Anyone who understands the value of investing knows that gold is an important precious metal that has historically swayed people when offered as a prize for their troubles. But perhaps the most powerful piece of gold that can bend the will of mortals—fictionally, at least—is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. The seemingly innocuous plain golden Ring, forged by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fiery pits of Mount Doom, had an almost hypnotic hold on anyone who possessed it.
Sauron’s goal in creating the One Ring was to become more powerful and gain control over the other Rings of Power, which were in the possession of the Elves, Dwarves, and mortal kings of Middle-earth. In order for the One Ring to be infused with enough power, Sauron concentrated a part of his own soul into the gold. This created a link between him and the Ring that would later be exploited to defeat him.
Though gold is a relatively soft metal, the One Ring was impervious to damage, able to withstand even dragon fire. The only way to destroy the Ring was to travel to Mordor and toss it into the fires of Mount Doom, where it was created. The Ring appeared to be no more than a simple golden band, but a hidden verse was revealed around the band in a fiery script when exposed to heat. The passage—which read “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul” and translated to “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them”—was written in arcane Elvish runes, though the language of the passage was Black Speech as spoken in Mordor.
Once the Ring was created, Sauron tried to use it to gain lordship over the Elves. His plan was unsuccessful and resulted in the destruction of his armies, forcing him to return to Mordor. After several wars and 1,850 years in his possession, the Ring was eventually cut from Sauron’s hand and lost in a river for over two millennia. It was re-discovered by a fisherman, and promptly stolen by Smeagol, his friend and cousin, who murdered him to gain possession of it. Smeagol kept the Ring for 478 years, a unnaturally long lifetime that resulted in him turning into the creature known as Gollum, who dwelled beneath the Misty Mountains. One day, the Ring simply fell off his finger and abandoned him.
The Ring was then found in the very same caverns by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Baggins was able to escape with his life and the Ring, despite Gollum’s efforts to eat him and regain ownership of his “precious.” Upon returning to his home in The Shire, Baggins told Gandalf, a great wizard and his friend, about the Ring. Gandalf grew suspicious of the Ring, but did nothing to remove it from Baggins’ possession. About 60 years later, it came time for Baggins’ nephew, Frodo, to inherit his estate and the Ring. Baggins became very reluctant to relinquish the Ring, but eventually relented and willingly bequeathed it to Frodo.
It became apparent that this Ring was dangerous and eventually, Gandalf learned the truth about it and instructed Frodo to flee to Rivendell with the Ring. There, a council including members of every free race of Middle-earth decided it was best to destroy the Ring. And so began Frodo’s famed quest to Mordor, accompanied by eight companions known as the Fellowship of the Ring.
The lengthy, arduous journey was one of many hardships and the Fellowship suffered tragic losses along the way. Warned about the Ring’s ability to abandon its bearer, Frodo wore it on a chain around his neck. When Frodo and his friend, Samwise, finally reached Mount Doom, they encountered Gollum. It was ultimately Gollum’s desire to possess the Ring once more that led to his demise and the Ring’s destruction. This act also served to defeat Sauron, undoing his power and ensuring that he could no longer threaten Middle-earth.
But the brave quest to destroy the One Ring was not carried out without consequence. Though the bearer of the Ring could wield great power—such as becoming effectively invisible while wearing it, gaining a much longer lifespan, and understanding foreign tongues—the evil within the Ring created far more negative effects for those who possessed it. Apart from the Ring’s owner developing an unusual attachment to the golden band, it also caused the owner to decay and become more wraith-like over time. Holding onto the Ring for a long stretch of time could cause a mortal to go insane, at least partially. And wearing the ring, though causing invisibility in the mortal realm, allowed beings in the spirit realm to see and find you.
The Lord of the Rings is a fictional story, and most treasured gold doesn’t actually cause psychological damage, but history has shown that some people are willing to go to great lengths and commit some terrible deeds in order to obtain gold. Fortunately, it’s become far easier to acquire the yellow metal without death and destruction. If you’re looking for some investment-grade gold bullion that you can covet as your “precious,” check out the American Gold Eagle. This is one of the world’s best selling gold coins among investors and collectors alike.
The Lord of the Rings has captured the hearts of many, but there’s plenty more fantasy books and media out there for fans of the genre. What are some of your favorite fantasy stories? What stories do you know of individuals that have gone to great lengths to obtain treasure?