What is Evil in Fantasy?

As a writer of fantasy, we must ask the question, what is evil? It’s many things just as goodness is. It can come from one’s faith, one’s morality, one’s culture, or just an inherent sense of one’s Humanity. Often evil is that part of us that comes from some place much deeper inside, something almost mythological or spiritual.

In the Phantammeron novel, I created two primal “evil beings” from my unconscious: The Emptiness that devours flesh and the Nothingness that devours the spirit. These two beings take form in the books as great, supernatural storms, but can take any shape, as happens in later books. But I’ve got evil in other more insidious forms, like black angels, demonic trees, the Shadow and Shade, black roses, etc. that prey on the heart, the vulnerability of characters and their will, or which are temptresses. Many of these take anthropomorphic form. In that sense I’m exploring the many faces of evil. I even have evil that battles greater evil.

In Tolkien’s Silmarillion we learn that the main evil antagonist, Sauron, was a Maiar like Gandalf, and so not a Lord of Evil or of anything really beyond a servant to the Valar. Not until Melkor tempted him did he turn away from Eru’s design for his life and become a “rebellious angel” like his master.

Melkor himself was not evil until he defied Eru and his music in the first creation myth before the world of Ea and Arda were made. We learn later Eru designed both good and evil to work the same, implying he created evil or the acts and events of Melkor, Sauron, and the world as they were for some hidden purpose. And so evil was preplanned at the beginning by Eru himself.

So again…what is evil if it is part of God’s plan?

There are no rules in the free imagination of the writer. You can choose to be bound to popular Modern themes, religious views, cultural groupthink, or think outside the box, going deep, and using archetypes found in your own mind’s inner mythology. You decide what form evil takes.

But you must not confuse “shades of gray” morality or modern characters with a “hint of goodness”. Good characters that do evil are not good. They are in fact evil. It is that fact, that we are both good and evil, yet must draw a line and become one of the other, that defines Humanity. It has since the dawn of time. If it had not, we would have obliterated ourselves eons ago. There is something in Mankind that defends life and defends against harming our fellow Man.

Do not let your ideas of fantasy dissolve from your personal views or your inner morality. For Evil men and women are those who have made a choice…who have crossed a line between what protects life and that which destroys it. It is the same line crossed by modern people in this time, our time, as well.

It is my hope only that you do NOT throw away evil in fantasy as an outdated trope, when in fact you and I both remain trapped in choices that define us good people or bad. Evil is a choice just as committing crimes, hurting others, or murder is a choice. And it is critical you consider your personal views of evil in your own psyche before building your fantasy characters and conflicts. Otherwise, they are just blobs of flesh on a stage, conflicted zombies, animals out to do whatever they want to survive. Modern Man is none of those things.

The eternal morality play that is Evil in fantasy will forever exist, in society and in you. You can quote me on that.

– the Author

Created Nov 28, 2016, 5:00 AM

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