The Road goes ever on: part two

A three-part investigation of the esotericism in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the author's mythos, legendarium and involvement with Occultism


In the first of these three articles we explored the esoteric themes in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the mythos that underlies it, and the hidden meaning in some of the poems to be found in the book. In this second part we explore these themes in greater detail, with especial reference to 'Good' and Evil', the 'Fall' of Man and the Rings of Power; subjects which form the heart and soul of the author's narrative. In our afterword we summarise Tolkien's legendarium—the collection of legends and histories he invented—out of which The Lord of the Rings evolved, and which form the background to the story.

In part three we examine the metaphysical themes in the book further and the symbolism of some of the characters. Our final afterword focuses on Tolkien's involvement with the 'occult' through his association with Charles Williams and Owen Barfield, who subtly influenced the formation of his complex mythos. If you have not read part one, we suggest that you do so before reading further or you will not reap the full benefits of this investigation.

Good and Evil

Some critics regard Tolkien's conception of Good and Evil as it is played out in the book as naïve and simple-minded, dismissing the good protagonists as all good and the evil as all bad. This is untrue. There are many characters in the book in whom vice and virtue is inextricably mixed such as Boromir, Saruman and even Gollum as we shall see in part three. Nor are the Elves wholly good or always on the side of Right. Partly because they flirted with Sauron and even assisted him in his evil designs, and partly because in their longing to preserve their way of life indefinitely, they too 'rebelled' against the Valar, or gods. In Tolkien's legendarium as in the 'real' world, men and gods were capable of many degrees of error, ranging from the Satanic rebellion of Melkor and his servant Sauron, to the mistakes of some of the other higher angelic powers. Nor were the Wizards exempt from this dichotomy either. Being spiritual beings incarnated in material bodies they too were liable to stray and err. Gandalf alone, and to a lesser extent, Galadriel and Frodo may be said to be wholly good, though all three make mistakes too.

Tolkien himself wrote: "Some critics seem determined to represent me as a simple-minded adolescent and insist on wilfully distorting what is said in my tale. I have not that spirit, and it does not appear in the story. The figure of Denethor alone is enough to show this; but I have not made any of the peoples on the 'right' side, Hobbits, Rohirrim, Men of Dale or of Gondor, any better than men have been or are, or can be. Mine is not an 'imaginary' world, but an imaginary historical moment on 'Middle-earth." This is important, for although Middle-earth is an invention, the events that occur in it and the laws which govern it are no less 'real' than anything in our own world. Or we might say that Middle-earth is a metaphor for the world we know which recapitulates much of the history of the earth and its peoples, of which much less is known than our historians are willing to admit. For all we know, Hobbit-like creatures did once exist on earth. Dwarves and Elves certainly did, and do, for they are none other than the inhabitants of the invisible kingdoms of the occult elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth. But let us see what else Tolkien said about evil.

"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any 'rational being' is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth (Melkor) fell before the Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit."

In Tolkien's legendarium Evil is not eternal. "Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so," says Elrond in Book Two of The Fellowship of the Ring. Evil arises as the result of a series of 'falls' in Tolkien's mythos: the Lucifer-like fall of Melkor, the fall of the Elves, and the fall of Men. As Tolkien explains in one of his letters: "Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was held to be this by his servants; if he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world."

In The Lord of the Rings, the primary means of overcoming evil is love. This love manifests itself in many ways in the story, the most important of which are the trust and self-sacrifice involved in friendship and through acts of kindness, mercy, and pity. The friendship between Sam and Frodo is at the heart of the story. But the friendship that develops between all of the nine companions in the Fellowship formed to fulfil the quest of destroying the One Ring is equally important.

Gandalf sacrifices himself for the Fellowship in Moria. Boromir is killed in an effort to save the hobbits Merry and Pippin. Aragorn and his army intend to sacrifice themselves at the black gate of Mordor to help Sam and Frodo achieve their goal. Ultimately, Frodo sacrifices himself for the Fellowship and for all of Middle-earth. As he explains to 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." This faithfully echoes the words of Jesus in the gospels: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). The love and pity shown by Bilbo in sparing Gollum's life ultimately determines the entire fate of Middle-earth, for it is Gollum who destroys the One Ring at the end of the book.

Perhaps the most palpable embodiment of Evil in The Lord of the Rings are the Balrogs, semi-material creatures of shadow, flame and smoke which remind us of nothing so much as the demons of folklore, legend and religious iconography. According to The Silmarillion, Balrogs are lesser spirits Melkor corrupted to his service who became known as 'Demons of Might.' Tolkien gives us a vivid description of one of these creatures towards the end of The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf confronts a Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm.

"Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, a man-shape maybe, yet greater; and power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it. . .The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on his staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.

"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass. . ."

What particularly interests us in these enigmatical lines is Tolkien's mention of two fires: the 'flame of Udûn' and the 'Secret Fire' or 'flame of Arnor.' Udûn is a word in Tolkien's invented Elvish language of Sindarin meaning 'dark pit' or Hell whilst 'Arnor' was the name for the Sun and the seat of the High King of Gondor in Middle-earth, the heir to the empire of Númenór. All this is replete with hidden meaning which will not be lost on some of our readers.

The superficial interpretation of this passage is that Gandalf has the power of good on his side whilst the Balrog serves the forces of evil. In identifying himself as a servant of the Valar (Tolkien's 'gods') he also refers to his Divine origin as one of the 'Maiar'. In Tolkien's mythos the Maiar (singular 'Maia') were a class of primordial spirits that descended into Arda to help the Valar to form the World. Sauron was one of these spirits, as was Gandalf's adversary, Saruman, more of which in part three when we discuss some of the principle characters in the book. But there is much more in these lines than a simple affirmation of the nature of the protagonists in the war between Good and Evil. Occult science teaches that there is a deep philosophy underlying the mystery of Fire. Of all the phenomena known to physical science, fire is the one that continues to elude definite analysis.

Science confidently asserts that fire is the effect of combustion, or more prolixiously "the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products." These scientific definitions are philosophically supplemented by the theological which explain fire as "the instrument of punishment, or the punishment of the impenitent in another spiritual state." Quite why this 'state' should be supposed to be 'spiritual' when the presence of fire would seem to be sufficient proof of its material nature we leave you to answer! Occult science, on the other hand, says that Fire is: "the most perfect and unadulterated reflection, in Heaven as on Earth, of the One Flame. It is Life and Death, the origin and the end of every material and spiritual thing. It is divine 'Substance" (The Secret Doctrine).

In this regard both Tolkien and the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians, as well as the Native tribes of America, which proclaim themselves "born of fire," show more science in their creeds and truth in their superstitions, than all the speculations of modern science put together. Even the Christian who says: "God is a living Fire," and speaks of the Pentecostal "Tongues of Fire" and of the "burning bush" of Moses, is as much a fire-worshipper as any so-called 'pagan'. Something of the real nature of Fire may be demonstrated by anyone who procures an oil lamp and keeps it supplied with oil. From that one flame they will be able to light all the lamps, candles and fires of the whole planet without diminishing the original flame one whit. It is this natural phenomenon which anyone may observe for themselves which is the basis of the occult scientific axiom: "thus were the formless (Arupa) and formed (Rupa) worlds made: from One light seven lights; from each of the seven, seven times seven" (ibid).

If you combine what we have just told you with Tolkien's two 'fires' you will find they provide a clue to the dual origin of man and the supernormal powers employed by white and black magicians, the former being the servant and wielder of the 'flame of Arnor' and the latter the slave of the dark 'flame of Udûn'. Madame Blavatsky comes closest to unveiling certain aspects of the mystery of these two fires in The Secret Doctrine, when she writes: ". . .those Angels who, in the exoteric legends. . .possessed the physical creative fire could only clothe the human Monads with their own astral Selves. They could not give to man that sacred spark which burns and expands into the flower of human reason and self-consciousness, for they had it not to give. This was left to that class of Devas who became symbolised in Greece under the name of Prometheus, to those who had nought to do with the physical body, yet everything with the purely spiritual man."

How and where did Tolkien learn about these two 'fires'? We will never know. What we can say we discussed in part one of this investigation when we alluded to the fact that the gifted Poet who is under the afflatus of inspiration may obtain glimpses of the occult mysteries recorded in the Astral Light, though, as in Tolkien's case, they may not always be consciously aware of the full import of what they see.

the fall

Riders at the Ford — © Ted Nasmith 1990 — gouache on illustration board

The 'Fall'

As we learnt in the previous part of this investigation, Tolkien wove many religious themes into his book, one of which is the 'fallen' nature of both Elves and Men. In his legendarium this closely parallels the Biblical account of the Fall of Man. Although Tolkien's conception was coloured by his Catholicism, it is not without esoteric meaning or truth, as we shall see. Where he erred, he did so through ignorance of the philosophical and transcendental significance of this much misunderstood doctrine. Tolkien's conception begins with Melkor's attempts to weave his own music into the Divine Theme of Ilúvatar and so rebels against the other 'gods' to become the instigator of the battle between Good and Evil which is played out in The Lord of the Rings. Later, Melkor first seduces and then corrupts the first Men by making them worship him instead of Eru which leads to the loss of their place in paradise.

In the Valaquenta, which as we learnt in part one of this investigation, forms the second part of The Silmarillion, Tolkien describes this first 'fall' of Melkor. "From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless. Understanding he turned to subtlety in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of the Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended though fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness. And darkness he used most in his evil works upon Arda (Earth) and filled it with fear for all living things." Readers familiar with Milton's great metaphysical drama Paradise Lost, will note the similarities between Melkor and the Poet's treatment of Satan, as well as the parallels with Iambus in Dr Michaud's Symphonie Fantastique.

Tolkien's retelling of the story of Atlantis in the Akallabêth, which we discussed in the first part of this investigation, may be regarded as a further 'fall'. In it we read of the poisonous influence and deceptions of Sauron, who convinced the king of the Númenóreans that Men should be granted access to Valinor (the 'blessed realm') just like the Elves. The subsequent assault upon Valinor by a Númenórean fleet results in the entrapment of the army underground and the total submersion of the isle of Númenór along with all its inhabitants, save the Faithful who escape to Middle-earth. This is an exact copy of the story of Atlantis and the fate of its wicked inhabitants which finds its Biblical parallel in Revelation.

"For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! For in one hour is she made desolate. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all" (Revelation 18:17-19 and 21).

Herodotus tells us that the 'Atlantes', who are of course the Atlantean race, "daily cursed the Sun." This has nothing to do with the heat which is experienced in the latitudes where Atlantis once existed, but with the moral degeneration that grew with the race. This is explained in the commentaries to The Secret Doctrine. "They (the sixth sub-race of the Atlanteans) used magic incantations even against the Sun—failing in which, they cursed it." The Atlanteans of the later period were renowned for their magic powers and wickedness, their ambition and defiance of the gods, which found their way into the Bible in the form of the antediluvian giants and the Tower of Babel, as well as the Book of Enoch. Tolkien credited his Númenóreans with these same powers and wickedness, the greatest of which was their insensate pride and Self-worship.

The 1st century historian, Diodorus Siculus, records another fact or two: the Atlanteans boasted of possessing the land in which all the gods had received their birth; as also of having had Uranus for their first King, he being also the first to teach them astronomy. We find similar proud boasts made by Ar-Pharazôn, the last king of Númenór, who launched the attack upon Tolkien's 'blessed realm' in an unsuccessful attempt to wrest the secret of immortality from the Valar. The crimes of those who tried to defy the will of the Valar are punished, just as the wicked Atlanteans were punished, except for the few, who as in Tolkien's retelling of the Atlantis story, remained free from the influence of Sauron, and so survived the destruction of Númenór to re-establish their colonies elsewhere in Middle-earth.

Despite these terrible crimes committed by Men and Eves alike, in the end God remains with them. When Melkor's victory over the Elves is almost assured, a lone envoy seeks out Valinor and appeals to the Valar for mercy and assistance. His call is answered, and the Valar send a powerful host to Middle-earth to vanquish Melkor. This is not dissimilar to the history of Atlantis and its inhabitants as it is related in The Secret Doctrine. "Like as a dragon-snake uncoils slowly its body, so the Sons of men, led on by the Sons of Wisdom, opened their folds, and spreading out, expanded like a running stream of sweet waters. . .many of the faint-hearted among them perished on their way. But most were saved."

Occult science takes a very different view of the Fall of Man than the Church. Not only is there more than one interpretation of the Fall, but there are seven keys to this mystery. Moreover there are at least three 'Falls' which have to be considered, not one. The fall of spirit into matter, the fall of the 'gods' or angels into generation, and the fall of man into sin. It is only the last of these 'Falls' upon which the Church has reared its dogmas of 'original sin' and vicarious atonement. As we have seen, Tolkien goes further by including in his mythos the fall of the angels in the form of those Valar who descended into the world of Middle-earth.

From an occult scientific perspective, the first 'Fall' of spirit into matter refers to the fact that spirit has to clothe itself in matter in order to develop self-consciousness. Spirit in its ultimate constitution is an unconscious negative abstraction. Its purity is inherent, not acquired by merit. Therefore it is necessary for each individual Ego to attain to full self-consciousness as a human, conscious Being, through the process of reincarnation in a series of material bodies.

The second 'Fall'—that of the angels—is embodied in the myth of Prometheus which we discussed in our article on Shelley's great metaphysical drama Prometheus Unbound. In it we explained that as the inferior 'gods' were incapable of imparting the spiritual qualities which distinguishes man from brute animals, it fell to Prometheus to give unto man the spiritual Fire which makes him the image of his Father in Heaven. The Secret Doctrine tells us that some of those 'gods' whose turn it was to incarnate as the Egos of the immortal, but, on this earthly plane, senseless Monads "obeyed" the law of evolution and descended into mortal bodies. These were those early conscious Beings who, now adding conscious knowledge and will to their inherent Divine purity became the seed on earth for future Adepts.

Those, on the other hand, who, jealous of their intellectual freedom, unfettered as it then was by the bonds of matter, said: "We can choose . . . we have wisdom," and so incarnated far later. As a result of their procrastination they got physical bodies that were physiologically inferior to their astral vehicles, because these material bodies were the product (by evolution) of indiscriminate congress between early man and animals. This produced a terrible cause, the result of which weighs heavily on Mankind to this day. Man fell into matter, not through sin, 'original' or otherwise, but as a result of the law of evolution. Tolkien, though ignorant of the metaphysical meaning of this second 'Fall', nevertheless comes close to the occult truth in the Ainulindalë when he writes: "Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar (Eru—'the One') beyond the confines of the World (the manifested universe): but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair (the 'Sons' of God), took leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it" (The words in parenthesis are ours).

H. P. Blavatsky tells us that the true meaning of the "Fallen Angels," in its anthropological and evolutionary sense, is contained in the Qabbalah, and explains the Bible. This is easily proven by reference to Genesis Chapter 6, in which we may read how the "Sons of God" become enamoured of the daughters of men, marry, and reveal to their wives the mysteries unlawfully learnt by them in heaven, and this is yet another interpretation of the "Fall of Angels."

The third 'Fall', that of incarnate, physical Man, is explained in The Secret Doctrine as follows. "No sooner had the mental eye of man been opened to understanding, than. . .each felt he was a Man-God in his nature, though an animal in his physical Self. The struggle between the two began from the very day they tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom; a struggle for life between the spiritual and the psychic, the psychic and the physical. Those who conquered the lower principles by obtaining mastery over the body, joined the 'Sons of Light.' Those who fell victims to their lower natures, became the slaves of Matter. From 'Sons of Light and Wisdom' they ended by becoming the 'Sons of Darkness.' They had fallen in the battle of mortal life with Life immortal, and all those so fallen became the seed of the future generations of Atlanteans." The 'fallen' Atlanteans are of course Tolkien's evil Númenóreans, whose fate we discussed earlier. Readers who are interested in exploring the subject of 'The Fall' in greater depth are referred to The Secret Doctrine, as we have said as much as time and space permit.

Symbolism of the Rings of Power

The Rings of Power play an important part in the drama of The Lord of the Rings. Nineteen were created by the Elves with knowledge obtained from Sauron, whilst he himself secretly forged an additional ring, the 'One Ring' or 'Ruling Ring', in the fires of Mount Doom, to control all the others. The distribution of these twenty rings is beautifully enshrined in the following verse from the book.

"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."

Although we would not wish to read too much into the symbolism of these rings, one or two things do strike us. Firstly, the number of rings and their distribution, which, if purely coincidental, is remarkable in itself. The number 19 may be reduced to 1 and 9, which add to 10, the sacred numeral of the Pythagoreans immortalised in the famous Tetractys discussed in our article on Numerology. Three rings for the Elves is also significant, for three combines the Monad (1) and the Duad (2), producing three, the first odd number as the Monad is not considered a number, but the father of all numbers. The Pythagoreans said that: "three is the cause of good counsel, intelligence, and knowledge, and is a Mistress of Music," all qualities which are associated pre-eminently with Tolkien's Elves. We shall look at the three rings possessed by the Elves and their virtues later on.

Seven, as many of our readers will know, is the sacred number of Life which was regarded as the most occult of all numbers by the ancients. Why Tolkien chose to associate it with his Dwarves, who, whatever their virtues, cannot be regarded as a particularly mystically-minded in the same way as his Elves, we do not know, so must leave it there. Nine is the number of Being and Becoming, so it is significant that nine rings were given to 'Mortal Men doomed to die', for man is a mortal immortal incarnated in a material body in order to evolve to a higher state.

In forging the One Ring in secret Sauron increased the number of rings from nineteen to twenty. Regarded numerologically, one might say he despoiled and degraded the sacred emblem of the Tetractys by adding 1 to 19, so making two (1+9 = 10 + 1 = 11, which reduces to 2). Two is the symbol of duality and differentiation which leads to chaos, confusion, separation and bewilderment, or we might say, Evil. Whether Tolkien knew anything of the sacred science of numbers and to what extent this may have coloured his thinking, we cannot say. But in view of the fact that he had personal contact with at least one occultist (as we discuss in our afterword to the final part of this investigation), it is not impossible that numerological concepts may have influenced him.

The Rings of Power all shared certain properties; the only exception being the three belonging to the Elves which had particular virtues of their own. The chief power of all the rings was the prevention or slowing of decay and the prolongation of life. They also enhanced the natural abilities of the wearer—whether for good or ill. In addition, they conferred the ability to penetrate into the Unseen—or Astral World as we might call it. But only the One Ring could completely transport the wearer into this hidden dimension, rendering the material body invisible to mortals. The nine and the seven were so strongly under Sauron's dominion that they could cause the wearer, especially Men, to fade and turn into Ringwraiths—semi-human demonic beings with supernatural powers.

We are told that the seven rings given to the Dwarves amplified their wearer's natural skills and the desire for possession, which as a consequence, made them greedy and exceedingly rich for they gave them the power to multiply whatever they mined. The nine rings given to 'Mortal Men' increased longevity at the price of enslavement to Sauron's will, whilst the One Ring, as we learned from the verse quoted earlier, conferred the power to dominate and control all the others. But it is the three rings possessed by the Elves, which according to the book, the hand of Sauron never touched, which interest us the most from an esoteric perspective. In The Silmarillion these three rings are described as follows: "Now these were the Three that had last been made, and they possessed the greatest powers. Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, they were named, the Rings of Fire, and of Water, and of Air, set with ruby and adamant and sapphire." If the three represented the occult elements of Fire, Air and Water, we may say (though Tolkien does not) that the One Ring represented the element Earth. This makes sense, for it is the Earth element that not only consolidates the power and activities of the other three, but binds them, so confirming the last verse of Tolkien's poem. The alchemists among our readers will recall that the sixth verse of the famous 'Emerald Tablet' of Hermes Trismegistus states: "Sixthly, Its power is perfect if it be changed into earth."

Tolkien does not tell us what metal Narya was made of but it had the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair as well as giving resistance to the weariness of time. Nenya was made of 'Mithril', Tolkien's invented metal also called 'true silver' because unlike common silver it did not tarnish. Its power gave preservation, protection, and concealment from evil. The third ring, Vilya, was made of gold and set with a sapphire. In the third part of the book—The Return of the King—it is mentioned that Vilya was the mightiest of the three rings though its precise virtues are not described. However, it is reasonable to speculate that it also possessed the power to heal and to preserve.

Narya—the 'Ring of Fire' set with a ruby—was given to Gandalf to aid him in his opposition to Sauron. Nenya—the 'Ring of Adamant' or diamond, also called the 'Ring of Water'—was worn by Galadriel from its very creation. Vilya—the 'Ring of Air' set with a sapphire—was worn by Elrond, by means of which he protected and preserved Rivendell, the homeland of the Elves in the east of Middle-earth. Now Fire, as we saw earlier ". . .is Life and Death, the origin and the end of every material and spiritual thing." It is noteworthy that in The Two Towers (the second part of the book) Gandalf tells Wormtongue, the malevolent agent of the Wizard Saruman: "I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm!" Nor should we forget that Gandalf proclaims himself a wielder of the 'Secret Fire' as we also discussed earlier. We may then say that Gandalf is linked in many ways with the occult element of Fire and its properties. Indeed, the book begins with a party to celebrate the Hobbit Bilbo's 'eleventy-first' (111th) birthday, which culminates in a magnificent display of fireworks, designed and organised by Gandalf.

What of the Ruby with which Narya was set? William T Fernie in his incomparable book The Occult and the Curative Powers of Precious Stones (reviewed in our books section) tells us that the Ruby "has been thought to give warning of poison. It grew dark and cloudy if any evil was about to befall its wearer; but it banished sadness, and many forms of sin, and vice." If Tolkien's association of the ring Narya with a Ruby and its possession by Gandalf is a mere coincidence, it is certainly a happy and appropriate one, for he is the first character in the book to warn the inhabitants of Middle-earth of the 'poisonous' plots of the turncoat Wizard Saruman! Nor is any other character more determined to banish 'vice' and 'sin' and dispel the sadness and despair that afflicts both Elves and Men in the war against Sauron.

Those of you who have read The Golden Star will know that the author chose the diamond as the symbol for God. So it is no surprise that Galadriel, who is the principle representative of the 'gods' of Tolkien's mythos—the Valar—should be the wearer of the 'Ring of Adamant' or diamond. Fernie tells us that the diamond symbolised innocence, justice, faith, strength and the impassivity of fate; all virtues which we find embodied in Galadriel in particular and the Elves in general. Again, we find this ring associated with a specific occult element—in this case—Water. Even terrestrial water has many remarkable properties as we discuss in our article about this universal substance we all take for granted. Water heals, as we all know from the many 'holy' wells found throughout the world at all times, such as the famous shrine at Lourdes in France. And 'healing' in its widest sense is the essence of the role Galadriel plays in the book.

Water is the most penetrating of all the elements, and as long ago as the 11th century, a Chinese scholar wrote: "Of all the elements, the Sage should take water as his preceptor. Water is yielding but all-conquering. Water extinguishes fire, or finding itself defeated, escapes as steam and reforms. Water washes away soft earth or, when confronted by rocks, seeks a way around. It saturates the atmosphere so that Wind dies. Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility, for no power can prevent it following its destined course to the Sea. Water conquers by yielding; it never attacks but always wins the last battle." All these qualities are found in Galadriel.

What of Vilya, which we are told was the mightiest of the three rings of the Elves? Fernie calls the sapphire which adorned this ring 'holy' which rendered its bearer "pacific, amiable, pious and devout, confirming the soul in good works; which refuses to shine for the beautifying of the unchaste, or the impure, and which, by the mere force of its own pure rays, kills all noxious and venomous creatures." The correspondence of the virtues of this particular jewel with Elrond could not be any closer or more significant. Another coincidence? We doubt it, particularly when we consider that it was Elrond who caused the Ringwraiths—those 'noxious and venomous creatures'—who were pursuing Frodo and his companions, to be drowned in a flood summoned by his magical abilities. Moreover, there is no more 'pious' and 'devout' character in the book than Elrond, sometimes too pious and devout for his collaborators in the battle against Sauron, as readers familiar with the story will know.

Vilya was associated with the element of Air, and here again we see many correspondences with the character and role of Elrond in the story. Air is the element most closely associated with communication both literally and figuratively, as the astrologers among our readers will know. So it is no surprise that the most important meeting in the book takes place at the Council of Elrond where those concerned with what to do with the One Ring receive and give counsel. Earlier in the book when Frodo encounters a band of Elves on the borders of the Shire and asks their leader, Gildor, whether he should wait for Gandalf or continue the quest without him, the Elf tells him: "That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: 'Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.' The choice is yours: to go or wait." To which Frodo answers: "And it is also said, 'Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes." This neatly describes the traits associated with the element of Fire by astrologers—quick to anger, and Air—indecision and vacillation. The Librans among our readers will chuckle at this point, for these two particular 'weaknesses' are frequently found among the sons and daughters of this Airy sign, or who have Libra accentuated somewhere in their birth chart.

Although many capable astrologers and many more not-so-capable amateurs have attempted to associate the principal characters of the book with specific signs of the Zodiac, we shall refrain from doing so, for as the professional astrologers among our readers will know, the Sun-Sign an individual is born under is only one of the many factors which contribute to his or her character. Having said that, Gandalf does display many Arietian qualities such as courage, enterprise, leadership and the aforementioned quick temper! But he displays Capricornian traits too, such as taciturnity, severity and stubbornness. Frodo is quite a good fit for Pisces, the sign most associated with self-sacrifice and mystical longing for a better and higher world. Nor would any inspired astrologer deny that Sauron embodies all the worst traits of Scorpio, just as Sam embodies the best qualities of Taurus, though there is a good deal of Cancer about him too. But Gollum is another matter, and those readers of the 'Stars' columns in newspapers who insist on associating him with Gemini because Geminians are said to be 'two faced' and duplicitous, only demonstrate their superficial and tenuous understanding of Astrology. If we were compelled to assign only one sign to a complex character who plays such a pivotal role in the book, it would probably be Scorpio, but we do not profess to be professional astrologers, so please don't quote us! We leave you to explore these correspondences further if the subject sufficiently interests you, for Astrology certainly has a bearing upon the symbolism in the book and helps to elucidates its deeper meaning.


There we must leave our brief examination of the principle themes in The Lord of the Rings. We reprise some of them in the final part of this investigation in which we discuss the symbolism of the principal characters in the book and Tolkien's involvement with the 'occult' through his association with Charles Williams and Owen Barfield, both of whom subtly influenced the formation of his complex mythos in different ways.


If you have not read the first part of this investigation, or wish to re-read it, please follow the underlined link shown here.

© Copyright Article published 6 August 2017. Updated 14 May 2018.

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