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In my re-reading through The Chronicles of Narnia, it strikes me that the stories involve a great deal of action and travel and places outside of Narnia itself.  Only three out of the seven Narnia tales actually have the majority of action taking place in the land of Narnia:  the first two (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian) and the very last one (The Last Battle).  In between, Lewis first introduces the islands at sea (Voyage of the Dawn Treader), then the land to the north of Narnia, as well as under Narnia (The Silver Chair).  The next installment takes us back to the “golden age” of the rule of High King Peter along with King Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy — and to lands south of Narnia.  In The Horse and His Boy we are introduced to Archenland and especially Calormen.

Nearing the end of The Horse and His Boy, the wonder and enchantment are back, and appreciation for the story.  The plot is more complex than the earliest books, and introduces more human characters in Narnia’s neighboring countries — extra details not in the first books.  In this enjoyable story, we have several themes intertwined:  a variation on Greek classic literature (Oedipus),in a positive spin, and the rags to riches motif as well, for Shasta/Cor (somewhat like Charles’ Dickens tale of Oliver Twist, though much briefer and with the fantasy elements of another world with talking animals) combined with other characters who start out high and noble and must learn what it is to be humbled and abased.

In this story also we especially see God’s hand of Providence, and Aslan’s purpose in directing the lives of the two human children and the two talking horses:  the lion that appears (seemingly two lions) for the purpose of forcing the two traveling groups to meet and work together (Shasta with Bree, and Hwin with Aravis); the cat that comforts Shasta alone at the tombs, which later turns into a lion to ward off the jackals; and then especially the great scene in which Shasta rides slowly along on the dumb (non-talking) horse, left behind and alone, yet with the Presence of Someone, the great Aslan.  Here we also have the recurring theme of each individual’s story, and to be content with that.  Just as Aslan had rebuked Lucy for eavesdropping (by means of magic) on a conversation between two of her classmates in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so here Aslan tempers Shasta’s curiosity as to why Aslan the Lion had attacked Aravis and whipped her back:  “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers.  I tell no-one any story but his own.”  As we later find out, of course, Aslan does tell Aravis her own story.

Modern critics no doubt find much to criticize in The Horse and His Boy, especially the “racist” treatment of the dark-skinned people of Calormen, who are presented as the stereotype of uncouth Arabians. For C.S. Lewis of course, the characterization of the Calormene also, and significantly, is that of a pagan nation, spiritually dark, without hope, without God, and thus showing the fruits of such a world: slavery, cruelty, and sadness.  Some of Lewis’s writing style and words now appear dated, in part due to the corruption and perversion of some of our English words in the years since Lewis wrote in the 1950s.  Yet Lewis’ main point throughout is a contrast between a pagan land (which bears some similarities to our folk tales of Arabians and dark-skinned people of the Middle East and Africa) and Christian lands (of the North, which was Lewis’ primary love as well, things of a northern quality).  The scene of the Narnian rulers entering Tashbaan, indeed, provides the stark contrast, of the joy and happiness of the Narnians.

Their tunics were of fine, bright, hardy colours–woodland green, or gay yellow, or fresh blue.  Instead of turbans they wore steel or silver caps, some of them set with jewels… instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed.  One was whistling.  You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly, and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t.  Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.

More could be said, regarding the many plot points in The Horse and His Boy, such as the contrast of wisdom with folly and the foolish characters, as well as the pride in Bree and Aravis.  How does this world have such thriving communities of humans, with a clear history of many years, in a world that (according to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) has mostly talking beasts and was under a spell of 100 years of winter until only a few years ago (15 years ago at most)?  The answer of course is provided with the creation of these other lands Archenland and Calormen.  Only Narnia had been under the winter spell all those years, and thus it is now becoming a power to be reckoned with  (according to the leaders of Calormen).  Narnia’s past of endless winter is well integrated into this story, with references to it from Aravis’ city friend Lasaraleen.

This, the 5th published book in The Chronicles of Narnia (and the third book according to Narnian chronology), is an enjoyable story, escapism with a lot of elements that make a great fairy tale story.  It would be nice to see a movie or stage dramatization of this; apparently it has been done in some places as a stage production.  It was not included in the BBC mini-series.  Apparently something of a movie has been made in recent years, or attempted at least.  But usually, it seems, movie efforts at the full Chronicles of Narnia series get stalled after completion of the earlier books.

 

After many years, I’m rereading the Chronicles of Narnia.  Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair, are the stories I best remember, in large part due to the BBC dramatizations from the early 1990s, of which I especially appreciated The Silver Chair.  So, to this day, I still have mental pictures of the young teenagers who played Eustace and Jill, and of course Tom Baker (who I remembered and loved from my earlier Dr. Who fandom days, in his 7 years as the 4th Doctor) as Puddleglum.  The BBC versions were low-budget compared to Hollywood movies, but quite faithful to the original stories, and provided 3 hour renditions of both The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair, giving short shrift of only 1 hours to Prince Caspian and 2 hours to Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The last one in this BBC mini-series, The Silver Chair, was the best quality in my opinion.

Reading the books again is a good refresher, to include parts omitted or slightly changed in the 3 hour BBC version; the audio book of The Silver Chair is slightly over 5 hours, so at least the 3 hour dramatization gets relatively close, as compared to most movie dramatizations of popular books.

The descriptions of The Experiment House are classic C.S. Lewis comments against the problems of modernism and progressivist, anti-Christian thought, that was one of Lewis’ key focus throughout his fiction and non-fiction writings.  I’m also noticing how Jill, early in the adventure, complains a lot and desires the comforts of home such as a bed with blankets and hot baths.  That strong desire for comfort indeed becomes a major failure and plot point, how they end up at the giants’ castle and then have to escape from it.  This same desire for comfort and dislike for adventure, of course, is also brought out regarding Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit — though not to the extreme exhibited by Jill and even Eustace, to the point of wrong, sinful choices made in order to achieve the desired comfort.

Another interesting point I had forgotten, but now note the significance of:  behind the gym, when Eustace in conversation with his classmate Jill considers formally asking Aslan if they can go to Narnia, he makes a special point about the proper position for making such a request.  Their request is in effect a type of prayer, though Lewis never uses the actual term prayer.  But a petition is certainly a large part of what is involved in prayer.    How Aslan should be asked, included hands stretched forward with palms down — as Eustace had observed done on Ramandu’s Island near the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — and facing to the east.

As an aside, this scene also is one of the examples cited by modern feminists and secularists, of the supposedly sexist dialogue in C.S. Lewis’ writing:  Eustace’s line to Jill, that girls don’t know their direction on a compass.  Not mentioned by these critics, is Jill’s retort that Eustace himself obviously didn’t know — at that particular location they were at — which direction was east; and later in the story, the narrator author admits that he does not know if such lack of compass directions is true of all girls, but that it was true for Jill in particular.

In all my years growing up as a Protestant Christian, then coming to saving faith as a Protestant (Evangelical) Christian as a young adult and the many years since then as a Protestant Christian, I had never known the significance of facing east in prayer.  (I had heard this about cemetery plots, but nothing else.)  In prior readings of The Silver Chair I probably attributed this point to the internal plot of the Narnia story itself, since in the previous book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the characters did indeed quite literally sail East to Aslan’s country.  However, as I recently learned, as part of my study of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (the faith of the early church and its adherents to this day), it has always been a significant part of Orthodox Christian practice to pray facing this particular compass direction, of East.  Just as in Judaism before it, synagogues would face the direction of Jerusalem and the direction of East was held in high regard, and as the men of Gondor in Middle Earth turned in the specific direction of West toward Numenor in their prayer and moment of silence (link: previous post), the early Church saw significance of praying to the East.  As St. Basil observed in the 4th century (in his work, On the Holy Spirit):

For example, let us especially make note of the first and commonest thing: that those who hope in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ should sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Who taught this in Scripture? Which Scripture instructed us that we should turn to the east in prayer? …Is this not the silent and secret tradition?   … Is it not from this unpublished and unspoken teaching which our Fathers have preserved in a silence inaccessible to curiosity and scrutiny, because they were thoroughly instructed to preserve in silence the sanctity of the Mysteries [i.e., Sacraments]? For what propriety would there be to proclaim in writing a teaching concerning that which it is not allowed for the unbaptized even to behold?

For further explanation of why the early Church (and Orthodoxy to this day) face East in their prayers, here are two helpful articles:  Why Orthodox Churches Face East and Why do the Altars of Orthodox Churches Face East? 

Returning to C.S. Lewis and this story detail (the children facing East when making their petition to Aslan):  I find this interesting, as another piece fitting quite well into the picture of C.S. Lewis as being closest in his beliefs to Eastern Orthodoxy, as I also have recently learned from other online sources.  For further reference, here is a podcast episode and an article regarding C.S. Lewis’ beliefs and Eastern Orthodoxy.

I’m still re-reading The Silver Chair, and looking forward to finding even more story incidents that allude to early church practices.  I already know about this one (near the end of The Silver Chair), mentioned in this free online book Know the Faith: A Handbook for Orthodox Christians and Inquirers:

In C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, from his Chronicles of Narnia series, we encounter a beautiful description of a most natural, God-inspired act of icon veneration. Finding his formerly blackened shield now immaculate and revealing the blood-red image of the lion (Aslan, Lewis’s Christ figure), Prince Rilian addresses his small band of fellow travelers: “Now by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted.” The solemn act of love and reverence for the one who had delivered them from the delusion of the green witch was appropriately followed by acts of reconciliation and forgiveness.

I welcome any reader thoughts here — your thoughts about the Narnia movies (either the BBC series or other versions), as well as your comments about the overall story.

I’m revisiting the Chronicles of Narnia series after many years, and just finished the second one in the series, Prince Caspian.  When people mention their favorites within The Chronicles of Narnia, they usually mention the first one (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), and a few others often get mentioned.  Prince Caspian, sometimes subtitled The Return to Narnia, is usually not in the list of the top favorites.  Indeed, in the reviews at Goodreads, I noted one reviewer’s three star rating, with criticism that Prince Caspian  doesn’t have much action in the story – mainly a lot of travelling and celebrating — and that the book’s only “spiritual lesson” is Aslan’s invisibility and the step of faith they take in following his lead, and then as they follow him they can see him.

I agree, that is one great spiritual lesson, in which Lucy is more spiritually-inclined and sees Aslan, and then realizes that she must follow Aslan, even when the other children (all older than her) don’t believe her — and that she must follow him even if the others won’t go with her.  As referenced above, at the second sighting of Aslan, on Lucy’s insistence, the others do follow after Lucy who follows Aslan — and then gradually the others (first Edmund, then Peter, and lastly Susan and the Dwarf) are able to see Aslan.

Yet even Prince Caspian has many other spiritual lessons, as well as points that might not seem all that significant in our modern / post-modern rationalist world.  Especially near the end, we see several more allusions to biblical truth, including the great scene where Aslan asks Caspian if he thinks he’s ready to be a king — revealing young Caspian’s humble response (rather like the young King Solomon).  Another great scene occurs with Reepicheep and his fellow mice.  When Reepicheep’s friends show their willingness to cut off their own tails (to match Reepicheep’s wound), Aslan responds favorably, in a scene that reminds me of the “faith of a few close friends” that brought their paralyzed friend on a mat down through the roof of a house, in front of Jesus for healing (Mark 2:1-12).

You have great hearts!  Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the stone table …. you shall have your tail again.

But now to another very intriguing aspect of Prince Caspian:  the historical belief in this world of “faeries” — or as C.S. Lewis referred to them in “The Discarded Image,”  longaevi (“long-livers”): so as to not confuse his readers with a term co-opted by Disney for a very different usage.  Here is a four-part series with interesting information, noting the pre-modern belief, in every culture throughout the world — up until the Enlightenment age — in nature spirits:

These articles mention C.S. Lewis and his belief, as well as writings from J.R.R. Tolkien, but also from the early Church Fathers and one prominent modern-day Orthodox Christian.  As I read these articles, I thought also of Prince Caspian — maybe we 21st century modernists and urban dwellers are like the Telmarines, who rejected belief in the spirits of nature and kept away from Old Narnia.  Interestingly enough, the writer of these articles also mentioned Lewis’ Prince Caspian, in this very connection:

While many other examples could be given from the writings of Lewis, Prince Caspian is another book worth mentioning — the entire story revolves around the reenchantment of Narnia after all of the trees had fallen asleep and the few talking animals and magic creatures left alive had all retreated deep into hiding, following generations of rule by “Enlightened” men who did not believe in foolish superstitions.

A similar idea comes out in Tolkien’s The Two Towers, in the second part of King Theoden’s healing.  After Gandalf has restored Theoden to his right mind, and removed him from Wormtongue’s bewitchment, Theoden has a second startling experience to re-shape his world.  He suddenly finds that the “nursery tales” that he never paid attention to, are quite true, and he observes them, the trees which have been there through the ages:

‘They are the shepherds of the trees,’ answered Gandalf.  ‘Is it so long since you listened to tales by the fireside?  There are children in your land who, out of the twisted threads of story, could pick the answer to your question.  You have seen Ents, O King…. Did you think that the name was given only in idle fancy?  Nay, Theoden, it is otherwise: to them you are but the passing tale; all the years from Eorl the Young to Theoden the Old are of little count to them; and all the deeds of your house but a small matter.’

(Theoden) ‘Out of the shadows of legend I begin a little to understand the marvel of the trees, I think.  I have lived to see strange days.  Long we have tended our beasts and our fields, built our houses, wrought our tools, or ridden away to help in the wars of Minas Tirith.  And that we called the life of Men, the way of the world.  We cared little for what lay beyond the borders of our own land.  Songs we have that tell of these things, but we are forgetting them, teaching them only to children, as a careless custom.  And now the songs have come down among us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun.’

As I continue to explore the worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth, along with study of the early church, it is fascinating to find out about the truths and possible truths behind the ancient legends.

I welcome your thoughts here.  What do you think about the faeries, from the points mentioned here in this post, as well as from the linked articles?

For consideration in this post:  a brief story told in the Lord of the Rings Appendix A, provides a background “link” story that connects The Hobbit to Tolkien’s full legendarium.  In addition to the obvious connection point of Bilbo’s magic ring leading to the later adventures, this story tells about Gandalf’s meeting with Thorin at Bree, just prior to the beginning of The Hobbit.

The back-story to that meeting, in the Appendix, tells us the fuller history of the Dwarves to that point, and Thorin’s great ambition – contrasted with Gandalf’s deepening concern for the greater world affairs.  For even before An Unexpected Party (chapter 1 in The Hobbit), Thorin had anger in his thoughts:  The embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again, as he brooded on the wrongs of his House and the vengeance upon the Dragon that he had inherited.   He thought of weapons and armies and alliances, as his great hammer rang in his forge; anger without hope burned him as he smote the red iron on the anvil.

Meanwhile, as Gandalf saw it, for the defense of the northern lands against Sauron, and any attempt of Sauron to regain the lands of Angmar and the northern passes in the mountains only the Dwarves were in that area.  And beyond them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. How then could the end of Smaug be achieved?

I recently read Appendix A, soon after listening to the Amon Sul podcast, episode 11 “Oft Hope is Born When All is Forlorn” — which specifically addressed this topic.  Indeed, here in this simple, seemingly minor plot connector, J.R.R. Tolkien provided another illustration of a biblical principle.  With reference to Thorin, as described in Genesis 50:20, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to the saving of many lives.

Thus, through the Providence of a “chance” meeting in Bree, Iluvatar’s purposes were accomplished.  For though Thorin went on the journey with evil purposes, and then turned to evil selfishness and hoarding of the treasure, the Dragon Smaug was killed by the men of Dale.  The kingdom under the Mountain was restored, even as Gandalf had desired.  Thorin later repented, but he along with his two nephews Fili and Kili perished, as casualties of the Battle of Five Armies near the end of The Hobbit.

As Tolkien tells us in Appendix A:

In the late summer of that same year (2941) Gandalf had at last prevailed upon Saruman and the White Council to attack Dol Guldur, and Sauron retreated and went to Mordor, there to be secure, as he thought, from all his enemies. So it was that when the War came at last the main assault was turned southwards; yet even so with his far-stretched right hand Sauron might have done great evil in the North, if King Dáin and King Brand had not stood in his path.

‘I grieved at the fall of Thorin,’ said Gandalf; ‘and now we hear that Dáin has fallen, fighting in Dale again, even while we fought here. I should call that a heavy loss, if it was not a wonder rather that in his great age he could still wield his axe as mightily as they say that he did, standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell.

So we can find so many types and illustrations of biblical precepts, throughout Tolkien’s epic saga of Middle Earth.

Any further thoughts, readers, on this story?  Can you think of any other similar plots in Tolkien’s work, that illustrate the idea that “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”?

In Return of the King, chapter “The Land of Shadow,” Sam and Frodo are creeping slowly through Mordor, and everything around is gloom and dark, in every literal way imaginable, in a landscape comparable only to the horrors of war (with reference indeed to Tolkien’s experience of World War I). Suddenly Sam has a moment of experiencing the transcendent, a look beyond what is “under the sun.”

Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.

At a similar dark hour, when Sauron’s forces are coming against Minas Tirith, Pippin experiences that moment of hope and joy, in the face of Gandalf:

Pippin glanced in some wonder at the face now close beside his own, for the sound of that laugh had been gay and merry. Yet in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.

These scenes and many others reflect our moments of joy and hope (in the midst of trials), those experiences of God’s presence here in our fallen world: the beauty of a star, or the experience of a nice sunny day and recalling that feeling of a vacation trip and being at ease and at peace with God.  Just as in our world, throughout Lord of the Rings Iluvatar reveals Himself to the characters in various ways, such as in moments of beauty and calm, as well as in providential signs, or dreams and visions of future scenes.

Looking for a Sign

In another situation, Aragorn the new king of Gondor looks for a sign, and is dismayed because the expected answer still has not come. Iluvatar’s purpose unfolds in an unexpected way.  In our world too, we sometimes look for a particular sign, an indication of God’s direction and will for our lives – and the answer to the prayer, the request, does come, though often not as we expect.  From book six of Return of the King:

[Aragorn] ‘The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?’

‘Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!’ said Gandalf.

Immediately, when Aragorn looked in that direction, there was the sign: the sapling tree.

as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. …

I have found it!  Lo, here is a scion of the Eldest of Trees!  But how comes it here?

Dreams and Visions

Then there is Frodo’s dream of the green country, at the house of Tom Bombadil — and its fulfillment in the Grey Havens:

Either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.  The vision melted into waking.

Like the apostle Paul, who could not tell if he was in or out of the body when he had a great vision (2 Corinthians 12:2-3), so Frodo knew what he saw, but could not tell if it occurred in dreams or “out of them.”  And Frodo similarly received many sufferings, as did the apostle Paul — as part of the package deal, for those who receive visions must also be kept humble.

Nothing more is said about this vision, until the very end.  But there at the end, Frodo finally arrives in the place of rest (heaven), the destination of those on the ship in The Grey Havens:

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water.  And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

In Lord of the Rings – and also in the rest of Tolkien’s legendarium – we have such abundance of literary material, and the many story incidents that we can relate to, noting the parallels to our world and life experience.  These events are just a sampling, of the seemingly endless supply for our analysis and enjoyment.

Readers, please share, some other examples of these types of things — Iluvatar’s presence, in special scenes, and signs and visions.

In Following Gandalf, Matthew Dickerson considers various references to the One Ring, to determine that its key power is domination, and specifically, the power to subdue and dominate other wills.  After all, Galadriel explicitly states this, that in order to use the Ring’s power, Frodo would need to train his will to the domination of others.  Continuing from that statement, Dickerson explores the powers of Sauron versus Gandalf, and the idea of each person’s free will and freedom to make choices.

Obviously at a surface level, the Ring also has the power to make a person invisible, as Bilbo discovered to his delight in The Hobbit.  Gandalf describes the One Ring as able to dominate and control the other rings, as the ‘master’ or ‘controlling’ ring, and so we see that the One Ring has the power over the other rings, of which only the three elven rings are still in existence at the end of the Third Age.

Then Galadriel tells Frodo — when he asks why he cannot see the others [rings] and know the thoughts of those that wear them — that before he could use that power he would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others.

This description certainly indicates that dominating other wills is involved in using the power of the Ring – but as I see it, that is not the same as saying that the actual power of the Ring is the domination of others’ wills.  Galadriel instead implies that, after first having this ability to dominate others, then the ring bearer would have other powers.

Dickerson does include Tolkien’s own words on this topic, from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien:

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. “change” viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance—this is more or less an Elvish motive.  But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor—thus approaching “magic,” a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination.

Following Gandalf then focuses on that last characteristic, a lust for domination, as being the trait of the One Ring.  Again, though that is part of it, Galadriel gives other details, a section not quoted by Matthew Dickerson.  Galadriel next explained that Frodo’s sight had already increased, as a result of wearing the Ring:  as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener.  You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine.  And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger?  She then asks Sam, standing nearby – he had not seen the ring, nor even understood what Frodo and Galadriel were talking about.

Returning to the quote from Tolkien’s letters, though, the evidence indicates that the Ring’s power was expressed in the front end of that sentence:  enhanced the natural powers of a possessor.  Thus indeed, on several occasions we see Frodo’s enhanced observation and perception of events, such as what he saw of world events while standing on top of Amon Hen at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, and what Galadriel had observed, that Frodo saw the elven ring on her hand.  Also of note here, soon after Sam takes possession of the Ring, he experiences a great vision of temptation:

Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dur.  And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit.  He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.

Certainly this scene reveals the initial power of the Ring, on a new Ringbearer:  strong temptation, ideas that enhanced the natural powers of the possessor:  for Sam’s heart desired to be seen as a hero, and as a hero to turn desert wastelands into gardens, a temptation described in biblical terms reminiscent of the Old Testament prophecies about streams in the desert, about wastelands becoming forests, and so on.  The power for Sam, or at least the tempted power, would be to actually be able to accomplish those things—not the “motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination” at the end of Tolkien’s sentence.

I further note that even without the Ring, Sauron dominated the wills of others.  Even without his Ring, in fact, he had already achieved that, as described in book six and what happened when Frodo put on the Ring at Mount Doom and claimed it for his own:

The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; …

From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired.  For they were forgotten.

Tolkien again emphasizes this last point about Sauron’s slaves, a few pages later early in the next chapter, just after Gollum and the Ring have fallen into the fire:

and even at that moment all the hosts of Mordor trembled, doubt clutched their hearts, their laughter failed, their hands shook and their limbs were loosed.  The Power that drove them on and filled them with hate and fury was wavering, its will was removed from them;

The point I observe here, is that both just before the Ring was destroyed – when it still existed and was claimed by Frodo – and again just after the Ring was destroyed, Sauron’s slaves and armies suddenly lost the will that had been controlling them.  Up until that point, Sauron’s will had firmly dominated their wills, such that they were a formidable foe to the armies under Aragorn at the Black Gate.  All of that time, before Sauron’s attention was diverted, these evil creatures did not have any free will but were acting under that strong domination of will, that had been exercised by the power of the Dark Lord – and this was the Dark Lord himself and his power, even though the Dark Lord himself did not have possession of his Ring.

Following Gandalf has some good insights into the nature of Sauron, the contrasting nature of Gandalf, and what Tolkien himself viewed regarding the importance of individual free will as contrasted with automaton domination by another’s will.  However, looking at other scenes in Lord of the Rings as well as Tolkien’s letters, it seems clear at least to me, that the power of the One Ring is not specifically the ability to dominate others’ wills (though such is required in order to more effectively use it), but that the Ring enhances the possessor’s natural abilities, giving them power like “magic,” a power that then can be corrupted “into evil, a lust for domination.”

Any thoughts from readers here?  What are some additional aspects of the Ring’s powers and effects, that come to mind for you, from your readings of Lord of the Rings?