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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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NOTE: THE RING: A DOUBLE-EDGED WEAPON
From this point, Tolkien refers to Frodo's ring as "the
Ring" because of its great importance. The Ring emerges
through the course of the story as a symbol of the power to
control others. The Ring is a dangerous weapon, however;
while it gives its wearer the power to dominate others, it
also has the power to dominate those who possess it.
Remember Bilbo's unwillingness to give it up?

Some readers see the Ring as a symbol for the atomic
bomb. Like the Ring, the bomb is a weapon of great power,
but it's also dangerous to the country that possesses it.
Tolkien, however, denied that anything in his book stands
for any one thing in the real world.

Gandalf says that Gollum's story is a sad one that might
have happened to others, including some hobbits he has
known. Do you think he's referring to Bilbo? Gandalf also
comments that even Gollum wasn't wholly corrupted by the
Ring: "There was a little corner of his mind that was still
his own..." He seems to be implying that Gollum wasn't
evil at first. Gandalf pities Gollum and wonders aloud if he
could be cured, speaking of evil as if it's a disease. In
Gandalf's story about Gollum, Tolkien introduces themes
that will be repeated throughout the book: Nothing starts
out evil. Those who do fall into evil are hurt by it, but it's
always possible for them to be redeemed.



Sauron has learned from Gollum that his Ring was found,
and for the first time he hears of hobbits and the Shire.
Sauron will come looking for the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo.
When he made the Ring, Sauron put most of his power into
it, and without it his strength is limited. If he can recover
the Ring, no one will be able to stop him. To keep Sauron
from getting it, the Ring must be destroyed.

NOTE: The Ring must be destroyed because of its power to
corrupt even the best of individuals. In this way it is similar
to a treasure appearing in another novel, John Steinbeck's
The Pearl. In that book a pearl of great value is found by a
poor Mexican Indian. He finds that it's a curse rather than
a blessing, however. The pearl appeals to the greed in
others, who resort to apalling acts of violence in an attempt
to possess it. In the end the Indian casts the pearl back into
the sea, where it can no longer incite men to evil. The pearl
symbolizes the corrupting lure of wealth, while the Ring
symbolizes the corrupting effect of power.

Frodo tries to give the Ring to Gandalf, who refuses to take
it. The Ring would corrupt even him; he would not be able
to resist the temptation to use it for good. And Gandalf is
sure that once he used it, the Ring would gain power over
him and he'd become another Dark Lord, like Sauron.

Also, Gandalf says, Frodo was meant to have the Ring. He
has been chosen by some higher will that has power for
good in the world. But Gandalf emphasizes that it's Frodo's
choice to accept or reject this destiny. Tolkien introduces
two more of his themes here. One is that there is a
benevolent force at work that opposes the power of evil,
and that everyone has a role to play in its grand design. The
other is that individuals should not be forced to do
anything-even to follow their roles in the grand scheme of
things. For good or bad, all people must be free to make
their own choices.

Frodo is woefully unprepared for the challenge. At first he
thinks the Ring can be destroyed with a hammer or by
throwing it into the fire. But Gandalf tells him that it can
only be destroyed in the volcano where it was made, in the
Crack of Doom in Mordor. This information scares Frodo,
and he doubts he'll be able to perform such a deed. But for
now he accepts the responsibility of guarding the Ring and
will take it to Rivendell, where it will be out of Sauron's
grasp.

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