Absolute Evil

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VardaElbereth 17/Apr/2006 at 10:00 PM
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"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil.... In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible." Letter #183

I do not know why, but the question of Absolute Evil has been nagging me lately. I do not mean to propose that it appers anywhere in Tolkien’s work, as he quite plainly states that it does not. But what I would like to elucidate is the meaning of Absolute Evil. What could possibly qualify one as Absolute Evil?

Sauron is evil, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He wished to be worshipped as divine by his subjects, and eventually all in Middle Earth. He desired to have power over everyone and everything. He will stop at nothing to get his way. He created strife and sorrow everywhere he went. He talked Ar Pharazon into sailing to his doom (and all of Numenor’s doom for that matter), brought down Elendil and Gil-Galad, created a Ring that caused nothing but mischief and worse once he lost it, made Mirkwood an unwholesome place to live, killed, robbed, lied, and cheated without batting an eye and yet he is not "Absolutely Evil". What saving grace does this Dark Lord have?

I believe his saving grace lies in the desire of his heart. In the end, what does Sauron desire? Why does he want power and the people to worhship him? Why do people in general seek money and power? They want to be happy. Happiness is not evil. To desire happiness is not evil. It is not the fact that Sauron desires "happiness" that is evil, it is the means he uses in achieving his end that are evil. What could make one Absolutely Evil then?

To be Absolutely Evil, I belive you would want to be Evil for evil’s sake. You would want to do an evil act so some evil would be befall you. So that you would be miserable, so that nothing good would ever happen to you. And you wouldn’t be a masochist of some sort who enjoys pain, because there again is the twisted motive. A masochist enjoys pain and is seeking "happiness" by inflicting it on himself. One who is Absolutely Evil would not enjoy pain inflicted on himself. He would not enjoy anything. It’s a little weird to think about, and when I do, I have to agree with Tolkien. I can’t see any Rational being wanting or desiring this.
Boromir88 17/Apr/2006 at 10:10 PM
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Interesting question...where do I want to start...I guess this will do:

I think of absolute evil as someone who started out (born evil) and has nothing good about them whatsoever, they are just ruthless downright evil people.  I don’t think that anyone is born evil, I mean I doubt Hitler as a baby wanted to murder millions of Jews and create a superior race...it was the circumstances surrounding Germany and his beliefs that influenced his decision.  We all have the capability of doing evil, but I don’t think anyone is born evil.  And when I think of Absolute evil, I think of someone evil from the very first breath to their last.  Sauron and Melkor were once good hearted people, but they had the capable of doing evil and they did.

Also, I think of absolute evil being 100% no ifs ands or doubts about it, there’s no chance for this person to find any sort of compassion or good.

For example, I’ll use Sauron.  Sure he was an evil and arrogant being, but he wasn’t some brutal just let’s kill everyone.  He actually showed respect to the rules of war.  He didn’t want to fight or go to war with anyone unless it was a last option.  We see him try to win over the dwarves and we see him at the Black Gate (or his Mouth that is) try to come to a treaty and end this instead of fighting it all out.  Now his demands are rather foolish, basically he says be my slaves and I’ll let you live, but still he isn’t just some ruthless killer now.  I mean saying "I will let you live you just have to be my slave for the rest of your maggoty life" isn’t all that bad is it? 

Sauron is about as evil as you can get, yet he isn’t fully and totally evil.  He just wants to conquer Middle-earth and Rule it, and force everyone into slavedom...atleast he doesn’t want to obliterate everyone, just the ones that get in his way.

stevem1 18/Apr/2006 at 12:54 AM
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VardaElbereth: This has been discussed before (you will find several topics if you search under ’evil’.

Actually I think absolute evil is an abstract notion. I don’t think it could actually exist except in one special case - if Eru became evil himself.

You see, I believe that Eru created evil (or at least that evil things are a product of his) and so the degree of evil has to be less than he is capable of (since all his works are less than him).

So no other person could be absolute evil since he is absolute good.
Gatheriel 18/Apr/2006 at 04:31 AM
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 I agree with Stevem1. As there is no opposite power to Eru (like for example the devil is to God), there is no absolute evil in Middle Earth.

Insense que vous etes, pourqoui
Vous promettez vous de vivre
longtemps, vous qui ne pouvez
Compter sur un seul jour.

VardaElbereth 18/Apr/2006 at 08:23 AM
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Boromir88- well, true Sauron didn’t go directly to war, but I don’t think it was out of the kindness of his heart. I think it was more along the lines of a) "Let’s rub in my power a bit and dishearten the opposition" or b) "Why waste resources in battle if I can defeat them through trickery?" or c) "If I kill everyone there will be nothing left to rule...".

Hmm, I agree I don’t think anyone is born evil. And I don’t believe there really is anyone who is absolutely evil. But it is something I ponder. To do nothing but evil from your first breath to your last almost sounds like a perfect definition of absolute evil. Except, again, we come to the desires of the heart. Is the person doing evil because it makes them feel happy? If so, then they are not absolutely evil. Happiness, and the desire for happiness is not evil. Killing millions of people to achieve it is though   And you won’t be truly happy either, because I’ve noticed tyrants have a habit of continuing to kill people which indicates they have not found happiness.

stevem1- It may have been discussed before, but that doesn’t stop us from discussing it again now.   Also, someone who is "absolutely evil" need not be the opposite of Eru in terms of power. Sauron was the closest thing to absolutely evil in Tolkien’s works, yet, on pure power terms, Morgoth is far more powerful than he. But it is Sauron, not Morgoth who approaches absolute evil. Absolute evil refers to not the power of the being, but how they choose to use that power.

lotrbigdog 18/Apr/2006 at 09:42 AM
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In real life, I think there is one who is absolutely evil: the devil. Therefore, I think that morgoth, in the sil, might be the one being who could be classified as absolutely evil, even though Tolkien himself said there is no one like that in his stories. Sauron, too, I believe, has become as close to absolute evil as one can get, if he is not at all. You all are sitting here making excuses for him, "he was trying to be happy," "he doesn’t just go around killing people all the time." Forgive me, but I don’t really like it when people try to explain away someone’s evil. I believe absolute evil to be more in terms of the ability to repent. The one last time, I think, that Sauron could have had a chance to repent was when he was captured by Ar-Pharazon. However, he did not, so after his "death", there is no chance left. Even if he wished to, he could not have repented and turned away from his evil ways. Same with Morgoth, he was too far gone. The nazgul, as well, were absolutely evil, if only for the fact that they obeyed one who was, in essence, absolutely evil.
I conclude by reiterating, by the time of the War of the Ring, Sauron was as close as any characters in the stories was to being absolute evil. He had no redeeming qualities, no chance to repent, and no wish to.
geordie 18/Apr/2006 at 10:09 AM
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Tolkien said once in an interview ’I don’t believe in absolute evil, as I don’t believe in absolute good’.
Boromir88 18/Apr/2006 at 10:19 AM
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lotrbigdog, I wasn’t defending Sauron or making excuses for him, just explaining why I felt like he wasn’t an "absolute evil," as I don’t think there is such a thing.

If so, then they are not absolutely evil. Happiness, and the desire for happiness is not evil.~Varda
Very true and I think in a lot of cases the "evil-doers" believe what they are doing is the "right" thing when really they are just fooled.  I don’t know if you’ve seen The Island, but Sean Bean plays Merrick who founded Merrick Inc.  And he has built this society of clones and a bunch of lies believing what he is doing is breakthrough research in the medical industry, to try to cure cancers...etc, but really he’s just blinded by his own research and it causes him to become the villain of the movie.  A lot of people get blinded by what they think is right and they’re doing good, when really they aren’t. 

In LOTR I think Saruman is a good fit for this.  In his conversation with Gandalf he acts as if what he is doing is actually good for Middle-earth and completing the task the Istari were sent to do:
We can join with that Power.  It would be wise, Gandalf.  There is hope that way.  Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it.  As the Power grows; its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it.  We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends.  There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means."~The Council of Elrond
Saruman starts out talking about joining with Sauron and aiding, however we see a deeper purpose in his plans...he plans to backstab Sauron as well.  He basically is telling Gandalf if we want to accomplish for why we were sent here, first we must join with Sauron and perhaps commit acts of evil, but then we can control it and complete exactly why we were sent here.  We can see Saruman is fooled, he thinks what he’s doing is the right thing and the reason why the Istari were sent to Middle-earth, but in all reality he is completely wrong and it has led him down the wrong path.

VardaElbereth 18/Apr/2006 at 06:54 PM
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lotrbigdog- In no way, shape, or form were Boromir88 and I trying to make excuses for Morgoth or Sauron for that matter. They are both incredibly evil beings. They are just not absolutely evil. And actually, if you read what we mean by absolutely evil, the devil is not absolutely evil either. That is not say he is not evil. He is as evil as one can get. But, he is not evil for evil’s sake. Like Sauron or Morgoth he is not evil because he wants to be miserable. He is evil because he wants to be happy. He wants to be in control and in charge for he thinks these things will make him happy. In no way does this mitigate the evils that Morgoth, Sauron, or the devil commit. And true, Sauron may have had no redeeming qualities at the end of the War of the Ring, or a wish to repent, but as a being with free will, he always had the chance to repent. Just because someone does not wish to repent does not mean they can not.

Actually, I believe according to St. Augustine, the more evil something is, the less "real" it is. In Augustinian theology, when things stray from their true purpose and do evil, they become less and less real, as they are becoming less and less what they should be. Under that definition, Absolute Evil would equal, as Tolkien stated, Zero, as in nonexistance. The evil of Sauron or Morgoth, I would compare to a "limit" in Calculus. A limit is when a sloped line on a graph approaches very close to some number, but never touches it. It can go on into infinity getting closer and closer to the number, but it will never reach the number.

And again, for all and sundry, I do not believe in Absolute Evil. But I do like to consider what Absolute Evil would be if it existed.

Boromir88- I have never seen the Island but I did read the movie spoiler for it *g*. So, I know what you’re talking about. Indeed, the bad guy in the movie, and Saruman both made the fatal mistake of letting their ends justify their means. If your goal is to help your fellow countrymen and make your nation stronger, most people would say that is a worthy and noble goal, no? But if you starting letting that end justifying the means you use, you end up killing 6 million people in a Holocaust. I love that quote you have with Saruman, it just spells it out beautifully!   Even Saruon at first feigned to himself that what he was doing was for the good of Middle Earth.
Son of Huor 19/Apr/2006 at 03:17 AM
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I think that absolute evil cannot exist. At least, I think that that is what Tolkien means, given the fact that he says that this would be zero. Zero is nothing, zero is an abstract notion, an agreed upon name for something that does not exist, for if 0 would be something, it would not be 0, but 0.000000x

This goes for evil too. I am not sure, mind you, but it think, that Tolkien defines evil here as ’the lack of good’ Evil is nothing in itself. Darkness is not a substance, it is the lack of light. Shadow is nothing, it is a place where light cannot come because of a blocade. In the same way, evil is nothing, it is lack of good quatlities. And even Morgoth, let alone Sauron, is not totally void of good. 

Sauron for example is said to be unwilling to submit to the orders of Eonwë (and the Valar), because of his pride AND his desire to mend things in ME. He choses the wrong means to realise the wrong goals, but his intention was good. So discussion is possible about good in those who we know as  ’evil’.

Most important: something that is 100% evil, is unimaginable, it is logically impossible, if you define evil as the lack of good. Ergo: Absolute evil (the sublime, pure, 100 % evil) is non-existant and impossible.

 

Boromir88 19/Apr/2006 at 09:34 AM
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This goes for evil too. I am not sure, mind you, but it think, that Tolkien defines evil here as ’the lack of good’ Evil is nothing in itself.~Huor
This actually got me thinking.  I don’t know exactly where the quote is, but I’m pretty sure Tolkien says that evil is only a perversion of good.  So, I think this further goes to show that there is no absolute evil.  Since evil is only a perversion, a twisting of what is good.

I’ll take pride for example.  Pride can be a good thing, being confident in your own abilities, it’s excessive pride that makes it the "bad" thing, and the arrogant pride is only a perversion to confidence.

Let’s take greed as well.  The Bible states that "the love of money is the root of all evil."  Money isn’t a bad thing, we all need it, but it’s the greed, the love of money that is the evil.  So, if evil is actually just a twisted good, how can something be purely evil?

Bearamir 19/Apr/2006 at 12:28 PM
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Ladies & Gentlemen:  This thread has been nominated for move to Ad Lore.  Given that this thread is excellent, with your kind permission I am going to do so.  

For everyone else who may wish to contribute:  a small reminder is in order:  once this thread moves to Ad Lore, there will be some expectations as to the quality of the posts.  So, moving forward, please remember that Ad Lore is for the in depth discussion of topics pertaining to the Lord of the Rings, and try to avoid extraneous chat.   From this point on, I *will* be deleting posts that do no serve to advance the topic, or add materially to the discussion.

Best of Luck (and congratulations once again).

Ghostlore 19/Apr/2006 at 01:56 PM
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We ultimately define a thing by understanding it’s opposite, and we all perceive things differently. Taken on an individual basis, a being of absolute evil then would have to be one that is completely and utterly devoid of any fiber or molecule of what we personally consider "good." Or in Tolkien’s case, his individual perception.

The other difficulty is that we can measure a whole as a sum of it’s parts. If we factor time into it, we could say that, Sauron for example, went through a series of deaths or changes that gradually evolved him into a being more and more akin to "absolute evil", though never fully realizing that tag. To say that there was some shred of good left in him, could we not refer to an earlier point in the timeline of his existence?

VardaElbereth 19/Apr/2006 at 08:52 PM
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Ah, I did wonder where the extra five points came from! Thank you milady Bael and whoever nominated the thread!

SOH- Evil cannot be merely the lack of good. There are many acts that we perform everday that are not "good" in and of themselves. I just blinked. I drew a breath. I am typing. None of these acts are inherently "good" (okay, breathing is good in the sense it keeps me alive, but it is not an act I am conciously performing for "good" purposes). But none of these acts are evil either. To do evil, one must go beyond lack of good into, as Boromir88 puts it, the perversion of good. If I was not merely typing on the computer, but typing up a vitrolic little post that condemned everyone in this thread with abusive language, then the act of typing would become evil. If however, I was typing up a post to encourage someone who has had a bad day, then the act of typing becomes good. Intentions are not everything, and neither are actions. Both must be weighed in the balance. And indeed, Sauron may have had "good" intentions in the beginning, but he certainly no longer had them by the end. By the end of the War of the Ring, it was all about him not the people Middle Earth. And even in the beginning he only feigned to himself that what he did was for the good of Middle Earth.

Ghostlore- Indeed, Saruon was not absolutely evil. He did not desire evil for evil’s sake. He wanted power, he wanted to be happy. I know of no one who wants to be unhappy. The pursuit of happiness seems to be something written into the core of all of us. As long as a "rational" being has this, s/he can never become absolutely evil. Okay, putting aside the fact that absolute evil will not happen, if a being were to become "absolutely evil" somehow get around the zero factor and the overriding desire for happiness, I do not think the fact that s/he was good at one point would change what s/he is now. If I suddenly became a raging psychopathic murderer, the fact that I was at one point a regular church goer would not change the fact that I am now a psychopathic murderer. It certainly wouldn’t change that fact in the eyes of a court of law. But that, as you niftily point out, is if you only look at a specific moment in time. If, when considering absolute evil over a being’s whole existance, if s/he ever did any good, absolute evil would not be a possibility.
Dunadar 20/Apr/2006 at 02:22 AM
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Eru didn’t create evil Stevem but rather allowed to be. In the four great themes he sung for the Ainur before the forming of Arda there was no evil, but evil came by the discorde that Melkor added to it. One could argue that Eru created Melkor to be evil, but if Eru did that then he must be evil himself or at least partly evil. Melkor chose to becoming evil, and slowly but surely the powers that were given him began to dwindle until he could only mock and destroy.

I agree with VardaElbereth that desire doesn’t equal evil because if it did then many of the great lords of the Elves would be classified as evil as well. Galadriel desired to go to Middle Earth and have lands and people to rule over, should we classify her as evil as well? But then how do we define what evil is? Because in order to discuss Abolute Evil we must know what evil means, and if evil is the perversion of good like Boromir said, then what’s good defined as? I don’t have an answer readily available just stating that it is very hard to identify Absolute Evil any way.  

Daithi Mac 20/Apr/2006 at 03:45 AM
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"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil.... In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible." Letter #183

Hmm interesting.If Tolkien was an old fashion Catholic one would imagine he would think there was an absolute evil(i.e the devil).Thats where I assumed he drew his thoughts for Sauron.


Jedi Ranger 20/Apr/2006 at 05:55 AM
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there is no such thing as absolute evil. No person is born either mean or good, they are influenced by their experiences and surroundings.  That is according to thomas hobbes.  thus there can be no person in absolute evil. Evil is not a temperature, it cant just change at the drop of a hat.  The devil in christianity is supposed to be the most evil thing ever.  Anyone who is just as evil as hm is said to be satainic.  No one in lord of the rings is that evil.  Sauron is only a hitler like dictator and even hitler was not pure evil in the sense that we are talking about.  Dont get me wrong though, hitler was one EVIL man
Faele 20/Apr/2006 at 08:58 AM
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Its an interesting thought!   Absolute Evil...

I note, by the way , that the candidacy in Tolkien’s letter is limited to Sauron and does not extend to  Morgoth, perhaps because tha t would be out side the scope of LotR, though not outside the scope of Toliken’s created canon, or indeed , outside the scope of our discussion.

Sauron is said to have grown from a Maia, a servant of Melkor, to a Power in his own right - and it was said that he wielded great power under Morgoth. His refusal to  return to Aman-  when Morgoth was overthrown and Eonwe sent Sauron to Aman to receive the judgement of Manwe - was motivated , according to the legend, by shame, and fear and pride. " Therefore , when Eonwe departed [Middle Earth], he hid himself.. and he fell back into evil, for the bonds that Morgoth had laid upon him were very strong. "(Sil/ Of the Rings of Power) -

One thing that occurs to me is that Sauron is not an Absolute - he was never intended as such. He has a beginning, a turning point, at which he chose evil  for love of Power, a crisis point - when Morgoth was overthrown, and he was called to repentance - and a time of choice - when his unwillingness to face humiliation and to serve others sealed him on his course toward evil.  This shows a clear transition.

Sauron is not presented either, as evil in essence - only  his response to others brings forth evil. Motivated by a love of power, and by pride , he becomes filled with hatred toward the Eldar, and fearful of Men, the races to whom Manwe had given Middle Earth in earlier times - he is the great Usurper, the Enemy, the Deceiver, and he makes war on elves and men, for his own ends.

Not evil from inception, then, and not Absolute. Not evil in essence, but evil by choice and by the action stemming from choice.

Motivated by love of power. Jealous of others. Too proud to give honour , where honour is due. Infected with the"discord" of Melkor and filled with the desire to create and rule- but frustrated as each attempt is only a twisted shadow of the good already created by Iluvatar. 

The second point that occurs to me re Sauron , after his dependence on distorting good  in order to forge evil, and his hatred and fear of other races, is that he is not the antithesis of the created good. The antithesis of creation would be uncreation , or the descent to nothingness ( is this why Sauron ultimately apprears as a burning void, an "eye" in the universe?) - yet Sauron is not a zero. Far from it!

These are the beginnings then of my thoughts about "absolute evil".  It seems to me that because Tolkien does not entertain a dualistic view of the universe, in which Good and Evil are independent in their existence and equally powerful, he has created a myth that reflects this. 

In Tolkiens world, Good is ultimate, but Evil is not. Good is Absolute ( and so the boundaries of Good cannot be drawn [ the Silmarillion/ Ainlindale]..) but Evil is not - but it is possible to will the domination of others , and personal independence from the created order and Authority - and this is represented in Sauron - as far as is possible.

Boromir88 20/Apr/2006 at 02:22 PM
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But then how do we define what evil is? Because in order to discuss Abolute Evil we must know what evil means, and if evil is the perversion of good like Boromir said, then what’s good defined as? I don’t have an answer readily available just stating that it is very hard to identify Absolute Evil any way.~Dunadar

I think what it all comes down to is, Good can exist without the existance of Evil, but Evil can not exist without the existance of good.  Since evil, is a perversion, a "rebel" against good, you can make "good" whatever you want it to be, and evil would simply be the "rebelling against good."  So, whatever society defines as "good" then evil would be the "striving against it." 

Arduvei 20/Apr/2006 at 04:41 PM
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I would say that morgoth was more evil than sauron. In fact it is stated somewhere that Sauron is less evil "only because for a long time he served another." And also, sauron delights in malice, and therefore, sometimes, (not wholly) is evil for evil’s sake. But not normally. Ungoliant had no real reason for being evil, yet she was. She did not crave power or anything. Was she more evil?
Dunadar 21/Apr/2006 at 12:08 AM
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Boromir but then according to the orcs of Mordor and the people of Rhun and Harad, Sauron would be good and the Men and Elves of the west would be evil. If good is how society defines it then Melkor was judged unjustly by the Valar because he would be considered good by his own society that was many times larger then the Valar’s. If that is how you want to view it, then alright but I see it differently. I think that good can’t be subjective it has to be objective, or it doesn’t exist at all. I believe that in Middle Earth good is decided by the only person who is absolutely good, Eru. All other things created by him had a choice to do good or evil. I can’t imagine Tolkien creating a world in which good is not something that is universal and unchanging, but just because I can’t imagine it doesn’t mean that he did. 
danh gem 21/Apr/2006 at 04:44 AM
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 Maybe its not sauron but the preciousss thats absolute evil?

Sauron999 21/Apr/2006 at 06:58 AM
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I am not sure if its been mentioned but your quote Varda elbereth says that there is no absolute evil in rational beings agreed?
That does not mean that they is not irrational beings and directly absolute evil beings - look at Morgoth, he was completely irrational at the latter part of his reign.

Just thought i would point that out.

VardaElbereth 21/Apr/2006 at 07:18 AM
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Dunadar- It is an interesting question. How do we define good? It is just as important, if not more important, as how we define evil. Let us say that Eru is good, and all that he created is inherently good. When beings choose to rebel against Eru they commit evil. And that beings, when they commit evil, can twist "things" in Ea (be they Elves or Rings) and make them evil too. They can make them stop doing what they were intended to do. Just one evil act can have severe reprecussion. Look what Melkor/Morgoth’s defiance did to the Music!

Sauron999- I might go so far to say that Morgoth had ceased to think rationally towards the end of his reign, but this does not make him an irrational being. An irrational being is one who is not capable of rational thought. While Morgoth may have chosen to think more and more irrationally as time went on, he still had the capacity of thinking rationally, and from what I hear of him in the HoME series, he did some pretty rational irrational thinking

dahn gem- There actually is an idea! Does the Ring qualify as a rational being, or even a being for that matter? I know that there have been threads back and forth that argued over whether the Ring had conciousness of its own or whether it was an extension of Sauron. The Ring is obviously not Zero though, so there must be something about it that saves it. Perhaps it is the fact that Sauron made it, and you can’t make something greater than yourself. The Ring, after all, was made powerful by Sauron pouring a good deal of his fea (or soul) into it. Since the Ring is not made from "outside" sources but from Sauron himself, it can’t be more evil than he is. And Sauron is not absolutely evil.
Sauron999 21/Apr/2006 at 07:40 AM
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hmm, what if I got you a quote saying that he was only capable of thinking rationally at the beginning of his reign?
Sauron999 21/Apr/2006 at 07:41 AM
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And and also I saw you were a member on Tolkien Forums VardaElbereth but you seem to have disappeardX(
Melkor6000 21/Apr/2006 at 08:11 AM
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VardaElbereth:  Yes and no...  the one ring was imbued with a portion of Sauron’s strength and will.  But  some would consider the ring merely an extension of him.  It seems as if the ring had enough sense to attemptto take control of Frodo, most namely at Orodruin, but aside from "calling" to the nazgul, that seems to be the extent of its sentience
KitsuneInuYasha 21/Apr/2006 at 10:16 AM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
To be absolutely evil would be impossible. A being cannot live without something to live for, and to be pure evil would be to live for nothing. If you live for something, you are willing to make a sacrifice to aquire that.

By the same token, you cannot live to be pure good. You will always have to make a sacrifice of some sort, always have to let someone down. It’s not physically possible to please everyone all the time.

So to be absolute evil would be, I guess, Satan, and absolute good would be God. They are the only ones who come to mind when I think of who does what why. God acts because of his love of the world... Satan act, I believe, in order to destroy what God has created, to try to taint his children. Not because he LIKES to or WANTS to, but because he can. Thus he "lives" for chaos, but not for love of chaos.

Does that make any sense?

PS- no offense intended to those who don’t believe in Christianity; twas just the best comparison I could think of.
danh gem 22/Apr/2006 at 03:07 AM
Herald of Imladris Points: 168 Posts: 29 Joined: 19/Apr/2006

  KitsunelnuYasha- If Eru can be compared to god he is absolute Good but Hindu mythology says God is Complete. He has Good and Evil within Him. He has worlds coming in and out of every pore of His body.So Hes got the good and bad of the aforementioned worlds.

Therefore unless Eru decided to become incomplete and create another being which was a manifestation of the Evil part in him ,Sauron cannot be absolute Evil.

P.S.Can someone tell me how to join a kingdom(Imladris)

Sauron999 22/Apr/2006 at 03:45 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

Right then I will provisde evidence.

Firstly I think we can all agree that the original quotes states that NO RATIONAL BEING CAN BE ABSOLUTELY EVIL.
Sauron being RATIONAL is as evil as any RATIONAL being can get - i agree with this.

Here is two quotes saying that MORGOTH was IRRATIONAL for the latter part of his reign -

He was aware, at any rate originally when he was capable of rational thought , that he could not annhialate them {Elves and Men]..."(Morgoth’s Ring, 395) -

"This was sheer nihilism, and negation its ultimate object...Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness".

Varda Elbereth said - "An irrational being is one who is not capable of rational thought".

Well as the first quote says MORGOTH was not capable of rational thought at the latter payt of his reign.

There, - that is all that need be said.

Nenuphar 22/Apr/2006 at 04:22 AM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005
Wow, lots of interesting debate. And for once I actually get to join an AL discussion before everyone’s been discussing it for months. Yipee!

First of all, I have a question for Varda, and everyone else for that matter. Part of your basic reasoning (and why you think that Sauron can’t be absolutely evil) is that he still seeks out or desires happiness, and this makes him not completely evil. What makes you think that the desire for happiness makes you less evil? I would tend to consider the desire for happiness to be in the same category as the desire for food, sleep, health, etc. All of these things are things that we as living creatures desire as a part of who we are. I don’t think that desiring any of these things is good or bad in and of itself, except in the way that it’s a sign of mental/physical health to want them (for example, if someone truly never wants to eat at all, this is a sign that something’s wrong). The morality of it comes in when the person decides how to try and fulfill those desires. If I try to find happiness at the expense of others, never caring about them, their needs, etc., then I’m using the people around me and showing that I have a self-centered view of the world. Some of my actions are evil, more and more so as I keep going on, and eventually I may become someone like Hitler, Mao, Ceausescu, or other evil tyrants that we know of (perhaps not on such a grand scale, but who hasn’t heard of smaller tyrants who rule their families just as cruelly?). On the other hand, I can pursue happiness in ways that treat those around me with respect and love, and thus do good things. Does this make sense? I don’t feel like I’m being very clear here, but hopefully it came out right. I guess the most important part of what I was trying to say was that I don’t think that our desires are good and bad in and of themselves; only actions are good or evil.

KitsuneluYasha: I disagree with one of your comments. You said that, "By the same token, you cannot live to be pure good. You will always have to make a sacrifice of some sort, always have to let someone down. It’s not physically possible to please everyone all the time." The problem with this is that you’re equating goodness with pleasing people, which isn’t a good (or, as you pointed out, even remotely feasible) definition. I just looked on www.dictionary.com, and after searching a bit for a useable definition of "good" (most of them aren’t related to morality and evil vs. good), here are the ones that most fit the meaning of good that we’re discussing: "characterized by honesty and fairness; conforming to a standard of virtue". I don’t think that the moral virtue of goodness is related to pleasing people (this is something I’m working very hard to apply in real life, as I tend to be a people-pleaser, so I’ve had to concentrate on this a lot!). If I choose not to murder, commit adultery, or lie, most people would consider that a morally good decision. Yet some people might get angry or upset with me. Does the fact that I’ve displeased them mean that what I did wasn’t good? No. Christians and even many nonChristians consider that Jesus was good, but he definitely didn’t please all of the people around him. The Pharisees (religious leaders of his day) were pretty angry that he was actually associating with tax collectors, prostitutes, and "those" kinds of people. (no, I’m not discussing religion, honest; Jesus is just the easiest example to come up with)

I got curious about what the word "evil" actually means, and so I went to look it up on dictionary.com. According to that site, its meaning is:

As an adjective:

1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked: an evil tyrant.
2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful: the evil effects of a poor diet.
3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous: evil omens.
4. Bad or blameworthy by report; infamous: an evil reputation.
5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious: an evil temper.

As a noun:

1. The quality of being morally bad or wrong; wickedness.
2. That which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction: a leader’s power to do both good and evil.
3. An evil force, power, or personification.
4. Something that is a cause or source of suffering, injury, or destruction: the social evils of poverty and injustice.

As a result of this, I started wondering if part of the reason that Sauron wouldn’t be considered absolute evil by Tolkien is the idea that evil is more of a force or a state than something that can be embodied by a person. The only one of those definitions that indicates that it might be embodiable (is that a word? ) is the 3rd noun definition ("evil force, power, or personification"). Perhaps that’s part of it? I’ve always thought of evil as something that cannot really become incarnate, although that could just be my own imagination.

Of course, in Morgoth’s Ring Tolkien says that some of Morgoth’s power was released by him into the entirety of Arda, thus corrupting and staining it all (I’m refering to the section "Myths Transformed", Text VII ii, if that helps). It talks about how just like Sauron transfered much of his power and his self into the Ring, so Morgoth transfered some of his power and his self into all of Arda. At one point in time Tolkien says, "The whole of ’Middle-earth’ was Morgoth’s Ring... Moreover, the final eradication of Sauron (as a power directing evil) was achievable by the destruction of the Ring. No such eradication of Morgoth was possible, since this required the complete disintegration of the ’matter’ of Arda. Sauron’s power was not (for example) in gold as such, but in a particular form or shape made of a particular portion of total gold. Morgoth’s power was disseminated throughout Gold, if nowhere absolute (for he did not create Gold) it was nowhere absent. (It was this Morgoth-element in matter, indeed, which was a prerequisite for such ’magic’ and other evils as Sauron practised with it and upon it.) (p. 400 in my version) I’m not sure how to interpret that exactly. On the one hand, it discusses how Morgoth’s essence taints and corrupts Arda, making it "Arda Marred". This would lead one to believe that the essence of who Morgoth was, was evil. On the other hand, once his essence pervaded Arda, it seemed to be in some ways detached from him as the Ring was detached from Sauron (he could still affect it, but it was no longer under his control the way it had been when it was still part of him). Hmm. Would that make his essence evil? Him evil? Or just his essence that had been scattered in Arda?

I hope that that makes sense. Some of my ideas about evil are (as is probably obvious) not as clarified as they could be. If anyone has any other ideas on that last passage (it seems to me to be important to understanding Tolkien’s idea of evil, but I can’t quite put my finger on how yet), that would be lovely.
Sauron999 22/Apr/2006 at 09:36 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

I also have another quote for Morgoths absolute evil -

" Melkor, originally the most powerful of the Valar, had become a rebel, against his brethren and against Eru, and was the prime Spirit of Evil."(Ibid, 330)

I accept that this quote MAY be talking of power instead of evil however.

Sauron999 22/Apr/2006 at 09:45 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

And also on your point Nenuphar -

You mention a good point about happiness. Yes Sauron wanted ME to be what he would class as a Happy place for himself only perhaps. Now what that meant was causing evil to all the good peoples becuase his idear of Happy was terrible.

But Morgoth did not ant Arda to be a happy place, for himself even. He wanted the whole of Arda destroyed as much as possible along with his servants and enemies.

He wanted evil as the end result (not happiness) - he wanted the ultimate end result to completely rebel against what Eru wanted.

Here is a quote -

"Hence his endeaver always to break wills and subordinate them to or absorb them into his own will and being, before destroying their bodies. This was sheer negation and its one ultimate object: Morogth would no doubt, if he had been victorious, have ultimately destroyed even his own ’creatures’, such as the orcs, when they had served his sole purpose in using them, the destruction of Elves and Men...Melkor could do nothing with arda, which was not from his own mind and was interwoven with the works and thoughts of others: even left alone he could only have gone raging on till all was levelled again into a formless chaos". Morgoths ring.

In my opinion Morgoths desire was far more evil than saurons.

VardaElbereth 22/Apr/2006 at 04:38 PM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
dahn gem- On the menu on the side of your screen, one of the options is "Career Center". Click on that, it will take you to a page that will direct you in how to join a kingdom!

Sauron 999- Yes, indeed Morgoth had ceased to think rationally by the end of his reign.   But that does not make him an irrational being. For instance, suppose someone receives a conk on the head, putting them in a comatose state, from which they awaken with the mental capacity of a two year old or younger. They have ceased to think rationally, ie they have lost the capacity for rational thought. However, in and of themselves, they are still rational beings, it is not in our power to give them the capability to think rationally again, but if somehow we could peer into their brains and make the right neuron connections, they would be perfectly capable of rational thought again. And Morgoth’s irrationality was a choice of free will. He chose to be irrational, to not think logically, to block off the better part of himself. He certainly became more evil in the process, but I believe, not absolutely. A fuller rendition of the quote I provide at the beginning of the thread is

"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth fell before the Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible." Letter #183

Notice Tolkien does not make an exception for Morgoth here. It is still Sauron he identifies as the one who most closely approaches absolute evil.

As for some of the other quotes, it says Sauron never reached that stage of nihilistic madness. Madness and evil are not interchangable terms. In fact, I believe the one is not mad and chooses to make others miserable is more evil than one who is mad. The one who is mad is not quite right in the head, and loses some culpability (for instance, in a court of law, if you are proved mentally insane, you usually don’t get the electric chair for killing someone, but are remanded to a mental institution for life.).

Morgoth was the Prime spirit of Evil. So? That does not make him absolutely evil, it just makes either 1)The first spirit of Evil (which he was) 2)Or preminent in terms power (which he was as well).

And your very last quote, Morgoth may not have wanted Middle Earth as happy place for anyone, even himself. But that is because everything in Arda is from Eru ultimately.   There is nothing there that is Morgoth’s own, his own creation. This is what he wants, what he desires. He desires all to be subordinate to his will. He knows this will never happens, and thus lashes out against Arda like a madman. This does not mean in some twisted way Morgoth did not want to be happy. It means he wanted Arda to be destroyed for everyone and everyone to be subordinate to him, that would make him happy. Or so he thinks. But he also knows he can’t achieve this and that makes him angry.

Nenuphar - I disagree, actions alone are not enough. The intentions behind them count too. Mind, an action itself can be good or evil, independant of the intention. Murder is objectively wrong, always. Saving a man’s life is objectively good, always. Now, suppose someone murdered someone because he was trying to stop him from blackmailing someone he loves. Does this make the act of his murder acceptable, not evil? No, it does not. His intentions are good, but his actions are evil. However, what it might do, it make it a slightly less evil act then one who murdered someone in cold blood just for the heck of it. It’s like comparing two weights, one weighing two tons and one weighing only one ton. Both are incredibly heavy, but the one ton object weighs less than the two ton object.

Now, take into account, someone who sees a drowning man. Out of pure love for his neighbor, he swims out and drags him to shore. Act and intention are both good, and the man has obviously done a good thing. What if, however, the man drowning is someone important, the ruler of a country? What if the man who saves him only does so because he knows the ruler will then put him in a position of high power where he can inflict harm and injury on people at will? His act is still good, saving the man. But the intention behind it most definitely not. Taking action and intention together, did the man do good or evil?

Right above my previous quote from Letter 183:

Similarily, good actions by those on the wrong side will not justify their cause. There may be deeds on the wrong side of heroic courage, or some of a higher moral level: deeds of mercy and forebearance. A judge may accord them honour and rejoice to see how men can rise above the hate and anger of a conflict; even as he may deplore the evil deeds on the right side and be grieved to see how hatred once provoked can drag them down. But this will not alter his judgement as to which side was in the right, nor his assignment of the primary blame for all the evil that followed to the other side.


Why will the judge assign primary blame to the wrong side? Because intentions count for something. The wrong side may be made up of the most heroic people in mankind’s history, doing great deeds of mercy and courage. But, in the end they are on the wrong side, and while there actions are good, their ultimate intentions are not. And the one big quote you have from Tolkien I think kind of shows this. Why is Arda Marred? Why does Morogth dispersing himself do such hurt? Because that was his intention. When he dispersed himself, his intention was evil. The act of dispersing himself may not have been necessarily evil, but the intention behind it certainly was. But there again, Tolkien tells us it was not absolute, for Morgoth did not create Arda. He can contaminate, but he cannot destroy.

Good thoughts on the nature of good, by the way.   Indeed, if we are doing good, there will be many that are not happy with us, because they themselves are not doing good. They will feel threatened by our actions, and that will make them unhappy. But we are not the ones making them unhappy. That is a free choice they make.

Oh, and to finally sort of try to answer your first question (My I have been going about this rather backwards, haven’t I?) when I say that because Sauron desired happiness was a reason that he was not absolutely evil, that is not to say that makes Sauron not evil at all. It just means that some small part of him somewhere, even if it is only a desire, and a twisted one at that, is not evil, and therefore he cannot be absolutely evil (but he can be pretty darn close!) Just because he desires happiness does not make his actions unevil. Just as the man who commits murder to save a loved one from blackmail commits evil, so does Sauron. I will say this, despite the fact that I believe intentions and actions must be weighed in the balance, I do believe actions bear more weight than intentions do usually.
Brandywine74 22/Apr/2006 at 11:22 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1291 Posts: 562 Joined: 20/Apr/2006

I do not think that Sauron, Morgoth or any of the others are absolute evil, at least not from the start.

But later on and certainly by the time they are dealing with other beings in Middle-Earth they are approaching absolute evil. This is basically because they are using the gifts given by Eru to serve their own ends: not Eru’s; which is what they were created for. I think this is the same for our world too. Are you using your gifts purely for yourself and you don’t care about what happens to others or are you aware of the effects of your actions on others and change accordingly?

Sauron etc. know what their actions are doing and go out of their way to be cruel eg in front of the black gate.

Sauron999 23/Apr/2006 at 04:16 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

VardaElbereth wrote - "An irrational being is one who is not capable of rational thought".

The quote above ("originally when he was capable of rational thought ") says that Morgoth was not capable of rational thought, therefore by your reckoning and most, he is an irrational being. You words not mine.

Varda elbereth - I will re-write the quote pointing out the main points:

"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth fell before the Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible." Letter #183

I would also like to point out that Tolkien is saying ’Morgoth fell before the creation of the phisical world’. This means that he is only including Sauron as the most evil IN the phisical world - when morgoth was vanquished.

Yes I agree Brandywine74  that no one was evil from the beginning. Morgoth however grew in contampt for all things save himself and would not rest until he had mauled the works of the Valar and utterly rebelled against Erus will - this is absolute evil.

 

 

VardaElbereth 23/Apr/2006 at 07:30 AM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
Sauron999- Contextually, I believe my quote and Tolkien’s quotes meant two different things. When I said an irrational being was one who was not capable of rational thought, I didn’t mean someone who had ever acted irrationally (which we all do sometimes) or who had gone mad. I meant a being who had never been capable of rational thought, who had been created that way. I am sorry I wasn’t clearer about that. But Morgoth was capbable of rational thought at one point and just because he chooses to no longer think rationally, letting himself go mad, this does not make him no longer a rational being. Eru created him as a rational being and in essence a rational being he remained in the end. You can twist what Eru made almost beyond recognition, but you may not destroy it so completely that it entirely loses its nature.

I fail to follow why Tolkien was only talking about Sauron being the most evil in the physical world just because it says Morgoth fell before the creation of the physical world. I am reading the word "fell" not to mean he was vanquished but rather that he "fell" from his state of grace. Anyway, it can’t mean he was vanquished before the creation of the physcial world because for a very long time, Morgoth most certainly was part of the physical world. If you take into account the quote from Morgoth’s Ring that Nenuphar provided, you could argue he is still part of the physical world.

Also, you say Morgoth grew in contempt for all things except himself. He cannot be absolutely evil then. One who is absolute evil would have contempt for himself, along with everyone else.
Sauron999 23/Apr/2006 at 09:06 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006
People grow irrational. Someone who is irrational from the start need not be more irrational than someone who grows irrational later on in life.
VardaElbereth 23/Apr/2006 at 03:56 PM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
No, you misunderstand.   When I say irrational, I am not talking about a state of mind. Everyone is irrational at some point or other in their lives, but this does not make them irrational beings. A being is what you are. If I were to walk up to you and say "What are you?" your answer would most liklely be something along the lines of "I’m a human." If you wanted to broaden the scope of that a bit, if I asked "What are you?" you could not only answer human, but also "A rational being". Even the craziest people among us are still human, and being a "rational being" is much more basic than "being human", for there very well could be other "rational beings" in the universe, but not necessarily more humans. Even when we choose to think irrationally, or get conked on the head and have our brains addled, we are still rational beings. Morgoth, while he thought irrationally, was still a rational being. In a way, being rational beings is what lets us exercise our free will. If we could not think and choose, but were merely guided by overriding instincts, we would not be rational beings, we would be mere animals. To the very end, Morgoth was a being with free will, who could choose to do evil or no. He was still a rational being.
Arx_RavenHelm 24/Apr/2006 at 12:58 AM
New Soul Points: 121 Posts: 23 Joined: 23/Apr/2006

 

 In christian teaching there is no opposite of God. The devil is not God’s opposite any more than Melkor is Eru’s opposite.

  Tolkien based the events between Eru and Melkor directly on the concept of God and the devil in christian doctrine. The devil is a finite, created being, an angel who fell into pride and the desire to rule for his own ends. The devil is the ’head rebel’ but he isn’t anything more than that.

  I think the reason Tolkien did not have absolute evil in his world is kind of two fold. First, in order for something to be completely absolute evil it would have to begun as evil. Everything in Tolkien’s world began as good at some point and was only corrupted to evil later.. thus everything and everyone at some point was good, or had potential for good.

    Second is the nature of evil is revealed in Tolkien’s own comment absolute evil is "zero". Evil is complete and total lack of something, complete and total emptiness. This is like the concept stated earlier that evil is the absence of good.. another way of saying it is that evil is the absence of God.  People can distance themselves from God and reject God, but no one can every really totally get away from God. God is omnipresent.

     In ME Eru is not very visible.. he is remote and unseen.. yet in many ways he is very subtily present through out the entire story. Eru tells Melkor in the beginning that even though Melkor planned to ruin things and to follow his own will... in the end it served Eru’s purposes and what Melkor planned for ruin turned into Eru’s intended beauty. Gandalf hints at the providence of Eru’s will guiding events, ever subtle and unseen but ever present as well... "bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker" etc etc.. There is no absolute evil because Eru is never really completely absent from anywhere or anyone.

Sauron999 24/Apr/2006 at 01:05 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

Well why would Tolkien bother to write ’atleast i do not think that any rational being is wholly evil’’ - if he simply meant everyone. The quote above says that Melkor was NOT capable of ANY RATIONAL thought whatsoever by the end of his reign, E.G. HE WAS IRRATIONAL, therefore he would come under the section that Tolkien excluded - irrational beings.

I aggree V E that you can be irrrational in some things and not in others, but the quote says that he was not capable of RATIONAL thought WHATSOEVER not partially.

KitsuneInuYasha 24/Apr/2006 at 06:08 AM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
Nenuphar, I wasn’t intending it to mean as pleasing. I meant it as being to try and not annoy, not harm, ect. Sometimes you can do grave harm to a person without even being near them or doing anything. One slip of the lips can topple an entire government at times. All too often one silly thing that was said has resulted in people dying.

I had a direction I was going with this... but my train of thought just got derailed... dangit... o0

I think the point I was trying to make is that someone always has some altierier motive for one thing or another, even if it’s not concious. Yes, even Eru could not have been 100% good. Maybe as close to it as possible, but even our Christian God made 1 error- he had to re-make mankind after the Great Flood which purged the Earth of the evil that had become. Was it his fault it happened? Maybe... but maybe not. And it certainly isn’t our place as a mortal to surmise that. But it still stands that he had to "fix" a mistake that happened.

You see what I mean, right? And as for the Hindu god... *shrug* Didn’t know that.
Sauron999 24/Apr/2006 at 07:07 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

In my opinion Manwe was more ’good’ than Eru for he could not understand evil in any way.

Eru was a being of free choice, allowing other beings free will to do as they wished whether evil or good.

Originally when Eru laid forth his theme I think it was neither good or bad, for neither existed then. Then when Melkor rebelled against that theme, this is where evil comes in and therefore good as well. Erus theme would always have been classifed as good becuase it was Erus if you see what i mean. If Eru had made the world to be a terrible place to live and Manwe rebelled against it, then Manwe would be the one in the wrong, becuase he rebelled against ERUS theme.

This is why Melkor would be the ultimate evil as Tolkien says - the prime rebel against Eru.

VardaElbereth 24/Apr/2006 at 08:10 AM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
But again, Sauron999 we run into another problem. Absolute Evil = 0. Even if I accept the premise that Morgoth is an irrational being (which I do not) this does not automatically make him Absolutely Evil. Being Absolutely Evil goes beyond being rational or irrational. Morgoth, even at his most irrational most definitely has substance. He is not zero.

And anyway, for Morgoth to morph from a rational being to an irrational being, would have to mean Morgoth has the power to create from nothing. This would be like an Elf becoming a Vala. You can corrupt a basic nature (Elf to Orc for instance) but you can’t change a basic nature, because doing that means you have to have creative powers, the power to create from nothing. There is only one being who has that power, and that is Eru. That’s pretty much the reason Morgoth rebelled in the beginning he wanted the "Secret Fire" for himself.   Maybe, again, Morgoth is the Ultimate Evil in Ea, but his still does not automatically make him Absolutely Evil. It just makes him the most powerful evil being.

Finally, to please Ally(don’t ask)- I saw a bunny. It was with another bunny. The other bunny hopped away to what I thought was another bunny, but it was a squirrel. A squirrel is not as cute as a bunny. So I turned back to the furst bunny. But that bunny was gone too. I wondered if perhaps an Orc had grabbed the bunny. Probably not, and Elf would be a better catch than a bunny. Morgoth should have had a pet bunny, he wouldn’t have been so ill tempered then.
Sauron999 24/Apr/2006 at 10:38 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

I will write the quote again just so its further down the thread:

"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil.... In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible." Letter #183

So lets suppose you agree for now that Melkor is irrational like the following quote states -

He was aware, at any rate originally when he was capable of rational thought , that he could not annhialate them {Elves and Men]..."(Morgoth’s Ring, 395) -

one answer as above.

I will go thorough this point by point.

* No Rational being is wholly evil.
* an Irrational being can be wholly evil as Tolkien says in the first quote.
*Sauron is as evil as any rational being can possibly be.
* My quote states that Melkor was irrational for the latter opart of his reign.
* It therefore follows that Melkor, being irrational did, in Tolkien eyes, have the potencial to be Wholly evil.

There is no 2 ways around it, There the points of discussion and the all have only answer which I have just written.

Arduvei 24/Apr/2006 at 01:58 PM
Mercenary of Minas Tirith Points: 558 Posts: 107 Joined: 02/Apr/2006
You have summed it up well. Cheers.
Túrin 24/Apr/2006 at 02:51 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Varda - Great thread and great arguments!

I’m glad that you collected your take on the matter, Sauron999, it makes it easier to point out the flaw(flaws?) in your logic. You give these arguments:

* No Rational being is wholly evil.
Premise 1: Agreeed
* an Irrational being can be wholly evil as Tolkien says in the first quote.
Premise 2: Incorrect, I will explain why below.
*Sauron is as evil as any rational being can possibly be.
Premise 3: Agreed.
* My quote states that Melkor was irrational for the latter opart of his reign.
Premise 4: Partially agreed, I will explain below.
* It therefore follows that Melkor, being irrational did, in Tolkien eyes, have the potencial to be Wholly evil.
Conclusion: Since the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises (even from the true ones), and not all the premises are true - the conclusion is not true.

You claim that "I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil" means that an irrational being therefore can be evil. This is not a logically sound transformation to make. Taking P to be the premise and Q to be the conclusion then:

"If P, therefore Q" statement is not logically equivalent to the statement "Not P, therefoer not Q". The second is what is called the converse (if I recall properly) of the first, and converses are not logically equivalent. They might have the same truth to them, but they need not, and so we cannot say they are equivalent statements.

Therefore, while we can say that a rational being cannot be Absoltue Evil, we are not then given the right to say that irrational beings can be Absolute Evil. I would urge you to look again at something that has been pointed out a few times, that being the fact that Tolkien did not believe Absolute Evil even existed. It would be quite difficult for someone to be Absolute Evil if they cannot exist, if they cannot simply be. After all, one needs to be before they can be something, don’t you agree?

Also, as Varda has pointed out, there is a difference between having rational thought and being a rational being. You might claim that this is an ad hoc argument in order to demonstrate the point that Melkor was not Absolute Evil, but it clearly is not, because Tolkien did not believe in Absolute Evil, he does not agree with the thought that it exists. To Tolkien, Absolute Evil is a concept, a notion, not an actuality. I like the way that Varda described it in her post on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 18:54.

IF Tolkien believed in Absolute Evil, you might be right. However, the fact that Tolkien does not believe in the actuality of Absolute Evil means that we have to be careful with the term "rational being" and "rational thought", since Melkor cannot be both Absoltue Evil and...well...exist.
Boromir88 24/Apr/2006 at 03:37 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

As Turin goes into more difficult logic, I think I’ll just come out and point out some of the obvious things.

"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil."
You seem to be over-looking this part of the quote, which is probably the most important part.  Tolkien says he doesn’t deal with absolute evil, therefor there’s no reason to assume that Morgoth was absolutely evil.

Also, there were several intriguing threads on who was more evil Sauron or Morgoth...Turin is of course involved and there have been wonderful arguments put together to show that Sauron did indeed, become MORE evil than Morgoth was.  Below is just one link of the several you can find using Forum search:

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=21&TopicID=193667&PagePosition=1

Sauron999 25/Apr/2006 at 01:12 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

Boromir88  - Than you will notice the I do not think at any rate section of the quote where Tolkien is correcting his last sentence.

Turin - It is in my mind that if someone is not capable of rational thought, then they are only capable of irrational thought making them irrational. There is no in between.

Here are my point again:

* No Rational being is wholly evil. -   ’I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil

*an Irrational being can be wholly evil as Tolkien says in the first quote. - ’do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil.’

*Sauron is as evil as any rational being can possibly be. ’In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible."

* My quote states that Melkor was irrational for the latter opart of his reign. - He was aware, at any rate originally when he was capable of rational thought .

* It therefore follows that Melkor, being irrational did, in Tolkien eyes, have the potencial to be Wholly evil. - This is the only conclusion one can make. This is basic logic following the quotes by each point from above.

Sauron999 25/Apr/2006 at 01:14 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006
I would also like to re-establish my point that Tolkien says - "Morgoth fell before the creation of the phisical world". This means he is excluding Melkor in his analogy and confining it to the phisical world.
VardaElbereth 25/Apr/2006 at 07:05 AM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
Sauron999- You are still ignoring the very first part of the quote that Boromir88 has brought up as well. In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. Tolkien did not believe in Absolute Evil, period. No exceptions were made for Morgoth, as was seen also in the same quote.

And again, as Turin has pointed out and I have pointed out there is a difference between rational thoughts and a rational being.

Also, as I have pointed out before Melkor/Morgoth most certainly was part of the physical world for a great period of time. And if you take into account his dispersing himself throughout Arda in "Morgoth’s Ring" you could argue he is still part of the physical world. The word fell here has nothing to do with vanquished. It refers to Melkor/Morgoth’s fall from grace.

Turin- I went back to my post that you indicated that you liked. I couldn’t figure out why you liked it until I realized I had used the notion of the limit to help exlpain Absolute Evil.   A math major would notice that, wouldn’t he?
Sauron999 25/Apr/2006 at 08:14 AM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006

How can you say that? Tolkien syas it himself - "Morgoth fell before the creation of the phisical world".

Also I gave Boromir88 an answer. Tolkien corrects himself by saying - "I do not at any rate beleive any rational being is wholly evil."

Túrin 25/Apr/2006 at 09:19 AM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Quote: Originally posted by Sauron999 on Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Turin - It is in my mind that if someone is not capable of rational thought, then they are only capable of irrational thought making them irrational. There is no in between.

Here are my point again:

* No Rational being is wholly evil. -   ’I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil

*an Irrational being can be wholly evil as Tolkien says in the first quote. - ’do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil.’

*Sauron is as evil as any rational being can possibly be. ’In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible."

* My quote states that Melkor was irrational for the latter opart of his reign. - He was aware, at any rate originally when he was capable of rational thought .

* It therefore follows that Melkor, being irrational did, in Tolkien eyes, have the potencial to be Wholly evil. - This is the only conclusion one can make. This is basic logic following the quotes by each point from above.


You had laid out or take about 4 posts up, you didn’t need to do it again.  Suffice to say that I read it and perfectly understand what you’re arguing and attempting to do.  I thought I had clearly pointed out the gap in your logic...and in fact I did.

You are arguing that "I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil"
means the same as "I do think only an irrational being can be wholly evil"

This is not true.

As I said in my previous post, the two statements are not logically equivalent.  You make a big deal out of logical reasoning while you clearly do not understand it in the least.  The statements are inverses, and inverses are not logically equivalent, as I illustrate below with truth tabels.

Statement:

P

Q

P --> Q

T

T

T

T

F

F

F

T

T

F

F

T


Converse:

P

Q

~P --> ~Q

T

T

T

T

F

T

F

T

F

F

F

T

As you can see, the truth values do not match up (namely the middle two truth values which I have put in green).  If you don’t understand how truth tables work, I can explain it for you.  The two statements are not logically equivalent.  Therefore, one the the premises upon which you build your argument is false, and so your argument is fundementally flawed.  Tolkien is not making any sort of statement about irrational beings, he is making a statement only about rational beings.  You cannot translate between the two for the purposes you want to.  Logic denies it.

The statement you are using to try and say this is saying, "Certainly no rational being is wholly evil".  This is not somehow saying that an irrational being can be wholly evil.  It’s saying there that any being which is absolute evil is going to be an irrational being (note that: irrational being, not a rational being who acts irrationally)..  However, Tolkien says nothing that indicates a wholly evil being can indeed exist.

And given the evidence from Geordie, that Tolkien does not believe in absolute evil, as well as the sentance directly before the statement you are trying to use, which you are steadfastly ignoring, we have reason enough to believe that Tolkien does not think Absolute Evil is an actuality.  I repeat: if Tolkien did not believe that anything could be Absolute Evil (since Absolute Evil is Zero, non-existence), then how do you propose a being can be Absolute Evil?

The fact that Tolkien explicitly says he does not believe in Absolute Evil should be indication enough that your interpretation of the following sentance is wrong, or your definition of irrational being is wrong, or both.

Boromir88 25/Apr/2006 at 11:35 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

Sauron, the thing is you are combining both parts of the quote.  This part:
"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil."
This part, Tolkien is talkinga bout his story, which he says in his story there is no absolute evil.

Then he goes on with:
I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil...."
This is what Tolkien THINKS about Absolute evil...not about what’s in his story, but his thoughts about it.  And he thinks:
1) There is no absolute evil, because that would be Zero
2) He thinks that no rational being is wholly evil

Then he finishes up with what is in his story again:
"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to wholly evil will as is possible."
Where in Tolkien’s story, Sauron comes to as near absolute evil as possible.

Bottomline is, notice the different between "In my story" and "I do not think."  Tolkien comes right out and tells us "In my story I do not deal with absolute evil," then he goes on to explain what he THINKS about absolute evil.

Sauron999 25/Apr/2006 at 12:38 PM
Banned Points: 379 Posts: 69 Joined: 21/Feb/2006
If you cannot make any successful rebuttals to my self explanatory quotes then I will see you around on some other thread.
Been good having discussion with you, but its my policy not to get bogged down in threads where the opposition has little to say.
Cheers
Nenuphar 25/Apr/2006 at 01:50 PM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005
Okay, hope I can remember what I wanted to say! By the way, before I forget, thanks for your explanation, Turin. I think you laid things out really well.

First of all, Varda, I agree with what you said about the importance of intentions. Motivations do matter, and must be taken into account. I was refering more to desires and emotions, if that makes sense. It’s kind of late, but I’ll see if I can explain myself. We all have desires; some of them are for good things, some for bad things, but having a desire is not in and of itself a good or bad thing (what we desire can say a lot about who we are, but a desire or an emotion is neutral). If my sister makes me angry and I feel like strangling her, that’s simply how I feel, not something good or bad. I was trying to separate that from the action, but after reading your post (please let me know if you don’t think this makes sense) I think I would throw intentions in with actions. In the situation I just mentioned, I have various options (although actually strangling my sister isn’t a very likely one). For example, I can choose to talk through the problem with her, or to yell at her, or not to talk to her for a few days, etc. Obviously those are not all equally good solutions, but each of them can be done with good or bad intentions. I can talk through the problem with her because I honestly want to resolve it, or because I want to have a chance to prove to someone else that I’m a better person than she is because I tried using reason to resolve things. I could yell at her because I lose my temper and act like a jerk, or because I feel like it’s a really serious issue and honestly can’t think of any other way to get her full attenion. I can keep from talking to her for a few days because I want to punish her emotionally by giving her the silent treatment, or because I know that I’m feeling hurt enough that I need to give myself space to think things through so I won’t try to hurt her back. Does that make sense? (sorry that was such a long example) So I agree with what you said about intentions being important. However, the original emotion -- anger -- and the original desire -- to strangle my sister -- were in my mind neither good nor bad. They just are; I have to deal with them, but they don’t make me a good or bad person. For me, the idea of desiring happiness falls into that same category; the desire itself is neutral, and the part that matters is what we do with it. Any thoughts?

I wanted to bring back the idea that someone else mentioned earlier about possibly having an object like the Ring be absolutely evil. All the conversation about rational vs. irrational beings made me think about that again. That kind of gets into what Varda mentioned, though, and what I talked about in the last paragraph. An important part of evilness (or goodness) is your will and intentions. We believe that killing human beings is bad, and if we hear that a human being murders another human being we consider that an evil act. Yet if we hear of someone dying from Ebola, even though they died a horrible, torturous death, we wouldn’t call the Ebola virus evil. We might say it’s bad, terrible, to be avoided at all costs, etc., but we would recognize that the virus is not out to torture and muder people, because it doesn’t have the will and rational ability for such a thing. I’ve read many stories which talked about an evil object, place, etc, and haven’t really thought through it. But is that possible? It seems to me that something becomes capable of evil when it does bad things with intention. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

KitsuneluYasha: Hmm, I’m not sure how to respond to your post. First of all, I think you make an assumption that many people make, but that isn’t necessarily true: if you make a mistake, you’re doing something wrong (I say this because you said that Eru and God had made mistakes and therefore could not be 100% good). Making a mistake does not mean that you’re good or bad; you messed up, yes, but that error does not necessarily have moral weight to it. Secondly, that’s a sticky question. The Christian God (and in my understanding, Eru as well) made the choice to give rational beings free will. Instead of Eru forcing his children to follow him, or the Valar to obey, he gave the choice, so that he would have children rather than slaves or robots. This left open the possibility that his children would fall, as in fact they did. However, that was 100% their choice. I would argue that while this decision to give free will made the downfall of Morgoth possible, it was also the most loving choice Eru could have made, and the fact that Morgoth chose to fall does not mean that Eru wasn’t 100% good (just as you wouldn’t automatically say that someone is a bad parent because their child is messing up).
Royal Armenos 25/Apr/2006 at 03:04 PM
Crafter of Erebor Points: 6127 Posts: 5692 Joined: 23/Jan/2008

Sauron999-We are making great rebuttals to your statements, you are just being to ignorant to acknowledge that you are wrong.  You do not have the self-explanatory quotes that you think you do, you have quotes that you have twisted to fit your own wrong purpose.  Why don’t you try and rebut us successfully?  You can’t.  All you are doing is saying the same ignorant thing over and over without defending it from the points that we make against it.

 

Than you will notice the ’I do not think at any rate section of the quote where Tolkien is correcting his last sentence.

 

He was not correcting his last sentence as you would believe.  He says there is no absolute evil.  Thus he does not think that any rational being is wholly evil.  He does not say that some are wholly evil.  The “at any rate” part is adding to the strength of him believing in NO absolute evil thing as it means pretty much the same as in any case.  That is not a correction, it is adding onto the previous statement.  You twisted that quote horribly and still couldn’t defend it properly.

 

It therefore follows that Melkor, being irrational did, in Tolkien eyes, have the potencial to be Wholly evil.

 

I would like to see where he says that.  Yeah, he doesn’t.  He only is dealing with rational beings, not irrational so you can’t make assumptions as absurd as yours and say they are proven correct when you have NO evidence to do so.

 

Now, try and rebut all of our posts instead of whining at how we aren’t properly rebutting yours.  If we are doing it so wrong, show us how.

 

VardaElbereth 25/Apr/2006 at 08:02 PM
Counsellor of Imladris Points: 3313 Posts: 3602 Joined: 24/Jan/2004
Nenuphar- I entirely understand what you are saying about desires.   Desires and emotions are indeed seperate from intentions. For the purpose of this thread, let’s see if I can get some working definitions on these things... (this is not necessarily how they would be defined in a dictionary, but, is just to help me lay some boundaries between differnt words.)

Mind- The realm of logic and voluntary desires. However, illogic may reign if overly influenced by the heart.

Heart- Where emotion and involuntary reactions take place. Can become sterile if overly influenced by the mind.

Desire - An involuntary reaction or longing within the "heart". Can become voluntary if held onto.

Emotions- The movement of the "heart" pertaining to a certain situation. Involuntary at first, but can become voluntary if said emotions are purposely re-inforced.

Intention- A) It may be a desire that is no longer involuntary. B) What a person means to happen, despite outward appearances.

Action- The physical doings (be they verbal or actually physical) of a person.

Inaction- The lack of physical doings (be they verbal or actually physical) of a person, where normally action could or would take place.

Thoughts- Only take place in the mind; can become intentions.


And I agree, to a point, that emotion and desire are neutral. In the first movement of the heart, when the emotion and desire are first experienced, I do view them as neutral. However, if someone has an evil desire (such as strangling someone *g*) and rather than rationally tell themselves that this is not a feasible course of action, but instead holds on to this desire, making it involuntary, then I think we cross a line into evil. The same with emotion, if you hold on to your anger longer than you should (assuming it is not righteous anger, which shouldn’t last that long anyway) than again, I think a line is crossed. How long until the line is crossed though? It would vary from person to person, but I think once a person becomes aware of the desire or the emotion and the fact that they are indeed evil, that is when the choice must be made whether to cross the line or not. Even if the desire for happiness is neutral in Sauron, it is at the least not evil, and he still would not be entirely evil.

As for things being absolutely evil, I did muse over that for a bit, but ultimately rejected it. We do not call the Ebola virus evil, because no one intentionally went out and made it to go around killing people. (Actually, I could argue otherwise, but that goes into religion, so I won’t touch that!) A thing becomes evil, in ME, not because it was created so, for Eru created nothing evil to begin with, but because it has been twisted from its original purpose. Sauron twisted the Ring from its original purpose, whatever it may have been, and it became evil. But, Eru is the ultimate source of all things created, to turn the Ring wholly evil, one would have to have creative powers, to entirely change the sunstance of the Ring itself. And no one has creative powers except Eru. After all, even though the Ring has been mostly turned from its original purpose, it still does some of the things a Ring, or even gold is supposed to do. It sinks in water, you can wear it on your finger, and etc. And again, we have the problem of zero. If Absolute Evil = 0, then nothing can be absolutely evil, because then it wouldn’t exist!
Nenuphar 26/Apr/2006 at 12:53 PM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005
Royal Armenos: Thanks. I agree with what you said, but couldn’t think of a good way to say it, so I just left it alone. I appreciate Sauron999’s participation in the discussion, but I too feel that his points were all well-addressed in a logical, carefully considered manner.

Varda: I think I agree with what you’re saying. I think I might tweak your second to last paragraph a bit to say that I would still distinguish between desires/emotions and intentions/actions more than you did, but I think we’re just using vocabulary in a slightly different way. For me, I agree that if you cross over to holding on to a wrong desire (I assume you meant that you make it voluntary, and that the word "involuntary" was a typo ) then that’s when it becomes an evil act. However, I would say that that’s when it moves from becoming a desire/emotion to becoming an intention/action. If I become angry, that’s an emotion. If I choose to hold on to my anger and let it become bitterness, then that’s an action. Often we don’t recognize this, but if we stop and think about it we can recognize that we’re actually choosing to replay the hurtful memories over and over again to keep our hurt going, reinforcing our anger, etc. (or at the very least not stopping them when the mental replay button gets triggered somehow). It’s the same with any other desire/emotion. Of course, like I said, that seems to be basically the same thing you’re saying, only with slightly different wording. However, I wanted to clarify to be sure.

Interestingly enough, one of the things I noticed (I think I mentioned this in my first post, but I’m not sure) while looking this up in the books was that according to Morgoth’s Ring, one of the main reasons Sauron could make the Ring in the way he did was that the gold (along with every other part of Arda) had some of the essence of Morgoth in it. Without this original corruption, Sauron would not have been able to make the gold take the evilness (is that a word?) that he gave it (he also said that some materials -- such as gold -- were much more susceptible to Morgoth’s corruption, whereas others -- silver and water -- were barely changed by it). So in a way the very material of Middle-earth had a certain amount of evilness in it (if I understood the quote correctly).

So what does it mean that the Ring was evil? (even if it wasn’t absolute evil) I’ve wondered that sometimes. We know it had something of its own personality; how did that work? Was it some of Sauron’s personality, or did the Ring receive some of his evilness and then develop in its own direction?

Okay, what does "absolute evil=0" mean? It sounds all well and good, but I can’t put my mind around it in any real way. What was Tolkien trying to get at there? (forgive me if that was mentioned earlier; I don’t remember it, but then I’m a bit tired)
Mos111 26/Apr/2006 at 01:58 PM
Banned Points: 2 Posts: 1 Joined: 19/Apr/2006
I aggree Nenuphar - I think Sauron999 has constructed a far better argument than the others. I don’t intend to get involved becuase I don’t think that there is much to get involved in - Sauron999 has my vote!
Royal Armenos 26/Apr/2006 at 03:12 PM
Crafter of Erebor Points: 6127 Posts: 5692 Joined: 23/Jan/2008

Mos111-Would you like to let us know how his argument is above everyone elses when he refuses to defend it with any logic?  He made one post that actually explained something new, we rebutted it, and now he has run away saying that we haven’t proven him wrong without providing any information as to why.  How does that make it better? 

Nenuphar-Yes, his first few posts had some good arguments but now that he has decided to stop supporting them when they go under fire, it makes his posts lose their er.

Sauron999-I suggest that in the future not to run and hide from threads where you make crazy assumptions and refuse to back them up and rebut others rebuttals.  In this forum that will not get you very far.

Boromir88 26/Apr/2006 at 07:02 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

mos, I won’t deny that he made an intriguing argument...but intriguing arguments doesn’t make it automatically right.  It was an intriguing argument, but a flawed one, and as has been shown my several to be a flawed one.

So what does it mean that the Ring was evil? (even if it wasn’t absolute evil) I’ve wondered that sometimes. We know it had something of its own personality; how did that work? Was it some of Sauron’s personality, or did the Ring receive some of his evilness and then develop in its own direction?~Nenuphar
For me, it’s always seems as if the Ring’s personality is like another Sauron.  Because the instances where the Ring tries to corrupt someone is rather "Sauron-like."  It corrupts individuals with desires of power, control, and glory, and if you want nothing to do power, control, or glory, than you can resist the Ring.

Also, it’s powers are bound to Sauron.  But what’s interesting is that the Ring can survive without Sauron...it can have a different master other than Sauron and still survive...but Sauron cannot survive without the Ring.  If the Ring is destroyed Sauron is no longer a factor...He will be a shadow, as his spirit wouldn’t be destroyed, but he would never again be able to reform:
While he wore it, his power on earth was actually enhanced.  But even if he did not wear it, that power existed and was in ’rapport’ with himself: he was not ’diminished’.  Unless some other seized it and became possessed of it.  If that happened, the new possessor could (if sufficiently strong and heroic by nature) challenge Sauron, become master of all that he had learn and done since the making of the One Ring, and so overthrow him and usurp his place.~Letter to Milton Waldman
So, in all essence I think the Ring was just like another Sauron, and a part of Sauron’s will.  For one, it’s powers remained with Sauron, unless someone could master it.  And even if someone did master it, that person would in effect just turn out to become another Sauron. 

Nenuphar 27/Apr/2006 at 12:37 PM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005
Hmm, Boromir88, an interesting idea. What makes you think the Ring could survive without Sauron? You may be right, but I don’t know how we would know that. The quote you mentioned might mean that, or it might mean that Sauron would be usurped and overthrown, but still alive. If Sauron were somehow completely destroyed without the Ring being destroyed (highly theoretical, since I don’t know if it’s at all possible), would the Ring still exist?

Can it be "just like another Sauron" and "a part of Sauron’s will" at the same time? One sounds like a Sauron clone, and the other like a piece that’s part of the whole that makes up Sauron. I agree that if someone else managed to master it, they would become pretty much just like him, though.
Boromir88 27/Apr/2006 at 01:23 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

I think I’ll start off first with this:
Can it be "just like another Sauron" and "a part of Sauron’s will" at the same time?
What I mean by it’s "like another Sauron," is that is possesses the same qualities and desires as Sauron.  It tempts people through power, glory, control, and possession, must like Sauron does.  Sauron doesn’t even consider that anyone would want to destroy the Ring.  At the Black Gates he feels Aragorn has the Ring, because if he was in Aragorn’s position that’s what HE would do.  So, the Ring shares the same qualities as Sauron.  And because of this, it seems (to me) to be a part of Sauron’s will.  What I meant by "it’s like another Sauron" was that it shares the same mind as Sauron.

What makes you think the Ring could survive without Sauron?
Going back to the Milton Waldman quote we can see this...The quote says that the powers of the Ring and is in rapport, or is bound to Sauron.  Which, is why by Sauron simply losing the Ring at the end of the Second Age, he was able to reform and rebuild, because the Ring’s power was still bound to Sauron.  And the quote goes on to say that in order to break the bond between the Ring and Sauron one must:If that happened, the new possessor could (if sufficiently strong and heroic by nature) challenge Sauron, become master of all that he had learn and done since the making of the One Ring, and so overthrow him and usurp his place.
Also, the Letter to Milton Waldman continues, with (which I did not include above):
This was the essential weakness he had introduce into his situation in his effort (largely unsuccessful) to enslave the Elves, and in his desire to establish control over the minds and wills of his servants.  There was another weakness: if the One Ring was actually unmade, annihilated, then it’s power would be dissolved, Sauron’s own being would be diminished to a vanishing point, and he would be reduced to a shadow, a mere memory of malicious will.
So, the Letter goes and sets up two instances where Sauron could be destroyed.  One could either claim the Ring, study Sauron, master the Ring and usurp his place.  This would in effect break the bond between the Ring’s powers and Sauron, as someone else would be the "new master of the Ring..." and this was the main thing Sauron feared.  Or it goes on to explain the other way which was destroying the Ring entirely, where the Ring’s powers were dissolved.


Rohin 07/May/2006 at 11:16 AM
Scout of Lothlorien Points: 18 Posts: 35 Joined: 03/May/2006
I think absolute evil does exist in Tolkien’s books. For example look at Smaugh the Dragon. He is evil and not good because he steals treasures, kills people and dwarfs and he "stole a mountain". Also the Balrog, I don’t think that he is only a bit good and the nazgûl are also pure evil.
Dunadar 08/May/2006 at 12:23 AM
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Nenuphar I agree with your argument about desire being neutral and not necesarily evil. I also thought that you presented your case very eloquently. I’m not sure what you intended to say about intentions/action. Personally I would seperate intention from action. If I harm someone with an intention to do good to them, did I still do good? I did evil even though my intention was good (I might of misunderstood what you were trying to say, so this isn’t directed at you but rather my own thoughts sparked by something you said).  Intention for good can be turned to evil, we can see this in FOTR we Gandalf explains that he would use the ring from a desire (also an intention) to do good, but the ring would corrupt him to do evil. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe intention leads to good or evil in and of itself. I think what determines it is mainly the action. Sure your emotions and intentions have a great weight on the action you are going to take but it is still internal and hasn’t harmed anyone yet. Thoughts, emotions, and intentions may all be evil but we still have a choice of whether to act on that evil or not. That choice defines whether we do good or evil, at least in my opinion.      
Boromir88 10/May/2006 at 12:21 PM
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Another thing I noticed about "evil" in Tolkien, and this is probably the majority of the "bad side" in the books, is Sam’s first experience of War between men:
It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace--all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.~Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbits
This leaves you wondering with exactly what type of people these "Men of Sauron" were.  Were they truly Evil, or were they suckered in by Sauron?  Were they told by their leaders to march to war?  Did they want to?  These are all questions that Sam gives us, are these men really evil for being lied to or perhaps brought against their will?

This is important because Sam serves as a good mediator when it comes to the biased Mablung and Damrod:
"Aye, curse the Southrons!" said Damrod. "Tis said that there were dealings of old between Gondor and the kingdoms of Harad in the far South; though there was never friendship...Now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them, and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him-they were ever ready to His will-as have so many also in the East..."~ibid
Damrod and Mablung hold more hatred toward the "Southrons," and in a way it’s understandable, they are serving "the Enemy," however, because of their hatred towards the Southrons they are a much more biased view of the men.  It seems to Damrod and Mablung that these guys are just followers of Sauron and that makes them evil.  Sam steps in as someone who knows little about either of the sides and he shows more pity to the dead soldier and wonders was he truly evil, or was he brought here against he lied to, and would he rather have wanted to be back at home?

Dunadar 12/May/2006 at 12:56 AM
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That’s a good point Boromir but its a wonder how Sam pity this dead soldier who is in service to the enemy, and yet find no pity for Gollum because he thinks that Gollum still is in service to the enemy. I think that Sam can pity the Southron because he posed no threat (or at least in his mind) to himself or more importantly, Frodo. Sam sees Gollum as a threat and only really finds pity for Gollum on Mount Doom. Damrod and Mablung aren’t that much different. Then don’t pity the soldiers because they are in service to the enemy and will do evil to their homes if they don’t stop them. It is a thought provoking question that you raised Boromir and I think that it echoes Tolkien’s own thoughts when he was fighting during WWI. The problem is that even though they were probably not evil at heart, they were going to do great evil and what should be done about that?
Lucentorn 12/May/2006 at 05:54 AM
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Well I think that Tolkien is quite right with saying that there is no such thing as wholly evil. Everyone is born normal (or at least quite normal ) and it are the people and things around you that have effect on what you will become when you grow up. Someone who witnesses horrible things as a child, might become a very bittered person in his older years, and so on. So that stated that there is no person that is completely evil. Tolkien is quite right to say that Sauron might be the closest to wholly evil there is.
Black Numenorian 12/May/2006 at 10:05 AM
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I don’t think Sauron would be as close to purely evil as Morgoth would.  Sauron had been turned due to Morgoth’s persuasion.  Morgoth was closer to wholly evil due to the fact he is Manwes brother and even more closely tied to good.
VardaElbereth 14/May/2006 at 08:07 PM
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Boromir88- You raise an excellent point.  I am one with Sam, actually.  Why are the Southrons there?  Were they lied to, threatened?  Are they truly evil?  It is a sticky question, but one well worth answering.  It forces you to look your enemy in the eye and say "You are like me, a person worthy of respect and with dignity.  If my life had been different, would I have ended up like you?"

But in the end:

Similarily, good actions by those on the wrong side will not justify their cause. There may be deeds on the wrong side of heroic courage, or some of a higher moral level: deeds of mercy and forebearance. A judge may accord them honour and rejoice to see how men can rise above the hate and anger of a conflict; even as he may deplore the evil deeds on the right side and be grieved to see how hatred once provoked can drag them down. But this will not alter his judgement as to which side was in the right, nor his assignment of the primary blame for all the evil that followed to the other side. Letter 183

Unfortunately, the Southrons are ultimately on the wrong side.  I can with confidence say any action a Southron takes against Gondor, or the West in general, is evil.  However, I cannot say that the Southron himself is evil.  Was he brought he under fear of death, for himself or his family?  If this is so, the degree of guilt and responsibility for his actions is greatly lessened, as his free will is being impeded (though not entirely stopped).  Was he lied to?  His guilt and responsibility become even less, possibly disappearing altogether if he truly entirely believes the lies he has been told (for then he has been deceived and believes his actions are not evil at all but good).  This does not stop the acts he commits against Gondor or the West from being evil objectively, but it does mean I cannot judge him as a person.  There are only a few beings I would peg as evil in The Lord of the Rings, and surrounding stories, with confidence.  Morgoth- yes.  Sauron- yes.  Even Saruman, to a lesser degree.  But why?  Why can I say these beings are evil?  It is because I not only see their actions, I am allowed to see into their minds.  I know what they are thinking, and the fact that they know what they are doing is wrong.  They are not being deceived, and they have not been forced by anyone to do what they know is wrong. 

Turgonian 15/May/2006 at 01:55 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Son of Huor on Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This goes for evil too. I am not sure, mind you, but it think, that Tolkien defines evil here as ’the lack of good’ Evil is nothing in itself. Darkness is not a substance, it is the lack of light. Shadow is nothing, it is a place where light cannot come because of a blocade. In the same way, evil is nothing, it is lack of good quatlities.


Sorry if I’m saying that has already been stated before. I must confess I haven’t had time to read the thread, so point me somewhere if this has already been answered.

But recently, the question of Absolute Evil was also nagging me. I thought of Ungoliant and her Unlight, which was a darkness with a Being of its own. What shred of good, what shred of light was there in the webs of Ungoliant?

Dunadar 15/May/2006 at 06:26 AM
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That’s a good point Turgonian. The problem is that Light and Darkness don’t equal evil and good. They are ofen used to as a comparisson, and are very good for them, as if Light and Darkness were created to explain good and evil, but you can’t say that darkness equals evil. Lorien begged Manwe to have a period when the Arien wouldn’t carry the sun in the heavens because he said that people would be deprived of sleep and rest. Sleep and Rest are good things, but things that don’t come easily in brightness. Yet its a very could question you brought up, and what really struck me is the fact that the darkness is a being. I’m not sure what to make of that...
Turgonian 16/May/2006 at 02:43 AM
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Dunadar - Throughout philosophy, there have been two approaches of evil: 1) the absence of good and 2) a force of itself. Now it seems that the Greeks seemed to regard it mainly as the absence of good, while the Norse saw it as a force of itself (in Norse mythology, you have giants, the Fenris-wolf, and a lot of other purely evil creatures, while you don’t have such intriguing beings in Greek mythology).

Tolkien was inspired by Norse mythology, so it may well be possible that the web of Ungoliant was a kind of evil force, an existing darkness. After all, a spider’s web is not exactly a ’rational creature’.

Dunadar 16/May/2006 at 04:09 AM
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Turgonian perhaps I misinterpreted what you were trying to say, or perhaps you misinturpreted what I was trying to say but it seems to me that you haven’t addressed the point brought up. I don’t see how the nature of evil relates to my point about light and darkness being metaphors for good and evil. I can see how it relates to this thread on a whole I just can see how it relates to my point. Of course Tolkien could have meant Ungoliant’s web to be an evil force, but I don’t think that the fact that it was dark made it evil. Rather the fact that it devoured light, it was more like a void then anything else. You’re probably right, now I’m just arguing for arguements sake. 

Erutulcon Alarion 06/Jun/2006 at 08:31 PM
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wow, this is the most interseting subject i have really seen in a long time. Well, i think like Tolkein, that it is impossible to be wholly evil because everyone tries to achieve happiness! some people do it good ways and other people do it bad ways. So acheiving happiness is not being evil. its just how they do that is evil, not themselves. I do think though that Sauron is not evil, because of what i just said. He tried to obtain power (like every other evil ruler in this world) in order to seek happiness. Wow! so a person to beasbolute evil, they have to do evil, not to make them happy, but to hate doing it, and continue to do it! I do not wanna see absolute evil, well i guess thats what Satan’s for!
Turgonian 08/Jun/2006 at 01:38 AM
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Dunadar - It’s quite some time ago, but at last, a reply. The statement ’Evil is the absence of good’  often corresponds to ’Darkness is the absence of light’. Tolkien didn’t believe in Absolute Evil, but apparently he did believe in Absolute Darkness, and it was not zero -- unless it was a void, which brought ’zero’ into the world.

I wonder what happened to Ungoliant’s web, though. I can’t imagine the Valar would have left it sticking to Hyarmentir (was that the name?). I guess they destroyed it.

Celebrimbor 09/Jun/2006 at 06:16 AM
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I believe that absolute evil or at least this concept has more credence than many and most are willing to acknowledge. I think it is a part of a sub-conscious defense mechanism that one might seek to deny the existence of something that is so threatening and hard to comprehend. I would consent that absolute evil would be an extremely rare thing. I would further consent that absolute evil could only exist in one who is in full control of his or her mental faculties, i.e. a person who commits an outwardly evil deed because of a lack of viable consciousness or understanding of the world around them could not be held wholely accountable for their actions. However, I believe that absolute evil can exist in extreme cases despite these qualifiers. Furthermore I believe it was present in ME in several individuals, Sauron for instance. I cannot think of any situation where Sauron’s hand might be stayed from committing the evilest of deeds. I do not believe he has conscience enough to perceive any wrong as being too deplorable. Not through pity, morality, conscience, understanding, empathy or even a basic sense of respect would Sauron ever judge any action as being worthy of restraint. I would, therefore, venture the opinion that this could be perceived as pure evil.
Eladar 09/Jun/2006 at 08:10 AM
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Turgonian,

Dunadar - It’s quite some time ago, but at last, a reply. The statement ’Evil is the absence of good’  often corresponds to ’Darkness is the absence of light’.

Yes, but what is good?

Ragnelle 09/Jun/2006 at 12:54 PM
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Turgonian: While Tolkien did get some inspiration from Norse Mythology, you can not use that to agrue that there is puerly evil creatures in Tolkien’s books, for the simple reason that there is no, conterary to popular belif, puerly evil creatures in the Norse Myths. The jotuns (giants/trolls) are not ’evil’, but forces of chaos, and the æsir (gods) are not ’good’, but forces of order. There are intermarrages between the two (Njord and Skade, Frøy and Gerd to mention two such marrages) and some of the gods are jotuns: Mime the counselor of Odin and Ty, the god of war. The jotuns where the first beings and the æsir killed the first jotun because they were afraid the jotuns would become too many.
Turgonian 10/Jun/2006 at 01:48 PM
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Celebrimbor - What you say sounds very good, but Tolkien explicitly stated that he did not believe in Absolute Evil, since that was Zero.

Eladar - In Middle-earth, Good is what corresponds to the will of Ilúvatar.

Ragnelle - No, I didn’t say that. I only said that Greek mythology seemed to work with the idea ’evil is the absence of good’, whereas Norse mythology seems to go along the lines of ’good and evil are opposing and both very real forces’ (there is a Ragnarok, for instance, which concept is alien to Greek mythology).
You’re right in what you said. And I might add that one of the ’real’ (non-Jotun) gods, Loki, turns evil in the end, and will play a large part in Ragnarok, ’when the sons of Múspell go a-harrying’... So you’re right, the dividing line isn’t between races.

Ragnelle 10/Jun/2006 at 04:54 PM
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Turgonian: I probably missunderstood you, though I still would protest that ’good’ and ’evil’ are consepts that is not helpful to our understanding of the Norse myths - but that is a different toppic. I did not mention Loke because he is in fact not of the same race (if I can use that word) as the æsir, though he is counted as one. His father is jotun and his mother probably an elf.

I think that the division between good and evil that we see in Tolkien’s writings - even when we take into considereation that the evil is not absolute - is a more modern way of thinking, and inspired by the Christian faith. There are in Norse mythology stories and consepts that point towards a division between good and evil - more than in the Greek myths - but much of that is thought to be inspired by Christian thinking, and not original to the Norse myths. After all, most of what we know of the Norse myths are the stories retold by Christian autors Even the poems of the Poetic Edda - which is older than Snorri’s prose Edda - were probably recorded by Christian scribes.

But I would say both Greek and Norse mythology is more about chaos against order, not evil opposed to good. And it seems that Tolkien uses some of the Chaos/Cosomos theme in his stories as well. Morgoth brings disorder, the other Valar strive for order. Frodo meets chaos in Bag End when he comes home; Mordor brought to The Shire. I am sure there are more examples of this, but I do not recall them at the moment.

VardaElbereth 10/Jun/2006 at 07:14 PM
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Ah, yes, but why is there chaos?  There is chaos because someone, somwhere along the line, chose to go against the will of Iluvatar.  And that that contradicts the will of Iluvatar in Middle-earth is objectively evil.  Would Iluvatar approve of Saruman making the Shire all nasty?  Of Sauron making a Ring to dominate everyone else?  Of Morgoth, the upstart, trying to insinuate his own "grand schemes" into the Music?  Where there is chaos in Middle-earth, there we often find, if not always find, evil.  Even after Bilbo’s birthday party, when everything is chaotic as the relatives try to claim what Bilbo left to them, we find instances of evil.  Some young hobbtis are trying to knock in the back of Bilbo’s cupboard.  Lobelia is trying to make off with the silverware.  Both small things, but I think most would agree destruction of private property and stealing are wrong.

And I never could entertain the view that evil is merely the absence of good.  I talked about this earlier in the thread, but much of what we do on a day to day basis is neither "good" nor "evil".  We breathe, our eyes blink and so on.  These are just natural reactions of our body, they are inherently "neutral".  If you want to get very philosophical, if we place this in the context of Middle-earth with Iluvatar as the Being behind it all, then yes, mere actions like breathing and blinking are good, not in the sense that we are "good" for doing them, but that they are "good" things because Iluvatar intended it to be that way.  But, on our behalf, these actions would not help us before a judge.  Intentions can make the actions good or evil, for instance if we were blinking in  code for the "bad guys" blinking becomes evil.  Evil is more than the absence of good, evil is the perversion of good.  Evil is turning an Elf into an Orc.  Evil is taking a wondrous piece of Music, more perfect than could ever be imagined, and then spoiling it through your own selfishness.  Evil is placing your own desires and wants in front of everyone else’s, not matter what the cost.

Boromir88 10/Jun/2006 at 08:32 PM
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As Varda says going against Eru would be evil.  Tolkien defines "evil" in his story in Letter 131:
He (Morgoth) will rebel agianst the laws of the Creator-especially against mortality.  Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more quickly effective, - and so the Machine (or Magic).  By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents - or even the use of these talents with the corrupting motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills.  The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely realted to magic than is usually recognized.

Also, while I don’t think "absense of good," is the best way of describing evil, I would say rebelling against good is probably the best.  Whatever Society deems as "good and moral" evil would be the rebellion against it.  The History Channel did a program on Satanists.  Satanists worship the devil because he has been the prime figure of rebellion (interesting how Tolkien compares Morgoth to him as well).  Anyway, satanists pretty much rebel against all religious/moral standards that society has labelled as good.

Celebrimbor 11/Jun/2006 at 12:29 PM
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Turgonian, I realise that Tolkien specified that he did not believe in ’absolute evil’ and that thusly it would follow that he would not wish to include such a concept in his work and that furthermore he would and did specify that it didn’t exist in his work. However, if a writer decides to use thematic devices and concepts as broad, universal and ultimately subjective as good and evil then they cannot dictate the specifics of it in any kind of conclusive way. To do so would be the same as declaring that their viewpoint could and should be considered as the definitive and final classification of that theme and that it is no longer open to interpretation even as a part of an unrelated discussion. No such declaration could be made or accepted. An author can present their own opinion and how they would wish readers to apply this opinion to their own work but that is where their authority ends. In Tolkien’s opinion Sauron could not reflect absolute evil, as it did not exist, and he would not wish anyone to think so, but he cannot deny anyone their right to interpret evil in their own way and apply this to all aspects of life including his work. As a result Sauron can be sited as an example of absolute evil if one so wished. It would be a difference of opinion from Tolkien but a valid opinion nonetheless and equally applicable to his work. In short Tolkien could say that, as he saw him in his creative mind, Sauron was not absolutely evil, but that would be opinion and not fact as Tolkien is no more qualified to define evil than any other. If one wished to counterargue against Tolkien’s definition or application of evil in his own work they could do so as the interpretation of evil is intrinsically subjective. It would be an ambitious undertaking, perhaps, but they could do so.
Ragnelle 11/Jun/2006 at 02:47 PM
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Celebrimbor: The problem with saying that Sauron is an example of absoulte evil, is that it goes against the text of LotR. If anyone chooses to disregard what Tolkien says on the matter when comenting upon his own work, that is something they can do, and site Ronald Barthes to justify their stance. But even so they have to consider the text:

"For nothing is evil in the begining. Even Sauron was not so." FotR, The Council of Elrond

Would not something absolute evil also be that from the begining? If anything can be said to represent absolute evil, the Ring would make a much better case.

"We cannot use the Ruling RIng. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and it is altogether evil." Ibid

Now the question is, can a thing and a tool, even one that seems to be almost sentient, be evil?

Celebrimbor 11/Jun/2006 at 03:31 PM
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Ragnelle. In regards to whether something that is conceived through good can ever be considered as absolutely evil, I believe they can. However I am far more interested by your second idea about whether a sentient item can be possessing in either evil or good in their basest forms. I believe that such an idea does indeed have validity. As you have detailed, the One Ring would be an apt example of evil in this case. In conjunction I would suggest that the Silmarils were possessing in a sentience more akin to goodness, "Yet that crystal was to the Silmarils but as is the body to the Children of Iluvatar: the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life. And the inner fire of the Silmarils Feanor made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet, though the Trees have long withered and shine no more. Therefore even in the darkness of the deepest treasury the Silmarils of their own radiance shone like the stars of Varda; and yet, as were they indeed living things, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvellous than before.......no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil will might touch them, but it was scorched and withered" Of The Silmarils And The Unrest Of The Noldor, The Silmarillion. This passage describes how the Silmarils had unique life in and of themselves combined with intention, cognition, a will of their own and likes, desires and a hatred of evil. It also describes them in terms of possessing a body and spirit alike to the Elves. The evidence to suggest that they were sentient beings is substantial, as is the evidence to suggest that amidst this sentience is a desire to do good.

Turgonian 12/Jun/2006 at 12:07 PM
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Celebrimbor - As to the quote in the last post, you are omitting a passage that is vital to the understanding of it, in my opinion. The text says, from my memory, that either Manwë or Varda hallowed them, so that thereafter no mortal flesh, &c. Because the Silmarils had been hallowed by the Valar, evil could not touch them without pain. Tolkien writes ’as if they were living things’.

Ragnelle - Do we always have to go by what Tolkien said about his work? Should we describe Legolas as the one who did least of all the Fellowship -- even in the forum Legolas Love Letters?  Should we state with Tolkien that Frodo failed, without nuancing that viewpoint?

Ragnelle 12/Jun/2006 at 01:55 PM
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Turgonian: Where have I made such a statement? I’d like to know, because I have not intened to say that we should always go by what Tolkien have said aobout his work and if you got that from my posts I need to be clearer in the future. I hold that the text itself will have autority over the autor’s comments, the oposite of what you seem to get out of my post. If Tolkien somewhere contradict the text of LotR, I would go with the text, not the outside comment.

What I did say - or meant to say - was that even if we do not want to consider what Tolkien has said about his work, we still need to consider the work. And from my reading, I get the impression that there is no absolute evil in LotR. As I read the quote given above, Sauron was not always evil, and thus I would not call him absolute evil.

Now, Celebrimbor has a valid point when he says he considers it possible for something to become absolute evil without having been evil from the begining. I disagree, but I think that is something we just have to disagree on.

The problem I have with seeing the ring as absolut evil, Celebrimbor, is that even though it is sentient to some degree, or at least seem to be, it is stil a thing, something made to be a tool. And how can a tool be evil? A hammer is not evil, even if it is put to evil use.

But at the same time the Ring is the only thing I remeber being described as "altogether evil" and just being its guard is dangerous and corupting. A mere tool does not work that way.

I’ll have to think more about the Silmarils.

Turgonian 13/Jun/2006 at 02:43 AM
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Yeah, a hammer doesn’t turn the mind of whoever holds it.

I’m sorry, I misinterpreted your post. I thought you were trying to say that we should always go by what Tolkien said...but since you didn’t, excuse me.

Ragnelle 13/Jun/2006 at 07:27 AM
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No problem, Turgonian, misunderstandings happen.

Celebrimbor 13/Jun/2006 at 06:15 PM
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Turgonian. Indeed the Silmarils were hallowed by Varda, "And Varda hallowed the Silmarils" Of The Silmarils And The Unrest Of The Noldor, The Silmarillion. I did not intentionally ommit this passage in the belief that it would undermine my argument. The hallowing of Varda, in my opinion, simply enhanced the bias of the Silmarils and imbued it with a more defined identity that was combined with its sentience to prompt the resultant desire to harm evil. I realise that one could argue with equal potency both for and against the possibility of sentience within the Silmarils and that the passages we have outlined can, due to their ambiguity, be interpreted to corroborate both arguments. However, in my opinion, the inference of the passages is that the Silmarils have a quite developed sentience. Admittedly this sentience was not always entirely pro-active or engaging and the Silmarils did not interact with individuals on the same level as the One Ring perhaps did, but I think this sentience is present nonetheless.
Fairelindë 17/Jun/2006 at 10:58 PM
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Has anyone here read Lewis’ book Mere Christianity? He makes the distinction between world-views which are dualistic and those which are non-dualistic. Dualism, acc. to Lewis, is the belief that there exists a struggle between Good and Evil which is the fundamental nature of the universe. He argues against this view by saying that pure Evil cannot exist because the purpose of an evil action is always to cause something which is good. It seems to me that this is what VardaElbereth was expressing in her first post. 

However, I’ve had a problem with this argument since I first read it. Lewis was in fact confusing two different definitions of "Good and Evil" (taken as a unit): the one, Good and Evil in action (i.e. choosing whether or not to go against the will of God), the other, Good and Evil as a consequence of action.

Thus this argument is flawed. If the definition of Evil will is that which is the opposite of God’s (or Eru’s ) will, I believe that a wholly evil, rational being could theoretically exist.

<Nessa Edit:  Yes, I have read it.  It is excellent>

 

Turgonian 26/Jun/2006 at 06:39 AM
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Yes, I think so too. I haven’t read Mere Christianity, but your interpretation of this argument is quite insightful.  However, it would be wrong to state that the battle of good and evil is the fundamental nature of the universe. It was not founded on strife, but on love, or goodness. Quoting movie-Sam: ’In the end, it’s only a passing thing, this Shadow...’
Turgonian 26/Jun/2006 at 06:40 AM
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I meant refutation, not interpretation. Sometimes my words are so big that my foot fits in my mouth easily!
Dunadar 26/Jun/2006 at 11:43 PM
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Clearly though Tolkien believed that evil would bring about good because in his original conception of the forming of Arda (BoLT 1) Iluvatar statest that everything that would happen in Arda even the evil things would ultimately bring glory to himself. In other words everything that happens in ME be it good or evil would ultimately produce something good (it would bring glory to Eru).

Turgonian The only thing that was really passing was that current Shadow. Sauron couldn’t take physical form again and Melkor was locked behind the door of night but both could and would still work what evil they could. Only at the breaking of the world would evil be vanquished for certain. I’m not saying that ME was built upon strife, but strife was a constant factor in ME. Each of the three themes had strife in it and the only reason the fourth didn’t was because Illuvatar stopped it completely. You may be right that it wasn’t the foundation but it is something that is constant whether it be on a large scale or a small scale. 

Turgonian 27/Jun/2006 at 02:27 AM
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But it was not eternal. It had not been there from creation, and it would never return after the Dagor Dagorath. So evil was not needed for good to exist.
Arvellas 04/Jul/2006 at 10:51 AM
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I do not believe that Sauron was utterly evil, as there were things, such as power and domination, that made him happy, and I do think that motiff is a huge part of the difference between good and evil.  I think an absolute evil would have to not know what "good" is, not know what pleasure is, and not have any desires at all, just be evil because it is something to do, and know of nothing else to do, feel that doing anything else would be either better or worse.  In short, I think the being would have to be irrational, so no, a Rational being could not be an absolute evil in my mind.  I believe that if there is indeed a force of absolute evil, it is intangible and has no mind, just something that exists but is not really even a being of any sort.
Catalina of Ara 06/Jul/2006 at 04:52 PM
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To be perfectly honest, I do not believe that anyone or anything ME or in real life is absolutely and utterly evil. Everyone has good in them somewhere, though I do not believe that we should let murderers loose on the streets because there may be some good that they can portray ... but i not think that Sauron or any of the other "evil" guys were really utterly evil as Arvellas said. Human nature wants power (a.k.a. hitler, stalin, alexander the great, the caesars, and various cultures/countries throughout history) and once you reach what you think is absolute power, you want to control more. Instead of merely running a country, you want to control the people inside the coutnry. So theoretically nothing is absolutely evil ... evil the devil because at one time he was a follower of god ...
Turgonian 07/Jul/2006 at 04:28 AM
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Arvellas - What about something that knows good, but utterly rejects it and does not even desire it? It could be a rational being with a mind that differs from a human mindset. I don’t think absolute evil exists, since absolute would be eternal (and I’ve said I think evil is only passing), but couldn’t there be a theoretical possibility?

Catalina of Ara - Tolkien didn’t believe in absolute evil either. But you give examples of humans that are not absolutely evil, which does not prove that absolute evil cannot exist theoretically! You start with the assumption ’nothing is absolutely or utterly evil’ and give a few examples...but regardless of whether it’s true or not, it’s not real proof.
But your conclusion is still the same as Tolkien’s...

Arthur Weasley 10/Jul/2006 at 03:17 AM
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Perhaps absolute evil is the absence of empathy.  The simple lacking of the ability to emphathize with oher people.  Many Nuremberg interrogators after WWII discussed this incessently and the top defendants from Goring on down simply did not care what happened to other people.  Perhaps selfishness can als be a root to absolute evil.  To Sauron - the only "redeeming," quality about him seems to be that he is consistant.  Sauron has a vision of all Middle Earth becoming one huge, Orc enslaving labor pit for ever growing towers, cities, and mines.  Sauron’s desire for power is pure.  A cynic would claim that everyone wants to control everything around them and have thousands of suitably compatible slaves/servants constantly telling them how important they are.  While Tolkien claimed not to deal with Absolute Evil, I believe that Sauron and previously Melkor/Morgoth had no "good,"  in them.  Perhaps we should explore what absolute "good." is.  Is Good for me evil for you?  Or does Sauron envision himself as a good hero simply trying to bring ORDER to the universe? 
Turgonian 11/Jul/2006 at 03:18 AM
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DarthEnalan - We can be quite sure that Sauron did not see himself as the misunderstood hero. He wanted tyranny, and he knew he wanted it.

But ’Absolute Evil’ is a philosophical concept altogether -- like ’Nothing’, if Tolkien is right. Was Eichmann evil? He condoned the murder of millions of Jews, but at home he was good to his wife and tried to teach his children morals.

Good and evil are fixed, though. ’Good for me, evil for you’ does not work.

Lupul Alb 11/Jul/2006 at 03:45 AM
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Sauron is evil from the other people point of view. It was just another ruler who wanted to dominate all. Why not an orc middle earth. I think that after his master’s defeat, Sauron was left with no goal. And then adoppted his master’s plan but on a smaller scale. He just wants that his civilisation to rule middle earth. Absolute evil? Really don’t  think that it exists. Every evil being has something good in it! Nice example from Turgonian with Eichmann. There is allways some good in evil. A volcano erruption is a relly bad thing but the lava flows leave behind an eriched soil. So Sauron is evil but to say that he is the absolute evil is to farfetched.
Turgonian 11/Jul/2006 at 04:02 AM
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But a volcanic eruption is not evil. It is a natural phenomenon, unlike a conscious evil act by a rational being.
Lupul Alb 11/Jul/2006 at 04:20 AM
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A volcano erruption is a really BAD thing not evil. That’s  what I ment. I ment that even an evil action could have benefic results. What if a demented psicho have butchered Hitler! In the end that would have been a good thing! Or not, depending of what you want!
Turgonian 11/Jul/2006 at 04:47 AM
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I know, I merely criticized the analogy. And that evil action will, in the end, result in Good, is one of the major themes of The Silmarillion. Nothing can be found, says Ilúvatar, that does not have its utmost source in Him. That does not mean Ilúvatar is evil or has created evil, but that all evil acts will ultimately lead to Good (although it doesn’t make them less evil).
tole 11/Jul/2006 at 08:00 AM
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Absolute Evil is just Impossible.     
Evil is made, not born.    
              
Take the devil, he is an fallen angel, proving us he was once good.
The best example of becoming evil is darth vader from Star Wars.
            
Everyone has done a good thing in their liv, making them not absolute evil.
Good can even be like showing mercy etc.
       
But who is to say what evil means, evil-doers do their evil-doing because they believe it’s right.
Turgonian 11/Jul/2006 at 08:32 AM
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Not always. I don’t think Sauron believed for an instant that what he was doing was right. He knew very well that it was evil -- he just didn’t care, because his own power and domination were a lot more important to him than moral -- Ilúvatar’s -- right.
tole 12/Jul/2006 at 01:06 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Turgonian on Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Not always. I don’t think Sauron believed for an instant that what he was doing was right. He knew very well that it was evil -- he just didn’t care, because his own power and domination were a lot more important to him than moral -- Ilúvatar’s -- right.

Was’nt Sauron once good? Before he was subverted by Melkor/Morgoth?
Turgonian 13/Jul/2006 at 07:25 AM
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Yes, he was... But I was responding to your statement,

evil-doers do their evil-doing because they believe it’s right.

So I said,

Not always. I don’t think Sauron believed for an instant that what he was doing [that is, while evil-doing] was right.

tab1994 01/Aug/2006 at 09:08 PM
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evil doers did not start out at evil people they jus developed there evil ways. By being abused or haging out with a bad group of people. evil doers do what they think is right in there way of thinking. They propley think it is right because they were brought up that way or they chose that way through thinking. I personaly think evil doers are bad but some people have different ways of thinking. Like the ways they think is right or they are just trying to be funny, or well kind of showing off to other people. So the way i am going to end is that be a good doer nor a evil doer. Good luck people out there in the future. And good luck to the topic person who made this topic.

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GAND@LF 07/Aug/2006 at 12:13 PM
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i think the most evil is when they grow up hating to be with the good side, someone who doesnt care whats going on. just cares about themselves. and when they grow old they would want to conquer places and kill things so they could be the ruler.

One who wishes to rule and will do anything in its path to destroy good and wont let it die in front of them. But when they do die they’ve said what they could and done what they’ve could of done in the past. then they wish not to join the evil.i used to be on the evil side untill i realized how much of pain i went through doin wrong things, so i started listening to the right things to do good. thats why i chose to do something with my life worth fighting for. i love the evil side in lotr but it aint good in real life, i learned from it and redid my mistakes and stated my feelings and i hope you guys will learn from this and will do the right things at the right time and will do good and learned from it.

<Mandos edit:  Please do not expand smileys.  It is considered spamming>

airagornia575 10/Aug/2006 at 09:57 AM
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i think that the two absoloute evil nations are mordor and isengard.  scratch that i know so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!i think everyone who watches the movies should also know so.   orcs and uraki of mordor and isengard are evil but awsome.

<Nessa Edit:  This is the Ad Lore forum, and as such we do request people limit the number of smilies, emoticons (and punctuation) they use in their posts.  If you have any questions regarding the posting guidelines for this forum, that you ask *before* you post in a thread.  Thank you>

shadowoflegolas 11/Aug/2006 at 04:41 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Gatheriel on Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 I agree with Stevem1. As there is no opposite power to Eru (like for example the devil is to God), there is no absolute evil in Middle Earth.

Insense que vous etes, pourqoui
Vous promettez vous de vivre
longtemps, vous qui ne pouvez
Compter sur un seul jour.


The Devil is not an opposite power to God, BTW.  God created the Devil, who is actually a fallen Cherub. His name was Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, the most beautiful creature that God created. Lucifer got lifted up in his own pride, thought he was better than God, but rebelled. God, in turn, kicked him out of Heaven with the 3rd of the angels that followed him.  The Devil cannot do things unless God lets Him. Take the book of Job for example, Satan had to ASK God before he was allowed to do ANYTHING to Job.  He is not an opposite power at all.  It’s the same with Eru and Melkor, Eru, being the ultamite creator could have dealt with Melkor at the first sign of rebellion but he waited because Melkor had a purpose to fulfill in Eru’s plan, just as Satan has a purpose to fulfil in God’s plan. (but thankfully, his end is quite a bit like Melkor’s but worse, if you would read the book of Revelation.) 

Kathuphazgan 13/Aug/2006 at 10:18 PM
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I believe that there is such thing as absolute evil.  Morgoth is absolute evil.  satan is opposite of God.  God can only do good.  satan can only do evil.  there is no partical of good in him.  Sure he can only do what God will let him but he is still his opposite.  God has millions more power than satan.  But as for the rest of us mortals, there is no absolute evil.  There is some fraction of good in everyone.  All men start out good.  But they become prideful.  Pride is the root of ALL evil.  Evil single act of evil branches off of pride. ’I care only about myself " Stealing-"I want that thing so I will just take it cause I dont care for the other person"   Lying-"I care for protecting myself,I dont want anybody to know of ____"  Murder-"I dont care that life is sacred"  and the most prideful thing of all Suicide-"i dont care for myself or how anybody thinks about me so I am ending my life"  Any other crime that can be thought of is branched from pride.  Many times the evil doer thinks that what they are doing is right and good and will bring them happiness.  "wickedness never was happiness".  A way they are proud with that is that they wont look at how they are evil.  They wont look at it from a different angle.  Morgoth and Sauron both wanted to become the ruler of the world.  Though only Morgoth was absolute evil. 

I think it says in the silmarillion that Sauron was sorry for a little bit about his actions.  If some one would please tell if me that is true that would be cool. 

Dunadar 14/Aug/2006 at 03:54 AM
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It was mentioned in the silmarillion that Sauron did in fact have a change of heart once he saw the power of the west. None know for sure but it is speculated that Sauron might have truly repented at least inwardly, but he wouldn’t humble his pride enough to face judgement. This is truly an interesting and highly philosophical topic, and I’m amazed that it is still going after so long. I wonder if it’ll ever end, but I hope it doesn’t 
Lady Saya 14/Aug/2006 at 07:48 AM
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I do not think any being can be completely evil. Even Sauron, who is believed to be purely evil, must have some good in him even if its a very miniscule amount. As VardaElbereth said, I believe his saving grace lies in the desire of his heart. In the end, what does Sauron desire? Why does he want power and the people to worhship him? Why do people in general seek money and power? They want to be happy. Happiness is not evil. To desire happiness is not evil. It is not the fact that Sauron desires "happiness" that is evil, it is the means he uses in achieving his end that are evil. What could make one Absolutely Evil then? This is a very good explanation of why even Sauron cannot be absolutely evil. I too believe that wanting happiness is not at all evil, but its the means of which you try and achieve it by, that can be evil.It is a very complex subject to explain and yet, the answer can become somewhat simple if you survey the issue correctly.
shadowoflegolas 21/Aug/2006 at 04:59 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Kathuphazgan on Sunday, August 13, 2006

I believe that there is such thing as absolute evil.  Morgoth is absolute evil.  satan is opposite of God.  God can only do good.  satan can only do evil.  there is no partical of good in him.  Sure he can only do what God will let him but he is still his opposite.  God has millions more power than satan.  But as for the rest of us mortals, there is no absolute evil.  There is some fraction of good in everyone.  All men start out good.  But they become prideful.  Pride is the root of ALL evil.  Evil single act of evil branches off of pride. ’I care only about myself " Stealing-"I want that thing so I will just take it cause I dont care for the other person"   Lying-"I care for protecting myself,I dont want anybody to know of ____"  Murder-"I dont care that life is sacred"  and the most prideful thing of all Suicide-"i dont care for myself or how anybody thinks about me so I am ending my life"  Any other crime that can be thought of is branched from pride.  Many times the evil doer thinks that what they are doing is right and good and will bring them happiness.  "wickedness never was happiness".  A way they are proud with that is that they wont look at how they are evil.  They wont look at it from a different angle.  Morgoth and Sauron both wanted to become the ruler of the world.  Though only Morgoth was absolute evil. 

I think it says in the silmarillion that Sauron was sorry for a little bit about his actions.  If some one would please tell if me that is true that would be cool. 


I beg to differ. I believe that humans are corrupt creatures even from the start.  No one has to teach children to steal, lie, be selfish or pout when they can’t get their way. This comes naturally to them and we have to spend so much time teaching them NOT to act this way. They ALREADY have this in them even when they are really really young. This is not something that happens as one gets older, it’s something that we are born with. Of course, as we get older and these things that we are born with goes unchecked, that’s when pride and the other sins step in and completely dominate a person.  

In the book Sauron does repent, however I believe that it is not because he is truly sorry, but seeing what happened to his master Morgoth, he knew either he would have to feign repentance or end up the way Morgoth ended up. So if he did repent it was out of fear of the Valar but not because that he was sorry for his evil works.

Lord_Vidύm 21/Aug/2006 at 11:51 PM
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Shadowoflegolas, I agree with some of your points and I agree not on others.

Stating that pride would be a "corruption" of the humans is half right. For the Elves too had pride in them. And the Elvish pride brought a greater pain than he humans’ did. Feanor’s pride and unwilling to accept he was wrong, ended up in too many horrable things (from which the Kinslaying was the worst for me).

I don’t think a baby is a corrupted soul. A baby does not know-that is all. For example, if you leave a child with a bottle of chlorine, it will most probably drink it. After that you won’t say: OH NO MY BABY WANTS TO COMMIT SUICIDE. It would be rediculous to do so! The little humans don’t know. When a child steals something, it steals it because he doesn’t know what Belong is- we don’t speak of sinning so(something that comes from corruption).

However what Sauron did to Ar Pharazon was CORRUPTION. The king initially was pretty good, and after Sauron appeared, he turned to evil-and I don’t think he didn’t like it.

As for Sauron- he did not want to apologise and go back to the Valar. Well, think for how long he had been a Head in Morgoth’s armies. If he would return to his pre-masters, he would never achieve the same things again. So he chose to keep on fighting in the Name of Morgoth, because to him he had believed and to him he was believing.

shadowoflegolas 22/Aug/2006 at 11:17 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Lord_Vidύm on Monday, August 21, 2006

Shadowoflegolas, I agree with some of your points and I agree not on others.

Stating that pride would be a "corruption" of the humans is half right. For the Elves too had pride in them. And the Elvish pride brought a greater pain than he humans’ did. Feanor’s pride and unwilling to accept he was wrong, ended up in too many horrable things (from which the Kinslaying was the worst for me).

I don’t think a baby is a corrupted soul. A baby does not know-that is all. For example, if you leave a child with a bottle of chlorine, it will most probably drink it. After that you won’t say: OH NO MY BABY WANTS TO COMMIT SUICIDE. It would be rediculous to do so! The little humans don’t know. When a child steals something, it steals it because he doesn’t know what Belong is- we don’t speak of sinning so(something that comes from corruption).

However what Sauron did to Ar Pharazon was CORRUPTION. The king initially was pretty good, and after Sauron appeared, he turned to evil-and I don’t think he didn’t like it.

As for Sauron- he did not want to apologise and go back to the Valar. Well, think for how long he had been a Head in Morgoth’s armies. If he would return to his pre-masters, he would never achieve the same things again. So he chose to keep on fighting in the Name of Morgoth, because to him he had believed and to him he was believing.


Even though you’re right that a baby I’m going to say 0-3 years of age does not really know what it’s doing so young, the sinful nature is still there. I don’t think your suicide example was that good as someone that young doesn’t even know what the concept of life is, so of course wouldn’t intentionally kill themselves! But they still might cry and pout when his parents takes the bottle of chlorine away, just because he can’t have his own way by drinking the juice he thinks is water!   As a kid gets older at like 3 or 4, it has no problem crying when it cant have it’s way, and doing things even though the parents tell them its wrong and then lying in their face about them.  No one has to train a kid to not share, be mean and to get in a fight with its siblings or other children because there is already something that we’re born with that causes us to naturally tend to do this. At the age of 4 or 5 you haven’t lived long enough to learn how to BE evil, but it’s something that’s already inside of us, and if allowed to go unchecked, can possibly lead to a lot of other wrongs as one gets older.  That’s all I was saying. (I’m a devout Christian who believes in the ’You sin because you’re a sinner" philosophy instead of the "you’re a sinner because you sin". philosophy.)  

Getting back to Sauron, though, true.  I have no idea how long he existed before Sauron corrupted him, but I have to say I’m sure he fell pretty easily. However, even though you were right about saying that he would never achieve the same thing again with the Valar, no, maybe not, but I believe that if he truly repented, they would have given him some other task that would have been fitting for him but would not (of course) entail world domination.  I think that Sauron, however, by the time Morgoth met his end made his choice to be evil and at that point couldn’t change. Spirit beings seem to have a one time decision only, (Satan and the angels, for example) once choosing their side against God, there is no going back, there can never be any real true repentance.  Of course Sauron could pretend as well as the others (As Satan sometimes pretends to be an angel of light)  but, to quote the immortal words of Yoda, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will...."

Lord_Vidύm 22/Aug/2006 at 11:34 AM
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Taking it on Christianity for the kids, i could use what Jesus said for the kids. That they are purest than the greatest of adults(they are much more worthy to dwell in paradise). That is pretty showing that a child cannot commit sins- as we use that word.

Getting to Sauron, a good example to see his way of thinking is to look at Saruman. In the TTT-The Speech of Saruman, it is pretty showing the "evil" way of thinking (when Gandalf asks for Saruman to leave Orthanc). Probably after the War of Wrath, Sauron felt the same way (and even worse). He was a proud spirit-and probably Melkor based his Sauron’s corruption on that.

It is like having everything in your hands- armies, powers and wealth- and someone coming and getting them away from you. That’s what Sauron probably thought of. If I were him, I would not accept that- noone would.

shadowoflegolas 22/Aug/2006 at 12:19 PM
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Jesus said exactly that unless one has FAITH LIKE a child you can not enter the kingdom of Heaven. He did not mean that children did not sin-- everyone is born in sin, the Bible makes that quite clear.  Romans 3:23. "For ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God." King David said something to the affect of "In sin I was born and in sin did my mother conceive me." Even though David was considered a "Man after God’s own heart" still knew and had no trouble admitting that he was born a sinner. But as a child one isn’t yet too proud to admit that they are sinners and need a Savior. Children have almost blind faith, believing almost anything people tell them, and Jesus meant that all adults need that type of blind faith in Him in order to enter the kingdom. That’s what Jesus was talking about.

As for Sauron, you are right.  There is a saying that one would rather "reign in Hell than just be a servant in heaven." And since Sauron finally got a chance to get out of his master’s shadow-- a chance to dominate instead of just being a lieutenant, of course he wouldn’t repent, feeling that it was his time and that he was entitled to at least rule the lands that his former master was desperately trying to destroy.

Bearamir 23/Aug/2006 at 07:25 PM
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Ladies & Gentlemen:  The request has been made that we close this thread because it is deviating from the topic of Evil in Tolkien to Evil in religion.   From what I’ve seen (and even more, from what I’ve had to delete so far this event, I’m afraid I tend to agree. 

So, at the request of the thread starter...this thread is now closed to traffic.  My thanks to everyone for their participation.