MGM 2006 - Tolkien Ring Tops List Of NT Favourties

By Richard Moss | 12 May 2006
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a close up of a gold ring with an inscription on it

The Vyne Ring was originally found at Silchester in 1786 and has an inscription on the band and the head of a lion marked on it. It has recently been suggested that this ring was the inspiration for The Lord of the Rings. © NTPL/David Levenson

National Trust curators have singled out the ring that inspired Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as their favourite item in a new online exhibition organised for Museum and Galleries Month 2006.

The Curator's Choice is available online on the National Trust website and features an array of favourite objects in Trust properties - each chosen by expert curators.

The Vyne ring was discovered in the late eighteenth century in the Roman town of Silchester in Hampshire and today resides at Trust property The Vyne, near Basingstoke. It is displayed with a Roman lead tablet, a copy of one found shortly after the ring was discovered, bearing details of how a curse would be placed upon the person who had stolen the ring.

In recent years the two have been the centre of much conjecture, with Tolkien fans and scholars alike debating whether they were the influence behind J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

a photograph of wooden letters cut out of a block

Detail of a wooden child's alphabet designed by Erno Goldfinger on display in the Nursery at 2 Willow Road and chosen by curators. © NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

“We know that Tolkien, an Oxford don who was an expert in early English, was an advisor to archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler during further excavations at Lydney in the early part of the 20th Century,” explained Sarah Staniforth, The Trust’s Historic Properties Director.

“Following this involvement with the site it would seem unlikely that he would not have been aware of the ring and the curse tablet and their remarkable connection to each other," added Sarah. "Could it have been this ring that inspired the Tolkien classic? I couldn’t possibly comment.”

The Vyne Ring bears the inscription (translated from Latin): “O Senicianus, mayest thou live prosperously!” However it is the tablet that appears to lay a curse on a person who had stolen the ring and is engraved with the words:

“Silvianus has lost a ring … among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring the ring to the temple of Nodens …”

“It is very rare that two ancient objects found on different archaeological sites can be linked together,” says Jonathan Ingram, Property Manager of The Vyne.

a photograph of an old globe in a wooden frame

The Molyneux Globe © NTPL

“It is a wonderful story which never fails to enthral and delight our visitors. We hope that visitors to our on-line Curators’ Choice exhibition will be equally intrigued by the range of fascinating objects on display there”.

The online exhibition profiles several more of the Trust’s favourite items on display.

Included is a life-size model of Tom Thumb standing by his personal miniature carriage, on display at Arlington Court, Devon. The Pope’s cabinet at Stourhead also makes the list, as does George Bernard Shaw’s Oscar for writing Pygmalion and the massive mural at Plas Newydd painted by Rex Whistler.

“The National Trust is the biggest museum provider in the UK and Museums & Galleries month is the perfect opportunity for us and our visitors to celebrate the amazing wealth and variety of objects on display at Trust properties up and down the country,” added Sarah Staniforth.

To find out more about the Vyne Ring and other objects in the online exhibtion visit the National Trust Website

Further information on J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings can befound on the Tolkien Society's web site: www.tolkiensociety.org

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: