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In The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring has many powers which make it incredibly dangerous to anyone who holds it, or even comes within close proximity to it. It inspires jealousy, possessiveness, mistrust, discord, infighting, treachery, betrayal, murder, and hatred.

In The Silmarillion, the Silmarils appear to share many of these characteristics. They provoked Fëanor and his kin to take an evil oath, dooming themselves and the entirety of Arda - and even Aman, albeit indirectly. The Silmarils are the cause of much of the suffering and bloodshed of the Elder Days, and countless Men, Elves, Dwarves, and others die as a result of the Silmarils' effects on all who see them. Really, the whole story of The Silmarillion is a long, mournful tale of the misery and malice created by the Silmarils.

There are other parallels between the Ring and the Silmarils. Sauron desperately sought the Ring, much like his master Morgoth sought the Silmarils (although for very different reasons). Some part of the power of the Ainur was locked in each of these objects. Both the Ring and the Silmarils were, more or less, cursed, and brought pain and suffering upon those who possessed them.

Almost anyone who looks upon the Ring or the Silmarils is overcome with covetousness, to such a degree that, even if they are otherwise decent people, they can be inspired to commit horrible acts and unprovoked violence. Both the Ring and the Silmarils are physically beautiful, but are the catalysts for unimaginable ugliness. Both the Ring and the Silmarils are responsible for the deaths of many great leaders and virtuous people.

And so on. As I understand it, much of The Silmarillion was written before Tolkien began working on The Lord of the Rings; however, The Silmarillion was published years after he died, and decades after The Lord of the Rings was published. And although the One Ring appears in The Hobbit, this was actually a retcon, and the description of the ring in the first edition of The Hobbit is nothing like the description in The Lord of the Rings; in the first edition of The Hobbit, the ring is simply an invisibility device with no apparent evil characteristics. It isn't particularly remarkable, in fact, and there is no indication of the far more sinister qualities associated with the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings.

This begs the question of whether he borrowed some of his own ideas regarding the Silmarils and attributed them to the One Ring. Is there any evidence to support this notion? Did he ever write anything along these lines (presumably in his letters)?


Note: While the Ring and the Silmarils share many of their less pleasant attributes in common, there are also some very obvious differences between them. The One Ring is inherently evil, because it was created by an extremely evil being for incredibly evil purposes. The Ring is almost a physical embodiment of evil.

The Silmarils, on the other hand, were not evil at all. The Elf who made them, Fëanor, became quite wicked later on (as a direct result of having created the Silmarils), but when he was making them, he was a nice enough person. And whereas the Ring was made by an evil being using evil materials in evil ways for evil reasons, the Silmarils were made from the light of the Great Trees of Valinor, which were themselves created by the purest, most un-evil beings in the universe - the Ainur; the materials from which they were made were from Valinor, and were therefore also not evil.

The Ring was always, inextricably and irrevocably evil, and it was always intended to be evil. Of the Silmarils, quite the opposite is true. It wasn't the objects themselves that were evil, but the greed and conceit which they inspired in their creator. If Fëanor hadn't sworn a wicked oath upon them, they would have remained beautiful jewels, and proof of a remarkable feat of craftsmanship, and nothing more.

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    Calling Jason Baker, Shamshiel, and Matt Gutting, among others. :) – Wad Cheber Jun 23 '15 at 3:15
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    I'm going to say No, but I'll have to put off the answer til tomorrow if then. – Matt Gutting Jun 23 '15 at 3:22
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    Gotta love unexplained downvotes. – Wad Cheber Jun 23 '15 at 5:33
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    Welcome to the club... ;) Ignore it - only way to cope with I found is. +1 from me, though. – AcePL Jun 23 '15 at 9:37
  • I have noticed many parallels between stuff in the Silmarillion and LotR, the One Ring being one of them. I'll try to form an answer after a bit of research. – Maksim Jun 23 '15 at 13:20
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I wouldn't say it's a matter of borrowing elements, as much as a consistent theme, an intertwined theme of creators falling in love with their creations and valuing them over the true Creation (capital C), that of the Creator. These creations continue to exert power over others.

You can find it from the earliest stories up to the latest. Sometime's it's a relatively benign form of hubris, like Aule creating the Dwarves as part of his passion for creation (a sin that is absolved and forgiven, due to his humility and sacrifice), and sometimes it isn't, like Feanor and his Silmarils, which showed Feanor believing his creation of the Silmarils rivalling the creative acts of the Valar, and his pride led both himself and his descendants into ruin.

The same theme is repeated in the second age, both with the hubris of Numenor and its kings who believe they can rival the Elves, and later, the smiths of Eregion and their love of the ring-lore that Sauron taught them.

And in the third age, we have Saruman, falling for the same traps that Celebrimbor, Feanor and Aule did before him, and without Celebrimbor's caution, Feanor's brilliance or Aule's humility to balance it.

  • I'll agree with this answer. I'm not aware of any specific references from Tolkien or his son Christopher about the One Ring being directly influenced by the Silmarills. Rather, it seems to be a reoccuring theme of people (that term used in the most general sense) being obsessed with their creation or something that holds power. By the way, in the Hobbit there was the Arkenstone, that had a very similar grip on the dwarves. – Maksim Jun 23 '15 at 20:03
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    Keeping in mind that it's not the Silmarils that do harm, it's the Oath. – Matt Gutting Jun 23 '15 at 20:27
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    @MattGutting, was the Oath responsible for the deep desire to have and keep a Silmaril, like it happened to Thingol and the dwarves? By the way, Tolkien's earlier versions of the Silmarillion suggested that when Luthien (in her mortal form after being released from Mandos along with Beren) wore Nauglamir that had a Silmaril set in it, she aged more quickly than normal. That could have been due to the curse of Mim, but could also be due to the effect of the Silmaril. – Maksim Jun 24 '15 at 8:26
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    Yes, as I read the published Silmarillion the Oath was responsible for all the ill effects of the Silmarils. – Matt Gutting Jun 24 '15 at 10:25
  • +1 for the last two paras only.. nicely explained.. – RicoRicochet Jul 13 '15 at 10:15

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