The following was written by long-time Grey Havens Group member, Charlie, who faithfully coordinates our Monday night Inklingsiana discussions. Charlie’s thoughts are pertinent to tonight’s scheduled discussion of the final chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring.
The Apple of Temptation
During the final confrontation between Boromir and Frodo, a feeble idea starting germinating in my head – another metaphoric symbol for the ring. I think Tolkien is saying that the ring represents Mankind’s folly in only believing in humanity for our future as opposed to his (Tolkien’s) belief in God and faith for our salvation. Tolkien’s religious convictions would have him accept faith as a major paradigm in dealing with adversity and life in general. Delivering the ring directly to where it was created, destroying it, not using its’ power, are all based in a strong belief in faith – not doing what seems to be the obvious action: fighting and using the power of the ring to win. Instead, Tolkien is saying have faith in something other than only human’s solving the problem, or at least don’t put all your trust in them. More importantly, do not think that Man can solve it by himself (repeatedly stated in the book by the message from all the sages (usually elfs) that peoples of Middle Earth will eventually lose* if they use the ring).
Notice how Boromir (from Gondor where the Tree is dead – symbol of loss of faith) can only see the obvious (the physical world we all see and experience), so he wants to use the ring’s power. He sees anything else as folly because he only believes in Men. He does not realize that by using the ring, he is succumbing to what Sauron really wants, the negation of Illuvitar – the use of power by Men as Sauron would use the power – representing a negation of faith in God.
If we don’t put all our trust in Mankind, who/what do we supposedly trust? In the book it is simply trusting that by NOT using the ring and totally rejecting it (by destroying it) we are saying NO to Sauron (devil) and his solution to everything (using power and dealing only in the material world) which is only what he Sauron can understand because he does not understand the concept of Love. The parallel in our world is to have faith in something beyond what the physical senses tell us. For Tolkien it is God. For others it can be faith in Love and something beyond our understanding of the corporeal world. This is the real human reality.
Notice how Frodo has a difficult time making his decision. It’s a leap of faith he wrestles with, but when he sees the look in Boromir’s face (the opposing lack of faith philosophy is represented in Boromir’s face), he then clearly knows what he must do.
Therefore, I see the ring as Tolkien’s symbol of Mankind’s arrogance. His secular humanistic quest for himself in a strictly scientific materialistic physical world – the modern world’s rejection of God. After Sauron is defeated, a major step in rejecting the Devil, the tree in Minus Tirith grows again.
However, the elves must still leave Middle Earth because the Fourth Age is representative of how Men are now more matured and don’t need assistance from spiritual entities (elves, wizards, etc), but they still need God. This last paragraph is a transition into another topic for another essay. Another topic is: where is Sauron or the Devil now in the Fourth Age?
*Sauron would want someone to use the ring against him because the bearer would “win” the battle, but would eventually become Sauron. Remember that Sauron’s spirit is in the ring and he would eventually go into the ring bearer.