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  1. Dimcairien Luiniel's Avatar
    Minstrel of Lothlorien
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    #1

    A Ring with a Curse

    A friend of mine shared this link with me a few days ago. It's an interesting article that discusses whether Tolkien's stories might have been influenced by a Roman ring that supposedly had a curse.

    What do you all think?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013...ing-exhibition

  2. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
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    #2
    This ring and the associated curse-tablet are interesting in their own right, and speculation about Senicianus is legitimate. However, the Tolkien connection is vestigial at best; he was asked as a noted philologist about the name Nodens by the highly-respected (definitely non-maverick) archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler (later Sir Mortimer) - and that's it. If he was interested in the Senicianus ring at the time neither he, nor anyone else, mentioned it.

    I'm afraid that this looks like just another attempt to "create" a Tolkien connection for an institution's own publicity. Sorry.
    Last edited by Dorwiniondil; 08/Apr/2013 at 09:10 AM.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  3. And according to reliable sources (who keep the Wheeler report in their library), the Senicianus ring is nowhere mentioned in the report to which Tolkien contributed his text ‘On the Name Nodens’.

    If you watch the video found here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355776447071/ you will find that they invite the audience to “come and decide for yourself,” which of course sounds very nice, but on the evidence, they are not actually allowing people to do just that. If you were to allow people to actually decide for themselves, you have to present them not just with what you want them to believe, but actually with all the competing theories — in this case they would have to tell about Andvari's ring from the Völsungasaga, Gyges' ring from Plato's Republic or the ring of Lady Lunette from Chrétien de Troyes' Ywain or the corresponding Welsh story from The Mabinogion or any of a dozen other (more) likely sources for both Bilbo's magic ring and for the Master Ring — even including Wagner (as a negative influence). Only when you've informed the audience about the prevailing theories can you present your own hypothesis and the evidence supporting it: that is, the evidence that Tolkien knew about this ring (there is none — this ring was not even found at the Nodens temple site that Tolkien helped Wheeler about), and the common characteristics that might point at inspiration (ring, gold, curse — except, of course, that Tolkien's Master Ring isn't really cursed as such).

    What offends my scientific sensitivity is that they do not appear to do this: they appear to invite people in and then just present their own ring, grossly exaggerate the possibility that Tolkien had heard of it, and then leave the audience to feel that this is not impossible, and perhaps quite possible. That might be OK if they were trying to sell you a pair of sneakers — no need to press you to try on the competing product, is there? — but these people are supposedly scholars and thus they should be more honest (or out of a job!).
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  4. By the way ... I have already written up my reaction to this for the April Tolkien Transactions, so I might as well here share what I have written (I might add that, despite the many references, I have not included all the news-stories that I have found about this — just enough to give people an idea of how much this has spread):

    National Trust, The Vyne, April 2013, "Curse, legend and inspiration at the Vyne"
    http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/vyne...1355771357192/
    and Wednesday, 3 April 2013, "Tolkien inspiration at The Vyne"
    http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355776447071/

    The display, at The Vyne, of a Roman gold ring possibly connected to the curse tablets found at the Roman temple in Lydney Park (through a reapparing name) has sparked a flood of articles. The mention of a name both on this ring and on a curse tablet found in the temple makes archaeologists believe that this is the very ring that whose thief is cursed on the tablet. Tolkien wrote his article "On the Name Nodens" for the archaeologist R.E.M. Wheeler's report on the Lydney dig site, and the ring is not mentioned at all in the report, nor in any of Tolkien's writings on this. The connection between the ring on display and the evil Master Ring of Tolkien's LotR is thus only made by a flimsy web of guesswork and extrapolations. Still, this has not stopped the press from writing about it ...

    For a little background on Tolkien and the Lydney Park site, you might want to read this:
    BBC, January 2004, "Tolkien's tales from Lydney Park"
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire.../tolkien.shtml

    And then for more recent comments inspired by news on the exhibition at The Vyne. First a couple of more sober blog posts on this topic:

    Mathew Lyons, Wednesday, 3 April 2013, "History and myth: JRR Tolkien, a Roman temple and a ring"
    http://mathewlyons.wordpress.com/201...le-and-a-ring/

    The History Blog, Wednesday, 3 April 2013, "The Roman Preciousss on display at The Vyne"
    http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/24420

    and then on to a few of the news-stories this has produced ...

    The Guardian, 2 April, "The Hobbit ring that may have inspired Tolkien put on show"
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013...ing-exhibition

    International Business Times, 2 April, "Lord of the Rings: 'Cursed' Roman Ring that Inspired Tolkien's Hobbit Books Discovered in 16th Century Country House"
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/45...rings-vyne.htm

    Yahoo Movies, 2 April, "Is this the ring that inspired Tolkien and The Hobbit?"
    http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/is-this-t...095428945.html

    Metro, 2 April, "Was this cursed Roman ring JRR Tolkien’s inspiration for The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings?"
    http://metro.co.uk/2013/04/02/was-th...rings-3579326/

    Sky News, 2 April, "Tolkien 'Inspiration' Ring Goes On Display"
    http://news.sky.com/story/1072764/to...oes-on-display

    The Mirror, 3 April, "JRR Tolkien: Ancient gold ring believed to have inspired The Hobbit goes on show"
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news...t-gold-1801389

    The Telegraph, 2 April, "The Hobbit: ring that inspired Tolkien goes on display"
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...n-display.html

    The Express, 2 April, "Ring that 'inspired' JRR Tolkien to write The Hobbit goes on display"
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/388...oes-on-display

    Fox News, 2 April, "Ring that may have inspired Tolkien goes on show"
    http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/...-goes-on-show/

    Los Angeles Times, 2 April, "'Cursed' Roman ring may be Tolkien's 'ring to rule them all'"
    http://www.latimes.com/features/book...,4756806.story

    UPI, 3 April, "Gold ring linked to Tolkien on display"
    http://www.upi.com/Entertainment_New...7921364968320/

    National Post, 3 April, "Did this ring inspire J.R.R. Tolkien's 'precious'? 'Cursed' gold ring goes on display in U.K"
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/04...isplay-in-u-k/

    MSN, 3 April, "Is this J.R.R. Tolkien's real-life 'one ring to rule them all'?"
    http://now.msn.com/tolkien-ring-now-on-display-in-uk

    Lancashire Evening Post, 3 April, "Odd stories - Exhibition of JRR Tolkien ‘Hobbit’ ring"
    http://www.lep.co.uk/news/odd-storie...ring-1-5549285

    The Register, 3 April, "ANCIENT CURSED RING known to TOLKIEN goes on display"
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/04...ien_hampshire/

    CBS News, 2 April, "Roman ring that "inspired Tolkien" goes on show"
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-207_162-...-goes-on-show/

    Huffington Post, 4 April, "JRR Tolkien 'One Ring' Inspiration For 'Lord Of The Rings' Goes On Display At The Vyne"
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/0...n_2999571.html

    3 News, 5 April, "Ancient ring believed to be Tolkien's inspiration"
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Ancient-ring-...9/Default.aspx

    Albany Times Union, 2 April, "Ring that 'inspired Tolkien' goes on show"
    http://www.timesunion.com/local/arti...ow-4403196.php

    Anglotopia, 5 April, "Ancient Roman Ring That May Have Inspired Tolkien On Display Now in Hampshire"
    http://www.anglotopia.net/anglophili...-in-hampshire/

    Big Pond News, 5 April, "Roman ring leads to Tolkien's trilogy" (Honestly! I find this headline more distressing than most.)
    http://bigpondnews.com/articles/OddS...gy_860867.html

    TheOneRing.Net, 3 April, "Ancient gold ring which may have inspired Tolkien" (Even TORN jumps on this regrettable band-wagon ... <sigh!>)
    http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2013...pired-tolkien/
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  5. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Troelsfo View Post
    these people are supposedly scholars and thus they should be more honest (or out of a job!).
    Hear hear!
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  6. geordie's Avatar
    Hugo Bracegirdle
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    #6
    'Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.' - J.R.R. Tolkien
    It's all in the books...

  7. scribe's Avatar
    Merchant of Dale
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    #7
    While the connection may be vestigial at best I think that it points to an interesting pattern in modern "pop" literary criticism: discovery of plagiarism. Its a band wagon that extends beyond this instance. That's not to say the fault lies exclusively with the writers, such articles garner readership easier than more subtle criticism and attribution of influence. It's easier to point at one source and call it the "inspiration". While this article stops very far from accusing the professor of plagiarism, it's attempt to find something that looks like a neat single source, to me, springs from the same vein of thought. I must say that this trend has made reading the literature sections of some of my favorite papers a bit disheartening. Especially when a text like LOTR has an understandable, analyzable, documented, and interesting provenance. Exploring and understanding Tolkien's (or any author's) influences is an interesting exercise but attempts to reduce it to a simple A-to-B connection cheapen such analysis.


  8. Nicely put, Scribe! Though most of the critics, whether scholarly or not, are careful not to say ‘plagiarism’ in so many words, I agree that this is implication of their simplistic presentation of A-leads-to-B relationships between some source (e.g. a Roman gold ring) and a literary element (also a gold ring).
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  9. scribe's Avatar
    Merchant of Dale
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    #9
    I would say it feeds into some public craving of scandal but that might be stretching things.

  10. Morwen Edhelwen's Avatar
    Apprentice of the Shire
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    #10
    My friend also sent me an article on the same thing!

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