One smaller point that also lends credence to symbolism in the story is the use of numbers in the Lord of the Rings.
1, 3, 7 and 9 [3x3] are often employed by Tolkien to denote something of importance from a good and divine perspective; or possibly evil point.
Tolkien mentioned he didn't like any type of meaning hunting in his story;
• i.e. ...the 5 wizards = the 5 senses..." [Letters p.262].
So in mentioning numbers, this is not trying to explain how the quantities represent something but show that the use of these particular numbers is important because they are of biblical and philosophical origins. And they are used repeatedly throughout the story.
• 3 and 7 in tradition and scripture signify or embody Holy Presence and Perfection.
• 3, 7 and 9 are used philosophy when referring to eternal things - Aristotle, Dante.
Tolkien was a great admirer of the philosophy of Dante. He once said,
"I would not dream of being compared with the supreme poet Dante." [M&M p.100]
At the beginning of the novel, the Ring verse introduces the first use of the numbers 3, 7, 9 and 1
"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the land of Mordor where shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the land of Mordor where shadows lie."
This is also specifically shown in the old lore and rythme of Gondor quoted by Gandalf:
"Tall ships and tall Kings Three times three, What brought they from the foundered land Over the flowing sea? Seven stars and seven stones And one white tree."
Once again, 3, 7, 1 and 9 are dominant quantities in Middle-earth. There were Nine ships that escaped from Numenor before its destruction [three times three].
Below is a list of the use of these numbers:
• 3 Unions of the Eldar and the Edain [Men and Elves]
• 3 Kindred's of Elves, The Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri
• 1 White Tree, emblem of Arnor and Gondor
• 7 Stars of the house of Elendil, as displayed on Banner of Arwen
• 1 who betrays the Fellowship, Boromir
• 3 Hallowed Jewels - Silmarils
• 3 hairs given by Galadriel to Gimli
• 7 Stars traced on the blade of Anduril, along with the Sun and Moon.
• 7 days after Aragorn goes to Black Gate that Eowyn accepts Faramir [LotR p.940]
• 7 years old is the Scion of Nimloth when found by Aragorn and Gandalf.
• 3 great cities built by Elendil and his sons in the Southern part of the Kingdom
• 7 days after deciding the number of the Fellowship, they would depart [LotR p.269]
• 7 hundred feet above the plain is the top most level in Minas Tirith [LotR p.735]
• 7 thousand march of the Black Gate from Minas Tirith.
• 7 gates and levels in Minas Tirith, [modelled on the city Gondolin]
• 9 ships of Elendil and his Sons escape from Numenor to Middle-earth
• 1 jewel at the summit of the Crown of King Elessar
• 7 gems in a circlet on the Crown of King Elessar
• 7 stones from over the see and one white tree
• 3 ages of the world under oppression of evil
• 9 Rings for Mortal Men which leads to 9 Ringwraiths
• 3 foot high is the sapling of the White Tree found by Aragorn
• 3 hobbits bore the One Ring
• 3 times the lifespan of mortal men was gifted to Elros
• 3 eagles come to get Frodo and Sam on Mt Doom
• 3 times did Frodo wear the Ring
• 33 is the age of Frodo when he receives the Ring.
This last number and age of Frodo is very indicative of Tolkien's thoughts as it is the age of Christ when He undergoes His Passion and dies on the Cross. When receiving the ring Frodo begins his long passion and suffering which will finally be accomplished with him leaving for the Undying Lands.
Part of Dante's philosophical description of Hell has 9 levels [ref]. If is interesting that Tolkien's evil Riders are of the order of Nine and possibly reflect this philosophical belief [Dante].
Also of note are the Nine Ships [three times three] that escaped from the destruction of Numenor and the subsequent appearance there after of the Nine Numenorean Kings who were seduced by Sauron and eventually became the Nine Riders. It is almost as if Tolkien is saying that upon each ship there was one who betrayed them.
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