Symbolism Of The Ring In Jrr Tolkiens The Lord Of The Rings

.. Frodo has when he wears the Ring is the essence of temptation put forth by the evil forces at work. Frodo is obviously tempted to use the Ring for his own prosperity, for the power of perception is very great with the Ring. At this time, he is unable to see the danger of the Ring that is ever-growing. This section of the trilogy is one of the most important of all, and it is a turning point in both the readers understanding of the Ring as well as Frodos.

There is an interesting parallel here, concerning an issue which will be expanded on at a later point, a parallel between Frodos individual struggle with temptation on the summit and Christs temptation on the summit. Not necessarily to say that Frodo Baggins is a Christ-figure, but rather to suggest that the issue of free will is an individual matter seems relevant here. The effect of the Ring on mortals is not limited to temptation and corruption. In addition to these, the Ring works in different ways, exploiting the weaknesses and fears of each individual who encounters it in any way. Evidently, there are only three individuals who are not tempted by the Ring.

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Sauron is immune to the power of it, for it is the personification of his own evil nature which the Ring represents. Sam is only tempted by the Ring once, before the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and he defeats the temptation. This is most likely because of his undying loyalty to Frodo and his intentions. He would never think to upstage Frodo by allowing the Ring to become an issue for him. The third individual who is immune to the temptation of the Ring is Tom Bombadil, who is possibly the strongest reference to a Christ-figure in the trilogy. He is “the Master of Wood, water, and hill” (Elwood 105) according to Old Man Willow and other inhabitants of nature.

It is his nature not to be influenced by the evil forces of the Ring. He knows his bounds, and will never go beyond them. It is this which prevents him from becoming corrupted by the Ring. He has set bounds for himself, and is completely content with them. This lack of ambition is something not present in any other character in the story. Any other character, including Gollum, Frodo, Boromir, and even Gandalf, possesses an innate sense of ambition which allows for the evil of the Ring to work.

The most obvious example of the Rings effect on a mortal is obviously Gollum. Gollum is the result of nearly complete corruption by the Ring, and his situation demonstrates to us the way that the Rings evil works. He is evasive, cunning. He lies and deceives everyone, including himself. He has a peculiar relationship with the Ring, hating and loving it at the same time.

In effect, Gollum represents what Frodo could have become. Also, he represents in an exaggerated fashion what becomes of Frodo whenever he wears the Ring. Gollums mind and soul are shattered by his obsession for the Ring, and its retrieval is his only and ultimate goal. This advanced stage of corruption is another example of the parasitic, evil nature which the Ring represents. The next section of this essay deals with the destruction of the Ring, including the failure of Frodo and the irony of Gollums intervention.

At the last moment, in the heart of Saurons kingdom, Frodo wavers in his quest, and gives in to the temptation completely. The Ring has complete control over Frodo for only an instant before the intervention of Gollum, whose death is redeemed only by the ultimate completion of his quest, that to retrieve the Ring. His intervention seems to prevent an ultimate catastrophe, but one must realize that Gollum wouldve attempted to retrieve the Ring from Frodo whether or not Frodo had accepted it as his own. Therefore, it is irrelevant to wonder what would have happened if Frodo had not failed in his individual quest. At first, it seems as though this ending to such a complicated ordeal is too incomplete, leaving too much to chance. However, it is this ending which further develops the concept of evil explained earlier.

Evil is a destructive force, and it carries within it the formula for its own destruction. Therefore, because the Ring is the embodiment of Evil, it had the potential for self-destruction. This idea, of the self-destructive nature of Evil, is the most important issue concerning the destruction of the Ring. There is a major flaw in the mind of Sauron, and in turn the mind of Evil, which is that Sauron never considered the possibility that anyone would desire to destroy the Ring. Similarly, the Ring itself, in its desire to return to its master Sauron, never considered the possibility that the level of corruption that it had performed against Gollum would turn against it.

Indeed, Gollum was so obsessed with the Ring that when he finally gets it back, he is so ecstatic that he missteps. In both cases, Evil has deceived itself, which in turn has brought about its destruction. The Ring, the symbol of Evil and evil power, has been defeated, not by the will of goodness, but rather by its own doing. The next section of this essay will make comparisons between LotR and Norse Mythology, specifically the myths of the Rhinegold Ring and Otters Ransom. Also, comparisons will be made between LotR and Christianity, specifically the possible presence of one or more Christ-figures in the trilogy. Through these comparisons, a greater understanding of the universality of the Rings symbolic significance will be reached.

The Myth of Otters Ransom is a retelling of a myth contained in the Volsunga Saga of Norse Mythology. In this account, three gods, Loki, Odin, and Honir, are in a predicament over the accidental killing of Otter, brother of the giants Fafnir and Regin. The gods are trapped by the brothers, and held to avenge Otters death. In order to save them, Odin makes an offer to repay the family for the death. The ransom price set by the family is a horde of red gold, enough to entirely cover the body of Otter.

In order to accomplish this, Loki leaves while Odin and Honir remain. Loki borrows a net from another god, and proceeds to capture the dwarf Andvari from the bottom of a pool inside a cavern. Loki demands that Andvari give him his horde of gold that he controls within the pool. Andvari reluctantly agrees, and gives Loki the gold. After this, Loki notices a ring on Andvaris finger, and demands it as well.

A conflict emerges from this demand, and eventually Loki gets the ring, along with Andvaris curse upon it and the gold. Loki returns, and they give the gold to the family and cover Otters body with it. As they leave, they tell the family of the curse. The important thing to realize about this story is that the ring is actually the Rhinegold Ring of Norse Mythology. The bearer of this Ring is the one who controls the massive horde of Rhinegold.

A case can be made for the horde as a symbol of power, in which case there is direct relevance to the One Ring in LotR. Whoever bears the ring has power, the power to command. This possibility in itself has the power to corrupt those who desire possession of the ring. Another account of the Rhinegold Ring is portrayed in Stephan Grundys novel, “Rhinegold”. In this account, the power of the ring is shown more clearly than in the first account. After the father of Otter, Hraithmar, puts on the ring, he is overcome by his desire for the gold. As soon as he comes upon the pile covering Otters body, he is drawn to it.

“The longer Hraithmar gazed at the gold, the hotter its light seemed to burn in his body, shaking him with a sudden fear of desire.” (Grundy 35) In a shocking similarity to LotR, the Ring, once used, has a tremendous power to corrupt and overpower. These are two examples of the many parallels that exist between Tolkiens fantasy and that of Norse Myth. The possibility of a Christ-figure in LotR is a difficult issue for several reasons. First, Tolkien himself denied any such allegorical meaning behind the trilogy and in fact denied nearly any allegorical meaning at all in his works. Also, it seems as though many of the characters bear some similarity to Christ at times, but none are completely representative of Him.

There is almost always some area in which the character in LotR is lacking with respect to his Christ-like status. For example, The character of Tom Bombadil, discussed earlier with respect to the Rings power, seems to be extremely Christ-like in that he is considered by those who know him to be, “The Master of wood, water, and hill.” (Grundy 35) Also, he is truly the master of himself, and he knows his limitations as a man. Like all men, he is limited; like Christ, he limits himself. At this point, it would seem that Tom is a good representation of Christ. However, there are two distinct differences that separate Christ from Tom.

The first is the fact that Tom knows of the miserable existence of the Barrow-Wights, yet is unmoved by the thought of them in misery. This lack of human compassion is a key difference between Tom and the Christ of faith. Also, while Tom has limited himself like Christ, he has never suffered to gain his humility. He has never been ambitious, and is not tempted. To create another symbolic reference to the One Ring, Tom would never feel the temptation for the Ring, in the same way he would never be tempted by a source of power such as the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

This is an aspect of Tom that would suggest that he is less human than he would appear to be. Perhaps he is a “joyful savior” rather than the type of savior that the faith Christ was portrayed to have been. Tom is one example of a Christ-figure in the trilogy. Others include Gandalf, whose remarkable return to life after the battle with the Balrog could be symbolic of Christs resurrection. Also, Gandalfs ability to be tempted yet resist temptation, his ordeal after his resurrection in which his friends did not at first recognize him, and his transformation from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White are all areas in which parallels can be drawn to Christ. The only problem with the theory of Gandalf is that he is ultimately unable to save Middle-Earth. Although he guides Frodo in his mission, he can hardly receive credit when the mission fails.

He is not strong enough to save middle-earth, and this is because he was too strong in his successful attempt to resist the temptation of the Ring. In order to summarize the essence of this study on the symbolism of the One Ring, it can be said that the Ring itself can be explained separately from an explanation of the Evil nature of the Ring. The Ring itself is the reality of Evil in the physical world. In every way, it is the nature of evil which must be either accepted or rejected outright. Its mere presence is a personification of the opportunity for people to have and execute free will and make morally correct or incorrect decisions.

Also, the ring is a symbol of power, evil power. It is the part of nature that continually strives to destroy a persons ability to exercise free will. The exercise of Evil, and in essence the power of the Ring, is the exact opposite of freedom. As for the nature of evil, it has been shown that no good can possibly come from evil means, but evil results can be averted if one can acquire the evil object while resisting the evil nature of it. Also, the Ring is both real and symbolic.

While the physical nature of the Ring is behavioral, and can be physically observed, the essence or power of the Ring is also a concept, a concept which opposes morality. Because of this, the Ring may be destroyed physically, and with it the power of its creator, but its essence, Evil, will remain present in some form until the end of time. Works Cited Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon, 1980. Ellwood, Gracia Fay. Good News From Tolkiens Middle Earth.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970. Grundy, Stephan. Rhinegold. New York: Bantam, 1994.

Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. New York: Ballantine, I–1954, II–1955, III–1956. (References to The Lord of the Rings (LotR) are by volume, book number, chapter number and chapter title.) Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Silmarillion.

New York: Ballantine, 1995. (References to The Silmarillion are by chapter name) Works Consulted Carter, Lin. Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings. New York: Ballantine, 1969. Kocher, Paul H.

Master of Middle Earth. New York: Ballantine, 1972. Petty, Anne C. One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkiens Mythology. Mobile: Univ.

of Alabama Press, 1979 Ready, William. The Tolkien Relation. Chicago: Henry Regenery Co., 1968. Schlauch, Margaret. The Saga of the Volsungs. New York: W.W.

Norton & Co., 1978.


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