As some may be mystified when I make a lot to do about certain types of movies and I rate them exquisitely high, and then seemingly trail off into a different more contemporary direction for the next series of writings, there is a good reason for it. My wife and I have a number of hobbies we share together, she does a lot of personal crafts–and reads a lot, I read, write, and practice bullwhips—but one thing that we share intensely is a study of evil and the various forms it takes in society. We have intense discussions about parallel universes, and the numbers for infinity contemplating how evil manifests between dimensional planes and grabs lives into this little four-dimensional space we all share on earth. We make a point to see how evil burrows its way between the lines of reality like the roots of weeds and finds its way around a sidewalk brick and goes around solid objects rather than through them. I have often compared our waking world to a 24 frame per second movie—what we view we accept as our reality—however we are really witnessing 24 independent pictures per second which our mind paints together into a functioning comprehension. What exists between frames 18 to 19 or 20 and 21 is a black empty bar separating the pictures from one another which our minds ignore so that we can accept the reality presented in the framed pictures. Often evil lives and comes into our lives in those black spaces, it comes into our minds because we cannot behold two separate realities presented on the same metaphorical film strip at the same time—so we often accept the pleasant pictures of existence rather than try to understand what isn’t so pleasant. It is in that understanding that my wife and I share an intense passion and also gives insight into a world that is acting upon us—but is otherwise invisible.
Religion for me limits this exploration. I enjoy the magnitude of Biblical study and other religious examination into the roots of evil—primarily through mythology, folklore, and philosophy. But mankind’s explorations into evil did not stop in the Dark Ages when many of the religious texts of the world were surmised. They continue—even more so today than ever before in the realm of fiction. It is highly likely that in the distant future once the dust settles on the ages a bit that literary classics like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion will become religions onto themselves—perhaps 2000 to 3000 years in the future. It should be noted that Tolkien considered himself a Christian, but had a deep need to understand the nature of evil as he witnessed it during two World Wars—so he invented a mythology that could explore evil in a way that the old mythology of Satan from The Bible did not go far enough. The desire of any modern society to focus the minds of mankind on ancient traditions and mythologies is so that emotional distance can be maintained between one age now gone and harmless and the new one where much is at stake and power is to be had. So long as the functioning myths of a society are on events 2000 years ago people generally do not see what is happening to them in the world of today as their focus is adrift. But in modern stories like the contemporary Hobbit, writers like Tolkien have tackled that problem directly with the type of story that can be directly applied from Middle-earth, to modern existence.
In the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Gandalf discovers Black Speech graffiti imprinted on an old ruin, coinciding with a telepathic message from Galadriel imploring him to investigate the tombs of the Nazgul. When Peter Jackson went off on this subplot as the film’s director it has drawn a critical response from Tolkien purists who don’t feel that the work of The Simarillion should be included in the film adaption of The Hobbit. But Jackson did it anyway and I’m very happy that he did because it turned out for me to be one of the most intensely enjoyable parts of the film. Once the three Hobbit films are complete Jackson will have correctly connected the Lord of the Rings trilogy together with The Hobbit in a way that Tolkien didn’t live long enough to do, and that will bring the work to a new audience, which is of utmost importance. Once at the tomb Gandalf discovers that the Nazgûl have been revived by their one true master. This prompts Gandalf to visit the ruins of Dol Guldur which he discovers appears to be dilapidated beyond refute. But this is only an illusion as a spell has been cast over the place to keep its true form from being noticed by the outside world as a mounting army led by the ancient evil form of Sauron—who in this film is a Necromancer—a disembodied spirit organizing events in the world for his triumphant return as the one world ruler. The spell is meant to disguise these efforts so that they cannot be stopped while the rising evil is still vulnerable. The Necromancer confronts the solitary Gandalf and tells him that there is no light in the world that can stop darkness, which then provokes an epic battle of which Gandalf is not quite prepared to deal with.
The cosmological myth prefixed to The Silmarillion explains how the supreme being Eru initiated his creation by bringing into being innumerable spirits, “the offspring of his thought,” who were with him before anything else had been made. The being later known as Sauron thus originated as an “immortal (angelic) spirit.” In his origin, Sauron therefore perceived the Creator directly. As Tolkien noted: “Sauron could not, of course, be a ‘sincere’ atheist. Though one of the minor spirits created before the world, he knew Eru, according to his measure.”
In the terminology of Tolkien’s invented language of Quenya, these angelic spirits were called Ainur. Those who entered the physical world were called Valar, especially the most powerful ones. The lesser beings who entered the world, of whom Sauron was one, were called Maiar. In Tolkien’s letters, the author noted that Sauron “was of course a ‘divine‘ person (in the terms of this mythology; a lesser member of the race of Valar).” Though less mighty than the chief Valar, he was more powerful than many of his fellow Maiar; Tolkien noted that he was of a “far higher order” than the Maiar who later came to Middle-earth as the Wizards Gandalf and Saruman. As created by Eru, the Ainur were all good and uncorrupt, as Elrond stated in The Lord of the Rings: “Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”
The Nazgûl (from Black Speech nazg, “ring”, and gûl, “wraith, spirit” (presumably related togul, “sorcery”); also called Ringwraiths, Ring-wraiths, Black Riders, Dark Riders, theNine Riders, or simply the Nine are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s Middle-earthlegendarium. They were nine Men who succumbed to Sauron‘s power and attained near-immortality as wraiths, servants bound to the power of the One Ring. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, originally published in 1954–1955. The book calls the Nazgûl Sauron’s “most terrible servants”.
After the success of The Hobbit, and prior to the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s publisher requested a sequel to The Hobbit, and Tolkien sent them an early draft of The Silmarillion. But through a misunderstanding, the publisher rejected the draft without fully reading it, with the result that Tolkien began work on “A Long Expected Party”, the first chapter of what he described at the time as “a new story about Hobbits“, which became The Lord of the Rings.
The Silmarillion comprises five parts. The first part, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of Eä, the “world that is“. Valaquenta, the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age, including the wars over the Silmarils which gave the book its title. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a brief account of the circumstances which led to and were presented in The Lord of the Rings.
According to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the Nazgûl arose as Sauron’s most powerful servants in the Second Age of Middle-earth. They were once mortal Men, three being “great lords” of Númenor. Sauron gave each of them one of nine Rings of Power. Ultimately, however, they were bound to the One Ring, and succumbed completely to its power and its seduction:
Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron’s. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Úlairi, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death. — The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, 346
The corrupting effect of the rings extended the bearers’ earthly lives far beyond their normal lifespans. Some passages in the novel suggest that the Nazgûl wore their rings, while others suggest that Sauron actually held them.
In a letter from circa 1963 Tolkien says explicitly that Sauron held the rings:
They would have obeyed . . . any minor command of his that did not interfere with their errand — laid upon them by Sauron, who still through their nine rings (which he held) had primary control of their wills . . . — The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 246
They were by far the most powerful of his servants, and the most suitable for such a mission, since they were entirely enslaved to their Nine Rings, which he now himself held . . . — Unfinished Tales, p. 338
Tolkien’s world as it was portrayed in these massive volumes of work refers to a time on earth that has either long passed, or is in the distant future. It is hard to know in geologic time when these events have transpired. Robert Jordan in his Wheel of Time series took the work that Tolkien did several steps further and wrote 14 massive books, most of them the size of Lord of the Rings. In those books he actually wrote about a period of human history where man were once again regulated to horses and magic—but this was thousands of years after skyscrapers and flying cars, a society hundreds of years ahead of our present time. Society had risen and fallen and went through a rebirth phase—and this appears to be a possibility with the Tolkien work.
In our contemporary time we consider ourselves so sophisticated with our history, our educations, our iPhones, the internet, and modern weaponry, but we are infants looking at just a few frames of film and reality is much more than that. It isn’t hard to see contemporary evidence of the events discussed above happening in the real world around us every single day. However, in order to see them we need a kind of translation of what is happening between those frames of film in our lives—a way to understand them. Tolkien has offered that, and Peter Jackson has provided a proper interpretation in a visual medium that is very powerful, and reaches a lot of people. But evil is very real. We see it and deal with it every day, and it is not enough to pray for help to an interpretation of a God understood thousands of years ago and shaped by centuries of power-hungry churches and empires demanding compliant citizens broken easily by force and faith. Evil must be confronted directly, and we must piss in its eye and eradicate it from our lives the best we can—and before we do that—we must be able to see it, feel it, and touch it. Like Sauron’s stronghold Dol Guldur, the “Hill of Sorcery” the real nature of evil is hidden from our eyes. Study the reason for any public relations firm, and the practical function of them. They are primarily designed to deceive our eyes and minds away from the facts and to direct our attention away from the vile tasks that often accompany their clients. Study how this effect works in public schools and it will be easy to identify that there is a Dol Guldur in each of our communities spreading evil right under our noses, blinding our eyes to a truth that we cannot completely see. CLICK HERE FOR REAL WORLD PROOF OF THIS PHENOMENON.
As I left the movie with my family after the second Hobbit film ended I listened to the people leaving and later read some of the reviews. The assumption was that Peter Jackson was working purely for profit as Warner Brother execs wanted three billion dollar films out of the relatively small novel, The Hobbit—and Jackson was stretching things. Without question that was Warner Brother’s hope, and who could blame them. But Jackson saw a chance to make The Hobbit into what Tolkien likely would have wanted to do in 1937, but had not flushed it all out yet. Jackson simply combined the life work of Tolkien’s study on the nature of evil and put it into three massive three-hour films, two of which are completed at this time. Evil is more studied today than at any point in human history—the book stores are filled with the confrontation between good and evil—it is the central theme of our age. Yet, we are told by modern society that value judgments against evil should not be made—that we should accept those different from us—and when I hear such things—I see the shroud which protected Dol Guldur from the prying eyes of the outside world. And like Gandalf I poke and pry at those barriers because I suspect that evil is hiding behind such facades—and 9.999999999 times out of 10, I am right. It is not because of magic that I’m often right about these things, it is because my wife and I have a habit hobby of defining evil and spotting it from afar the way some people watch birds, or weather patterns. We enjoy it, and are always looking for where it conceals itself. And part of the way we fulfill that enterprise is by studying the various forms that fiction writers of modern myth have used to discover the metaphorical Dol Guldur’s of our lives—those frames around the film that we cannot register, but know are there.
When I witness an honest attempt to confront these problems I tend to get very excited not because what is seen, but what is not. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug taken by itself as an action/fantasy film is decent fun. The effects are sometimes over-the-top, and silly, but the story is not about those things. The ultimate theme of the stories of Tolkien was an exploration of evil and the proper way to meet it with a happy productive life untouched by such forces. It is in this achievement that The Desolation of Smaug is an epic masterpiece that is heads and shoulders above everything else done like it—and the reason it will endure not just for years—but millenniums.
Unlike the fantasy world of Tolkien and his modern version of The Devil in Sauron, it is highly unlikely that only one such creature would evolve into such a state of evil over such a vast span of time, but many. For the context of a story only one such evil can exist otherwise there would be no real narrative flow. As my wife and I believe, there are thousands of Sauron’s in the real world every one of them just as bad as all the others. They may not have magic and sorcery in their arsenal of tools the way these fictional characters do, but they have other tools, and they use them. It is against those that we have a continued and enduring fight, and like Gandalf’s fight against the Necromancer at Dol Guldur it often feels like a tiny light surrounded by constant darkness. Gandalf’s response and valiant fight is why someone like he should be President of the United States and take such thrones of power away from the many who function from evil and desire with every sign of life in the smallest cells of their bodies to touch the One Power of Sauron. They desire such power for all the reasons that evil has ever spread over the lives of man—to be admired, and to shape one’s own destiny. Evil often hides itself behind illusions the same as the one that shrouded Dol Guldur—and only films like The Desolation of Smaug attempt to portray such a thing. So when a film does such a thing successfully, I give it an ambitious review not so much for the content and quality of the film, but for looking evil in the eye and giving it a form that people can relate to—so that they can confront it, and defeat it. And before evil can even be confronted, a firm understanding or right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark and the vileness of evil must be understood clearly. The living world is all about pairs of opposites, death is about unification. In the living world choices must be made—light or darkness—good or evil—one team against the other. There is no other way.