Journal 2- Discussing Evil

It is not always easy to identify the bad guys in our own world. People can easily hide evil behind a pretty face or a few clever lies. Certainly, my own enemies are not Black Riders or things that go bump in the night. In fantasy literature the evil characters are usually fairly recognizable. The presence of evil, while not always the main plot line, is an important tradition in fantastic literature. Without evil whom would the hero fight against? How would they prove themselves in this secondary world if not for evil? Good versus Evil is often the central conflict in many fantasy stories.


Evil, in some form or another, is necessary in most forms of literature. For every story there needs to be a conflict, whether it is Huck Finn trying to rescue Jim from slavery or Frodo attempting to destroy the ring. However, in most fiction Evil is not as overt as it is in fantasy. You will rarely encounter a character such as Sauron in realistic fiction. Fantasy tends to handle Evil in a much more fantastic and straightforward way.  Characters such as Sauron and Voldemort in works of Fantasy are described as pure evil, without a redeeming quality. This characterization of the villian makes the hero, even a flawed hero, seem more good. Frodo has his negative qualities, at times he is foolish and unwilling, but nevertheless he perseveres against this horrible force. Evil is necessary to flesh out the good characters and provide more contrast. It lets us appreciate even the bad characters in more nuanced ways because we have pure evil to compare them with. The defining characteristic of the good character is their ability in the end to resist evil.


Evil is more extreme and obvious in fantasy literature. In Fantasy evil beings are usually the personification of our baser sins and negative emotions: greed, lust, gluttony, pride, wrath, etc. The Black Riders were once men that have now become corrupted by their pride and greed. They could not resist the power the ring offered them and now they are irredeemable. Evil beings are also those humans or creatures that cannot see past certain extremes. They are the tyrant who believes that there is only one way to love, that life is black and white, and drive is only successful if it is single minded and blind. Sauron was originally an angel of sorts, but his need for an ordered world (and ordered in his own way) warped him into a purely evil being bent on destruction. He could only see his End and he was willing to destroy all that was to reorganize and reconstruct. Evil in Fantasy warns against extremism in all forms. As humans it is easy to give in to lust or envy, it is often admirable to pursue a single goal, but when we are blinded to all reason by these emotions we lose sight of the good in the world and we are halfway to Mordor.

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