The Lord of the Rings

What does the "ring" (Lord of the Rings) symbolize? What was the purpose of the ring. Does it have any spiritual connotations?

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Symbolism Tolkien wrote the following about the idea behind the One Ring: "I should say that it was a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalized and so as it were passes, to a greater or lesser degree, out of one's direct control." (Letter #211, 1958). Tolkien always strongly held that The Lord of the Rings was not allegorical, particularly in reference to political events of his time such as World War II or the Cold War. At the same time he conceded "applicability" as being within the "freedom" of the reader,[6] and indeed many people have been inclined to view the One Ring as a symbol or metaphor. The notion of a power too great for humans to safely possess is an evocative one, and already in the 1930s there were technologies available to suggest the idea. By the time the work was published, though not when most of it was written, the existence of nuclear power and nuclear weapons were common knowledge, and the Ring was often taken as symbolic of them.[7] The effect of the Ring and its physical and spiritual after-effects on Bilbo and Frodo are obsessions that have been compared with drug addiction; actor Andy Serkis who played Gollum in the film trilogy cited drug addiction as an inspiration for his performance.[8] Parallels have been drawn between the literary device of Tolkien's Cursed Ring and the titular ring in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.[9] Tolkien dismissed critics' direct comparisons to Wagner, telling his publisher, 'Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.'[10] According to Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien, the author held Wagner's interpretation of the relevant Germanic myths in contempt.[11] In the contrary sense, some critics hold that Tolkien's work borrows so liberally from Wagner that Tolkien's work exists in the shadow of Wagner's.[9] Others, such as Tom Shippey[12] and Gloriana St. Clair[13], attribute the resemblances to the fact that Tolkien and Wagner have created homologue works based in the same sources. However, Shippey and other researchers have written on an intermediary position, stating that both the authors, indeed, used the same source materials but that Tolkien was, in fact, indebted to some of the original developments, insights and artistic uses made upon those sources that first appeared in Wagner.[14][15]

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