Gold ring linked to Tolkien on display

April 3, 2013 at 1:52 AM
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BASINGSTOKE, England, April 3 (UPI) -- A large gold Roman ring found in central England in the 18th century that may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is now on display.

The ring went on exhibit Monday at The Vyne, a house outside Basingstoke in Hampshire that once belonged to the family that bought the ring, The Guardian reported. It is accompanied by a first edition of "The Hobbit" and other Middle Earth touches have been added to the property, which now belongs to the National Trust.

Bilbo Baggins finds the ring in "The Hobbit," and it then becomes the center of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The books, popular for more than half a century, have gained new fame from Peter Jackson's movies.

Dave Green, who manages The Vyne, said it only dawned on him recently that the Tolkien connection was important.

"I was looking for the ring to show a visitor, and I walked right past the case with it -- that's when I decided we really had to make more of this amazing thing," Green said.

The ring, which weighs almost half an ounce, bears the inscription "Senicianus live well in God." It was found near the ancient Roman city of Silchester, probably by a farmer, in 1785 and eventually sold to the Chute family, who owned The Vyne.

Sometime later, a curse tablet was found 100 miles away at Lydney, a site known as Dwarf's Hill, in which one Silvianus said his ring had been stolen and asked that Senicianus be cursed until he brought the ring to the temple of Nodens.

Tolkien, a professor at Oxford, became involved with the curse in 1929. Archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, who was doing excavations at Lydney, asked Tolkien about the name of the god. Wheeler also noticed the coincidence in names on the ring and the curse tablet.

Lynn Forest-Hill of the Tolkien Trust said most experts have assumed the "one ring to rule them all" was inspired by the epic German poem Niebelunglied that was also the source for German composer Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" opera cycle.

"It is, then, particularly fascinating to see the physical evidence of the Vyne ring, with its links to Tolkien through the inscription associating it with a curse," she said.

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