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In the Hobbit and LOTR trilogy we hear this haunting piece (especially at 0:45) each time the One Ring is about to make it's presence felt. It's a powerful audio cue to the viewer, and is sometimes used without ever showing the Ring (see the tail end of the Hobbit with the younger Bilbo).

What is the One Ring theme?

  • It's the one that goes daaaa-duuuumm, da da da da daa Daaaaaa duuuuuuuuummmm. :) – RedCaio Dec 27 '15 at 3:17
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The opening choral piece at the very beginning is called "Footsteps of Doom"; the lyrics are Sindarin, written by Philippa Boyens and translated by linguist David Salo; they translate to:

Who enters here?
Who brings to us this token of Doom?
That which has stood so long against the darkness
will now fall.

The main string theme, which I believe is the main subject of the question, is a different piece titled "History of the Ring". From The Annotated Score (bold is my emphasis):

Most prominent in this sequence, however, is the History of the Ring theme, which makes its debut appearance following the opening Lothlórien clip. Throughout the Prologue, Shore highlights a single purpose of his History theme: "It's showing you how the Ring has traveled from hand to hand." Galadriel continues her narration, as again this History theme introduces the Ring to its new owners: Isildur, and then Gollum/Sméagol (skulking in his dank cave and accompanied by his Pity theme).

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films Part 1: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Annotated Score Disc 1 Track 1: Prologue

The Fellowship of the Ring has been broken. The Dark Lord Sauron’s influence reaches deeper into Middle-earth, while those who would stand against him suffer. And yet, hidden from view, the One Ring continues its journey towards the fires of Mordor. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers opens with horns and strings delicately ascending, until the London Philharmonic Orchestra comes to rest in familiar territory. Howard Shore's History of the Ring theme parts the curtains with a cold, bi-tonal setting of the figure that sets the A minor melody over an F minor harmony, and nestles us back into J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films Part 2: The Two Towers: The Annotated Score Disc 1 Track 1: Glamdring

The Return of the King begins with an uncharacteristically gentle and bucolic tone. Oboe and strings introduce a purling waltz that soon sweeps a familiar melody to the fore. As it has twice before, the History of the Ring theme accompanies the on-screen title, and the final third of The Lord of the Rings begins.

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films Part 3: The Return of the King: The Annotated Score Disc 1 Track 1: Roots and Beginnings

As with all music from the Lord of the Rings film series, both pieces were composed by Howard Shore.

  • I was actually wondering if it's an old piece from say a Wanger opera? Or was it made for the movies? – Athena Widget Dec 26 '15 at 23:09
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    @AthenaWidget All of the music was scored by Howard Shore. He may have taken some inspiration from Wagner, but the music is original – Jason Baker Dec 26 '15 at 23:10
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    I've seen the films dozens of times and to think I never noticed that the ring clearly says "Softpedia" on it in white ink. – Valorum Dec 26 '15 at 23:11
  • @Richard Sauron had to outsource. Hard times, you know – Jason Baker Dec 26 '15 at 23:12
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    I think people often associate such music scores with Wagner because he introduced the idea of the "Leitmotiv", a given piece of music that is associated with a specific person (or item , in this case). – flq Dec 26 '15 at 23:33
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There are actually several themes assigned to the Ring. The main Ring theme is called "the History of The One Ring" and will be fimiliar for playing over the Lord of the Rings title cards. There are hints of it under The Hobbit title card as well.

It's alluded to in the "Smoke Rings" theme as it appears in the Hobbit. In fact, the Ring theme is a component in the very theme that opens the first Hobbit film, which blends the Ring theme with the House of Durin theme. The History of The One Ring is the closest the series has to a main theme.

But, much like Wagner, Howard Shore wrote several other themes assigned to the Ring, all distinct but nevertheless related musically. There is a theme for "the Seduction of the Ring", usually sung by a Boy Choir. There is a theme for the ultimate "Fate of the Ring" (heard in the Two Towers) that transforms into yet another (distinct) theme for "The Destruction of the Ring" and of Mordor.

Also, several of the Mordor themes are linked to the Ring's themes and can be seen as relating to the Ring as well. "Sauron's theme" (or the Mordor theme) and - by proxy - "The Necromancer theme" from the Hobbit, are often referred to as the theme for "the Evil of the Ring". This theme is gradually intervowen with the History of the Ring theme and once with the Seduction theme, leading up to a "meta" theme that combines all three themes at Mount Doom.

"The Power of Mordor" theme (related to the Ringwraiths/Servants of Sauron theme) has also been described by Howard Shore once as the theme for the Power of the Ring. For obvious reasons, "Smeagol's theme", "Nameless Fear" theme, Smaug's main theme (as well as his ascending theme and demise theme) and "Evil Times" theme (and therefore the related "Death theme" from the Hobbit) are also closely related to the Ring theme. Hell, there is even a connection to the Shire theme.

There are even recurring musical ideas not yet cannonised as themes that seem to relate to the Ring. There is a choral section that reappears through the score, reading as "Tercano Nuruva" (the herald of death) that seems related to the Ring.

If this makes you dizzy there are a lot more themes where this came from. There are over one hundred themes in the Lord of the Rings alone, and easily fifty or sixty more in the Hobbit.

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