Two Topics of Discussion on Tolkien

As I was writing my previous post, I came up with two questions that I’d like to discuss with any Tolkien buffs who might be reading this.  I’m what you might call a reasonably well-informed layman, but I don’t have the obsessive depth of knowledge of a true fan.

First of all, Tolkien emphasizes over and over again that nothing is evil in its beginning, not even Sauron or Morgoth.  So how does he explain Ungoliant?


You run into the same problem in every cosmology that includes God and Outer Gods.  Usually the explanation is that God isn’t as omnipotent as He’s reputed to be, but you know Tolkien wouldn’t go that route.

Second, I wondered if this guy:


…was somebody Gandalf knew.  At first I thought I was just being funny, but now I wonder.  They’re both maiar.  What are the chances that Gandalf is faced with killing an old friend here?  Imagine the conversation at the top of Zirak Zigil:


“Curunir already tried that, Nayel, and it didn’t work.  Besides, you never could make a sales pitch, even before it became clear just how much of a prick Melkor was.  Now shut up and fight.”



Filed under Inspirations, Links

2 responses to “Two Topics of Discussion on Tolkien

  1. Ulvok

    Ungoliant is a spider older than the world. I’m not sure you can ascribe Ungoliant any more morality than a spider.

    • Yes, but she’s clearly an intelligent being (even her many-greats grandchildren in Mirkwood can talk), and she’s also a Force of Darkness (with her webs “woven from shadow”). In some ways she’s more powerful than Melkor. Really, she’s more of an Outsider Thing in the shape of a spider (like, say, Pennywise from Stephen King’s It) than a big animal. In another fantasy world, they could try for the “too alien for good and evil” thing, but in Tolkien’s world, an intelligent being is going to have a moral alignment.

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