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Misunderstanding the One Ring
Not all power corrupts. Not all authority is evil.
The One Ring represents the corrupting influence of power, but some people make the leap to say all power and authority is therefore suspect.
But just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply get corrupted by power. The last book is called The Return of the King. Obviously, Tolkien’s vision is more nuanced.
When we meet Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, he has spent most of his life seeking the authority and power that is his birthright. The Aragorn from the books, that is. The Aragorn of the movies is second-guessing his lineage and responsibilities, and then, in the end, proves he (or Peter Jackson) still doesn’t understand what’s going on when he tells the hobbits that “you bow to no one.”
The Aragorn of the books seeks to fulfill his responsibility and so desires the power and authority that comes with that responsibility. Do you think he's just going to sit on his throne and twiddle his thumbs? No, he’s going to use that power. That’s why his ascension to the throne is a big deal.
Other characters in the books also have authority and power and do not hesitate to use it. Gandalf, Galadriel, Glorfindel, and Elrond all use their invested powers. In the scourging of the Shire, the hobbits use the power and strength they have gained through adventure to cleanse their home.
A simplistic reading of the One Ring doesn't hold up, though it does comfort those who wish to avoid hard questions. They can pat themselves on the back while they sneer at Boromir.
Rather, the One Ring represents power gained through dishonest means and detached from any sense of responsibility. It is power gained too easily. It is power gained too hastily. It was forged as a means of control and not as a means of leadership.
Good men should seek power and authority. They should not shy away from it. Becoming a father, for example, is one of the surest ways to be invested with authority. But men seeking such power should avoid easy solutions. They should embrace the long, hard path. They should be driven by a love for others, which helps weigh them down and keeps them grounded.
It took decades and decades of work, preparation, and maneuvering for Aragorn to finally be crowned king of Gondor. He sought out the crown. He desired it with a holy ambition. Because he did so, he is one of the great heroes of literature.
Tortured appeals to the One Ring can come up in the context of politics. Some pundits on the Right warn against the use of any power because that would be like embracing the One Ring. They warn that it would lead to corruption and eventual destruction.
In some cases, they might be right.
But that is not automatically true. It does not follow that a man, invested with power and authority, will become a Dark Lord if he uses that power and authority. It depends on where that power comes from, how it was forged, and how he subordinates that power. Often, an appeal to the One Ring is a cover for cowardice or an excuse to abdicate. It is saying that Aragorn should have remained a ranger in the north and avoided the messiness of Pelennor Fields. It is a father refusing to discipline his children. It is a senator refusing to fight for his constituents.
Sauron desired absolute control and would submit to no one. Aragorn desired the throne to protect his people, which came with a framework of mutual love and responsibility, things he had prepared decades for. These are not the same.
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