Philosophy and the One Ring
The One Ring seems to be a well-known symbol of evil and destruction. It corrupts even the noblest of people. But can you possess the Ring and still live a moral life? This was the question that lead me into the heart of Tolkien’s philosophy surrounding the Ruling Ring.
The Ring offers prolonged life and invisibility in exchange for your soul. But it seems to give different powers to different kinds of people. For example, strong willed people, like Gandalf, can use the Ring to bend others wills to match their own, while weaker beings, like Gollum, use the Ring for secrecy and evasion. Either way, it has the same effect: corrupting your spirit.
There are several wonderful examples of the Ring’s destructive capability on a being’s mind. The examples I will use are Saruman, Gollum, and Isildur. Saruman was once the highest-ranking of the Istari, head of the order. And yet, when Sauron and the Ring tempted him, evil consumed him and his morality was lost. Gollum was so deeply taken by the Ring, even at first sight, that he murdered Deagol to get it. Lastly, Isildur took the Ring from the hand of Sauron himself, and was instantly ensnared by it, and in the end, this was the cause of his demise.
These beings were taken in by the Ring’s ability to give unlimited power. Their desire for power caused them to forsake a moral life, instead choosing one of impurity. “The Ring is altogether evil,” says Gandalf, and in being so, it takes over its bearer, little by little making them evil too.
While the Ring strives to corrupt every being it comes in contact with, there are some who are able to resist. Galadriel, Sam, and Aragorn, for example, were all tempted by the Ring at one point. But they all stayed true to themselves. In Lothlorien, Frodo offers Galadriel the One Ring. She admits that her heart greatly desired this, but is able to withstand the allure of the Ring. Sam carries the Ring for Frodo after Shelob’s attack, thinking his master dead. But when he rescues Frodo, Sam gives up the Ring to him, not allowing himself to give in to it. Finally, Aragorn is also tempted by the Ruling Ring, but never acts on it, which is the main difference between him and Boromir, who tried to steal the Ring from Frodo, realizing too late the error of his ways.
This shows that all beings: Istari, Hobbits, Men, and Elves, can be tempted by the Ring, a harmless looking gold band. But to some, the enticement of unlimited power is simply too great. In using the Ring to obtain this, one abandons a moral life, for the being who possesses such power seems to have no reason to trouble himself with what is the right thing to do. Only those willing to do the moral thing and who care not about riches seem to be able to oppose the Ring’s will, showing that you cannot possess the Ring of Power and still choose to live a life of principle.