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Oft evil will shall evil mar - a recurring theme?


Dec 5 2012, 5:28pm

Views: 9627
Oft evil will shall evil mar - a recurring theme?

"Oft evil will shall evil mar" quotes Theoden (odd word order, has he, Lord of Horses - the Anglo Saxon influence it must be, unless he's channelling Yoda).

It does strike me that the theme of evil spoiling evil is recurring in the Lord of the Rings and does a lot to bring "the Wise" to eventual victory. I'd like to discuss, starting with a few examples

Theoden quotes this proverb in Two Towers, when Pippin has just looked into the Palantir, thereby saving Gandalf from trying it. Gandalf, of course got the palantir only because Wormtongue threw it at him, in his hatred using one of Saruman's chief treasures as a missile. Saruman is only holed up in Orthanc with Wormtongue because he's been corrupted by wanting the Ring, but he's far from a reliable ally for Sauron, and many of his actions have indirectly helped Sauron's enemies. For example, he's only under siege in Orthanc because of events that follow from his attempt to seize the Ring from the Fellowship. And that attempt went wrong partly because of squabbles between different factions in the orc raiding force. And anyway, he missed the Ring Bearer because the Ring had finally driven one of the Fellowship mad, and scared Frodo away before Saruman's orcs get to him.

Earlier in the story, Sauron is forced to send the Ringwraiths to the Shire, unsuitable as they are for a stealth mission, because any other agent who got hold of the Ring would try to keep it. The Barrow Wight's attempt to snatch the hobbits (to get the Ring? or just because they are passing?) results in them getting Nazgul-slaying weaponry, which then probably causes the Black Riders not to press their attack too hard after Weathertop.

Of course, the biggest freelancer of all is Gollum, whose attempt to get the Ring back is what allows it to be destroyed.

If evil put up a more united front, could it have been defeated at all?


Dec 5 2012, 6:16pm

Views: 7981
A few more examples...

When Frodo is captured by orcs after being stung by Shelob, Sam can only rescue him because the orcs fight each other.

When Gollum grabs the Ring from Frodo, does he fall because he's just broken his oath (sworn by the Precious) not to betray Frodo?

I've probably missed many examples.

Also beginning to wish I'd given myself the username "Evil Will"! Wink


Dec 5 2012, 7:45pm

Views: 8018
Heartily agree I do

Another (small) example would be the two orcs tracking Sam and Frodo in Mordor, who come perilously close to finding them, but end up fighting, with the tracker killing the commander and running away.

There's the thread below this one about what if Sauron had never created the One Ring. My own view is that maybe he would have perished in Numenor (or reduced to impotence) without it, so perhaps the ring helped him survive that episode. But that product of evil will was ultimately used to destroy him.


Dec 6 2012, 6:03pm

Views: 7892
And more

By the way, noWizardme, welcome to the Reading Room!

All your examples are great. One that I remembered today was Wormtongue killing Saruman at Bag End, putting an end to his treachery and doing the hobbits a favor by keeping blood off their hands. As long as he was alive, Saruman would have continued plotting mischief however he could.

Gollum became evil once he killed Deagol to get the One Ring, but the ring was trying at that time to get back to Sauron and took advantage of anyone that came along. Gollum foiled those plans by taking the ring under the mountains for centuries, beyond the reach of search efforts by Sauron and Saruman.

At the Pelennor Fields, Eomer notes that the outer walls could have been held by Sauron's armies to foil the charge of the cavalry, but Sauron's nihilistic forces tore the walls down without need, unwittingly aiding Rohan's attack.

Speaking of needless violence, Saruman didn't need to make an enemy of the Ents by wantonly destroying their woods. Without the Ents entering the war, Isengard would have remained intact, Helm's Deep would have fallen, and Rohan would have been invaded by the Wold.


Dec 6 2012, 6:23pm

Views: 7874
The one ring itself

Picking up on that great Gollum keeping the ring example - a bit of a design flaw in the Ring for it to be so desirable and corrupting that anyone getting it starts to plot to replace its maker!

Thanks for the welcome,enjoying being here!


Dec 6 2012, 6:24pm

Views: 7950
Yes, and by no means limited to Tolkien.

The concept of villains failing because of their own mistakes is common throughout mythology and literature. It's well characterized by that old chestnut, the list of guidelines for Evil Overlords.

Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Dec 6 2012, 8:25pm

Views: 7903
The formula for James Bond and other villains

is to usually devise a lengthy, intricate death for the hero, which allows the hero enough time to make an improbable escape. Austin Powers was good at spoofing that.

Though I suppose my examples touched on two categories: 1) mistakes made by evil people, and 2) fate using evil people to destroy each other to help the good guys. Maybe no Wizardme was trying to focus on the 2nd one. The orcs at Cirith Ungol slaughtering each other went way beyond a mistake and was about evil annihilating itself in a way that reversed their capture of "the spy." The same with the orcs fighting each other in Rohan, leading to Merry and Pippin's escape. (Hmm, isn't that a plot device nakedly used twice? I'm surprised Tolkien doesn't get hammered more often for that.)


Dec 6 2012, 10:34pm

Views: 7967
Interesting which side has an "evil overlord " plan?

I really like the Evil Overlord linkLaugh
I guess the theme of evil being self defeating can be done well And we love it (hubris, karma and all that ). Or you can have "Now Mr Bond I will kill you in the most ludicrously overcomplicated way imaginable, using a machine I devised after playing the family board game Mousetrap. But strangely I will not wait to make sure you die, as I must repair to my inexplicably explosion-prone Bond Villain HQ to carry out my other absurdly over complex plan with a very obvious drawback. As I have explained this plan in detail to you, you are now all the better equipped to defeat me using that information and the spy gadgets I have sportingly not searched you for."

I was thinking about whether the Villains of Lord of the Rings hatch Stupid Plans with Obvious Drawbacks though, and I don't think they do. They contribute to the defeat of each other (e.g Gollum doing everything he can to deny Sauron the ring; perfectly reasonable from his POV) . or they make not-too -unreasonable miscalculations (it ought to be safe to dismantle the outer defences of Minas Tirith- a large force has been sent to prevent the arrival of Rohan; the plan only goes wrong because there's a forgotten alternative route through). Some of the examples we've collected are Downfall Through Excessive Nastiness - but that seems reasonably realistic dictator behaviour too.

Is making the Ring, an "Evil Overlord" type mistake? I'm not sure. I suppose the ideal One Ring would come complete with a spell which would compel any finder to take it straight to Sauron. Or it would give out a very obvious homing signal. Of course, we don't know whether such technology is possible in Rings. There's a thread elsewhere about "what if Sauron had never made the Ring?";sb=post_time;so=DESC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed;;page=unread#unread I think the conclusion is that it wasn't a particularly silly move
I agree with Felagund in that thread:
"....the irony of the One Ring was that whilst Sauron was uniquely exposed to permanent destruction (ie. if someone happened to drop the Ring into Mount Doom), it was also the one artefact that enabled him to keep rebuilding his physical form - so much of his native power was vested in the Ring that killing Sauron's hröa wasn't enough to put him out of business."

Interestingly, "Evil Overlord" style plans are hatched by "the Wise" - "Lets send an extremely small party on a long journey into heavily defended enemy territory, requiring them to spend a long time near the Ring, with all its known power to corrupt!"
"Let's let Frodo faff about for ages at home and then later in Rivendell, when it is obvious that speed is of the essence!"
"Let's take the Ring through Moria! "
With the exception of the faffing hobbits, we do get these weaknesses debated by the characters though, and that gives JRRT his chance to persuade us that the good guys probably have no choice.
(Amusingly. Auto fill made that last sentence read "the goof guys" Smile )


Dec 7 2012, 3:45am

Views: 8082
Sauron as Evil Overlord

He actually did make several of the classic blunders.

* He was so obsessed with smashing Gondor he didn't pay enough attention to his borders and interior, which were left to the wily heroes.

* He was easily conned into thinking Aragorn had the Ring, because Aragorn acted as he would have done in that situation.

Gandalf's strategy was specifically to assume Overlord-thinking on Sauron's part, and feed it while doing the opposite.

Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Dec 7 2012, 10:54am

Views: 7915
Ah, I should have said "no Evil Overlord mistakes except the ones I didn't think of"...

You're quite right, Elizabeth! Given that Sauron "can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a company" (Faramir, debating Gondorian tactics), its very odd that Sauron doesn't post checkpoints and fortifications around Mount Doom, just in case. He should still have more troops than he can physically get through the Black Gate for the battle. As it is, we just have an effort "track down the spy" which CuriousG mentions (and which fails at the pinch, again from orcish indiscipline).

This discussion is causing me to notice a theme - JRRT seems explicitly to address these issues: usually a character voices the reader's objection, and gets some kind of an answer from another. I'm thinking of dialogue in the Council of Elrond chapter, the debate the Fellowship has before going into Moria and the tactical discussions Aragorn and his captains have in The Last Debate chapter. What do you think - is it a good idea for JRRT to get his own "plotholing" in first like this, or better to do what a lot of authors do not mention it?

What I don't see JRRT using in these circumstances is "science stuff"

A digression - Do you know what I mean about "science stuff"? (Wikipedia used to have a great article on "Science stuff" and one on its relation "Wantum physics" - but they seem to have been taken down. Boo. So I probably should explain.) "Science stuff" is when a gobledegook sciency-sounding phrase is used to shut down an objection or to open up a new possibility for the characters - for example:

"Why can't we just go back in time and change it back?"

"We can't do that Captain. Our quantum states will be come so mutually tangled that we'd risk uncoupling the entire Heisenburg equilibrium!"


"Wait, you guys! I've just realized that we can cross-polarize the matrix and reverse the Gaussian streams! That would defragment the interface, replicate the genome, delete the cookie and we'd be free"

Someone told me that the phrase "science stuff" comes from Star Trek, where script writers would use it to deal with those moments that all authors have, I expect: stuck on "Does anyone know why the can't go back in tine and switch it back again? No? " I heard they would literally put "We can't do that Captain because [science stuff]" and then they had some people to write suitable science stuff later.

The second example is a sci-fi version of "with one bound, Jack was free!"

Obviously we wouldn't get "Science stuff" in LOTR, but we could get the fantasy equivalent - convenient new inventions about magic or the gods or something. Hmm - maybe there is some of that somewhere, it might be fun to look. But in the examples I can think of, I mostly hear the potential plot hole raised and countered in reasonably comprehensible English.

A further thought, I have QUi-Gonn Jinn (woah, this is getting mixed up in its references Wink ) I was re-reading the Foreword to the Second Edition (of LOTR), and came across what is probably a wider answer to the plotholes. It seems that someone has irritated JRRT by proposing that the plot is a simple allegory of World War 2 (I can imagine how that might go: Saurman = Hitler, but Sauron = Stalin, the real threat. The Ring = the atomic bomb, or some other weapon that must not be used, and so on). JRRT spends some time explaining why he doesn't write like that. But he also sketches how a "realistic" war of the Ring would go: obviously, no chances would be taken with the Ring, which would certainly be used against Sauron & so on... It made me think - f you're going to write and read stories in the "heroic" mode, you're in the convention where the heroes are massively the underdog, and our prime character starts out weak and goes on "a personal journey". Maybe almost inevitably you need the hero to have really lucky moments and the villain to have Evil Overlord ones? You just have to do it craftily (in several senses of the word) to avoid the reader unsuspending disbelief? Contrast perhaps the George RR Martin "Song of Ice and Fire"/"Game of Thrones" stories, where being heroic really doesn't seem to bring the gods in on your side - you most likely end up being exploited by someone more cynical

I think I'm including those last thoughts because on the one hand I love"plotholing" (especially as a group activity), but on the other hand one could feel about it that "he who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom". It doesn't spoil the story for me, and I do hope it doesn't spoil it for anyone else.


Dec 7 2012, 2:55pm

Views: 7878
To say nothing of an idea likely close to Tolkien's heart:

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result..." Gen 50:20


Dec 7 2012, 4:05pm

Views: 7855
I think Sauron was clever about the One Ring

He didn't entrust it to any minions.

He didn't leave it "on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity." He wore it. The only way you could get it was to cut off his finger, which takes a Last Alliance or two.

It could only be destroyed in one place, and that was in his backyard under his watchful Eye.

He also knew (maybe) that it would corrupt anyone else who wore it or kept it, and that it would betray them if it could, such as leaving Isildur's hand to end his invisibility during the orc attack, leaving Gollum's hand to try to reach orcs, and leaving Frodo's hand in The Prancing Pony. It even corrupts nearby non-owners such as Boromir, or Smeagol when Deagol first found it. Though he feared his enemies would use it against him, he may have known that it would tear them apart too. Sort of like inventing an atomic bomb that doesn't explode if you lose it, but it leaks radiation like crazy if you do.


Dec 7 2012, 4:26pm

Views: 7862
Plotholes and eagles

Oh, yeah, don't get me started on "science stuff." I like sci-fi a lot, but I don't like it when they insult my intelligence with lame techno-babble to cover up glaring mistakes in writing. Star Trek was egregious in that, and so was X-Files.

Overall, I think Tolkien is pretty airtight. It can take some digging, but even some of the more obvious flaws can be explained away:

1. Why don't the Valar send an army to defeat Sauron? Because they don't want to destroy a lot of the world like they did when they fought Morgoth.
2. Why does Gandalf send a couple hobbits on a hopeless doomed mission that not even the drunkest gambler in Vegas would bet on? I think it's revealing when he tells Frodo that he was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker; i.e., there's a higher power at work specifically on Frodo's side, so it's not as hopeless as it seems.

Eagles remain a problem. Why don't they fly Frodo to Mount Doom? Because they don't get that involved. Okay, then why do they show up at the battle at the Morannon and attack the Nazgul, and then rescue Frodo--they'll carry him out of Mordor, but won't carry him in? I thought they didn't get involved?

But I let Tolkien off the hook on this one, partly because the story would be over in 20 pages if they flew Frodo in for a quick drop-off at the Crack of Doom, partly because Tolkien believed the Eagles, representing Manwe, only get involved at the very last minute and in the greatest need. Except when Gandalf is imprisoned on Orthanc, or returns from the dead on Zirak-zigil, or when he tells them to search the Anduin for the Fellowship: see, it doesn't hold up, especially in the last example, which is neither last minute nor that needy.


Dec 7 2012, 4:27pm

Views: 7837
An odd Return to Owner feature

I guess that if owning the ring makes you want to become an Evil Overlord yourself, that would bring you to Sauron's attention. Didn't think of that!


Dec 7 2012, 4:33pm

Views: 7831
Heroes and underdogs

It seems pretty formulaic that any adventure story has the heroes as underdogs, but if you think back to really old literature, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Epic of Gilgamesh, they were about rich and powerful people, not commoners, and not little boys who would grow up to be kings when things were sorted out. Though there was that too in the story of Oedipus, and Antigone is compelling because she's a powerless princess. But generally, in modern tales we almost never see the rich and powerful as heroes. Can you imagine The Titanic being as compelling if told from the perspective of people in first class? The Kate Winselt character was in first class, but she was another powerless princess.

Though I'm hooked on Downton Abbey along with millions of others, and they're hardly underdogs, so I suppose my argument falls apart. Must be a Friday.


Dec 7 2012, 5:09pm

Views: 7839
Nazgul combat air patrol

Maybe the Eagles are up for a bit of battling, but not for trying to sneak theRing past the Nazgul combat air patrol?


Dec 7 2012, 5:35pm

Views: 7904
A new eagle plot hole filler

Maybe the eagles are highly corruptible and can't be let anywhere near the ring without there being hobbit for lunch then Evil Ken Eagle on the loose ( known as Gwaihir in public, Ken to his friends).

I just made that up, of course, but maybe the eagle problem needs to be considered more widely beyond the military issues and whether eagles get fed up of being a taxi service for Gandalf & friends.


Dec 7 2012, 6:36pm

Views: 7818
The Nazgul and Evil Overlord rule 80

"80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress." anime series would be a fractionof the length otherwise.

Sauron sends the Black Riders, on paper his best troops, after Frodo but they don't do too well. As much discussed when you were doing A Knife I the Dark.


Dec 7 2012, 7:07pm

Views: 7833
It's an inexhaustable discussion topic.

Google "why didn't the eagles fly the ring to mordor" and you'll get more discussion links than you have time to read. Probably many more than "balrog wings", although that's another good one.

Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Dec 7 2012, 7:27pm

Views: 7841
I'm glad they didn't, but

I think it's a logical weakness. Gwaihir will fly Gandalf around Rohan and from Moria's pinnacle to Lorien, which makes it a fair question to ask why he won't fly a hobbit or the Ring itself into Mordor. He only transports wizards? I suppose it's inexhaustible because there are good grounds for contesting either side.

I'll say for myself that on first read, I never asked this question. You get immersed in the story and characters pretty quickly, and accept the authority and wisdom of Gandalf and Elrond. They're pretty thorough and look at all angles, including sending the One Ring to Bombadil or to Valinor, so if they don't bring up eagles, then it seems like that's just not an option anyone should consider, not even Boromir.


Dec 7 2012, 8:54pm

Views: 7838
I agree with this

This is not at all something that I thought about while I was reading. The book is so engaging as it is that there was no reason to start thinking about why certain things didn't happen instead. Your point about possibly using Bombadil or taking the ring to Valinor, but not using the eagles is a valid point, I think. Even if Tolkien didn't purposefully leave out the possibility of the eagles, I think it is still a good argument.

"...and his first memory of Middle-earth was the green stone above her breast as she sang above his cradle while Gondolin was still in flower." -Unfinished Tales


Dec 8 2012, 3:36am

Views: 7913
Isn't there some

inferable evidence that to the Eye of Sauron the One Ring is a glowing star even though while near the ground or under the horizon he can only locate the Ring by means of the irradiating mind of an eventual wearer, in particular of a wearer who tries to control the Ring or who happens to be in a place he is focusing in?

In any case, why would Sauron bother about creating the Eye of Sauron instead of, say, the Ear of Sauron so as to probe the rumour of the earth from the vast resonating vaults of the stone foundations of Barad-dûr? Does that choice has any relation to the fact that he did not designed the One Ring to produce sound pulses, but instead to shine in the darkness of his world?

And if the spirit Sauron can fly from Númenor carrying his Ring isn't the airspace surrounding Mordor the easiest place for him to retake it? After all he is still almost without a physical self and could arguably easily abandon it at will. Wasn't that part of his strategy?


Dec 8 2012, 4:01pm

Views: 8362
In all honesty

The whole Eye of Sauron thing has never made huge sense to me. I get that in some sense it can see, but how and why? Physically, spiritually? I'm not sure.

No matter what, I do agree that flying into Mordor undetected is impossible. They would have been taken out.

"...and his first memory of Middle-earth was the green stone above her breast as she sang above his cradle while Gondolin was still in flower." -Unfinished Tales


Dec 10 2012, 8:32pm

Views: 7776
interesting topic

I agree that this theme repeats itself several times in the story. But what are we to make of it as readers? Does it mainly exist to cover "plotholes" in the text? Do the instances of evil forces spoiling other evil forces show a consistent and/or plausible presentation of the weaknesses of the different evil actors, or do the mistakes of the evil forces often appear as just there for the sake of convenience or presented in a way that stretches credibility?

Personally I find that Sauron employs a clever strategy in deciding to seek mastery over his adversaries through the making of and control of The One Ring. It´s a weapon which gives him supreme power when he controls it and a tool which easily can corrupt his adversaries, exploiting their various individual motivations and weaknesses. It works with Boromir, nearly to the ruin of the entire Fellowship, and Sauron´s strategy with the Palantir works as a means to destabilize Denethor.

Sauron uses the Ringwraiths to seek for Frodo because they are his most trusted as well as his most powerful servants. Is this an unlikely choice?

At the same it´s a weapon/tool which has its limitations - it´s not a tool that magically can achieve just about anything, but works in specific ways, and IMO this also makes it a credible creation and plot device.

There are instances in the story, like the fighting between the different factions of orcs in the tower of Cirith Ungol, or the inability of the Black Riders to repeat their attack against the hobbits and Strider, which do seem quite convenient. On the other hand: why should the orcs be immune to mistakes based on greed and disagreements about rewards and spoils or the proper action to take? The different factions in the orc raiding forces serve different masters with different aims, so why shouldn´t they disagree among themselves about where Merry and Pippin should be taken? I think many of these squabbles and divisions only show the different nuances between the various actors that oppose the Fellowship as well as Gondor and Rohan, it makes the story as a whole more realistic.

It´s also a recurrent theme that Sauron as the main force of evil is inferior in imagination to his chief adversaries. If the reader accepts this premise, it´s not so unlikely that Sauron commits the main strategic errors we see throughout the story. While Sauron´s errors of perception function a part of the moral of the story, I don´t find it implausible that power-hungry actors like Sauron as well as the main forces who defend themselves against him make mistakes. Theoden makes mistakes, Denethor makes mistakes, Frodo makes mistakes and the list could go on and on.


Dec 10 2012, 9:14pm

Views: 7901
A bit of both

I agree- I think we've been discussing the plotholing aspect: there's also something appropriate and satisfying about "evil will shall evil mar". To do with karma? Or hubris?


Dec 11 2012, 1:26pm

Views: 1724
The greatest example of this has yet to be said!!!!!!!!!!

Durin's Bane was the greatest help the West could ever ask for! My one friend always brings this up!

Gandalf's passing is mourned by the fellowship and when the Company reaches Lorien, the elves sing deeply sad songs of lamentation.

But . . .

Without Gandalf the White, I doubt there would have been anyone alive in Middle Earth, even if Frodo succeeded. The West NEEDED Gandalf the White.

Don't be hasty.


Dec 11 2012, 4:58pm

Views: 1751
Credibility and the One Ring

At the same it´s a weapon/tool which has its limitations - it´s not a tool that magically can achieve just about anything, but works in specific ways, and IMO this also makes it a credible creation and plot device.

Excellent point. I'd never thought otherwise, but what if the One was a magic ring that did anything you wanted? If Frodo and Sam are starving in Mordor, Frodo puts it on briefly and turns rocks into fresh bread and turns orcs into barrels of beer. Presto! That would have made the story light-heared, but also relegated it to children's fairy tales. The fact that the One, while horrible, has definite limits on what it can do makes the story more solid and believable in JRRT's world governed by rules.

And besides credibility, the limitations give the Ring a personality of sorts, making it another character, though I don't normally expect jewelry to be a character in a book.


Dec 16 2012, 5:25pm

Views: 1732
Morgoth the exception?

Morgoth is almost an exception to these rules ( 'oft evil will mar' / 'eveil overlord syndrome'). He is twice assaulted by the Valar because his acts become so intolerable but even though he is defeated both times he always has contingency plans in place - Utumno is destroyed but Angband is his fall-back. Angband is later assaulted in the War of Wrath but there are deeper pits dug to hide in just in case, and Ancalagon the Black is held back in reserve. Morgoth loses but he always seems to calculate more variables than Sauron.

And some other examples:

Morgoth overreaches when he becomes too incarnate within Arda and is thus vulnerable to 'death'? Yes but by the same token his essence is so disseminated that the whole of Arda is Marred.

Morgoth and Ungoliant fall out over the spoils of Valinor? Well yes but Morgoth triumphs because he has a few Balrogs he can call on. In fact, Ungoliant aside, there's little dissent in Beleriand when it comes to the forces of Evil. Morgoth runs a pretty tight ship. It's the Free Peoples who are disorganised and who fight amongst themselves.

A counter-example is the ridiculous amount of effort Morgoth seems to invest in bringing down Húrin's family. This fatal curse certainly leads to the tragic, bitter deaths of Húrin and his family but it also indirectly leads to the destruction of Morgoth's greatest (pre-Ancalagon) creation, Glaurung. What's more, Túrin remains so homicidal even in the afterlife that, according to the Second Prophecy of Mandos, he returns to kill Morgoth once and for all in the Dagor Dagorath.

Any other examples out there, either way?

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Dec 16 2012, 6:29pm

Views: 1674
Curses can be your best friend

I think the Hurin curse worked well for Morgoth in a geopolitical sense.

1. Turin's pride led him to build the bridge over the river that betrayed Nargothrond's location and allowed it to be invaded by Glaurung.
2. Hurin's lament to Turgon revealed its general location to Morgoth.
3. Hurin's delivery of the Nauglamir to Thingol gave the latter the idea of having Dwarves set the Silmaril in the middle of it, which led to their fight with Thingol and a chain reaction of events which destroyed Doriath and made enemies between Elves and Dwarves.

So three hidden kingdoms were destroyed as consequences of the curse. Nice work, actually.

To give the devil his due, Morgoth learned from his mistakes in battle and invented the dragons when it became clear that orcs alone couldn't defeat the Noldor. Also, he was effective in exploiting the divisions of his enemies, and you point out that he had no internal dissent himself. (Though it was partly from fear of his own followers that he went out to fight Fingolfin: "he took not the challenge willingly...but he could not now deny the challenge before the face of his captains.")

To go back to the original post of evil marring itself, I came across this tidbit while rummaging through the Silmarillion. The Noldor come to Beleriand just as the Valar create the Sun. They fight with Morgoth, then Maedhros is taken hostage and attached to a rock, and Morgoth creates a new darkness to blot out the Sun (Sauron was such a copycat). Fingon goes to rescue his cousin "and aided by the very darkness that Morgoth had made he came unseen into the fastness of his foes."


Dec 16 2012, 7:09pm

Views: 1687
That's worth 2 new threads! :)

1) is the Ring just trying to get back to its master ( perhaps it has a funny way of doing so...)
2) the Problem of Magic: giving characters magical powers is a big source of plotholes; how does JRRT handle it?


Dec 16 2012, 8:52pm

Views: 1782
Gandalf answered #1

In The Shadow of the Past:

"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it...It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him...The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwoood, it abandoned Gollum."

Gives you the shivers, doesn't it? This creepy ring, or I should say Ring, has a mind of its own, an evil one, and it uses you in foul ways to get back to its foul master. Which makes it an often unrecognized character in the book. It didn't even get credit in the movie as a character. Shame! ;)

As for #2, that would be a good thread. Feel free to start one, and I'll chime in.


Dec 18 2012, 12:07pm

Views: 1665
given the slightest encouragement... witless ramblings on "the problem of magic" in JRRT are now here: A Reading Room thread called

'The problem of magic' in Tolkien;#544821

Please do read & comment!

Re the Ring as a character, I think I recall something on this from the documentaries in the Peter Jackson LOTR film DVDs. I think PJ says they decided to make the Ring a character. I'm not sure whether he means this just as a mater of cinematography - for example they have shots in which just the Ring is shown, and they give it lines of dialogue to help show the effect it is having.

Or is it an interpretation of the story, about the Ring having a will of its own? Your quote supports that idea. But is the Ring operating in a fairly unintelligent way (do what you can to get back to Sauron) or is it capable of going beyond this? Does it have any kind of free will, or does it operate within very limited constraints like a machine or computer program?

Along those lines: Suppose Saruman got the Ring. He would obviously try to use it.Evil What would happen?. Would the Ring now have a new master, or would it try to master Saruman to carry on trying to get back to its original master?


Dec 18 2012, 3:22pm

Views: 1653
link to eucatastrophy

Another direction - this is one of JRRTs favourite ways of delivering a eucatastrophy, without toppling over into something unbelievable and deus ex machina.

Been commenting about that over here:


Dec 18 2012, 7:02pm

Views: 1629
Second thoughts!

Have you ever posted something then disagreed with yourself? Sorry about that. I now think that we should save "eucatastrophic" for extremes. So that reduces us to:

Gandalf is not dead after all!
Eowyn is not dead after all!
The Ring is destroyed!!!!

....only the last one has "evil will shall evil mar" to it.


Dec 18 2012, 7:45pm

Views: 1629
Post then self-disagree? All too often. :) //



Dec 18 2012, 9:53pm

Views: 2140
"We knows what we thinks, precious." "No, no we doesn't think that at all!"