May 27, 2001
Limiting the Ring
Just wanted to suggest another theory to explain how the Ring
got into hands that could destroy it.
First of all, the Ring itself can be limited by its possessor. It is a tool, designed to
carry out its original function of conveying power and tainted with Sauron's desire to
corrupt the world, and though it is described as an active entity, it is useless in the
hands of one who cannot or will not use its full power.
The Ring can be limited by the intentions of its possessor; Bilbo was protected from the
Ring's worst effects by ignorance and the good intentions that accompanied his acquisition
of the Ring. Sam was largely protected because he was, by nature, unimaginative and
unambitious. Gollum never became like Sauron because, like most of the other hobbit
Ringbearers, he didn't have the imagination or force of will to call forth real power.
What if Sauron was too haughty to even consider the possibility that the Ring could be
taken from him? Perhaps, then, the Ring might not prevent Isildur from taking it.
The Ring's passage to Gollum and then to Bilbo is well-explained. Its passage to Frodo was
tough, but neither Bilbo or Frodo understood its nature at all at that time, and so the
Ring acted rather weakly on Bilbo. Even then, the Ring's influence was almost too much for
Bilbo to give it up, even with Gandalf's help.
Actually, Gandalf took a very awful risk in letting the Ring pass to Frodo. Frodo, like
other hobbits, was resistant. But Frodo, unlike Bilbo, had been raised from the beginning
with stories of what laid outside the Shire and what was possible in the outside world. He
had been taught some perspective and a broad-mindedness that was dangerous to any
Ringbearer. He wasn't naturally ambitious, but he came as close to being ambitious in a
truly significant way as any hobbit did. Maybe no other hobbit would have understood the
Ring's danger better, and so been motivated to destroy it, but no hobbit could have done
as much damage under the Ring's lure. Happily, Gollum's attack and Frodo's inexperience in
using the Ring kept Frodo so busy after he claimed the Ring that Frodo never thought to
On another note, I think Tolkien hints on a number of occasions that a higher power is
orchestrating certain matters in Middle Earth, giving the good an opportunity (however
difficult) to triumph. Not an explanation that would satisfy some, but I don't think
Tolkien would object.