The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 09-20-2015, 08:16 AM   #1
Aaron
Haunting Spirit
 
Aaron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: England
Posts: 96
Aaron has just left Hobbiton.
The Eye Were Dragons inherently "evil"?

Hi! Old user here, returning after rekindling my love for Tolkien

Reading The Hobbit, I was always struck by just how sorry I felt for Smaug. He was a beautiful, elegant creature, but all alone with nothing but gold for company. And even if he wanted to eat Bilbo, it almost seemed as if he enjoyed their little banter. I was very sorry when he died.

Given that Smaug was clearly not a simple beast, such as a horse or dog, and capable of rational thought, sarcasm and cruelty - do you think he, and other Dragons, could be "good" if they desired it? Did Dragons in Middle Earth have the option of being moral or immoral, or were they all uniformly evil due to their nature?
__________________
Remember, stranger, passing by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you shall be. Prepare thyself to follow me.
Aaron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2015, 09:06 AM   #2
Faramir Jones
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Faramir Jones's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lonely Isle
Posts: 694
Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
White-Hand Sorry for Smaug?

Welcome back, Aaron!

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you about Smaug. He invaded two countries, killed or drove away their inhabitants, and destroyed or took most of their property. I certainly don't feel sorry for him; because he didn't express any sorrow or remorse for his actions, yet alone attempt to compensate the relevant people, or at least their descendants.

Even if we ignore that, his response at finding out that Bilbo and the dwarves were assisted by the Lake-men was to attack and begin to destroy the town. Not only was it a vast overreaction; it also led to his death.

If he had just flown around, set fire to a few empty but visible places, and sent a threatening message that any future assistance to his enemies, such as dwarves, would be an 'unfriendly act', that strategy might have worked.

There is the seperate question of whether Smaug or any other dragon had the free will to chose good or evil, which is an interesting one. My own answer is 'Not enough information to give a definite answer'. We don't see any dragon in Tolkien's works discussing such a possibility of free will with anyone or even with themselves, and if they themselves were free to make such a choice.

I remember a newspaper cartoon which I've been trying to locate, which had a dragon at a podium addressing a seated group of knights, saying that though they had their differences, the fact that they could be in the same place together without using violence was a step in the right direction.
Faramir Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2015, 10:03 AM   #3
Zigűr
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Zigűr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 749
Zigűr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Zigűr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Ooh interesting topic.

Nothing in Arda is "inherently" evil, is it? Even the Dragons must have been bred from serpents and lizards which were (sub-)created by Yavanna et al, one assumes... although I suppose that is an assumption.

Yet they were bred as living weapons, to lead the assaults of Morgoth's armies, and were deeply imbued with his power. I wonder if their love of precious things derived from Morgoth's own weakness for lustrous artefacts.

To me it seems that Dragons were perhaps not "inherently" evil insofar as anything in Arda is, but that they were deeply evil, perhaps in a way beyond Orcs and the like. I think this may be observed in their cruelty and remorselessness.

There's evidently a kind of magnificence or grandiosity about Dragons in Middle-earth, however, which might evoke the "relics" of goodness that could be found in even the most evil things.
__________________
"Since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."
"On foot?" cried Éomer.
Zigűr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2015, 12:03 PM   #4
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,537
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zigűr View Post
Yet they were bred as living weapons, to lead the assaults of Morgoth's armies, and were deeply imbued with his power. I wonder if their love of precious things derived from Morgoth's own weakness for lustrous artefacts.
Glaurung was said to be filled with Morgoth's spirit, and Morgoth was the nearest to true evil in the world.
Yet, as has been noted nothing in Arda was evil from the start. However, if by inherent you mean an evil they were from birth primed to pursue, I think the answer is yes. I do not see any other possible path for a dragon but badness. But without Morgoth, it was "evil" in lower case; not serving a prime Evil personified, but a lesser, wicked sense of personal cruelty and greed.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2015, 01:09 PM   #5
Pervinca Took
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: The Treetops, C/O Great Smials
Posts: 3,395
Pervinca Took is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Thorin described him as 'a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm.' Whilst he's hardly an impartial judge, it would seem some were worse than others.

Chrysophylax was a flawed but slightly more moderate beast, if memory serves me correctly.
__________________
"Sit by the firelight's glow; tell us an old tale we know. Tell of adventures strange and rare; never to change, ever to share! Stories we tell will cast their spell, now and for always."
Pervinca Took is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-20-2015, 02:55 PM   #6
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 8,011
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Very interesting topic!

I agree with what has been said. Smaug's conversation with Bilbo hints that he is a dragon capable of philosophical discussion and intrigue. He's a clever beast, but it doesn't make him good. He does not use it to ponder about the world, he uses it to destroy that which is not in his immediate possession.

However, I also agree that there is not enough information on dragons out there to prove or disprove free will and a chance of goodness in dragons.
__________________
What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-21-2015, 05:01 AM   #7
Andsigil
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Andsigil's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: The Deepest Forges of Ered Luin
Posts: 730
Andsigil is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
I agree with what has been said. Smaug's conversation with Bilbo hints that he is a dragon capable of philosophical discussion and intrigue.
Satan, among the many other evils found in the world's cultures, is also capable of brilliant philosophy and was quite charismatic. I've always been of the opinion that polished manners and a nice outfit don't mitigate what a person's real self is.

Quote:
However, I also agree that there is not enough information on dragons out there to prove or disprove free will and a chance of goodness in dragons
Smaug's age and apparent wisdom seems to be proof that he knows he's evil and likes it.
__________________
Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depression in the world consciousness.

Last edited by Andsigil; 09-21-2015 at 05:09 AM.
Andsigil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-21-2015, 06:34 AM   #8
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 8,011
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andsigil View Post
Smaug's age and apparent wisdom seems to be proof that he knows he's evil and likes it.
I think that his discussion on ethics with Bilbo shows that he at least has some theoretical understanding of good to debate, sympathize (if not empathize), and manipulate Bilbo. Who knows if somewhere out there lives a dragon not utterly steeped in evil?
__________________
What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-21-2015, 06:45 AM   #9
Pervinca Took
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: The Treetops, C/O Great Smials
Posts: 3,395
Pervinca Took is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Tolkien said something similar about orcs - that they were aware of good behaviour and bad - viz Shagrat and Gorbag's conversation, where they spoke of 'a few trusty lads' and one didn't trust the other when he was 'mad for fun,' nor the other's lads, nor all of his own. The good behaviour would be 'good behaviour among villains/honour amongst thieves,' I guess. They also thought to heartlessly leave a corpse of a fellow being unburied a 'regular elvish trick.'
__________________
"Sit by the firelight's glow; tell us an old tale we know. Tell of adventures strange and rare; never to change, ever to share! Stories we tell will cast their spell, now and for always."
Pervinca Took is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-21-2015, 07:13 AM   #10
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,537
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pervinca Took View Post
The good behaviour would be 'good behaviour among villains/honour amongst thieves,' I guess. They also thought to heartlessly leave a corpse of a fellow being unburied a 'regular elvish trick.'
Then again, Shagrat and Gprbag seemed to make light of leaving one of their fellows for Shelob, when he could have been saved. Orcs also threaten to eat one another, and I doubt that was an idle threat.

In line with that, I can't see any dragon risking its neck to save a fellow, unless doing so would be to its benefit.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-21-2015, 07:16 AM   #11
Pervinca Took
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: The Treetops, C/O Great Smials
Posts: 3,395
Pervinca Took is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Yes, that was the other bit of what Tolkien said about orcs - that they were sort of aware of good and bad but didn't often/ever act upon the 'good' instinct. I can't remember his exact words, or where they are from. Probably one of the Letters.

And indeed, welcome back Aaron!
__________________
"Sit by the firelight's glow; tell us an old tale we know. Tell of adventures strange and rare; never to change, ever to share! Stories we tell will cast their spell, now and for always."
Pervinca Took is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-22-2015, 09:53 AM   #12
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,823
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pervinca Took View Post
Yes, that was the other bit of what Tolkien said about orcs - that they were sort of aware of good and bad but didn't often/ever act upon the 'good' instinct. I can't remember his exact words, or where they are from. Probably one of the Letters.
It's from his essay on Orcs published in Morgoth's Ring. Although it's expanded quite a bit by Shippey, who has a nice discussion of Shagrat and Gorbag, their recognition of "good" conduct and their failure ever to do it.

The nature of the fear or souls or whatever of Morgoth's creatures was always problematical for Tolkien, and the writings in MR showing him wrestling with ideas philosophically and theologically without reaching a firm conclusion. As a good Catholic he was very uncomfortable with the idea of "hereditary damnation," and tried out making the Orcs beasts or automatons rather than sentient, rational beings.

Dragons, once he decided that Morgoth didn't simply "make" them, he viewed as reptilian creatures presumably bred to monstrous size and then inhabited or possessed by "evil spirits" (which one supposes must be lesser Maiar of Melkor's following, junior Balrogs). But that would only apply, one would think, to those worms spawned in the Elder Days, not to their remote egg-hatched descendants, with regard to whom the same problems as with the Orcs arise.

Of course, from a literary perspective Tolkien viewed Dragons as very avatars of evil, or at least that aspect of evil manifested in greed, possessiveness and wanton destruction (the wily lawyerliness is a (brilliant) Tolkien invention). In Beowulf and the Volsung legend T regarded the dragons as manifestations of the Primeval Darkness, the wild black forest of savagery and chaos within which human life was just a small firelit hall.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2015, 10:50 AM   #13
Faramir Jones
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Faramir Jones's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lonely Isle
Posts: 694
Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The Eye Glaurung and Chrysophylax

I've been looking in Unfinished Tales, in particular the 'Narn', and came across this dimly remembered (by me) passage, when Nienor, lost in the mist, returned to Amon Ethir:

And as she climbed so the fog grew thinner, until she came at last out into the sunlight on the bare summit. Then she stepped forward and looked westward. And there right before her was the great head of Glaurung, who had even then crept up from the other side; and before she was aware her eyes looked in his eyes, and they were terrible, being filled with the fell spirit of Morgoth, his master.(My emphasis)

The fact that so large a creature can move so fast and so silently I found genuinely scary; and then we have the emphasis that his eyes had the same spirit as his master Morgoth. Certainly Glaurung was bred by the latter as a living weapon, as Zigűr correctly says.

In terms of Chrysophylax the Rich, I agree with you, Pervinca, about him being a 'slightly more moderate beast' than Glaurung and Smaug. But we need to remember that the world of Farmer Giles of Ham is quite different from that of Middle-earth.

Giles and Chrysophylax end up haggling, as if they were in a marketplace. Giles, not being a knight, doesn't feel any obligation to actually kill that dragon, and agreed to let him keep part of his fortune in return for defending his share against the King. This he does; and Giles ends up by becoming King of the Little Kingdom. Chrysophylax stays with the latter for a long time, to the benefit of Giles; because 'a man who has a tame dragon is naturally respected'.

What is particularly interesting is that Giles decided to give Chrysophylax his liberty, and that the dragon intended to keep their agreed pact of non-aggression. The reason given is interesting:

In his bad heart of hearts the dragon felt as kindly disposed towards Giles as a dragon can feel towards anyone. After all there was Tailbiter: his life might have easily been taken, and all his hoard too. (My emphasis)

The different world and Giles' character means that one can envisage a dragon having a kind of respect for the latter. There's also the fact that his cave and the borders of Giles' kingdom are quite distant; so there would be no obvious reason for Chrysophylax to come into conflict with him and his people in the future.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 09-24-2015 at 11:01 AM.
Faramir Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 02:37 PM   #14
Axbolt
Pile O'Bones
 
Axbolt's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Mt Gundabad
Posts: 23
Axbolt has just left Hobbiton.
^
It might also be worth adding that Tolkien, being christian, refers to dragons as snakes in some of his texts (I am un able to remember which) but since it is the snake that is evil in the garden of Eden, maybe that is suggestion that dragons are truly evil? (maybe excluding Chrysophylax however farmer files of ham is not specifically middle earth).

The question of Orcs however is diferent, I agree with William cloud hicling that Tolkien was un decided on this one, he did write in one of his letters (153) when revering to orcs:
I nearly wrote 'irredeemably bad' ; but that would be going too far. Because by acsepting or tolarating there makeing-necessary to there actual existance-even Orcs would become part of the world, which is gods and ultietly good.
__________________
Orc of Mt Gundabad

Last edited by Axbolt; 12-09-2015 at 02:53 PM. Reason: after revewing this post (which i rote in a hurry on the train) i notised i managed to leave afew words out? no idea how!
Axbolt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 03:01 PM   #15
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,537
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Axbolt View Post
It might also be worth adding that Tolkien, being christian, refers to dragons as snakes in some of his texts (I am un able to remember which) but since it is the snake that is evil in the garden of Eden, maybe that is suggestion that dragons are truly evil? (maybe excluding Chrysophylax however farmer files of ham is not specifically middle earth).
I recall a reference in UT to Glaurung moving like a snake, but dragons seem to most often be called "worms".

Glaurung unquestionably did the will of Morgoth, whereas Smaug was pretty much his own master. Since Morgoth was the prime Evil of Arda, Glaurung would work Evil, and be no more likely to do good than he.

Smaug's evil was more self-centered, though Gandalf was greatly concerned that a resurgent Sauron could have "used" him. Since Smaug's behaviour would seem to be more autonomous, I would almost say he was more evil than Glaurung.
Whether dragons in general were irredeemable, I think, is contingent on the possibility of their ever repenting and making a conscious effort to do good. I think that is highly improbable.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 08:31 PM   #16
Ivriniel
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Ivriniel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 428
Ivriniel has just left Hobbiton.
I'm not at all sure about what Tolkien quite meant by 'evil'. Certainly, there were indications of greed, and non-sexual lusted avarice, in the context of profound egocentrism or narcissism.

Certainly, by 'vibe' (for lack of any clear tool to crisply characterise Tolkien's sense of 'what' evil was exactly), then Nazgul, Yrch, Balgrog characterise features of evil, especially Nazgul.

Dragons on the other hand? I understand they fought for Morgoth, then for Sauron, but I've not had a crisp sense of 'why' or 'what' it was about them that was evil. Certainly, I 'get' that they eat Elves, humans and so on, and operate as agents to extend a Dark Lord's realm. I suppose that makes them 'evil' at least by proxy.

But if I look into the Silmarillion, there I see Glaurung mostly beguiling, making things forget themselves, burning up Elves to make room in an abode, and flying through skies during Dagor.....up to 5 (I forget when they got wings). These things make them ****ing scary in an encounter, but not like the screech of the Nazgul.

I don't know at all how to respond to the opening post in any prescriptive way
Ivriniel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-30-2015, 06:51 AM   #17
Faramir Jones
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Faramir Jones's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lonely Isle
Posts: 694
Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Ring Glaurung and Smaug

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Glaurung unquestionably did the will of Morgoth, whereas Smaug was pretty much his own master. Since Morgoth was the prime Evil of Arda, Glaurung would work Evil, and be no more likely to do good than he.

Smaug's evil was more self-centered, though Gandalf was greatly concerned that a resurgent Sauron could have "used" him. Since Smaug's behaviour would seem to be more autonomous, I would almost say he was more evil than Glaurung.
Whether dragons in general were irredeemable, I think, is contingent on the possibility of their ever repenting and making a conscious effort to do good. I think that is highly improbable.
I was interested in what you had to say there, Inziladun. I agree completely with what you said about Glaurung. Regarding Smaug, it's more difficult to say. Certainly he can fend for himself. Just because a being is evil, doesn't mean he or she is controlled by Sauron, Shelob being the best example of this.

When Gandalf spoke about Sauron being able to use Smaug, is it the case that he could, if he was interested, control the latter, or could at least persuade him to do things?

You rightly said, Inziladun, that Smaug's behaviour 'would seem to be more autonomous'; but there's also the fact that Morgoth appeared to let Glaurung do his own thing, allowing him to stay in Nargothrond. Was his attack on Brethil, when he was killed by Túrin Turambar, on his own initiative, or due to Morgoth telling him to get a move on?

As you said, 'Whether dragons in general were irredeemable, I think, is contingent on the possibility of their ever repenting and making a conscious effort to do good. I think that is highly improbable'. There's not, in my opinion, enough information to say conclusively one way or the other.

I'm sure this issue about whether dragons, orcs or other creatures were irredeemable was discussed by elves, men and hobbits. The poem Perry-the-Winkle, said to be written by Sam Gamgee, has a hobbit considering the possibility, at least in comic form, that a troll might choose to be good, as seen in the lament given to the latter:

'I steal no gold, I drink no beer,
I eat no kind of meat;
but People slam their doors in fear,
whenever they hear my feet.
O how I wish that they were neat,
and my hands were not so rough!
Yet my heart is soft, my smile is sweet,
and my cooking good enough.'


The proof that he is good comes when he feeds and teaches Perry-the-Winkle to become a baker. But even in the context of that poem, it's clear that trolls have a bad reputation, which Bilbo Baggins' account can't have helped:

He looked around, and who did he meet
but old Mrs. Bunce and all
with umbrella and basket walking the street;
and he smiled and stopped to call:
'Good morning, ma'am! Good day to you!
I hope I find you well?'
But she dropped umbrella and basket too,
and yelled a frightful yell.

Old Pott the Mayor was strolling near;
when he heard that awful sound,
he turned all purple and pink with fear,
and dived down underground.
The Lonely Troll was hurt and sad:
'Don't go!' he gently said,
but old Mrs. Bunce ran home like mad
and hid beneath her bed.

The Troll went on to the market-place
and peeped above the stalls;
the sheep went wild when they saw his face,
and the geese flew over the walls.
Old Farmer Hogg he spilled his ale,
Bill Butcher threw a knife,
and Grip his dog, he turned his tail
and ran to save his life.


In reality, I wonder if a troll in those circumstances might not have ended up dead very quickly, or at serious risk of being so.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 12-05-2015 at 05:28 PM.
Faramir Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 02:45 PM   #18
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,903
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Eye

Coming into this thread late. Other than perhaps Morgoth himself, Tolkien did not believe that anything with a mind was "irredeemably evil" (his phrase, not mine and not the same as "inherent"). This led him to struggle with the nature of Orcs, Trolls, and to a lesser extent dragons. I seem to recall that he reasoned that these corrupted or constructed beings could not solely be tools of the will of Morgoth and Sauron or else they would be inanimate when their masters' attention was elsewhere and would not have even the slight self-interest shown by Gorbag and Shagrat. So while he toyed with the idea that Orcs might simply be animals, perhaps apes, that were corrupted, he settled upon them being one of the sentient races in the end (though he wavered between Men and Elves as the source of Orcs and never explained the origin of Trolls).

Dragons appear to fall into a different category. The earliest conception of dragons is in Lost Tales, where they are stated as being "made" by Morgoth and having "great cunning and wisdom." However, Tolkien later reached the conclusion that Morgoth was incapable of creating any thinking entity. I suggest that dragons were bred from lesser reptiles in a fashion similar to how Carcharoth was bred and "inhabited" by "spirits" that animated them. In Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien discusses certain great Orc captains such as Boldog and states that they were inhabited by spirits of some power.

If we accept this premise, dragons are evil from the beginning because the spirits that inhabited them were evil. However, Tolkien would likely not say they were "irredeemably evil." In Letters JRRT says that even Sauron was not irredeemably evil in that he at one time served another, Aule. This creates at least the possibility of a "reformed" dragon, though public reaction might be the same as the Troll mentioned in the last post by Faramir Jones.
__________________
That which once was shall be again!
Mithadan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 03:41 PM   #19
Ivriniel
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Ivriniel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 428
Ivriniel has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Coming into this thread late. Other than perhaps Morgoth himself, Tolkien did not believe that anything with a mind was "irredeemably evil" (his phrase, not mine and not the same as "inherent"). This led him to struggle with the nature of Orcs, Trolls, and to a lesser extent dragons. I seem to recall that he reasoned that these corrupted or constructed beings could not solely be tools of the will of Morgoth and Sauron or else they would be inanimate when their masters' attention was elsewhere and would not have even the slight self-interest shown by Gorbag and Shagrat. So while he toyed with the idea that Orcs might simply be animals, perhaps apes, that were corrupted, he settled upon them being one of the sentient races in the end (though he wavered between Men and Elves as the source of Orcs and never explained the origin of Trolls).

Dragons appear to fall into a different category. The earliest conception of dragons is in Lost Tales, where they are stated as being "made" by Morgoth and having "great cunning and wisdom." However, Tolkien later reached the conclusion that Morgoth was incapable of creating any thinking entity. I suggest that dragons were bred from lesser reptiles in a fashion similar to how Carcharoth was bred and "inhabited" by "spirits" that animated them. In Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien discusses certain great Orc captains such as Boldog and states that they were inhabited by spirits of some power.

If we accept this premise, dragons are evil from the beginning because the spirits that inhabited them were evil. However, Tolkien would likely not say they were "irredeemably evil." In Letters JRRT says that even Sauron was not irredeemably evil in that he at one time served another, Aule. This creates at least the possibility of a "reformed" dragon, though public reaction might be the same as the Troll mentioned in the last post by Faramir Jones.
I love your materials Mith, they're always really strong, but there's always something thoughtful in them. For this one, I had not seen Tolkien's actual 'real life' position on sentience, evil--that anything sentient was not 'irredeemably' evil.

I was wondering if you had at the fore of your memory, where this is said by the prof, as I would like to research this area further (nature of evil/Tolkien's).

About Dragons, I recently found and excerpt in the book Master of Middle Earth by Paul Kocher. He speaks for some time about Tolkien's 'quasi-reality' placement of FA/SA/TA and the mythology as part of -- Earth's -- history. In that, Paul refers to pterodactyls and some measure of that reptile as a forebear or 'part' or 'half' fact/fiction (faction) basis of Dragons. There is a section on Tolkien's evil in the book as well, but no 'whole section' for Dragons and Evil, specifically.
Ivriniel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 03:54 PM   #20
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,903
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
There is a letter on the subject in Letters of JRRT. I do not have that volume with me. I have referred to the letter in other posts before. I'll run a search.

In Morgoth's Ring, p. 409, one of Tolkien's later writings (discussing the nature and origin of Orcs) states that only Eru can "make creatures with independent wills, and with reasoning powers."
__________________
That which once was shall be again!
Mithadan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 04:01 PM   #21
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,903
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
Letter 153 quoted in the following post (in a thread called Inherent Evil): http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpos...2&postcount=39

Interestingly, the letter speaks of a "ban" upon creating thinking beings as opposed to an inability to do so.
__________________
That which once was shall be again!
Mithadan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 04:02 PM   #22
Ivriniel
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Ivriniel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 428
Ivriniel has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
There is a letter on the subject in Letters of JRRT. I do not have that volume with me. I have referred to the letter in other posts before. I'll run a search.

In Morgoth's Ring, p. 409, one of Tolkien's later writings (discussing the nature and origin of Orcs) states that only Eru can "make creatures with independent wills, and with reasoning powers."
Ta Muchly. I just reviewed Letters and I missed it. I have not yet bought or read Morgoth's Ring, though I see a lot of citations here referring to it. It looks like a really interesting Tome.

I've got those five really (hard) volumes at hand as well, (The Lays of Beleriand, etc) where it's 'Gnomes', Thu, and MaeDRos, The Quenta and some other really odd phonetics in variations of names. I always baulked at Noldoli being -- gnomes -- and I'm glad Chris (or whoever it was) fixed it .

Cheers
Ivriniel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 04:12 PM   #23
Ivriniel
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Ivriniel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 428
Ivriniel has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Letter 153 quoted in the following post (in a thread called Inherent Evil): http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpos...2&postcount=39

Interestingly, the letter speaks of a "ban" upon creating thinking beings as opposed to an inability to do so.
from the Post citing Letters

Quote:
...even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God's and ultimately good.) " (Letter 153)
Yes, it's interesting that he went more towards 'a ban' position rather than 'incapacity' to create 'new' sentient creatures. (I'm thinking of Dwarves here and Illuvatar doing a little fixing up of them. I seem to remember they were automatons or some such before a correction).

I have a fondness for Orcs some lately though I don't want to attend an Orc function as I'm sure I'd end up either a main course, or else sport of some sort (being a bit like mutton at my age). Um, perhaps if Elrond fostered Azog? we might have had a boorish variation on Boromir? as the outcome. I do remember reading up and discovering that Orcs have some capacity for creating art as well, though a more menacing variety.

Thank you for the materials
Ivriniel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-06-2015, 08:24 AM   #24
Faramir Jones
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Faramir Jones's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lonely Isle
Posts: 694
Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Faramir Jones is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Thumbs up Getting 'Morgoth's Ring'

Ivriniel, I would strongly suggest you get a copy of Morgoth's Ring. As someone with all 13 volumes (13 being the index) of The History of Middle-earth, I've suggested to people that if they wanted to just get a few volumes, the best ones would be The Lays of Beleriand, which you already have, and Morgoth's Ring.
Faramir Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-12-2015, 12:19 AM   #25
AndyC
Newly Deceased
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 4
AndyC has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Coming into this thread late. Other than perhaps Morgoth himself, Tolkien did not believe that anything with a mind was "irredeemably evil" (his phrase, not mine and not the same as "inherent"). This led him to struggle with the nature of Orcs, Trolls, and to a lesser extent dragons. I seem to recall that he reasoned that these corrupted or constructed beings could not solely be tools of the will of Morgoth and Sauron or else they would be inanimate when their masters' attention was elsewhere and would not have even the slight self-interest shown by Gorbag and Shagrat. So while he toyed with the idea that Orcs might simply be animals, perhaps apes, that were corrupted, he settled upon them being one of the sentient races in the end (though he wavered between Men and Elves as the source of Orcs and never explained the origin of Trolls).

Dragons appear to fall into a different category. The earliest conception of dragons is in Lost Tales, where they are stated as being "made" by Morgoth and having "great cunning and wisdom." However, Tolkien later reached the conclusion that Morgoth was incapable of creating any thinking entity. I suggest that dragons were bred from lesser reptiles in a fashion similar to how Carcharoth was bred and "inhabited" by "spirits" that animated them. In Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien discusses certain great Orc captains such as Boldog and states that they were inhabited by spirits of some power.

If we accept this premise, dragons are evil from the beginning because the spirits that inhabited them were evil. However, Tolkien would likely not say they were "irredeemably evil." In Letters JRRT says that even Sauron was not irredeemably evil in that he at one time served another, Aule. This creates at least the possibility of a "reformed" dragon, though public reaction might be the same as the Troll mentioned in the last post by Faramir Jones.
To support the position that the first Dragons were inhabited by spirits of power who followed Morgoth, we have, on p151 of The War of the Jewels

"In the passage in NE (p118) describing the eyes of Glaurung when Nienor came face to face with him on the hill-top, the words 'they were terrible, being filled with the fell spirit of Morgoth, his master' contain an editorial alteration: the manuscript reads 'the fell spirit of Morgoth, who made him' (cf. IV.128). My father underlined the last three words in pencil, and faintly and barely legibly at the foot of the page he noted: 'Glaurung must be a demon [??contained in worm form].' On the emergence at this time of the view that Melkor could make nothing that had life of its own see X.74, 78."

Personally, and with no actual support in the text, I'm somewhat enamoured of the view that the first Dragon(s) were inhabited by the spirits of dead/recycled Balrogs. As powerful Umaiar and spirits of fire, they'd do well in the role. With up to 7 available, we could have 1-2 slain in the War of Utumno and unable to reform under their own power, until Morgoth gives them an anchor in the physical world in the form of mutated monstrous lizards.
(This then sees Ancalagon as a rush job, stuffing the now-discorporated Gothmog into a winged lizard )
AndyC is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:26 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.