The Lord of the Rings

Powerful Essays
The One Ring to rule them all

Thought-paper on
J. R.R. Tolkien’s
The Lord of the Rings


Francis Byron P. Abao

English 146
Inst. Emil Flores

Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City.

Submitted on
October 14, 2002.

The One Ring to rule them all

The Lord of the Rings is a three part epic fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien about the struggle to destroy the One Ring of Power. Published in 1954, the work remains as relevant today as ever, when the question of power and its consequences is concerned. In fact, the work reached the height of its influence in the antiwar protests of the 1960s, where it was a main source of inspiration for activists. Part of the reason for its enduring appeal may be that it resists any one to one correspondence of symbolism and meaning. And so, people are drawn into endless debate and speculation as to what Tolkien ‘really’ meant by his story. If Tolkien had cast his work into a form that was more easily interpreted, if he had been more dogmatic and called it ‘The Use and Misuse of Power,’ for example, he would perhaps have been less effective and influential. This is because dogmas easily attract fanatics and people who want ready made answers, but disenchant those who are inclined to a more liberal, questioning approach toward life. Tolkien’s work, fortunately, was not designed to be anything as overtly political as Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto.’ It is a work of fantasy-literature, a combination which makes it hard for conservatives of the literary or political sphere to consider it seriously as purely a work of literature or political dogma. Nonetheless, it undoubtedly has something to say about the connection between politics, morality, and it says this in an imaginative medium: fantasy.
Despite the fact that we may never know what Tolkien meant, we can always ask(and answer, to an extent) what Tolkien means for me---as a reader, as an individual. If the work endures to this day, it must be because it concerns questions that many people have found to be relevant and enduring.
One such question for me is the question of the use of power and it...

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...or as long and as well as we can, to preserve and care for our place in the world and our relationships to others in it. And even if we fail, we do not if our attempt has been in vain, or, if it is part of some greater plan of some Higher Power who has our best interests at heart. The attempt itself is heroic.
But I think that Tolkien defined the best of what it means to be human in his work: that is, when faced with a crisis which seems beyond our means of coping, we choose hope over despair; trust over doubt; and faith over cynicism. “I don’t suppose we shall see them again, do you Sam? Frodo asks at the breaking of the Fellowship. “Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may.”Sam replies. (Tolkien 526).


1. Tolkien, J(ohn) R(onald) R(euel). The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
U.S.: Ballantine Books, 1965. 87,93,526.

2. Asimov, Isaac. “The Ring of Evil” The QPB Companion to the Lord of the Rings
New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. 94.

3. Day, David. Tolkien’s Ring.
London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. 51.
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