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Old 01-02-2009, 12:11 PM   #1
Cailín
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Absolute Good in Lord of the Rings

Well, it has been ages since I posted, but of course I have not forgotten about you and in times of great need still happily abuse your knowledge of the books.

I'm currently writing an essay on the high fantasy genre and during writing, the following question came up:

Who, if anyone, in Lord of the Rings embodies absolute good?

I welcome both in-depth answers with textual evidence as gut-feeling responses, which is why I thought this the most suitable forum.
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Old 01-02-2009, 02:07 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cailín View Post
Who, if anyone, in Lord of the Rings embodies absolute good?
I don't believe anyone in LOTR personified good, in and of itself. In ME Eru did, because Tolkien was no doubt following the Catholic principle (or whatever you call it) that God is goodness itself and therefore can have no flaw, no injustice, do no wrong, and that sort of thing.

In LOTR, there are several who come closest, but none who embody absolute good. I think Bombadil is about the closest you'll get, being innocent and incorruptible.
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Last edited by Gollum the Great; 01-02-2009 at 02:24 PM. Reason: Missed a word
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Old 01-02-2009, 02:20 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gollum the Great View Post
I don't believe in LOTR personified good, in and of itself. In ME Eru did, because Tolkien was no doubt following the Catholic principle (or whatever you call it) that God is goodness itself and therefore can have no flaw, no injustice, do no wrong, and that sort of thing.
You hit the nail right on the head, Gollum. In order for Tolkien to personify good in a certain character his works would become allegorical, and Tolkien specifically said he detests allegories (I think I'll go and look that quote up for y'all).

Frodo comes to mind as the one who resists evil (being the Ring) the most in the story. Unlike other characters, he is almost always susceptible to the corruption of the Ring, but he always comes out on top, except for the final task of getting rid of the evil. Of course Frodo was effected by the Rings power, but he shows more spunk in resisting it 9/10 times. Even he can't be described as the personification of good, Sam certainly fills the gap. When Frodo falls Sam is there to help him back up, but when Sam's temper gets the better of himself, and he treats Gollum ill, Frodo is there to treat Gollum as an equal. I think those two are the closest you get to "good".
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Old 01-02-2009, 03:54 PM   #4
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I don't think any character embodies 'absolute good' in Lord of the Rings, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, as Tolkien created Eru as creator of his secondary world, and as an Omnipotent god figure, it wouldn't be possible for any other character to be 'better' than Eru in terms of being 'absolute good'. If say Gandalf was an ambodiment of 'absolute good' then this would make him better than Eru and that wouldn't sit well with the existence of Eru.

Secondly, Tolkien states that he does not believe that 'absolute Evil' existed in his creation. While that does not exclude 'absolute Good' (unless you think it is Dualistic or something like that) it does mean that Tolkien created a Creator who could/would allow 'evil' to exist; in the Silmarillion it states that the works of Morgoth ultimately only served to make Eru's works better. What I'm trying to say is that even Eru is not 'absolute Good', he is simply Eru and beyond all of that, beyond the ken of mere Men and Elves and even Valar.

Thirdly, as we've discussed many times, our 'heroes' all have flaws. None of them are 'perfect' - even Gandalf is a grumpy old pipe-smoking hippy (), Frodo has his weakness, Tom Bombadil does not 'get involved' but hangs out in his woods singing trippy songs...etc...Lord of the Rings is a tale where there are no perfect saintly or muscle-bound 'heroes', but lots of very interesting people with failings just like us, doing their best.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:20 PM   #5
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While I agree with most of what you said, Lal, I take issue with this.

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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
What I'm trying to say is that even Eru is not 'absolute Good', he is simply Eru and beyond all of that, beyond the ken of mere Men and Elves and even Valar.
From what I read of Eru (not from the Elves perspective), he was ME's God. Being God meant being "Goodness" itself, as a devout Catholic like Tolkien would hold.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:45 PM   #6
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While I agree with most of what you said, Lal, I take issue with this.



From what I read of Eru (not from the Elves perspective), he was ME's God. Being God meant being "Goodness" itself, as a devout Catholic like Tolkien would hold.
I don't know whether he was 'God' as in the Real World 'God', and if he was then there's a lot of interpretations of that, though he may well have been Tolkien's vision of what God was/is like. But I go from what's in the texts and in the Sil Eru doesn't state he is anything (in terms of good/bad or other judgements) other than he 'is'. And he also strikes me as like the vision of God (real world this time - I should be strict and distinguish them by using/omitting capital letters ) we see in the Book of Job, who demonstrates that he is beyond our notions of good/bad by doing some quite horrible things to Job - and thus emphasising both his omnipotence and his mystery.

That's what I mean by the concept of 'Goodness' not really applying to Eru.
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Old 01-02-2009, 06:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
But I go from what's in the texts and in the Sil Eru doesn't state he is anything (in terms of good/bad or other judgements) other than he 'is'.
He doesn't have to state anything. He (as you so admirably put it) is.

Quote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Striking resemblance between Tolkien and St. John.

Tolkien I am positive does not go with Eru being evil, that's impossible. Evil is an absence (Catholic again) or perversion of the good. It's not a principle or substance. A man stands before a light. The result? A shadow. Therefore Eru cannot be evil. Neutral? A neutral supreme being would see no reason to create anything in the first place. Therefore Eru has to be good. He is Goodness itself, for if he were not goodness, where would the good come from? The Void?

Quote:
we see in the Book of Job, who demonstrates that he (God) is beyond our notions of good/bad by doing some quite horrible things to Job - and thus emphasising both his omnipotence and his mystery.

That's what I mean by the concept of 'Goodness' not really applying to Eru.
If I remember rightly from the Bible, the devil requested permission to tempt Job, thus inducing him to blaspheme or call God unjust (I can't recall what exact sin it was). What did God use this for? A test. As the All-knowing God He already knew the measure of Job's faithfulness, but man with free will (still going Catholic) may make his own decisions and his virtues and vice only incline him to one side or the other. And what was this to Job?

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

How was he to know what God had in mind? He knew God had his interests at heart, so why worry? He proved himself as true as mithril and ended up rewarded with more than he started with. An "evil" God would not help His servants in such a manner after a test. What happened to the Easterlings after they won the Nirnaeth for Morgoth? They were dumped in Hithlum with almost no booty.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:57 PM   #8
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As Tolkien stated there is nothing or no one 'absolutely evil' in his mythos, I would then have to conclude the opposite is also true -- that there is no 'absolute good'.

Free Will precludes Absolutes, and, conversely, the imposition of an Absolute on Free Will eliminates it. The terms are mutually exclusive.
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Old 01-02-2009, 09:19 PM   #9
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Well, I don't know.

I mean, the thing is that Eru is the Christian God. He is not a fictional deity, Eru is but a fictional name for the Christian God that Tolkien too worshiped, used although in a fictional context. Tolkien defends his non-orthodox portrayal of God as Eru in his works in letter 154 to Mr. Peter Hastings saying:

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We differ entirely about the nature of the relation of sub-creation to Creation. I should have said that liberation "from the channels the creator is known to have used already" is the fundamental function of "sub-creation", a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety [...] I am not a metaphysician; but I should have thought it a curious metaphysic — there is not one but many, indeed potentially innumerable ones — that declared the channels known (in such a finite corner as we have any inkling of) to have been used, are the only possible ones, or efficacious, or possibly acceptable to and by Him!
As such, Eru was for Tolkien THE Christian God and the use within the works was to him but a means of exploring the infinite possibilities of God, "a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety".


Now, the question is, is God for Catholics absolute good? To this question I await your answers since I am an agnostic with no idea about the so interesting teachings of the church. Especially in such philosophical matters I need some assistance, I believe Legate could be helpful, he is studying religion as far as I know. I might PM him about this.

Ok, so the thing is, if Catholics regard God as absolute good, then Eru is absolute good, since he is God, simple transitivity. If not, then not.
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Old 01-03-2009, 12:37 AM   #10
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I can't speak for Catholics per se but since the Christian God is a single God, the creator, then all things Good and Evil originated from him. But Evil can be described as that which goes against God, and by that standard you could say God is wholly not Evil - totally Good. Now you could argue semantics and technicalities all day but in the end I think God is beyond such general terms.

And beyond this thread, perhaps. I have the sneaking suspicion Cailín was hoping for more, shall we say, embodied characters?

Unfortunately when you leave out Eru I do not believe there are any absolute Good characters in The Lord of the Rings - plain and simple. If I had to choose the Good-est my gut instinct was Gandalf. Being a Maiar makes him Good no more than it does Sauron; however, he does succeed in his God-given mission when other Istari do not. He does not fall to temptation. Whether is love of Old Toby or his propensity to berate meddlers influence whether he is "Good" or not, who can say? Every single character has flaws - that is basic to life and Tolkien didn't forget it.
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Might
Now, the question is, is God for Catholics absolute good? To this question I await your answers since I am an agnostic with no idea about the so interesting teachings of the church. Especially in such philosophical matters I need some assistance, I believe Legate could be helpful, he is studying religion as far as I know. I might PM him about this.

Ok, so the thing is, if Catholics regard God as absolute good, then Eru is absolute good, since he is God, simple transitivity. If not, then not.
I can't claim to speak to what all Catholics believe, but I can speak to what their dogma tells them they ought to. Gollum has it essentially correct to say God is all good, and I quote The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paragraph 7, 385
God is infinitely good and all his works are good.
And, as the footnote there says, this is philosophically traceable back to St. Augustine, although that's standard Catholic (indeed, most Christian, I'd say, that have philosophic traditions) to say that God is all-good, in addition to all-powerful and all-knowing.

But I think this is getting off track somewhat. Certainly, it answers Cailín's question, but it's a very unnuanced and--I suspect--rather unhelpful. Here's her actual question:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cailín
Who, if anyone, in Lord of the Rings embodies absolute good?
Eru may be absolute good... but good luck finding a mention of him in the Lord of the Rings. Of course, I'm being bluntly unuseful myself in pointing that out, so let's try a better tack.

Gollum is right, of course, to say that Eru is the only being in Middle-earth who can be said to perfectly good if only because Tolkien isn't writing an allegory... but I think Cailín might settle for someone less perfect--even if it means someone less good. If we're looking for a useful essay example here, we need someone from the Lord of the Rings who epitomises, as best as possible, goodness.

Two characters leapt to my mind in the middle of writing the above.

Firstly, Sam.

Now, I know Sam isn't perfect. If we cease to harp on the perfection bit, I think it's pretty clear that Sam has more good characteristics than most characters in Middle-earth, and not least in his favour is Tolkien's comment that Sam is perhaps the real hero of the epic. More could be said here but it's late and focusing is not something I'm doing so well at at the moment.

Moving on, the other character that leapt to mind was Théoden... and I'll be honest, I'm not sure I OUGHT to be putting him in... but I'll throw it out anyway because it's late, I'm tired, and it'll make for good discussion if it doesn't get buried as a footnote. It seems to me that, AFTER his cure by Gandalf, Théoden is something of an idealised character: he's noble, he's kind, he's just, he's brave... and he dies a heroic death in battle. If there's any case to what my delusional, tired brain has come up with in presenting Théoden, this might have some interesting things to say about the value of self-sacrifice in Middle-earth.
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:30 AM   #12
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Some very interesting answers, thank you. I did not wish to go off-topic, because this is a Tolkien forum, but some of you might still be interested why I pose this question. The question actually arose from an article ("From Elfland to Hogwarts") I read by John Pennington, who finds fault with the Harry Potter series by comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, and some other famous fantasy works which he considers to be at the heart of fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia, for example). His main point is basically that Harry Potter is “fundamentally failed fantasy”. One of the reasons was most intriguing to me:
Quote:
But the archetypal theme of good versus evil appears to be what the Potter books are about. Harry's education is cemented in this ultimate dichotomy that Tolkien, Lewis, and LeGuin privilege in their texts. So just what are the Harry Potter books about? (...) All is ripe for the good old-fashioned battle between good and evil. But that tone is quickly undercut--Harry is often more interested in being able to visit Hogsmeade and practice Quidditch than he is in fighting evil.
And later:
Quote:
Finally, what ultimately is the role of the archetypal good versus evil dichotomy in the series? Voldemort represents the darkest of evil. But what of the good? Is there an overarching figure of good--a supreme being, for example, not necessarily God--whom Harry and his friends follow? They certainly are in a Christian universe, for they celebrate the Christmas season. If there are the Dark Arts, are there the Light or White Arts? Dumbledore is a Merlin and Gandalf figure, but Dumbledore does not achieve any grandeur; his name evokes bumble and bumbling, reminiscent of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, those foolish characters. There seems to be a good in the novel, but that goodness seems individual rather than archetypal. Thus the archetypal evilness in the Potter universe has no real antidote other than Harry and his friends (who do not seem to take that evil too seriously).
Since Rowling’s work is constantly contrasted with The Lord of the Rings, presumably Pennington did find the archetypes he was looking for in Tolkien’s writing. Perhaps he was indeed referring to Eru - though as Formendacil rightly points out, Eru is not really mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. He may be the source of goodness, as he is the source of everything, but like Tom Bombadil, the Ring seems to be beneath his concerns and Sauron’s far lesser evil is sufficiently balanced by characters such as Gandalf, who are not supreme archetypes. The goodness in Lord of the Rings seems to me quite individual and I think it would somehow detract from characters such as Sam and Frodo that their goodness is ultimately nothing more than some sort of divine infusion from above.

P.S. I’m not sure how many Potter fans / readers are present, but of course after the publication of Deathly Hallows it is quite clear that the Potter universe is indeed Christian. The article quoted above is from 2002, and was written before the fifth instalment in the series was published.
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Old 01-03-2009, 12:57 PM   #13
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Just a quickie here for now...because I'll have to rummage out a bible in order to answer Gollum about Job

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cailin
He may be the source of goodness, as he is the source of everything, but like Tom Bombadil, the Ring seems to be beneath his concerns and Sauron’s far lesser evil is sufficiently balanced by characters such as Gandalf, who are not supreme archetypes. The goodness in Lord of the Rings seems to me quite individual and I think it would somehow detract from characters such as Sam and Frodo that their goodness is ultimately nothing more than some sort of divine infusion from above.
I agree. Eru isn't significant in Lord of the Rings, in fact what we're presented with is a world without faith, religion etc and the characters seem to have to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. In that respect, those who choose to opt for the side of Light seem all the better for it somehow, in the face of all too tempting odds offered by the Dark side.

And that's another thought - maybe it might be better to think of dualities in terms of Light/Dark in Tolkien's work rather than Good/Evil?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geezer that Cailin quotes
Harry is often more interested in being able to visit Hogsmeade and practice Quidditch than he is in fighting evil.
That's a grossly unfair criticism! Harry Potter is a teenage boy, not a saint. The Harry Potter books are as much takes of friendship and boarding school life as they are of 'fighting evil'.
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:56 PM   #14
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First off, I want to say it's lovely to have you back Cailin - I hope you can stick around, and I sorely miss you in those WW villages.

And also, here's TM again! Maybe in my own absenses I've missed some things, but it seems like it's been forever since I've seen you posting in a thread. As expected a great find!

The one thing I want to caution to answer this question, is using Tolkien letters. That's a great find TM, but I will just point out that Peter Hastings was one of Tolkien's Catholic friends. Peter Hastings was the manager of the Newman Bookshop, a Catholic book store. And what's significant about that? Professor Kilby (one of the leading Silmarillion gurus) has observed (as well as others) that Tolkien had the tendancy to say completely different things to different people. I suggest Tolkien's friend Norman Cantor's view, and that is while Tolkien's letter are interesting to read, they can't always be authorial to the text (The Silm, LOTR...etc). Tolkien was consciously thinking and answering questions from several different people about his books, long after he had written them. Books that had undergone several reworkings, rewritings, and Tolkien even saying parts that were written some 30 years ago, admitting he didn't "know everything."

Basically, Tolkien could give different answers to different people, because of the depth of his books, and the very many different influences that he drew from - religion, Norse myth, war, languages...etc.

The other thing I want to ask is (I think davem, or someone else has asked this before) but particularly for Gollum - does a Christian carmaker create christian cars? Or in this case - does a Christian author necessarily write a Christian book? To deny a Christian influence would be ridiculous, it would be taking away an important part of Tolkien's life - it would be like denying he served in WW1.

However, I must disagree with the statement that since Tolkien was Catholic, he created a Catholic god in Eru, and thus Eru represents absolute good. I want to point out a statement by another author, one who typically gets labelled a writing a Christian story, but it's a very fascinating comment - in Christianity and Literature; "Christian Reflections":

Quote:
It would be possible, and perhaps edifying, to write a Christian cookery book. Such a book would exclude dishes whose preparation involves unnecessary human labour or animal suffering, and dishes excessively luxurious. That is to say, its choice of dishes would be Christian. But there could be nothing specifically Christian about the actual cooking of the dishes included. Boiling an egg is the same process whether you are a Christian or a Pagan. In the same way, literature written by Christians for Christians would have to avoid mendacity, cruelty, blasphemy, pornography, and the like, and it would aim at edification in so far as edification was proper to the kind of work in hand.
And the person who I'm quoting is....

::drumroll please::

C.S. Lewis

It's interesting how those who are quick to label Lewis as being a Christian writer, Narnia being a Christian allegory overlook some of Lewis' comments. I would argue that Lewis (and Tolkien) were writers who were Christian, and obviously were influenced by their faith. But to say Tolkien created a Christian God in Eru, I think, is taking things a step too far. As Tolkien put it, he doesn't preach, nor does he teach.

So, my answer to you Cailin is, Eru was 100% correct in saying that he "is," and that is - he is what you want to believe he is. Is there an absolute good in LOTR? I don't know, my guess is no, because as Morthoron and others have argued there is no absolute evil. But I wouldn't presume to speak for yours, Tolkien's, or anyone else's beliefs - particulary religious ones.
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Old 01-03-2009, 03:16 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Gollum the Great View Post
If I remember rightly from the Bible, the devil requested permission to tempt Job, thus inducing him to blaspheme or call God unjust (I can't recall what exact sin it was). What did God use this for? A test. As the All-knowing God He already knew the measure of Job's faithfulness, but man with free will (still going Catholic) may make his own decisions and his virtues and vice only incline him to one side or the other. And what was this to Job?

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.
God permits Satan to do these things to Job, it is ultimately God's work which was happening to him. Thus, God demonstrates his absolute freedom and omnipotence. And in doing so, finds out that Job's faith is such he accepts these horrible things.

Quote:
Tolkien I am positive does not go with Eru being evil, that's impossible. Evil is an absence (Catholic again) or perversion of the good.
Of course Eru is not 'evil', but everything stems from him, every possibility, even Morgoth's works stem ultimately from Eru as Eru makes him and makes him so he is able to do these things. But of course even the things we see as 'evil' which happen in Arda are ultimately 'good' as they stem from Eru. And Eru even gives us a little explanation when he says

Quote:
no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me
and

Quote:
thou, Melkor, wilt discover all the secret thoughts of thy mind, and wilt perceive that they are but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory
The best example to demonstrate how Melkor's works only serve to make Eru seem more glorious is good old snow. It seems odd at first to think that even the bad things stem ultimately from Eru, but they do. And that chimes in with the profound and quite difficult things said in Job.

Like Boro says,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88
I would argue that Lewis (and Tolkien) were writers who were Christian, and obviously were influenced by their faith. But to say Tolkien created a Christian God in Eru, I think, is taking things a step too far.
Eru may be a reflection of Tolkien's own vision of God, that's something nobody can ever know is true or not, but is he 'the' God? Who knows? That depends on what your own experience or not is and mine is that there isn't just one version

So anyway...I think Cailin is probably right to concentrate on the main characters in Lord of the Rings itself! Even if her answer is a big old "No".
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:18 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
So anyway...I think Cailin is probably right to concentrate on the main characters in Lord of the Rings itself! Even if her answer is a big old "No".
Interesting that no one here has mentioned Galadriel. After all, we are given her temptation scene, just as we saw Gandalf refuse to be tempted by the Ring. I'm not saying that she's an example of "absolute good", but certainly in her wisdom, insight, tremendous hospitality, and prescient gifts she provides something very positive, helpful, and healing. She's the closest Tolkien gets to giving us a Goddess, verily an emissary of Light.
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Interesting that no one here has mentioned Galadriel. After all, we are given her temptation scene, just as we saw Gandalf refuse to be tempted by the Ring. I'm not saying that she's an example of "absolute good", but certainly in her wisdom, insight, tremendous hospitality, and prescient gifts she provides something very positive, helpful, and healing. She's the closest Tolkien gets to giving us a Goddess, verily an emissary of Light.
Yet dear ol' Galady had her faults. She did, after all, ignore the Ban of Mandos, being more interested in personal gain, tempted as she was by the oratory of Feanor (even though she disliked him, she still fell for the bad boy image).

Regarding the circumlocutious debate concerning Eru and his omniscience, to me he/she/it was neither good or bad, and resembled Yahweh of the Torah, who could be quite despicable at times, butchering enemies of Israel wholesale (like Yahweh, Eru did slaughter innocent folks -- the old and the infant -- on Numenor).

Aside from the Eru discussion, I do not believe there was any character exhibiting an absolute goodness, because the definition of 'absolute good' would preclude items like killing (even in battle) and lying (even little white lies); therefore, even Gandalf or Sam, who have been mentioned by others, did have their foibles and faults.
I suppose it is necessary for this dialogue to define what is meant by 'absolute good'. Here are some extracts from our friends at Merriam-Webster:

ABSOLUTE:
free from imperfection
perfect, pure
outright , unmitigated
having no restriction, exception, or qualification
positive , unquestionable
fundamental, ultimate
perfectly embodying the nature of a thing <absolute justice>

GOOD:
virtuous, right , commendable
kind, benevolent
competent , skillful
loyal

There are no characters who match these definors on a consistent basis, and actually the word absolute goes beyond mere consistency, it means, rather, always exhibiting certain characteristics, and free from imperfections.
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:48 PM   #18
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Regarding the circumlocutious debate concerning Eru and his omniscience, to me he/she/it was neither good or bad, and resembled Yahweh of the Torah, who could be quite despicable at times, butchering enemies of Israel wholesale (like Yahweh, Eru did slaughter innocent folks -- the old and the infant -- on Numenor).
Yet for ten righteous soles would God have spared Sadden and Gomorra, the same thing can be seen with Numenor in the flight of the faithful. The Numenorean's, apart from the three houses of the faithful, were under Sauron's influence and worshipped Melkor, sacrificing the him those that were still faithful. Should the seed of that Satanism be allowed to endure? Should Eru have spared Numenor on the fact that women and children still lived there? I doubt that would have been very wise, the pride of man had grown to great to be pardoned. The faithful were spared and the evil worshippers were destroyed.
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:09 PM   #19
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Interesting that no one here has mentioned Galadriel. After all, we are given her temptation scene, just as we saw Gandalf refuse to be tempted by the Ring. I'm not saying that she's an example of "absolute good", but certainly in her wisdom, insight, tremendous hospitality, and prescient gifts she provides something very positive, helpful, and healing. She's the closest Tolkien gets to giving us a Goddess, verily an emissary of Light.
Yes but she's still got a naughty streak, which is what makes her so interesting. If she was just wise and beautiful and healing she'd be a little dull, however she is also power hungry and isolates herself and her people. Plus there are all those adoring male fans...
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:18 PM   #20
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Yet for ten righteous soles would God have spared Sadden and Gomorra, the same thing can be seen with Numenor in the flight of the faithful. The Numenorean's, apart from the three houses of the faithful, were under Sauron's influence and worshipped Melkor, sacrificing the him those that were still faithful. Should the seed of that Satanism be allowed to endure? Should Eru have spared Numenor on the fact that women and children still lived there? I doubt that would have been very wise, the pride of man had grown to great to be pardoned.
I'm sorry, but since I consider 'original sin' an asinine theological doctrine (and one of the many reasons I parted ways with the Catholic Church and Christianity as well), I would have to define the murder of innocent infants, whose only fault was that their parents may have been on the wrong side of whatever religious imperative you care to name, as a despicable act by God/Yahweh/Allah/Eru.

I find it entertaining and humorous that many Christians will fight tooth and nail for the sacrosanct rights of an innocent human fetus, but will abandon babies outside of the womb to the torments of hell because their parents don't subscribe to a particular religious view. Why bother stopping abortions when these 'seeds of Satan' will only grow up to be carbon copies of their demonic parents? Don't answer, I was only speaking rhetorically.

So, on Numenor, could you tell which newborn infant was Sauronic or one of the Faithful? Were the Sauronic babies given knives so that they could join in on the human sacrifice, making it a family affair, like a picnic? Tell me, Groin, suppose your parents were from some Satanic group (like the Democrats, for instance). Does this guilt by association automatically make you a lifelong Democrat as well? Or is there such a thing as free will, which is a supposed tenet of many major religions? Could it be possible that you have an epiphany later on in life and become a Republican, thus joining the righteous select on the path to conservative Heaven rather than liberal Hell? Oh, sorry, you don't get to make that choice, God just wiped out your family in a thunderstorm of indignation.
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Old 01-03-2009, 07:04 PM   #21
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Let me see…

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For Manwe was free from evil and could not comprehend it. ~ Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
If somebody is free from evil, he obviously has to be perfectly good, so we do have an absolutely good character in Arda.

But the question was about the LotR, so this doesn’t help an awful much. In LotR, evil is of course embodied by Sauron, with some special aspects manifested in the Nazgul, the Orcs, Saruman, etc. However,

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For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. ~ The Council of Elrond
Of course, just because he wasn’t evil in the beginning, doesn’t mean he was not absolutely evil at the later point we’re looking at. Luckily Tolkien clears it up elsewhere:

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[Sauron] still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction. ~ HoMe 10, Myths Transformed VII
So, as others have already stated, there is indeed no absolute evil in LotR. An interesting question is whether it actually matters that he isn’t absolutely evil. Doesn’t it suffice that he’s evil enough, at least to meet the requirements of the author of that article?

Anyway, the thread is about the good (again, is absoluteness really necessary?). I would like to dismiss Bombadil immediately, because even though he could be a good candidate, the fact that he pretty much simply ignores the existence of evil (outside his small realm) disqualifies him. He’s not the “alternative” to Sauron that I think we’re looking for here. The fellowship (apart from Gandalf) are in fact the protagonists that struggle between good and evil. If one of those (Sam has been mentioned) doesn’t do anything wrong on his journey, it only means that his intentions and choices inside the storyline were always right, not that he is free from evil.

The characters that I would consider are Gandalf*, Elrond, and Galadriel. The latter two have important functions, but no more, while Gandalf is clearly the most active, even though, contrary to Sauron on the other side, he does not actually hold any power (apart from taking over the command of the forces of Minas Tirith briefly).

Now that I come to think of it, the fact that Gandalf is never in a real position of power might actually be a very significant difference. Even though very much is made of the position of the King, Gandalf (the White) is clearly on a level above Elessar (Gandalf crowns him, f.ex.). But he does not seem to fit in with the “overarching good figure who the heroes have to follow”. Maybe this exact thing was something Tolkien was uncomfortable with and therefore attributed to his evil overarching figure only.


* esp. Gandalf the White: Gandalf the Grey still has one foot in the category of the fellowship. If I’m right about all the stuff I’m saying, then it’s interesting, I think, that Tolkien chose to let his “overarching good figure” emerge and grow by the circumstances, even replacing an unworthy predecessor, and that he does not simply present him as a given.
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Old 01-03-2009, 07:14 PM   #22
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Sadden and Gomorra
Hence the mortal sin of "Saddeny".

I'd like to contradict Mac slightly, and argue for Bombadil. He is the only character who is not even tempted by the ring, a character able to drive away the Barrow Wights with nothing more than song (which, in light of the Ainulindale, is kind of suggestive in itself).

The fact that he does not involve himself in the conflict central to LOTR actually underscores the way in which Tolkien's work differs from the "absolute good vs. absolute evil" model Pennington seems to be looking for. LOTR is driven by the struggle between good and evil within the characters. Sauron, who may be absolute evil insofar as he appears in LOTR, is not actually one of the "players" - he remains offstage. Bombadil appears long enough to depict the strength of "light", "good", or whatever you want to call it, but must remain outside the plot, or else ruin it. I actually see a bit of an echo of Eru's rather passive response to Melkor here - there is the possibility Bombadil has the power to change things, but allows them to unfold - so if Eru is good, Tom is, or rather, Tom is good in the way Eru is.

Eru himself is, of course, off-topic, since the question was on LOTR.
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Old 01-03-2009, 07:28 PM   #23
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If somebody is free from evil, he obviously has to be perfectly good, so we do have an absolutely good character in Arda.
This does not necessarily follow, even if we are proceeding from an Augustinian view that evil is the perversion or lack of a good.

Absolute good would be the possession of all goodness. Manwë (and any other purely good character you might think exists in Arda) is not perfectly good, because he is not perfect. Although immensely powerful, he is still a limited being, and a limitation of power or knowledge is also a limitation of good, because it would be better (ie. "gooder") to have the power or knowledge that is lacking.

Furthermore, it is possible to lack goods that do not quite constitute evils. For example, I'm diabetic. This is a lack of a good (functioning islets of Langerhan in my pancreas), but it does not make me evil. (It is AN evil, but it does not make me evil...)

Beyond this general philosophic point, I really haven't anything to add... possibly because on the diabetic note, I'm in need of food.
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Old 01-03-2009, 10:18 PM   #24
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Yet dear ol' Galady had her faults. She did, after all, ignore the Ban of Mandos, being more interested in personal gain, tempted as she was by the oratory of Feanor (even though she disliked him, she still fell for the bad boy image).
The question here, though, pertains to LotR, and Tolkien went through enough niggling with the Galadriel character that it is possible to argue that the Silm Galadriel is but a distant relative of the Ring Galadriel. It's all a can of worms to try to unify some of the characters, such as Hobbit Gollem and Ring Gollem, even Hobbit Bilbo and Ring Bilbo, to say nothing of the tra la la la lally elves. And, anyway, my reply was not to suggest absolute goodness but . . .

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Yes but she's still got a naughty streak, which is what makes her so interesting. If she was just wise and beautiful and healing she'd be a little dull, however she is also power hungry and isolates herself and her people. Plus there are all those adoring male fans...
I don't think being naughty is what makes her interesting; it is her struggle within herself. It isn't evil that is interesting, but the struggle against it.

All of Tolkien's "good" characters struggle: it is this process which allows them to be good, not the complete absence of evil or the complete presence of good. Look at the long and torturous route Frodo follows and what happens to him on Mount Doom. Yet his struggle and sacrifice is what made it possible for events to unfold and thus, his struggle is not lost. Something valuable, life affirming and, well, good, came of his struggle. Something good was created.

Creation is an essential and paramount activity for Tolkien; in OFS, he equates it with the divine act. Actions which create cooperation, fellowship, community, the free will of individuals are what are good in Tolkien's world. So all of the main characters--Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo, Bombadil--can have flaws and negative characteristics. But what marks them as good is the degree to which they resist things which destroy and break down and dominate. They resist self-satisfaction and their own willfulness, to greater or lesser degrees, for communal good.

They leave Middle-earth a better place.
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Old 01-04-2009, 12:35 AM   #25
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The question here, though, pertains to LotR, and Tolkien went through enough niggling with the Galadriel character that it is possible to argue that the Silm Galadriel is but a distant relative of the Ring Galadriel. It's all a can of worms to try to unify some of the characters, such as Hobbit Gollem and Ring Gollem, even Hobbit Bilbo and Ring Bilbo, to say nothing of the tra la la la lally elves. And, anyway, my reply was not to suggest absolute goodness but . . .
Ah, but strictly in LotR she does exhibit, even in her eventual acquiescence, the sin of pride. And I do realize your reply was not to "suggest absolute goodness"; this, however, leads me to further commentary:


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All of Tolkien's "good" characters struggle: it is this process which allows them to be good, not the complete absence of evil or the complete presence of good. Look at the long and torturous route Frodo follows and what happens to him on Mount Doom. Yet his struggle and sacrifice is what made it possible for events to unfold and thus, his struggle is not lost. Something valuable, life affirming and, well, good, came of his struggle. Something good was created.

Creation is an essential and paramount activity for Tolkien; in OFS, he equates it with the divine act. Actions which create cooperation, fellowship, community, the free will of individuals are what are good in Tolkien's world. So all of the main characters--Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo, Bombadil--can have flaws and negative characteristics. But what marks them as good is the degree to which they resist things which destroy and break down and dominate. They resist self-satisfaction and their own willfulness, to greater or lesser degrees, for communal good.

They leave Middle-earth a better place.
*Sniffs* Oh, that was beautiful -- very touching. Unfortunately, the original question did not concern characters struggling to be 'good', but of the existence of a character who embodies 'absolute good'; therefore, "the complete absence of evil or the complete presence of good" is the crux of the discussion, and "flaws and negative characteristics" directly negate any 'absolute'.

If you wish to have a discussion of the relative merits of 'good' or 'evil' in characters, that would require a separate thread, or we must abandon the original posit altogether. That would be fine wth me, as I've already inferred that the term 'absolute good' is contentious in itself. For instance, Groin thinks it is in the interest of 'absolute good' that a mythical deity should strike down an entire civilization for a colective sin, even though there are persons in that society who did not directly commit a sin, or are as of yet incapable of sinning (as in the case of an infant); whereas I find that notion deplorable and 'ungood', if not evil in and of itself, because it lacks the elements of mercy and compassion I would determine as essential in any mythical deity which represents 'absolute good'.
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Old 01-04-2009, 07:47 AM   #26
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I don't think being naughty is what makes her interesting; it is her struggle within herself. It isn't evil that is interesting, but the struggle against it.
Yet the only real 'struggling' she does is during/after her session at the Mirror - until she is confronted with the One Ring she is quite content to be a powerful Ring Bearer and to bear the perils that brings, as it also brings immense power. It's Galadriel's urge to lead which interests me, along with her attempts to make time stand still in Lothlorien.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:18 AM   #27
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Ah, but strictly in LotR she does exhibit, even in her eventual acquiescence, the sin of pride.
Oh that uppity woman.

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*Sniffs* Oh, that was beautiful -- very touching. Unfortunately, the original question did not concern characters struggling to be 'good', but of the existence of a character who embodies 'absolute good'; therefore, "the complete absence of evil or the complete presence of good" is the crux of the discussion, and "flaws and negative characteristics" directly negate any 'absolute'.

If you wish to have a discussion of the relative merits of 'good' or 'evil' in characters, that would require a separate thread, or we must abandon the original posit altogether. That would be fine wth me, as I've already inferred that the term 'absolute good' is contentious in itself.
I was under the impression that most of us agree there is no character in LotR who exhibits "absolute goodness". Yet Cailin's essay cannot consist of the single sentence to that effect. ["An 'F'? 'But Professor, that single sentence is my essay!" "But you have to prove that." "How do I prove that?" "By demonstrating what kind of goodness the characters exhibit and how these kinds are not absolute goodness.") Furthermore, from her subsequent post I gathered that her question concerns a general statement about fantasy, that as a genre it involves questions of good versus evil.

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Originally Posted by Cailin's second post in thread
Some very interesting answers, thank you. I did not wish to go off-topic, because this is a Tolkien forum, but some of you might still be interested why I pose this question. The question actually arose from an article ("From Elfland to Hogwarts") I read by John Pennington, who finds fault with the Harry Potter series by comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, and some other famous fantasy works which he considers to be at the heart of fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia, for example). His main point is basically that Harry Potter is “fundamentally failed fantasy”. One of the reasons was most intriguing to me:

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But the archetypal theme of good versus evil appears to be what the Potter books are about. Harry's education is cemented in this ultimate dichotomy that Tolkien, Lewis, and LeGuin privilege in their texts. So just what are the Harry Potter books about? (...) All is ripe for the good old-fashioned battle between good and evil. But that tone is quickly undercut--Harry is often more interested in being able to visit Hogsmeade and practice Quidditch than he is in fighting evil.

And later:

Quote:
Finally, what ultimately is the role of the archetypal good versus evil dichotomy in the series? Voldemort represents the darkest of evil. But what of the good? Is there an overarching figure of good--a supreme being, for example, not necessarily God--whom Harry and his friends follow? They certainly are in a Christian universe, for they celebrate the Christmas season. If there are the Dark Arts, are there the Light or White Arts? Dumbledore is a Merlin and Gandalf figure, but Dumbledore does not achieve any grandeur; his name evokes bumble and bumbling, reminiscent of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, those foolish characters. There seems to be a good in the novel, but that goodness seems individual rather than archetypal. Thus the archetypal evilness in the Potter universe has no real antidote other than Harry and his friends (who do not seem to take that evil too seriously).

Since Rowling’s work is constantly contrasted with The Lord of the Rings, presumably Pennington did find the archetypes he was looking for in Tolkien’s writing. Perhaps he was indeed referring to Eru - though as Formendacil rightly points out, Eru is not really mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. He may be the source of goodness, as he is the source of everything, but like Tom Bombadil, the Ring seems to be beneath his concerns and Sauron’s far lesser evil is sufficiently balanced by characters such as Gandalf, who are not supreme archetypes. The goodness in Lord of the Rings seems to me quite individual and I think it would somehow detract from characters such as Sam and Frodo that their goodness is ultimately nothing more than some sort of divine infusion from above.

P.S. I’m not sure how many Potter fans / readers are present, but of course after the publication of Deathly Hallows it is quite clear that the Potter universe is indeed Christian. The article quoted above is from 2002, and was written before the fifth instalment in the series was published.

This is a larger issue than the question she first posed, and I took it that she would not be adverse to expanding the discussion to what is "goodness", particularly with this comment she made, which I repeat here: The goodness in Lord of the Rings seems to me quite individual and I think it would somehow detract from characters such as Sam and Frodo that their goodness is ultimately nothing more than some sort of divine infusion from above.

If I erred, I do apologise.

Lal, I do agree that Galadriel and Celeborn are all draped up in the trapings of leadership. This is the exotic realm in LotR! Galadriel's (and hubby's ) attempts to make time stand still are fascinating. It is an essential quality of the elves, that for them, goodness means unchange. (and, yes, my grammar here is deliberate.)
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:30 AM   #28
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Regarding how to define "absolute good", this makes it pretty clear what the dude is looking for, and likewise clear that we won't find it in Lord of the Rings:

"Is there an overarching figure of good--a supreme being, for example, not necessarily God--whom Harry and his friends follow?"

He's referring to something like Aslan in Narnia - something (mercifully, I would say) absent in LOTR. Sometimes Gandalf approaches an Aslan-like leader role for the other characters, but he remains fallible and "human" (for lack of a better word). Whatever your verdict on Eru, we don't see anyone "following" Eru in any direct sort of way.

My conclusion is: this fellow is reaching a bit in his attempt to define fantasy and lump together Lewis and Tolkien.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:34 AM   #29
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Hmm, I disagree there, Boro.

Whilst I agree with you that Tolkien may have written different things in the letters due to the depth of his works, I believe most of these occasions concerned lore matters, pure information demanded by the inquirers.

What we have here is a very different thing, not a question about some lore thing, but rather directly questioning Tolkien's own belief.

And I doubt that Tolkien was the kind of person to have used a very Catholic devouted tone to just please a Catholic friend and would in such a case not speak his own mind so as to not offend the reader.

I think that when it comes to this question we must treat it as a special and different case as here The Professor is asked about his own beliefs and would surely know what he is talking. So I believe that when Tolkien writes that Eru is but another name for THE Christian God, he really means that Eru is but another name for THE Christian God. Nothing to do with works written 30 years before, revised and changed. Eru stayed the same, he was God.

And as I read above that God is apparently indeed perceived as an entity of absolute good, it means that Eru is absolute good. We have proof to say that based on the words of the Professor, so why challenge his idea? Think that he only wrote what Mr. Hastings wanted to read? I doubt it.


But, moving on to the true topic that I have somewhat missed whilst concetrating on absolute good in all the works, I believe that absolute good in LotR does not exist.

But some characters do appear to come close to it such as Gandalf as emissary of good and the only one of the Istari to continue to obey the will of the Valar.
I also see Arwen as a person fairly close to absolute good. She lacks the megalomaniac thoughts of Galadriel, she is not spoiled by anything in the world, and her love to Aragorn makes her decide to give up immortality.

EDIT: are the whole Narnia and HP comparisons really of interest to the topic at hand? Whilst I find them an interesting read I cannot help but wonder if they bring us closer to finding absolute good in LotR... after all different authors can have different opinions, opinions what have to be respected and can of course be criticised.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:53 AM   #30
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whereas I find that notion deplorable and 'ungood', if not evil in and of itself, because it lacks the elements of mercy and compassion I would determine as essential in any mythical deity which represents 'absolute good'.
A bunch of random thoughts.....

But one could define 'good' as 'whatever Eru does' - so, killing (virtually) the whole population of Numenor is a 'good' act because Eru does it. One does have to have some criteria by which to determine what is 'good' after all.

Or one could argue that there is an objective standard of 'good', a set of rules & regulations by which one must live & in accordance with which one must act in order to be considered 'good'. One would then have a standard by which one could judge every 'being' - including Eru. But that would then set something 'above' God/Eru.

Of course, one could argue that everything Eru does actually conforms to that 'objective' standard - that Eru is incapable of doing anything that breaks those rules, because those rules actually reflect His essential nature & to do anything contary to them would be to go against His nature, & leave Him effectively divided against Himself - which is impossible as He is One (Eru is only referred to as The One in the Appendices), & if we take this as a 'theological' statement then we are left with the simple fact that everything Eru does is a reflection of His nature - nothing can be out of character..

Of course, this opens another can of worms, because if we classify whatever a character (& Eru is a character created by Tolkien) does as 'good' (& by extension that that Character him/herself is good) simply because that character does it then we could say the same of any character - Gandalf is absolutely good, because his every act/thought is good, & his every act/thought is good because they are his acts/thoughts. And of course, that argument could be used to claim any character, from Galadriel through to Sauron is 'Good'.

So, for any character to be considered good His acts must conform to some objective standard of goodness. So firstly one has to set out those standards & tick off the various characters behaviour against them. But who determines those standards? Are we to let Eru set those standards - its His creation after all. Maybe - but of course, Eru's set of rules & regs will simply reflect his own nature, & tells us no more than what Eru considers to be good.......

Further, a large number of characters in the book would consider themselves to be 'good' people - according to their own personal standards.

In the end, though, the one who sets the standard of 'good' in LotR is Tolkien, not us. We have to accept that in his world 'good' is whatever Tolkien says it is. For Tolkien the destruction of Numenor was a good act in that it was the act of a good God & done to punish 'evil'.

But we, of course, are not required to accept that - its just that if we don't the whole moral & philosophical underpinning of the Legendarium is undermined.
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:07 AM   #31
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So, I guess we must accept that what Tolkien defined as good is good, as davem well points out above. And this goes for all the characters, some better, some worse.

In the case of Eru though I still feel we must make a distinction. Why is Eru to be regarded as a character if Tolkien clearly says he is not? He is the Christian God, absolutely good, meaning that in this case the realms of our real world and Tolkien's Arda intersect with God as the lowest common denominator (sp?). Meaning that all the things that Tolkien believed to be good, as a consequence of his religious upbringing are the same things that would be good in Arda as these rules all come from the same God.

I think that in this case a discussion crossing the barrier of Tolkien's works would again be in order, but unfortunately forbidden. One could wonder now if the rules set by God in real life are good (ok, not directly, but by Jesus and others in his place), and then consider that the same rules apply to Arda as well as coming from the same God.
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:46 AM   #32
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make a distinction. Why is Eru to be regarded as a character if Tolkien clearly says he is not? He is the Christian God, absolutely good, meaning that in this case the realms of our real world and Tolkien's Arda intersect with God as the lowest common denominator (sp?). Meaning that all the things that Tolkien believed to be good, as a consequence of his religious upbringing are the same things that would be good in Arda as these rules all come from the same God.
Eru cannot be the Christian God - at most he could only be Tolkien's own, personal (though informed by his Church's teaching) understanding of God. Further, what Tolkien is attempting to do is show how 'his' God would behave in the context of events in M-e - which events are Tolkien's own invention. Now, an old school Catholic & a modern day Quaker would both claim to worship God, but would, I suspect, have a completely different view on how that God would respond to the behaviour of the Numenoreans.

Thus, it seems to me too simple to argue that Eru = the Christian God, only that Eru, in his thoughts/acts within Middle-earth, does what Tolkien believed his God would think/do. Hence, Eru can only be considered a 'character' because M-e is not the Primary world. The other thing to keep in mind is that all the characters do what Tolkien 'tells' them to do - the Numenoreans 'sinned' precisely when & how Tolkien made them, & Eru responded to that 'sin' in exactly the way Tolkien chose him to. If God had been running things we may have had a 'Jonah' turn up & bring them all to repentance. The Numenoreans died because Tolkien had them misbehave & didn't give them any real desire to repent. And Tolkien did this for artistic reasons - everyone, from Eru 'down' is a character Tolkien manipulates for artistic reasons. Tolkien could not know what God would do in the situations he created in M-e - one could argue that by having his Numenorean characters so stubbornly commit to such inhuman behaviour he creates a situation where his 'God' character has no option but to zap them to atoms. But this is the point - LotR is not an allegory, let alone a 'parable'. It is a work of art, with no more hidden or underlying 'meaning' than the reader gives it. In the Primary world humans may or may not have free will (I'll avoid the philosophical tangent) but in M-e only Tolkien has free will, & his characters do what he wills them to do (however much he may claim to be attempting to 'discover what really happened' the truth is that 'what really happened' in M-e is what Tolkien decided worked best). He wrote a work of fiction which 'reflected' the primary world in some ways, but it was his world & its inhabitants were his to control.

Of course, if one's own concept of God corresponds to the character Eru one may not see things in that way, but not everyone (religious believer, or merely 'cultural Christian' like myself) will find Eru to be in any way like the God they worship (or like the God concept they have inherited as a result of growing up in a culture shaped & determined by Christianity).
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:05 AM   #33
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IThis is a larger issue than the question she first posed, and I took it that she would not be adverse to expanding the discussion to what is "goodness", particularly with this comment she made, which I repeat here: The goodness in Lord of the Rings seems to me quite individual and I think it would somehow detract from characters such as Sam and Frodo that their goodness is ultimately nothing more than some sort of divine infusion from above.

If I erred, I do apologise.)
No need to apologize, it's my fault actually. I glanced at Cailin's second post, saw 'Harry Potter' prominently displayed, and immediately ignored the balance of the remarks. I guess it's a negative Pavlovian response to Rowlings (without the drooling, of course).

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Of course, one could argue that everything Eru does actually conforms to that 'objective' standard - that Eru is incapable of doing anything that breaks those rules, because those rules actually reflect His essential nature & to do anything contary to them would be to go against His nature, & leave Him effectively divided against Himself - which is impossible as He is One (Eru is only referred to as The One in the Appendices), & if we take this as a 'theological' statement then we are left with the simple fact that everything Eru does is a reflection of His nature - nothing can be out of character.
I guess it depends on how Eru is viewed, as he himself said of Morgoth's continuing destruction of physical Arda that it merely redounded on The One's own plan, thus enhancing it; therefore, the Numenorean's actions, even the sinful ones, could be construed as enhancing Eru's plan. But the destruction of Numenor is an artificial set of circumstances, an arbitrary manuever set in motion by the Valar's inability to handle the situation. How odd that Eru would destroy a human civilization -- and humans prone as they are to sin and mistake -- yet allow the horrific reigns of Morgoth and then Sauron to go utterly unchecked for millenia. To allow one and destroy the other is inconsistent, and removes the very Free Will that is indeed a cornerstone of Tolkien's Catholicity.

Perhaps Tolkien was just too enamored of the obvious parallels between Numenor and both the biblical flood and the Greek Atlantis to be concerned with such notable inconsistency. The story itself and its corollary to 'real world' myth was just too strong, and Tolkien opted for a rousing tale over the internal logic of the story.

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Of course, this opens another can of worms, because if we classify whatever a character (& Eru is a character created by Tolkien) does as 'good' (& by extension that that Character him/herself is good) simply because that character does it then we could say the same of any character - Gandalf is absolutely good, because his every act/thought is good, & his every act/thought is good because they are his acts/thoughts. And of course, that argument could be used to claim any character, from Galadriel through to Sauron is 'Good'.
Another can of worms that Tolkien opens is the acceptance of the 'eye-for-an-eye' mentality that differentiates the Old Testamant vengeful Yahwew with the New Testament compassionate Christ. Both Christians and Muslims have used the context of a vengeful god destroying the enemies of the one, true religion to slaughter indiscriminately their enemies in emulation of their god, while ignoring the more christlike aspects that would seem to contradict the earlier, more barbaric aspects of The One.

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In the end, though, the one who sets the standard of 'good' in LotR is Tolkien, not us. We have to accept that in his world 'good' is whatever Tolkien says it is. For Tolkien the destruction of Numenor was a good act in that it was the act of a good God & done to punish 'evil'.
And yet Eru punishes the followers and not the fomenters, the actual cause of rebellion and the primary root of all evil in Arda. Isn't that the way it always is with these elitist deities? *shrugs*
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:19 PM   #34
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I find it entertaining and humorous that many Christians will fight tooth and nail for the sacrosanct rights of an innocent human fetus, but will abandon babies outside of the womb to the torments of hell because their parents don't subscribe to a particular religious view. Why bother stopping abortions when these 'seeds of Satan' will only grow up to be carbon copies of their demonic parents? Don't answer, I was only speaking rhetorically.
You cannot make a response like that and not get a response. A child of innocence is in God’s hands, but to kill an unborn child because the parents don’t want what the Bible describes as a blessing from God is no less than murder. I don’t expect you to get that though, life is so cheap in with all the relativism people nowadays.

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So, on Numenor, could you tell which newborn infant was Sauronic or one of the Faithful? Were the Sauronic babies given knives so that they could join in on the human sacrifice, making it a family affair, like a picnic? Tell me, Groin, suppose your parents were from some Satanic group (like the Democrats, for instance).
Heaven forbid!

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Does this guilt by association automatically make you a lifelong Democrat as well? Or is there such a thing as free will, which is a supposed tenet of many major religions? Could it be possible that you have an epiphany later on in life and become a Republican, thus joining the righteous select on the path to conservative Heaven rather than liberal Hell? Oh, sorry, you don't get to make that choice, God just wiped out your family in a thunderstorm of indignation.
Well if my parents worshipped a god who allowed human sacrafice, if they believed that they were entitled to the glories of God, if they believed that they could take Valinor by force and took steps to see these plans through, do you really think that that is a good house to live under? It would be far better to have that family destroyed and for the child to be called up to sit at God’s throne. You can argue it both ways Morthoron: is it more merciful to let the infant be raised by a clearly evil family in a clearly evil sociaty until he is old enough to actually take accountability and be damned, or is it more merciful for God to destroy that sociaty and for you, still as a child, to be brought to be in heaven? Remember, Sauron twisted the facts about death making it something to be feared while Eru gave it to Man as a blessing. That was pure genious on Tolkien’s part for writing that.

Sorry if I got off topic, I'll join in on the discussion if I think of anything.
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:37 PM   #35
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Another can of worms that Tolkien opens is the acceptance of the 'eye-for-an-eye' mentality that differentiates the Old Testamant vengeful Yahwew with the New Testament compassionate Christ. Both Christians and Muslims have used the context of a vengeful god destroying the enemies of the one, true religion to slaughter indiscriminately their enemies in emulation of their god, while ignoring the more christlike aspects that would seem to contradict the earlier, more barbaric aspects of The One.
To be fair, the last time Christians did this in the name of Christianity was when, exactly?

If you're looking for heartless slaughter, you'd find more results studying the proclivities of atheists in the 20th and 21st centuries. Under the guise of communism, and with modern weaponry, they've amassed quite a record.

Something about all of it reminds me distinctly of Mordor.
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Old 01-04-2009, 04:21 PM   #36
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To be fair, the last time Christians did this in the name of Christianity was when, exactly?

If you're looking for heartless slaughter, you'd find more results studying the proclivities of atheists in the 20th and 21st centuries. Under the guise of communism, and with modern weaponry, they've amassed quite a record.

Something about all of it reminds me distinctly of Mordor.
To likewise be fair, and to stop an argument brewing, Stalin and Mao didn't cause the slaughter of millions because of Atheism, either; Hitler was a Catholic, but his murdering was because of Fascism.

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It would be far better to have that family destroyed and for the child to be called up to sit at God’s throne. You can argue it both ways Morthoron: is it more merciful to let the infant be raised by a clearly evil family in a clearly evil sociaty until he is old enough to actually take accountability and be damned, or is it more merciful for God to destroy that sociaty and for you, still as a child, to be brought to be in heaven?
Maybe in Tolkien's creation, but not in our own! Plenty of people have been raised in vile circumstances but must be joyful to grow into adulthood - like Josef Fritzl's children/grandchildren.

Though I have to say that whether Eru tipped Numenor on end because the people there were 'evil' is entirely debatable in the light of evidence given in recent threads on here. If he did it would have been the first and only time he interfered - and it seems he opened a rift in the world because of the pleading of the Valar to protect Valinor rather than any other reason. The drowning of innocents was purely incidental. It seems rather that Eru wanted to wipe out this failed experiment that the Valar had indulged in and he didn't much care who, if anyone, got away.

This is another reason why I think Eru is 'beyond' any idea of 'goodness', because he is outside the world, he created it, but isn't concerned with it. That's extremely different to the various Gods in the real world.
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Old 01-04-2009, 04:49 PM   #37
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Why do threads like these always derail themselves so quickly here....

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Absolute good would be the possession of all goodness. Manwë (and any other purely good character you might think exists in Arda) is not perfectly good, because he is not perfect. Although immensely powerful, he is still a limited being, and a limitation of power or knowledge is also a limitation of good, because it would be better (ie. "gooder") to have the power or knowledge that is lacking.
Hmm, then you say that in order to be absolutely good, one has to be perfect (in this case, all-knowing)? Of course a good person's actions would be better if he was omniscient, and Manwe certainly made quite a couple of mistakes in his career, but wouldn't this make the threesome of all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful partly redundant? My knowledge of theology is admittedly rather limited, but I always took the meaning of all-good to be only that a person's will and intentions are absolutely good (setting aside whether this is equal to absence of evil here). I don't see why it should be impossible to have a person that is all-good, but not all-knowing and all-powerful. In any case, this was at least my idea when I labelled Manwe absolutely good.
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Old 01-04-2009, 05:33 PM   #38
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You cannot make a response like that and not get a response. A child of innocence is in God’s hands, but to kill an unborn child because the parents don’t want what the Bible describes as a blessing from God is no less than murder. I don’t expect you to get that though, life is so cheap in with all the relativism people nowadays.
Oh, I understand you more than you know, Groin: life is sacred on the inside, but cheap on the outside (where smug folks wash their hands in self-satisfaction, and say "Our job is done here, they are in God's hands now" -- a very Dickensian workhouse mentality). Perhaps if more folks cared for the latter, there would be less of the former.

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Well if my parents worshipped a god who allowed human sacrafice, if they believed that they were entitled to the glories of God, if they believed that they could take Valinor by force and took steps to see these plans through, do you really think that that is a good house to live under? It would be far better to have that family destroyed and for the child to be called up to sit at God’s throne. You can argue it both ways Morthoron: is it more merciful to let the infant be raised by a clearly evil family in a clearly evil sociaty until he is old enough to actually take accountability and be damned, or is it more merciful for God to destroy that sociaty and for you, still as a child, to be brought to be in heaven? Remember, Sauron twisted the facts about death making it something to be feared while Eru gave it to Man as a blessing. That was pure genious on Tolkien’s part for writing that.
Wow, just...wow. It is that type of thinking that eventually leads to genocide. I am reminded of Robert of Geneva (nicknamed 'The Butcher', who, not surprisingly later became a pope). When his mercenary forces took the heretical city of Cesena, Robert ordered the butchering of every last man, woman and child. When one of his captains suggested that there were many innocents in the city, Robert shrugged and said, "What belongs to God He will take care of," and the slaughter continued unabated.

With your concept in mind, we should have slaughtered all the infants in Nazi Germany. After all, their country was waist-deep in the blood of human sacrifice. Would it have been merciful to wipe out every blonde-headed, blue-eyed German baby, Groin? Hitler, like Sauron, also twisted the facts quite masterfully.

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To be fair, the last time Christians did this in the name of Christianity was when, exactly?
If you're looking for Christian intolerance and the heartless slaughter that follows, one needn't go back to the Crusades to find Christian barbarity, Andsigil. Let's see, there were Christians slaughtering Muslims in Serbia, Christian Hutus committing massacres in Rwanda, Protestants and Catholics slaughtering each other in the name of Christ in Northern Ireland, Christians and Muslims butchering each other in the Lebanese civil war. Would you like me to continue?

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If you're looking for hearltess slaughter you'd find more results studying the proclivities of atheists in the 20th and 21st centuries. Under the guise of communism, and with modern weaponry, they've amassed quite a record.
Blind faith in any creed that will not allow mutual respect for another creed inevitably leads to genocide. It is the same among Stalinists and Maoists as with Nazis, Hindus (if you recall, it was because of religious intolerance that Gandhi was assassinated), Muslims, Christians and Jews. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans were just as culpable in the extermination of the Indians and the near elimination of their animistic religions.

I am sorry for the digression, I will not continue it further.
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Old 01-04-2009, 05:56 PM   #39
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If you're looking for Christian intolerance and the heartless slaughter that follows, one needn't go back to the Crusades to find Christian barbarity, Andsigil. Let's see, there were Christians slaughtering Muslims in Serbia, Christian Hutus committing massacres in Rwanda, Protestants and Catholics slaughtering each other in the name of Christ in Northern Ireland, Christians and Muslims butchering each other in the Lebanese civil war. Would you like me to continue?
Continue all you want. These are drops in the bucket. Besides,

-Hutus didn't slaughter in the name of Christianity. They slaughtered in the name of Hutu.
-Maronites were generally on the receiving end in Lebanon. That's why they're nearly extinct since that trouble began.
-And deconstructing the Balkan conflict into a simple religious conflict is rather oversimplified. One could just as easily argue that it was Christians who came to stop the conflict.

In any event, these are all candles next to the sun. Pol Pot, alone, accounts for more than this. We haven't even discussed China yet. Or the Soviets. I think more people died in Kolymaa and the Lubyanka than did in the Balkans. The atheist communists have indeed worked very hard to set the bar high.

To tie this in with Tolkien, I've already said that that kind of mechanical, systemic slaughter is reminiscent of Mordor to me. Perhaps Tolkien was as much a prophet as Orwell.

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I am sorry for the digression, I will not continue it further.
Ahh, good. I got the last word, then. Since I made a Tolkien tie-in, I'll stop as well... just as soon as I get to this other post.
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Old 01-04-2009, 06:00 PM   #40
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To likewise be fair, and to stop an argument brewing, Stalin and Mao didn't cause the slaughter of millions because of Atheism, either; Hitler was a Catholic, but his murdering was because of Fascism.
Actually, Hitler was an apostate who renounced the religion of his baptism.

I find it rather odd that Christianity is still such a bogeyman to so many overly nervous people. Other, horrible things are happening right now on a far greater scale in the name of other things, and have been for a while. I think it's just fashionable, not to mention politically correct, to rail against Christianity.

It's too bad Tolkien, or his friend CS Lewis, are no longer alive to argue against it. I'm certain they'd be appalled, or indignant at the very least.

Feel free to take the last word, if you feel compelled to do so.
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