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The One Ring

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[[Image:John Howe - The One Ring.jpg|thumb|right|300px|The One Ring, by John Howe.]]{{quote|But they were all of them decived... For another ring was made... And into this ring [[Sauron|he]] poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.|[[Galadriel]], [[The Silmarillion]]}}
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| image=[[Image:John Howe - The One Ring.jpg|250px]]
The '''One Ring''', also known as the '''Ruling Ring''' or the '''Great Ring of Power''', is an artifact from [[J.R.R. Tolkien]]'s fictional [[Middle-earth]] universe. The Andvarinaut in the Volsunga saga is considered to have been the main inspiration. The story of the Quest to destroy the Ring is told in Tolkien's novel ''[[The Lord of the Rings]]'', as is most of the Ring's history.
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| name=The One Ring
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| othernames=The Ruling Ring, the Great Ring
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| derivation=
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| location=
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| ownedby=[[Sauron]], but several bore it: [[Isildur]], [[Gollum]], [[Frodo]], [[Sam Gamgee]]
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| maker=[[Sauron]]
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| appearance=Plain gold ring with [[Black Speech]] inscriptions made visible by heat
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| references=
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|}}
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The '''One Ring''', also known as the '''Ruling Ring''' and the '''Great Ring of Power''', was an artifact created by the [[Dark Lord]] [[Sauron]] in the [[Second Age]] for the purpose of ruling over the [[Free Peoples]] of [[Middle-earth]], especially the [[Elves]]. The story of the quest to destroy the Ring is told in ''[[The Lord of the Rings]]'', as is most of the Ring's history.
  
 
== History ==
 
== History ==
The One Ring was created by the Dark Lord [[Sauron]] during the [[Second Age]] in order to enlarge his own might by combining it with the power of the [[Elves|Elven]] Smiths, and thus to give him control over the other [[Rings of Power]], which had been made by [[Celebrimbor]] and his people with Sauron's influence. The One Ring was forged secretly in the fires of [[Mount Doom]]. His will was then inside a ring that could control the other rings. Thus, he was more powerful than ever before when he wore the Ring, but became much weaker when he lost it. Though it appeared to be made of simple gold, the Ring was virtually impervious to damage, and could only be destroyed by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic [[Mount Doom]] in which it had originally been forged. Unlike the lesser Rings, it bore no gem, but its identity could be determined by a simple (though little-known) test: when heated in a fire, it displayed in fiery [[Tengwar]] letters in the [[Black Speech]] of [[Mordor]] a section of poetry from part of its lore - the [[Ring-inscription]].
+
The One Ring was created by the Dark Lord [[Sauron]] during the [[Second Age]] in order to enlarge his own might by combining it with the power of the [[Elves|Elven]] smiths, and thus to give him control over the other [[Rings of Power]], which had been made by [[Celebrimbor]] and his people with Sauron's assistance. Sauron forged the One Ring secretly in the fires of [[Mount Doom]]. His will was then inside a Ring that could control the other Rings. Thus, he was more powerful than ever before when he wore the Ring, but became much weaker when he lost it. Though it appeared to be made of simple gold, the Ring was virtually impervious to damage, and could only be destroyed by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic [[Mount Doom]] in which it had originally been forged.
  
When a person wore the ring, he would be partly "shifted" out of the physical realm into the spiritual realm. There, if he managed to consciously subdue the Ring's will with his own, he could wield all the powers that Sauron had before he lost the ring; notably, he could control and enslave the will of others. A side effect (but usually the first effect noticed) of the Ring was that it made the wearer invisible to physical beings like living [[Men]] but highly visible to spiritual beings like the [[Nazgûl]], dimmed the wearer's sight, and sharpened his hearing. This "shadow world" was the world the Wraiths were forced to live in always, but it was also a world in which the [[Calaquendi]] (Elves of Light) held great power: therefore [[Glorfindel]] was able to stay the [[Witch-king of Angmar|Witch-king]] at the [[Battle of Fornost]] and later again at the ford of [[Bruinen]] at [[Rivendell]].
+
After its original forging, the Ring was cut from Sauron's hand by [[Isildur]], who lost it in the River [[Gladden]] just before he was killed in [[Third Age 2]]. The Ring remained hidden in the riverbed for almost two millennia, until it was discovered on a fishing trip by a [[Stoors|Stoor]] named [[Déagol]]. He was murdered by his cousin [[Sméagol]], who stole the Ring, and was changed by the Ring's influence over many ages into the creature known as [[Gollum]]. The Ring, which Sauron had endowed with a will of its own, manipulated Gollum into settling in the [[Misty Mountains]] near [[Mirkwood]], where Sauron was beginning to resurface. There he and it remained for nearly five hundred years, until the Ring tired of him and fell off his finger as he was returning from killing an [[Orcs|Orc]].
[[Image:Roger Thomasson - The One Ring.jpg|thumb|left|''The One Ring'' by [[Roger Thomasson]].]]
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The enigmatic [[Tom Bombadil]] was unaffected by the Ring, or rather, the Ring had no effect on him. This may be explained in many ways. (See the [[Tom Bombadil|article on Tom Bombadil]], which includes some theories.)
+
  
In [[Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings]], the wearer of the Ring is always portrayed as moving to a shadowy realm where everything is distorted. Neither [[Bilbo Baggins]] nor [[Frodo Baggins]] ever mentioned anything about this while using the Ring, but when Sam puts on the Ring at the end of ''[[The Two Towers]]'' he does experience something similar to this. This is the only time that this is mentioned in the books and could be attributed to Sauron's power increasing, and because Sam is within the borders of Mordor at the time he uses the Ring. Sam never wore the Ring in Jackson's movie.
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As is told in ''[[The Hobbit]]'', Bilbo found the Ring while he was lost in the caverns of the Misty Mountains, near Gollum's lair. After losing the [[Riddle-game]] to Bilbo, Gollum went to get his "[[Precious]]" (as he always called it) so he could kill and eat him, but flew into a rage when he found it missing. Deducing that Bilbo had it from his last riddle—"What have I got in my pocket?"—Gollum chased him through the caves, not knowing that the Hobbit had discovered the Ring's powers of invisibility and was following him to the cave's exit. Bilbo escaped Gollum and the Orcs who inhabited the Misty Mountains by remaining invisible, but left that part out of the story he told the [[Dwarves]] he was traveling with. Gandalf, who was also traveling with the Dwarves, later forced the real story out of Bilbo, and was immediately suspicious of the Ring's powers.  
  
Part of the nature of the Ring is that it slowly but inevitably corrupted its wearer, regardless of any intentions to the contrary. Whether this was specifically designed into the Ring's magic or is simply an artifact of its evil origins is unknown. (Sauron might be expected to endow his One Ring with such a property, but he probably never intended anyone besides himself to wear it.) For this reason the Wise, including [[Gandalf]], [[Elrond]] and [[Galadriel]], refuse to wield it in their own defence, but instead determine that it must be destroyed. It appears that hobbits, being more pure of heart than Men, and far less powerful than Elves are the ideal vessels to resist its seductive power, this explains why Frodo and Bilbo bore it for long periods of time with very little ill effect, although Gollum, who bore it for over 500 years was warped out of recognition.
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Gollum, meanwhile, eventually left the Misty Mountains to track down and reclaim the Ring. He wandered for decades, only to be captured and interrogated by Sauron himself, to whom he revealed the existence of Bilbo and the Shire.  
  
After its original forging, the Ring was cut from Sauron's hand by [[Isildur]], who lost it in the River [[Gladden]] just before he was killed in [[Third Age 2]]. The Ring remained hidden in the river bed for almost two millennia, until it was discovered on a fishing trip by a [[Stoors|Stoor]] [[Hobbit]] named [[Déagol]]. He was murdered by his cousin [[Sméagol]], who stole the Ring, and was changed by the Ring's influence over many ages into the creature known as [[Gollum]]. The Ring, which Sauron had endowed with a will of its own, manipulated Gollum into settling in the [[Misty Mountains]] near [[Mirkwood]], where Sauron was beginning to resurface. There he and it remained for nearly five hundred years, until the Ring tired of him and fell off his finger as he was returning from killing an [[Orcs|Orc]]. 
+
In 3001 of the [[Third Age]], following Gandalf's counsel, Bilbo gave the Ring to his nephew and adopted heir [[Frodo Baggins|Frodo]]. This first willing sacrifice of the Ring in its history sparked the chain of events which eventually led to its unmaking.
 
+
As is told in ''[[The Hobbit]]'', Bilbo found the Ring while he was lost in the caverns of the Misty Mountains, near Gollum's lair. (When ''The Hobbit'' was written Tolkien had not yet conceived of the Ring's sinister back-story.) After losing the [[Riddle-game]] to Bilbo, Gollum went to get his "[[Precious]]" (as he always called it) so he could kill and eat him, but flew into a rage when he found it missing. Deducing that Bilbo had it from his last riddle—"What have I got in my pocket?"—Gollum chased him through the caves, not knowing that the Hobbit had discovered the Ring's powers of invisibility and was following him to the cave's exit. Bilbo escaped Gollum and the Orcs who inhabited the Misty Mountains by remaining invisible, but left that power out of the story he told the [[Dwarves]] he was traveling with. Gandalf, who was also traveling with the Dwarves, later forced the real story out of Bilbo, and was immediately suspicious of the Ring's powers.
+
 
+
Gollum, meanwhile, eventually left the Misty Mountains to track down and reclaim the Ring. He wandered for decades, to be captured and interrogated by Sauron himself, to whom he revealed the existance of Bilbo and the Shire. 
+
 
+
In 3001 of the [[Third Age]], following Gandalf's counsel, Bilbo gave the Ring to his nephew and adopted heir [[Frodo Baggins|Frodo]]. This first willing sacrifice of the Ring in its history sparks the chain of events which eventually lead to its unmaking. It is one example of the frequent interplay between apparent chance and destiny, an ubiquitous theme in ''The Lord of the Rings''.  
+
  
 
By this time Sauron had begun to regain his power, and the [[Barad-dûr|Dark Tower]] in Mordor had been rebuilt. In order to prevent the recapture of the Ring, Frodo and eight other [[Fellowship of the Ring|companions]] set out from [[Rivendell]] for Mordor in an attempt to destroy the Ring in the fires of [[Mount Doom]]. During the quest, Frodo gradually became more and more susceptible to the Ring's power, and feared that it was going to corrupt him. When he and Sam discovered that Gollum was on their trail and "tamed" him into guiding them to Mordor, he began to feel a strange bond with the wretched, treacherous creature, seeing a possible future of himself that he felt he had to save in order to save himself. Gollum gave in to the Ring's temptation, however, and betrayed them to the spider [[Shelob]]. Believing Frodo to be dead, Sam bore the Ring himself for a short time, and glimpsed its power, although he never gave in to it.  
 
By this time Sauron had begun to regain his power, and the [[Barad-dûr|Dark Tower]] in Mordor had been rebuilt. In order to prevent the recapture of the Ring, Frodo and eight other [[Fellowship of the Ring|companions]] set out from [[Rivendell]] for Mordor in an attempt to destroy the Ring in the fires of [[Mount Doom]]. During the quest, Frodo gradually became more and more susceptible to the Ring's power, and feared that it was going to corrupt him. When he and Sam discovered that Gollum was on their trail and "tamed" him into guiding them to Mordor, he began to feel a strange bond with the wretched, treacherous creature, seeing a possible future of himself that he felt he had to save in order to save himself. Gollum gave in to the Ring's temptation, however, and betrayed them to the spider [[Shelob]]. Believing Frodo to be dead, Sam bore the Ring himself for a short time, and glimpsed its power, although he never gave in to it.  
  
Sam rescued Frodo from a band of Orcs at the Tower of [[Cirith Ungol]] and returned the Ring to him, but feared that the toll it was taking was too great. It nearly was: although Frodo and Sam, followed by Gollum, eventually arrived at Mount Doom, Frodo decided
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Sam rescued Frodo from a band of Orcs at the Tower of [[Cirith Ungol]] and returned the Ring to him, but feared that the toll it was taking was too great. It nearly was: although Frodo and Sam, followed by Gollum, eventually arrived at Mount Doom, Frodo decided to keep the Ring for himself rather than destroy it, evincing its corruptive nature. However, he was attacked by Gollum, who bit off the finger holding the Ring before falling into the fires of Mount Doom, finally destroying the Ring, and Sauron with it.
to keep the Ring for himself rather than destroy it, evincing its corruptive nature. However, he was attacked by Gollum, who bit off the finger holding the Ring before falling into the fires of Mount Doom, finally destroying the Ring, and Sauron with it.
+
  
 
== Appearance ==
 
== Appearance ==
 
+
Physically the Ring resembled a geometrically perfect circle of pure gold, this perfection and purity being part of its allure. Unlike the lesser Rings, it bore no gem. It seems to have been able to expand and contract, in order to fit its wearer's finger or slip from it treacherously. Its identity could be determined by a simple (though little-known) test: when heated in fire, the following inscription in Elvish [[Tengwar]] letters of the Black Speech of Mordor would appear on the Ring, a section of poetry from part of its lore:
Physically the Ring resembled a geometrically perfect circle of pure gold, this perfection and purity being part of its allure. It seems to have been able to expand and contract, in order to fit its wearer's finger or slip from it treacherously. In [[Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring]], the Ring can be seen contracting to fit [[Isildur]]'s finger. When heated in fire, the Ring would bear the following inscription in Elvish ([[Fëanor]]ian) [[Tengwar]] letters in the Black Speech of Mordor:
+
  
 
:''Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,''
 
:''Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,''
 
:''ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.''
 
:''ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.''
  
These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the [[Rings of Power]] (see entry):
+
These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the [[Rings of Power]]:
  
 
:''One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,''
 
:''One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,''
 
:''One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.''
 
:''One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.''
  
== Symbolism of the One Ring ==
+
==Effects==
 +
[[Image:Roger Thomasson - The One Ring.jpg|thumb|left|''The One Ring'' by [[Roger Thomasson]].]]When a person wore the Ring, he would be partly "shifted" out of the physical realm into the spiritual realm. There, if he managed to consciously subdue the Ring's will with his own, he could theoretically wield all the powers that Sauron had before he lost the Ring; notably, he could control and enslave the will of others. A side effect (but usually the first effect noticed) of the Ring was that it made the wearer invisible to physical beings like living [[Men]] (but highly visible to spiritual beings like the [[Nazgûl]]), dimmed the wearer's sight, and sharpened his hearing. This "shadow world" was the world the Wraiths were forced to live in always, but it was also a world in which the [[Calaquendi]] (Elves of Light) held great power: therefore [[Glorfindel]] was able to stay the [[Witch-king of Angmar|Witch-king]] at the [[Battle of Fornost]] and later again at the Ford of [[Bruinen]] at [[Rivendell]].
  
 +
Part of the nature of the Ring was that it slowly but inevitably corrupted its wearer, regardless of any intentions to the contrary. Whether this was specifically designed into the Ring's magic or is simply an artifact of its evil origins is unknown. (Sauron might be expected to endow his One Ring with such a property, but he probably never intended anyone besides himself to wear it.) For this reason the Wise, including [[Gandalf]], [[Elrond]] and [[Galadriel]], refused to wield it in their own defence, but instead determined that it must be destroyed. It appears that Hobbits, being more pure of heart than Men, and far less powerful than Elves, were the ideal vessels to resist its seductive power; this explains why Frodo and Bilbo bore it for long periods of time with very little ill effect. Even Gollum had not turned into a Wraith after 500 years of bearing the Ring.
 +
 +
The enigmatic [[Tom Bombadil]] was unaffected by the Ring, or rather, the Ring had no effect on him. This may be explained in many ways. (See the [[Tom Bombadil|article on Tom Bombadil]], which includes some theories.)
 +
 +
==Inspiration and Symbolism==
 
Although Tolkien always strongly held that his works should not be seen as a metaphor for anything, and especially not for the political events of his time (for instance WWII or the Cold War; note that much of ''The Lord of the Rings'' was written prior to and during World War II and well before the Cold War), many people have felt an urge to see the One Ring as a symbol or metaphor for various things. Among them are atomic energy and the atomic bomb, which would both be anachronistic, as the Ring was invented in the late 1930s, and the atom bomb did not become public knowledge until 1945. Other possible interpretations are that the ring represents the urge for power, which in Tolkien's view is always corrupting.  
 
Although Tolkien always strongly held that his works should not be seen as a metaphor for anything, and especially not for the political events of his time (for instance WWII or the Cold War; note that much of ''The Lord of the Rings'' was written prior to and during World War II and well before the Cold War), many people have felt an urge to see the One Ring as a symbol or metaphor for various things. Among them are atomic energy and the atomic bomb, which would both be anachronistic, as the Ring was invented in the late 1930s, and the atom bomb did not become public knowledge until 1945. Other possible interpretations are that the ring represents the urge for power, which in Tolkien's view is always corrupting.  
  
A recent interpretation by Danish author [[Peter Kjaerulff]] is that the Ring symbolises ''The Cursed Ring'', a device described by both Plato in his ''Republic'' (the Ring of Gyges), and in Richard Wagner's ''Ring'' operas, besides Tolkien.  Although Tolkien denied any connection, it is certainly possible that the One Ring was inspired by the central artifact of Wagner's ''Der Ring des Nibelungen'' (''The Ring of the Nibelung''), without being meant to "symbolise" it. See also andvarinaut.
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A recent interpretation by Danish author [[Peter Kjaerulff]] is that the Ring symbolises ''The Cursed Ring'', a device described by both Plato in his ''Republic'' (the Ring of Gyges), and in Richard Wagner's ''Ring'' operas, besides Tolkien.  Although Tolkien denied any connection, it is certainly possible that the One Ring was inspired by the central artifact of Wagner's ''Der Ring des Nibelungen'' (''The Ring of the Nibelung''), without being meant to "symbolise" it.
  
 
The quest to destroy the One Ring is unusual in both folklore and literary epics.  Quests to regain a treasure are common in folklore and literature.  Tolkien described such a quest in ''The Hobbit'' to recover the treasure stolen from the [[Dwarves]] by the dragon [[Smaug]].  Quests to destroy a treasure are seldom the theme of folklore or literature.   
 
The quest to destroy the One Ring is unusual in both folklore and literary epics.  Quests to regain a treasure are common in folklore and literature.  Tolkien described such a quest in ''The Hobbit'' to recover the treasure stolen from the [[Dwarves]] by the dragon [[Smaug]].  Quests to destroy a treasure are seldom the theme of folklore or literature.   
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A different way to look at this question is to ask what gives the idea of the Ring its power as a story element, without considering whether it was intended as a symbol for any one thing.  The notion of a power too great for humans to wield safely is an evocative one, and already in the 1930s there were plenty of technologies available to make people think of that idea.  The lure and effect of the Ring and its physical and spiritual after-effects on Bilbo and Frodo are obsessions that can be compared with drug addiction, for which the Ring serves as a powerful metaphor.
 
A different way to look at this question is to ask what gives the idea of the Ring its power as a story element, without considering whether it was intended as a symbol for any one thing.  The notion of a power too great for humans to wield safely is an evocative one, and already in the 1930s there were plenty of technologies available to make people think of that idea.  The lure and effect of the Ring and its physical and spiritual after-effects on Bilbo and Frodo are obsessions that can be compared with drug addiction, for which the Ring serves as a powerful metaphor.
  
== List of times the One ring worn in Lord of the Rings ==
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==Portrayal in Adaptations==
 
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In [[Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings]], the wearer of the Ring is always portrayed as moving to a shadowy realm where everything is distorted. Neither [[Bilbo Baggins]] nor [[Frodo Baggins]] ever mentioned anything about this while using the Ring, but when Sam puts on the Ring at the end of ''[[The Two Towers]]'' he does experience something similar to this. This is the only time that this is mentioned in the books and could be attributed to Sauron's power increasing, and because Sam is within the borders of Mordor at the time he uses the Ring. Sam never wore the Ring in Jackson's movie.
The One Ring was tried on by several people, at different points in the book:
+
  
*Merry tells the story of Bilbo using the ring to escape being seen by the Sackville-Bagginses (not shown in the movie)
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==See also==
*By Bilbo after his speech at his 111th birthday party.
+
* [[Gwaith-i-Mírdain]]
*Tom Bombadil puts on the ring but it has no effect on him. (not shown in the movie)
+
* [[Annatar]]
*Frodo tries on the ring shortly after this to see if it still works, yet Tom Bombadil can still see him. (not shown in the movie)
+
* [[Orodruin]]
*Frodo accidentally puts the ring on at Bree, tripping after he was singing a song at the Inn
+
* [[Celebrimbor]]
*Frodo puts on the ring at Weathertop, when they are attacked by the Nazgul.
+
* [[Rings of Power]]
*Frodo uses the ring to escape Boromir, at the Emyn Muil mountains.
+
* [[War of the Elves and Sauron]]
*He uses it a second time shortly afterwards to take one of the boats and row across the river. Yet this is still noticed by Sam.
+
* [[Battle of the Gladden Fields]]
*Sam puts the ring on to stay hidden from an orc company at Cirith Ungol.
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* [[Gollum]]
*Frodo puts on the ring at the crack of doom, when it is bitten off his finger by Gollum
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* ''[[The Hobbit]]''
 +
* ''[[The Lord of the Rings]]''
  
 
[[Category:Rings and Jewels]]
 
[[Category:Rings and Jewels]]

Revision as of 09:22, 12 December 2007

250px
The One Ring
Other namesThe Ruling Ring, the Great Ring
Owned bySauron, but several bore it: Isildur, Gollum, Frodo, Sam Gamgee
MakerSauron
AppearancePlain gold ring with Black Speech inscriptions made visible by heat

The One Ring, also known as the Ruling Ring and the Great Ring of Power, was an artifact created by the Dark Lord Sauron in the Second Age for the purpose of ruling over the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, especially the Elves. The story of the quest to destroy the Ring is told in The Lord of the Rings, as is most of the Ring's history.

Contents

History

The One Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron during the Second Age in order to enlarge his own might by combining it with the power of the Elven smiths, and thus to give him control over the other Rings of Power, which had been made by Celebrimbor and his people with Sauron's assistance. Sauron forged the One Ring secretly in the fires of Mount Doom. His will was then inside a Ring that could control the other Rings. Thus, he was more powerful than ever before when he wore the Ring, but became much weaker when he lost it. Though it appeared to be made of simple gold, the Ring was virtually impervious to damage, and could only be destroyed by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic Mount Doom in which it had originally been forged.

After its original forging, the Ring was cut from Sauron's hand by Isildur, who lost it in the River Gladden just before he was killed in Third Age 2. The Ring remained hidden in the riverbed for almost two millennia, until it was discovered on a fishing trip by a Stoor named Déagol. He was murdered by his cousin Sméagol, who stole the Ring, and was changed by the Ring's influence over many ages into the creature known as Gollum. The Ring, which Sauron had endowed with a will of its own, manipulated Gollum into settling in the Misty Mountains near Mirkwood, where Sauron was beginning to resurface. There he and it remained for nearly five hundred years, until the Ring tired of him and fell off his finger as he was returning from killing an Orc.

As is told in The Hobbit, Bilbo found the Ring while he was lost in the caverns of the Misty Mountains, near Gollum's lair. After losing the Riddle-game to Bilbo, Gollum went to get his "Precious" (as he always called it) so he could kill and eat him, but flew into a rage when he found it missing. Deducing that Bilbo had it from his last riddle—"What have I got in my pocket?"—Gollum chased him through the caves, not knowing that the Hobbit had discovered the Ring's powers of invisibility and was following him to the cave's exit. Bilbo escaped Gollum and the Orcs who inhabited the Misty Mountains by remaining invisible, but left that part out of the story he told the Dwarves he was traveling with. Gandalf, who was also traveling with the Dwarves, later forced the real story out of Bilbo, and was immediately suspicious of the Ring's powers.

Gollum, meanwhile, eventually left the Misty Mountains to track down and reclaim the Ring. He wandered for decades, only to be captured and interrogated by Sauron himself, to whom he revealed the existence of Bilbo and the Shire.

In 3001 of the Third Age, following Gandalf's counsel, Bilbo gave the Ring to his nephew and adopted heir Frodo. This first willing sacrifice of the Ring in its history sparked the chain of events which eventually led to its unmaking.

By this time Sauron had begun to regain his power, and the Dark Tower in Mordor had been rebuilt. In order to prevent the recapture of the Ring, Frodo and eight other companions set out from Rivendell for Mordor in an attempt to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. During the quest, Frodo gradually became more and more susceptible to the Ring's power, and feared that it was going to corrupt him. When he and Sam discovered that Gollum was on their trail and "tamed" him into guiding them to Mordor, he began to feel a strange bond with the wretched, treacherous creature, seeing a possible future of himself that he felt he had to save in order to save himself. Gollum gave in to the Ring's temptation, however, and betrayed them to the spider Shelob. Believing Frodo to be dead, Sam bore the Ring himself for a short time, and glimpsed its power, although he never gave in to it.

Sam rescued Frodo from a band of Orcs at the Tower of Cirith Ungol and returned the Ring to him, but feared that the toll it was taking was too great. It nearly was: although Frodo and Sam, followed by Gollum, eventually arrived at Mount Doom, Frodo decided to keep the Ring for himself rather than destroy it, evincing its corruptive nature. However, he was attacked by Gollum, who bit off the finger holding the Ring before falling into the fires of Mount Doom, finally destroying the Ring, and Sauron with it.

Appearance

Physically the Ring resembled a geometrically perfect circle of pure gold, this perfection and purity being part of its allure. Unlike the lesser Rings, it bore no gem. It seems to have been able to expand and contract, in order to fit its wearer's finger or slip from it treacherously. Its identity could be determined by a simple (though little-known) test: when heated in fire, the following inscription in Elvish Tengwar letters of the Black Speech of Mordor would appear on the Ring, a section of poetry from part of its lore:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the Rings of Power:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Effects

The One Ring by Roger Thomasson.
When a person wore the Ring, he would be partly "shifted" out of the physical realm into the spiritual realm. There, if he managed to consciously subdue the Ring's will with his own, he could theoretically wield all the powers that Sauron had before he lost the Ring; notably, he could control and enslave the will of others. A side effect (but usually the first effect noticed) of the Ring was that it made the wearer invisible to physical beings like living Men (but highly visible to spiritual beings like the Nazgûl), dimmed the wearer's sight, and sharpened his hearing. This "shadow world" was the world the Wraiths were forced to live in always, but it was also a world in which the Calaquendi (Elves of Light) held great power: therefore Glorfindel was able to stay the Witch-king at the Battle of Fornost and later again at the Ford of Bruinen at Rivendell.

Part of the nature of the Ring was that it slowly but inevitably corrupted its wearer, regardless of any intentions to the contrary. Whether this was specifically designed into the Ring's magic or is simply an artifact of its evil origins is unknown. (Sauron might be expected to endow his One Ring with such a property, but he probably never intended anyone besides himself to wear it.) For this reason the Wise, including Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel, refused to wield it in their own defence, but instead determined that it must be destroyed. It appears that Hobbits, being more pure of heart than Men, and far less powerful than Elves, were the ideal vessels to resist its seductive power; this explains why Frodo and Bilbo bore it for long periods of time with very little ill effect. Even Gollum had not turned into a Wraith after 500 years of bearing the Ring.

The enigmatic Tom Bombadil was unaffected by the Ring, or rather, the Ring had no effect on him. This may be explained in many ways. (See the article on Tom Bombadil, which includes some theories.)

Inspiration and Symbolism

Although Tolkien always strongly held that his works should not be seen as a metaphor for anything, and especially not for the political events of his time (for instance WWII or the Cold War; note that much of The Lord of the Rings was written prior to and during World War II and well before the Cold War), many people have felt an urge to see the One Ring as a symbol or metaphor for various things. Among them are atomic energy and the atomic bomb, which would both be anachronistic, as the Ring was invented in the late 1930s, and the atom bomb did not become public knowledge until 1945. Other possible interpretations are that the ring represents the urge for power, which in Tolkien's view is always corrupting.

A recent interpretation by Danish author Peter Kjaerulff is that the Ring symbolises The Cursed Ring, a device described by both Plato in his Republic (the Ring of Gyges), and in Richard Wagner's Ring operas, besides Tolkien. Although Tolkien denied any connection, it is certainly possible that the One Ring was inspired by the central artifact of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), without being meant to "symbolise" it.

The quest to destroy the One Ring is unusual in both folklore and literary epics. Quests to regain a treasure are common in folklore and literature. Tolkien described such a quest in The Hobbit to recover the treasure stolen from the Dwarves by the dragon Smaug. Quests to destroy a treasure are seldom the theme of folklore or literature.

A different way to look at this question is to ask what gives the idea of the Ring its power as a story element, without considering whether it was intended as a symbol for any one thing. The notion of a power too great for humans to wield safely is an evocative one, and already in the 1930s there were plenty of technologies available to make people think of that idea. The lure and effect of the Ring and its physical and spiritual after-effects on Bilbo and Frodo are obsessions that can be compared with drug addiction, for which the Ring serves as a powerful metaphor.

Portrayal in Adaptations

In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, the wearer of the Ring is always portrayed as moving to a shadowy realm where everything is distorted. Neither Bilbo Baggins nor Frodo Baggins ever mentioned anything about this while using the Ring, but when Sam puts on the Ring at the end of The Two Towers he does experience something similar to this. This is the only time that this is mentioned in the books and could be attributed to Sauron's power increasing, and because Sam is within the borders of Mordor at the time he uses the Ring. Sam never wore the Ring in Jackson's movie.

See also