Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Silmarillion Question on Good and Evil

Question from Tuesday's Group Exercise from Kerii

What is the purpose of creating a good v. evil dichotomy? Why not, like many other myths, create light/dark good/evil conflict from the previous existence of darkness? What is the point? Is there one?

2 comments:

Oromë said...

I'm not entirely sure I understand the question exactly. What do you mean by "the previous existence of darkness?"

I don't know that there necessarily is a previous darkness, if you are referring to the time before Iluvatar created the world. It says that before the Song of Iluvatar, there was "the void." The phrase "void" does not imply an absence of light, to me. It implies an absence of everything, including darkness as well as light.

All that said, creating a good/evil dichotomy is, in any mythology, a way of attempting to explain the existence of evil in the world. I don't think anyone would try to deny that there is evil in the world, but if there is evil, it must have a source. In The Silmarillion, Iluvatar is portrayed, like the God of Christianity, as wholly good. If the creator of the world is wholly good though, where does evil come from? Creating a good/evil dichotomy is a way to acknowledge the existence of evil in the world without placing the blame on the creator.

Lórien said...

Building off of the previous comment, which I agree with, I would say that it also serves to explain the duality of mankind. One of the overarching purposes of Literature is to explore and try to understand nature of human beings and the often our place in the universe and the meaning of our existence. The good and evil dichotomy comes from an ancient source that all humans can empathize with. Since the earliest days of Man we have struggled with the balance of positive and negative emotion. Humans are a walking paradox, we are inherently altruistic and yet inherently selfish. We have a drive to forgive and make peace, and also a burning desire to seek vengeance. The world of Tolkien is one where this infinite internal conflict is personified by the forces of Valar and their clash with Melkor. This is essential what religion set out to do in the first place. The reason for the duality in Christianity or in any religion for that matter is that same duality of man. I think Tolkien likes to position his readers as on the fence, so to speaker. He wants them to understand that this struggle of good and evil isn't simply a matter of picking a side. It is about understanding balance in the human spirit. At any moment the choices that we make could leads us to the infinite beauty of the Valinor or deliver us directly into the slavery of Melkor.