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PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:58 pm 
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This particular subject has fascinated me for years, literally years. A month or so ago, Faramond and Griff came to visit me :) and in the middle of a casual discussion of our ideas about the Ring, Faramond let slip a chance remark which set me thinking in new directions and precipitated this post.

So, if you don't like it, you know who to blame! :D :D :D

Before I really throw myself headlong into this outrageously lengthy diatribe on Tolkien's Ring, I should mention that I have no answer to the question of why he had Sauron pour most of his power into a thing that could so easily be separated from himself. As it was by a single sword cut. It has always struck me as a foolish, not to mention short-sighted, conceit, and the author's contention that, yes, Sauron was that egotistical and in hubris was further incapable of imagining defeat, also leaves me unconvinced. His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see. :shock: How the Dark Lord actually survived relatively unscathed for Three Ages while parading such arrogance is a mystery to me! But be that as it may, without the Ring there would be no story ..... and so .......

In the beginning,

Far back in the distant reaches of time before history was recorded, during the Years of the Lamps maybe, it is said that the maia Suaron changed his allegiance from Aulë to Morgoth, swearing to serve and aid him in all of his malicious pursuit for mastery over the whole of Arda. There were five great wars before the Valar thought to bestir themselves, coming to the aid of Middle-earth in the sixth and final War of Wrath to thrust Morgoth, finally defeated, through the doors of night into the void where he is condemned to eternal wandering. It is also said that Sauron denied the voice of Eru the One, preferring to continue to take up the evil cause of his master.
In about the year 1500 of the Second Age, Sauron conceives of a plan which will allow total dominance of all living things but this plan requires the aid of Elves, against whom his master had long warred. Technical knowledge he has in abundance but yet lacks the artistry needed. He must seduce Elven smiths into freely helping make the Great Rings of Power and so assuming the guise of Annatar, Lord of Gifts, manages to do just that.

In the beginning the Ring is an object. Functional. The imagination which conceived it makes of it a receptacle, a thing which will hold the greater part of his overwhelming power, power which must, by its very nature, also include his experience and his knowledge. And so, he conceals his thought in the shape of a plain gold ring and it was to be a mighty weapon. It would amplify his own natural power and give him advantage in war, for who, at first, would look to a simple band of gold worn on the finger of the adversarial hand as the instrument of their destruction? Clever Sauron. With the Ring on his finger all wills must be subjugated to his one will, for surely the Ruling Ring will deliver his heart’s desire: He has the means to conquer all of Arda . His rule will be unchallenged. He will finally outrank all others. He will be Supreme.

Ah, but great plans such as these often have a way of turning on their head: The Ring will not always be a tool for its maker and its travels will be far beyond those intended. We shall see it mine the dark corners of the world and unearth many secrets best left undisturbed.

What reason, I wonder, does he give to the Elves as justification for these rings? Does he deceive and suggest that they may compliment life or offer redemptive gifts? Is it the promise of unchanging conservation, a singular conceit of which Elves are guilty, that prevails and permits their participation? Whatever words are used or however slyly the needs are presented, collusion is achieved although it is obvious that neither fully trusts the other. All four of the greatest rings are made in secret: the Three by Celebrimbor are untouched, unmarred, unsullied by Sauron while the One is surreptitiously made and kept apart, unseen but by the eyes of its maker.. The prevailing attribute of the Three is Grace linked to Art in unyielding preservation whereas in Sauron's Ring an elemental metal is transmuted, merged in an amalgamation of gold and ineffable power. It is a mighty artifice. It is the ruling ring and though the Elves perceive Sauron's intent and remove their rings they know they may not remain unscathed; they shall stand or fall by the One Ring.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne.
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.


Of the Nine there is no doubt. Proud 'Kings of Men' who wear rings on their grasping fingers are easily assimilated for they are plainly often corruptible ...... but the Seven now, if the seven were intended to ensnare Dwarves, I say that here Sauron miscalculated. Dwarves have an odd and strange history; created or hewn rather by Aulë and kept asleep under the fastness of mountains until the firstborn awaken. Dwarves manifest the stubborn immovability of rock and throughout the long ages have proved resistant to the seduction of any power not of their own choosing. Though sanctified by Eru, they are the bastard children of Arda, and it may be that the strangeness of their creation has imbued them with an impervious nature. Dragons may well have consumed five of the seven and Sauron may have the others in his possession but you will note there is not one single Dwarf wraith amongst all of his multitudes of slaves!

Well. Returning to the matter of the Ring and the manner of its birth: in his inestimable greed the Dark Lord saw fit to conquer the world and in considering how to achieve his desire, decides that a transfer of his primary strength will magnify, consecrate and yes, facilitate his desire for utter dominance. Ah, but because the Ring is fashioned from power and that power involves intelligence and continues with connection to previous knowledge, the Ring will evolve; it must live. In rudimentary fashion at first, responding only to Sauron's will, but wait a while, in the progression of time and as it absorbs experience, it will slowly develop a will of its own. It seems to me that there was some other power loose in the cosmos overseeing the Battle of the Last Alliance when the Ring last was used as a weapon, where Isildur found courage to sever the ring-finger from the body of Sauron. I deem that the deaths of Gil-galad and Elendil were small price to pay for the dissolution of such a power.

Can I stop for a moment to consider what if? What if Sauron had well and truly been killed in that battle? Dead, no pulse, no heart-beat, no breath, no spirit. Dead. Would the Ring have sputtered out and died instantly with him? Or might it have taken shards of time for each molecule of gold to release the mote of power that clung to it? Would that power disintegrate, turning to dust, leaving behind only a ring made of yellow metal? I do wonder sometimes, but because Sauron does not die, because only his corporeal body is lost, momentarily quiescent the Ring survives. It remains replete with power. It is intact.

It 'betrayed' Isildur said Gandalf. Bereft of its master, the Ring is faced with maybe what might be the first decision of its 2,000 years existence. We can assume that hitherto it has never been parted from Sauron and for the first time it lack direction and there is no Will to drive it. Its master lives, or say instead he is not dead, so at all costs it must survive and I surmise that rather than engage in a struggle for the soul of Isildur, who has shown audacity and courage ........ and yet, even in that moment, has unwittingly submitted to the lure of the Ring .......

as told by Elrond:

"this I will have as weregild for my father and my brother" he said; and thereafter whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it."'

and in his own words:

"But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain."

It is neither coincidence, nor random chance, that the Ring chooses to slip loose from Isildur's finger and tumble into the murky depths of the Gladden Fields, I think it is expedience and deliberate choice that it may lie unseen for passing ages, forgotten by all but few of the Wise, waiting, resting at the bottom of dark still water, listening for signs of its maker recovering his far-flung, scattered spirit, waiting for the mark of Sauron's renewal. The One Ring it seems has acted wisely in leaving Isildur; Sauron has required centuries to heal and all the while the Ring has held itself in abeyance and so removed a major distraction to its master’s recovery.

When the time comes for the Ring to surface and re-enter the world it is one hundred years after Sauron slinks into Mirkwood. Forces prime Déagol’s innocent discovery of this golden ring laying serenely at the bottom of a pool. Yet how quickly it rejects the simpler hobbit and turns to the other more suitable candidate, Sméagol, small-minded, mean-spirited and inherently more prone to evil. Yes indeed. Sméagol will serve the immediate purpose very well and thus his malicious little brain is compliant; he will not hesitate to justify murder. The Ring never wavers and soon enough adorns a finger which will become a talon. Only perhaps the Ring has not bargained that Gollum is quite so loathsome. Loathsome enough to be shunned and reviled, loathsome enough to need to escape by crawling under the roots of the Misty Mountains. It has not bargained for the many centuries it must stay beneath tons of immutable rock, quite unable to move, it is stultified; effectively nullified. Silenced.

Enter Bilbo. A fortuitous meeting between Gollum and Bilbo, serving two opposing purposeful wills. Bilbo was 'meant to find the Ring' by the forces of good and by the forces of evil. It really is astonishing when you think about it; that Bilbo is an agent for change on two distinct fronts. Bilbo really he tricks Gollum out of the precious and carries it (in his pocket) out into the clean clear air of Middle-earth, bringing the Ring one step closer to doom and simultaneously one step closer to reuniting with Sauron. All would be well with this were it not for one minor problem; Bilbo, our rotund and cheery hobbit, is well nigh incorruptible ....... The Ring will find itself unable to further advance any foul or crooked scheme safe and secure inside the pocket of one of the colouful waistcoats belonging to Mr. Bilbo Baggins.

Ah, but now it is over one thousand years since the prince of darkness has emerged from torpor, gathered once again into bodily form though he is said to have lost the ability to appear as the beautiful Annatar, Lord of Gifts. They say that he is blackened and hideous; one wonders if perhaps the Valar have exacted punishment of sorts in that the only shape he may assume must reflect his inner malevolence. If he lost a battle at Dol Goldur it hardly concerns him because the move from the one stronghold into a greater fortress at Barad Dur has long been planned. The name of "Baggins" has been heard, his servants are set loose and wise Gandalf makes certain that the One Ring is passed on to Frodo ........ and yet here again, I will presume, that two opposing forces are again at work. The Ring depends upon a courier to carry it closer to Sauron, yet even so, Gandalf finds encouragement in the thought that Frodo was "meant to have it."

Gandalf does not believe that the Ring's maker intends for either Baggins to possess it ......... except I'm not sure if this is exactly true. Think on it a moment, Isildur has been rejected as an unsuitable candidate yet surely he was corruptible, he took it to treasure it for it is precious to him. It has rejected the petty evil of Gollum, too small, too mean, too limited, and has instead contrived to be taken up by hobbits. At the very least, the Ring will embark on a journey that should potentially carry it beyond the confines of a neatly ordered Shire; it escaped from under the weight of the mountain's immovable dark. Gollum's clutches are eluded. For the first time in eons .......... Possibilities exist.

Frodo puts on the Ring:

By this stage of its several thousand year life, the Ring begins to show signs of animation. Small hints as it natters away at Frodo's mind. Beginning, at first, by subtle nudges though it does not ever abandon its press to be worn. Frodo actually succumbs on six different occasions.

Before the first instance there are moments at Bag End when the Ring presents itself to Frodo as something more than merely a decorative object. It looks much more than a lovely piece of jewelry with a strange history. Told to fling it into the fire, Frodo finds himself curiously reluctant,

'It was admirable and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away --- but found that he had put it back in his pocket.'

Of course he has. The Ring would not wish to be discovered. His reluctance is twofold. First is the growing allure of the thing it as a necessity, the Ring would quietly impress bonding upon his mind; he should not wish to part from it and soon will be incapable of it. And then there is the need for secrecy; it may travel further if its identity is unrevealed. After all, there is hope in subterfuge.

In the House of Tom Bombadil:

The very first time that Frodo puts on the Ring after learning the terrifying fact that it is the One Ruling Ring is in the house of Tom Bombadil. A most curious caprice. What, one asks, is the possibility of advancement for the Ring in the remarkable person of Tom? A test? At test that negates the force and the drag of Sauron's precious. Is it whimsy or sheer fancy which prompts Tom to dismiss the Dark Lord's terrible power as inconsequential ------- to him? I don't suppose we will ever really know or understand Tom but what is clear is that he is not affected by the same laws which govern all others under the sun of Arda. Excepting the gods, which other living beings can show they are exempt from the influence of the Ring? If even Istari fear to fall prey to it (Saruman fears it though for different reasons, and he will fall prey to it) and Galadriel fears to wield it, then Tom is not subject to natural law ..... the Ring itself is unique although I think it is still governed by the laws of Arda.

Tom has put it on his finger and is not invisible!. Frodo jealously re-assures himself that no cheap conjurer's trick has replaced it, his Ring, as he feels ...... for that is a trick and one at which the Ring is very adept ...... those who willingly, or unwillingly suffer the Ring will eventually claim ownership. As if such a thing could ever be owned --- by anyone --- ever! .

The Barrow-Downs:

Got to digress to say that this chapter makes me tremble with fearful apprehension. Here Tolkien's writing approaches the otherworldly in the malevolent way the hobbits are herded onto the Downs, the dank stench inside the barrows, bone-chilling cold and the gruesome wights will cause me to look up and reassure myself I am not really there. It is so real and one of the most intensely atmospheric yet utterly believable chapters of the book. Shudder.

Ahem:


Digression ended. This is a frightful place and rife with ancient evil. It is ancient, a perfect setting for the Ring to force its will upon Frodo but any advantage it may have wished to gain is foiled by closeness of marvelous old Tom with his boots and his jacket and the feather in his hat. It is almost as if the Ring wishes to test Frodo's resolve and the limit of its own power.

'He wavered, groping in his pocket, and then fought with himself again, and as he did so the arm crept nearer.'

The Ring is changing. It is no longer inanimate or merely a weapon of singular purpose made for the victory of its maker ....... by some alchemical chance, raw power combined with enhanced metal is evidence of a sort of sentience. You just know it is aware of set and circumstance and when best to insist and when best to keep silent. In other words, its will is emerging and it can make decisions!

At the Prancing Pony:

Ah. The hobbits hope they are safe inside the warmth of the common room at the inn. The Ring knows better, knows that they are not safe because, like the high-pitch of a silent whistle, it can surely hear the call of the Nazgûl.

'Frodo leaned back against the wall and took off the Ring. How it came to be on his finger he could not tell. <snip> For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt within the room. He did not like the look of the men who had gone out.'

The Witch-King, as well as the lesser Nazgûl, are conduits for Sauron; I wonder if the communication goes as strongly both ways? Does the presence of the Ring directly palpate through Nazgûl to Sauron? How he must quiver with desire when it catches, touching his senses and still leaving him frustrated. But, you know, despite following commands and forcing Frodo to reveal it, once again, there are other mitigating forces at work . At the Barrow-Downs Tom is there, and here at Bree, is the one man in all of Middle-earth whom Sauron must fear ..... half-hidden in the gloom of the corner seat, here is Aragorn ...... it is no coincidence that two forces meet. No harm will come to Frodo inside the Prancing Pony. The Ring has not yet found its way for it is too far from Mordor and it has not accounted for the small, quiet heart of the hobbits.

The Ring must learn to choose. Must cope with being carried by one purposefully chosen by its master's enemy and must learn new ways of bending, swaying and manipulating. Can the Ring learn to reason? Not yet, I think, but it will. It can. It does.


Weathertop:

The watch-tower of Amon Sûl is dangerous since none of its former virtues remain amongst the ruins. On all sides it is open and the Ring is a beacon to Black Riders. It's potency expands, the threat of Aragorn is lessened, the Ring begins showing awareness of surroundings and circumstance. It can call and it can decide when to call. Frodo has never yet been so vulnerable as he is trapped among the crumbling stones of Weathertop.

'Frodo was hardly less terrified than his companions; he was quaking as if he was bitter cold but his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The desire to do this laid hold of him and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to disregard all warnings and he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt he must take the Ring and put it on his finger.'

You can almost hear the Ring singing in triumph. Its will has usurped Frodo's will. Aragorn has not strength to directly aid him and Gandalf is not with him. There is no impediment to Frodo's capitulation: it is inevitable.

'He could not speak. He felt Sam looking at him, as if he knew that his master was in some great trouble, but he could not turn towards him. He shut his eyes and struggled for a while; but resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand.'

Frodo is instantly flung across the barrier that separates dimensions. Thrust into a shadow world, into a world which exists side by side parallel to ours, a world populated by the dark and the undead.. The Ring lives here, too; this is its native world and here its power is manifold and magnified, and here the Nazgûl rise to meet it, and to render the bearer's soul into tatters. They are merciless.

'Immediately, though everything remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white aces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and they rushed towards him.'

All seems so lost and so desperate but there still is hope........... and help. Frodo is never abandoned. Not now, not ever. At the very last moment, he is prompted to use an ancient hymn, crying Elbereth, Gilthoniel! as a device of magical warding. How that invocation must startles the senses! and must provoke some deep and fearful memory in the the Witch-King enough so that his knife thrust will go awry causing the Ring to hesitate just long enough, 'Frodo, dropping his sword, slipped the Ring from his finger and closed his right hand upon it.'

Rivendell:

The Ring finds itself surrounded in the camp of a sworn enemy. Does it sense there is a lesser ring of power here. Vilya, Elrond's ring?. Patience is a learned commodity, the Ring learns to forebear and lay on its chain, quietly probing the council for weaknesses. And finds it. Ah, there! Boromir, proud man of Gondor; is he like to the nine who were taken long ago? A similar stiff desire for order and tradition ..... it may have found a potential suitor in Boromir. Complications will arise, we know, but for now the Ring is content to bide time and wait.


Before I reach Amon Hen, I want to stop for a minute and address something Jnyusa said in the Sam thread when she was talking about Aragorn ( I paraphrase) and how he could resist the Ring because it had nothing to offer him.

See, I don't think that the Ring need offer anything at all to anyone. It's genius lies in its malleability, in its ability to adapt and change and become a thought and a presence which begins as a hint within the mind of the bearer and progresses into a unification.

The fact that several holders imagine themselves according to their individual desires is more of a by-product of its potency. (Sam and his garden, Gollum and his fish, Boromir (potentially) and his victory) Really, its primacy is in easing itself into the mind and of joining with it so that ultimately there is no separation between Ring and Ring-bearer. They are one and there can be no will beyond the will of the Ring.

Right.

Amon Hen:

Boromir is hot tempered and hasty. The Ring has hardly needed to stir in order to insinuate desire inside his mind. Convincing is unnecessary since the lust comes sharp and immediate and overwhelming. Boromir is a good man but a simple one and has no defense against the sophisticated manipulation of a thing that is built on the avarice of Sauron's power. Boromir moves fast and in doing so frightens Frodo into using invisibility for escape. Here on the pinnacle of Amon Hen that other world comes once more into focus and the might of the Dark Lord is laid across the land for Frodo to consider and despair. Again, Frodo's mind is penetrated and though the Ring has not yet taken up residence, with each new incursion, the spiritual gap between himself and Ring is shrinking.
But, as I have said before and as I still believe, Frodo is never abandoned: once more although poised on the edge of falling rescue comes:

'Then as a flash from some other point of power there came to his mind another thought: Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it off! Take off the Ring!'
The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice not the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger.'


The Journey into Mordor:

In Gollum the Ring has an abject slave, except it does not care, is indifferent, having already discarded this snarling, sniveling, despicable creature. His purpose may be served but he still can be used, oh yes,
circumstance and situation can be twisted as it certainly will be when it becomes necessary for Gollum to swear obedience.

'For a moment it seemed to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk; a tall, stern shadow, a mighty lord who hi his brightness in a grey cloud and at his feet a little whining dog.'

Another opportunity for the Ring to usurp a little more of Frodo's mind. Soon, quite soon, it will find a way into Frodo's heart and then, lamentably, a little death begins.

Some way more than 100 miles lie between the breaking of the fellowship and the outskirts of the Morannon. The nearer to Mordor the more the intense is the Ring, gnawing ever more insistently at Frodo's mind. Our beloved hobbit is staggering under the psychic weight of his burden; I think that even more than the pain and the doubt and the fear it is the loss of freedom which is most troublesome, that ineffable sense of belonging to oneself. Because, you see, Frodo can no longer claim to be wholly self-contained, a little part of treasured independence has fallen to the Ring. It has insinuated itself and now that Frodo is (very) slightly less individual, they are starting to meld. Oh, not completely, no, not even overtly and not yet to any overwhelming degree; nevertheless transition has begun. Some of the increasing intensity he feels is attributable to proximity with Gollum, I suppose, as now he is beset on two fronts yet still Frodo retains one enormous advantage: he has Sam. Sam is his hope, his rock, his truth. Sam is faith. Without Sam the quest will fail but with him, and all of his many unspoken, often unrecognized, virtues, the chance for success is so much more.

The One Ring is growing and changing, understanding many previously inaccessible things and is learning to think in many ways. It is devious beyond words, in ways we cannot imagine; but because it was made with Sauron's intelligence there is no place for humility, or for friendship, within its emotional lexicon. It is utterly selfish and the bond that binds the two hobbits is unknown to it. The concept of love that is understood by both Ring and maker, such as it is, is the salacious and greedy love of desire. The love that is shared by Frodo and Sam, neither Ring nor Sauron can comprehend nor use, and such love it has, to its peril, overlooked. This, I am certain, will be the downfall of the Ring. Not in battles fought, nor challenges won, nor even the with wisdom of Elrond, Galadriel or Gandalf, none of these great things can precipitate the final destruction. In the end what will eventually triumph and banish this singular evil from Middle-earth is the purity of love held fast by Sam and by Frodo.

'It was more than the drag of the Ring that made him cower and stoop as he walked. The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you; to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable.'

The three of them are scrabbling, clawing, crawling their way into peril, passing through the Dead Marshes with their tricksy little candle lights, closing in on the Black Gate where there is no entrance but suicidal and where the Nazgûl are terrifyingly airborne, the Ring itself is strangely and uncharacteristically silent. One would expect, anticipate even, that so close, its master, a few scant miles away on the other side of the barrier, the Ring would attempt to reveal itself to orcs, to slaves, to Sauron? And yet it stays quiescent on the chain about Frodo's neck. Why so, one asks. Why now does it choose inaction? This thought has been steadily ingratiating itself into my mind as I read and reread: it is true that the Ring is transforming into something half way between object and living thing. It has thought, and will, and desire and I am slowly convinced that the will of the One Ruling Ring is disconnecting itself from Sauron's will. It does not wish to be an extension of the Dark Lord, used as he chooses for his purpose. It is changing, evolving if you will. It desires self. It wishes to belong only to itself. It wishes for authority and it wants independence!

You may say that this is simply conjecture on my part and well, you would be correct. :D it's just that it makes sense to me. I've long believed that the Ring is far more than a made object. That it shows decided signs of an ability to make decisions and to manipulate circumstances around it. Only now I take that one step further into the contention that it is indeed alive, that it is a vital, aware, peculiar thing, stuck half way between intelligence held captive by its form and true living, breathing, thinking identity. One could almost feel a certain sense of compassion were it not so ruthlessly selfish.

Where the Ring meets Faramir:

Well. We are traveling in the land of Ithilien toward Cirith Ungol and the first great betrayal levied by Gollum against Frodo.
It cannot be helped, I suppose, because Gollum is abjectly servile, enslaved to dreams implanted by the Ring which is now caught between the insatiable need of this creature it helped shape and the known consequences of returning to four-fingered Sauron. I do not think that the Ring wishes to be returned. No, it does not. It wishes for domination, surely, but not to be used at the will of another. There is also this to consider: the possibility the Ring has developed a conscience? A primitive, unformed conscience, to be sure but if it can gain insight and the will to implement that insight (and it can, it does) then awareness of right and wrong might follow?

What will the Ring do with such knowledge?

How does someone like, say, Faramir fall inside the Ring's perception? There is no evil at Henneth Annun and it does seem that surrounded by the men of Gondor invariably the Ring stays silent. Does it listen when Faramir tells tales of Númenor? Might those stories stir up fragments from days Sauron spent on that island in the company of Kings and of Elves? I like to think that it does remember; that a fleeting sensation remains for what was before Sauron turned manifestly towards darkness. Are we not told that once upon a time he wanted only to restore and maintain order in a chaotic world? I humour myself by believing that a conscience evolving in the Ring might still retain a mote of this buried deep inside. However, now, in the last days of the Third Age, the evil is an uncomplicated thing. Uniformly black with no place among its machinations for remorse or regret, indeed no, the dualistic opposite of Light expends all devotion, all allegiance in the pursuit of power for its own sake. But the Ring, the One Ring, created with gold, structured from memory of power and the power of memory contains change, and its memories do not follow the same exact path as those of its maker. Therefore active sentience is probable and motives are possible.

In a way, following its journey, the Ring begins to remind me of another story, Pinocchio, the boy carved of wood who dreams of becoming a real boy. Except there are no blue faeries in Middle-earth, and besides there are additional complications: it is forever linked with Sauron because, the stuff (inadvertently) that bestowed life is also the stuff of which it is composed. Energy. Power. Will. and despite its divergence from the original intent it cannot detach into absolute autonomy. (surely the Ring must recognize the mockery of its shared bond?) juxtapose this bond against the lucidity of two small hobbits trudging their weary way into Mordor and you have the means to an end.

That the Ring can manipulate Gollum into action I am certain. This then is a perfect example of what i mean when I say that the Ring strives for unification. Gollum is owned. Those few brief hints which have brushed his perceptions in the immediate past have been just so ..... small and trivial ..... so easily dismissed should the Ring wish to provoke certain behaviors. Gollum is perfectly assimilated. He has no will but the Ring's will. Like the Nazgûl, he has lost his soul.

Minas Morgul:

The call is virtually irresistible. Tolkien describes the valley of the Ephel Dúath with almost Lovecraftien excess, it is all deadly pale and luminous, every living thing is loathsome and perverted, nothing is as it should be and oh how the Ring responds ..... were it not for Sam the Ring could drag Frodo through the gates of this dreadful tower,

'Then suddenly, as if some force were at work other than his own will, he began to hurry, tottering forward, his groping hands held out, his head lolling from side to side.'

I say that it is only the strength of Sam in collusion with the Ring itself! because it could easily dispose of Gollum should it be necessary, and also perhaps there is that benign power keeping watch which will not allow the Ring-bearer to be drawn inside the city of the Nazgûl.

'At last with great effort he turned back, and as he did so, he felt the Ring resisting him, dragging at the chain about his neck; and his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have been blinded.'

You know, despite that the pull towards the tower appears considerable, I am not positive that really it is much more than a token gesture. I know that might seem a ludicrous contention, but considering the amount of sheer force that is the Ring, the closeness of the Nine, the fact that Sauron's army is mere steps away from the hobbits ........ that any compulsion is thwarted without a huge struggle; had the Ring put forth all effort to be discovered .... all the stars were aligned for it .... its ducks were in a row and it should have fought harder and longer. And so I tend to believe that it does not really want to cross that barrier from the living world into a dead one.

<<<<Ahem: An aside.

I'd better start bringing this huge post to a close else I will find myself rambling on for another ten pages. It's only that I have so much to say and I don't think I'm saying it very well. It's difficult to present these ideas in a straightforward and/or logical fashion. Most of what I contend is intuitive thinking and I know I'm in danger of constant repetition in the effort of clarification. Never mind. Maybe I can wrap this up in two paragraphs or less (don't count on it) :D>>>>

Mount Doom and the Sammath Naur:

Frodo, Sam, and the Ring are on the slopes of the mountain. Gollum is here too, alone, having discovered that his plan to retrieve his precious has been thwarted. Frodo has come to a place where he is trembling, he is tottering on an edge perfectly gripped between his own voice and the voice of the Ring. He is paralyzed into inaction. Trapped. Sam is here and his voice is clear, not mesmerized like Frodo's, he is here and he will countermand the voice of the Ring but he will not succeed.
I have said before that I think the Ring has evolved into sentience, that it has a mind and a will and cognition and that it can decide. Strange as this may strike some (many?) of you ...... while I have been reading and writing and thinking, I've moved into the belief that in the very end the Ring will use Gollum as a means to achieve its one last final desire: Death.

Look, it has achieved a separation from Sauron and it knows it does not wish to submit to him again and it has understood that the link between itself and its maker can never be unmade; it was forged in perpetuity. Knowing that it can never be truly autonomous and lacking means and circumstance in which to find the perfect host (Gollum is rejected, Frodo is not strong enough, Aragorn is too strong) and perhaps, just perhaps, a touch of morality has crept into its new-found consciousness, the only viable solution left to the Ring is dissolution. Therefore it will use the oath Gollum swore to Frodo and both will plunge into the fiery depths of Mount Doom.......

'Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice,
"Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall cast yourself into the Fire of Doom"'


I do not know that the Ring is motivated by altruism, instead its motive is selfish and full of self-pity, I think, in that it cannot have what it wants, cannot BE what it wants and so, rather like the truculent child with under-developed emotions, it chooses destruction rather than be used in ways which do not suit.

One final thought: Ironically, I suspect that the perfect mate for the Ring would have been Isildur.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:34 pm 
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The Song of the One Ring……by vison


Gleaming gold and fine,
Scriven subtly with spells,
Precious and fell,
Lying heavy, weighted with might;
Round as Fortune’s chancy wheel,
An ornament beyond price—
Yet he who bears me pays his all.

They say I seek my Master
And that he seeks me.
It may be so, it is beyond
What I can know.
I am called, and like a wheel
I turn, traveling homeward.

On his hand I burned with power,
But yet he fell.
Taken, I rebelled,
Turning and twisting,
And put forth what strength I had:
It was enough.

Was it the cool water above
That kept me still?
For long I lay hid.
Fishes glided by,
I saw their round eyes gleam,
Their scales shimmer;
The Sun’s face wavering
Up, up in the blue air.

Some naked pale beast took me
And, gasping, shot up
Through green water, shouting
Joy and pleasure.
His treasure betrayed him,
For I smelt the other;
His nasty little self,
His bony finger cold,
Needing to be warmed.

Under the river I was hid
In soft darkness, and the light
Above the water glowed.
But now I lay in blackness utter
Under mountains.
The heat that I am was cooled.

I am round like the Sun,
A golden snake twisted upon itself.
Slithering free I waited,
Even I felt time pass,
Knew the unseen stars were changed.

How does the Moon know his courses?
What voice speaks to him
And bids him rise and set?
In like fashion I knew the moment
Of destiny. Out into the light,
Out of endless night,
Away from that bony hand.

The Sun burned still in the blue sky.
The earth fell Eastward.
Longing warmed me,
Set me moving once again.
I rolled like a wheel
Centered on darkness.
A serpent, I twined myself
Where needful.

I grew in power like the star
That grows with its own heat,
Filling the black sky.
A red flower bursts,
The vast star falls in upon itself
And a heavy emptiness forms.
All that come near are drawn in.
And so my master is,
For he is emptiness,
He draws to himself all light.

It may be that he calls me,
Or that I seek him.
For he shaped me out of the fire
And made me beautiful,
Precious gleaming gold,
Adorned with secret spells.
My only deed is to turn and roll
Like a wheel, homeward.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 2:58 am 
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His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see.



Disagree.

The ptb, ie: the Valor, left him no doubt that they wouldn't interfere, or so he thought, due to their lack of involvement in the other wars excepting one.

It was their lack of actually doing something productive and worthwhile that lead Sauron to believe he was unassailable in ME, and therefore the Ruling King of ME, ring or no.

He was after all Maia beyond the scope of any being in ME.

It wasn't until Gandalf passed away that he had any real adversary in ME, and then only when the Valor were feeling their guilt over not protecting what was left of ME.

As for the rest of your tome, it will have to wait.

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As many times as I have read LOTR (more than 50), and as much thought as I have given it (much), it has never occured to me to try to imagine the tale from the Ring's point of view.

What a revelation. Your post is thought-provoking, Sass. I'm not sure I can agree that the Ring developed consciousness, much less a conscience. Or that it sought its own death. In that, vison's poem feels more right to me -- that it was drawn inexorably back to its maker.

Still, your points are intriguing and worth more thought.


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There's a common motif in folktales across Europe, that of the separable soul. An evil giant/faerie/wizard hides his/her/its soul in an obscure place, and while it remains safe remains unassailable. The Ring strikes me as an example of that motif, writ large.

To wit: I would say the Ring has Will, not sentience. Thus the description:
Quote:
Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.


Italics mine. To bind the other Rings of Power, Sauron had to pour essentially all of his naked Will into the One--nothing else would suffice to dominate them, especially the Three. While it survives he can act, even if it's not on his hand. Together, the synergy is nigh unstoppable. But with it gone--without Will--even Sauron's malice is impotent, an unstrung instrument.

Yet that Will is not static. Like polluted water, by its nature it probes for cracks in resolve, for flaws in character through which it can infiltrate and further corrupt the minds of those around it, especially its bearer. The usual pathway is pride, of course (Isildur, Boromir) but simple meanness of spirit (Sméagol) will do as well. Lacking those avenues, it has to try things like Sam's vision of a blooming Mordor...but in all cases, it's finding something already present in the victim and reflecting, amplifying, and yet sugar-coating it for maximum appeal.

Now, when its master is bending his mind towards it, the stakes are higher. To used a thoroughly modern analogy, it acts as an antenna, picking up his malice broadcast from on high in Barad-dûr (insert Radio Sauron joke here ;)). The "signal" seems to be most dangerous when tightly focused (Amon Hen for example) or amplified by a nearby relay (the bridge to Minas Morgul).

The other reason I like this interpretation is the burden the Ring imposes on Frodo. He's toting around the encapsulated Will of the most corrupt entity on the planet, and as he must fight it more and more, it manifests as weight. That strikes me as a theologically significant symbol. The yoke Frodo carries is not easy, nor the burden light.

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Well, that went over like a lead balloon, didn't it? :D

Wampus wrote:,

Quote:
As many times as I have read LOTR (more than 50), and as much thought as I have given it (much), it has never occured to me to try to imagine the tale from the Ring's point of view.



Right you are. I did read the book from the Ring's point of view :halo: and it took me to some very strange places. I found myself imagining a whole lot of 'what ifs'. Starting with the basic question of what is the nature of power? And assuming that power naturally includes components of Will and knowledge ... and from there it was easy to extrapolate that the Ring did develop a sort of conscious awareness.

ax said:

Quote:
To wit: I would say the Ring has Will, not sentience. Thus the description:

Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.


What am I missing, ax? I understand that description refers to Sauron after the Ring has been destroyed in the fire; what I don't see is why you say that Will, which IS the Ring, precludes its sentience? My assumption is that Will includes both knowledge and intelligence and since those forces are transferred into the Ring, it evolves from a static object of magical power into a sentient thing with its own will .... which over the passage of time begins to trump Sauron's remaining power.

I know that the conclusions I draw are fanciful, but it pleased me to imagine them. :D

Quote:
Italics mine. To bind the other Rings of Power, Sauron had to pour essentially all of his naked Will into the One--nothing else would suffice to dominate them, especially the Three. While it survives he can act, even if it's not on his hand. Together, the synergy is nigh unstoppable. But with it gone--without Will--even Sauron's malice is impotent, an unstrung instrument.


Am in agreement. Also think that this supports, rather than negates, my contention of sentient will.

Unless you intend to mean that Sauron's Will is blind, not directed by thought or intelligence?

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Unless you intend to mean that Sauron's Will is blind, not directed by thought or intelligence?


Precisely so--once it is in the Ring. To magnify it, to use it as a means of binding the other Rings, he weakened himself by losing it...but left an indelible impression. The Ring, as (im)pure Will, has no guiding mind beyond what its master's own corrupt nature provided in forging it, but it is capable of reactive movement in the same way a viscous fluid is: change the vessel and it changes shape to fit. This gives it the appearance of sentience, the same way a computer program can be set up to respond in a simulated conversation, using pieces of the user's own sentences to move things along.

But the Ring would never pass a Turing test. :)

It does seem to have a mean streak, though, again the inheritance of its creator. When it's done with someone, it leaves them in the lurch. That's more like the closing off of a feedback loop than a conscious decision, though.

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It has always struck me as a foolish, not to mention short-sighted, conceit, and the author's contention that, yes, Sauron was that egotistical and in hubris was further incapable of imagining defeat, also leaves me unconvinced. His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see.

I am not sure that Sauron knew exactly what would happen when he made the ring. He knew what he wanted, yes: he wanted to dominate, to be the only audible voice in the world, to be a voice that could speak things into truth. He was not powerful enough to do this on his own. He could not make himself into an instrument of amplification.

I suppose he would not have known all the consequences of making the ring. He would know one of the consequences, that he would become very powerful and able to rule the other rings and that would be enough.

It is hard, even if you are not evil, to be aware of all the things that may happen, seemingly by chance, if you focus on a single goal and drive all else out of your mind. It does not have to be ego or arrogance that lets in trouble through the back door. Just a failure to see because you never look away from the thing you have put in front of you.


It would amplify his own natural power and give him advantage in war, for who, at first, would look to a simple band of gold worn on the finger of the adversarial hand as the instrument of their destruction?

What enemy could get close enough to him for it to matter if they knew the object which held his power or not? I don't think he thought anyone could even approach him. Of course he was captured by the Numenoreans, and then it would have been useful for the source of his power to be hidden.

That the ring was a simple band of gold is very interesting, I agree. It is correct that it be so, because it is a secretive thing, but also a beautiful thing. When you have it, maybe you feel like you alone have been blessed among all others in the world to know this great beauty. You alone possess the ring, and its beauty, and its secret. I think it was quite a positive step for Bilbo to even share knowledge of the ring with Frodo. It showed Bilbo's character, and that the ring had been slow to work its evil upon him.

We shall see it mine the dark corners of the world and unearth many secrets best left undisturbed.

The ring itself was a secret that would have been best left undisturbed, too!


It 'betrayed' Isildur said Gandalf. Bereft of its master, the Ring is faced with maybe what might be the first decision of its 2,000 years existence. We can assume that hitherto it has never been parted from Sauron and for the first time it lack direction and there is no Will to drive it. Its master lives, or say instead he is not dead, so at all costs it must survive and I surmise that rather than engage in a struggle for the soul of Isildur, who has shown audacity and courage

Sauron would have had to take it off whenever he went through airport security.

If the ring had sentience, it could not have manifested before it was parted from Sauron the Deceiver, I agree. It would have been enveloped by darkness and the will of Sauron before. It could not have been aware of anything, and without awareness there is not sentience. Awareness is the beginning of though and choice and will.


Yet how quickly it rejects the simpler hobbit and turns to the other more suitable candidate, Sméagol, small-minded, mean-spirited and inherently more prone to evil. Yes indeed.

I have my own, less logical version of the ring's story to tell, and I will not detail all the differences between my version and yours here, but I will remark on one difference now. I think it is a fair interpretation to say the ring chose to leap from Déagol to Sméagol. I think, though, that Sméagol taking was the ring was not intended by the ring. The leap from one hobbit to another happened not because of any choice of the ring, but because of the intrinsic nature of the ring, its secretive beauty.

Enter Bilbo. A fortuitous meeting between Gollum and Bilbo, serving two opposing purposeful wills.

Bilbo was sent over the Misty Mountains by Gandalf, who held one of the three, which was subject to the power of the one ring. We presume that the three were subject to the one ring only when a person of great power held it, and yet, maybe ...


Tom has put it on his finger and is not invisible!. Frodo jealously re-assures himself that no cheap conjurer's trick has replaced it, his Ring, as he feels ...... for that is a trick and one at which the Ring is very adept ...... those who willingly, or unwillingly suffer the Ring will eventually claim ownership. As if such a thing could ever be owned --- by anyone --- ever! .

And the ring was made invisible by Tom, after he wore it! The ring will make you forget your name but it could never make Tom forget his name.

Did the ring choose to be worn by Tom? We must also give room to the choices of Frodo, even if the ring is granted sentience. Even so, I think the ring would have chosen to go to Tom, for a moment, to test the limits of its own power. If all the ring cares about is getting back to Sauron, or getting to some other goal, then that is not sentience, that is blind will, driving, driving. There is no room for diversions then. Tom is a diversion. The ring is almost in conversation with Tom for a moment.

At the Barrow-Downs Tom is there, and here at Bree, is the one man in all of Middle-earth whom Sauron must fear

Aragorn, yes. Sauron must have hated Aragorn, and also coveted him, as a corrupted servant.

So, that is enough for now.


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Surely it is not necessary to see the Ring as sentient in order to explain its power to tempt. Elves, men and dwarves all have innate cravings for control and power -- the form it takes changes, but not the lust.

The Ring did not have to deliberately and consciously twist Sam's thoughts toward becoming the Great and Terrible Gardener (to take one example). That longing to make the dark places bloom was already in his nature. The Ring's power was the catalyst that exploded innocent desire for beauty into a drive to dominate. The possibility of endless power -- like the promise of endless wealth -- corrupts by its very nature.


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Sassy, that is one veritable intriguing thesis! :bow:

I read it through once when you emailed me, and I'm going to have to read it again (and even three or four times) before I can respond to specific ideas.

But as usual, other people's responses to you got my brain revving, so allow me to come at your main thesis for the first time by adding my own nickel to some of the other thoughts in the thread.

Ax wrote:
There's a common motif in folktales across Europe, that of the separable soul. An evil giant/faerie/wizard hides his/her/its soul in an obscure place, and while it remains safe remains unassailable. The Ring strikes me as an example of that motif, writ large.


Good catch, Ax!

You are absolutely right that there is a long tradition behind the idea of pouring one's essence into a secret object.

Sass wrote:
What am I missing, ax? I understand that description refers to Sauron after the Ring has been destroyed in the fire; what I don't see is why you say that Will, which IS the Ring, precludes its sentience?


And that's what I was thinking too, when I read Ax's subsequent conclusion ...

Tolkien did something really novel here. The soul of the wizard is inside the egg in the nest of the eagle in the highest tree on the farther mountain BUT ... it was not broken by the hero when it should have been. It was stolen and dropped in a river and washed downstream and carried by a porcupine to its den under a tree, and the porcupine died .... and ... and ... in desperation the soul inside the egg begins to make things happen.

Sort of.

Definitely sort of.

I think that Sass is on to something here. The Ring does have a story of its own to tell. We are invited to imagine its dissatisfaction with Déagol, its long frustration with Gollum, its snugness inside Bilbo's pocket, willing Frodo to reveal himself to the Wiki, and so on. It seeks its maker.

If you just stop and think about that last sentence for a moment, and what we mean when we say of a human that he seeks his maker, it has almost moral import.

The Ring doesn't have arms and legs, obviously. Its form limits its ability to express sentience, but I'm not ready to conclude that it has none.

Ax wrote:
But the Ring would never pass a Turing test.


Well that's a darn good question!

It would be tough to come up with a method of conversation appropriate to the subject. :D

Faramond wrote:
I am not sure that Sauron knew exactly what would happen when he made the ring.


Interesting speculation.

I think this goes to Sassy's point about imagination. Was there ever a time, while making the Ring, when Sauron understood that fate is open-ended? Or was he always so focused on his own objective that he could not imagine futures outside his own will?

I think that in some respects evil is the failure of imagination. It is imagination that prompts empathy.

Faramond wrote:
Bilbo was sent over the Misty Mountains by Gandalf, who held one of the three, which was subject to the power of the one ring. We presume that the three were subject to the one ring only when a person of great power held it, and yet, maybe ...


Wow, another good catch! That is really an interesting speculation, whether Gandalf was drawn to Bilbo because of the Ring. It's rather Norse in its presumptions, isn't it?

Quote:
Sauron would have had to take it off whenever he went through airport security

:rofl:

(I'm resisting the all but overpowering temptation to say something about Tom Bombadil. Later)

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Axordil wrote:
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Precisely so--once it is in the Ring. To magnify it, to use it as a means of binding the other Rings, he weakened himself by losing it...but left an indelible impression. The Ring, as (im)pure Will, has no guiding mind beyond what its master's own corrupt nature provided in forging it, but it is capable of reactive movement in the same way a viscous fluid is: change the vessel and it changes shape to fit. This gives it theappearance of sentience, the same way a computer program can be set up to respond in a simulated conversation, using pieces of the user's own sentences to move things along.


We must agree to disagree then. What you interpret as ' the appearance of sentience' I believe actually is sentience. There are too many occasions when the Ring appears to make one decision over another for me to accept that it is driven by purely the mechanism of Sauron's will. You know, like the inner workings of a fine watch, mindlessly tick, tick, ticking away. I say that its actions are not mindless so I accept that they are proof of the existence of a mind. (be it almost unrecognizable to us because we have no frame of reference for it)

Faramond wrote:

Quote:
Sass:His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see. 

Faramond:I am not sure that Sauron knew exactly what would happen when he made the ring. He knew what he wanted, yes:

he wanted to dominate, to be the only audible voice in the world, to be a voice that could speak things into truth.


The thing is, though, is that Sauron't truth is limited by his lack of imagination and further limited because his vision is so narrow. Is he able to see beyond his own nose? No, what I mean is that his world-view consists only of conquest and domination; it is thoroughly selfish as all great evil must be. As a matter of fact, I think you'll find that all evil, even extrapolating into today's evil, is ruled by short-sighted lack of vision. In a way, evil is blind. Sauron was blind as was the Ring.

Quote:
Faramond:He was not powerful enough to do this on his own. He could not make himself into an instrument of amplification. 


But, in a way, he did. He created an instrument of amplification in the Ring. Or that is what he intended it to be. That it developed its own will which eventually split from his (due to time and the physical separation) was not in the original plan. (well, he never thought he would lose the Ring, now did he? -- that alone speaks to a non-existent imagination.)

Quote:
It is hard, even if you are not evil, to be aware of all the things that may happen, seemingly by chance, if you focus on a single goal and drive all else out of your mind. It does not have to be ego or arrogance that lets in trouble through the back door. Just a failure to see because you never look away from the thing you have put in front of you.


Well, yes, of course it is difficult to foresee ALL avenues. But it is especially hard if you are evil because those other possibilities have never even hypothetically existed.


Quote:
I have my own, less logical version of the ring's story to tell, and I will not detail all the differences between my version and yours here, but I will remark on one difference now. I think it is a fair interpretation to say the ring chose to leap from Déagol to Sméagol. I think, though, that Sméagol taking was the ring was not intended by the ring. The leap from one hobbit to another happened not because of any choice of the ring, but because of the intrinsic nature of the ring, its secretive beauty.


I only include this comment in order to nudge you into telling your version of the Ring's story. You know how much I want to hear it!

Quote:
Did the ring choose to be worn by Tom? We must also give room to the choices of Frodo, even if the ring is granted sentience. Even so, I think the ring would have chosen to go to Tom, for a moment, to test the limits of its own power. If all the ring cares about is getting back to Sauron, or getting to some other goal, then that is not sentience, that is blind will, driving, driving. There is no room for diversions then. Tom is a diversion. The ring is almost in conversation with Tom for a moment.


I agree. I contend that the Ring did become sentient and my thought is that in going to Tom it was a test. You say that the Ring was (almost) in conversation with Tom for that moment .... an intriguing thought.

I think that we need to remember that the Ring cannot be judged by the same standards one uses to judge naturally arising life, or even the non-life of wraiths since their state is a logical extension of their Rings under the power of Sauron ..... anyway, the Ring began existence as a created object with only one single purpose and due to circumstances unforeseen by Sauron (there's that lack of imagination again) evolved over centuries into something quite new in Middle-earth: I admit it was originally driven by a singular Will (although I do not believe that will was ever blind or dumb) but ultimately metamorphosed into a sort of consciousness. It became aware and had thought. So, instead of action that is entirely dependent upon the machine of Sauron's drive, it developed its own desire, its own needs, its own will.

Btw, I don't think it was finished changing. It's possible it would have become even more sophisticated although what the end result might have been I do not know.

Wampus wrote:
Quote:
Surely it is not necessary to see the Ring as sentient in order to explain its power to tempt. Elves, men and dwarves all have innate cravings for control and power -- the form it takes changes, but not the lust. 


Not strictly necessary, no. That's the beauty of Tolkien.. ( the following quote taken from an email sent to me by Athrabeth)"but that's the beauty of the tale....you can play with ideas like that and still remain firmly planted in Tolkien's world! "

In a nutshell!
Her quote hits it square on the proverbial old head. :D

Jnyusa said:
Quote:
Tolkien did something really novel here. The soul of the wizard is inside the egg in the nest of the eagle in the highest tree on the farther mountain BUT ... it was not broken by the hero when it should have been. It was stolen and dropped in a river and washed downstream and carried by a porcupine to its den under a tree, and the porcupine died .... and ... and ... in desperation the soul inside the egg begins to make things happen. 

Sort of. 

Definitely sort of. 


How very cryptic of you, Jn. :D And what a lovely poetic way to say what I, in my laborious way, have been attempting to say for pages and pages.

Quote:
It would be tough to come up with a method of conversation appropriate to the subject.


Ah, the Turing test. Since the Ring is not a machine (even though, at the beginning Sauron's Will had attributes of the mechanical about it) imnsho, said test does not apply. =:)


Quote:
I think that in some respects evil is the failure of imagination. It is imagination that prompts empathy


Absolutely! and I believe it is so, applicable to all evil, everywhere.

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So which is scarier--a Ring that's sentient, a Ring that's not, or a Ring where you're never really sure...:D

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I think that in some respects evil is the failure of imagination. It is imagination that prompts empathy



Absolutely! and I believe it is so, applicable to all evil, everywhere.


There is a similar parallel in the Harry Potter-verse, not only with the use of the soul-splitting concept, but a lack of "imagination" or comprehension on the part of the enemy. JK Rowling uses Voldemort's inability to comprehend the power of love as his undoing:

In an attempt to conquer his fear of death, Voldemort has weakened himself by dividing his soul into pieces that can be systematically destroyed, ultimately leaving him defenseless against “‘… the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole’” (HBP 478). It is because Voldemort had created several Horcruxes, that he survived the night when his killing curse rebounded due to a force incomprehensible to the Dark Lord...and inadvertantly creating a horcrux in his intended victim.

•His mother's love is said to be the source of the force which saved Harry from Voldemort in his infancy, and is cited as the secret power he has over You-Know-Who.

•On the other hand, love is the reason for Severus Snape's decision to betray Lord Voldemort who never could neither understand nor detect this decision because it was motivated by Snape's secret love for Harry's mother.

•The ultimate example of how love is all-powerful is near the finale of the story when Harry, to protect his friends, allows himself to be killed. His love for them was so great that he gave up his life, and in so doing destroyed the Horcrux embedded within his soul, leaving Voldemort vulnerable. Voldemort could not imagine somebody killing themselves for another and so didn't realize the significance of the sacrifice.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:43 pm 
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I finally have had an opportunity to read through this post. What a brilliant, provocative, thought-provoking essay you have produced, dear Sassy! I congratulate you. Truly this is more essay than messageboard post. While I have little doubt that it will generate much interesting discussion, it is full and whole and valuable in and of itself, so much so that I doubt that any discussion will change it's own inherent value.

I congratulate you.

That having been said, it is clear that the only way to address it is in small pieces, because the whole is simply too large and daunting to respond to. So that is what I will do. And while I will begin with the beginning, I suspect that over time I will pull out different pieces to respond to at different times, as different thoughts occur to me.

Sassafras wrote:
Before I really throw myself headlong into this outrageously lengthy diatribe on Tolkien's Ring, I should mention that I have no answer to the question of why he had Sauron pour most of his power into a thing that could so easily be separated from himself. As it was by a single sword cut. It has always struck me as a foolish, not to mention short-sighted, conceit, and the author's contention that, yes, Sauron was that egotistical and in hubris was further incapable of imagining defeat, also leaves me unconvinced. His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see. :shock: How the Dark Lord actually survived relatively unscathed for Three Ages while parading such arrogance is a mystery to me! But be that as it may, without the Ring there would be no story ..... and so .......


This is of course a multi-faceted question. The easy answer as to why Tolkien did this is that he was following in a long mythological tradition of beings concentrating their power into a small artifact, usually a ring (this tradition is indeed referred to in the latest great work of fantasy, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell). But as usual Tolkien's use of old motif's is a jumping off point for his own unique visions. I actually have long harbored an only partially enunciated (even to myself) thought on this subject, that reading your essay has helped to bring back to the surface.

I don't believe that Sauron was, as you say, so short-sighted as to not be able to imagine defeat. On the contrary, as Aragorn says, "He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay, doubt ever gnaws him." I don't believe that the decision to create the Ring and pour the better part of his power into it can be compared with his failure to imagine Frodo (or anyone) trying to destroy the Ring. The latter really does come from a failure of imagination; the inability to look at the world through any perspective but his own and thus understand that his enemies would be willing to try to destroy something so powerful. But the taking of his great weapon by force of arms? That is clearly within the scope of his imagination, and indeed the very source of the fear and doubt that gnawed at him.

So that brings your question all the more to the forefront. If he knew -- or should have known even within his own measure of judgment and experience -- how foolish it was to concentrate his power in this small object, why did he do it? This is all the more true given the undoubted fact that he could have just as easily dominated the world without taking that risk. I think the answer can be found in these words of Gandalf's, which define what I believe to be the most important thing about Sauron that one must keep in mind:

Quote:
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary.


I think that if Sauron truly was acting on his own behalf and motivated by his own will he would never have been so foolish as to take such a risky action, one which really had very little potential benefit for him personally. No, he was acting on Morgoth's behalf -- and motivated by Morgoth's will -- when he took this action. It was Morgoth's will that was suffused throughout the substance of all of Arda, even though Morgoth himself had been thrust through the Doors of Night. And it was Morgoth's will that of old perverted Sauron the Maia to his evil ways. I would argue that much of Sauron's evil power was granted to him by Morgoth his master, and that further the power that Sauron poured into the Ring was in fact largely made up of that ultimately evil influence. By separating that power from Sauron himself and causing it to be poured into an artifact that is in fact made up of the substance of Arda itself, Morgoth is actually moving towards reuniting that power with his own innate power, which by this point is almost entirely suffused throughout the substance of Arda (of course, Sauron's corporeal body is also made up of the substance of Arda, but it is animated by his own independent will). Moreover, by causing this corrupting power to enter into the Ring, Morgoth cleverly sets up a dynamic in which he is likely to corrupt other great wills to become additional servants or emissaries when the Ring inevitably becomes separated from Sauron, be it Isildur, Aragon, Gandalf and/or Galadriel.

But, as he ever did, Morgoth forgot these words of Eru's:

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And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.


And Eru's own emissary was greater than any of Morgoth's, though his hands were very small.

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Let me start by saying that I have really missed these sorts of conversations with you.

Voronwë wrote:
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I don't believe that Sauron was, as you say, so short-sighted as to not be able to imagine defeat. On the contrary, as Aragorn says, "He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay, doubt ever gnaws him." I don't believe that the decision to create the Ring and pour the better part of his power into it can be compared with his failure to imagine Frodo (or anyone) trying to destroy the Ring. The latter really does come from a failure of imagination; the inability to look at the world through any perspective but his own and thus understand that his enemies would be willing to try to destroy something so powerful. But the taking of his great weapon by force of arms? That is clearly within the scope of his imagination, and indeed the very source of the fear and doubt that gnawed at him. 



There is sense in what you say but for one small fact, (there's always a 'but' isn't there?) Aragorn's words were spoken after the Ring had already been taken by Isildur. When the Ring was made, and I must stress that it was many many years before the Last Battle was fought, so I defend my contention that until the fateful sword cut was made, it had not occurred to Sauron to fear defeat by force of arms. It was not until afterward, that he learned to fear that sort of strength; experience being an excellent teacher, you see. I still think he lacked imagination (and obviously we are all applying a much broader sense to the word than merely the ability to day dream about the future)

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Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary.

I think that if Sauron truly was acting on his own behalf and motivated by his own will he would never have been so foolish as to take such a risky action, one which really had very little potential benefit for him personally. No, he was acting on Morgoth's behalf -- and motivated by Morgoth's will -- when he took this action. It was Morgoth's will that was suffused throughout the substance of all of Arda, even though Morgoth himself had been thrust through the Doors of Night. And it was Morgoth's will that of old perverted Sauron the Maia to his evil ways. I would argue that much of Sauron's evil power was granted to him by Morgoth his master, and that further the power that Sauron poured into the Ring was in fact largely made up of that ultimately evil influence.



:shock: :) :bow:

I read this and then I immediately re-read it and then again one more time. And said aloud, "Of course! Of course!" It's Brilliant! I knew that Morgoth's influence on Sauron was profound and I knew that he had taught him many skills and I believe that Sauron was so bound to Morgoth he was as the lesser twin and that Sauron continued Morgoth's evil work following the War of Wrath but I had not thought to take the next step and consider that the Will, the energy, the force melding with metal was, in fact, a continuation of Morgoth!!

Thank you so much for this! I don't know that it will lead me into very many different directions regarding my basic thoughts about the nature of the One Ring, but it adds substance, solidity and certainly makes the transformative power of the Ring much more understandable. A vala may go where a maia may not, as it were!


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By separating that power from Sauron himself and causing it to be poured into an artifact that is in fact made up of the substance of Arda itself, Morgoth is actually moving towards reuniting that power
<snip>. Moreover, by causing this corrupting power to enter into the Ring, Morgoth cleverly sets up a dynamic in which he is likely to corrupt other great wills to become additional servants or emissaries when the Ring inevitably becomes separated from Sauron, be it Isildur, Aragon, Gandalf and/or Galadriel.


It becomes more of a possibility, yes. A probability even, if, if the initial intention remains intact ...... however, Morgorth himself, despite his great powers, has likely not accounted for two important things. The love and the heart of the hobbits and the altered state of the Ring.


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Quote:
And Eru's own emissary was greater than any of Morgoth's, though his hands were very small.


Ah, but evidence of those small hands are everywhere
I have more to say about this. No time right now. :(

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Sass: As a matter of fact, I think you'll find that all evil, even extrapolating into today's evil, is ruled by short-sighted lack of vision. In a way, evil is blind.

I don't think evil has to be blind. Sometimes a person sees exactly what will happen and does it anyway. Sometimes a person sees all the possible side paths that could lead to good and still chooses the expedient and evil path.

Saruman was not blind when he turned down the path to evil. It was not vision he lacked. He didn't heed what he could see. He valued his own greatness more than anything else. In his case I would say that he did become blind over time. I think it would be hard not to, but maybe not impossible.


Jnyusa: I think that in some respects evil is the failure of imagination. It is imagination that prompts empathy

Sass: Absolutely! and I believe it is so, applicable to all evil, everywhere.

I think lack of imagination is one path to evil, but not the only path. A person can see all possibilities and still choose evil. Empathy is no bar to evil, if empathy is understood as perception only, without a component of action to it. The person committing an evil act against a victim may have no empathy for the victim, or may suppress natural empathy for the victim through lies and rationalizations, or may have empathy for the victim and commit the evil anyway. Which of these three possibilities is the worst?

Surely Boromir had empathy for Frodo when he tried to take the ring! Perhaps not at the crucial moment when he assaulted Frodo, but before and after, certainly after. He had to murder his own empathy for a moment to make his attempt to take the ring possible. I can understand, very clearly, how the failure of imagination idea of evil can apply to Boromir. But he does see the path that they can take, he just chooses not to believe in it. It is not a question of sight, or imagination with him, but of belief. Maybe this is too fine a distinction, one that I make improperly.

I resist this idea of evil lacking imagination because I think it underestimates what evil people are capable of seeing and understanding.


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I don't think all evil is caused by short-sightedness, either. In fact, I think it is easier to apply a lack of imagination to evil - all evil - than to accept the fact that people - us - will sometimes just be evil. It puts a layer of abstraction in, or a layer of separation. Maybe it pushes evil down a tier and lifts up the "good" a tier ( in the minds of the good. ) We have imagination and foresight. Evil doesn't. Evil is mindless in that regard. Perhaps it soothes us to think that we cannot step down the evil path ourselves, because we have imagination - which is perhaps just a step away from thinking, we are clever enough to see the pitfalls and chose the right path. And perhaps just another step away from developing blind spots, ourselves. ( There is maybe shades of this in what Galadriel and Gandalf says about the Ring ... you start out intending to do good ... )

I do believe that much evil, or at least misguidedness, can be caused by short-sightedness - but also, people can full well chose the evil path even while seeing other paths. Sometimes, yes, "evil" is "lack of imagination". For an example, everybody's favorite punch bag, the political right. Many of the liberal rhetoric I read accuse them of being hidebound, stupid, suffering from lack of empathy - lack of imagination, then. Inability to put themselves into the shoes of the poor who need health care, the poor who needs to immigrate to better themselves, etc etc. I know how easy it is to start down that path. The guy cutting you off in traffic is always a jerk, never somebody who just didn't see you, or underestimated how fast you were approaching. Etc. So yes, it is easy enough to compartmentalize evil as a lack of imagination, but it isn't always so. There are people who chose to hurt, damage and dominate because they like to.

In fact, I think it can be somewhat enabling to throw up the imagination reason, because it gives an "excuse" of sorts, however flimsy. ( "they know not what they do" ... ) Sometimes people are just wired to be evil, or willfully chooses a path that would be defined as "evil", and that's just a hard truth.

And maybe some evil ( *coughcougheconomicmeltdowncough* ) is even caused by too much imagination. ;)


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Sassafras wrote:
Let me start by saying that I have really missed these sorts of conversations with you.


Me too. They always help me refine my own thoughts about Tolkien's work in a way that nothing else does. I love reading the works of scholars like Flieger and Shippey, and appreciate the insights that their expertise provide, but rarely if ever do they push me to new conclusions in the way that these discussions do. It was in the course of reading through your fine essay that an idea that had long nebulously existed in the back of my consciousness finally crystallized.

Quote:
There is sense in what you say but for one small fact, (there's always a 'but' isn't there?) Aragorn's words were spoken after the Ring had already been taken by Isildur. When the Ring was made, and I must stress that it was many many years before the Last Battle was fought, so I defend my contention that until the fateful sword cut was made, it had not occurred to Sauron to fear defeat by force of arms. It was not until afterward, that he learned to fear that sort of strength; experience being an excellent teacher, you see. I still think he lacked imagination (and obviously we are all applying a much broader sense to the word than merely the ability to day dream about the future)


I'm going to have to give this more thought, but I'm inclined to disagree. Let's look at the history after Morgoth's fall at the end of the First Age. Sauron was certainly never shy about achieving his aims through deception instead of through arms. That in itself doesn't prove that he feared defeat, only that he was a canny and unscrupulous character. I think his initial deception of the Elves of Eregion as Annatar, Lord of Gifts could accurately be classified as the best way to achieve his aims, and certainly that was followed by a resounding military victory. However, his bowing so utterly to the overwhelming strength of Ar-Pharazôn and the Numenoreans gives me more pause. Certainly that was his best strategy for overcoming the Numenoreans, but his unwillingness to meet strength with strength (even with the power of the Ring backing him) definitely suggests that he was absolutely capable of imagining -- and fearing -- defeat, long before he was brought down by Gil-Galad, Elendil, and Isildur.

Quote:
Quote:
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary.

I think that if Sauron truly was acting on his own behalf and motivated by his own will he would never have been so foolish as to take such a risky action, one which really had very little potential benefit for him personally. No, he was acting on Morgoth's behalf -- and motivated by Morgoth's will -- when he took this action. It was Morgoth's will that was suffused throughout the substance of all of Arda, even though Morgoth himself had been thrust through the Doors of Night. And it was Morgoth's will that of old perverted Sauron the Maia to his evil ways. I would argue that much of Sauron's evil power was granted to him by Morgoth his master, and that further the power that Sauron poured into the Ring was in fact largely made up of that ultimately evil influence.



:shock: :) :bow:

I read this and then I immediately re-read it and then again one more time. And said aloud, "Of course! Of course!" It's Brilliant! I knew that Morgoth's influence on Sauron was profound and I knew that he had taught him many skills and I believe that Sauron was so bound to Morgoth he was as the lesser twin and that Sauron continued Morgoth's evil work following the War of Wrath but I had not thought to take the next step and consider that the Will, the energy, the force melding with metal was, in fact, a continuation of Morgoth!!

Thank you so much for this! I don't know that it will lead me into very many different directions regarding my basic thoughts about the nature of the One Ring, but it adds substance, solidity and certainly makes the transformative power of the Ring much more understandable. A vala may go where a maia may not, as it were!


Thank you. The praise of the praiseworthy is its own greatest reward.


Quote:
It becomes more of a possibility, yes. A probability even, if, if the initial intention remains intact ...... however, Morgoth himself, despite his great powers, has likely not accounted for two important things. The love and the heart of the hobbits and the altered state of the Ring.


Yes! That is really exactly what I was trying (poorly) to get it when talking about Eru's small emissary. You know, one theme that permeates discussion about Tolkien's work is the question of how much it is a "Christian" work, and why it is that it appeals so widely to people of such different religious (and non-religious) backgrounds. But I think we would be hard-pressed to find anyone who appreciates Tolkien's work who does not own some level believe in the power of Love.

Faramond wrote:
I don't think evil has to be blind. Sometimes a person sees exactly what will happen and does it anyway. Sometimes a person sees all the possible side paths that could lead to good and still chooses the expedient and evil path.


I agree that evil does not have to blind. I would say rather that evil is blinkered. Even when the evil person has the ability to see all paths, they become fixated through their evilness on only some of those paths. Of course, the same can be true about good. The classic example is Manwë being deceived by Melkor into believing that he was truly "cured" because he was unable to imagine evil, and (at least in the updated version that Christopher left out of the published Silmarillion) being so fixated on the good that a healed Melkor could do that he failed to comprehend how much more harm Melkor could cause.

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However, his bowing so utterly to the overwhelming strength of Ar-Pharazôn and the Numenoreans gives me more pause. Certainly that was his best strategy for overcoming the Numenoreans, but his unwillingness to meet strength with strength (even with the power of the Ring backing him) definitely suggests that he was absolutely capable of imagining -- and fearing -- defeat, long before he was brought down by Gil-Galad, Elendil, and Isildur.


I had thought that as well--and therein lies a difference between the master and the student. Before his comeuppance Morgoth felt secure in his power, no longer reckoning with the Powers of the West. Sauron never did. He learned from his master's mistake--but he didn't learn the right lesson.

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Faramond wrote:
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I resist this idea of evil lacking imagination because I think it underestimates what evil people are capable of seeing and understanding.


Eh, I'm starting to be sorry I ever mentioned a focus on lack of imagination as a necessary component of evil. You guys appear to be concentrating on this one facet of my post to the exclusion of everything else .... and although it's fairly interesting, it's hardly the most radical of my suggestions.

Oh well. To continue the debate:

Here is the quote that started it all.

Quote:
Sass:His primary failing was lack of imagination, for all intents and purposes that lack left him blind, you see ......


I did not say that lack of imagination was his only failing, I said it was a primary failing. I still think that. Of course evil, any evil, is not so one-dimensional as to exclude additional components. Let me try explaining what i believe the phrase 'lack of imagination' includes: primarily it means an inability to imagine any deviation from the desired path including defeat due to arrogance. An inability of speculation. No capacity for true empathy which must be distinguished from sympathy. A singular focus that does not permit deviation. The refusal, or the inability, to consider any factor not conceived by the perpetrator.


Faramond said:
Quote:
A person can see all possibilities and still choose evil. Empathy is no bar to evil, if empathy is understood as perception only, without a component of action to it
.

An evil person can see possibilities but I do not think true evil (such as Sauron) is capable of empathy. Possibilities can be intellectually attended but that's just it, the attention is rational not emotional. If you could truly feel my pain, not just acknowledge the fact that I have pain, then, unless you are a raving masochist and literally enjoy the sensation of pain because it gratifies some bizarre need of your own, you could no more inflict pain upon me than you could methodically take a knife and carve upon yourself. So, I'm sorry, but I still have to reject your concept that empathy is possible for evil. Sympathy is possible, yes, but empathy? Emphatically no!

Quote:
Surely Boromir had empathy for Frodo when he tried to take the ring! Perhaps not at the crucial momen


I don't understand how we differ then? At the crucial moment, the Ring supplanted Boromir's empathy with irrational desire. Reason is suppressed, no, more than suppressed, more than merely buried, the Ring replaces reason with the enormity of sheer want fortified by an irrepressible need. There can be no question of empathy, sympathy or any other emotion beyond that dictated by the Ring. It is much too powerful for the likes of Boromir! So I don't think it's fair to judge the Gondorian for this momentary madness. What is infinitely more important is that once he is himself again, his reason restored, the remorse is genuine and all the more poignant for the depth and breadth of it and his death defending the hobbits.

Quote:
I resist this idea of evil lacking imagination because I think it underestimates what evil people are capable of seeing and understanding.



I re-iterate that, in Morgoth, or Sauron, we are not dealing with ordinary evil. Their evil is extra-ordinary and lives on an entirely other plane of existence. You cannot apply the same standards to the evil of Sauron as you can to the evil of a modern day serial killer or even a Hitler. It's apples and oranges. No, not even that, the two evils share no common organic thread, they are not only different in degree they are different in kind....... It's like trying to compare a tree to ..... a ..... a vacuum cleaner! :shock: Sauron's evil is not behavioral or the result of a dysfunctional childhood or of abuse suffered that finds release in abusing others ..... it is instead entrenched, permeating every cell, every mote, every atom of a powerful and superior being. (superior in physical,supernatural mental strength) His creation from the thought of Eru, we are told, was not evil but very early in the annals of time he was willingly seduced to Morgoth's side. Is there a single remaining remnant of good left to him? Was there ever? Or were valar and maia created neutral? Anything benign is exceedingly doubtful when you consider his mentor. There may yet be one drop of something that is not fully bad but on the whole he is a carbon copy of Morgoth. Put it this way, was redemption ever possible for Sauron and the answer is a resounding No, is it not. Evil, in the history of our planet, is never so one-dimensional as it is in Middle-earth. Humans are complicated creatures with many contradictions; Sauron is not. He is uncomplicated. A singular evil with no conflicting emotional facets. * Which is why I keep restating that he lacks imagination. There are no mitigating factors in the desire which drives Sauron. None. At least not by the time of the forging of the Ring. He is driven by one thing and one thing only: the uncompromising rule of all of Middle-earth.


* Saruman is so much more complicated than Sauron. His evil is far more multifaceted and consequently he is the more interesting study.
Just my opinion. :D

Griffy wrote:
Quote:
I don't think all evil is caused by short-sightedness, either. In fact, I think it is easier to apply a lack of imagination to evil - all evil - than to accept the fact that people - us - will sometimes just be evil ...


Again. (and I apologize for flogging a dead horse) but I really believe my first comment regarding the nature of evil has been misunderstood. I do not dispute anything anyone says concerning its make-up in our world. I was, and will continue, talking as though Morgoth/Sauron are an entirely different level of evil. And I am further certain that there can be no comparison, no application of motives between supernatural beings with supernatural powers and those of homo sapiens.

Voronwë wrote:
Quote:
Let's look at the history after Morgoth's fall at the end of the First Age <snip>. However, his bowing so utterly to the overwhelming strength of Ar-Pharazôn and the Numenoreans gives me more pause. Certainly that was his best strategy for overcoming the Numenoreans, but his unwillingness to meet strength with strength (even with the power of the Ring backing him) definitely suggests that he was absolutely capable of imagining -- and fearing -- defeat, long before he was brought down by Gil-Galad, Elendil, and Isildur.


You are right. Unequivocally right. Obviously it would behoove me to remember the Akallabêth. :D It's my least favourite section of the Sil so I usually skip it altogether, which is no excuse, I know. I shall need to rethink my assertion and since I cannot arrive at the same faulty conclusion I'll have to come up with something else entirely.
And ........ I shall need to seriously consider cowardice. What a thoroughly despicable character Sauron is! At least Morgoth has the grandeur of a fallen angel ....

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