The History of the Ring Theme

A Theme for the One Ring


THE HISTORY OF THE RING THEME, a theme for The One Ring, is used "whenever the One Ring changes hands or marks significant progress in its journey". (Doug Adams, CR-FOTR liner notes, page 7)

The music is light, almost lyrical, throughout FOTR and TTT. But in ROTK, the History of the Ring combines with the Evil of the Ring (Mordor/Sauron). The minor key and reedy rhaita of Sauron's theme give a more menacing tone to the History of the Ring.

History of the name: HS had originally referred to this music, heard at the Argonoth, as a theme for Gondor Theme  HS COMMENT (FOTR commentary) But in the appendices of TTT EE DVD, he refers to it as the 'History of the Ring' Theme and that name has persisted since. Additionally, the name Gondor theme was given to the music heard during Boromir's speech at the Council of Elrond.  For some slighter ease early in the site's history, I shortened the name to the Ring Theme and I haven't made a concerted effort to change that.


Places this theme is heard in FOTR:

  • In the Prologue during the forging of the Rings HS COMMENT

  • When Isildur picks up the Ring he has cut from Sauron’s hand

  • When the Ring falls off Isildur’s finger and falls to the bottom of the lake

  • When Bilbo picks up the Ring in the Misty Mountains

  • When Frodo returns from The Long Expected Party and picks up the Ring

  • When Gandalf and Frodo discuss the history of the Ring in Bag End

  • When Gandalf takes Frodo aside before the Doors of Durin (FOTR EE)

  • When the Fellowship passes through the Gates of the Argonath (When the 'Ring' Theme is used in the prologue, Howard Shore connects it to the music used in this scene. I think this theme may have started here, got used in the prologue connected to the Ring and came, in the end, to represent the Ring more often than Gondor.) HS COMMENT

  • When Frodo ascends to Amon Hen and meets Boromir gathering wood

Places this theme is heard in TTT:

  • During the opening title sequence, as "Lord of the Rings" appears and fades into a shot of the Misty Mountain.

  • As Gollum swears on the 'Precious' to serve Frodo and not betray him.

  • A light, airy version as Gollum worries that Sauron will get the Precious if Frodo goes into the Black Gate.

  • As Galadriel remarks that if Faramir just reaches out and takes the Ring, then the world will fall.  The Ring is very close to achieving it's goal. (Her remarks are a voice over for shots of the Gondorian Rangers leading the blindfolded Hobbits to Henneth Annûn, passing them into the cave like sacks of grain.)

  • Just after Denethor tells Boromir (in Osgiliath) that Elrond has called a meeting and Denethor suspects 'the weapon of the enemy' has been found.  The Ring theme plays as Boromir's responds, "The One Ring."  EE DVD only

  • After leaving Osgiliath, while leading Frodo and Sam to Cirith Ungol, as Gollum tries to convince Sméagol to betray the Hobbits.  'They' will take the 'Precious' and 'they' will be the master.

Places this theme is heard in ROTK:

  • During the opening title sequence, as "Lord of the Rings" appears and fades into Sméagol and Déagol fishing.

  • As Déagol spies the Ring lying in the mud at the bottom of the Anduin.

  • As Frodo strokes the Ring while Sam sleeps. (beginning of movie just after Sméagol's backstory)

  • A quiet but menacing hybrid of the History of the Ring and Sauron's theme is heard as Pippin says, "He asked me my name. I didn't answer. He hurt me." and Gandalf shoots back, "What did you tell him about Frodo and the Ring?" (EE version)

  • Another quiet hybrid of Sauron and History of the Ring themes as Pippin and Gandalf look out from their balcony at Minas Tirith and see Mordor. Gandalf says, "Yes, there it lies. This city has dwelt ever in the sight of its shadow." (EE version)

  • After Sam threatens Gollum that if, "one hair stands up on the back of my head, it's over. No more slinker. No more stinker. You're gone. Got it?", a very quick phrase of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Sam replies to the inquiring Frodo as to what that was about, "Nothing, just clearing something up." (EE version)

  • A very quiet, almost seductive version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Denethor makes clear his wishes regarding the Ring. "It should have been brought back to the Citadel to be kept safe. Hidden. Dark and deep in the vaults, not to be used. Unless at the uttermost end of need." (EE version)

  • There's a hint of the Sauron/History hybrid just after Faramir goes to the fallen Denethor and calls, "Father". Denethor's eyes change from the anger he's directed toward Faramir to love... it's only a moment later we realize he's seeing the 'other' son. (see more below)

  • The opening notes are heard as Gollum, with his hand outstretched on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, whispers, "Come to Sméagol." But is he talking to the climbing Frodo or the Ring?

  • An eerie version as Sméagol is stroking Frodo's cape as he lies collapsed on the stairs of Cirith Ungol. He begins to plant seeds of doubt in Frodo's head that Sam wants the Ring. The music lasts longer on the OST than in the movie.

  • The first two notes of the theme are hears as Sam offers to 'help a bit'... to carry it for awhile... share the load'.

  • At 1:33 on Cirith Ungol - ROTK - Track 9 there's a quick phrase of the Sauron/History hybrid that would have been heard as Frodo and Gollum continue climbing up the stairs after Sam is told to go home.

  • A very quiet, almost seductive version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Denethor makes ready a pyre in the Tomb of the Stewards.

  • As Gandalf, declaring the city breeched, calls for retreat but also for all to fight for their lives. A woman's choir sings lyrics from On the Fields of the Pelennor using the Sauron/History hybrid as a melody.

  • A quick version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays on mid brass as Sam, stunned from the surprise attack of Gollum outside the Crack of Doom, gets up to see Frodo running into Sammath Naur.

  • There was music written for the moment at Mount Doom when Frodo is faced with finally destroying the Ring. He is standing at the brink and holding the Ring over the lava but he looks tormented. Sam pleads with him. "What are you waiting for? Just let it go? At that moment, the music drops out in the movie but what was scored for it was a final combination of the History of the Ring, the Seduction of the Ring, and the Evil of the Ring (Sauron's Theme). Frodo eyes fix on the Ring and his demeanor turns from tormented to focused... intent... rapt... determined.  As the twisted, slippery music comes to a quiet end, Frodo calmly turns back to Sam.. his mind decided. The music can be heard on the CR-ROTK, Disc 5, Track 1, Mount Doom, 0:51 - 1:25.

  • As Frodo of the nine fingers advances on Gollum who now has the Ring at the Crack of Doom.

  • Just after Sam reaches down for the dangling Frodo and commands, "Give me your hand", we see the Ring sitting on the lava... the Elvish writing revealing itself. Three notes sound. Doug Adams writes in the AS-ROTK: The Ring’s themes attempt to collect themselves, the first pitches of History—or Evil—sliding glassily in the violins. Reduced to its quintessence, the Ring’s melodic line rises a half-step up-and-back-down. It is the antithesis of everything the Fellowship has represented. Through hours of music, the Fellowship’s whole-step down-and-back-up has come to represent Middle-earth’s honor. This, then, is everything it battles against—Middle-earth’s would-be nadir.

    A fellow soundtrack fan, Christian Kühn, wrote:

    I finally managed to "reduce" the trilogy to two sentences, for a (musically educated) friend who asked what this music is like. My answer:

    "Half-step vs. whole-step. And the whole-step wins!"

And so it does... the whole-step wins.

A note re: the Sauron/History hybrid and Denethor. I wrote this while working on the themes:

There's a hint of the Sauron/History hybrid just after Faramir goes to the fallen Denethor and calls, "Father". Denethor's eyes change from the anger he's directed toward Faramir to love.... it's only a moment later we realize he's seeing the 'other' son. Does the Ring have something to do with this hallucination or does it hint at Sauron's influence via the Palantír or is it just Denethor's yearning for the Ring that is bending his mind toward hallucination? I've also noticed that Shore is using the Sauron/History hybrid to show Denethor's fascination and yearning for the Ring but not the Seduction Theme. I suspect he's saving the Seduction Theme for those in direct contact with the Ring.