Friday, September 12, 2008

A special angle on good?

Most actors sing the praises of playing a juicy villain, savoring the richness of the evil when compared to a hero’s role. Sure, they get the girl when they play the hero, but the character is often vanilla-bland.

I want to look at JRR Tolkien’s classic, The Lord of the Ring,
in that context. Tolkien includes vivid descriptions of evil in his tale. Sauron’s darkness seems to march incessantly. And aren’t the orcs evil personified? The malevolence is palpable in the story and hope seems dishwater-thin against the power of evil.

Yet Tolkien’s heroes are not bland and their eventual victory comes because evil cannot fathom good and therefore can’t defend against it.

How could Sauron understand the sacrifice of two little hobbits? How could the Nazgul defend against those who were willing to die for the larger good? The villains were motivated by greed and fear. They didn’t understand the inspiration of loyalty and selflessness.

In LOTR, good and evil battle on fields of swords and bows, but the real battles happen on another plane: that of character. Evil doesn’t understand character. Evil trusts in power and deceit but, in the end, is utterly destroyed by courage and sacrifice.

Many authors paint a compelling picture of evil but Tolkien, who walked a life of faith in God, understood virtue well enough to compose an even-more compelling picture of good.

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