Author Archives: simon

First Mirror

He caught her, held her fast! Water-rats were scuttering
reeds hissed, herons cried, and her heart was fluttering…
You shall come under Hill! Never mind your mother
in her deep weedy pool: there you’ll find no lover!

The Adventure of Tom Bombadil (1934)

From its beginnings in very late 1937 through to the end of 1939, Tolkien envisaged a new story of around the same length (number of pages) as The Hobbit. The sequel was to tell a similar sort of journey – to Rivendell, then over the mountains to a final destination, the fiery mountain (as opposed to the Lonely Mountain). By late 1939 Tolkien had composed an early version of the Council of Elrond and introduced Boromir of the land of Ond, and so imagined a siege of the City of Ond on the other side of the mountains; but as yet this was the only adventure envisaged for the other side beyond the fiery mountain itself. In contrast to the original story of Bilbo Baggins, the sequel was to weight its adventures to this side of Rivendell.

But to imagine the original story, which I identify with the mirror of the ghost index, we also have to cut out Weathertop. When Tolkien first reached the house of Tom Bombadil, around the very end of August 1938, he envisaged before Rivendell only a passage through Bree followed by a final confrontation with the Black Riders at the ford, in which Gandalf and the Elves rescued Bingo.

We thus see an initial imagination of the sequel in which the magic ring was made by the Necromancer yet necromancy is held at bay. The adventure with the Barrow-wights was to provide as vivid a picture of the evil fruit of necromancy as Tolkien ever penned. But while one of the hobbits awakes from his trance state within the barrow with a memory of being dead, the story as yet has no thought that a hobbit would begin to become one of the undead (as happens after Weathertop).

When the early drafts are viewed within their intended frame we see that what we regard as the first part of the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring – through the woods of the Shire, the Marish, to Buckland, and then in the Old Forest, and Barrow-downs, and in the house of Tom Bombadil – was initially imagined as making up the lion’s share of a new story. The Necromancer and one of his magic rings is indeed at the center but both ring and undead servants could be escaped and overcome by hobbit high spirits (Bingo as the mirror of Gollum) and the rhymes of a mythical aboriginal spirit (Tom Bombadil as the mirror of the Necromancer).

Tom Bombadil is at the very heart of this imagination of a new hobbit story. Consider also:

(a) Tom Bombadil first appeared in print in an Oxford periodical in 1934, in a poem in which he is caught by and then commands his release from Goldberry, Old Man Willow, and a Barrow-wight (and also a badger).

(b) In the early drafts of late summer 1938, Tolkien considers that Farmer Maggot is not really a hobbit but kin of Tom Bombadil, who declares himself an ‘aborigine‘ and older than the Necromancer. Furthermore, Tolkien considers Black Riders simply Barrow-wights on horseback.

In other words, Tom Bombadil enters the story bringing with him Old Man Willow and the adventure in the Withywindle Valley, also Goldberry, and also the Barrow-wights, who are to provide a closer encounter with the Ringwraiths already met in the Shire. And Tolkien is even considering that he belongs to a greater aboriginal race that includes Farmer Maggot in the Shire.

When Tolkien started writing again in late summer 1938 he rapidly penned – largely in the published form – the adventures that led from Crickhollow to Bree. He began by taking a party of hobbits under the hedge, into the Old Forest, and so into a landscape made queer by Tom Bombadil’s 1934 adventure.

Where Tom Bombadil had been pulled into the water by Goldberry and then trapped within the willow tree, Old Man Willow now engineers both a plunge in the river and imprisonment in his tree. Bombadil rescues the hobbits from  the willow tree, and also from the Barrow-wight he had escaped from in his earlier adventure.

In the first draft the hobbits stay only one night at the house of Tom Bombadil. But rapidly the idea was added of a rainy day spent in the house with the hobbits’ host telling them the lore of the willow and the Old Forest:

… how that grey thirsty earth-bound spirit had become imprisoned in the greatest Willow of the Forest. The tree did not die,though its heart went rotten, while the malice of the Old Man drew power out of earth and water, and spread like a net, like fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till it had infected or subjugated nearly all the trees on both sides of the valley. (Shadow 120-1)

In this sequel, Tolkien alludes to but never tells the 1934 tale of the courtship of Goldberry and Tom Bombadil, but as soon as we recall it we see what happened to the hobbits was not simply a repeat of Tom Bombadil’s escapades with Old Man Willow.

As they first make their way into the Old Forest one hobbit names the Withywindle Valley “the source of all the queerness.” Queer is a key word in The Hobbit: in the first pages the narrator tells us Bilbo Baggins likely inherited a queer Took quality from his mother and Gandalf scratches a queer sign on his round door. The naming of the hobbit turns on the coming out of Bilbo’s queer quality in a way that makes sense of Gandalf’s sign (burglar). Now we are in a sequel in which the hobbits find themselves drawn to the source of all the queerness in an ancient forest.

The source of all the queerness turns out to be a story involving four people. Long, long ago, Goldberry caught Tom Bombadil’s attention and Tom Bombadil then captured Goldberry, taking her from the weedy river pools of her mother, the river-woman, to his own house. Evidently, this has disturbed the Withywindle Valley, Goldberry’s original home. We are never told the relationship of the river-woman and Old Man Willow, and we can only wonder whether the willow is the father of Goldberry or merely a jealous admirer. In any case, Goldberry’s mother is peeved and has allowed rotten Old Man Willow to run riot, casting his spell in a net of root and twig over nearly all the Old Forest, bearing hostility to all who walk on two legs.

The party of hobbits thus enter a different sequel – the sequel to Tom Bombadil’s earlier story. First they visit the scene of the two encounters of the two lovers, and then they meet the two lovers in the house in which they now dwell together. The source of all the queerness in a place turns out to be an ancient love story, which left two spirits of a place quietly seething over all the long ages to come.

The incorporation of this mini-sequel within the hobbit sequel allows Tolkien to hold a mirror to the theory of naming of The Hobbit. In the original hobbit story the person (Bilbo) is clear before us and the story is about the queer business of attaching a new name to the person. In the new story the names are already present and what the story is about is the queerness of the person behind the name.

At this point in the imagination of his story, Tolkien envisages two sets of relationship. On the one hand, Bingo (heir of Bilbo) and the young Gollum are to provide two mirror character sketches that together serve to reveal the hidden qualities of the magic ring. Both are hobbits, and so neither fade like the Ringwraiths, and both leave the human community, following in the steps of the ancient English helrúnBut where Gollum used the magic ring for sneaking and was cast out by his family, Bingo uses the magic ring only for joyous pranks and jests and takes voluntary exile upon himself to save his people from the servants of the Necromancer. Between this pair of opposite hobbits Tolkien is drawing a picture of the magic ring, which is not yet the One Ring and which, in this mirror ghost index, is still something that can be used wisely and without harm.

On the other hand, Tolkien imagines that the magic ring has a mythical maker and imagines also a mythical being, Tom Bombadil, who cannot be caught by the servants of the Necromancer. What the Necromancer is to the Ringwraiths who enter the woods of the Shire Tom Bomadil is to the Old Forest – an ancient (aboriginal) person who stands behind the queerness happening around the hobbits of the story.

Tom Bombadil allowed Tolkien to work out an initial idea of what it meant to find a person as the source of a queer thing (or, in his case, place) without having to delve into the unspeakable business of necromancy.

After Weathertop, when the process by which necromancy made an undead servant of the necromancer out of a living person had begun in the story, Tolkien found that he had to delve much deeper into the magic of the ring, and he now avoided the unspeakable by imagining the true relationship of words and persons in relation to the elves. Galadriel would come to fulfil the role that Tom Bombadil played in this original imagination of the sequel. Yet this mirror ghost index remains in the final index of The Lord of the Rings, an earlier strata of the story that contains within it the underlying themes of the story as first imagined; themes that would remain but be superseded once the magic ring had become the One Ring and Bingo Bolger-Baggins, the hobbit prankster, had become two hobbits with very different characters, namely Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins.

Revolution of the index

Anyone coming to these posts for the first time will find little sense in the following post, but someone who has followed previous posts will understand that three key ideas are in the process of coming together: namelessness, the index, and a Copernican revolution in a theory of naming.


Namelessness

Our starting point is the observation that the magic ring in The Hobbit has an unnamed property of showing who a hobbit is. As such it negates the namelessness of Bilbo’s hidden qualities, hence allowing a name to be given to him (burglar); but this property itself remains nameless in the story (and hence has no entry in its index).

In Tolkien’s theory of naming, namelessness is not usually envisaged as an unalterable condition. To call something nameless simply means that it has not yet been given a name. Tolkien’s underlying thought is that a story brings to light hidden qualities of people and things, thereby allowing those people and things to be named. The magic in The Hobbit is that Gandalf, because he is a wizard, and later the dwarves, because the ring is in Bilbo’s pocket, see Bilbo with story-vision before his story is told.

We may name the hidden property of the magic ring by saying that it shows its owner to others through story-vision.


Index I

The Hobbit never names this property of the magic ring, it only shows it. Hence, this property is a hidden entry in the index of the story – a mushroom revealed only in a philological index of The Hobbit.


Copernican revolution

Starting a sequel to The Hobbit, Tolkien placed the magic ring at the center of the new story. This  posed the challenge of telling a story that not only revealed but also named the hidden properties of the magic ring.

What I have called story-vision was to be the subject of the new story.

It is in this way that The Lord of the Rings provides a philological comment on The Hobbit: it shows and tries to name the mushroom in the original.

Our reading of the sequel as a commentary on the original is of course complicated by the fact that Tolkien’s second step was to imagine the magic ring as made by the Necromancer, which name had deep meaning already in Tolkien’s stories and scholarship – indeed, with this step the world of The Hobbit entered the world of the ‘Silmarillion’ by way of its last story, ‘The Fall of Númenor,’ and we cannot follow Tolkien’s story ideas without wandering in the index of this final tale of the elves in which the secret of necromancy (and its opposite) had been established. This wandering has already begun (e.g. here, here, and here) but this post does not step into the index of ‘The Fall of Númenor.’ Yet we already see that the Necromancer who made magic rings to steal people’s hidden souls is from the start an imagination of the author as evil and magical – he has made a magic ring of the kind imagined by Tolkien for linguistical and story purposes, and his doing so reveals a dark side of naming and authorship.

All that we are concerned with here is the idea of a maker. This idea is Tolkien’s Copernican revolution in story-vision. With this idea the unnamed property of the magic ring, a thing, becomes a property of a named person.

A footstep revealing this Copernican revolution is seen when we compare the entry riddle in the ghost and final index, i.e. the entry in the index to The Hobbit with the same entry in The Lord of the Rings.

Ghost index Riddle. Form of Bilbo’s story: Saga hwæt ic hatte; ‘Say what I am called’; or: ‘name the nameless.’

Index of Middle-earth Riddle.

i. Question asked of Frodo by Tom Bombadil: ‘Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?‘; or, ‘Say my original name’; or, ‘name the nameless.’

ii. Situation or text to be read (e.g. Aragorn tracking the two hobbits accross Rohan, Gandalf reading the inscription above the western gate of Moria)

The second entry follows Old English usage in which our modern word read was applied to counsel and formal riddles and difficult situations before ever anyone wrote down letters in a text. But its prevalence in the middle parts of the story reflects the profound movement of thought enacted in its beginning as reflected in the making of the riddle of The Hobbit the very landscape and content of its sequel – a world with a nameless quality.

The Lord of the Rings arises out of an initial confrontation with the very idea of the nameless. For sure, the nameless quality of the magic ring can be show – it already was in The Hobbit, and on observing it I gave it the name of showing story-vision. And no less certainly, the placing of story-vision at the center of the story is seen overtly in Lothlórien, most profoundly in the Mirror of Galadriel, as also more covertly it is seen in each of the great towers of Middle-earth. But the decision to place the magic ring at the center of the new story dictated not only vision but words – and while the hidden property of the original magic ring could be shown, an element of its namelessness could not be said.

Just this conceptual origin of the new hobbit story stands behind Tolkien’s statement in the essay that he composed while writing the story:

Faërie cannot be caught in a net of words; for it is one of its qualities to be indescribable, though not imperceptible. (OFS 32)

But the same origin also stands behind the renaming of the aboriginal in the story. While both Bilbo and Gollum have a shadowy aboriginal side in the original story, this hidden quality is taken away from in the new story and projected first on to Tom Bombadil and then on to Treebeard. This is because the idea of the aboriginal is one of Tolkien’s shortcuts to mushrooms – it is a trick he employs to give the (ultimately) mythical idea of an original name that we do not (and likely cannot) know some concrete content. By associating Bilbo and Gollum with Edwardian ideas of a little aboriginal people in the British Isles of whose language there are no discernible traces, Tolkien in his first hobbit story had injected a nameless quality into his chief character (and also Gollum). This was helpful in a story in which Bilbo played the role of the nameless who receives a name (in the form of a title: Bilbo the burglar), but hobbits as British aborigines served no purpose in a new story in which the nameless was found in the magic ring. Hobbits now became ‘English’ rather than ‘British’ (later connected to the Old English Rohirrim), while the idea of aboriginal persons in Middle-earth was redrawn as a mythical being titled eldest (Tom Bombadil and Treebeard).


 

Revolution of the index

As stated, the naming of the Necromancer brought the index of ‘The Fall of Númenor’ into play from almost the very first moment of composition of the sequel. As noted in an earlier post, around autumn 1938, as Tolkien reached Weathertop, the new (and hence the old) hobbit story was catapaulted from one side of time to another (‘The Fall of Númenor’ had introduced a cardinal distinction between a time of myth before the fall and a time of history after it, and prior to Weathertop the stories about hobbits were imagined as taking place in the days of myth). When Tolkien decided the fall of Númenor lay in the past of the story everything changed and the Third Age came into being. We may tentatively speak here of a revolution in the index of ‘The Fall of Númenor.’

But before this reimagination of the story of Númenor, in the very first days and weeks of beginning the sequel, there occurs what may safely be called a revolution in the index of The Hobbit. The original index starts to become the ghost index of the new story when the original mushroom, the nameless, is imagined as something that has an author.

Tolkien began not with a new riddle but with its solution. Behind the hidden qualities of a thing is a person because a person is what is hidden in a name.

A Copernican Revolution in story-vision

The post Genesis of the One Ring identified two seminal decisions made in the first week or weeks of composition of The Lord of the Rings:

(1) to place the magic ring at the center of the new story; which idea was soon followed by the idea that:

(2) the magic ring was made by the Necromancer. Two subsequent posts (here and here) outlined the significance of this second decision.

Knowing that it paved the way to introducing the Necromancer as the titular character of the new hobbit story, it is now time to look the first decision in the face.

Our starting point is the magic ring of The Hobbit (1937), revealed in previous posts (e.g. here) as a story-element with visible property (invisibility of body) and invisible property (visibility of character). It is the second property that is vital in understanding what happened when Tolkien made his first decision: a fairy-mirror was moved from side machinery to center stage and therefore its nature must be seen. Yet how to show what lay beneath its golden surface?

One cannot slip a magic ring into the pocket of a magic ring to reveal its hidden quality. The original magic ring has significance only when it is drawn together with a person it reflects. To reveal the hidden quality of the magic ring Tolkien therefore imagines a mirror image of the original relationship, which is to say that he enacts a ‘Copernican revolution’ in a philological inquiry into language by switching the subject and the object of story-vision. That which hitherto served to reveal fairy elements is now to be revealed as a thing in itself.

Immanuel Kant observed that Nicolaus Copernicus, astronomer of Krakow, had declared an end to attempts to calculate the heavenly motions by placing the earth at the center of the world system and announced that he would put the sun at the center and imagine that the earth moved around it. Kant proclaimed his Critique of Pure Reason a Copernican revolution in philosophy, by which he meant that, previous philosophers having circled the world of being and becoming and failed to grasp it, he would now circle the knowing subject and outline the conditions of our knowledge of being and becoming. This turn from the object to the subject of knowledge is the starting point of Kant’s ‘critical philosophy’ and the basis of the modern idea of ‘criticism’ (as in, e.g. ‘literary criticism’).

Max Müller, Oxford’s first Professor of Comparative Philology, was an ardent disciple of Kant (he translated the Critique of Pure Reason into English). Later Victorian comparative philology at Oxford was conducted in a philosophical language of self-consciousness derived from Kant. However, late Victorian Kantianism tended towards historicism, that is, the Oxford linguists set their philological research against some idea of the development of self-consciousness. This kind of historicism took its cue from Müller’s idea of mythology as a disease of language (an early moment when language bewitched the nascent human mind and the progress of self-consciousness went awry), was developed further by Archibald Sayce, Müller’s successor, and given a revised spin by Owen Barfield.

Tolkien is wholly free from this historicist form of Kantianism. The human mind (or soul), he is convinced, is in its broad nature always the same – there never was a time or place in which humans were mindless (Barfield) or confused frogs and princesses (Müller). But Tolkien was obviously aware of this side of the Oxford linguistic tradition, and it would be a mistake to assume that his thought is free of any strain of Kantian ideas. Rather, we can see in the very moment of genesis of The Lord of the Rings a Copernican revolution in storytelling and the inquiry into language that informed Tolkien’s art of storytelling.

What does this mean in practice? Firstly, there is the simple fact that a thing rather than a person is at the center of the story. This is a peculiarity of The Lord of the Rings as we know it, and we should recognise that Tolkien has engineered our uneasy sense throughout the story that the Ring has personhood and yet is an inanimate material object.

Secondly, the nature of the magic ring is to be revealed by way of the characters, or rather the character developments, of those who are drawn against it. The magic ring is still a fairy mirror, but we are to observe its character as it were in a mirror, that is, we may see it only indirectly by observing the people around it. This would ultimately lead to the fine character portraits of both Galadriel and Boromir (and several others), but in the first instance gave birth simultaneously (or so I believe) to the new Gollum and to Bingo Bolger-Baggins, the heir of Bilbo.

As soon as Tolkien had decided that the magic ring came from the Necromancer he appears to have begun imagining Bingo and reimagining Gollum as two opposing mirrors on the magic ring. Gollum is now declared an ancient hobbit, and a story soon told of how he found the magic ring (the birthday present story is a lie) and used it for sneaking and spying. By this point Bingo has already been introduced and his distinguishing characteristic is his taste for jokes and pranks – he uses the magic ring only in jest. The story that Tolkien imagined prior to Weathertop – what I have called the extended ghost index – thus reveals the nature of the magic ring by drawing two hobbits using it, with one path leading to a monstrous (but not wraith) existence and the other escaping the evil snare. (A key question for a later post is how this attempt to draw the hidden nature of the magic ring by looking simultaneously in two mirrors discovered that one of these mirrors – Bingo – did not quite add up.)

Thirdly, Tolkien imagined a new person who reflected the magic ring in a different way than did Bingo and Gollum: he who had made the magic ring, the Necromancer.

It is this imagination of the Necromancer as maker that marks the Copernican revolution in the story. Drawing the magic ring only through the mirrors of Bingo and Gollum simply continues the storytelling art of The Hobbit, in which the magic ring is drawn indirectly through the mirror of Bilbo. But the relationship of Necromancer to the magic ring is the same as that of magic ring to Bilbo – drop the magic ring in the pocket of Bilbo Baggins and we see who he is; slip the magic ring on to the finger of the Necromancer and we see what it is.

The Necromancer steps into the story the moment that Tolkien understands how a magic ring might be slipped into the pocket of the magic ring: a fairy mirror that reveals the hidden qualities of someone finds its own fairy mirror in the one who has made the mirror.

So much is contained in this move, and Tolkien by no means saw all of it at once. To look ahead, we see here the germs of the idea (first written in autumn 1939) that Sauron made the One Ring by placing his own spirit within it. We see also the germ of the idea of the Mirror of Galadriel, in which Tolkien imagines a fairy mirror that is not made by the Necromancer but is rather an instance of elvish art. We also see how this new mirror does not really reveal anything we did not know: the nature of the magic ring will be revealed when Sauron slips it on a remaining finger, at which point a second darkness covers all the world and the conditions of possibility of the story we are reading disappear. Ultimately, Sauron simply projects the nameless quality of the magic ring into a nameless threat of the end of all things – but the threat provides the premise and plot of the new story.

But before he became clear on any of this Tolkien had to think through the new story idea that the magic ring won by Bilbo from Gollum was made by a sorcerer who used the secrets of the hidden land of the dead to draw living people into and over the ill-defined border between humans and monsters…

The Necromancer 1936: a northern serpent

In 1936 Tolkien had pulled off a stunning ‘final story of the elves,’ a northern myth of a second mortal fall based on Plato’s myth of Atlantis derived from meditation on the story of Scyld Scefing in Beowulf. ‘The Fall of Númenor’ is a statement of Tolkien’s fundamental ideas of no less importance than his essay On Fairy-stories. Just take stock for a moment how Tolkien worked into a concluding ‘Silmarillion’ story core themes of three great ancient cultures: ancient Hebrew (the Fall), ancient Greek (Plato’s Atlantis myth), and northern (the ancient myth of Scyld Scefing discerned in Beowulf).

All that matters here, however, is that the northern serpent who directed this second mortal fall was Sauron the Necromancer.

As he first approached the scene of the encounter with the Ringwraiths on Weathertop, Tolkien decided that the events of the new (and therefore also the original) hobbit story were happening after the destruction of Númenor. This decision changed everything, giving rise to the ‘Third Age of Middle-earth’ – the first age of history when myth still endured – and ultimately made The Lord of the Rings a sequel to two stories, ‘The Fall of Númenor’ as well as The Hobbit.

But in these first months of composition the story was imagined as set in the days of myth with the destruction of Númenor still in a distant future. (This is established by Rateliff’s reading of the original manuscripts of The Hobbit (Rateliff 73, 83-4, 123) and by the simple fact that elves soon appear in the woods of the Shire in the new story, with no hint that this needs to be explained given that all the elves are said to have faded from Middle-earth soon after Númenor).

Thus we are to picture Tolkien’s initial idea of the making of the magic rings as an episode in the history of the Necromancer prior to his great act of directing a northern sequel to the biblical story of the Fall. (This is another point in which those who enter this philological index must discard the index of Tolkien’s art that they know and love or fail to understand the genesis of the story.)

Observe the continuity of theme in Tolkien’s mind. The biblical stories are bound up with sexual generation of one kind or another: Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, know death, and hence know themselves sexually (for mortal humans must now procreate if the species is to endure); wandering in the shadow lands of biblical exile, Cain is understood by the Anglo-Saxon poet to have had carnal knowledge of the giantesses, hence fathering the race of monsters who are the enemies of mankind and God.

But when Tolkien told the story of Númenor in 1936 he envisaged a sequel to the biblical Fall bound up with the tree of life, not the tree of knowledge, and now imagining the magic ring an instrument of necromancy he makes it an instrument that generates monsters not by sex but by drawing a living person into the realm of the undead.

Ideas of sex are intimately bound up with both the story of the Fall and the making of monsters, but Tolkien consistently sets his imagination to work on the other side of the coin: looking at death rather than birth and desire to escape death rather than carnal lust. Nevertheless, it is a mistake (if a very common one) to see themes of sex as completely absent from Tolkien’s stories. In both the Book of Genesis and the ancient English idea of necromancy sex and death are closely related ideas and sexual elements are never far below the surface of the story of the One Ring (think of Saruman’s lust for it, or the chaste but naked communication of Galadriel and Frodo, in which a ring is offered but declined and the fate of Middle-earth determined).

The Necromancer: sex & the magic ring

In the last days of 1937, or the first of 1938, Tolkien decided the magic ring won from Gollum had been made by the Necromancer. The name was loaded with significance. In the first instance, the Necromancer stepped out of a passing reference in The Hobbit. On the edge of Mirkwood, Bilbo asks if another path might be taken. Gandalf replies that the road south leads:

into the land of the Necromancer; and even you, Bilbo, won’t need me to tell you tales of that black sorcerer. I don’t advise you to go anywhere near the places overlooked by his dark tower! (Hobbit 145)

John Rateliff (81-4) observes that when Tolkien composed Bilbo’s adventure he was still working on ‘The Lay of Leithian,’ which features Thû, aka Sauron:

[A] necromancer [who] held his hosts of phantoms and of wandering ghosts, of misbegotten or spell-wronged monsters… working his bidding dark and vile. (Lays 273)

This poetic picture of Sauron the Necromancer as lord of misbegotten monsters was itself derived from Tolkien’s reconstruction of ancient English mythology through his reading of Beowulf. The Old English word for a necromancer is helrúnwhich appears in plural form in these lines referring to the ogre Grendel:

deorc déaþscua,      duguþe ond geogoþe,
seomade ond syrede;      sinnihte héold
mistige móras;       men ne cunnon,
hwyder helrúnan      hwyrftum scríþað. (Beowulf lines 160-3; Klaeber 7)

…a dark shadow of death, lurking, lying in wait, in long night keeping the misty moors: men know not whither sorcerers of hell in their wanderings roam. (Tolkien’s translation, Beowulf T&C 17)

The Old English helrún, explains Tolkien, is a compound of two elements:

hell: an ancient Germanic word, “ultimately related to helan ‘conceal’” (Beowulf T&C 167), meaning “the ‘hidden land’ of all the dead” (Beowulf T&C 298).

rún: secret. 

A necromancer is one who knows the secrets of the realm of the dead. Such knowledge includes the ways taken by the sorcerers of hell who in the long nights roam out of bounds and out of knowledge of the human community. Such sorcerers include Grendel, who has a touch of magic and a mother who is also a monster, but also humans who practice black magic and in doing so leave the human community, or are expelled from it. Between the demonic monsters and the human-born magicians there was in the ancient English mythology, says Tolkien, “an ill-defined border” (Beowulf T&C 168). The secrets of hell that are the foundation of necromancy concern the various ways in which this border may be traversed.

Evidently, the ancient English believed that sexual coupling between humans and monsters was possible, profoundly wrong, and capable of generating both monstrous and human offspring. After noting an old Gothic story about witches expelled from the camp who consort with evil spirits in the waste land and so conceive the monstrous race of the Huns, Tolkien suggests:

[It is] more than likely that dark ancient legends, concerning the origin of imagined evil beings, and of actual outlaw-folk and hated enemies of alien race, were associated in pagan Old English with the ancient word helrún (Beowulf T&C 168-9).

Just this thought informs Tolkien’s reading of the claim in Beowulf that all the northern monsters are descended from Cain, the biblical fracticide cast out by God from the human community:

þanon untýdras      ealle onwócon,
eotenas ond ylfe      ond orcnéäs,
swylce gígantas,      þá wið Gode wunnon (Beowulf lines 111-13; Klaeber 5)

Of him [Cain] all evil broods were born, ogres and goblins and haunting shapes of hell, and the giants too, that long time warred with God. (Tolkien’s translation, Beowulf T&C 16)

Tolkien sees that when the Anglo-Saxon poet heard the Latin story of the Book of Genesis he understood that Cain, like the witches, had sexual intercourse with monsters – in his case the daughters of the giants mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

So, human-monster sex may generate (loathsome) humans or monsters, and the poet at least thought an ultimate human paternity of all monsters quite credible. Thus, the border between human and monster is “ill-defined” because humans may become monsters, because monsters are by birth partly human, and because in dark nights on the blasted heaths of no-man’s land human outcasts and monsters engage in carnal coupling. The helrún may be monster or human or both, but whatever the face of such a necromancer, he or she is a denizen of an ill-defined border zone in which generation is monstrous.

Yet monstrous sex is only one part of the secret lore of the helrúnan. Recall two of Tolkien’s translations: the helrúnan are sorcerers of hell, but (in the list of Cain’s progeny) orcnéäs are haunting shapes of hell. Of orcnéäs, Tolkien says:

Necromancy will suggest something of the horrible associations of this word. I think that what is here meant is that terrible northern imagination to which I have ventured to give the name ‘barrow-wights.’ The ‘undead.’ Those dreadful creatures that inhabit tombs and mounds. (Beowulf T&C 163)

Thus, the magician of the land of the dead commands the haunting shapes of that land: helrún = a sorcerer of hell = a necromancer, commands an orcnéäs = a haunting shape of hell = a barrow-wight.

Now, the same early page of notes that introduces the Necromancer as the maker of the magic ring also alludes to adventures to come in the Old Forest, with Tom Bombadil, and with barrow-wights. Furthermore, Tolkien initially made no distinction between wights and wraiths, taking the Ringwraiths to be barrow-wights. In other words, when Tolkien first names the Necromancer in his first page of notes for his new hobbit story he evidently has in mind the idea that the magic ring may turn a living hobbit into a haunting shape of hell under the control of a helrún, a sorcerer of the hidden realm of the dead, the Necromancer.

What becomes clear from all this is that: (a) the idea of the Necromancer commanding a host of misbegotten and spell-wronged monsters was already present in Tolkien’s mind in the late 1920s as he composed ‘The Lay of Leithian,’ and (b) the moment the magic ring was imagined as made by the Necromancer Tolkien resolved that his sequel to The Hobbit would chart the process of such undead (as opposed to sexual) generation of monsters. The magic ring now became an instrument of necromancy, designed to take a living person as raw materials and make of him an undead monstrous slave by drawing him into and over the other side of the ill-defined border between humans and monsters.

With the benefit of hindsight we can say that Tolkien was biting off more than he realized at the time. In his 1936 British Academy lecture he had identified the genesis of the monsters from Cain as a point of fusion between the new religion of the book and the ancient native oral traditions. But further inquiry into the meaning of the ancient English idea of necromancy by way of composition of the new story would bring Tolkien face to face with theological questions about the nature of the eternal soul and its relationship to northern ideas of immortality that demanded a different sort of fusion. On Fairy-stories is in fact a statement of a fusion of Christianity and northern mythology of a different kind to that found in Beowulf and as such marks the paths by which The Lord of the Rings became a different kind of fairy story than Beowulf.

And this is simply to unpack the significance of the Necromancer as this name emerged out of the stories of the late 1920s and lectures on Beowulf of the 1930s. In the next post I turn to the role assigned to Sauron the Necromancer in the 1936 story ‘The Fall of Númenor’ and the relationship of this final tale of the elves to the first phase of composition of the new hobbit story.

Genesis of the One Ring

Summary of last post:

A long-expected party mirrors The Hobbit and was conceived as the prelude to a story about a descendant of Bilbo Baggins who inherits his magic ring.

Half-way through a second draft of A long-expected party Tolkien breaks off, sets out some notes that establish that the magic ring was made by the Necromancer.

Which is to be read against a reading of the magic ring of The Hobbit (1937), summarized in an earlier post as possessed of a dual function:

On the one hand, a named attribute: (bodily) invisibility; on the other hand, an attribute never named only shown: the magic ring makes a hobbit more recognizably himself.

Now, we can follow the (by no means simple) development of the story in Tolkien’s imagination in three HOME volumes, which reveal that it took our author well over a year to feel his way into his story and see clearly what it was he was writing. It is for this reason that I have described the new hobbit story in this period as simply extending the ghost index of The Hobbit. Nevertheless, the ideas brought to light by the two decisions made in the first week or weeks of writing are so powerful that I wonder if almost all the ideas it took Tolkien another decade to work through are not contained within them.

We stand at the edge of a precipice. Let me reiterate the two basic ideas brought into play at the very beginning of 1938.

A magic ring that reveals people’s essential nature is moved from stage-machinery to center stage.

The magic ring is imagined as made by the Necromancer.

The first idea is highly abstract. An instrument of story-vision, a mirror that reveals but is itself unseen, becomes the subject of the story. Here is a strange revolution of vision, a revolution of subject and object, with peculiar consequences.

The second idea is steeped in far-reaching significance, for the Necromancer had acquired many meanings in Tolkien’s thought and writings by early 1938. If no means simple, this maker is at least quite concrete. 

As the concrete is easier to outline, the next two post (here and here) deal with Tolkien’s second idea and only once the ground that Tolkien stepped onto becomes clear will I turn to the revolution in story vision that is found at the very beginning of the sequel (here and here).

Bilbo’s Property

The Hobbit was published September 1937 and in the week leading to the following Christmas Tolkien bowed to polite yet firm requests from his publisher and began a sequel. He sat down and wrote five manuscript pages to which a title was added ‘A long-expected party.’ I have said before that The Lord of the Rings may be read as a commentary on The Hobbit and the early drafts especially. This first draft chapter provides a nice distillation and mirror of the original story.

Bilbo Baggins is celebrating his seventieth birthday. It is two decades since he returned from his adventure. At a magnificent birthday party, in which the shire (still lower case) begins to come into being, he announces he is leaving again and also that he is going to get married. In the flummaxation that follows Bilbo disappears (the ring is in his hand as he gives his after-dinner speech). The story then switches to Bag-end and an absent host. Bilbo’s property has been arranged and labelled as gifts to various friends and relations and the Sackville-Bagginses finally get their hands on Bilbo’s luxrurious hobbit hole.

So, observe the various correspondences. The Hobbit was a story of there and back again. This first chapter – which announces that the new story will be about Bilbo’s heir but does not name him – is all about Bilbo: here and gone again. An unexpected party had flummoxed Bilbo, but now he organizes a party to flummox all the other hobbits. Bilbo’s earlier adventure is referred to by the other hobbits as his “mysterious vanishment,” and the new adventure begins with his second and final vanishment (a more effective vanishment as he now owns a magic ring of vanishment). After he has vanished a second time the ending of the original story is mirrored, but instead of an auction of his property Bilbo now directs its passage to new owners. Finally, note how the idea of a birthday party points to some as yet unrealised idea about transfer of the magic ring to an heir: the magic ring began as Gollum’s birthday present, and the idea of its passage to another is associated with Bilbo’s birthday.

Because an heir is not named – indeed, at this point Bilbo has only just announced marriage and so a descendant is not yet even a twinkle in his eye – so there is no suggestion that the magic ring is to be included in the transfer of Bilbo’s property to others. Nevertheless, I believe that sufficient factors point to an idea already in the author’s mind that the magic ring will be central to the new story, and so must pass to a new hero. This first draft chapter is setting up the conditions for a transfer of ownership. As seen, the chapter clearly mirrors the bookends of the original story – opening party and auction of property at the end – and the central theme of a birthday party points to some (just what is hard to say) idea of a subsequent chapter that mirrors the riddle game in some way and sees a Baggins family heirloom passed on.

The mirror of the riddle game was never written because, just after he had got to Bilbo’s second vanishing in a second draft of the chapter, Tolkien wrote some notes on the story that was brewing in which the Necromancer is named as the origin of the magic ring. This changed the nature of the inheritance, with the magic ring suddenly a burden and a threat and not something you would wish to leave to your heirs.

Subsequent posts will explore the new property of the magic ring. But I want to highlight here how this first draft chapter of the sequel helps us better read the original. My last post gave one item of the index of the original hobbit story:

Bilbo Baggins.

property, acquired: magic ring

property, inherited: Bag-End; generic hobbit vanishing magic; Baggins luck; queer Took quality

Visibility. Of body: see magic ring. Of properties: see wizard’s eye, magic ring, dwarves

In my reading of the 1937 story of Bilbo Baggins, property is a key word. The draft chapter of the sequel confirms its importance and reminds me that the entry above takes no account of the auction and needs to be supplemented:

Bilbo Baggins.

property, acquired: magic ring, some treasure (much spent in regaining auctioned property)

property, auctioned: most inherited property left in Bag-End

property, inherited: Bag-End; generic hobbit vanishing magic; Baggins luck; queer Took quality

Visibility. Of body: see magic ring. Of properties: see wizard’s eye, magic ring, dwarves

The additions are worth making if only because they bring to light Tolkien’s vision of the original story as all about Bilbo’s properties: in going there and coming back again Bilbo acquires a magic ring that reveals his inner properties, the name of a legendary burglar, some wealth, and comes home to find his original property passing into the hands of others.

The Hobbit (1937)

My philological index of The Lord of the Rings identifies a hidden index within a conventional index of names of Middle-earth. This ghost index is the index of the original story of The Hobbit. Key elements of the ghost index are given here. This post explains a small part of the ghost index.


Bilbo Baggins.

property, acquired: magic ring

property, inherited: Bag-End; generic hobbit vanishing magic; Baggins luck; queer Took quality

Visibility. Of body: see magic ring. Of properties: see wizard’s eye, magic ring, dwarves


The ‘magic’ of the original story involves a word play on property and a magic ring that takes its meaning from a linguistic theory of naming.

From the start of the story we are introduced to the idea of visible and invisible properties. We see Bag-End – a property Bilbo inherited from his parents, and we are told that Bilbo’s visible properties (character, qualities) were inherited from his father. But we are also told that he likely inherited from his mother ‘a queer Took quality’ – something initially invisible yet ‘in him’ (Gandalf) waiting for a chance ‘to come out’ (narrator).

When Gandalf first talks with Bilbo he sees the hobbit with his wizard’s eye, discerns his invisible property, and therefore selects him as the burglar on the adventure. The dwarves on first seeing Bilbo doubt the wizard’s word. But when Bilbo emerges from the goblin tunnels with a magic ring hidden in his pocket the dwarves immediately recognize him as ‘a first-class burglar’ – really, they now see that he has ‘in him’ what it takes to play the role of burglar assigned him in the story.

The magic ring is an acquired property (won from Gollum in the riddle game). The magic ring has two properties:

  1. The magic ring is named (and shown) in the story as a ring that renders the body invisible.
  2. The magic ring is unnamed but revealed by the story as a ring that renders invisible properties (inner qualities) visible – allowing the dwarves to see Bilbo with a wizard’s eye.

The ghost index thus points at the source of all the queerness that came out when Tolkien began to compose a sequel to The Hobbit. 

I suggest that the primary property of the magic ring is that which is unnamed and only shown in the story – a ring of visibility, revealing hidden qualities. The named magic ring of invisibility is merely a surface inversion of its real properties.

But this real property of the magic ring is not a standard fairy element (as Tolkien will later dub the magic ring). Rather, it is the imagination within a story of an instrument of philology, a picture of the key to naming as established within a linguistic theory of the index name. For the magic ring is simply an instrument that makes visible the hidden properties of a thing or person on which a name may be hung.

Looking ahead to what I have called the extended ghost index – the sequel in its first year of composition – we see immediately how the real property of the magic ring was to make a new story by way of the new idea (hit upon very soon after commencing composition) that the magic ring was made by the Necromancer:

The magic ring’s invisible property of making visible the hidden properties of a person is a first step to stealing their soul.


Here is an extended version of the ghost index:

Hidden items are in red.

Bilbo Baggins.

index name (titles of);

native identity;

property, acquired: magic ring (suspected mushroom); some treasure (much spent in regaining auctioned property)

property, auctioned: most inherited property left in Bag-End

property, inherited: Bag-End; Hobbit vanishing magic; Baggins luck; queer Took quality

story titles, see index name

Visibility. Of body: see magic ring. Of properties: see wizard’s eye, magic ring, dwarves

Beowulf. þéof náthwylces: translation of hobbit burglar

Aborigines (now nameless)

Dragon. Master critic of Bilbo’s story-titles. See: Beowulf 

Dwarves (thirteen). See: Bilbo Baggins, visibility of properties

Gollum. See: British aborigine; birthday present; imagination (lack of).

Hobbits. See: British aborigines (now nameless)

Nodens, name of. Earlier version of theory of names and titles.

Riddle. Form of Bilbo’s story: Saga hwæt ic hatte; ‘Say what I am called’

Wizard’s eye.

Indexes of Middle-earth

This post arises as I clarify the ideas of my index on the page naming the nameless.

A key idea advanced on that page is that Tolkien sees a story as generating its own index, which is the world of that story. A principle of Tolkien’s art, adopted by conventional indexes of Middle-earth (such as the Tolkien Gateway), is that there is only one world of both hobbit stories and so only one index for both. Yet the magic ring of the first edition of The Hobbit is a different thing than in later editions or in the sequel, and the same goes for Gollum and even Bilbo, and even the idea of hobbits themselves.

This raises the question of how many stories, worlds of story, and so indexes we have on our hands and a concern that once we turn to the early drafts of the sequel, the hero of which is named Bingo Bolger-Baggins, we add another story, world, and index. Let’s begin with a rough and ready chronology of the composition of the two hobbit stories:

1930-1933: The Hobbit composed and told (a compositional break after death of Smaug)

1936: ‘The Fall of Númenor’ (with much study of Beowulf behind it and some in front)

Christmas 1937: composition of ‘A long-expected party’: Tolkien’s most distilled commentary on The Hobbit

Winter 1938: Necromancer named as maker of magic ring and (as natural consequence) Ringwraiths encountered in woods of Shire

Late Summer 1938: digression through the Old Forest, house of Tom Bombadil, and Barrow-downs: Tolkien’s most intense commentary on The Hobbit and another picture of wraiths

Autumn 1938: Weathertop: everything changes. Bilbo’s heir starts to become a wraith and the first signs of a transformation into Frodo are glimpsed. And both hobbit stories, which since ‘The Fall of Númenor’ had introduced a distinction between the days of myth and the days of history had been firmly placed in myth, now entered history. ‘The Fall of Númenor’ begins to become the ancient history of the new hobbit story.

March 1939: Tolkien delivers a lecture on fairy-stories at St. Andrews: his story and his essay henceforth run parallel, working the transformation of magic ring into One Ring, generating the philosophy of art on which The Lord of the Rings is founded, and giving us also the elvish vision of Lothlórien and the Palantíri.

Summer 1940: the wild hobbit named Trotter becomes the man Aragorn, the heir of Elendil whose legend was sketched at the close of ‘The Fall of Númenor.’ For the next eight years, Tolkien imagines the history of Númenor in exile from the days of Elendil down to Aragorn by way of positioning various towers in Middle-earth.

Inspection of these stages suggests that we distinguish between revision within an index and transformation of the whole index into a new one.

My reading of Return of the Shadow, the early drafts of the first part of The Lord of the Rings, reveals that the moment that the magic ring was imagined as made by the Necromancer Tolkien began to to reimagine Gollum as an ancient hobbit and to reinterpret the original riddle game – in which Bilbo won the magic ring – as a competition Gollum had intended to lose.

Nevertheless, until Weathertop the new hobbit story was simply a sequel to the original, set in the same world and basically extending its index. In fact, in these early drafts we find the most exquisite commentary on The Hobbit that will ever be penned, a commentary that reveals much of the hidden meaning of the original. For example, Tom Bombadil reframes the underlying riddle around which The Hobbit was crafted. Gollum’s ‘transformation’ from stupid monster to ancient and ruined hobbit, while changing his character (the original monster is not malicious and no cheat) is not really a transformation but rather a making overt a hidden element of the original story, namely that Bilbo and Gollum are both aborigines.

Weathertop marks the moment when the original index comes to an end, and from this moment of composition through to the first drafts composed in the wake of the delivery of the lecture on fairy stories in 1939 we are, in terms of an index, in a sort of no-man’s land. From autumn 1939 onwards for nearly a decade we see a new story world under construction and hence a new index, and once the riddle game had been revised in the second edition of The Hobbit in 1951 the original story rewrote its own index and entered the same world as its sequel.

A question we wish answered is why did Tolkien rewrite the index to his hobbit stories? But in this post I focus only on the how, which has a simple answer.

The original index was rewritten once  ‘The Fall of Númenor’ entered the story as ancient history. This final myth of the elves composed between one hobbit story and the other posited a fundamental division between days of myth (before Númenor was destroyed) and days of history (after Númenor). Inspection leaves no doubt that both the original hobbit story and the early drafts of the sequel up to Weathertop are set in the days of myth. Weathertop established that the new story – and by implication also the original hobbit story – were situated in history long after the destruction of Númenor.

So, a philological reading of The Lord of the Rings reveals three indexes.

  1. The original index of The Hobbit, extended – with minimal revision – in the early story of the new hobbit story. (Index I)
  2. The 1936 index generated by ‘The Fall of Númenor.’ (Index 2)
  3. The final index: found in shorter form at the end of Return of the King and today found in longer form in various online wikis like Tolkien Gateway. (Index 3)

Index I is a ghost that haunts Index 3. Index 2 would seem simply to have been incorporated into Index 3, providing its basis and subsequently expanded as Tolkien drew the history of the exiles of Númenor from Elendil (who appears in the 1936 story) to Aragorn, thereby establishing the ancient historical background to his new story.

The crucial entry in Index 2 concerns time (sub-entries: myth and history) and the rewriting of the original involved reimagining a story set in myth as a fairy story in history.

The why is another question, but clearly relates to the fact that on Weathertop the implication of making the Necromancer the maker of the magic ring became clear. Having a wraith who had already passed through a similar magic ring appear in the Shire was an obvious consequence of this early decision, but a path was already being followed that saw Bingo stabbed on Weathertop by “the sword of the Necromancer” and start to become a wraith. This was to take a hobbit to a place that no other hobbit (not even Bilbo or Gollum) had been and involved all sorts of delicate questions about eternal hobbit souls and the inner being of a Ringwraith. These questions were resolved only through Tolkien’s lecture and subsequent essay On Fairy-stories, but – for reasons still to be determined – produced an immediate shifting of the world of the story out of myth and into history.

Magic ring and tower: first foundation

In the first months of the writing of a sequel to The Hobbit, in an untitled chapter that became ‘The Shadow of the Past,’ Tolkien pictured an opening scene in Bag-End. Gandalf is speaking about the magic rings made by the Necromancer and distributed to various folk of Middle-earth:

The dwarves it is said had seven, but nothing could make them invisible. In them it only kindled to flames the fire of greed, and the foundation of each of the seven hoards of the Dwarves was a golden ring. (Shadow 78).

At this early point of composition the magic ring was imagined as made by the Necromancer but had not yet become the One Ring. Once it did so, the association of magic rings and dwarf treasure was transformed into the following idea, voiced by Elrond as he tells the history of Sauron and the Rings of Power at the great Council of Rivendell:

His Ring was lost but not unmade. The Dark Tower was broken, but its foundations were not removed; for they were made with the power of the Ring, and while it remains they will endure.

Unlike the usual sequence from draft to published story, in this case the final version of the idea reveals its origin and so illuminates the meaning of the abandoned draft conception.

The idea is given different shapes by different drawings of the role of the magic ring in the story of Bilbo Baggins (1930-1933) in relation to the symbol of the tower that appears in ‘The Fall of Númenor’ (1936).

As detailed in various entries, The Hobbit tells a story of how a hobbit is named a burglar, thereby revealing a latent meaning of the ancient English phrase þéof náthwylces found in Beowulf. As such, the story helps Tolkien read the riddle of an expression that is now mythical because it belongs to stories once told but lost in the historical fall that saw the English migrate to the British Isles.

The Hobbit is in just this sense a tower of the kind erected by the exiles of Númenor – the view from the story reveals the meaning of prelapsarian words. Hence, the same logic that allowed Tolkien to name Beowulf a tower in his British Academy lecture also allows The Hobbit to be given this metaphorical or story title.

However, The Hobbit generates its own metaphor or symbol of philological speculation in the form of a magic ring. Where the tower pictures the end of philological inquiry the magic ring pictures its method: when the magic ring becomes Bilbo’s property his essential properties (luck and vanishing) are revealed by story-vision, thereby explaining how the story sticks the name burglar on him.

The magic ring is a metaphorical picture of the method of investigation. The method is the imagination of a story that reveals the hidden connection between the words of the expression; and the magic ring is the vision of such story-making.

On the foundation of this story-vision, a story is constructed, the view from which reveals the lost meaning of the archaic expression. The magic ring provides the foundation of a tower looking over the sea.

Yet this overt connection between magic ring and tower had not been made by Tolkien in winter 1938 when he penned Gandalf’s statement that each dwarf treasure was founded on a magic ring. What we see here, then, is Tolkien attempting to remake the 1936 metaphor of the tower from within The Hobbit.

Making a magic ring the foundation of the treasure of Thror is interesting because studded with ambivelance. The meaning of the treasure of Thror changes in the last part of The Hobbit. By the end of the story (and as pictured with a heavy hand in the movies), the treasure works an enchantment on dwarves and elves who almost go to war over it – an enchantment of the same baleful kind as the Silmarils, which lead the elves to slay their kin in early days of myth. Yet the treasure of the dwarves is also at the heart of their music, which wakes up Bilbo’s Tookish side at the start of the story in Bag-End.

Reflection on this passing relationship between ring and dwarf treasure highlights an intermediate step in the transformation of magic ring into One Ring. As soon as the magic ring was imagined as made by the Necromancer, which is almost the second thought Tolkien had once he began a sequel, it became evil. Nevertheless, for several months of composition the magic ring remained but one of many made by the Necromancer long ago, and for the same period Bilbo’s heir was a madcap prankster named Bingo Bolger-Baggins and Tolkien believed that his jokes would keep the evil of the Necromancer in check. This first phase of the imagination of the sequel hit reality on Weathertop, and this aborted projection of the tower into the treasure of Thror reflects a pre-Weathertop idea of the sequel.

The precise passage of ideas remains unclear to me, but it was on the way to Weathertop that a passing historical observation about Elendil introduced ‘The Fall of Númenor’ into the new hobbit story. Everything changed on Weathertop, but in the first instance this was because Bingo was stabbed by “the sword of the Necromancer” and began to become a wraith – and it became all too clear that the Necromancer was not to be escaped by japes and high spirits. Yet from this point ideas of Númenor began to enter the story. And very soon after this, the magic ring became the One Ring. (Hence, the legend of Elendil found in the myth of Númenor now generated a son, Isildur, who served to get the One Ring from Sauron’s hand to Gollum’s.)

From this point in the composition on it was perhaps only a question of time when the One Ring would be named the foundation of the Dark Tower of the Necromancer.

This, of course, was to invert the original if latent connection, such that a magic ring founds a tower looking over the sea. Barad-dûr provides a platform from which the Eye of Sauron looks out, not over the sea, but over Middle-earth. But this inversion was straightforward given the presence of a white tower by the sea to the west of the Shire, an identification (in the essay On Fairy-stories) of the Magician or Necromancer as the moral opposite of the teller of elvish stories, and the implicit thought that The Lord of the Rings was composed by means of an enchanted ring (the relationship of which to the original magic ring that reveals a hobbit being just what this index wishes to reveal).