Ring is something that she does not care about at all -- to the point where Gollum can hope to find it among the cast aside things after she has feasted on Frodo.

Serevian The Ranger
12-11-2001, 05:08 AM
the ring is a symbol of power i think because it can be used to take over the world it is different then all the rings because it has no jewel or diamond in it it is just gold so people think it is a lesser ring

12-11-2001, 08:41 PM
Sauron's feminine side was the ring smilies/rolleyes.gif I think Tolkien himself would be appalled at some of these notions. It was a ring and had power but it was not a being in the sense that it be a gender.

12-14-2001, 09:44 AM
I don't see the ring as feminine. When Galadriel would have accepted the ring, she'd become a 'Dark Queen', beautiful, but not more feminine.

Great power, which comes with the ring, makes lonely, because the power of the ring cannot be shared (as Gandalf points out to Saruman). The heart is filled with the lust for power and the paranoia of losing it.

The ring symbolises the 'easy way out', not unlike the Force in Star-Wars (don't flame me for this remark please), with of course the difference that there exists something liek a truly good Jedi.


Mister Underhill
12-14-2001, 07:06 PM
As you say, Old Man, this topic has gained a life of its own and the ideas continue to blossom.

First things first, though – I believe a couple of misconceptions need to be addressed.

The first is that the whole thing is a joke. While it’s true that my original post was intended for satirical effect, there was a spark of truth at the core of the joke which Sharku came along and fanned into a flame. There seems to be a startlingly sound coherence to the underlying symbolism here.

The second is an apparent perception in some quarters that Sharku and I are proposing this complex of Ring analyses as allegorical intent on JRRT’s part. I think I can safely speak for the Old Man when I say that that is not the case. We are simply exploring the mythical principles that underlie LotR in particular and JRRT’s cosmology in general. Whether this set of symbols and relationships exists by design, by luck, by a more mysterious expression of certain universal truths that reside in the collective-unconscious, or by some combination of all three, only God knows.

But after all, JRRT was a student of mythology and actively sought to create a new mythology with his work. Should it come as a surprise that he should, consciously and unconsciously, draw on familiar mythological symbols and themes? The principal conclusion of comparative mythology is that the same basic truths lie at the heart of all the manifold mythological traditions, so it seems natural to me that an invented tradition would contain many of those same truths and themes if people are to respond to it. In Letters Tolkien describes The Hobbit as being “derived from (previously digested) epic, mythology, and fairy-story”, and says this about his whole Middle-earth cosmogony: These tales are 'new', they are not directly derived from other myths and legends, but they must inevitably contain a large measure of ancient wide-spread motives or elements. After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear. The shelves are full of inferior attempts that do not manage to tap those elemental sources. Clearly, certain fundamental symbolism is inarguably at work in LotR – we could do a whole thread on the symbolism of the relative physical statures of the various races and characters, for instance; the symbolism inherent of the ‘White’ Council and the ‘White’ Tower vs. the ‘Dark’ Lord and the ‘Black’ Riders is evident at once. This sort of imagery is something we respond to on such a primary level that it doesn’t even occur to us as ‘symbolism’, yet it is, nevertheless. While some may disagree with the avenues Sharkey and I have explored or the conclusions we have drawn, the inquiry itself is not invalid.

Now, back to business. Sharku has perceptively demonstrated that, whether or not you agree with the idea of “feminine” and “masculine” characteristics, this sort of duality is an inherent (and fundamental) characteristic of JRRT’s cosmology. I’m interested in exploring several elements of this duality and its symbolic relation to Middle-earth further, even though others have disagreed with it.

The Old Man has, as usual, clarified and elaborated on what I only implied – namely, that the possession of an Elven Ring helped to counter the seductive temptation of the One Ring. Taking this a step further, we can see that Sam Gamgee provides a similar balancing function for Frodo. As Galadriel has an unusually high level of masculine energy, so Sam has an unusually high level of feminine energy. I mean this, of course, only on the mythical/symbolic level – Sam’s spiritual yin-yang relationship with Frodo has led to many a sniggering remark, but that phenomenon only tends to support the proposed interpretation. We instinctively sense elements of a male-female relationship between them, even if it exists only as a metaphor. Sam cares for Frodo, cooks for him, tends his wounds, and generally frets over his well-being. Indeed, I would characterize this female anima of Sam’s as mother-love rather than as eros-love. This is in counterpoint to the temptation of the Ring, the dark side of the Ring’s symbolic function; the female as seductress. It is partly through Sam’s balancing effect that Frodo is able to resist the Ring’s temptation for so long under such extreme circumstances.

In reference to TW’s most recent post, I’m not sure I understand your objection to the idea of the Ring as a feminine symbol. You take a different tack with your psycho-sexual analysis – but in it the Ring still stands as a feminine symbol.

Now I’d like to step back for a moment and examine the Ring’s origins and another curious fact that seems somewhat inexplicable on a surface level, but that, when examined from a symbolic viewpoint, may once again make some sense. I’ve always wondered why, if Sauron had nothing to do with the forging of the Three (other than having provided the instruction necessary for their making), are they subject to and dependent upon the One? One possible explanation is linked to the idea of the earth itself as a feminine symbol – Mother Earth, the giver of forms, the nourisher. The forge at Orodruin represents a very primal wellspring of feminine energy in this context – at this place, fire wells “from the heart of the earth”, and it is by binding this energy up with his own in the Ring that Sauron has created an object of surpassing potency. The other Rings have not been forged in this primal power source, but they have been made in lesser, imitative versions of it, from some of the earth’s most precious substances – gold, mithril(?), and precious gems. The Rings have all been made from the same materials, using similar methods, for fundamentally similar purposes.

This latter assertion may seem shocking, and we are usually inclined to disinclude the Three from discussions of the other Rings of Power, but even they have ultimately selfish – though of course considerably more benevolent – uses, namely, the ordering of things according to the bearer’s will, as in Galadriel’s use of Nenya to extend her old and fading order unnaturally. Since the Rings all draw their power, symbolically, from the same primitive feminine source, and the One Ring was forged in and has bound up in it the most primal and powerful charge of that source, it makes sense in a way that it should hold sway over the others, and that when its energy is released, the others should also wane, since the Rings also seem to be bound up in a sort of network, again, perhaps because they all draw from the same power source. For me, this symbolic reading neatly satisfies not only my earlier question of why Sauron’s power increases through simply placing some of it into the Ring (a question that is currently being wrestled with in this thread (http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=10&t=000090)), but also the question of, what powers the other Rings, and especially the Three? Symbolically, the Rings harness this female/earth spiritual energy and subordinate it to the will of the bearer. When the One Ring is unmade, it unleashes an explosion of elemental forces (Mother Nature) – Orodruin erupts, gale winds blow, and black rain pours down as this bound energy is released.

Further evidence of Sauron’s subjugation of this feminine spiritual energy is manifested physically in his realm, Mordor – it is, of course, a lifeless, blasted, barren land. He and his minions despoil the earth, and live in complete disharmony with their environment.

[ December 14, 2001: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]

02-18-2002, 10:19 AM
A -- for this thread -- uncharacteristically short note for now, another circumstance that adds to the Ring theory as it stands developed is the fact that the Ring could only be forcefully removed from its bearer by cutting off the finger.
The symbolic intent of this is obvious; the person who wants to gain the Ring for himself intentionally robs the current bearer of its fertility and masculinity in regard to the Ring, here the possibility of wearing it. The rival is then no longer attractive to the Ring, and the Ring perveives that the new bearer, strong enough to beat the rival, is a better mate for it.

02-18-2002, 12:42 PM
Just to throw my two cents into the flame, is it not possible that the One Ring stands as a kind of rape by Sauron? Here he is, taking the gifts of the Earth, corrupting them, and using them to satisfy his lust for dominance. The destruction of the Ring, or, in effect, its return to its origins, negates Sauron's actions, rendering him unable to feed off the Earth. One could say that when, with the help of Gollum (yeah Gollum!), the Ring is cast down into the fiery pits, the power of Arda itself is restored, wrested out from underneath Sauron's control.
Which all goes back to my original argument of Sauron as a lecherous pervert! (See Books II, 'Sauron in his off-hours-seriously'). Yay me! smilies/biggrin.gif
...No, I'm not asking to be taken seriously at all, and I'd prefer not to think about such things in general; but then there you go, too much education can truly backfire on us.

08-10-2002, 09:24 PM
This topic was brought up in chat tonight, and as a result, I'm adding this post for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it's an awesome discussion and perhaps could be hashed out a bit more (at least, I certainly hope so after I ask my question).

Secondly, the immediately aforementioned question: Galadriel is a key character in many of the above posts, as is her femininity, or lack thereof in taking her Ring as "wife," so to speak. My query lies in this: did she acquire her decoration before or after she conceived/gave birth to Celebrian? Would it have debilitated her ability to conceive after she had had it for a long time (say, circa LotR)?

Depending on the answer, I think some of the viewpoints in this thread may have some additional fodder to throw about.

Evisse the Blue
08-11-2002, 08:09 AM
well, everybody, since we ventured on "Mr Freud's" territory here, I have to state an impression of mine, with the risk of you considering it flippant:
I haven't thought of it before until I saw the movie and, specifically, Frodo's struggle to resist *putting his finger in the hole of the ring* (when the Ringwraiths first come after him). The 'sexual meaning' of it hit me in the face, even though, by God, I know for sure it is not what Tolkien intended. smilies/rolleyes.gif

The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
08-11-2002, 09:11 AM
Annoyingly, all I've been able to turn up is from Unfinished Tales, in the form of a note from Christopher Tolkien:
The time and place of Celebrian's birth, whether here [Lake Nenuial] or later in Eregion, or even later in Lorien, is not made definite.

(Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn)

Since that timing and location would be absolutely critical in addressing onewhitetree's question, I'm more than a little piqued by this, although if it helps, Amroth was born at Lake Nenuial between 350 and 400 SA according to the same source.

Mister Underhill
08-11-2002, 09:29 AM
Whoa, blast from the past -- and just when my bone rating was finally starting to recover, too! smilies/wink.gif

Also from UT: So great became [Sauron's] hold on the Mírdain that at length he persuaded them to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn and 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-dûm to Lórinand, taking with her Amroth and Celebrían; but Celeborn would not enter the mansions of the Dwarves, and he remained behind in Eregion, disregarded by Celebrimbor. In Lórinand Galadriel took up rule, and defence against Sauron.

Sauron himself departed from Eregion about the year 1500, after the Mírdain had begun the making of the Rings of Power. Now Celebrimbor was not corrupted in heart or faith, but had accepted Sauron as what he posed to be; and when at length he discovered the existence of the One Ring he revolted against Sauron, and went to Lórinand to take counsel once more with Galadriel. They should have destroyed all the Rings of Power at this time, "but they failed to find the strength." Galadriel counselled him that the Three Rings of the Elves should be hidden, never used, and dispersed, far from Eregion where Sauron believed them to be. It was at that time that she received Nenya, the White Ring, from Celebrimbor...This seems to clearly indicate that Galadriel came into the ring after Celebrían's birth. I'll need some time to ponder the implications of this fact for this thread, though... More later.

[ August 11, 2002: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]

The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
08-11-2002, 09:39 AM
Hoom. It would appear that I have been a little hasty, and not for the first time. Thanks, Underhill.

12-26-2002, 08:41 PM
Whether or not he started out simply playing Devil's Advocate (which I would've thought was against some of the guidelines of your site), Mr. Underhill has brought up what seems to be a very valid argument about the rings being the feminine component that completes their masculine owners. Very intersting about Galadriel, the only female Ringbearer, being made so masculine. And it seems an explanation has been found for Sauron's power increasing after the creation of the One. By more clearly defining his being, and by giving creedence to his feminine side, he becomes almost omnipotent. Sauron suddenly becomes greater than the sum of his parts - he invents synergy! Of course, I don't think he is ever said to have become more powerful after splitting his power like this. I think instead that the only reason he created the One Ring was to dominate the other rings, and he had to place a lot of his power into it. So when he had the Ring he was just as powerful as before, but also in control of the other rings, and when he lost the Ring his power was greatly diminished. But that should've probably been said in another thread.

Back to the original question, the One Ring is most obviously a great weapon, an inherently evil weapon, which can be used by either good or evil. Like a nuclear bomb. I think in this respect, Tolkien gives us a cautionary tale and asks us if the end can justify all means. Clearly, Gandalf, Elrond and co. do not think so. Clearly Boromir and Denethor do. This argument is at least as relevant today as fifty years ago when the books first appeared.

12-26-2002, 08:47 PM
...sorry, left something out!

It was interesting what was said about a ring taking the place of a spouse, and about Sam being a ringbearer as well. I've always been a little confused by the last line in the book, Sam: "Well, I'm back." Of course he was back! But maybe it also means that since the ringbearers, particularly Frodo have left Middle-Earth, that Sam is now able to settle down with Rosie. He definitely seems to have been more devoted to Frodo than to Rose. I don't think the fact that he cooks for Frodo makes him feminine, though. Bilbo and Beorn are both excellent cooks.

09-25-2003, 03:40 AM
You know how there's a theory that LotR is meant to be a religious allegory, with Frodo as a Christ figure and Sauron as the Devil? Well, for my Religious Studies coursework essay I wrote about the book and I said that I thought the Ring represented things about evil (power etc) that tempt good people to turn to evil. Just my idea, but you never know...

Other readings of the book have the Ring representing the need to grow up, but to me that doesn't make much sense as to why it was destroyed, because otherwise the effects of the Ring would be inevitable - unless there was some kind of idea of a Peter Pan-type figure represented by hobbits...and I'm waffling now so I'd best shut up. Just an idea.

09-25-2003, 05:17 PM
I think perhaps it is important to distinguish between allegory and symbolism. Allegory is something like Animal Farm, a direct retelling of a chain of events, often simplified for easier understanding. Symbolism, however, is far wider. It is perfectly feasable that Tolkien wrote LoTR with the thought in mind that The One Ring would symboliose the corrupting nature of power, but did not write LoTR as some kind of WWII allegory. I hope you can understand the subtle though, I think you'll agree, rather important difference.

Noldorin King
09-25-2003, 09:26 PM
If the One Ring did represent something it would not be just power...it would be a system of government that, instead of being perverted by the one who runs it (or wear it in the matter of the One Ring),does not convert itself but changes the nature of the holder into the level of higher evil. a government system, be it communist socialism or democratic capitalism, is always geared towards a common goal, that is, order. but in our case, there's always a problem concerning the authority who of course holds power, they may abuse it and thus pervert the system that is good in its very own nature(the end does not justify the means). In the One Ring, however, we see a reciprocation because it would turn out that its bearer is not the origin of evil but the Ring itself and performs the perversion through its weapon, the ringbearer. It controls the being and put an urge to do its will; to be found by its maker and complete the destruction they both started...

09-26-2003, 03:43 AM
I hate to do so, Noldorin King, but I disagree that The Ring would symbolise a government system etc. I think the very essence of LoTR is quite simple. Essentially it is the classic tale of good rising victorious over evil. Now, sure, Tolkien uses many tools to get there- for example the different sub-genre of hero and the recurring theme of loyalty in those heroes- but the core is simple. That's why I feel it's not an over-simplification to say that The One Ring simply shows the perverting nature of power, and not a government system (although I do agree generally with your comments on the driven nature of both capitalist and communist systems).

07-17-2004, 06:04 PM
This is a follow-up to two chapter discussion post which you can find here (http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpost.php?p=336659&postcount=47) and here (http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpost.php?p=336659&postcount=48) respectively. Since what I want to say has nothing at all to do with that chapter, but very much with what has been written in this thread, I'm going to put it here.

The ring-giving as a gesture of a ruler towards his subjects is something Middle-earth and the historical world definitely have in common. In the instances where a ring is passed, even in a mood of gratitude, such as Barahir's ring, it is still a sign of fief, demanding mutual keeping of terms such as protection and service in arms. Sauron took this one step further with his rings, especially the Nine.

In this light, Sauron showing up in Eregion and passing out rings, even in disguise, is bold, if not insolent. The underlying intention of ensnaring the Elves must not have seemed so underlying at all. The Three, in contrast, might appear more as an effort of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain to claim a leading rôle among the Elves, or rather, to strengthen those Elves which already had a standing of their own in their position. Still, I'd say the Three are more like powerful artifacts of which one is just a keeper; the power of the rings themselves and the defiance of Sauron for which they stand are more important.

Sauron creating a ring for himself can certainly have many implications, just read above for some musings on the matter.
What is striking is that by forging and giving a ring to himself, he states that there is noone else to give him a ring, i.e. noone who could be his lord, noone who could be above him. In that regard, merely forging the ring to keep for yourself is an act of proud defiance of Eru; taking it as a ruling ring even more so.

Evisse the Blue
07-18-2004, 05:52 AM
What is striking is that by forging and giving a ring to himself, he states that there is noone else to give him a ring, i.e. noone who could be his lord, noone who could be above him. In that regard, merely forging the ring to keep for yourself is an act of proud defiance of Eru; taking it as a ruling ring even more so.
Taking this a little bit further - the self-assumed title 'the lord of the rings' would be like a blasphemy, meaning 'the supreme lord'. Maybe this is why Gandalf reprimands Pippin so harshly when he jokingly calls Frodo 'Lord of the Rings'.