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Magradhaid 31/Dec/2006 at 06:13 PM
Imp of Umbar Points: 7957 Posts: 8204 Joined: 13/Sep/2008

Forgive me if this topic has already been breached, but I searched the Archives and found no trace of it. In the "ancient leit-motif" of the Lord of the Rings (i.e. the Ring-verse), there are a few semantic points I want to either clarify or query.

First of all, there is the line "In the
land of Mordor where the Shadows lie." This line is ambiguous, but I take the capitalization of "Shadows" to be crucial. This is not covered in the Reader’s Companion (but in my opinion it should be); in the famous letter #131, Tolkien wrote "The Dark Lord is no longer on his throne, but his monsters are not wholly destroyed, and his dreadful servants, slaves of the Ring, endure as shadows among the shadows." [emphasis mine] Elsewhere "the Shadow" is used for Sauron, but here I take the plural to mean animate embodiments of Shadow, i.e. the Nazgűl.

On another note, in the verse it reads "find them... bind them" etc. Do you take "them" to mean the other Rings of Power, or those who wore them? This clarification in connotation is essential if I were to translate the leit-motif into another language, i.e. Quenya.


Oin 01/Jan/2007 at 01:25 AM
Architect of Erebor Points: 11372 Posts: 8807 Joined: 14/Feb/2004

Tyrhael: First of all, in Letter #131 when they repeat the first part of the Ring-verse, shadows is not capitalized. I think that the reason for capitalization of Shadows is a clear reference to Sauron, but I cannot understand why a plural word is capitalized. As Gandalf points out, there is only one Lord of the Ring. I do not think it can possibly refer to the Nazgul, since they are the Nine Mortal Men, and only the Dark Lord is mentioned in the rhyme as living in Mordor.

As for the other part of your question, I think it is clear that "them" refers to the Rings of Power: for it is the Rings that are the subjects of each of the first 4 lines of the leit-motif: Three Rings, Seven Rings, Nine Rings, One Ring - the One Ring to rule them all. Moreover:

"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, and controlled them, so that its 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." (Letter #131)

The domination of the lesser ring-bearers is more the effect of ruling and binding the rings - one must find and bind the Ring before it can dominate the user, not the other way around. Hope that helps somewhat.

Túrin 01/Jan/2007 at 11:30 AM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003

If I may offer a suggestion in regards to the "Shadows" - in my looking into the Origins of Orcs I encountered an issue regarding "Shadow", "Darkness" and the like as spoken by Treebeard.  By looking at what was going on in Middle-earth, it appeared that Treebeard was using these terms in regards to the Dark Lords.  Not necessarily the Dark Lords themselves, but their influence or the spread of their evil.

That could be what "Shadows" is getting at - not Sauron in specific but the fact that Mordor is his traditional land, the one that he uses as his base of operations and make his quest for world domination.  Sure, he’ll lay low elsewhere, but Mordor is his true home, he’ll first go there before presenting a threat to the whole of Middle-earth.

WyteWolf 01/Jan/2007 at 02:43 PM
Gardener of Lothlorien Points: 265 Posts: 37 Joined: 01/Jan/2007

Let me try to adress your post one questions one at a time: first I believe the: first I believe it used "In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie." is used more for the poetic stanzas remembering that Tolkien is a classically trained writer. second: the Shadow refers to Sauron however the Shadows isprobably referring to the Nazgul.and the third point i believe You were making about the verse "fin them and bind them"  with the One Ring it would allow the bearer to not only SEE the rings but also allow the bearer when in full control of the one ring to actually take control of the lesser rings and by extension the bearers of the lesser rings.


geordie 01/Jan/2007 at 03:23 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
I find it interesting that Tolkien went through several permutaions of rhyme [and of numbers and types of beings] before settling on the final version. Some of these can be found in HoMe Vol. VI, I think. I also have a memory of a proof copy of FR which had been for sale on Ebay a few years ago - it had the word ’darkness’ [I think] instead of ’sadow or shadows’ - anyay, it seems Tolkien was still fiddling with the verse during the final proof stages. Not unusual for him.

As for the original idea - he said in an interview that he thought it up in his bath. ’I kicked out the sponge and said, ’That’ll do!’
halfir 01/Jan/2007 at 03:46 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

I have always taken the line to refer to the darkness of Mordor, the land of shadows or evil. The term’shadow’ either capitalized or uncapitalized is used throughout LOTR to describe the darknesss that surrounds Sauron, both spiritual and literal. Moreover, as Scull &Hammond, quoting CT  point out , Tolkien is inconsistent in his use of capitals-(LOTR Companion A Brief History of LOTR XL111). Given that and comments made in other posts I think it clear that the capitalized ’Shadows’ is not a refernce to the nazgul.

Other threads dealing with the provenance of the Ring-verse can be found here:

Who wrote the Ring Verse?




Ring Verse



Magradhaid 01/Jan/2007 at 03:55 PM
Imp of Umbar Points: 7957 Posts: 8204 Joined: 13/Sep/2008
Yes, there are other drafts in Return of the Shadow. I’ve looked more into this, and see that even with the final version, Tolkien was inconsistent about the capitalization of "Shadows"; in the 1951 letter to Milton Waldman, he wrote "shadows" — though that version didn’t have the sequence "One Ring to rule them all", etc. Maybe this is just like the annoying inconsistencies of capitalization with Hobbit, Men, Elves, Sun, Moon, etc.? Though I believe the last two were explained in his Letters.