It’s no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien pulled from the world around him to create some of the iconic places in Middle Earth. Landscapes and locations near his home in England helped shape places like the Shire. But did he also receive inspiration for the One Ring from real life? A new exhibition at the Vyne explores the significance of a Roman ring as it relates to The Lord of the Rings.
The ring was found at an archaeological site in Silchester and belonged to a family for centuries before going to the the National Trust in the 1930s. It’s said to be cursed and bears a Latin inscription that says “Senicianus live well in God.” Tolkien knew about the ring, as he was consulted about it during his time as a professor at Oxford.
The ring connects to Tolkien through another archaeological site, Lydney in Gloucestershire, commonly known as “Dwarf’s Hill.” There, a tablet tells of the curse on Senicianus’ ring. According to the tablet, a man named Silvianus tells an obscure deity called Nodens that Senicianus stole his ring. The tablet lays a curse on any bearing the name Senicianus until the thief returns the ring to Nodens’ temple
In 1929, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler (the man who connected the tablet with the ring) asked Tolkien to advise him on the name of the god.
It sure seems like there could be a connection. The ring is on display at the Vyne alongside a first edition of The Hobbit and a copy of the curse. Visitors can vote on whether they think the ring is connected to the story or not. What do you think?