The Power of the Ring

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Feliath Dunami 16/Dec/2006 at 05:26 PM
Soldier of Dale Points: 4192 Posts: 4616 Joined: 13/Dec/2005
“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the dark power that rules the Rings.”

-FOTR, The Shadow of the Past, pg 46


This quote from FOTR will be the focus of my discussion. For some time, I have been wondering whether there exists any hypothesis for precisely how the Ring causes the wearer to “fade” and in the end become invisible permanently. Yes, I know that the “dark power” of Sauron does it through the ring, but what is the actual process? What does that power in reality do to the bearer of the ring?

Recently, having finished reading a treatise by Thomas Aquinas on the subject of the relationship between the soul and the body, a possible explanation became clear to me. This hypothesis requires a pre-belief in the existence of a soul in man, thus to those who believe that man has no soul, this argument will be of little value.

For clarity, I want to explain a little of how Aquinas described the relationship between the soul, and the body. Aquinas held that the soul is an intelligent substance- it has various powers that it communicates through the body. The body is vital to the existence of the soul in a corporeal world because the soul is spiritual- it cannot project its powers in a physical world without the use of some corporeal instrument, which is the body.

Now, to relate this to the issue of how the power of the Ring (and ultimately Sauron) gains control of the one who bears it, I would say that the Ring had the power to insert its force between that of the soul of the one who wore it and their body, and caused the wearer to move into a plane of existence between the physical and the spiritual. At first, the bearer could remove this power simply by taking off the Ring. However, a tiny fragment could have remained behind, placed between the soul and the body, and over many years, many times of wearing the Ring, these small bits of power would have grown and caused the wearer to permanently become affixed in that mid-plane of existence. This explains more on a metaphysical level WHY Bilbo, Frodo, and Gollum all became increasingly reluctant to give up the Ring once it had inserted itself between their body and soul.

To support this idea of a third plane, other than spiritual and physical, I would like to bring up Aragorn’s description of the Black Riders in FOTR:

“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys; and in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from use: then they are most to be feared…. Senses, too, there are other than sight or smell. We can feel their presence- it troubled our hearts, as soon as we came here, and before we saw them; they feel ours more keenly.”

-     FOTR, A Knife in the Dark


The riders could see “shadows” of physical things within their minds- they feel the presence of physical beings more keenly than do men because of their half physical/half spiritual existence. Remember, a soul- completely spiritual- , according to Aquinas is incapable of projecting its power in the physical world without a body. Yet the Riders were able to use a sword, ride, etc. IN THE PHYSICAL world. And yet, some of their senses, such as normal sight, were lost. Why? Because of their existence between the physical and spiritual.

I would be interested to learn the views of others on this subject. But remember, I am hypothesizing the actual process by which the Ring gains power over a mortal, not the mere fact that it does indeed to do so.
Feliath Dunami 16/Dec/2006 at 05:33 PM
Soldier of Dale Points: 4192 Posts: 4616 Joined: 13/Dec/2005
Oh, I put it here in the P&R forum because it relates to people... if its in the wrong place, feel free to move it R/A’s.
Feliath Dunami 17/Dec/2006 at 07:26 PM
Soldier of Dale Points: 4192 Posts: 4616 Joined: 13/Dec/2005
*sigh* No interest i guess...
KingODuckingham 17/Dec/2006 at 09:30 PM
Grey Counsellor of Isengard Points: 15053 Posts: 15390 Joined: 27/Aug/2006
A very interesting thing to discuss, I think. I suppose the first thing I would want to mention is that the only reason any of this insertion would happen is because of the One Ring, ultimately. I don’t think the Three have any problems as far as that is concerned--Galadriel, Gandalf, and Elrond were not being corrupted. I guess what really interests me is the influence of the Nine and the Seven and how they worked. The One is a special case because of Sauron binding his power and essence into it--I have a fairly good idea of how that might work. To use your insertion language, what would be happening with the One (and I use Gollum as point-in-case) is that as the Ring grabs hold, it is doing so almost literally. The essence of Sauron (presumably spiritual) is almost like a virus, forcing out and aside the original personality. Thus the eventual situation of someone like Smeagol, with a remnant of his old personality, but with the majority corrupted by the Sauron essence. Mind, I am not saying Sauron himself--just his spiritual essence. Gollum hates the Dark Lord and will do anything to prevent him from getting the Ring, but the personality, the spirit, of the Dark Lord is in fact what is ruling him, not his own old will.

The question is how to relate this to the Nine and the Seven (assuming you accept my above reasoning). Sauron’s power and essence did not go into those rings as it did to the One, but perhaps the power of the One created some sort of link that allows the same sort of channeling, diluted, through to those rings? So that, effectually, the same sort of results will come as if the bearer had the One, but the process would take longer? More thoughts later.
Feliath Dunami 18/Dec/2006 at 04:40 AM
Soldier of Dale Points: 4192 Posts: 4616 Joined: 13/Dec/2005
King- I was intending to limit my observations to the One Ring, since, obviously (as you said) the Three did not corrupt their owners. And you would probably agree that this is because they were not bound with an evil power.

The Nine and the Seven- Remember one of the purposes of the One Ring: To control the other rings that the elves had made. The reason that he could not control the Three was because Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf did not continue to hold these rings for the purpose of exerting their power over anyone: there were no evil desires in any of them as regards their rings. However, the Nine, which of course were given to men who desired power (what man doesn’t anyway ) and this desire for power overshadowed the need to put away their rings because of the Ring of Sauron. Thus, Sauron must have been able to project his power through the One into the Nine because their bearers had succumbed to evil desires. This of course would end up having the same effect on those who wore the Nine as to him who wore the One- but of course, like you said, to a lesser degree.
Harlondir Helcaraxë 18/Dec/2006 at 04:51 AM
Fletcher of Lothlorien Points: 1439 Posts: 742 Joined: 26/Oct/2006

Scrooge: Thanks for giving such a good topic to discuss. Your insertion theory is rather interesting. The thing I want to discuss is the fact that this theory doesn’t mention the Ring actually affecting the soul.

A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life
(The Shadow of the Past)

The "does not grow" applies to the physical or rather, as you put it, the metaphysical state; but the "obtain more life" part definitely, if you ask me, applies to the soul, and it seems to indicate that the soul is indeed affected by the Ring.
This is the main difference I found between your statement and what KOD said:
The essence of Sauron (presumably spiritual) is almost like a virus, forcing out and aside the original personality. And remember, the Ring does not affect the Ringbearer in the same way as it affects the Nazgul: they are under indirect control of it through their individual Rings, while the Ringbearer is in direct contact and under direct control of the Ring.

I have a question: Why only mortal ? Couldn’t all this happen to an immortal of weak will ?