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Where the shadows are.
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Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 2:17pm

Post #1 of 36 (405 views)
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Where the shadows are. Can't Post

I have had this feeling that throughout Tolkien's works, Evil had always been hidden or related to shadows.

'In the land if Mordor where the shadows are.'

'In the North, where the rays of Illuin were dimmest'(speaking of Melkor's building of Utumno)

'Wreathed in wings of shadow'(of the Balrog)

'...in the shadows, working up the best magic that I could...' (Gandalf on his rescue of the company in Goblin Town)

'Sauron sent forth a smoke and a cloud ahead of his servants'

You get the idea.

Now, Evil is, to the best of my knowledge, never called darkness or shadow, but rather, it hides in the dark, casting a shadow that was feared. Pure Evil is almost never seen itself, and never is really identified. It infects people with intentions for good and warps their ways and means, tainting their ends to Evil.

Gandalf, on the otherhand, conquered evil's shadow with a flash of light (Goblin Town, Field of Pellenor, Mouth Of Sauron, and other times. He serves the Secret Fire which gives light, heat, and in the right measure, life. Evil is dark, cold, and uses fire too much to destroy and take life.

Is there an archetypical relationship contrast between good and evil?

Is there a difference in Tolkien's portrayal, from the norm?

Any other thoughts?


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 2:52pm

Post #2 of 36 (233 views)
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Darkness [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice ruminations, Rem.

I think Tolkien combines evil with fear when he puts them together to make the evil that much worse. I connect fear with darkness in an evolutionary way, assuming that early humans who thought it was a good idea to wonder around at night were eaten and the ones who stayed back by the fire, afraid of the dark, were the ones eaten less often. So I suppose I blame our ancestors for a hereditary fear of darkness and feeling that darkness contains evil, if you consider being eaten to by something else to be an evil thing.

When I try to reverse the imagery, it never works. What if Sauron were the White Lord in the Bright Castle and Mordor was the Land of Sunlight? "The Nazgul shone like the sun at noon, and the Orcs wore snow-white armor into battle." Suddenly the evil guys seem less evil and less scary at the same time. In that sense, I think Tolkien was sticking to traditional imagery in good and evil.


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 21 2013, 3:24pm

Post #3 of 36 (216 views)
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23 Sceadu [In reply to] Can't Post

The Shadow is a common leitmotif of Evil in Beowulf.

For example:

All were endangered; young and old
were hunted down by that dark death-shadow
who lurked and swooped in the long nights
on the misty moors; nobody knows
where these reavers from hell roam on their errands.


Similarly, there is the danger of falling under shadow:

It was known to the elders
that the hostile foe must not,
the Lord did not will it, drag them under shadow.


Tolkien often dipped into Beowulf. For example:

ond þisses hrægles néot
þéod gestreona


“And make use of this corslet,
the worth of a nation.”

That is, Beowulf gets a ringed shirt from the king worth more than the Shire and everything in it. (As derwyn put it, "Here's a pretty Danish-skin to wrap a Gaetish-princeling in.")

And Beowulf is described as “Hringa þengel”, or “The Lord of the Rings”.

Coincidence? I think not!!

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair,
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today,
I wish he would just fly away.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 4:32pm

Post #4 of 36 (210 views)
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Thanks, and some thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, shadow is never (that I can remember), identified AS Evil, but Evil does seem to use shadow. Don't the heroes hide in the shadows in Mordor? Evil seems to have taken the shadow, and appropriated it to such an extent, that we identify shadows (harmless in themselves, as they are merely empty of light. Why do we fear nothing?) with Evil.

Perhaps Evil uses the primeval fear of the dark to increase it's power, if only superficially in appearance? A deceptive bluff, as it were?


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 4:39pm

Post #5 of 36 (204 views)
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Yes... [In reply to] Can't Post

There seems to be a primeval fear of the dark in us all.

Who else runs quickly past dark rooms, or at least will never turn your back to them? Come on raise your hand with mine!!! LOL!!!

Perhaps the 'shadow' is the place where dark and light/ Good and Evil meet? At least at the penumbra? Perhaps if one 'falls into shadow' they have left the light of Good, and are in danger of being caught by Evil in the obscured struggle in the shadow? Could it be seen as the moral grey areas, where we must wade through a complex maze of ethics, and where we may stray into evil like Sauron, Melkor, Saruman, and others?


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 21 2013, 4:46pm

Post #6 of 36 (212 views)
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There is also the Shadow as Self. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Darkness within, for example, Grendel as Beowulf's doppleganger.

Similarly there are lots of characters with shadow-selves in LOTR: Frodo and Gollum, Gandalf and Saruman, Theoden and Denethor, Faramir and Boromir, and so on.

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair,
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today,
I wish he would just fly away.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 6:51pm

Post #7 of 36 (200 views)
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And this is what shadows are made of: [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps one's shadow is the antithesis of self? One without any love, goodness, or sense of morals?

A shadow is empty, and only exits if there is something to cast it. It has no matter or form in itself, and what little it does have, it steals from the host, and twists into something vaguely similar in shape, but it nature, totally different and barren.


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 21 2013, 7:47pm

Post #8 of 36 (192 views)
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"None of us has any pockets." [In reply to] Can't Post

"Tinker Bell," he called softly, after making sure that the children were asleep, "Tink, where are you?" She was in a jug for the moment, and liking it extremely; she had never been in a jug before.

"Oh, do come out of that jug, and tell me, do you know where they put my shadow?"

The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the fairy language. You ordinary children can never hear it, but if you were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.

Tink said that the shadow was in the big box. She meant the chest of drawers, and Peter jumped at the drawers, scattering their contents to the floor with both hands, as kings toss ha'pence to the crowd. In a moment he had recovered his shadow, and in his delight he forgot that he had shut Tinker Bell up in the drawer.

If he thought at all, but I don't believe he ever thought, it was that he and his shadow, when brought near each other, would join like drops of water, and when they did not he was appalled. He tried to stick it on with soap from the bathroom, but that also failed. A shudder passed through Peter, and he sat on the floor and cried.

His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only pleasantly interested.

"Boy," she said courteously, "why are you crying?"

Peter could be exceeding polite also, having learned the grand manner at fairy ceremonies, and he rose and bowed to her beautifully. She was much pleased, and bowed beautifully to him from the bed.


-James M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Wendy, 1911


Later:

He had become frightfully cunning. "Wendy," he said, "how we should all respect you."

She was wriggling her body in distress. It was quite as if she were trying to remain on the nursery floor.

But he had no pity for her.

"Wendy," he said, the sly one, "you could tuck us in at night."

"Oo!"

"None of us has ever been tucked in at night."

"Oo," and her arms went out to him.

"And you could darn our clothes, and make pockets for us. None of us has any pockets."


-ibid

(Hmmmmm.... I seem to remember another faerie story about pocketses.....)

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair,
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today,
I wish he would just fly away.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 8:14pm

Post #9 of 36 (191 views)
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To do with theories of evil? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read that, philosophically one can either see evil as the absence of good, or an active force opposite to good (a sort of anti-good, as opposed to "0% good").

If things are evil where there is no good, you get the shadow as a nice analogy: shadows, after all, appear where the light is blocked by something.

I'd assumed this was behind the shadow references. But that could be just a conclusion I've jumped to!

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 21 2013, 9:57pm

Post #10 of 36 (186 views)
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Darkness does equal evil in Tolkien's world... [In reply to] Can't Post

We are told in the creation account that darkness entered creation in relation to the Discord of Melkor, "While the Ainur were yet gazing upon this vision, it was taken away from them that in that moment they perceived a new thing, Darkness, which they had not known before except in thought"- Silmarillion pg. 9.

And it is from the darkness that Ungoliant descends. So I would say, yes Darkness does directly correspond to evil in Middle Earth. Shadows, maybe not, but darkness yes.

Not all those who wander are lost


Kalimac
Bree


Oct 21 2013, 10:15pm

Post #11 of 36 (167 views)
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Then, would you say the opposite is true? [In reply to] Can't Post

that light equals goodness?


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 21 2013, 10:20pm

Post #12 of 36 (165 views)
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interesting question [In reply to] Can't Post

I would say in general yes. part of it stems from what you were talking about earlier, evil as a being lack of good just as darkness is an absence of light. Part of this analogy in Tolkien i think stems from his Christianity for that is one of the major ways the Bible speaks of Good and evil as light and dark. Especially the Gospel of John and the Letters of John.

Not all those who wander are lost


squire
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 10:39pm

Post #13 of 36 (175 views)
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In general, that's it. But Tolkien will not go gently into that bad night... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is important to remember that Tolkien specifically assigns the Elves a love of the night - that is, of darkness. They awoke in a dark world, illuminated only by the stars of Varda, and stars against a black field, the night sky, are a constant in Elvish art and imagery. Even at the end of the story, when Sauron has been defeated, Arwen is the Evenstar; she blesses the returning darkness of night (now signifying decline rather than rising) for the Elves of Middle-earth.

The Men of Numenor acquire this same heraldry, as we see when Aragorn's resurrects the standard of Elendil, a black field with stars. As well, the livery of the knights of the citadel of Minas Tirith is black, as is the famed outer wall of the city.

So along with the standard assignment of evil will and evil deeds to the shadows and the night, which does permeate his stories, Tolkien adds a counterweight. I think he does it to point out that even the darkness is not inherently evil; it has simply been conquered and corrupted by Melkor and his minions who are afraid of the light.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 10:45pm

Post #14 of 36 (162 views)
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Elves and light [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose that's one way to look at it. To me, it seems that Elves love the light as contrasted with the darkness: they love the stars (and Varda for making them) that shine in the night sky, not the night itself. As you point out, Arwen is a star also. The sun's light heralded the rise of Men, but the moon's light (not night sky) cherishes the memory of the Elves (who call themselves the people of the stars).


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Oct 21 2013, 10:57pm

Post #15 of 36 (154 views)
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Exactly what I was thinking. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I would say in general yes. part of it stems from what you were talking about earlier, evil as a being lack of good just as darkness is an absence of light. Part of this analogy in Tolkien i think stems from his Christianity for that is one of the major ways the Bible speaks of Good and evil as light and dark. Especially the Gospel of John and the Letters of John.

"In him was life; and the life was the light of men, And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." John 1:4-5


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 21 2013, 11:03pm

Post #16 of 36 (164 views)
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besides the points made by others about the stars and moon there is more... [In reply to] Can't Post

Melkor used the dark to build up a distrust between the Elves and the Valar. So the dark they were born into was not so good for them.

Not all those who wander are lost


Kalimac
Bree


Oct 21 2013, 11:58pm

Post #17 of 36 (157 views)
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Could the imagery of stars be read as [In reply to] Can't Post

the necessity of both darkness and light? The stars are bright <i> because </i> everything else is dark. Likewise there needs to be light for there to be shadows.


squire
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 12:29am

Post #18 of 36 (156 views)
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That's more like it [In reply to] Can't Post

If I remember, Flieger in her classic "Splintered Light" makes the case that the only way the people in The Silmarillion (i.e., the Elves, but more generally as a calque for Mankind in the real world) can achieve moral maturity is to embrace the intersection of light and darkness - where the light "splinters". Flieger takes her inspiration from Tolkien's poem 'Mythopoeia'. The relevant lines are:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
Through whom is splintered from a single White
To many hues, and endlessly combined
In living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
With Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seeds of dragons -- 'twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made.

It follows that darkness cannot be all bad, as it is necessary to assert what goodness is by contrast.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Oct 22 2013, 1:44am

Post #19 of 36 (160 views)
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Please tell me I'm not the only one... [In reply to] Can't Post

... who thought of this song....

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark


(Video is a cool version of this song sung live in Rio)

On a more serious note though, Dark covers all manner of sins. You "get away with" things in the dark. Light exposes faults, and mistakes and wrong choices and evil. It allows us to see. See what? Real intentions, truth. We talk of exposing lies as "bringing to the light of day..." Light does not allow us to hide. Who we really are is exposed for all to see.

Shadow is tricky because it's half light. In Shadow we can be tricked into thinking we see all when in reality what we see is only part of the picture. Shadow is where good intentions are bent into bad outcomes by evil.

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


RosieBaggins
Rivendell


Oct 22 2013, 11:35am

Post #20 of 36 (169 views)
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Fear and darkness are often connected with fear, but- [In reply to] Can't Post

The elves loved night and twilight. Humans were meant to be active during the day, but the elves were in love with the night, when the stars were out. The darkness that Tolkien talks about in a negative way was corrupted, in a similar way that orcs were corrupted elves.

Humans often connect darkness with fear because we are more comfortable in the light. For instance, say, an owl, if it could think in such abstract terms might decided that light is evil. It is all a matter of perspective. Darkness hides things, and we fear what it may contain.

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Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Oct 22 2013, 2:07pm

Post #21 of 36 (119 views)
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I wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

Do elves love twilight because the partial light hides their fading?

Middle Earth is not the paradise it used to be (if it ever was). Does the twilight make it easier for them to imagine what was before and therefore hold on the the illusion that they still live in the world they remember instead of the world that is?

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 3:24pm

Post #22 of 36 (105 views)
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Exactly. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 3:26pm

Post #23 of 36 (117 views)
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Yes, that's pretty much [In reply to] Can't Post

my take on it: "On a more serious note though, Dark covers all manner of sins. You "get away with" things in the dark. Light exposes faults, and mistakes and wrong choices and evil. It allows us to see. See what? Real intentions, truth. We talk of exposing lies as "bringing to the light of day..." Light does not allow us to hide. Who we really are is exposed for all to see.

Shadow is tricky because it's half light. In Shadow we can be tricked into thinking we see all when in reality what we see is only part of the picture. Shadow is where good intentions are bent into bad outcomes by evil."




Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 3:55pm

Post #24 of 36 (113 views)
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Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd say IMHO, that Tolkien had a largely Augustinian view of Evil. Evil=not Good.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 3:59pm

Post #25 of 36 (104 views)
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Yes, I agree. The sematics are terribly troubling.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, Darkness is not Evil, but it has come to represent that, that and fear. It was not so in the beginning, but has become so. Shadows and Darkness have been used so much by Evil, that they are now almost indistinguishable. Night was good, Orome came riding in the night, and the Elves loved twilight and stars. Another corruption of Evil.

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