Monday, 31 January 2022

The River Anduin as bearer of the One Ring

Who was the third bearer of the One Ring - coming after Sauron and Isuldur - and before Deagol then Smeagol/Gollum?

The answer is that for nearly two and a half thousand years (TA 2-2463) the One Ring lay at the bottom of The River Anduin

This was a long time - and raises the question of why the ring was not found by Suaron (after he had reformed, some hundreds of years before the ring was found by Deagol/ Smeagol), or by the Ringwraiths: especially the Witch King who was active from TA 1300.  

Given that the ring had will, sought its maker, and seemed to posses the ability to shape chance to aid its own purposes - it is surprising that nothing happened to the ring for such a long time; that it was not able to arrange its own finding. 

Perhaps the answer is that the ring was immersed deep in water; and water was an unique element in Middle-earth, in being almost free from any taint of the evil which was permeated into the world by Morgoth. 

As Tolkien wrote in The History of Middle Earth: Morgoth's Ring

"...Certain ‘elements’ or conditions of matter had attracted Morgoth’s special attention (mainly, unless in the remote past, for reasons of his own plans). For example, all gold (in Middle-earth) seems to have had a specially ‘evil’ trend – but not silver. Water is represented as being almost entirely free of Morgoth. (This, of course, does not mean that any particular sea, stream, river, well, or even vessel of water could not be poisoned or defiled – as all things could.)"

It seems possible that the One Ring was 'shielded' by the waters of Anduin - making it both hard to detect, and rendering it unable to manipulate events in its own favour. 

And when the ring was eventually found, this was by the first of a sequence of hobbits - who (it has been suggested) were especially 'made' in order to resist the evil powers of the ring, more effectively than any other race. 

This 'chance' sounds more like the will of the Anduin (or of Ulmo, Vala of the sea and rivers) rather than something engineered by the ring. 

Also; it was only after the ring was removed from the water that its evil could again reassert itself; which it did instantly: inspiring the murder of Deagol by Smeagol. 

Acknowledgment: This idea derived from my son Billy Charlton, in the course of our conversations which also led to the Hobbit creation theory


Ben Pratt said...

Last night, having read this post already, I read Genesis 8. It stood out to me that God's solution to the great evil of Noah's day wasn't fire or plague or wars of extermination, which He has used in other situations. Instead in this instance He immersed the world in deep water. I don't claim that Tolkien was necessarily tapping that story here, but the two certainly rhyme.

Another fun sync occurred later last night as I read to my children the second half of a story called The Fair One with Golden Locks in volume 1 of Castalia House's Junior Classics series. In the story a man was tasked with retrieving a ring that had been lost in a river!

Anyway, this idea of Anduin as a vessel or even agent involved in suppressing the ring's power may extend further, specifically through Billy's Hobbit creation theory. Did not Hobbits first appear in the Vales of Anduin? The Great River certainly nurtured the young race. Perhaps it played a role in their creation as well.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ben - That's a very interesting speculation! If you want to develop the argument into a suitable form, I'd be happy to include it here as a guest post.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I cannot remember the chronology of the various references to Ulmo's attention to all waters - the wonderful detail in 'Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin' is the most vivid example, but presumably this was developed early enough for your parenthetical suggestion - both as to revealing but also as to secluding and securing so long - to be likely. Do rivers in Middle-earth seem to be able to do such things 'themselves' (or, e.g., have particular Maiar to such ends)? I was struck by the treatment of rivers reported both by Herodotus and Tacitus when I finally read translations of them right through... which Lewis takes up in his own way in Narnia.

David Llewellyn Dodds

Brick Hardslab said...

Makes sense

Ben Pratt said...

@Bruce: That is a delightful offer. I've been stewing on this and the sync fairies have been helping. I'll get it to you, but it's growing in unexpected directions, so it might take a bit.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ben - Whenever you're ready.