Tolkien's Influence: Dark Lord

Rob Harding

Active Member
I’m more familiar with Welsh folklore and the Mabinogion (even then, only sparsely) but can’t think of any real comparisons
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
It is far less prominent in the welsh versions... Yspadadden is basically just a giant chieftain, the invading coranians are a plague as i said.The irish myths have those elements far stronger i think.And Balor, also basically a giant chieftain, and Conand definitely have the features of tyrants and oppressors, which i think is important for a dark lord as well as leading armies and invasions.
 
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Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Well take it this way: sometimes i hope religious people are right and i am wrong.
Occasionally a religious person - a rabbi or a priest - will write or say something about how the best, kindest, most tolerant people they know are non-religious: humanists, agnostics, and even atheists. They are generally quite puzzled by this.

I think your statement above is exactly the reason why. No believer EVER says he hopes the atheists are right and he is wrong!
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
To go back to the original question, about whether there were any literary antecedents for the title of 'Dark Lord' before Tolkien, let me suggest two proto Dark Lords:

Ming the Merciless, in 'Flash Gordon'

The Wicked Witch of the West, in 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Any other candidates?
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I will add another literary proto Dark Lord:

King Gorice I - XII, in 'The Worm Ouroboros', by E.R. Eddison 1922.

In fact, this could well have been an influence on JRRT. (Though he denied it.) Tolkien declared that he 'read all that E. R. Eddison wrote'. and described him as "the greatest and most convincing writer of 'invented worlds' that I have ever read."

Tolkien also knew Eddison, as he attended two Inklings meetings in the 1940s where JRRT was also present.

JRRT said that he read Eddison, "with great enjoyment for the sheer literary merit." However, he also disapproved of Eddison's "peculiarly bad" views, be believed that Eddison was "coming to admire arrogance and cruelty....an evil and indeed silly philosophy."

JRRT directly contrasted TLOTR with 'The Worm Ouroboros' in one aspect, saying that Middle-earth, "is not a name of a never-never land without relation to the world we live in (like the Mercury of Eddison)." (Holly Ordway, 'Tolkien's Modern Reading').
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Wizard of Oz is really interesting! King Gorice and Ming are both technically after Tolkien's dark lords, as he started with Melko quite early before the 1920ies i think.

But there should be similar characters to Gorice and Ming in German myth and fairytale and Arthuriana i guess... the wizard Janibas comes to my mind for example, or several sorcerer/Giant Tyrants from arthurian knight adventures.Ming is an Alien King and Janibas is an evil human magician but the son of Orkise, a heathen mountain-giant king whose name we clearly recognize as roman orcus.
Archimago, the Black hermit, the Burning dargon knight and Sarant have definitely been guessed to be "Avatars" of the devil...
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Wizard of Oz is really interesting! King Gorice and Ming are both technically after Tolkien's dark lords, as he started with Melko quite early before the 1920ies i think.

But there should be similar characters to Gorice and Ming in German myth and fairytale and Arthuriana i guess... the wizard Janibas comes to my mind for example, or several sorcerer/Giant Tyrants from arthurian knight adventures.Ming is an Alien King and Janibas is an evil human magician but the son of Orkise, a haethen mountainngiant king whose name we clearly recognize as roman orcus.
Archimago, the Black hermit, the Burning dargon knight and Sarant have def7nitely been guessed to be "Avatars of the devil...
Hi Haerangil,

JRRT may have been thinking about Melkor long before publishing about him. But, he didn't publish any Dark Lords until 1954.

Gorice was published in 1922, but I have no idea when E.R. Eddison first thought of him. Ming was first published in 1934. Again, we have no idea when he was first thought of.

I don't think we can go by 'thought of' dates. Published dates are all we usually have to go by. Plus, if we are looking for who might have created the archetype among readers, published dates rule.

I think the Dark Lord archetype must include, being evil, seeking to dominate all, being powerful, deploying armies. Best if he or she is immortal, or has died and reappeared at least once.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Occasionally a religious person - a rabbi or a priest - will write or say something about how the best, kindest, most tolerant people they know are non-religious: humanists, agnostics, and even atheists. They are generally quite puzzled by this.
I don't get the puzzled part - do they really believe that God is the only reason for a person to be good? The people I know who say this, allow for other reasons.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Not in catholicism, i know there is purgatory for the virtuous pagans at last, should include agnostics...atheists i wouldn't be so sure. Judaism i do not know enough about, but protestants, especially pietists are very harsh of anybody who is not a pietist... they send even other christians to hell and have no purgatory at all.Some go so far to say theres only haven for a chosen few and that success in life already shows who will be among them so... yes, good people who are not pietist do not puzzle them too because when they're not pietists they by definition must he bad people somehow.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I don't get the puzzled part - do they really believe that God is the only reason for a person to be good? The people I know who say this, allow for other reasons.
That depends on what do you mean by "good". Some people are cruel to animals but will not harm a human. Some are nice to their own tribe but do not think it wrong to cannibalize on their enemies. Where there is no standard, there is no way to meassure a person against.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
That deands on what do you mean by "good". Some people are cruel to animals but will not harm a human. Some are nice to their own tribe but do not think it wrong to canibilise on their enemies. Where there is no standard, there is no way to meassure a person against.

And all of those are possible with or without God.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
And all of those are possible with or without God.
Agreed. The Bible isn’t written to be a moral guidebook or a series of parables on how to live. It’s a cohesive narrative which ought to have the by-product of creating culture. However, the ideas we look at as moral are not always wholly unique or original. In fact, many are evolutionary traits that bind humans and ensure we thrive. Being a ‘good person’ isn’t unique to believers of the Judeo-Christian god. But equally, that isn’t what the Bible presents itself to be. It’s a worldview statement centring around a narrative biography. I know many believers who would prefer they were wrong, and I often think that many believers focus greatly on the life to come and forgot to create the kingdom here and now, while many who believe that existence is finite have a very strong sense of urgency and are motivated to bring about change. It’s swings and roundabouts.

But back to Dark Lords. Is there a prerequisite for the Dark Lord model to a supernatural being? I’m thinking now of military leaders who’ve been mythologised. The Gengis Khans as villains.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Agreed. The Bible isn’t written to be a moral guidebook or a series of parables on how to live. It’s a cohesive narrative which ought to have the by-product of creating culture. However, the ideas we look at as moral are not always wholly unique or original. In fact, many are evolutionary traits that bind humans and ensure we thrive. Being a ‘good person’ isn’t unique to believers of the Judeo-Christian god. But equally, that isn’t what the Bible presents itself to be. It’s a worldview statement centring around a narrative biography. I know many believers who would prefer they were wrong, and I often think that many believers focus greatly on the life to come and forgot to create the kingdom here and now, while many who believe that existence is finite have a very strong sense of urgency and are motivated to bring about change. It’s swings and roundabouts.

But back to Dark Lords. Is there a prerequisite for the Dark Lord model to a supernatural being? I’m thinking now of military leaders who’ve been mythologised. The Gengis Khans as villains.
The point is that the Bible makes humans God's children - the point and sense of creation - and not an additional byproduct which is in itself despensible and unnecessary or even harmfull - which some "nature-focused" worldviews nowadays do claim. And the concept of Eruhini in Tokien's work is the same. Creation and even the Valar serve and find their ultimate purpuse in the emergence of Eru's Children.

Demon Kings seem an old concept to me, especially ancient Chinese mythology has plenty of those.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
The point is that the Bible makes humans God's children - the point and sense of creation - and not an additional byproduct which is in itself despensible and unnecessary or even harmfull - which some "nature-focused" worldviews nowadays do claim. And the concept of Eruhini in Tokien's work is the same. Creation and even the Valar serve and find their ultimate purpuse in the emergence of Eru's Children.

Demon Kings seem an old concept to me, especially ancient Chinese mythology has plenty of those.
I think the Bible isn't about humans it is about God. By by-product what I mean is that by meditating and gaining understanding of Him the reader should then desire to align to Him and rediscover the ideal model for humanity. But by prioritising the human aspect and seeing it as a guide FOR us rather than a guide TO Him, it is possible to read it as human-focused and therefore fall into the initial trap of focusing on human over God. I guess all I mean is that it's not written to be a philosophical self-help book on living better and being a better version of yourself. That is a takeaway that should develop but it's not the author's primary intended purpose.

Yes, very good point about non-Western cultures
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
I think the Bible isn't about humans it is about God. By by-product what I mean is that by meditating and gaining understanding of Him the reader should then desire to align to Him and rediscover the ideal model for humanity. But by prioritising the human aspect and seeing it as a guide FOR us rather than a guide TO Him, it is possible to read it as human-focused and therefore fall into the initial trap of focusing on human over God. I guess all I mean is that it's not written to be a philosophical self-help book on living better and being a better version of yourself. That is a takeaway that should develop but it's not the author's primary intended purpose.

Yes, very good point about non-Western cultures
Actually I would contest that. It is about human experience with God, but we learn relatively little about the Unkownable Himself - as is to be expected. We learn far more about humans reactions in the interaction with Him. But the point that humans are not a mere accident but the world's "reason d'etre" is the basis point for a human-centered morality, which does apply to all humanity, regardless of the question if they are friends or foes. Those who do not share this human exceptionality idea, will tend to make exceptions and exclusions from it sooner or later.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I don't get the puzzled part - do they really believe that God is the only reason for a person to be good? The people I know who say this, allow for other reasons.
Perhaps I overstated the case. In the article I am thinking about specifically (but can't find again now), it wasn't so much that the writer was puzzled by this, but that he thought a great deal of explanation was needed for his puzzled readers. The Rabbi (I think he was a Rabbi) allowed for other reasons for people to be good, but seemed to think his audience (not necessarily Jews: the article was in a secular publication) might not. The whole article, in fact, was his attempt to explain to his readers how such people could be "good" without God.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Perhaps I overstated the case. In the article I am thinking about specifically (but can't find again now), it wasn't so much that the writer was puzzled by this, but that he thought a great deal of explanation was needed for his puzzled readers. The Rabbi (I think he was a Rabbi) allowed for other reasons for people to be good, but seemed to think his audience (not necessarily Jews: the article was in a secular publication) might not. The whole article, in fact, was his attempt to explain to his readers how such people could be "good" without God.
Even a murderer can save a child fallen into a river. :) Actually s/he might be more ready to take initiave in such a crisis situation than a passive, calm perfect, "good" citizen who has been told by everyone in her/his life "do not try to be a hero, who do you think you are, know your limits and conform to them". ;)
 
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