Nothing is evil in the beginning, reconsidered:
Nothing is evil in the beginning, reconsidered:
- An old and common criticism from those that are unfamiliar with the actual text of The Lord of the Rings is that the moral universe is simplistic and binary, which is far from the truth.
- There are clear moral choices in the text, and Tolkien is unambiguous about the difference between right and wrong, but the criticism that the characters are simplistic is incorrect.
- While there are both very good and very evil characters, even among those there are complexities, which is revealed by Elrond’s statement about the nature of evil itself.
- Tolkien’s had many problems fitting Orcs as a race into his morally complex and theologically consistent world and was uncomfortable with making them inherently corrupted and evil.
- If the Orcs are creatures of free will like the other Children of Ilúvatar, then to treat them in the like the heroes in the text, as simply pawns or robotic servants to be killed is morally wrong.
- In The Book of Lost Tales, the Orcs were non-living constructs of Morgoth without free will or souls, but that concept becomes more complicated after the writing of The Lord of the Rings.
- Tolkien never settled on an alternate concept for the creation of the Orcs, though Christopher chose the “corrupted Elves” concept because it was part of the text that was most complete.
- However, this means that Christopher often left out more advanced concepts because they were incomplete or unwritten into the narrative, which would mean more composition by him.
- The Orcs served the role of enemies that it was acceptable to hate, as they were not creatures of God and therefore not worthy of mercy or pity, but by personalizing them later, this changes.
- Note: In Star Wars, the stormtroopers serve a similar role, being faceless and dehumanized.
- Elrond is making a big statement to the Council that anyone can fall and be as evil as Sauron.
- While Tolkien created many theological problems for himself by standing on the principles that nothing is evil in the beginning and that evil can not create, but he seems willing to do that.
- During the writing of The Lord of the Rings, the Orcs sill seem to only be constructs, shown by the scorekeeping at Helm’s Deep, but with Shagrat and Gorbag at Cirith Ungol, this changes.
- Tolkien spoke about the applicability of this concept in his letters. While Tolkien felt that there were moral absolutes involved in the World Wars, he felt that there were “orcs on both sides”.
- It’s notable that surviving humans in the battles are spared, while orcs are usually exterminated.
- This problem is less to creatures like trolls and dragons, especially the latter, in Tolkien’s stories.
- Some of the other solutions to the Orc creation problems was to make them evil spirits that incarnated in animal bodies, and therefore were outside of the mercy of the Children of Ilúvatar.
- Even the idea of corrupted Elves is not well-explained in either practical or metaphysical terms.
- Christopher leaves leeway in this explanation by making it an unproven rumor among the Elves.
- There is an air of impatience with Boromir in Elrond’s tone, as if Boromir has overstepped here.
- Boromir does submit to the judgement of the Wise, though he doubts the wisdom in their choice. He seems to be considering the choice not to take up the Ring as a kind of timidity.
- Galdor has expressed the Elvish predilection to simply leave Middle-earth for Valinor in times of peril and evil, from which Elrond has expressed the need to turn away in this case.
- While Boromir understands the risk of a new Ring-lord, he believes that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that the Men of Gondor would be able to take on those risks without falling.
- Elrond has fully explained the risks, so Boromir cannot rebut his and Gandalf’s arguments that the Ring would harm the owner, but he has classified the Ring as simply a weapon to be used.
- Even if the Ring-lord may do harm with the Ring, it may seem acceptable to avert destruction.
- As a soldier and a diplomat, he understands that he must submit to the rulings of the Council, but he would still see this decision as inadequate to the military threat as he understands it.
- It doesn’t seem at this point that Boromir is concerned with his own personal glory or honor.
- Though Boromir believes in himself and the Men of Gondor’s trueness and unwillingness to submit, he has no data for believing in any chance they would not be corrupted by the Ring.
- Since only a Dark Lord can be the true Lord of the Ring, either Sauron must reclaim it, or a new Ring-lord must become evil in order to use it to defeat Sauron, which Boromir misunderstands.
- There is a sense in which the Ring cannot truly be used against Sauron, as it is Sauron in a way.
- Sauron believes that he has a plan that will defeat the Free Peoples even if they use the Ring.
- Note: It’s important to remember that Boromir will change over time, and we can’t import his later actions as interpretations as to what is happening with him in the Council. While a seed of corruption has been planted in him by the Ring here, it has not grown in the way it will later on.
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