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Old 05-26-2002, 08:13 AM   #1
Shade of Carn Dm
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Ring The Antagonist

Most people see the conflict in The Lord of the Rings as a one dimensional struggle between good and evil. The character that is most easily identified as the antagonist is of course Sauron. In my opinion the antagonist is not Sauron, but Sauron’s chief creation, the Ring. Throughout the novel Gandalf makes it clear that the Ring is more than just an inanimate piece of jewelry, it is alive and has a will of its own. The Ring symbolizes ultimate power, anyone who possesses it will eventually succumb to the corrupting nature of that type of power. Boromir, a main character, succumbs to temptation and dies for his weakness (Hardly a one dimensional struggle). Tolkien, one of the most descriptive authors of the 20th century, spends a great deal of time describing the Ring, but the reader is never introduced to Sauron. The only description of Sauron is a few passing remarks by Gollum about Sauron's black hand and a letter written over a thousand years earlier by Islidur. I believe that it is the higher, spiritual struggle, between Frodo’s will and the desire to use the Ring that is the true conflict in The Lord of the Rings. The roles of Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and even Gandalf in the battle against Sauron were all secondary to the main quest; the destruction of the Ring by Sam and Frodo. Does anyone else see the Ring as the true antagonist, or is it just crazy me?

[ May 26, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]
Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.
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Old 05-26-2002, 10:06 AM   #2
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You're not crazy, you've brought up a very valid idea.

Now that one thinks about it, the ring would seem to be the main antagonist in the LOTR. In fact, another possible point of evidence is the fact that Sauron bound his lifeforce to the ring when he forged it. Sauron's physical form was destroyed, but the ring survived. And although Sauron returned later, he couldn't do much without his precious ring. He only held total dominion over a localized area and his form (the Eye) was restricted to the top of a tower. This point emphasizes the power of the One Ring, and how in a way, it held more power than Sauron himself, which would make it a more formidable foe than Sauron or his Nazgul.

In addition, the ring was the only "enemy" in LOTR that could cause internal struggles in the bearer and thus slowly and silently destroy him, a fate that anyone could succumb to. The universality of the ring's ravaging effects also underscores it's role as the ultimate "bad guy".
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Old 05-26-2002, 10:30 AM   #3
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I think you're right Thingol.
But in the Silmarillion is stated that before Sauron made the ring, he was really the antagonist, after Morgoth.
Because Sauron imbued the lion share of his power in the ring, the ring became more powerfull then Sauron himself.

Maybe we shouldn't see the ring as an isolated character, but as a part of Sauron's mind and power (just like the Valar are parts of Iluvatar's thoughts), in LOTR seperated from it's master and longing to come back.
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Old 05-26-2002, 12:19 PM   #4
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But Sauron wanted absolute power over everything, so he created the ring. He probably knew that the ring would come out the way it to did, but he went ahead anyways. The ring didn't really have a choice. It was created for evil, so it lived it's life evil. It couldn't really help if people succumbed to it's mighty power. I think the true antagonist is Sauron. Saruman could be considered a subantagonist, but that's a whole new discussion.

[ May 26, 2002: Message edited by: Gimli Son Of Gloin ]
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Old 05-26-2002, 04:57 PM   #5
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I think it went something like this:
1) Morgoth was the first antagonist
2) After he went down, Sauron took his place
3) When Sauron created the Ring, so much of his own evil went into the Ring that the Ring became much more powerful than Sauron himself, and became capable of doing evil on its own, but still 'wanted' to return to its master, Sauron (sort of a weird, mirror image of Sam's becoming able to make his own decisions, but prefering to be with Frodo).
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Old 05-26-2002, 04:59 PM   #6
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I agree, Thingol, that the Ring is a primary antagonist, somehow alive or at least having some kind of life of its own. I would not rule out Sauron as a primary antagonist, though, because JRRT reminds the reader frequently that Frodo is aware of the Eye at all times, probing, searching. One cannot write a story that talks about that too much without ruining the telling of it, so Tolkien was limited in how often he could refer to it. But the twin orbs of the Eye and the Ring make for two powerful antagonistic allies.
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Old 05-26-2002, 06:01 PM   #7
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I agree with your idea that, in many respects, the Ring is the chief antagonist in the story.

But, I think there's another question which goes along with this, and which you have to answer if you see the Ring in this role. To what degree was the Ring sentient, able to assert its own will?

This involves such questions as did the Ring speak at Mount Doom? To what degree could the Ring determine which bearer would get hold of it next?

The Ring apparently could make itself larger or smaller to stay on someone's finger or intentionally drop off a finger. Could it do any other outward act which we would associate with a sentient being?

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Old 05-28-2002, 06:01 AM   #8
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i see both ring and maker equally in their roles as antagonists....
even though sauron is mentioned less, his presence is felt throughout the book, not only through the ring itself....
as to the ring being able to assert it's own will....i think it was very limited in that had the ability apparently to make its presence known, or felt rather, or it could remain hidden, the ability to be lost or found.....but it had no choice as to wether bilbo left it to frodo or not....
i don't think either sauron or the ring would've really cared who picked it up....though they may have preferred an ally...(cared, preferred, maybe words a bit too strong to apply to the ring, as i don't believe it to be cognitive, just sentient)....
in any case, i believe it was heavily relied upon that the ring had such corruptive powers......
now where we all know that said conception proved to be a fatal error, i can only blame that on the fact that i believe both sauron's and the ring's capacities were limited.....
the ring's due to the fact that it's already limited in physical means to steer its fate and destination, sauron's due to his weakened state in pouring his strength into the ring.....
so i see them as two equal antagonists, each halved in power, who may have had a better chance at success if they had remained a whole......


[ May 28, 2002: Message edited by: twinkle ]
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Old 05-28-2002, 07:34 AM   #9
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great topic thingol. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

i agree that the one ring was the main antagonist in lotr, but only insofar as it represents sauron's evil in conflict with the main protagonists, the ringbearers. a large part of sauron's lifeforce indeed having passed into the ring with its forging, i agree that as a product of this subcreation of evil it was somewhat sentient and held power and corruption of its own. nonetheless, despite surpassing its maker in potency still the ring answered and was subservient to sauron. as a reader my response to its "role" is as an extension of sauron and i don't think at any time as an independent entity of evil itself.

but i can understand why others can appreciate the ring as the main "villain" in lotr. hmmm, i wonder if my take had something to do with the fact that i read silm first before lotr (following co-fan advice)...
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Old 05-28-2002, 08:32 AM   #10
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well i think sauraun put so much power into the ring that it is really almost his master not the other way around.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all that wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
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Old 05-28-2002, 06:58 PM   #11
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Good stuff!

the one ring was the main antagonist in lotr, but only insofar as it represents sauron's evil in conflict with the main protagonists
I think Amarinth is correct. The One Ring has what I would call a 'narrative will', in that it acts as a catalyst or motivation for the development of many characters (along with the Palantir - to a lesser extent - for Pippin and Denethor), and centers the 'storytelling' around its material and symbolic weight. However, looking at the story rationally the ring cannot be seen as 'independent' of Sauron. It has the ability to corrupt by virtue of the evil will (of Sauron) that it embodies, but its 'material' action is basically magnetic - it is eternally drawn towards its true master.

The character of Sauron in LotR is rather more lightly sketched than some of the other characters. Perhaps this is a deliberate weighting of the narrative, perhaps it simply reflects that 'pure evil' is as banal in dramatic terms as 'pure good' - there is no ambiguity, and no real personality, with which to weave. The ring, as it comes into contact with all the main heroic characters, provides a narrative opportunity for Tolkien to explore the individual moral struggle.

Even in The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, the character of Sauron is far less delineated and 'interesting' than even the various Numenorean monarchs, or the Valar, Elves and so on. So, just like the Dark Lord himself, it seems like Tolkien poured his 'narrative' energy into the One Ring [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

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