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Author Topic: The Ring and the Sun
Roll of Honor Thorin
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quote:
He wanted it because it was a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible; only in the full sunlight could you be seen, and then only by your shadow, and that would be shaky and faint.
Riddles in the Dark, The Hobbit; (emphasis mine)

This aspect of the Ring has always been a bit confusing for me. What significance is it that the shadow of the one wearing the Ring can be seen? After musing over this for a while, I have come to two different options. Others might be thought of, but these are the best I could come up with.

1) The shadow has no significance whatsoever, and it’s inclusion was simply an interesting little twist to the story.
2) The shadow is present because the Ring can not hide from the All-Seeing Sun.

The shadow has no significance
The pros to this argument include that the “shadow” is never mentioned in the Lord of the Rings. “The Ring” was simply the “ring” in the Hobbit, and had not reached what it would afterwards become in the sequel. The shadow could have simply been a simple literary device to make a point that the invisibility would not confer invulnerability.

The cons to this argument include the meticulous attention to detail of the Professor. If he could take out the word “gnome” in subsequent editions, it seems that it would have been an easy task to take out the shadow idea. His conception of the Noldor (gnomes) had changed, but the ring-bearer’s shadow evidently did not. He also went to great lengths to show the unpleasant results of Gollum keeping the Ring. Such detail to the Ring means that he didn’t miss much, if anything, relating to it.

The shadow means that the ringbearer is still seen by the Sun
The pros to this argument include the multiple quotes regarding the “seeing” principles of the Sun. Gandalf mentions this in The Shadow of the Past, it is in Bilbo’s “Inn” song that Frodo sang in Bree, and Gollum hints at it on his journey to Mordor with the hobbits. It also has the unlovely distinction of being the only idea that seems to have an ounce of sense.

The cons to this idea is the existing work the Professor had at the time of the writing of the Hobbit. The Quenta, the Earliest Silmarillion, and the Tale of the Sun and Moon provide little, if any, of the later “seeing” aspect of the Sun. In fact, previous to the publication of the Hobbit, the Sun seems to have been rather unruly, hunting Earendil from the sky. The semi-developed idea of the Sun being able to watch things seems to be a later development that was not present during the writing of the Hobbit. It is also quite conceivable that the Sun could not “see” at all, but it was simply one of the myths of those that lived in Middle-earth that came out in conversations and songs.

Conclusion
Beats me. I’m kind of leaning towards the seeing attributes of the sun being the explanation, but I’m by no means certain. Does anyone have a better idea than those explanations that I mentioned, or more convincing arguments for these ideas?

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Roll of Honor Eryndil
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Greetings Thorin.

Not sure I have better ideas or more convincing explanations, so I hope different will do.


The sun in TH definitely has some extra effects, such as turning the Trolls to stone and making the goblins feel weak. I am pretty sure that the effects of the sun on trolls is found scandinavian folk tales and may have been the source for this, but the hatred of creatures of the enemy for the sunlight is an early theme in Tolkien's mythology, I think. Perhaps when Tolkien rewrote TH with the Ring as an instrument of evil he felt that since the servants of Morgoth were frequently weakened in sunlight, then the Ring as Sauron's creation should exhibit some limit to it's powers? Or maybe it was just a characteristic of sunlight and moonlight within the story of TH to interact (in an unconscious way) with 'magical' things - the trolls, moon-runes, the side door and the ring.

As far as the shadow being a twist to the story and having no deeper significance goes, the shadow appears when Bilbo is squeezing through the goblin's back door and again when he sneaks out of the elvenking's halls amongst his hunters. In these two places it is an effective story device and maybe Tolkien felt it would detract too much if he altered it. I lean towards this as an explanation, but as you rightly point out, Tolkien was meticulous in his attention to detail, which is a strong argument against this.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
Bilbo (Bilbo) Bilbo Baggins -
He's only three feet tall!
Bilbo (Bilbo) Bilbo Baggins -
The bravest little hobbit of them all!

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Imbëar
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I think what is meant is that the Ring-wearer is reduced to the Shadow of his or her former self.

It goes deeper, of course.

Desire removes us from the experience of life.
In desiring the world, we remove ourselves from it.
Much like a dragon over his wealth of virgins and gold, we cannot enjoy that which we grasp and cleave to by force, dominion, sorcery.

And it goes deeper, of course.

Imbëar

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Roll of Honor Miz Lobelia
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Hurrah! A real Hobbit discussion topic!
quote:
The shadow has no significance
The pros to this argument include that the “shadow” is never mentioned in the Lord of the Rings.

I cannot recall any places in LOTR where the Ring was actually used in full sunlight. Frodo uses it inside at Tom Bombadil's, in the inn at Bree, at night on Weathertop and, of course, in that most sunless of spots, The Cracks of Doom. Sam uses it at the tower of Cirith Ungol. So it could very well be that this is still a property of the Ring.

It could be argued that Bilbo used it for many years and no-one noticed a shadow - but Bilbo was aware of this property and might have been therefore a tad more careful. Of course, there is Merry's story of seeing Bilbo use the ring to avoid the SBs - maybe a glimpse of shadow out in the corner of his eye caused him to be looking at the right spot when Bilbo removed the Ring?

Although the ring was not thought of as The Ring at the time of the writing of TH, the sunlight property fits in well. It could be argued that the sun shows what it is turning you into - a wraith, a shadow and that Sauron was incapable of making something that was totally perfect.

Thorin! While I was typing this my Annotated Hobbit arrived! Hurrah!

[ 09-20-2003, 01:15 PM: Message edited by: Miz Lobelia ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Excellent posts so far!

Nice to see you again, by the way, Imbear. Please, do go "deeper." I was surprised by the brevity of your post.

Regarding the Annotated Hobbit, I am 99% sure that the "shadow" was in the first edition of the Hobbit. My copy is at a friend's, but I'm fairly certain that the shadow aspect was in the first published edition.

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Imbëar
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Hail thee, O Thorin!

The next implication to my mind is that the "Shadow" is that piece of us which we cannot "throw" away or "cast out." The Shadow seems resistant - the shadow cannot be destroyed. In a strange sense, our Shadow is also what keeps us from completely disappearing. The Shadow is first a snare, but then it becomes a tree to which we cling against strong winds.

That piece which we cannot "let go," seems to be an Ego attachment to the world; the deepest desire; the deepest addiction.

The "shadow," in nearly every mythology, is actually a fortunate character - a holy crow......the crow can be trusted to look out for its selfish best interest.
At first, we run from the shadow.
Then we embrace it (or rather, it embraces us).
And then the shadow overthrows itself - like Gollum, Frodo's shadow.
Wait...wrong book [Wink]

Sorry, not a quality reply. However, I plan to be back with more.
My friends and I are discussing The Hobbit right now.

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Imbëar

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ZENITH
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I had often wondered about this small passage, of which you have picked up on.

quote:
....and in the darkness bind them.
My thoughts are upon the ring's creation. It was 'made' of pure malice of and evil. It is always the strongest in the dark,(by this I mean it's own designs) It slipped from golum in the dark cave, in mordor it was 'heavier' for frodo. I think that under the sun It didn't have the same power of which it could draw from the dark, and thus wasn't as powerful.
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Let me just say that I had no idea that this topic could take such an interesting path.

Imbear, I will patiently wait for more from you. By the way, I certainly think that was a quality reply.

Z, you mentioned something I've never thought of. Darkness, being a lack of light and not a substance in and of itself, is used very prominently in the Professor's works. Even Tom Bombadil makes a mention of it:
quote:
He [Tom] knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.
But, I confess, I've never thought of the Ring in the way that you describe it.
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Imbëar
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As you all know,
I always hesitate to give the Ring a "real" power.

In regard to darkness, it is my belief that the Ring gains power relative to the fact that the Ring-wearer is more fearful in the dark - and when the wearer is afraid, the Ring's "allure" (its "promise" of invisibility, of Escape) becomes twice as heavy.
The Ring is stronger in the dark because the Wearer is weaker in the dark.

Continuing,
"darkness" is often metaphoric of the unconscious mind, of the lower regions in which the bestial impulses drive.
The Ring's power is personified as an "evil will" -
which might be imagined as an Intelligent Bestial Impulse (Intelligence comes from the Ring's will "in rapport with Sauron").
The less conscious - or independently Willed - the Ring-wearer, the more power or influence or access the Ring will have to the wearer's inner Shadow (the dark aspects of the lower mind).

I still see something fruitful in the Shadow, in that It won't let you die until you kill It.

Imbëar

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Dark Lord Andúril
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Could it be the properties of sunlight that makes the ring "lose" its power.

When putting on the ring, you exist in the shadow world, and can be seen as a person other than a shadow. Now, could this not mean that when you put on the ring, you are seen as a shadow, and not as a person? You would only see half a shadow becuase there was only half a person there.

From: In Imladris I dwell... | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Thief
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I agree with Miz Lobelia... Taking it literally.

quote:
I cannot recall any places in LOTR where the Ring was actually used in full sunlight. Frodo uses it inside at Tom Bombadil's, in the inn at Bree, at night on Weathertop and, of course, in that most sunless of spots, The Cracks of Doom. Sam uses it at the tower of Cirith Ungol. So it could very well be that this is still a property of the Ring.
True I think.
In tLotR, Tolkien doesn't tell the reader the way the ringbearer appears physically (I think), so I believe that the ring still does show your physical shadow, where "only in the full sunlight could you be seen"

I agree with Zenith as well: That the ring was forged in darkness, malice... &. and that in the sun the ring is effected... []

Still I think that the wearer of the ring when in sunlight casts a shadow... literally

[ 09-22-2003, 03:24 AM: Message edited by: The Thief ]

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Roll of Honor Gna
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I thought along the same lines as did Miz Lobelia; under what circumstances was the Ring used after it had passed from Bilbo's possession? Frodo used the Ring on Amon Hen, to escape from Boromir, on a clear, sunlit morning. But Boromir was perhaps blinded by his greed and lust for power, so Frodo disappeared entirely from his sight. Sam, however, driven by loyalty and pure friendship, was not fooled by the invisibility conferred by the Ring-he perceived Frodo's location and intent, with no need for a wavering shadow. A true heart and genuine concern led him to the apparently passenger-less Elven boat.

I don't think that Bilbo's wavering shadow was necessarily a simple plot device, or an accident, and I agree with Imbëar that the shadow may foretell the destiny of one overcome by the power of the Ring. Then there is this line, about the Black Riders, from the chapter A Knife in the Dark :

quote:
They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys; and in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us: then they are most to be feared.
It seems to me that this quote is entirely consistent with the interpretations presented by many citizens in this thread, and it is also consistent with a solid place for The Hobbit as a precursor for much of the mythos present in the LotR (obviously I'm opposed to dismissing The Hobbit as a simple children's story, full of "accidents" and mistakes later corrected...).

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....adûn izindi batân tâidô ayadda: îdô kâtha batîna lôkhî....

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Fabian
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Just a thought. Perhaps the wearer actually do cast a shadow, because he is not really invisible.

We've probably all heard the argument that an invisible person would also be blind, because the only way to be invisible is to not reflect sunligth (being transparent would allow rays of light to pass through the eye without stimulating the sensory cells).

My thoguht is that perhaps the Ring doesn't hide you from vision, as in from the onlookers' eyes, but rather from their minds.

Of course, then your shadow should be perfectly visible when exposed to any light source, and the invisibility pretty pointless other than in absolute darkness. So it seems I have proved myself wrong.

Oh well, I'll go ahead and post this anyway.

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Thingol of Doriath
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Uhm, Bilbo's shadow was visible by torchlight as well... not only the Sun. From Barrels Out of Bond:

quote:
More than once he(Bilbo) was nearly caught in the doors, as they clashed together when the last elf passed; yet he did not dare to march among them because of his shadow (altogether thin and wobbly as it was in the torchlight), or for fear of being bumped into and discovered.
I believe that there is another quote somewhere about his shadow being visible in the torchlight... I'll try and find it.

I think the presence of the shadow is a cross between Thorin's first conclusion(an interesting little twist to the story) and Fabian's idea that the bearer wasn't truly invisible.

[ 09-22-2003, 08:57 AM: Message edited by: Singollo of Doriath ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Ack! Singy, I have read the Hobbit more times than I can count (I think I lost track around 40, and that was ten years ago), and I forgot about the torch light episode during this conversation. Thanks! That tosses another wrench into the works that I was unprepared for. * goes back to drawing board *
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Roll of Honor Miz Lobelia
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Oh poo, I forgot about the Boromir episode. Thanks, Gna for leaving me some wiggle room with your explanation.

Another thought though - I wonder if the ability to be seen by the light of the sun (or of a torch) becomes less the more you own/use the Ring. Prehaps as you use it and become consumed by it, there is less of a real 'you' to cast a shadow.

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Roll of Honor Lugbúrz
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If the wearer could be seen in torchlight then the quote Thorin starts with is obviously in error, because it states simply that only sunlight can show the wearer, and only as a shadow.

The quote Singollo provides is, I think, meant to say that the shadow of the wearer in sunlight is weak akin to the shadow in torchlight (when not wearing the ring).

quote:
He might even venture into places where the torches were lit and made his eyes blink and smart; for he would be safe. Oh yes, quite safe. No one would see him, no one would notice him, till he had his fingers on their throat.
~Riddles in the dark.

I think how you interpret the vulnerability of the ring (in granting invisibility) has a lot to do with how you interpret the invisibility of the ring in the first place. The literal effects are of course obvious in the story, and then there are the figurative ones. Tolkien's view on how a good story would become an allegory and how a good allegory would become a story worth telling is I think beautifully brought out with the ring. Starting as a magic ring in the Hobbit it develops to become the One Ring in the sequel, and with that adds a dimension to its legend.

Were the Rings made to confer invisibility? Of course not, Sauron or the Elves never meant it to reach a mortal hand, much less anyone elses. For the literal interpreation of this very magical effect I see the incapacity to remain under one's own power when they wear the ring, a corruption beginning with the body and leading to the mind and soul, that this in itself draws some to use it is cunning and malice working hand in hand. Figuratively, as the Professor puts it there is escapism. And escapism is the seed for the evil to come.

So what do I make of the wearer being visible in sunlight? Literally that the Sun is Morgoth's greatest fear, and so it is that his evil is incapable of working freely under the Sun. Figuratively, that one can never truly escape reality when the will of Good is there.

Of course, that is my concise way of looking at it, and the allegory that the Ring provides is so beautiful in many dimensions!

I especially enjoyed Fabian's post! Ah, the troubles we have to explain the magic of fairy-tales with modern science. []

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
In utter chaos lies impeccable symmetry.

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Arnkell
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Here's a solution to the problem with "eyeballs not functioning if one is truly invisible" and a couple of other things.
When you put on the ring, your eyes DO stop working normally, the ocular nerves stop reading photons.

The world is bleaker, more blurred, the wraith-plane.
What this could mean for your vision is that you're working like a bat or a shark, your mind is taking in data from other sources than the eyes.
A shark can "see" very well in total darkness, through the earth magnetism passing through it and the sea canyons, and a bat can paint a good picture with its echoes.

Remember also that certain book-characters perceived through the wraith plane, or in conjuncture with the ring, change appearance because of it.
Glorfindel and Aragorn shine and grow in stature, Bilbo shrinks and is reduced to a disgusting, pitiful creature, all in Frodo's perception, with OR without having the ring on, but when inside its field of influence.

So where do these powers come from, then? This is intimately coupled with the true nature of the Maiar, who before they descended into Arda were free to change shape and hue and lived in the Void.

The ring, with powers linked to Sauron directly, gives the wearer a shard of the primordial powers of a Maia, chiefly as a window to the other levels of existence previously inaccessible to a child of Illúvatar.
It seems it has chiefly the negative virtues of a "fallen" maiar, it works best away from light and automatically works against the wearer's wisdom and enlightenment for the benefit of instinct, greed and self-preservation, at all costs.

Also, logically water should make an invisible body look like a big shape of "bent" light, much like the Predator in the movie with the same name.
Sure, light passes through a ring bearer, but if there's no water where the bearer is it must look kind of like carvings in ice.

Since it also is Ulmo's domain I imagine his influence puts some impairments on its effectiveness in water.

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Snöwdog
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quote:
Also, logically water should make an invisible body look like a big shape of "bent" light, much like the Predator in the movie with the same name.
Sure, light passes through a ring bearer, but if there's no water where the bearer is it must look kind of like carvings in ice.

I wonder how Isildur looked in the Anduin when he was wearing the ring before it slipped from his finger while swimming.
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