The one ring

The One Ring

A simple wedding band it appears to be, unadorned, round, plain. Its main inspiration was the wedding ring of Rick Porras. He was in love with its shape and recommended it to be the One Ring. Ever since then, it has been celebrated in many different ways, from jewelry to screensavers. Hell, I even have one dangling on a chain against a Tolkien calendar. It has penetrated into the mainstream consciousness. But with all of its popularity, it is one of the most complex items put on screen. How does one bring a normally inanimate object to life? How does one impress upon the viewer the power of this golden band?

The Ring’s character on screen

The creative team Sir Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens have managed it in a couple of ways. Cinematically it can be very difficult to portray something as cruel and so inanimate, as this Ring. The One Ring`s growing power as the story progresses is shown by simply augmenting it. The malice and effect it has were done with two connecting techniques.

One, the Ring spoke to a particular character in the voice of Sauron. Two, the Ring emanating sound design gave it a seriousness and a force with which one could reckon. When it overpowers and envelops a character into its seductive web, the surrounding sounds disappear. This brings the emotion and expression of the Ring to the foreground. The Ring stands alone, as a character of its own account. Since Sauron is incorporeal, this is the only way of depicting him as actually existent in the stories. The Eye is ever-present but only near enough in Return of the King.

Alongside sound design, the two main musical themes for the One Ring help describe it even further. The most well known musical theme from the entire trilogy is certainly the History of the Ring theme. It is thoroughly embedded in popular consciousness. Everyone can hum it. This theme is a reference to the long years passed since its coinage. The melody itself is one of sorrow, hardship, and pain.

The Seduction of the Ring theme is performed by a boys` chorus. Their clear young voices give out a sense of innocence and purity.

For me, however, the most interesting way the power of the Ring`s character comes through is the reactions of the characters coming in contact with it. That the Ring in itself is evil, is as clear as day. However, it does not influence everyone in the same way. This is what makes the One Ring a marvel. It appeals to an individual’s personal weakness, fear or wants, depending on the character and the view one adopts.

The carriers

The three main characters of the One Ring`s journey are Bilbo, Frodo, and Gollum. Interestingly all three Hobbits, with Gollum being an older version of one. As the Fellowship of the Ring begins, we see Isildur`s taking the Ring for himself, but not seeing much of his emotional process, since he is only a passing figure in the story. Gollum is also only a passer-by at this point. So, that leaves us with Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. I have touched upon it in my last post, but now it`s time to further explore this non-aging Hobbit`s own relationship with the One Ring.

I feel thin. Sort of stretched like butter scraped over too much bread.

Bilbo

This is the perfect metaphor for what the power of the Ring does. It prolonged Bilbo`s life, delayed old age, kept him younger than any other of his relatives. However, although he looks younger, he feels his age nonetheless.

The amazing resilience the Hobbits have to the Ring`s power has endured more than it would have with any other race. As other races would have used it to might and power the Ring possesses, a Hobbit simply takes it home and guards it. It comes then as no wonder that Gandalf specifically chose a Hobbit to participate in adventures.

The obsession for possession

He becomes obsessed, yes, but there is no greed and no desire for power, just a simple matter of keeping it for themselves. Nothing more. The thought of losing this Ring engulfs him with fear and terror. However, the possession of the Ring brings with it a need to hide and enjoy it in solitude. He does so unconsciously.

After reappearing in Bag End, after his little stunt at his own birthday party, he prepares to leave. As he does so, the Ring remains in his blazer pocket. He claims to be leaving the Ring to Frodo on an envelope on the mantelpiece, however, he finds it still safely tucked away in this blazer pocket. As he holds it in front of him, turning it, admiring it, his eyes widen, a wicked smile broadens his lips, and his teeth cringe at the thought of leaving it behind.

Bilbo:Why shouldn`t I keep it?”

Gandalf: “I think you should leave the Ring behind, Bilbo. Is that so hard?

Bilbo:Well, no. And yes. Now it comes to it, I don`t feel like parting with it. It`s mine, I found it, it came to me.

Gandalf:There`s no need to get angry.

Bilbo:If I`m angry it`s your fault! It`s mine, my own, my precious.

Gandalf:Precious? It`s been called that before but not by you.

Bilbo:What business is it of yours what I do with my own things?

Gandalf:I think you`ve had that Ring quite long enough.

Bilbo:You want it for yourself.

A very revealing conversation between Gandalf, the objective observer, and Bilbo, the Ring addict. Every addiction plays out the same, and this one is no different. As long as one has what one craves all is well in one`s world. The addiction slowly extrapolates oneself from the outer world, but the inner world remains intact. However, as one tries to leave the one thing that one is so drawn to, it becomes a struggle. This particular conversation is a case in point. Bilbo has only begun to slip into the addictive world of the Ring, for he finds the strength to leave it in Bag End, but some were not so fortunate.

This conversation is also a classic representation of one`s defense mechanism when one tells another to do something. One gets angry and fights back, it`s either fight or flight. In this particular situation, it could only lead to a fight, given the severity of the power of the Ring. Gandalf snaps him out of it by using fear, thereby bringing Bilbo into submission and understanding. Bilbo understands and even says the Ring must go to Frodo. However, he still takes it to his door on his way out. Gandalf reminds him of it again, and Bilbo reluctantly obeys and lets the Ring fall out of his hand and onto the floor.

The first glimpse into the Ring`s internal life is the thud we hear as it hits the floor. It wasn`t a light sound we heard, it was an unmistakable heavy sound. The sound design here was beautifully done, giving the Ring a different ring to what we are used to.

By letting the Ring fall, Bilbo lets his burden fall and seems to feel somewhat lighter as he steps out of his door. The fact that he thought of an ending for his book in that very moment, tells me that he already feels the relief and release of the hold the Ring had on him this whole time. Even more so, as he says „and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days“. This positive and fairly-tale notion he has is, in my opinion, a direct tell-tale sigh of alleviation.

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The account of Isildur

The Ring intrigues Gandalf as Bilbo leaves. As he comes nearer to it, the eye of Sauron flashes before him, in his mind`s eye or in front of his own it is not clear. The Ring is capable of muting one`s surroundings and presenting only what it wants the observer to see.

The way Gandalf looks at Frodo holding the Ring, suggests he could be glad of the Ring having no power over the Hobbit. It might also have something to do with the fact that Gandalf can still not believe that it is the One Ring, Frodo is holding, for it would have worked its magic on him. This is why he abruptly goes in search of answers. He has to be sure of his assumptions and draw conclusions accordingly. He visits the libraries of Minas Tirith to uncover the truth and finds what he was looking for.

The account of Isildur, referring to the Ring as something „precious“ to him. It also states that the Ring should be an heirloom of his kingdom, this, of course, has not happened. The account goes on to say of the pain it has caused Isildur as he kept it but also of the possessiveness it stirred in him, as he wants no harm to come to the Ring. It has also given instruction on how to read the fading markings on the Ring itself to reveal its true nature.

Gandalf’s inner struggle

As Gandalf gives the Ring to Frodo to read after he has taken it out of the fire, he is relieved as Frodo says he can`t see any markings on it. However, after a moment the markings appear and Gandalf`s expression changes from relief into worry and fear. The first time the Ring calls to Frodo as he utters Sauron`s name, it mutters something in Black Speech. It wants to be known. Sauron is still alive and his life-force resides within it.

As Frodo offers Gandalf the Ring and somewhat forces it upon him, Gandalf at first shies away from it. His voice starts to tremble and his eyes express that want and draw the Ring exudes. He is abrasive with Frodo when he says: „Don`t tempt me, Frodo.“

It is an inner struggle that Gandalf feels between what he himself might have desired and the right thing to do. Thankfully, the latter prevails. Naturally, Frodo forces the Ring on Gandalf because of Gollum`s tortured confession of where the Ring can be found. As the Ring has not yet taken hold of Frodo, his instinct to fight against anyone who would dare take it is non-existent. However, his desire to flee from it is very much alive.

It is very interesting that Professor Tolkien wrote three different stages of the Rings influence, and what it does to its bearer. It seems to go in reverse. Firstly, there is Gollum, a total Ring addict, influenced to the point of becoming a different creature, with no ties to his former life. Then we have Bilbo, whose possessive phase had only started. However, he rid himself of the Ring in time. Lastly, we have Frodo, an innocent Hobbit who at first tries to flee from it at all costs.

The influence of the Ring on Frodo will present itself in stages throughout the story. We can then see how the Ring has taken hold, not only of Frodo but of Bilbo and Gollum as well through Frodo`s transformation. Frodo can see in advance what the Ring is capable of doing through Bilbo and ultimately through Gollum.

What does one see when one puts this Ring on a finger? Why is its influence as powerful? The answers to these questions are in my next post.

Featured image by Pau Llopart Cervello on Pixabay

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