Episode 181 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

We cannot use the Ruling Ring:
  • While Boromir speaks selflessly about letting one of the others take the Ring, he also seems eager to lead armies go forth to victory himself, showing that this seed has been sewn in him.
  • Boromir seems to be addressing Elrond directly, as the leader of this Council, and therefore to assume that it would be Elrond himself who would take up the Ring to oppose Sauron.
  • There are other candidates, like Aragorn, but Elrond has the most direct experience of the Ring.
  • They could, theoretically, take the Ring and march to victory, so Elrond is acknowledging the practicality of Boromir’s plan in the short term, but is emphasizing the long-term dangers of this.
  • Boromir seems to assume that this is a collective decision, as the word “we” has been used multiple times in the Council, as has the idea that they would have to decide as a group.
  • Elrond uses the word “cannot”, not because it wouldn’t work to defeat Sauron, but because it does not solve the problem of the Ring’s evil influence and Sauron’s power in the world.
  • The use of the word “alas” shows that in the desperation of their time of need, they have the means to oppose Sauron in a very practicable way, but one that cannot be used in the end.
  • Elrond acknowledges Boromir’s interpretation of Providence allowing them to have the Ring to use it as perfectly logical, but not the correct reading of Providence’s actions in the big picture.
  • Therefore, Elrond’s word “cannot” is a statement of a rejection of that possibility, even if logical.
  • Based on Saruman’s beliefs, it’s possible that someone who has taken up the Ring to master it would be given control over his orc armies and turn them against Sauron to defeat him.
  • Sauron has used his own power of domination to control his orcs, but that same power is within the Ring, so a new Ring-lord would be able to use it, plus their own power, to overcome him.
  • A new Ring-lord would likely control the Nazgûl, as their Rings are beholden to the One Ring.
Consider Saruman:
  • It seems likely that the basis of their ring-lore has come from Saruman himself, though Elrond has other, independent sources, as he was knowledgeable of the forging of the Rings of Power.
  • Elrond would have known Celebrimbor, for example, and would have consulted with Gil-galad, so it’s possible that Elrond was actually part of the source of Saruman’s lore to begin with.
  • They don’t know exactly how long Saruman had been deceiving the Wise before this, so they would have to doubt some of this lore, but Elrond has also born one of the Rings for a long time.
  • Note: Outside of the Wise, there are some people who even know of the Rings’ existence, but far less who understand their lore and how they work and how they can and can’t be used.
  • The Ring hasn’t been acting directly on Saruman; rather the desire for the power of the Ring that gives Saruman thoughts that led to his downfall in order to acquire it and its power.
  • Note: This shows Tolkien’s understanding of the power of desire, and how that can lead to a dark path as one may choose evil means to achieve that desire as their end.
  • Elrond and Gandalf have both expressed that the study of the Rings of Power was one of the causes of Saruman’s downfall, as he began to see how that power could be used to his ends.
  • There are a few new pieces of information, such as experiences of Gollum and the hobbits, as well as Isildur, that they’ve received in the Council, but it is the case of Saruman he focuses on.
  • It seems possible that the story of the corruption of Gollum acted as a stand-in for Bilbo’s story of the party and his difficulty in giving up the Ring, which Elrond spared Bilbo from having to tell.
  • Gandalf had certainly told Elrond about this story, but Elrond conspicuously had stopped Bilbo from telling as unnecessary, though Bilbo now fully understands the meaning of that incident.
  • Gollum acts as the long-term study of possessing the Ring, as does Isildur of its beginnings. While Gollum provides an example for the hobbits, Isildur was one of the great among Men.
  • Bilbo seems to be a counterexample, though Gandalf would emphasize how much help Bilbo needed to give up the Ring, and also that Bilbo was himself extraordinary in his ownership of it.
  • Note: There seem to be three states with regard to possession of the Ring. There are those who are in custody of the Ring, such as Gandalf was in Bag End, or Tom Bombadil. There are those who have claimed ownership, such as Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo. But lastly, there are those who attempt to master the Ring to their own will to dominate others, which Galadriel will speak about when Frodo asks her why he is unable to use the Ring in this way. This last state is what Frodo will reach when he takes the Ring as his own in the Cracks of Doom.
It is altogether evil:
  • While Saruman attempted to make a “means justify the ends” argument to Gandalf, Elrond wants to circumvent this in the Council, making it clear that the Ring is evil as means and end.
  • Elrond wants to emphasize that the Ring is not a tool that can be used based on the intent of the user, but that the Ring has a morality of its own and that it will corrupt any user or intent.
  • Note: There are parallels to this in the overall legendarium, such as Turin’s black sword, as it contained the malicious will of Eöl, its maker. The Ring is a much more extreme version of that, as it is not only a tool of his evil will, but a container or phylactery of that malicious spirit itself.
  • Elrond does say that most people cannot use it to its full effect, so those like Frodo or Gollum are no danger to Sauron himself if they claim it and try to use the Ring to master others.
  • Note: There are opposite examples of good artifacts that are used for good purposes, such as the Phial of Galadriel, as well as truly neutral objects, such as the palantiri, which merely passively respond to the intent of their users. Weapons are a different class, especially swords, which can only be used for combat, and therefore carry a violent intent from their makers. This is why the Fëanoreans began making swords in Aman was such a violation of the peace there.
  • By using the words “altogether evil”, Elrond emphasizes that there’s no possibility of good in it.
  • Any possibilities of good that come into people’s minds are a deception of the Ring itself, as well as ideas of truly mastering it, as no one has mastered the Ring since Sauron himself.
  • Elrond knows that the other Rings of Power work in a similar way, needing power to use them.
  • While Saruman is ultimately responsible for his own fall, the study of the creation of the Rings had a part, as it was his knowledge of its making that caused him to envy the craft of Sauron.
  • Note: While the Ring holds the evil will of Sauron, that does not mean the Ring itself is sentient.
  • Saruman already had an affinity with dominating and influencing other wills, as seen in his voice.
  • Note: This is the difference between the Rings and the Silmarils. The Silmarils were a work of beauty in their concept and creation, though one’s desire for them may be corrupt by choices.
Yet another Dark Lord would appear:
  • Elrond is speaking metaphorically about taking up Sauron’s throne, in that no one would literally rule from Barad-dûr, but that their seat of power would then become like Barad-dûr in spirit.
  • If the Ring is used to overcome Sauron, Sauron will still have won, as it was his spirit that won.
  • There’s also a possibility that Sauron may one day be able to return and claim the Ring again, as his power would not be broken, though in the meantime he may be under their power.
  • Sauron’s fear of another Ring-lord taking up the Ring against him seems legitimate, as that power could truly overcome him, and enthrall him to their power, much like the Ringwraiths.
  • Note: This is different to the way Sauron was captured by the Numenoreans, as in that case he gave himself up willingly in order to accomplish his goal of destroying Númenor by other means.
  • However, the Ring could not be used to destroy Sauron, as only destroying the Ring can do that.
  • This is all part of the risk that Sauron took in creating the Ring, which made him vulnerable to it.
  • Therefore, the existence of the Ring will always, in itself be a danger, for the temptation to use it for good ends would only grow, and those ends would be corrupted by the Ring as means.
Nothing is evil in the beginning:
  • By making this larger theological point, Elrond is warning those present not to think of themselves as wholly different from Sauron in being, and that they are all in danger of falling.
  • Note: Tolkien seems to imply that within his world, there is no natural depravity, as in some Christian teachings, though he does imply that everything has the potential to fall because of the influence of Morgoth upon Creation itself, though even Melkor was not evil in conception.
  • Elrond then narrows this large concept down to his personal choice not to take the Ring to use.
  • While his fear of taking the Ring to hide it asserts the danger of his ultimate defeat, the assertion of his will to never take the Ring to wield it is definite and final, which Gandalf echoes.
  • Both Elrond and Gandalf definitively reject the Ring itself, to avoid any temptation to use it.