"Dark Lord"

Archive Home > Basic Lore
Morvalath 21/Dec/2006 at 07:46 AM
Miner of Mordor Points: 891 Posts: 167 Joined: 10/Aug/2004
The title "Dark Lord" is used frequently in fantasy and science fiction, most notably in Star Wars and the Harry Potter series. I have not encountered this term used in any work older than that of Tolkien. My question is, therefore, where did this title originate? Is it of Tolkien’s invention or does it have older origins?
Maiarian Man 21/Dec/2006 at 08:31 AM
Steward of Isengard Points: 9003 Posts: 10968 Joined: 10/Mar/2002
Well, it definitel goes back earlier than Tolkien. Dora Greenwell, in her Camera Obscura (1876) refers to Hades a "dark lord, the King of Hell." Thomas Dibdin in his 1834 versification of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress (1678) refers to a personification of Despair as the "dark lord." The phrase "Lord of Darkness" goes a bit further back in English usage. I’m not sure about cognate terms in other languages.
Boromir88 21/Dec/2006 at 09:50 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

As Maiarian Man says Tolkien wasn’t first to coin that term or use it.  It is most common in works of fiction to give a title to this being that is so evil his name must not be mentioned.  For example, Harry Potter...Lord Voldemort (he who must not be named) and in Lord of the Ring’s the Gondorians fear to call him Sauron; so is also referred to as the Dark Lord (or other like names).

I think the origins can be traced back into the religious context.  Where Satan (or other similar entities) could be referred to as the ’Dark Lord’ ’Lord of Darkness’ ’Evil Lord’...and so on.

Endril 21/Dec/2006 at 09:22 PM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
Well, the term is very much used in a lot of places. It’s in LOTR for Morgoth and Sauron and also in another fantasy books. It usually describes the great leader of the evil forces, usually with magical powers used in necromancy. Also the term is often found in fantasy based games, like RPG’s.
King Gothmog 22/Dec/2006 at 09:56 AM
Scavenger of Mordor Points: 1082 Posts: 506 Joined: 27/Jul/2006
The oldest reference I can think of is Illiad refering to Hades as a Dark Lord, I believe it is also used to reference Lucifer in The Divine Comedy, though I could be mistakin on that one.