The existence of Good and Evil is accurate; but what is also accurate are all the effects and consequences of good and evil as they find themselves layered into the Lord of the Rings.
The mythology sets up and reflects a Moral and Spiritual Order.
Even the presence of evil is not something existing from the beginning or created by Eru [the Father of All],
"I do not deal with absolute evil but objective evil." [Letters p.242]
Sauron and Melkor weren't created evil to begin with, but they became evil through pride and hated Eru and his works, especially the Elves and Numenoreans, [much like Satan]. The evil in the Lord of the Rings is objective, like Satan, i.e. it doesn't originate from within the heart of man or elves, though it may end up there through temptation and corruption. It is an entity in itself. It is also immortal.
The presence of evil pervades and corrupts everything it touches in Middle-earth. Sauron's realm of Mordor is a classic example of evil squeezing the life out of every living organism. Those who have given themselves over to evil are twisted and visibly horrible. There is a hideous destruction and parasitic twisting of life itself. Very much like the affect of sin in our lives and on our souls.
The Seen and Unseen worlds also set up. The Elves [those who have lived in the Blessed Realm] are described as living at once in both worlds and the Ring-Wraiths are neither dead nor living. When wearing the One Ring, Frodo enters into a semi spiritual world;
"Yet even so, as Ring-bearer and as one that had borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many who are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine." [LotR p.357]
The Rings of Power, untouched by Sauron could be used for good with foresightedness, but the One Ring gave depth of perception and sight wholly for evil purposes.
Go to Peter Kreeft's homepage for an audio MP3 clip on evil in Lord of the Rings [here -towards bottom of page].
The understanding of Divine Providence and other powers at play is communicated and shown to be crucial in the outcome of the story.
Those of good origins or who are morally good, display qualities of purity, sanctity, wisdom, humility, love, sacrifice, trust, courage and hope. They respect nature, life and freedom.
This philosophy of goodness and evil remains consistent and objective throughout the tale and throughout the thousands of years of struggle. Eomer asks Aragorn how he should judge in such evil times, and Aragorn replies,
"As he ever has judged. Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them..." [LotR p.428]
Here Tolkien dispels the notion of relativistic or subjective morality. Good and Evil are the same for all. Morality is not hard to know, it is hard to do.
The Elves almost have a supernatural ability to sense 'hidden' things;
"For a moment it seemed to the eyes of Legolas that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown." [LotR p.423]
The presence of evil is also sensed by Aragorn who received an Elvish upbringing and carries Numenorean blood. Twice during the passage of the Great River, Aragorn is woken from sleep by a foreboding of evil at hand:
"'Why are you waking?' asked Frodo, 'It is not your watch.' 'I do not know,' answered Aragorn; 'but a shadow and a threat has been growing in my sleep. It would be well to draw your sword.'"; and again; "I felt something in my sleep, why have you drawn your sword."[LotR p.375 and p.387]
The men of good will are true of heart and word: Aragorn and Faramir are archetypes of this. For Faramir, his integrity is shown when Frodo says;
"Or are you trying to snare me with a falsehood..." and Faramir replies, "...I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood."[LotR p.649]
For Aragorn he always looks to put right the works of evil. After the fall of Gandalf, Aragorn says, "At least we may yet be avenged. Let us gird ourselves and weep no more!" [LotR p.324]
To avenge is very different than to revenge. Avenge means to put right and is closely associated with the virtue of justice. It is to put right a wrong doing, but to do it in the right and proper manner, to see justice done. Revenge is concerned with retaliation to the offender to the same level as the original offence; and is caught in the false theory of 'two wrongs can make it right'.
Also denoted is a classical symbolism of Light and Darkness in the struggle of Good and Evil.
• Galadriel and the Elves shimmer with white light or white clothing.
• Elbereth is referred to as Ever-White.
• Gandalf is the White Rider with a white horse
• Minas Tirith has white walls, a White Tower and a White Tree.
• The council of the wise is called the White Council.
• Glorfindel shines with a white light at the Ford of Bruinen and his horse is also white.
• Saruman is white before he falls.
• Sting [Frodo's sword] glows with a soft blue light.
• Glamring [Gandalf's sword] shines with cold white light when the presence of orcs are near.
Most things evil tend to hide in the dark. Orcs only come out at night. They hate the sunlight. Gollum hates the sunlight and moonlight and only travels by day at need;
"I have heard that he doesn't like the Sun or Moon..."says Frodo regarding Gollum. [LotR p.599]
• Shelob lives in dark tunnel.
• The Ring-Wraiths are Black Riders on black horses.
• The Black Gate guards the entrance to Mordor.
• The Dark Lord lives in his Dark Tower in the Land of Shadow.
• Sauron steals only the black horses from Rohan.
• Aragorn points out that the swans the Fellowship see from their boats are "black." [LotR p.372].
Sunlight and Moonlight is hated by Orcs, Gollum and Black-Riders. This is a recurring theme in the Lord of the Rings, regarding the Sun, Moon and the Stars. They are the enemies of Darkness [Letters p.425 No.347] because they are created from the Fruit and Dew of the Two Trees in the Blessed Realm; thus the Sun and Moon and Stars are reflections of that which is eternally good.
On the battle field between these poles of Light and Dark [Good and Evil], are the temptations and trials at play in the story. On a larger scale is the resistance and defiance of evil by the major races of Middle-earth: Elves, Men of Numenor and Rohan, even Dwarves.
Tolkien describes the "...physical resistance..." of the good people of Middle-earth "...as a major act of loyalty to God" in terms of the overall mythology. [Letters p.207]
This good and evil reality is displayed in an external and internal manner. All of the principle characters are tempted in some way. Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo and Sam have doubts and moments of weakness. For the Fellowship this is very well laid out when Galadriel searches their hearts,
"...each had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired: clear before his mind it lay, and to get it he had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest and the war against Sauron to others." [LotR p.349]
Boromir further describes the test,
"Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give..." [LotR p.349]
Free will is demonstrated in all the major characters. As mentioned earlier [in Creation], free will is an essential part of Tolkien's tale. In one of his letters Tolkien is at pains to point out that even when listening to Saruman;
"it was always open to reject, by free will and reason, both his voice while speaking and it's after impressions. Saruman corrupted the reasoning powers." [Letters p.277]
Frodo is a classic example as he eventually fails in his quest but good triumphs through love and forgiveness. Even after the Ring has gone, he still has regrets due to the power that the Ring had over him. Very much like the lure of sins in our lives and the constant struggle within us. The effect of sin continues to resonate in the world even after the Redemption of Christ [because our response is based on free will]. Frodo still is effected by the evil and regrets letting it go which reflects the truth about the nature of sin and how conversion is a life long process. [Letters p.328]
It is not complete until the end, so we pray for "final perseverance, "as Tolkien once said. [Letters p.338]
Theoden is one who is physically altered by the presence of evil in his life. He is healed by Gandalf and there is great symbolism with Light and Darkness in the healing. Saruman is corrupted by a lust for power and even desire to be like God in creating an army to help him secure the Ring.
In doing so Saruman negatively effects Sauron's ability to find the Ring and displays another philosophical truth found in Tolkien's writing,
"...evil oft shall evil mar..." [LotR p.756] and "...often does hatred hurt itself..." as proclaimed by Theoden and Gandalf respectively [M&M p.118]. Evil defeats itself. In killing Jesus, Satan defeated himself.
Saruman causes evil to be thwarted by his own evil actions. On this point Frodo says to Sam in the Land of Shadow that the common practice of Orcs killing one another was the "spirit" of Mordor. Treachery and betrayal. [LotR p.905]
Galadriel is also tempted by the Power of the Ring but passes the test. She had previously announced her rejection of evil,
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