Ash nazg durbathlûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum ishi krimpatul.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
These words were pronounced by Sauron when he forged the One Ring. This one ring could mesmerise the rings he had given to the rulers of the elves, the dwarves and the men, giving Sauron total domination.
Rings played an important and central role in medieval Scandinavian literature. In Scandinavia during the Viking Age, oath rings were used to bind people to their promises, even beyond the grave, just as the One Ring binds the other rings (e.g. the Ring-wraiths) in Tolkien’s universe. The good master is described as the ring giver, where the ring was both a generous gift and a sign of mutual obligation.
The idea of a central ring, to which several rings are linked, is found in the story of Odin’s ring “Draupnir”. However, Odin’s ring is a bangle and not a ring. Every ninth night, eight gold rings of equal weight drip out of Draupnir. A more direct parallel can be found in Volsunga Saga. In the story of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer, an enchanted ring appears. The story was later retold in the great German epic poem Nibelungenlied (the song of the Niebelungs). Another example of a legendary ring is Emperor Charlemagne’s ring – the Serpent Ring. It also contains an enchanting – but destructive – force. The story can be seen as a direct model for Tolkien’s story of the ring. Myths also abound about rings dating right back to the Old Testament and the legend of King Solomon’s ring, which enabled him to control demons.
In 1929, Tolkien also heard about a Roman gold ring found in England. The ring had been cursed when it was stolen from its rightful owner. The story is interesting because it shows that Tolkien also used objects and not just texts as inspiration for his stories. The many different sources, myths and legends were connected to a tale that was the author’s own, but which contained the essence of all the stories.