If you have ever read Tolkien, or seen the Lord of the Rings movies, then you’ve heard of the Ringwraiths, otherwise known as the Nazgul, Black Riders, Dark Riders, or the Nine. The Fellowship of the Ring Special Edition DVD had a great special feature on Tolkien, the Ring, the Ringwraiths, and the nature of Evil.
The ring itself is an outside force, created by Sauron, and is pure evil. Yet, part of its allure is that is it a ring of power. Baron Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt.” 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Money and power can, and are, used for good in this world. There’s a problem with money and power though. Once we have them, we want to keep them, and we want more. So, they corrupt.
The Ringwraiths in Tolkien’s lore were kings of men. The nine kings were given rings of power, and they accomplished great things. This power was intoxicating, addicting, and the kings ceased to rule, but instead became bondservants of Sauron, doing whatever he willed. They could have removed the rings, but they wanted to keep the power they had, and after awhile, they became shadows of their former selves, losing any sense of self, till their physical form faded from view.
Tom Shippey summarizes Tolkien’s view of evil as it relates to the Ringwraiths quite well on the DVD:
The nature of evil in the 20th century has been curiously impersonal. It’s as if, at times, nobody particularly wants to do it. In the end, you get the major atrocities of the 20th century being carried out by beaurocrats. Well, the people that do that kind of thing are wraiths. They’ve gone through the wraithing process. They don’t know what’s good and evil anymore. It’s become a job or a routine.
You start off with good intentions, but somehow it all goes wrong. So it’s a curiously distinctive image of evil, and I should also say, it’s a very unwelcome one. Because what it says is it could be you, and in fact, under the right circumstances, or should I say, under the wrong circumstances, it will be you.
When people say that this kind of fantasy fiction is escapist and evading the real world, well I think that’s an evasion. It’s actually trying to confront something that most people would rather not confront.
That, to me, is a very Christian-inspired view of evil. What do you think?
Ringwraith photo by Seth W. Daire