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The One Ring is clearly a corrupting power in Middle Earth. Even the hobbits that are more resistant to corruption are eventually affected by its influence (Frodo, as an example, of course). The language Tolkien uses clearly states many times how "Men" are greatly affected by this corrupting influence because they covet power. Now, I know that "Men" is used in the generic sense to refer to Mankind in Middle Earth, but it is also clearly used to refer only to males. For example, it was foretold that the Witch-king would not fall "by the hand of man." Ultimately, Eowyn was able to slay him, claiming correctly that she is not a "man."

This is a little confusing, because one would expect that prophecy to refer to "men" as the race of mankind, but clearly it was not. This then opens the door to considering other similar wording along these lines. Therefore, it seems to me quite possible that a woman would not be subject to the corrupting influence of the One Ring (or any other Ring of Power, for that matter).

Is this interpretation valid? What if, for example, the One Ring were given as an engagement ring? Is there anything that expands upon this distinction in other canon (such as the Silmarillion)?

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The "not by the hand of man" is clearly a riddle or a twist of the sort often hinted at in prophecy. I do not think it is relevant outside of its very narrow context. –  John O Nov 20 '12 at 2:36
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FYI, the prophesy says that he would not fall "by the hand of man", because it was a woman that would prove to be his bane. It's a prophesy, so it is telling what will happen, not what can not happen. It therefore is perhaps not an appropriate assumption to state that "males" could not defeat the Witch-king, but merely that they would not. As others have pointed out males and females of various races were corrupted by the ring. –  NominSim Nov 20 '12 at 2:41
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From the title I thought you were seeking advice about whether to offer your partner the One Ring as an engagement ring.. –  Dunaril Nov 20 '12 at 8:15
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@Dunaril that's one way to make your spouse disappear! –  Pureferret Nov 20 '12 at 9:21
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I think your question has actually been answered already, but if you really are wondering about a proposal with a magical ring have you considered Nenya? It gave preservation and protection, was made of mithril (platinum?) and had a white stone (diamond?). –  balanced mama Nov 22 '12 at 2:20

4 Answers 4

Whilst you might have some good logic, Galadriel disagrees

Galadriel under the prospect of bearing The One Ring

Female elves can be corrupted, so it's not unreasonable to think so could female humans or in fact females of any species.

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@gef05: That scene is in the books, too (though without the glowy eyes). –  Micah Nov 20 '12 at 0:08
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Can't...stop...starring at her eyes...it's creeping me out!!! –  Monty129 Nov 20 '12 at 1:09
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It corrupted 3 Hobbits so I'd guess it could corrupt anything that wasn't Sauron. Power corrupts but Ultimate Power and all that. –  Monty129 Nov 20 '12 at 1:12
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Note that while Galadriel seems to be under the impression that she would be corrupted by The Ring, this might very well be a placebo effect. She never actually wore (nor even bore) The Ring, so it is conceivable that she would in fact not have been corrupted by it (but the placebo effect might have done the job instead). –  bitmask Nov 20 '12 at 14:12
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@Monty129: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/ask –  bitmask Nov 20 '12 at 20:09

In addition to the point about Galadriel being tempted by The One Ring, I'll add the fact that the ring was very rarely given up voluntarily.

  1. When Bilbo left it behind when leaving Bag End, and that required a lot of persuasion (and a hint of threatening) by a close trusted friend.
  2. By Sam when he rescued Frodo in Cirith Ungol. He had only possessed it a couple of days (appears to be even less time in the movie) and there was a hint of threat and a whole lot of trust/love in that exchange also.
  3. By the unique Tom Bombadil.
  4. In the movie, Boromir held it for a short moment on the slopes of the Misty Mountains. He was strongly tempted by it, but he never actually touched the ring.

I seriously doubt that anyone (other than Tom) could have given It as an engagement/wedding ring.

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"...a lot of persuasion (and a hint of threatening) by a close trusted friend." sounds exactly like what went down in some of the engagements I know. –  KennyPeanuts Nov 20 '12 at 1:21
    
... Extra, double, special No Comment, DQd. –  Shadur Nov 20 '12 at 8:46
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It was actually given up one additional time, when Sam gave it back to Frodo after his near death experience, but... –  PearsonArtPhoto Nov 20 '12 at 11:02
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Don't forget old Tom Bombadil. –  Junuxx Nov 20 '12 at 12:45
    
Added Sam and Tom, both of which are kinda "special" cases, too. Thanks. –  Plutor Nov 20 '12 at 15:41

I think the answer is in the capitalization. Tolkien was using capitalization intentionally to mean different things as explained in Mark Trapp's answer here.

I therefore interpret "Man/Men" and "man/men" as different words. The first as a sweeping term including females, and the other as adult-male.

As an aside, I'm having trouble finding a quote dealing with the ring's corrupting power that uses the word "Men". I did find this one (from Gandalf in FOTR) which uses "mortal":

'A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he bocemes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.'

Also at the council of Elrond:

'Alas, no,' said Elrond. 'We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear...

The quotes that I'm finding seem all-encompassing, and I can't find any mention of the word "Man/Men"

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I'm not sure about the significance of the capitalization, though it's possibly correct, but your quotes address the issue perfectly. –  Randy Orrison Nov 25 '12 at 10:26

Overlooked Point -- The Books Treat Galadriel Much Like Boromir

I started to just add this merely as a comment, but really I think it's a different point altogether about Galadriel. In the book, Galadriel was definitely tempted by the Ring and influenced by the lure of its power, You can see this in some very conspicuous descriptions.

(A) First, when Frodo offers the Ring to her, she says to him (emphasis mine),

Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting.

"Testing" is very close to "tempting" in the English language, though not so much in the USA. A place where you can still see this is in English translations of the Bible, where trials/testing/tempting are part of the same semantic domain. In other words, she tempted/tested Frodo about going home to the Shire (earlier in the chapter), and now he tests/tempters her.

(B) She describes a intense desire for the Ring, almost to the point of being consumed by it in her thoughts (emphasis mine).

I do not deny that that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp.

She was certainly not immune to the lust for power that the Ring creates (on this point, see especially T. Shippey, The Road to Middle Earth

(C) She even admits she pondered taking the Ring from Frodo by force and justifying it!

The evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Sauron himself stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of his Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?

Notice that Galadriel's reasoning here is almost exactly like that of Boromir in a subsequent chapter, "The Breaking of the Fellowship." Boromir also lusts after the Ring, the Power it would provide, and the victory it could bring. He also envisions ruling with it even after Sauron is defeated! And he feels justified in taking it from Frodo.

(D) Of course, there is her vision of Power the Ring could bring her.

And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

At this point she reveals her own Ring, and "there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark." The text seems to imply (but open to interpretation) that she was contemplating the combined might of her Ring and the One Ring.

(E) Conclusion---She was tempted by the Ring's power. She was able to be corrupted by it. In fact, even though the Ring was lost out of existence, just knowing that it did exist led her to "ponder" the might she would wield if she obtained it.

Still not convinced that it tempted her?

(F) She ends the event with,

'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'

In other words, she admits it was a temptation. Everything here parallels Boromir's subsequent discussion with Frodo, with the exception that he failed to resist it like the others.

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