Oct 17 2010, 4:26pm
At least, that is the nature of the Ring in the book, as revealed at the Council of Elrond. Elrond explains, when Boromir suggests using the Ring against the Enemy:
Yes, anyone of sufficient power can wield the Ring, and defeat Sauron
‘We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a 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 then 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.' (Elrond speaking, in LotR II.2, bold emphasis by squire) This is, as has been mentioned, quite different from the answer given in the film, at this point, in response to Boromir's question:
You cannot wield it. None of us can.
The one ring answers to Sauron alone...it
has no other master.
[they debate about Aragorn's identity]
Aragorn is right...we cannot use it.
You have only one choice..the ring must
be destroyed. (New Line Pictures, The Fellowship of the Ring)
So the film, while using some of the same language ("...too great for anyone to wield at will..." vs. "You cannot wield it.") conveys a much simpler message about the Ring's essential evil. In the book, the Ring can be wielded "by those who already have a great power of their own", i.e. Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman. Such a great lord or lady could in fact destroy Sauron with the Ring's power. But the end does not justify the means, and the result of using the Ring for that purpose is that they would become just as evil as Sauron, and replace one Dark Lord with another. It is a subtle lesson of huge implications that Tolkien wishes us to learn: Evil is not an aspect of Sauron (and his Ring); rather Sauron (and his Ring) is an aspect of Evil, which is defined by Tolkien as the use of Power to dominate and direct other free wills.
The film, for what some might say were obvious reasons of simplicity and dramatic presentation, smooths this sophisticated moral message into something more easily digestible: Evil is circularly defined as meaning everything that is bad. It is a temptation from without, which we may respond to or resist, depending on whether we are already more bad or good inside. The evil Ring is an embodiment of this outside temptation. If it is used by anyone except Sauron, it delivers its user to Sauron no matter what the user's initial intentions were.
So the book presents a Ring of Power, whose Power, even when used to do good, is ironically the essence of Evil; while the film presents a Ring of Evil, whose possession just turns one into a bad person. Although much of the film's basic plot still works under this simpler construction of the Ring's nature, what is missing are the repeated scenes in the book wherein the Ring tempts people like Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Faramir, Denethor, and Sam to use its Power to do good.
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary
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(This post was edited by squire on Oct 17 2010, 4:34pm)