Book People | July 2022 | Nate Pedersen

Did This Ring Inspire JRR Tolkien’s One Ring?

One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.
A mysterious gold ring that may have been the inspiration for the One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien's novels has gone on public display at The Vyne, an an aristocratic country house in Hampshire.  The ring - which has a strange curse associated with it - has been in the possession of the Chute family for several centuries.  It was donated to the National Trust along with the rest of The Vyne in 1958.
According to Chute family stories, the Vyne ring was discovered by a local farmer plowing land inside the ruins of Silchester around 1785.  Silchester was a prominent early British settlement that was abandoned for unknown reasons in the 7th century.  The farmer sold the ring to the Chutes, who have maintained a multi-generational interest in antiquarian matters for hundreds of years.  The heavy gold ring is particularly large, requiring a gloved thumb to fit snugly. The ring is ornamented by a spiked head, wearing a crown, and bears a cryptic Latin inscription: "Senicianus live well in God."
Tolkien entered the story of the ring 150 years later, when he was called upon to offer translation advice to archaelogists in Gloucestershire.  The archaeologists - who had been excavating the appropriately named site "Dwarf's Hill" - found a Roman tablet inscribed with a curse: "Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens."
The curse worked - in part.  Although the ring was never returned, its thief only made it 100 miles to Silchester before losing it.
What inspiration Tolkien may have gathered from these events remains uncertain, however the story of the Vyne ring raises intriguing possibilities.
The ring, accompanied by a first edition of The Hobbit and a copy of the Senicianus' curse, are now on display at the Vyne, viewable to anyone that tours the country house.