Tolkien’s Ring: an allegory for the modern State

David Davis

And this one’s for you, Tony, old chum!

While idly wandering around the Libertarian Alliance Library, I chanced on this and it fits with my perennially gloomy mood about the grand prospects for Liberty in an increasingly statist world. Here’s an exerpt from quotable reviews of the article:

Said by Gandalf, about Sauron:


That we should wish to cast him down and

have no one in his place is not a thought that

occurs to his mind.




3 responses to “Tolkien’s Ring: an allegory for the modern State

  1. The true nature of the Twenty Rings is much more complex and interesting than PDH’s attempt to force-fit them into a “Frodo versus the State” paradigm.

    I’ll respond with a more complex and more insightful analysis in due course, over the next few days. I hope that interested readers will take the time to study the chronology of the Rings, their creation, and their part in a story that stretches across eons of time. So used are we to “Frodo-and-the-Ring” that we even forget that the title of the work in which Frodo makes an appearance is “The Lord of the Rings.”

    This emphatically does _not_ refer to Frodo…

    I owe much of what knowledge I have managed to glean over the years to Anne C Petty, and her superb study “One Ring To Bind Them All.” She has a web site.

    Meanwhile, here is a passable chronology courtesy of Wiki.

    It should be noted that nineteen of the Rings were forged by Celebrimbor and the Elven-smiths of Eregion, a very long time ago. Their project was to enable the perfection of the world of Middle-Earth, giving to all a Paradise which had been denied to them by the Valar, the instruments of God on Earth.

    As Gandalf said at the time of making, this was a venture fraught with danger in and of itself.

    But these were the most talented creators the world had ever seen, confident in their Arts and Sciences. Without their project, Sauron could never have developed his Ringcraft; his own Ring would have been less powerful by far; and it would not have been able to draw upon and ingather the powers and forces of the other Nineteen. The Three Elven-rings were forged without Sauron’s participation, limiting his power over them.

    The nature of Sauron’s One Ring is enigmatic — it is at once alive, with a mind and a will of its own; and it serves as a psychic amplifier for the wearer, extending and augmenting their power.

    Its essence is _control_ — coercive control over the minds of men (this is the chief evil in Tolkien’s world-view); social control; and control over nature. Its driving force is to supplant (Ea) God in perpetual dominance over the entire created Universe.

    This makes the State look quite tame…

    More, later,



  2. We know that the spirit of Morgoth, who did his best to ruin the Creation of the world, suffused itself into the very fabric of Arda. Not possessing access to the Flame Imperishable, he could not create new living things. When he was overthrown, and cast into the void, Sauron was left without a powerful master.

    What more natural, but that he should seek to re-create that power, augment it with Ring-craft, magic and his own life-force, yet have it captive in the form of a Ring that only he can control.

    The Ring knows what it’s doing. It has all the time in the world, being immortal and indestructible. It cannot move, but it can motivate others to move it (and use it). I think that what it seeks is not reunion with Sauron, but independent power. To achieve this, it requires a bearer who will be a competent, passive instrument. Gollum lacks capacity. Rule him out. Then this hobbit Bilbo comes along. He’s much more promising. But he insists on resisting the allure of the Ring.

    Whereas the Ring perceives that Frodo is a good match. It knows it can master him. So it accompanies him to Mount Doom. Once in Mordor, it can rebuild its forces and its strength using the servile creatures of Sauron, and even Sauron himself.

    At the crucial moment, when Frodo is supposed to fulfill his Quest, the Ring makes its play, and prompts him to claim the Ring for himself, and put it on, immediately assuming all of its terrible powers. And Frodo gives voice to this assumption of power as he claims the Ring (and the Ring claims him).

    Now the Ring has a bearer whose will is overpowered by its own. Morgoth’s spirit lives on, this time with access to the Powers conferred by the other Rings. The Power to remake Arda itself in Morgoth’s image.

    And we are saved from this truly terrible fate — complete domination by evil compounded with physical force, technology and magic — by the most unlikely of saviours.


    He cannot bear seeing the Ring and Frodo choose each other, so he does the only thing he can. He jumps onto Frodo, and bites Frodo’s Ring finger off, complete with the Ring (just as Isildur cut the Ring off Sauron’s hand with the hilt of Narsil, so many years ago).

    Gollum loses his footing, and falls into the Chamber of Fire along with the Ring, and is destroyed. Perhaps this is no part of the Ring’s plans.

    And the One Ring? Well, how do we know that the only place it can be destroyed is the Sammath Naur? Sauron created it there alone, and at no point does he impart any information on its destruction to anyone else. Why would he? How could he be sure it was possible?

    So what happens to Morgoth’s Ring? Is it carried by the lava flows elsewhere, to await a new Bearer? Or does it allow itself to melt and be diffused into the lava flow, there to spread itself without limit? We are not told. Without its power to draw upon, Sauron and Mordor collapse.

    But for Morgoth, the story continues.

    And for us also…



  3. Postscript:

    A superb indexed hypertext guide to Tolkien’s legendarium, created with great skill and loving care, can be found at:

    Keep this in a window and you can look everything up as you read.

    And by all means get Anne C. Petty’s “One Ring To Bind Them All.”