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  1. #1

    The trinity of the rings

    Disclaimer:

    A warning to folks who are not Christian. This is a post about Christianity. And given that Tolkien was a devout Anglican, I feel it is appropriate at times to discuss how his personal beliefs are expressed in his writing. This is not an attempt at evangelism. If you are not a Christian, I am totally cool with that. Be what feels right to you and works for those around you. I'm a Christian and like it. It gives me hope. I like Tolkien, and so sometimes I see things in his writings that are ideas that we might perhaps share.

    **************

    My mind was wandering in church today, and I had a thought. Given that today is Pentecost, I was thinking about the trinity.

    The three elven rings might, it seems be seen as an expression of the trinitarian nature of God.

    Vilya was Elrond's ring. Given that he ruled a strong elven kingdom and was known as a great loremaster and sought out by people for his advice and wisdom, this ring seems like it would have the characteristics of God the Father. In that in rules, creates and gives wisdom.

    Nenya is Galadriel's ring. Given that her realm is closest in spirit and nature to the days of elves in their past glory, this ring seems to sustain. Thus it has characteristics that we might see in Christ the son.

    Narya, Gandalf's ring is fire! It inspires and gives inspiration in dark times. This sounds like the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    Well that's the extent of my musings.

  2. #2
    I think your comments as articulated here are suitable and not at all out of line. A couple of comments though:

    1. Wasn't Tolkien a devout Catholic, not an Anglican as you state?

    2. I don't think that Tolkien was thinking quite that allegorically with the 3 elven rings, but I suppose there is a loose connection which you have made here. However, wouldn't Gandalf make more sense as the Christ figure? After all, Gandalf was sent by the Valar, leaving the blissful realm to fulfill a specific mission in Middle Earth, plus his death and resurrection, all of which would seem central to the story of Christ. But if you are talking more specifically about the rings and not the bearers, I suppose fire = Holy Spirit makes sense.
    "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend," Faramir in TTT by JRRT.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilros View Post
    I think your comments as articulated here are suitable and not at all out of line. A couple of comments though:

    1. Wasn't Tolkien a devout Catholic, not an Anglican as you state?
    Yes, he was.

    2. I don't think that Tolkien was thinking quite that allegorically with the 3 elven rings, but I suppose there is a loose connection which you have made here. However, wouldn't Gandalf make more sense as the Christ figure? After all, Gandalf was sent by the Valar, leaving the blissful realm to fulfill a specific mission in Middle Earth, plus his death and resurrection, all of which would seem central to the story of Christ. But if you are talking more specifically about the rings and not the bearers, I suppose fire = Holy Spirit makes sense.
    Fire is considered symbolic of the Holy Spirit, so I don't think it's a coincidence. The talk of 'kindling' is a possible Biblical reference.

  4. #4
    You are correct, sirs! My apologies.

  5. #5
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    Being a Christian myself, I really like how strongly Tolkien's faith can be seen in his work. However, if I recall correctly, in some of his notes Tolkien did not care for allegory. So while there are elements in the story, making direct parallels ain't really what he had in mind.

    I have always thought of Gandalf as more of a Christ figure as well. But now that you mention it, there are similarites to the Holy Spirit part of the trinity. There are many references to fire and the rousing of man's courage which was one of Gandalf's main tasks in Middle-Earth.

    The direct comparison of the Elven rings to the Holy Trinity has some problems I think. One thing that stands out to me is that the One Ring is said to have power over all the others including the Three if they were revealed. This to me in biblical terms would be like saying a fallen angel would have power over the Trinity. Which is not what the Bible says. Also, I don't know if it makes a lot of difference, but wasn't the Ring of Fire originally given to Cirdan?

    Sorry if I'm being nitpicky. For what it's worth, I do enjoy making comparisons myself a lot too. It's hard not to.
    Today is a good day for Pie.

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Burglars, for they are subtle and quick to shank you.

  6. #6
    I'm not the slightest bit religious, but I see no problem with the subject being discussed here.
    As others have pointed out Tolkien was most definitely a devout Catholic, a distinction I think that would have been very important to him, especially as his mother converted to Catholicism at great personal cost to herself. The young widow was virtually disowned by her Baptist relatives, who among other things cut off all financial assistance to her.

    Your comparison of the three elven rings and the holy trinity is not new of course, similar discussions have taken place on other forums dedicated to Tolkien and his works.
    While I concede that there are certain similarities that are impossible to ignore, I think they are mostly unintentional.
    Look at the many parallels that can be made between the War of the Ring and the Second World War for instance, not to mention how Tolkien's personal experiences in the Battle of the Somme must have influenced his writing, particularly the stuff in the dead marshes.

    All authors pour a certain amount of their personal experience and beliefs into their work, it's unavoidable. Tolkien was famous for disliking allegory and strongly denied claims that the Lord of the Rings was an allegorical work. I find no reason not to take him at his word on this, including religious allegory. For that reason alone I'm fairly confident that any parallels between the elven rings and the holy trinity are coincidental, or at very most a subconscious connection.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    The direct comparison of the Elven rings to the Holy Trinity has some problems I think. One thing that stands out to me is that the One Ring is said to have power over all the others including the Three if they were revealed. This to me in biblical terms would be like saying a fallen angel would have power over the Trinity.
    The Three are perhaps meant to be reminiscent of the Trinity, but you can think of them collectively as the High Elves having the hubris to try to gain an almost divine power for themselves (so that they could defy the doom that had been pronounced on them by the Valar) and not looking too closely at where that power came from. If the One Ring represents sin in totality, the Three might then reflect the sin of pride. The Rings of the Dwarves could represent greed, since that was the effect they were said to have on their wearers, and the Nine the lust for earthly power and glory since those nine men became mighty kings, warriors and sorcerers.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coruven View Post
    Disclaimer:

    A warning to folks who are not Christian. This is a post about Christianity. And given that Tolkien was a devout Anglican, I feel it is appropriate at times to discuss how his personal beliefs are expressed in his writing. This is not an attempt at evangelism. If you are not a Christian, I am totally cool with that. Be what feels right to you and works for those around you. I'm a Christian and like it. It gives me hope. I like Tolkien, and so sometimes I see things in his writings that are ideas that we might perhaps share.

    **************

    My mind was wandering in church today, and I had a thought. Given that today is Pentecost, I was thinking about the trinity.

    The three elven rings might, it seems be seen as an expression of the trinitarian nature of God.

    Vilya was Elrond's ring. Given that he ruled a strong elven kingdom and was known as a great loremaster and sought out by people for his advice and wisdom, this ring seems like it would have the characteristics of God the Father. In that in rules, creates and gives wisdom.

    Nenya is Galadriel's ring. Given that her realm is closest in spirit and nature to the days of elves in their past glory, this ring seems to sustain. Thus it has characteristics that we might see in Christ the son.

    Narya, Gandalf's ring is fire! It inspires and gives inspiration in dark times. This sounds like the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    Well that's the extent of my musings.
    I never really looked it that way. Good point. I wonder if he did this intentionally or not?
    Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming "WOW, what a ride!"
    Continuing the never ending battle to keep Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in check

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    The Three are perhaps meant to be reminiscent of the Trinity, but you can think of them collectively as the High Elves having the hubris to try to gain an almost divine power for themselves (so that they could defy the doom that had been pronounced on them by the Valar) and not looking too closely at where that power came from. If the One Ring represents sin in totality, the Three might then reflect the sin of pride. The Rings of the Dwarves could represent greed, since that was the effect they were said to have on their wearers, and the Nine the lust for earthly power and glory since those nine men became mighty kings, warriors and sorcerers.
    That is a very interesting take on it. I recall in some of the other threads the rings could be seen as fueling existing desires to obsessively dangerous intensities.
    Today is a good day for Pie.

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Burglars, for they are subtle and quick to shank you.

  10. #10
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    As others pointed out he was indeed a catholic and not an Anglican.

    The Three Rings can indeed be -and like are- references to the trinity.

    As for Gandalf, Tolkien describes him as his Odinic Wanderer in letter 119. It's one of those characters that blend his love for both Nordic myth and his own faith. A mix between Odin and Mithra/Jesus.
    Last edited by BirdofHermes; Jun 13 2014 at 02:55 AM.
    [I]In the sea without lees standeth the Bird of Hermes.
    [/I][I]When all his feathers be from him gone, He standeth still here as a stone.
    Here is now both white and red, And all so the stone to quicken the dead[/I][I].
    The Bird of Hermes is my name, Eating my wings to make me tame.[/I]

  11. #11
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    For what it's worth, I find it interesting that all the numbers related to the Rings can be linked to important biblical references. Even the total number 20. I'm sure it's the case with other areas of mythology Tolkien used too.
    Today is a good day for Pie.

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Burglars, for they are subtle and quick to shank you.

 

 

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