A ring has been been put on display that may have been the inspiration for the iconic 'One Ring to rule them all' in JRR Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and the 'Lord of the Rings'.
The solid gold ring is part of a new exhibition at The Vyne in Basingstoke, owned by the National Trust, and was discovered at the ancient Roman archaeological site in Silchester, Hampshire, in the 1700s.
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The ring, which is very large and weighs in at 12g, was thought to have been cursed after a stone tablet was unearthed in 1929 by archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler which appeared to refer to the ring by name, and the fact it was stolen.
The ring featured the inscription 'Senicianus live well in God', with the stone tablet, discovered 100 miles away in Lydney, Gloucestershire, reading: “Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens.”
Tolkien, who was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford at the time the tablet was discovered, was consulted by Wheeler on details of the name mentioned by both the tablet and the ring itself.
He began working on 'The Hobbit', where the ring is first mentioned, just a few years later. As fans will know, the One Ring was also cursed. It gave those who bore it unnaturally long life, feelings of being stretched 'like butter that has been scraped over too much bread' and an unhealthy obsession with the object.
Forged by Middle Earth villain Sauron, the Ring plays a prominent part in 'The Hobbit', when hero Bilbo Baggins acquires it after a game of riddles with Gollum. In the sequel 'The Lord of the Rings', Frodo Baggins must destroy it after it is discovered that it is indeed Sauron's fabled One Ring.
The real-life ring eventually came into the family collection of the Chute family, which owned The Vyne before it became part of the National Trust.
Property manager at The Vyne Dave Green told The Guardian: “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.”
The ring is now on display in an exhibition room at the house, which has been created with the help of the Tolkien Trust, alongside a first edition of 'The Hobbit'.
There's also now the addition of a 'dwarf trail' and a Bag End-esque playground with tunnels for children at the house.
“It is [...] particularly fascinating to see the physical evidence of the Vyne ring, with its links to Tolkien through the inscription associating it with a curse,” said Dr Lynn Forest-Hill of the Tolkien Trust.
The timing of the display couldn't be better. Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' movie was a huge box office smash and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 8 April.
Alan Howard gave his sinister voice to Sauron's ring in the 'Lord of the Rings' films.
[Related: Buy Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit DVD on Amazon]