Suite101: Is that an Orc in your Pocket, or are You Just Happy to be Evil? - Michael Martinez' J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth

"Elvish ambition is wrapped up with a peculiar pride, an ambient sin which focuses on the value of achievement rather than possession. That is, a King of Numenor or Gondor would look out upon Middle-earth and see slaves and tribute pouring into his realm. But a King of Elves would look out upon Middle-earth and see a diamond in the rough, a gemstone waiting to be shaped and enchanted."
In last week's Suite101 article, Michael Martinez notes that, in classic story-teller fashion, J.R.R. Tolkien used good and evil in Middle-earth to reflect human ambitions and failings.

Here is an excerpt:

It may be a strategic shift in our social values which leads to many gamers today wanting to play Orcs and other bad guys in upcoming Tolkien-related games. Why is that? Do the bad guys really win that often in Tolkien? Or does Tolkien purism take a back seat to the opportunity for engaging in general mayhem?

The evil creatures of Middle-earth are often lumped together as "evil races" but that is really a misnomer. Sure, no one ever heard of a "good" Orc, but many people believe that the Orcs were simply bred from corrupted Elves. Deep down inside, they may still have a kernel of goodness which was suppressed by the overpowering wills of Melkor and Sauron.

It's a bit difficult to rationalize how Orcs could be anything like the "good" races of Middle-earth, but then, the Orcs aren't really supposed to be anything other than an aspect of the humane. They are a reflection of the worst qualities we find in ourselves. Orcs feel loyalty, express courage, and honor their oaths. But they also live in constant fear, dwell on hatred and contempt, and treat everything with absolute disregard. They are depraved, debased, and extremely selfish.

In writing about the Elves, Tolkien noted that they, too, were just an aspect of the humane. They represent human artistic endeavor in an enhanced or enlightened state. But part of the Elvish enlightenment derives from their own fall. They had to sink pretty low in order to rise up as high as they are perceived to be in The Lord of the Rings. There is an echo of Tolkien's hope that humanity's artistic side will somehow overcome the bestial nature which threatens to engulf us.

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