The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by

J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Ring Symbol Analysis

The Ring Symbol Icon

The Ring symbolizes intense desire, which the novel suggests allows evil to thrive. Also called the One Ring (to distinguish it from the other Rings of Power), the Ring was forged by Sauron and is the object upon which his life and power depend. Each bearer of the Ring is corrupted by its temptation of greatness and domination; even a hobbit like Sam, whose aim in life is only to be a gardener and live in comfort, envisions his existence as a fearsome ruler of Middle-earth while carrying the Ring. The Ring brings tragedy to those who can’t resist its promise of greatness: Gollum, whose existence since losing the Ring has been reduced to a desperate desire to find it again, dies as soon as he takes it from Frodo—and Sauron, who cannot fathom that anyone would want to see the Ring destroyed, is destroyed along with it. The Ring seems to corrupt its bearer by augmenting their greed and forcing them to become dependent on it, which means that Frodo’s ability to carry it over such a long journey is due to his humility and his lack of desire to control anyone else.

The Ring Quotes in The Return of the King

The The Return of the King quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Ring. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
).
Book 5, Chapter 9 Quotes

“We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dûr be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless—as we surely shall if we sit here—and know as we die that no new age shall be.”

Related Symbols: The Ring
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 1 Quotes

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need a due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.

Related Characters: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Sauron
Related Symbols: The Ring
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 3 Quotes

Sam guessed that among all their pains he bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind. Anxiously Sam had noted how his master’s left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep to his breast, clutching, and then slowly, as the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn.

Related Characters: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Sauron
Related Symbols: The Ring
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

Sam’s hand wavered. His mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil. It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollum’s shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again.

Related Characters: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Gollum
Related Symbols: The Ring
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 9 Quotes

“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

Related Characters: Frodo Baggins (speaker), Samwise Gamgee (Sam)
Related Symbols: The Ring
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Ring Symbol Timeline in The Return of the King

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Ring appears in The Return of the King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 5, Chapter 4
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...would have preferred that, because Boromir was loyal to him, and he regrets that the Ring didn’t end up in Minas Tirith so that he could have kept it himself. (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
Gandalf tells Denethor that Boromir would never have brought the Ring to him. Even if Boromir had lived, he would’ve tried to claim the Ring for... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 9
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Gandalf knows that Denethor’s despair was not totally unjustified: there must indeed be huge forces gathering in Mordor. Gandalf still hopes for victory in the war but believes it cannot be... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 1
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...any further, he won’t ever return from Mordor. In his fear, he takes out the Ring and puts it on; he feels its huge weight and the searching evil of Mordor.... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
Sam considers the Ring again, but he understands that its power is growing and it is dangerous to wield.... (full context)
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...only thought that keeps him moving forward is of Frodo in danger or pain. Suddenly, hearing someone running towards him, Sam stops. He finds himself clutching at the Ring but doesn’t... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
Sam tells Frodo that he has the Ring. Frodo demands Sam give it back to him, and when Sam suggests they share the... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 3
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...him he has no strength to go on. Sam warily offers again to carry the Ring, at which Frodo moves to challenge him with his sword before catching himself. He tells... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...army waits at the Black Gate. Looking towards the Eye makes Frodo reach towards the Ring on the chain around his neck, and Sam kneels down to hold his hands. He... (full context)
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...road, Sam is struck by a weight and finds Gollum has come to seize the Ring from Frodo. Sam draws his sword, but Frodo and Gollum are locked together and he... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
...speaks in a strange, powerful voice. He says he will not carry out the quest—the Ring belongs to him. Frodo puts the Ring on his finger and vanishes. (full context)
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
...blacks out momentarily as a dark shape leaps over him. When Frodo puts on the Ring, he draws Sauron’s attention, and Sauron at once understands Aragorn’s intention was only to distract... (full context)
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...bites down on something with his fangs. Frodo becomes visible again, and Gollum holds the Ring, still with Frodo’s finger inside it. He dances with mindless joy and topples off the... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 5
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
...there will be a lot that will soon decay. With the destruction of the One Ring, the Three Rings also lost their power. It is now up to the mortal men... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 6
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Elves. Arwen tells him that Bilbo is very weak now that the power of the Ring has been destroyed, and he only has one long journey left in him. Aragorn tells... (full context)
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
...getting very sleepy. Bilbo gives gifts to the four hobbits and asks Frodo where his ring ended up. Frodo tells him he lost it, but Bilbo wishes he could see it... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 7
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...his wound will never heal, and that he won’t recover from the burden of the Ring. He asks Gandalf where he’ll be able to rest at last, but Gandalf doesn’t answer.... (full context)