With this Ring

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

                                                                                –J.R.R. Tolkien

One Ring to Rule Them All by CelebrielIsilel on deviantart.com

With the continued popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I thought I would take a moment to theorize just what the ring in Tolkien’s stories might symbolize. I know, I know, even Tolkien himself insisted that his stories were not allegories and there was no symbolism in them. But even if he didn’t intend for any symbolism to come across in his stories, I think it is still there.

Ring of the Fisherman

Because a ring is a most powerful object and represents many things. Even without a Lord of the Rings trilogy. For example, there are signet rings that bear a seal which the wearer is able to stamp on various objects. They are historically very significant. There are also ecclesiastical rings.  The most famous ecclesiastical ring, which is also a signet ring (used until 1842 to seal official papal documents), is the Ring of the Fisherman, worn by the Roman Catholic Pope. There are graduation rings and mood rings and rings just for fun. And let’s not forget about wedding rings. Wedding rings are also very symbolic and represent both a promise and a bond between two people.

Mood Ring photo by amanda595

So throughout history, rings have symbolized many things. And when Tolkien brings the one ring into his stories, he brings with it much meaning.

Probably most notably, a ring binds the wearer to another, whether it be a person or an ideal or an object. With Tokien’s one ring, the wearer is drawn back toward Sauron and his dark power, wherever that may lie at the time. For Sauron and the ring are, in a sense, of one substance, and the wearer becomes bonded to Sauron and the dark power he represents. No matter who you are, if you wear the one ring, all roads lead to Mordor.

Mount Doom in Mordor

Another common symbol associated with rings is that of the circle of life. It is infinite; it has no beginning and it has no end. In a very dark way, this most definitely seems to be the case with Tolkien’s one ring. As we delve into the great history of the ring, we learn that from the time it was forged, Sauron’s power is linked to the one ring and does not completely go away even when Sauron is killed at the Fall of Numenor. For the ring remains, and Sauron’s spirit returns to take possession of the the one ring. Later on, his body is killed and Isildur cuts the one ring from Sauron’s hand. Yet the one ring remains, and so Sauron is able to return once again. It is not until Frodo and Sam are able to return the one ring to Mount Doom and destroy it once and for all in the fires from whence it was forged that the seemingly never-ending cycle is broken.

Frodo and the One Ring

Whether or not Tolkien intended it, the one ring symbolizes an unbreakable bond between Sauron and his dark power. It is infinite and unstoppable until the ring itself is utterly destroyed.

How about you? Do you think the one ring symbolizes anything? If so, what?


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