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  • Writer's pictureJ. W. Barlament

Tolkien’s Philosophy of Creativity

Sauron may be the biggest and baddest villain in Middle Earth during the events of The Lord of the Rings, but as any self-respecting nerd knows, Sauron was once only lieutenant to the greatest evil in Tolkien’s legendarium; Morgoth; most powerful of any immortal angel; the sole source of all darkness in the universe.

That caliber of importance makes it natural for one to wonder, though — what is it that really even makes Morgoth and his minions evil?

“Fingolfin’s Challenge to Morgoth” by John Howe

Well, to quickly rewind to the beginning of the world, Eru Ilúvatar (basically the Catholic God, reflecting Tolkien’s own beliefs) created his angels and together with them sang all of creation into being; Eru setting the melody and his angels contributing in perfect harmony with his designs. This, named for said angels, was called the Music of the Ainur, and it continued for some time until Melkor, most powerful of the Ainur, introduced a discordant tone.

All his peers protested, but Melkor ignored them, introducing all those things in the world discordant with the will of Eru — except without the Flame Imperishable, safe in Eru’s possession, from which all beings first emerged. He thus had to resort to distorting those beings already made and set free to settle the world. In doing this, he initiated the forever-war between the forces of good and evil and became Morgoth; not creator, but distorter, whose only power was to lead beings astray from the path of the plan of Eru Ilúvatar; that is, to prevent them from following predestiny so they could better serve his own interests.

Morgoth cannot make anything of his own. He is only able to mock. The orcs, Tolkien tells us, originated as elves, slowly twisted into their corrupted current forms by the hand of Morgoth. The Nazgul are corrupted kings of men of old. And so his villainy lies not simply in trying something new. He is not a paragon of individuality against an oppressive tyrant-god, like some Satanists try to paint Lucifer in the Bible. His villainy, rather, lies in his continuing his discordant tone despite the protests of his peers, the creative vision of the supreme being, who alone is equipped with the fire of creation,

He literally does not have the tools to properly create anything. He is physically incapable of doing what he wants to do correctly. And yet he does it. Morgoth is not an individualist, but a cold-hearted narcissist who will happily plunge the world into chaos for the sake of his own vainglory.

Tolkien was a firm believer that God had a plan for every person to follow, that said plan was good, and that following said plan was good. This is not conformity, mind you. It is God’s plan. It is what you were born to do. Of course it’s moral to do what you were born to do and immoral to do otherwise.

The connection to Catholic dogma here really isn’t all that hard to realize, but even if you’re far from Catholic, you can surely see Tolkien’s ideal of creativity as an act of originality and right-mindedness that fits in harmoniously with the higher power’s designs.

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