Can the One Ring affect non-sentient animals in the same way?

I saw a photoplasty on that made me think of the idea.

Suppose Gandalf or some other magical folk took a non-sentient bird or, in this case, a moth, and tied the One Ring on its back and made them fly into the volcano, would the One Ring compel this dumb animal to go to Sauron, or would it have no power over something like that?

Bonus question: Let’s speculate on how the One Ring would affect a sentient AI robot!

Heh! Fun question!

I’ll go way out on a limb and say that the One Ring would corrupt “social animals.” A wolf would be beguiled in his desire to become Alpha Wolf. Social animals have suites of behaviors that closely mimic “moral” behavior and decisions. (Some of us believe that dogs actually make moral choices and do know right from wrong.)

But put the One Ring around the middle of a small rattlesnake? I’m gonna say the rattler’s behavior would not be changed by the Ring’s magic. The snake just doesn’t have those parts of the brain that the Ring corrupts.

A good AI? Hell yes! Give the One Ring to C-3PO, and he will quietly become corrupted. (He isn’t strong enough to wield it…but that’s how the Ring works: it tricks weaker spirits into imagining that they are among the mighty.)

No. You used the key word there: a spirit. The ring worked on a spiritual level (which Tolkein believed in). An AI, however (if Tolkein wold even be willing to admit the possibility of such things) does not have a spirit.

As for animals, they would all have suitably corruptible spirits, but I am not sure that they would be capable of “owning” the ring in the necessary way, of being a ring bearer or wielder. Of course, there is not much there to corrupt anyway, but I do not see why a non-social animal might not simply become more vicious.

But doesn’t the ring not just corrupt, but also “try” to return to its master? Everyone keeps talking about it making some people to want to just go and present it to Sauron.

Of course, I envision the ring hijacking the brain of the person using it to accomplish this, so I could see that a lesser brain would know less about how to return the ring to Sauron. I could see it just setting itself up to be caught by a predator, which would likely bring it to a sentient creature eventually.

I’m not sure Tolkien would have thought that regular animals had “spirits” in the sense that sentient beings (Elves, Men, etc.) had. In the Silmarillion he mentioned the Valar being told by Iluvatar that two creatures among the kelvar and olvar (animals and plants) would have spirits – Eagles and Ents. (The giant spider Ungoliant was also apparently a spirit, and so her brood would presumably also have spirits.) This suggests that other animals didn’t have spirits, although there were several other animals who could speak (dragons and certain birds). The next question is whether all spirits would be affected by the One Ring. Gandalf said that the Ring had no power over Tom Bombadil, who was certainly a spirit. I have a feeling that Tolkien would also have thought that animals, even those with spirits, would not be affected either, but I can’t say how he would have supported that idea.

Not universally agreed upon. I have actually spoken to Christian Ministers who hold that, if C3PO could exist, he would have a soul. He must, as he is capable of making moral decisions.

(Personally, I believe just the opposite, and that there is no such thing as “spirit” or “soul.” However, I’m debating in the “spirit” of the hypothetical.)

I would base my response on the creature in the lake outside Moria. It focused on Frodo because he was the ring bearer. There’s a lot we don’t know about that creature, but I have to assume that any force able to manipulate it would also be able to manipulate a dog or a bird.

There’s also a scene where the group is attacked by wolves, though without specific mention of the Ring.

Of course, we do have another “out” on this issue. If Gandalf has possession of a bird and that bird has possession of the ring, then Gandalf has essentially taken possession of the ring himself. (In the legal sense, if not in a physical sense). It could very well be that this is still a sufficiently strong connection to the ring that Gandalf would find himself unable to compel the bird to destroy the ring.

This possession-by-proxy idea would give us an answer we could apply to a robot or AI. C3PO might not be corrupted directly, but his owner would be unable to order the destruction of the ring.

BigT’s answer is also one that I find convincing. Part of the ring’s function is to take itself back to Sauron. In fact, I’d argue that Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring is an example of how subtle the ring is. Frodo is strong enough to refuse to wield power himself and to refuse to bring it to Sauron directly. And yet he volunteers himself to carry the ring to right next to Sauron, justifying it with the idea that he can destroy it. Once there, he finds himself unable to destroy it and the quest would have played directly into Sauron’s hands except that Gollum takes the ring and destroys it by accident.

So… a snake isn’t smart enough to need all that rationalization, but could be compelled in a similar manner. Someone observing the snake might not see a direct line of travel, but might still find that every day the snake had wandered a little bit farther south than the day before.

cjepson, the Dragons certainly had spirits of some sort, though the nature of those spirits is a matter of some debate. And add to the list of talking animals the worgs (who have their own language) and at least one dog (Huan, who’s something of a special case).

And I suspect that if the Ring somehow found itself in the possession of a mundane animal, it would work on basic drives like hunger to get the animal to deliver it to a more suitable host.

Weren’t the dwarves essentially automatons before Eru gave them spirits? Would a dwarf pre-spirit be the same as a sophisticated AI?

It’s you who has the ring who can command even animals to do your bidding.

I like that! Superb interpretation.

It also is hinted at, a little, when Gandalf says that even throwing it into the sea won’t work, because eventually it would come back up on shore.

Wikipedia : The Fish and the Ring

BTW, this would be an answer to the age-old: why not just have the eagles fly the ring into Mordor and drop it Mt Doom? There have been many answers posed over the years, but very compelling would be that the eagles might be lured by the ring and not follow instructions.

On the other hand (just because the OP mentioned an insect), it’s not as though a worker bee or ant could ever become the colony queen no matter how great her “desire”. I’d hate to see the bee or ant who could single-handedly lug a gold ring around though so maybe that’s for the best.

“Eat the eggs! Up with the Queen!”

I doubt the Ring could do anything with Threepio, or vice versa. He doesn’t have a soul by Middle-Earth standards; he was neither directly created by Eru nor had his life sanctified by him. Similarly, I don’t think any non-ensouled creature would do anything with the Ring.

I would think, rather, that Tolkien, on being confronted with Threepio, would conclude that he does have a soul, but that he has no idea how he came by it.