Tolkien and good and evil

Tolkien and good and evil

Terry Mattingly writes a column about “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien’s Catholicism, and the themes of good and evil in the book. He quotes screenwriter Philippa Boyens on the meaning behind the books. She notes that Tolkien rejected allegorical interpretations.

    The reality is more complex than that, said Boyens, after a press screening of “The Two Towers.” ... “This is not a story about good versus evil,” she said. “It’s about that goodness and that evilness that is in all of us.”

So very true and so very much overlooked. Most films today take one of two extremes—either evil is the fundamental nature of a person—the character is all good or all bad, but does not cross the line—or good and evil are indistinguishable and only depend on one’s point of view.

But Tolkien—and Jackson’s intepretation of Tolkien—sees good and evil as a war within each of us. Good is the greater, but not always the victor in that war. Even so, redemption is always available for he who succumbs to evil. Look at Boromir and his sacrifice. Even Gollum saw flashes of repentance and a desire to return to his lost innocence. One of the worst sins, according to Tolkien, is a loss of hope, a capitulation to evil. For him, a battle against evil that cannot be won must still be fought. But when Denethor and Saruman give in to hopelessness and despair, they lose their minds, their lives, and we can surmise from the context, their souls.

The rest of the column is very good, including Jackson’s comments that he honored Tolkien’s religion and spirituality, by honoring what he put there and ot injecting their own baggage into it.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli