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The Lord of the Rings | Symbols


The One Ring

The One Ring, forged by the Dark Lord Sauron, symbolizes the corrupting influence of power, especially when used for self-serving ends. Tolkien wrote of it, "I should say that it was a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalized and so as it were passes, to a greater or lesser degree, out of one's direct control." (Letter #211, 1958).

Those who take the One Ring out of a desire for power are corrupted more quickly, but even those who would use it to achieve good are in danger of becoming corrupt over time, which is why Faramir, Galadriel, and Gandalf all refuse to take it. Gandalf warns,

We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength ... is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier power. The very desire of it corrupts the heart.


Aragorn's sword is forged from the shards of Narsil, which had once belonged to Elendil. The sword broke beneath Elendil when he fell, slain by Sauron, and then Elendil's son Isildur used its pieces to cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. Andúril, meaning Flame of the West, symbolizes Aragorn's claim to kingship and, with its reforging, his ability to restore the kingdom and his family line. Aragorn must use Andúril when he faces Sauron, just as Elendil wielded Narsil in battle with Sauron. Andúril thus symbolizes a history of heroic battles won or lost, a history of which Aragorn will now become a part.

I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!

Wizards' Robes

Radagast wears brown robes, signifying his connection to nature and the woods. Saruman begins with white robes, symbolizing the power of light, goodness, and moral and spiritual purity, but he gives them up for rainbow-colored robes when he becomes corrupt:

His robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White, wearing white robes as a symbol of his new status as leader of the Wise and as a powerful force for goodness, light, and purity.

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