[FOUNTAIN]The power of rings

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[FOUNTAIN]The power of rings

Ancient Celts who lived in the border areas of Europe used giant, ornate rings to denote nobility. The chief of a tribe would conduct rituals or gatherings by holding one of these big rings decorated with animal blood. One of the Celtic gods, Cernunnos, also appeared on the image, wearing a ring hanging from his stag-like horns.

The gods of the Assyrians also wore giant rings and carried staffs in their hands. This ancient worship of giant rings lived on and evolved into the culture of ornamental rings that we know today.

People in modern times think of rings as a symbol of promise or love. Yet in the past, the ring was the symbol of power, authority and mystique. An Egyptian pharaoh would show that he was passing on his power to his son by presenting him with his ring.

The ring was also used as a tool for curses and destruction. A ring designed for poisoning was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. By wearing a ring whose jagged surface was laced with poison, and then squeezing a hand or arm, one could kill easily and swiftly.

Recently, the ring has been revived as a symbol of power, not love, among the young, as seen in the "One Ring" boom. This tale of the One Ring has recently found great popularity in Korea as a movie version of a book by J.R.R. Tolkien. The second movie of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Two Towers," drew a record 3 million viewers during its first two weeks here. The story is an epic adventure of good against evil set in the land of Middle-earth, an imaginary world inhabited by hobbits, elves, dwarves and men, all bidding against the Dark Lord Sauron. To defeat the Dark Lord, his One Ring must be destroyed.

Riding on the waves of this ring boom, a computer game company has announced that it will present President-elect Roh Moo-hyun with a ring such as the one that appears in the movie, to congratulate him on his victory. This gold-plated ring, which will be the size of a bracelet, features words engraved in an imaginary elf language that indicates that the bearer wields absolute power. In the movie, there is a rule that the bearer must keep. The moment the ring is slipped on, the bearer gains great power but this power is always followed by destruction and strife. As the story deepens, the wise hobbit Frodo, a ring-bearer, finds the temptation to wear the ring harder and harder to bear. Eventually he does put it on, and lives. But heed Frodo's cry -- "Absolute ring, absolutely not."

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Kyu-youn

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