James Bond and the Claddagh Ring: Goldfinger

Book cover: Goldfinger.

In Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel “Goldfinger”, the gold Claddagh ring makes a simple appearance without explanation – sent to Bond by Jill before her murder as a message of love and again symbolically shot through by the villian’s arrow. Interestingly the Claddagh ring was introduced without it’s history and story; an almost intimate detail in Ian Fleming’s only for readers already aware of the significance of the ring. “The tiny gold circle, silhouetted against the trunk of the tree, glittered in the moonlight.”

“Suddenly she reached out and put a hand on his sleeve. There was a Claddagh ring on the middle finger – two gold hands clasped round a gold heart. There were tears in her voice. ‘Must you? Can’t you leave him along? I don’t know what he’ll do to me. Please.’ She hesitated. She was blushing furiously. ‘And I like you. It’s a long time since I’ve seen someone like you. Couldn’t you stay here for a little more?’ She looked down at the ground. ‘If only you’d leave him along I’d do -‘ the words came out in a rush – ‘I’d do anything.’
Bond smiled. He took the girl’s hand off his arm and squeezed it. ‘Sorry. I’m being paid to do this job and I must do it. Anyway -‘ his voice went flat – ‘I want to do it. It’s time someone cut Mr Goldfinger down to size. Ready?’

‘I knew what had happened to Jill. Goldfinger had had her painted all over. He had murdered her. It must have been out of revenge for – for going with you.’ There as a pause. The girl said dully, ‘She told me about you. She – she liked you. She told me if ever I met you I was to give you this ring.’
Bond closed his eyes tight, fighting with a wave of mental nausea. More death! More blood on his hands. This time, as the result of a careless gesture, a piece of bravado that had led to twenty-four hours of ecstasy with a beautiful girl who had taken his fancy and, in the end, rather more than his fancy. And this petty sideswipe at Goldfinger’s ego had been returned by Goldfinger a thousand, a millionfold. ‘She left my employ’ – the flat words in the sunshine at Sandwich two days before. How Goldfinger must have enjoyed saying that! Bond’s fingernails dug into the palms of his hands. By Gold, he’d pin this murder on Goldfinger if it was the last act of his life. As for himself …? Bond knew the answer. This death he would not be able to excuse as being part of his job. This death he would have to live with.
The girl was pulling at her finger – at the Claddagh ring, the entwined hands round the gold heart. She put her knuckle to her mouth. The ring came off. She held it up for Bond to take. The tiny gold circle, silhouetted against the trunk of the tree, glittered in the moonlight.
The noise in Bond’s ear was something between a hiss and a shrill whistle. There was a dry, twanging thud. The aluminium feathers of the steel arrow trembled like a humming bird’s wings in front of Bond’s eyes. The shaft of the arrow straightened. The gold ring tinkled down the shaft until it reached the bark of the tree.”

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