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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Get thee behind me, Ring!


Jan 28 2013, 12:36am

Views: 1528
Get thee behind me, Ring! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's interesting to me how much Tolkien fans disagree about the nature of the Ring: some say it doesn't corrupt at all, and like Men going into Lorien, it only causes trouble if you have trouble within you. But to me it's an evil thing in itself because Sauron put his power and evil will into it for the purpose of dominating others, hence it naturally tries to rule its wearer, and for ill purposes. Elrond says "It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil."

Then there's the part about the Ring being sentient in some way, from Gandalf: "A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it." When Gandalf rejects Frodo's generous offer of the Ring, he not only says that his own power would be terrible, but "over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly." i.e., the Ring would somehow rule Gandalf. I think that's more than temptation, it's dominion.

What's odd is that Sauron put so much of himself into the Ring, but not much intelligence. As you note, it botched the job of corrupting Sam, and really, why did it spend centuries with Gollum instead of slipping treacherously off his finger much sooner, the way it did to Isildur? (And it botched that attempt to get back into evil hands too; are we sure that Sauron even wants this dim-witted trinket back?) I think you nailed it with "it can only understand the will to dominate."

Another odd thing is that the Ring never tempts Frodo to dominate anyone or even be grandiose. It repeatedly tempts him to put it on and betray himself to the enemy, but as far as we know, it never tells him he would be Frodo the Strong, Hero of the Age, as it does with Sam. Is this why Fate chose Frodo to be its bearer, because he couldn't be tempted by dominion or grandeur? Maybe just as strangely, Gollum never seeks dominion with the Ring, he just makes trouble until he's exiled, then he spends life alone, not even a life as a ruler of a little band of outlaws. How could he be so thoroughly corrupted and yet not desire dominion? (Choking and eating people doesn't count as dominion in this context.)

Regarding addiction to something inanimate, Gandalf says that Gollum "hated [the Ring] and loved it, as he hated and loved himself." That sounds like the way alcoholics can describe alcohol, and booze can assume in their minds a persona that is threatening, powerful, and alive. So I can see the argument for the Ring as a morally neutral object of addiction, but I think there are too many other statements that it's inherently wicked and corrupting to discount them.

For all the evil will that I believe resides in the Ring, I agree that it doesn't always need to be doing anything to arouse evil. Nuclear missiles sitting in silos tempt people to build their own for the power they would gain, but I don't think there are Balrogs inside warheads. For that matter, the Silmarils were inherently good and were hallowed by Varda, but Melkor was tempted to murder Finwe and steal them, and then end the source of the light that was in them so he would be the only one to have that light. What was the motivation there: was he overpowered by their beauty, or was there something good inside his evil spirit that was seeking redemption somehow, attracted to what was holy? Or did it matter--would Melkor have lusted after anything that was precious that he could deny to others, and is denying happiness to others a form of dominion?

Subject User Time
How The Ring tempts noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 27 2013, 5:02pm
    Get thee behind me, Ring! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 12:36am
    Loyal evil Mim Send a private message to Mim Jan 28 2013, 1:54pm
        I like your conclusion CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 4:45pm
        How "intelligent" is the Ring? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 28 2013, 5:07pm
            The power of the ring... elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Jan 28 2013, 6:06pm
                There was only One Ring, but CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 28 2013, 6:50pm
            Not so sure about the Palantir. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Jan 28 2013, 10:42pm
                Corrupted palantirs, an insight into Sauron's powers and methods? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 29 2013, 1:05pm
                    still not sure about the palantir... telain Send a private message to telain Jan 30 2013, 7:09pm
                        Imbued vs contaminated? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 30 2013, 9:11pm
                            "When can an object be evil?" May be a promising question noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 31 2013, 11:05am
                                Some objects are "evil" in Tolkien's world, but he explains what that means in terms of his story. squire Send a private message to squire Jan 31 2013, 2:37pm
                                    Very interesting answer: thanks! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 31 2013, 2:40pm
                                    Very well said! // Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Jan 31 2013, 2:52pm


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