A Roman trinket that may have sparked J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle-earth — or at least inspired The One Ring — now dazzles on display in Britain. In 1785, the massive, thumb-circling gold band turned up in a field west of London. Today it anchors an exhibition nearby at The Vyne, a centuries-old mansion that is now a museum.
The ring bears a Latin inscription and an image of Venus, the goddess of love. Its owner, Silvanus, lost his bling and fingered Senicianus for the crime, appealing for divine retribution in a curse tablet (the old black magic police report of antiquity). A serious grudge-holder, he called down illness…not just on the thief, but among all those who bear his name. Harsh much?
In 1929, the rogue archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler connected the tablet and the ring. He called Tolkien — then a professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford University — to take a look. The ring’s doppelganger later appeared in chapter five of 1937’s “The Hobbit”: a bit of jewelry described as "one very beautiful thing, very beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring."
The actual artifact lay neglected for years until it whispered in the ear of Dave Green, The Vyne’s property manager. "I was looking for the ring to show a visitor, and I walked right past the case,” he told The Guardian newspaper in early April. “That's when I decided we really had to make more of this amazing thing."
Catch the new Ring Room display (curated with the help of the Tolkien Society) at The Vyne, where visitors can also tour the house and see how interior-design trends evolved over 500 years of additions (adult $17, child $8.30). It’s a good deal more hospitable than the Cracks of Doom, where Gollum follows the fictional bauble to destruction in the “Lord of the Rings” series.
Getting there: The national carrier British Airways flies into London and dozens of other UK destinations.
By Amanda Castleman
Photos: A ring that inspired a curse — and possibly J.R.R. Tolkien — is now on display in England. (Photo by Simon Q from United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons)
The ring is on display at The Vyne, a centuries-old house in England. (Photo by Andrew Mathewson via Wikimedia Commons)