A Breadcrumb of Absence: “Nothing is evil in the beginning…”

We have ourselves a new breadcrumb (not a leak!) out of The Rings of Power. It is a fifteen second collection of clips from the original teaser-trailer, together with a shortened version of the famous quote from Elrond. “For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”

For those keeping track at home, what we are seeing is the philosophical notion – explored in Plotinus and St Augustine – that Evil is an absence, a negation. Pure Evil cannot, by definition, exist, any more than an absence can exist. So Evil is a corruption, a warping, a marring of what was originally Good – for Creation is, by definition, Good. This is an important Tolkienian theme, of course, and ties-in with his fascination with the concept of the Augustinian Fall.

(Compare Manicheanism, where Good and Evil exist in a dualist sense, and fight it out accordingly).

The nature of Evil is also a very important theme in the case of the Second Age, which canonically features two major moral Falls – that of the Elves, who try to use the Rings to slow the flow of time, and that of Men, who start worshipping Melkor in an effort to achieve immortality. In both cases, we have Sauron on hand to act as tempter, and he is a very successful tempter, but ultimately, it is the internal corruption of the two peoples that brings them down. Literally in the case of Men.

Well and good. The Rings of Power is to be commended for grasping this fundamental notion, and not slipping into a more Manichean framework. But the choice of accompanying clips raises questions. Specifically, the meteor traveller taking the hobbit hand in his… are Amazon implying that we are seeing Sauron’s “beginning”, and his subsequent descent into Evil? I sincerely hope not. Sauron is already thoroughly corrupt at the start of the Second Age, notwithstanding his alleged repentance. Having him fall from the sky via meteor, and fall into Darkness among a group of hairy-footed midgets would be the sort of canon violation that makes even a laid-back Revisionist like Yours Truly into a black-hearted Purist. I much prefer the possibility that this is an invented character or a Second Age Blue Wizard.

We then get our Elves: Arondir, Galadriel, and Gil-galad. Arondir is an invented character, but we know neither Galadriel nor Gil-galad are going to Fall – at least not during the Second Age, since the Revolt of the Noldor is background by this point. Celebrimbor is the one to worry about, of course, but he’s not the one in the teaser-trailer. Though seeing as Adar is Galadriel’s invented brother (and is emphatically not Finrod Felagund), maybe the comment on Evil being corruption (and not an original state) refers to that? Galadriel suffers trauma on realising that Adar is originally her family?

And finally Númenor. This one is the most straight-forward connection with the quote. Númenor did not start off Evil and mad in its pursuit of immortality, while the statue of Eärendil testifies to its fundamentally Good origins. Hopefully we are given at least some reason to actually care about the place prior to its (literal and figurative) Downfall. On the other hand, the show has established the Númenoreans as Quendiphobic, so who knows.

Noticeably lacking from the revised clip are the Dwarves. So I think we can rule out Dwarves Falling in a moral sense, outside their standard tendency for Greed.

2 thoughts on “A Breadcrumb of Absence: “Nothing is evil in the beginning…”

  1. I agree, “nothing is evil…” probably extends beyond the obvious application to Sauron. The Brazilian trailer gives a few clues:

    “A powerful force moves our protagonists… a search for a chance to rewrite their own story of being reborn without having to die…

    A safe place is, each time, further and further away, and the line between good and evil blurs…

    The fools and the weak spirited are left behind along the way. Those who arrive find in the end a new beginning: redemption.”

    It appears to be a reverse take on the Sermon on the Mount; the poor in spirit get thrown off the bus. But it does set up an episodic structure across the seasons, each ending with a hollow victory. Presumably the good-and-evil-blurring affects all parties.

    The full translation is at
    https://www.theonering.net/torwp/2022/04/27/113016-watch-the-high-concept-ad-for-the-rings-of-power-that-amazon-debuted-during-one-of-brazils-largest-annual-tv-events/

    Liked by 1 person

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