Friday, 25 September 2015

One Ring To Curse Them All

When JRR Tolkien wrote 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings', he may well have been inspired by a real ring.  The gold ring concerned is inscribed in Latin, and is connected to a Roman curse tablet ..... and after it was found in a farmer's field in Silchester in 1785, it was largely forgotten about after it had been sold to the Chute family, who owned 'The Vyne'. Before it was eventually passed to the National Trust in the 1930's.

The Real Tolkien Ring

The 12g gold  ring, which had been inset inset with an image of the goddess Venus, was believed to have once belonged to a Roman called 'Silvianus', who put a curse on it after it was stolen, and was the subject of some discussion between the Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Tolkien, after they realised its possible connection to the curse tablet. It is believed Sir Mortimer asked for Tolkien's expertise on the ring in 1929, when Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.

The ring has been linked to a curse tablet found at the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the god 'Nodens' in Gloucestershire. On the curse tablet, 'Silvianus' called on the god 'Nodens' to strike down the thief who stole it from him, and had written on the tablet: ‘Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens.’  Whether the curse worked or not, Senicianus apparently only reached the field in Silchester, before losing or discarding the 'cursed ring'.

After the discussion with Wheeler, Tolkien worked on the etymology of the name 'Nodens' and repeatedly visited the temple.

His fantasy novel 'The Hobbit' was published in 1937. The "One Ring", which also plays a central role in 'Lord of the Rings', is also of gold, and also contains an inscription in a fictional language called the "Black Speech of Mordor".

A 'Ring Room' has now been created at The Vyne, in association with the 'Tolkien Society' .... partly to cash in on the interest generated by all the movies, and also as a means of telling the "incredible story of this ring, the Roman tablet inscribed with a curse on the man who stole it, and its fascinating connections with Tolkien."

Interestingly, Tolkien was also inspired by the landscape he had seen before he wrote and illustrated the first book versions of his tales .....

Swiss Inspiration?

... he had been for a walking holiday in the Lauterbrunnen valley in the Swiss Alps .... its remarkably similar to his illustration of Rivendell. Oddly there is synchronicity in all this, because Peter Jackson, the director of the successful films based upon Tolkien's books, took much of his inspiration for the scenery in the films, from the epic landscapes of his native New Zealand.

Rivendell In New Zealand

Who knows .... would the books have ever been written, but for a chance theft 1,700 years ago, a curse that worked, two archaeological finds 300 years apart, and another chance meeting between two men in 1929.

Maybe it was written to be just so ......


  1. I particularly like the theory that The Ring of Silvianus was designed for wearing over a glove as depicted in the opening scene of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Has anyone tried to put it in a fire and read the hidden inscriptions?

    1. I guess that wearing rings with stones or large faces, would be difficult under well fitted gloves, gauntlets or mailed fists, so warlords, kings, emperors, bishops etc, would either have rings to be worn outside gloves with another set for no gloves. Interestingly, I seem to recall that the royal seals often started as signet rings, worn by the ruler, then as they got bigger they wore them on chains or had a servant carry them.

      Of course The One Ring had the ability to change size and adapt to fingers of varying size, from Sauron's to Frodo's, it sometimes suddenly expanded to escape its wearer but not 'Sauron, the Dark Lord'.

      I doubt that it has a fiery inscription in Tengwar the Black Speech of Mordor, with two lines of lore describing the Rings:

      "Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
      Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
      Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
      One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
      One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."

      .... but you never know.


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