1. Kessie says:

    C.S. Lewis talked about Satan–I think it was in the preface to Screwtape Letters? How Satan is not the opposite of God. Satan is the opposite of the archangel Michael. If Satan were the opposite of God, he could have nothing good like intelligence or free will. He would be nothing. Satan, while he is powerful, is not all-powerful. He is only a fallen angel.
    If you want to read a hair-curling account of evil, you ought to read Lilith by George McDonald. It has some FREAKY imagery in it.

    Then I saw, slowly walking over the light soil, the form of a woman. A white mist floated about her, now assuming, now losing to reassume the shape of a garment, as it gathered to her or was blown from her by a wind that dogged her steps.
    She was beautiful, but with such a pride at once and misery on her countenance that I could hardly believe what yet I saw. Up and down she walked, vainly endeavouring to lay hold of the mist and wrap it around her. The eyes in the beautiful face were dead, and on her left side was a dark spot, against which she would now and then press her hand, as if to stifle pain or sickness. Her hair hung nearly to her feet, and sometimes the wind would so mix it with the mist that I could not distinguish the one from the other; but when it fell gathering together again, it shone a pale gold in the moonlight.
    Suddenly pressing both hands on her heart, she fell to the ground, and the mist rose from her and melted in the air. I ran to her. But she began to writhe in such torture that I stood aghast. A moment more and her legs, hurrying from her body, sped away serpents. From her shoulders fled her arms as in terror, serpents also. Then something flew up from her like a bat, and when I looked again, she was gone. The ground rose like the sea in a storm; terror laid hold upon me; I turned to the hills and ran.

  2. Galadriel says:

    I’ve read that the Lord of the Rings could be used to support both external and internal views of evil…the Ring itself is evil or the Ring tempts the evil within an individual. I haven’t come down on either side of the debate yet.
    As for Tolkien’s portrayal of God, that comes into play and is laid out better in the Silmarillion.  After Eru creates the Valar, he allows some of them to enter Middle Earth, but on the condition that their powers are bound to it. Eru himself only intervenes once in the Silmarillion–to drown Numinor when its mariners and king attempt to invade Valinor.  
    In one of his letters, Tolkien admits to creating the Valar to be ” beings on the same level as pagan gods that could be accepted by a mind that believes in the Trinity”–quoted from memory, so I might  be a bit off there.  
    While, as you said, Lord of the Rings is not an analogy, there are still elements of something beyond it. 

  3. Bainespal says:

    Tolkien’s exploration of evil and sin in his stories, as good as it is, falls short in this last point, I believe–perhaps because he has no clear depiction of God (although I could be wrong on this since I haven’t read all his stories).

    Tolkien’s sub-creation actually does contain a direct parallel to God.  Tolkien’s world is ultimately monotheistic; there is One who is the Creator and Origin of all things.  In Tolkien’s world, God is called “Eru” or “Ilúvatar,” although Ilúvatar is never mentioned by name in The Lord of the Rings.  I don’t own a copy of The Silmarillion to verify this, but I seem to remember that the first sentence in that book begins with something like “There was Eru, the One, who in Arda was called Ilúvatar.”

    The Elves and Men are noble because they are committed and willing to die in what appears to be a hopeless cause. In other words, in Middle Earth, Evil has the upper hand.

    I strongly disagree.  I hate to sound like a snob, but I feel that you have missed one of the most important themes.  Even though “Ilúvatar” is not mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, one of the most prominent themes is that Evil does not control the destiny of Middle Earth despite the fact that even the most good and noble of Elves and Men and Wizards are all flawed and unworthy.
    As evidence, I offer this paragraphs from Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past,” Gandalf’s dialog to Frodo:

    Behind that there was something else at work, beyond the design of the Ring-maker.  I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker.  In which case you also were meant to have it.  And that may be an encouraging thought. (p. 54-55, emphasis original)

    (Spoiler for the climax of the trilogy below, just in case someone may not have read it.)
    I think the sense of hopelessness has to be genuine, because there really is no rational source of hope in the good forces of Middle Earth.  No one can withstand Sauron’s power, and no being is good enough or strong willed enough to resist the influence of the Ring.  Even Frodo failed to resist the temptation of the Ring.  It is very significant that Frodo failed to drop the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.  He would have claimed it for his own had not Gollum attacked him and bitten off his finger, something that was enabled by Frodo’s previous mercy on Gollum but was utterly out of everyone’s control.  Thus, Middle Earth was saved by Providence.
    I think in one level, there truly is no hope.  But then, there is a transcendent hope beyond earthly hope.

  4. […] I wrote a post at Spec Faith about evil as I believe J. R. R. Tolkien understood it. One point stood out as I wrote the article–the […]

  5. PaulC says:

    I heartily enjoyed with and agreed with most of this article. Except the very tail end.

    He shows Sauron as the most powerful force, one that will inevitably win unless the Ring can be destroyed. The Elves and Men are noble because they are committed and willing to die in what appears to be a hopeless cause. In other words, in Middle Earth, Evil has the upper hand.

    I disagree. As Bainespal noted above throughout the story there is a ‘providence’ distinctly working in the story. 
    For instance, it is explicitly stated that Gandalf didn’t raise himself from death:

    “Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell. Naked I was sent back — for a brief time, until my task is done.”

    Clearly, a higher power is at work, since Someone more powerful than death and with authority even over Gandalf had to do the sending of him. More powerful than death — and thereby clearly more powerful than Sauron, and opposed to him, since overthrowing Sauron was the specific task given to Gandalf.
    Another example of this Providence that comes to mind is when Sam and Frodo are on their final stretch to Mt. Doom:

    Whether because Frodo was so worn … or because some final gift of strength was given to him, Sam lifted Frodo with no more difficulty than if he were carrying a hobbit-child…

    And further on:

    Suddenly, a sense of urgency which he did not understand came to Sam. It was almost as if he had been called:“Now, now, or it will be too late!”

    Lastly, you said,

    Is that a reflection of reality? Only if God isn’t painted into the picture. So in The Lord of the Rings, it was accurate, but in real life, though Evil may appear to be winning, there is a great deal more to the story.

    So too in Lord of the Rings. Evil appeared to be winning, but woven throughout the tale, we see glimpses of the fact that there is more to the story. I think Tolkien shows a realistic view, displaying that even though evil is powerful, it will always ultimately be thwarted by God’s providence, which as often as not He displays through those who follow Him.

  6. […] on Speculative Faith addressed the issue of evil in relation to Tolkien (Rebecca Miller did, more than once, and Anthony Cirilla had some very interesting observations about the Hobbit, though not […]

What do you think?