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Roose Boltons Pet Leech

Evil and Dark Lords in fantasy

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Moving on, who were the real Dark Lords of history?  IMO, they must have been extremely powerful and effective, cruel and ruthless even by the standards of their time, have caused major harm, and have had  a big impact on the course of history, and have been driven by intense selfishness and/or political or religious fanaticism. They don't need to have taken any special delight in suffering, just to have been completely indifferent to it. In no particular order I'd suggest:-

Alexander the Great, Caesar, Constantine the Great, Khosroes II, Genghis Khan, Timur, Henry VIII, Peter the Great, Shaka, The Heavenly King, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung.  There is a host of common or garden tyrants who don't qualify as they acted on a much smaller scale.

I'd regard Napoleon and Octavian as not quite achieving this particular distinction.  Both were certainly cruel and pitiless on a big scale, but they were both rather benevolent rulers.

 

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57 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Moving on, who were the real Dark Lords of history?  IMO, they must have been extremely powerful and effective, cruel and ruthless even by the standards of their time, have caused major harm, and have had  a big impact on the course of history, and have been driven by intense selfishness and/or political or religious fanaticism. They don't need to have taken any special delight in suffering, just to have been completely indifferent to it. In no particular order I'd suggest:-

Alexander the Great, Caesar, Constantine the Great, Khosroes II, Genghis Khan, Timur, Henry VIII, Peter the Great, Shaka, The Heavenly King, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung.  There is a host of common or garden tyrants who don't qualify as they acted on a much smaller scale.

I'd regard Napoleon and Octavian as not quite achieving this particular distinction.  Both were certainly cruel and pitiless on a big scale, but they were both rather benevolent rulers.

The thing about RL Dark Lords is the fact that "one man's Sauron is another man's Aragorn." In certain parts of the world, I'm sure you could find places where QUEEN VICTORIA was considered a Dark Lord. Prior to the existence of Adolf Hitler, Napoleon was the default Evil TyrantTM who people discussed when they wanted to talk about a guy who literally wanted to take over the world. Vlad the Impaler stood up to the Ottoman Empire and there's many questions about how much of the awful stuff he did he actually did but is justifiably a figure of national pride for the fact he was basically Belgium beating the United States of his time. Genghis Khan is a national hero in Mongolia for the same reasons.

Tolkien's Foreword basically talks about this effect and the fact that Real-Life War routinely white-washies tyrants. Henry VIII was a monster and an incompetent but historians tried to play up his jovial (except horrifying if you think about it) decadence and freedom from the Church over the fact he was a mass murderer of his own people.

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10 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

The thing about RL Dark Lords is the fact that "one man's Sauron is another man's Aragorn." In certain parts of the world, I'm sure you could find places where QUEEN VICTORIA was considered a Dark Lord. Prior to the existence of Adolf Hitler, Napoleon was the default Evil TyrantTM who people discussed when they wanted to talk about a guy who literally wanted to take over the world. Vlad the Impaler stood up to the Ottoman Empire and there's many questions about how much of the awful stuff he did he actually did but is justifiably a figure of national pride for the fact he was basically Belgium beating the United States of his time. Genghis Khan is a national hero in Mongolia for the same reasons.

Tolkien's Foreword basically talks about this effect and the fact that Real-Life War routinely white-washies tyrants. Henry VIII was a monster and an incompetent but historians tried to play up his jovial (except horrifying if you think about it) decadence and freedom from the Church over the fact he was a mass murderer of his own people.

Yes, you can never establish a consensus on who are the real Dark Lords.  Every one will be a national hero to many people. And, that's just as true in literature.  RBPL was surely right that if Galadriel had claimed the Ring, she would have been seen as a heroine by the Elves, not a tyrant.

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1 hour ago, Corvinus said:

Wasn't Feanor close to becoming a DL? If he had managed to retrieve the Silmarils, who knows what he would have done.

Feanor is an elven Imperialist and really obsessed with his artwork but I don't think he ever had any real desire to conquer or dominate. Gondor's rulers tend to have more of that going for them. You can name many charismatic leaders and rulers to be Dark Lords in RL or fiction but I tend to think it's as much a narrative function as a quintessential state.

The Dark Lord is the antagonist which the defeat and overthrow remains at the center of the narrative. He is the embodiment of authority and tyranny which our heroes are the plucky resistance of.

Edit:

They also played with this using Celebrimbor and the Ring in the video game "The Shadow of Mordor." Which is much better written than it has any right to be.

I am The Bright Lord of Mordor. The silver hand that drives back the darkness, Reaching through the fog of night, To avenge those long betrayed. Arise from fields of death, And march forth from the shadow, Through the purifying flames of war, You who were once eldar shall be reforged. Beneath my hammer, The Bringer of Gifts, the Betrayer shall be un-made, I renounce the Blessed Realm. To redeem the Land of Shadow. And bind the walls of Arda, In place of the Dark Lord, You shall have light undiminished, All shall fear me and rejoice.

Edited by C.T. Phipps

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6 hours ago, Corvinus said:

Wasn't Feanor close to becoming a DL? If he had managed to retrieve the Silmarils, who knows what he would have done.

Tad Williams' Ineluki is clearly modelled after Feanor (think a Feanor who had access to the Necronomicon). Feanor never met humans, though... I think he'd have been fine with them so long as they paid him the respect he thought he deserved. None of his sons, however screwed up, actually tried exterminating them.

I am sure that the Dunlendings (not without reason) saw the King of the Rohirrim as their own personal Dark Lord. Harad and Rhun clearly thought the same about Gondor (who, after all, had a succession of Kings called South-Conqueror and East-Conqueror). If you want to see an interesting perceptive flip written by Tolkien himself, see the unfinished story Tal-Elmar from The Peoples of Middle-earth (HOME XII), where the Numenoreans are the great enemy. 

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11 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Tad Williams' Ineluki is clearly modelled after Feanor (think a Feanor who had access to the Necronomicon). Feanor never met humans, though... I think he'd have been fine with them so long as they paid him the respect he thought he deserved. None of his sons, however screwed up, actually tried exterminating them.

I am sure that the Dunlendings (not without reason) saw the King of the Rohirrim as their own personal Dark Lord. Harad and Rhun clearly thought the same about Gondor (who, after all, had a succession of Kings called South-Conqueror and East-Conqueror). If you want to see an interesting perceptive flip written by Tolkien himself, see the unfinished story Tal-Elmar from The Peoples of Middle-earth (HOME XII), where the Numenoreans are the great enemy. 

In the run-up to, and during, the Battle of Helm's Deep, as well as the story of Helm Hammerhand, we get a strong indication of the level of ethnic hatred that existed between Dunlendings and Rohirrim - albeit, there seem to have been periods of peaceful co-existence and intermarriage as well. Eorl was a hero to his own people and the people of Gondor, but doubtless loathed by the Dunlendings.  There are obviously many real life parallels in the history of the British Isles

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On 11/21/2016 at 8:11 PM, C.T. Phipps said:

Well, he's ruled a couple of nations in the past but mostly is a figure I'd classify as Neutral as often as not Lawful Evil. 

How would he classify himself though? He did found a group called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

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Hero worship and leader vilification are deeply rooted in how the human mind works.

When the US attacked and invaded Iraq, the propaganda never blamed the Iraqi people (even though they ended up suffering the most because of the invasion). The propaganda always focused on the great evil one Saddam Hussein. And guess what, for the most part the propoganda worked. That’s just how the human mind works. Similarly, the story of Christianity would never have taken off without the great good one, Jesus Christ.

So, don’t blame Fantasy authors for endlessesly creating Dark Lords. It simply works. Just look at how much money Marvel has made off of hero worship and great evil ones. Similarly with Star Wars, etc, etc, etc...

It’s all a quirk of the human mind....

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What are optical illusions? They are quirks hard-wired into the vision processing parts of the brain. What are cognitive biases? Quirks hard-wired into the decision processing regions of the brain? 

What are gods and “anti-gods”? Man-made stories which the brain is hard-wired (pre-disposed) to find meaning in. Since pre-historic times man has continuously told stories of great good ones and great evil ones. The human brain is cognitively biased to find these stories interesting... just as the brain of a dog is biased to serve it’s human master loyally.

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3 hours ago, MorgulisMaximus said:

What are optical illusions? They are quirks hard-wired into the vision processing parts of the brain. What are cognitive biases? Quirks hard-wired into the decision processing regions of the brain? 

What are gods and “anti-gods”? Man-made stories which the brain is hard-wired (pre-disposed) to find meaning in. Since pre-historic times man has continuously told stories of great good ones and great evil ones. The human brain is cognitively biased to find these stories interesting... just as the brain of a dog is biased to serve it’s human master loyally.

Eh, trying to make a trope intrinsic to people is a bit of a step. Scientifically, humans may be literally defining a universe of information every time they observe elements of it--past and future. The thing about Dark Lords is humanity has a history of dealing with tyrants and suffering under them.

They have the guy who leads or is ruler of the people who come and steal our stuff or destroy our culture. Genghis Khan may have built the greatest empire that ever existed but tell that to the people in Russia who were reduced to subsistence living.

Or the people who watched Tamerlane destroy the height of Arabic civilization so he could capture some of the magic.

The Dark Lord is a reflection of the keystone of empires and an acknowledgement not of the shining glitter of empires but the road of skulls they're built on.

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17 hours ago, MorgulisMaximus said:

What are optical illusions? They are quirks hard-wired into the vision processing parts of the brain. What are cognitive biases? Quirks hard-wired into the decision processing regions of the brain? 

What are gods and “anti-gods”? Man-made stories which the brain is hard-wired (pre-disposed) to find meaning in. Since pre-historic times man has continuously told stories of great good ones and great evil ones. The human brain is cognitively biased to find these stories interesting... just as the brain of a dog is biased to serve it’s human master loyally.

Annnd? Apart from virtue signalling that you're seeing the big picture here, what else do you have to add? Or are you an antinatalist?

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On 11/29/2017 at 1:07 AM, C.T. Phipps said:

The Dark Lord is a reflection of the keystone of empires and an acknowledgement not of the shining glitter of empires but the road of skulls they're built on.

I'll second this. Martin said that "everything is bigger in fantasy", and fantasy does tend to take things and then blow up to larger-than-life scales. That includes tyrants and conquerors as well, so your conquering kings and emperors become tyrannical dark lords. 

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