A Bard's Tale: Part I - The Ring Of Andvari

"The Lord Of The Rings" is fascinating book in more than one way. Tolkien's English is fantastic and the story is beautiful, but there is more to it than just that. It is a story based on an ancient Scandinavian myth about a dark elf (i.e. dwarf) called Andvari ("careful thought", "emergency spirit").

One time Andvari swam in a river to catch fish when he saw something shining and sparkling on the river floor; he saw the gold of the river nymphs (i.e. elves). Andvari was even more attached to the river nymphs themselves when he saw them, but they teased him and mocked him for being ugly: his legs were crooked and his skin wrinkled and dark. He swam after them and chased them for a long time, but failed to catch any of them. He became more and more angry and in the end he grabbed their gold instead. The nymphs begged him to return it to them, and when he refused they even offered him carnal pleasures. Andvari just shouted at them: "I want neither You nor Your grace. I renounce love! I swear in front of all the gods that gold and the power it gives me shall be my only love." By the help of magic he crafted a ring from the gold of the nymphs. This magic ring gave him command of all the other dark elves and with it he could make gold nuggets, as many as he wanted - and he made tons of them! He lived like that for a long time, made other dark elves his slaves and filled his many dark caves with gold.

Then one day came Loki ("Lid", "End", "Lock"). He had borrowed the net of Rán ("Robbery"), the goddess of the waves, that she used to catch unfortunate seaman with. He traveled into the dark underground realm of Andvari; through wet tunnels and pitch black labyrinths and shadowy rooms, until he came to a vast cave under the Earth. The ceiling was supported with huge stone pillars and the corners were dark and gloomy. In this huge cave Loki found a large, still pool. He threw Rán's net into the pool and caught Andvari, who had been hiding there. Loki held him by his neck and threatened to kill the dark elf if he didn't give him all his gold. Andvari did, but tried to hide his magic ring from Loki. He failed and Loki demanded that he should give him this ring as well. Andvari begged Loki to let him keep his precious ring, and when he refused Andvari cursed the ring: it would from then on bring death to its owner. Loki laughed at him; he didn't mind have a curse put on the ring because he was not going to keep it anyhow. He would give it, along with the rest of Andvari's treasure, to Hreiðmarr ("Sea Nest") to buy free Óðinn ("Mind", "Thought", "Fury") and Hœnir ("Allure", "Entice"), whom Hreiðmarr held hostage.

The poor Andvari, the Gollum (and indeed Sauron too) of Tolkien's books, is crippled mentally by the rejection of the beautiful river nymphs, and he turns sour. He is completely swallowed up by his hatred for the elves and is thoroughly seduced by the power of wealth.

With the golden ring he holds command over other dark elves because just like him they are enthralled by their lust for gold. He can pay them with gold to serve him. It only works on these dwarves, because only they are sufficiently spiritually weak to be seduced by gold.

With his gold he can always generate more gold, through trade and investment, but not if Loki takes away even his last golden nugget. You need money to make money.

Andvari put a curse not on Loki, but on the gold itself: every man who greedily collects it will suffer an unhappy death.

Everybody who from then on possesses the gold, the cursed ring, is killed. Loki brings it to Hreiðmarr, who is soon killed by his own sons, Regin ("Powers") and Fáfnir ("Embracer"). His sons too are killed brutally. In the end of the story Sigurðr ("Victorious Past") gets the ring, after killing Fáfnir, who has turned himself into a dragon to better protect it, but of course he too must pay with his life. The irrational thirst for gold spells doom for every man. Such is the curse of greed.

Tolkien based his story about "the Hobbit" and "The Lord Of The Rings" on this Scandinavian myth, and of course so did Richard Wagner when he wrote his opera about "The Ring Of The Nibelungen", and perhaps that is all Tolkien wanted to tell us with his books: embrace the true beauty of our world and rid yourself of bare and self-destructive weakness such as greed?! If we don't we will all end up like the cruel self-loathing and cowardly Orcs (i.e. dark elves): not necessarily physically, but spiritually and mentally.

Varg "Gimlé" Vikernes
26.08.2006 (Tromsø, Norway)

Auri sacra fames
(The shameful hunger for gold)

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