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Hall of Fire – The Power of the Ring

January 3, 2000 at 10:45 pm by Balin  - 

Here is a little something to stir the pot for our next Hall of Fire discussion.

The Power of the One Ring

The destruction of the Ring is a central plot theme in The Lord of the Rings. This most potent of talismans is the ultimate evil machine. A thing created to usurp the will and dominate the thought of all people in Middle Earth. What then can it do that makes it so powerful that inspires fear in Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel? In LOTR, the One ring is never invoked. The true central power for which it was designed is never used. Yet it is considered the most potent and dreadful artifact in the world of ME. We only get rumor of its actual power. Only its secondary and automatic powers are invoked. I will draw directly from the writings of JRR Tolkien for my descriptions and hope my interpretations will be sound. I invite everyone to find their own evidence for an accurate summary of the powers of the Ring.
We will begin by listing the known powers.
1. Long life
2. Invisibility
3. The powers of all the other rings
4. To enhance the native power of the wearer
5. Domination of the other rings
6. Inflame the lust of the wearer for power and for the Ring itself.
7. The domination of people.

Long Life
That the Ring gave long life has been established by the fact that Gollum possessed the Ring for some 500 years according to the “Tale of Years” in the appendices of LOTR. This in itself should be sufficient proof.

That both Bilbo and Gollum used this power is well documented throughout both The Hobbit and LOTR.

The Powers of all the Other Rings
In a letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien gives a great deal of information about the Rings of Power and the One Ring in particular. (The Letters of JRR Tolkien selected and edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 131) Tolkien states: “But secretly in the subterranean Fire, in his own Black Land, Sauron made One Ring, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others….” So it would seem that the One Ring could do whatever any of the other rings could do.

To Enhance the Native Power of the Wearer
In the same letter Tolkien says: “ The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. ‘change’ viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance – this is more or less an Elvish motive. But they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor…” This quote works only if you accept that the One Ring mirrored the powers of all the others.

Domination of the Other Rings
To continue the passage cited above: “… that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so the wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them.” This is at the heart of the power of the Ring. This will be touched on again later.

Enflame the Lust of the Wearer for Power and for the Ring Itself
The same letter states: “… thus approaching ‘magic’, a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination.” Later on the letter says: “Also so great was the Ring’s power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it. So he thought.” The Ring took care of itself by becoming an obsession. Even Sauron was not immune to this.

The Domination of People
In a letter to Rhona Beare (The Letters of JRR Tolkien selected and edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 211)Tolkien says: “ Sauron’s personal ‘surrender’ was voluntary and cunning: he got free transport to Numenor! He naturally had the One Ring, so very soon dominated the minds and wills of most of the Numenoreans.” The Ring could help dominate others. Now that could actually be part of enhancing existing power in the wearer but in reality the whole purpose of creating the One ring was for domination. Sauron wanted to dominate all of Middle Earth.

I have tried to give my views on the powers of the One Ring with some documentation. There is more but this is enough to begin our discussion. If you want to dispute my ramblings bring your documentation to Hall of Fire. If you have corroborating documentation bring that. If you feel the Ring has other powers bring your evidence to put before us in the Hall of Fire. If you can I suggest you read the Letters I quoted from. There is much more in them pertaining to the Ring and Tolkien’s views. This includes a statement about how Sauron maintained his power without the Ring and what would happen if another challenged him for mastery of the Ruling Ring.

Posted in Barliman News on January 3, 2000 by
Daggers of Tauriel

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