Visibílium Ómnium et Invisibílium: n The Hobbit, the bestowal of invisibility is the obvious and initially the only, property of the Ring. Bilbo, who begins his possession of the Ring in ignorance of its history, finds the invisibility it confers useful, whether to escape goblins, survive the Battle of the Five Armies, or avoid "unpleasant callers" (H, xix, 361). Tolkien does not call those unpleasant callers "visitors" and, indeed, it would be impossible, both pragmatically and etymologically, if the Ring were being used, for those "callers" to be "visitors." The invisible is precisely that, not seeable, un-visitable, unreachable, and as a consequence, it behooves us to examine the nature of invisibility.1 Invisibility, of course, is something that can be understood literally as well as metaphorically and symbolically, but that is precisely the point of any metaphor or symbol; if it had no literal dimension, it could have no use in those other dimensions. We have better hope of understanding metaphors and symbols if we first examine the literal, and so we shall start by asking the literal question: what is invisibility? An invisible being, standing between an observed object and an observer, does not, in any way, change
Tolkien Studies – West Virginia University Press
Published: Nov 27, 2014
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