Good vs Evil = Life vs Death

  1. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

    Nov 1, 2004
    Yes, that's an interesting question, Stephen.

    And yet Tolkien makes it very clear that the greatest evil is robbing others of free will. Death is irrelevant to the likes of Morgoth, Sauron, Saruman, because they are immortals. But fear of death is what makes men open to manipulation by someone like Sauron. So I take it that for Tolkien fear of death is not really evil, it's just weak, a weakness that can be exploited.

    There are other writers who do see the desire for unending life as evil, but that goes hand-in-hand with wanting to hoard all life for themselves, to live forever by robbing others of life.

    Or in other books a monstrous degree of selfishness, that goes beyond a healthy sense of self-preservation. Like Jadis, in the Narnia books, who is willing to win the war with her sister by speaking the Deplorable Word and killing off all other life on her world. Even though there is no one else left to rule over—and that was what the war was all about, which of the sisters should rule—she is willing to sacrifice everyone else so that she will have the victory.
    Stephen Palmer likes this.
  2. Stuart Suffel

    Stuart Suffel Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2016
    Ok, so I in the Good v Evil = Life v Death postulation, where are we?

    To break it down a bit.

    How are we defining 'Good,' in relation to death?
    And how are we defining 'Evil,' in relation to death?
  3. Mirannan

    Mirannan Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2013
    Indeed. In fact, the fall of Numenor was brought about by Sauron working on a trend that already existed in Numenor; that of its inhabitants being obsessed by death and trying to avoid it by all manner of sorcerous means - and failing, of course. To the point that many of the Numenorean royalty never had any kids because they were too busy with said sorcery. "Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars."
    Stephen Palmer likes this.
  4. The Big Peat

    The Big Peat Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2016
    Many of the great protector-gods of mythology are linked with life giving powers in some way - whether its with bringing the life giving rains, or association with the Celtic cauldrons of rebirth, or actual healing.
    Toby Frost likes this.
  5. Stewart Hotston

    Stewart Hotston Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2016
    As a person of mixed heritage I'd say it's a peculiarly modernist Judaeo-Christian inflected obsession (in the technical philosophical sense). Many other major belief systems don't have categories of good or evil at all. Their metaphysical concerns are often entirely different to those discussed here.

    As for fertility = good, that's not really a thing as far as I can see except as we read back into what those people might have thought. Since many of them didn't have categories explicitly entitled 'good' it's not authentic to propose that they felt good = life and bad = death. Take worshippers of Shiva for instance. Most polytheistic and pantheistic belief systems reflect the entire breadth of human existence without attempting to judge the gods.

    More often than not the most difficult god is a trickster god associated with technology (which is a way of codifying human knowledge) rather than moral wrongness. Innovation through knowledge is seen as tricky because it is quite literally unpredictable - hence the trickster/chaotic nature of those kinds of gods but even they are not seen as evil.

    Using modern fiction to reflect upon old ideas is a problem because those modern expressions (ie tolkein and boorman's interpretation of arthurian legends) are seen through the lense of the culture in which they were written NOT in an unmediated way. Even reading Mort D'arthur in the original doesn't provide that because the agent doing the reading interprets. Without going into problems with knowing anything, I'm trying to say that I don't think there's anything ancient to the idea of good = life. It's a thoroughly modern idea. Nothing wrong with that but it's not one much of human history would have recognised or even had the words to express. At least IMO.
    Stuart Suffel and Charles Gull like this.

Share This Page