An apologia for Melkor and Sauron

06 Jun 2009

First, a lengthy foreword.

I've been reading the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and they contain in addition to much glorious and touching stuff some embarrassingly silly examples of religious poppycock. For an example, read letter 96 and weep: during the course of the second paragraph T. confesses to a literal belief in a historical garden of Eden and in some coming thousand-year reign of Saints!

This did not improve my image of the man.

Thus it seems to be with all --- though we have no gods, it's no good overidolizing brilliant and gifted men (or women) either. Tolkien had his muddled Catholicism (and the "muddled" comes not from his variety, but from the fact it is a religion, and thus a mistake and a self-deception of varying degrees of sophistication), Lovecraft was a racist, Newton had his silly numerological side, and I can think of at least one brilliant and inspiring scientist, now dead, who by some accounts was personally an insufferably self-promoting prick. No gods in heaven, and no substitute saints either.

Thus, too, I thought it proper to invade Middle-Earth with this overblown Eristic argument below (3000+ words); if Tolkien says his works sync with his Christianity, there must be something there for a pseudo-atheistic (or pseudo-Satanic, defending Melkor?) argument, no matter how facetious and "tricksy".

I hope you find the below amusing; it was written out of love, not spite.

And I know; waaaaay too long, but still much too hasty and just a sketch. I could probably write a book (a very tedious one) about how the needs of narrative excitement and simplicity, especially when combined with the effects of personal religiosity, can make one write very unpleasant "good guys" and worlds horrible in their reflection of those religious views; it has something to do with the fact that our "real-world gods" don't interfere much (being fictions), and believers think ours is how a world with a "real god" is and should be: and when they then put gods into their fictions, and for the nicety of the narrative make them active gods that show up now and then, and work their powers, those divinities seem, on reflection, cold and uncaring, no matter how much they might save the day in the end.

How could they be anything else but dicks, when they must (usually) play their parts in a replica of our world (medieval England with a moustache on it), whose social structures and conventions are based on the quiet fact that divine actions are rare. When a religious author takes this "god-scarce" world as the very model of a world with an active God in it, makes a replica of it (or its past), and puts really active gods in it, something has to give. Either the social structure there has to change radically (what if every prayer was answered?), which is very difficult to do, and not something the religious author is equipped to feel necessary, or the gods have to become insensitive pricks or inactive abstractions.

"Eonwe and the hosts of the Valar came and overthrew Morgoth back them --- why won't those heavenly hosts come and squish Sauron now? Cirdan, go west like Earendil and ask for some effing help!"

This all is quibbling, though --- I don't usually go all serious on my entertainment, unless that seriousness in itself is a source of further fun.

(A straight defence of Melkor/Sauron --- like the serpent-tongue work below --- is, of course, doomed to fail unless one calls the available accounts and second-world differences (All Orcs are evil) outright lies, which isn't very useful.)

* * *

You no doubt have a rather dim view of my former master, Sauron the Great --- and an even worse one of his master of old, Melkor the Creator. This is understandable, since you have been lied to.

Do not flinch so. I do not demand your belief; just listen to me, doubt all you want, and then ask yourself... which makes more sense: my account, or that of the various elf-friends?

Maybe their stories are just a little too smooth and simple.

First, the supposed God... this Iluvatar. I just point out that no-one has ever seen him; never spoken to him; never called him and had him answer, save the Valar. And with the Valar we must start.

In the beginning the Valar were unified. They made the land, the sea, the air, and all living things. Together they were all-powerful, but then... Then there was a quarrel, strife, a fight, and Melkor the Great, the greatest and most ambitious of them all, was forced to leave the company of others.

Now, your natural reaction might be to think that Melkor, being alone, was in the wrong, but consider what happened when the Elves awoke. Who was in the central lands waiting for them? Was it the Valar, maybe? Was it Manwe, proud and mighty? Maybe Varda, haughty and quiet?

No; only Melkor was there.

Only later did the horse-man Orome happen by: and even though he was supposed to be such a good and perfect a being, he still could lure only a fraction of the Elves to follow him to the lands of the Valar. Isn't that curious? If the dark central lands were such a terrible place, why would any elf remain there? If Valinor was such a paradise, and Orome such an admirable figure, why wouldn't all the elves follow?

And, most important of all... why did the elves wake in such a Valar-forsaken place?

If you can say Iluvatar made it so --- well, I cannot help you if you think that hearsay god, that nebulous and distant rumor, ever did anything. Think of all the evil in the world. If such an all-powerful being is behind this all, and he foresaw all this and still allowed it to go on, he must surely be a cruel monster without an equal.

By the heavens, the Valar and their gall to say all our pain and suffering is only a part we should play in some terrible symphony, some grotesque Music of his --- no, Iluvatar is a ghost, a lie, a myth the Valar made up.

It seems most plausible, does it not? The Valar were not quite all-powerful, so they made this abstraction... and slowly they began to think this ideal really existed. When mortals came along, they were not willing to explain the embarrassing source of their God... and they lied. Humor me and assume for a while that it is so.

Now, if there is no Iluvatar, and the Valar were not there... who do you have left as the father and creator of the elves?

Now you understand why Orome, the hunter, went forth... and finding the prey fit for more than just slaughter, lured as many as he could away from the wide fertile lands prepared by their creator.

If you doubt me --- think of this. Elves sprang up; Melkor was the closest. Men woke up; Melkor was the closest. Dwarves woke up; Melkor was the closest. Orcs and trolls and dragons came to being... and always Melkor was the closest. He is not a maker of mockeries; no, he is the only one to ever create life that thinks and feels like he does, like the Valar do.

Would it be too much for you if I suggested the reason of Melkor's exile was just this: his desire to create things that were like him, not just dumb and mindless toys? And that the other Valar were disgusted by this creation they saw as a dilution of their own unique power... until they saw what splendid slaves and lackeys these creatures would make.

Ah, so slave is too strong a word for you? Well then, why were the Noldor cursed by the Valar when they left? Surely no free man or woman can be a criminal for going wherever he or she wants --- only a slave is bound to whatever hill-huts his or her masters designate.

And only the cruelest of masters sits stony-faced and silent while his runaway slaves suffer and starve, until some desperate Earendil returns to grovel at their feet and beg.

And when the Noldor returned to Middle-Earth... well, they had been corrupted by the lies of the Valar --- or brought around to see the world as they saw it, if that sounds better to you. And so naturally they named Melkor the Great something else --- Morgoth. The Dark Enemy. And from then on... well, surely you've noticed that all of these scary, pejorative names are in Elvish? Mordor the dark land, Angband the hell of iron --- doesn't that seem suspiciously like the name Moria, or the Dark Pit, a slur given to the glorious dwarven mansions underneath the Misty Mountains just because they were different from what the elves were used to? How much worse names they would make up for the homes of those they hated --- and you, a reader of the elven lies, know only those names. You know the seven names of Gondolin, but I'd guess the seven names of the Far Northern Halls are alien to you.

And speaking of this place Angband, and several others after and one before --- one point that the elves never really mention. Each time one of these supposed dark strongholds was felled, the elven sages and storytellers fell strangely silent. Barely a word of the actual aftermath of the fall of Angband or Utumno survives; less than that for the first or second sacks of Barad-Dur; not a word on what happened when the wild elves of the Golden Wood overthrew Dol Guldur, twice --- and the reason of course is that even the Valar-taught elves cannot quite stomach praising genocide.

Yes, genocide.

What else would you call putting all your enemies to the sword? Death to all orcs. Death to all trolls. Death to all goblins. Death to all men serving the supposed Evil --- hah, and we are supposed to be the evil ones? The worst you can say of us is that we wanted to enslave you --- though I would call it protection --- while the elves were willing to butcher everyone, man, woman and child alike, that wasn't of the right race.

It's a nice idea, sure: all elves are good, all orcs bad. Except the world is never so simple. You know this. But hey: you can't justify a genocide and a merciless war of extermination otherwise. The orcs are all evil; they are soulless; they are beasts; there is not one among them that does any good. Hence forward glorious elven soldiers and cleanse the lands of all of them, big and small alike! No mercy! Trample their young underfoot and burn their homes! Kill everything!

And we, we are the monsters?

But my intent was to defend my master Sauron, so maligned by these books of elf-friend lies --- maybe elves themselves couldn't bear to put such slanders down to parchment, and had to find these ill-educated hobbit dupes instead. And even so the truth shines through --- if you carefully read the memoirs of this Bilbo Baggins, you notice this Elvenking that imprisons Thorin Oakenshield and his companions is a rather cold and cruel character, willing to let them rot in his prisons until they do what he wants, because they are just dwarves... Or rather, because they are not Elves. Though he quickly reverses his positions once this conjurer of cheap tricks, this agent and rabble-rouser of the distant Valar, this Gandalf arrives to bully him to do his bidding --- and his bidding is done, and once again the chroniclers are silent on how orcs, not so very different from elves or men, were killed and killed until none remained. Trust me, if you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about this war-wizard, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would know that wherever he goes, intolerance and carrion-crows follow.

But no more about him --- just one stray thing. Elves and wizards were supposedly so wise and loyal to the Valar: yet elves fell to killing each other, and even the wizards fell out and fought each other. Have you ever, in comparison, heard of troubles in our ranks? Now tell me --- is internecine warfare, or calm loyalty, the mark of the cowed and the oppressed? Or do you still want to claim that whatever wrong you do must some shady way be our fault?

Next, think of all the evil my master Sauron supposedly did --- think back to the beginning, to the beginning of the Second Age, and you will find him here in the central lands, a caretaker again in the lands once again abandoned by the Valar: their elvish slaves had for the most part slunked back, broken by their internecine strife and their obsessive hatred of Melkor, as they ringed his palace like rabid dogs ---

Very well; let us consider the Silmarils then. I am willing to humor you; after all, I do this to reveal the truth of things to you the best I can.

Elves paint Melkor as a thief and as a murderer, right? Yet he was a prisoner and a slave of the Valar as much as the elves; and though he could leave himself, and in leaving shatter this gilded prison, how could he persuade the elves, taught to disbelieve all he said, to leave the thralldom of the Valar with him? By tricking them, by taking some trifle they dearly valued... though the hatred instilled in the Elves proved in the end too strong, and the Noldor, instead of enjoying the open spaces of Middle-Earth, made a futile and miserable war against their liberator.

Do you really think Melkor, he who had shaped the world itself, could really be overcome by desire for a few shiny trinkets of elven glass?

But think of the Second Age --- the world once again abandoned by the Valar, who cared not about the wild elves; who cared not about the wild men; no, they were content with their deluded elven slaves of Eldamar, and with the similarly tricked and misled men of Numenor, kept close to them yet a distance away, separate from the fields of the gods by the Ban, like a dog is not allowed to his master's table, a slave not to his owner's banquet.

And yet there still were elves, beautiful and skilled elves of the Noldorin race, here in Middle-Earth. And so, humbly, my master Sauron went to them. To emphasize his good intentions he took the name Annatar, lord of gifts. Elves have twisted that so that you think it a self-serving lie; yet he taught the elves much, and they were willing to learn.

True, Elrond and Gil-Galad would not suffer poor Annatar to approach them, and Lindon and Imladris were closed to him; no, they were so proud and pure. So sure they had nothing left to learn.

Only in Eregion was he welcome, and this was the reason: in Eregion only had the poisonous elven pride, that racism, the sense of their special superiority taught to them by the Valar, been tempered by the realization that there were other skilled artisans as well. Eregion and Khazad-dum: elves and dwarves co-operating, living close to each other, talking to each other. Never before had such a thing happened; and if you had asked Elrond or Gil-Galad, never again would such an abomination be allowed to happen again.

And again the sages have little to say, and the annals of that age seem curiously... distorted. Eregion fell; no survivors. Imladris and Lindon survived; no casualties. The great treasures --- the Three --- ended up in the hands of Elrond. All this supposedly done by some magicked-up force of my master that somehow appeared, and then just as quickly and puzzlingly withdrew, destroying Eregion, and Eregion only --- Imladris was miraculously spared, and so was Lindon. The dwarves of Khazad-dum locked their doors and refused to speak to any of their remaining elves. How curious!

Do you not find it strange that of all the rings and trifles the elves of Eregion and Sauron together made, none aroused the rage of the other elves until the Three were made? Supposedly they thought my master evil, yet still allowed him to be among their kinsmen --- well, maybe the likes of Gil-Galad thought those dwarf-loving kinsmen already corrupt and lost.

And then the Three, the great rings... with the power to make a separate and independent paradise here, separate and independent from the tyrants of Valinor. Of course such a thing was an anathema and a terrible blasphemy to faithful servants such as Elrond and Gil-Galad, who had grown to believe they could not be truly happy except groveling at the feet of their western masters; and of course they made war against Eregion.

Does this surprise you as well? Did you not know that in the fall of Eregion, elf fought against elf --- nothing new there --- and Elrond himself slew Celebrimbor the master-smith on the steps of the Great Hall? Why would my master make war against his friends and allies? There was no reason for that, no reason for war at all, except the fact the likes of Elrond and Gil-Galad had decided to wipe the blasphemies of Eregion off the map for good, and to acquire its treasures and rings.

The dwarves locked their doors, and from that day the enmity between elves and dwarves was beyond healing; dwarves do not deal with kinslayers and betrayers. And you know that that was not the first time Noldor fell to such villainy.

And so in the end Annatar my master flew from the ruins and the bloody elven swords, rescuing what he could from the ruin of Gil-Galad's treacherous attack, but the Three were lost: lost to the invaders who, though they hated their purpose, still were not altogether unwilling to take up such power... because though they could not resist the old lies that made them long for the west and feel diminished, they were not quite averse to holding empires of their own for a little while, as long as they were all-elf and pure --- and thus Galadriel and Elrond and Gil-Galad took the rings, never sparing a thought for the countless wild elves, dwarves and men near and far that might have liked a taste of their paradise --- since of course their power was deemed safe only in the hands of those that knew it really didn't matter, as the West beckoned and the Valar waited.

Can you really blame my master for making the One Ring, one to rule the terrible power of the Three fallen into wrong hands, one to prevent the stagnant elven shadow from covering all lands with their cowed prejudice? He grievously hurt himself making this One Ring, forever bound his existence to it, gambled his all... but in the end the Three were robbed of their power for a while. The dream of Eregion was dead, but it would not be replaced by the cowed intolerance of Gil-Galad.

The next supposed evil you most probably wish to lay at the feet of Sauron is the Decay of Numenor --- but what decay? Sauron freely and peacefully surrendered, and "in the folly of his pride" Ar-Pharazon brought him to Numenor; but by now you see this only means he did not kill Sauron and every single one of his followers. To Elves mercy is pride; kill them all and let the Valar sort them out.

Elves like to say my master accelerated Numenor's decay, but was there such a thing? That beautiful island was grander than ever, its dominions ever stronger and more orderly; light had finally returned to the shores of Middle-Earth, and every day the lives of men became easier, more full of leisure and beauty, because of the smart technological inventions Sauron Annatar taught them --- but of course Elves frown at such things; anything that advances beyond their nasty, squalid and brutish forest barbarism is unnatural blasphemy to them. And the Valar surely agree, for cogs and machines are evil things: they free slaves from their toil and give them time to contemplate their sorry lot, to see they do not need their masters.

You say Sauron raised an altar to Dark, but wouldn't it, by the results, be better to say it was devoted to the Unknown, to Curiosity, to Advance and Invention? Though to Elves that must be the same thing; though their lives are nearly endless, they never make anything new. They are so stunted by the lies of the Valar they are only interested in pretty trifles, jewels and gems; levers, steam engines and labor-saving devices are quite beyond their grasp.

Another distortion is to say the Numenoreans came to the coasts of Middle-Earth first bringing gifts, and then either their pride or then Sauron corrupted them and they came as conquerors and lords... but could you not just as well say that it is a dangerous mistake to give powerful toys to the unlearned; and whatever virtues there are in human societies, cannot be taught from books and quick gifts, but only by example. Empires you may call them; I call them nurseries of civilization. As the elves and the Valar were not interested in civilizing the Middle-Earth, Numenoreans took up that burden, and Sauron the Great helped him.

You mean it never troubled you the Valar were so willing to leave almost all of Middle-Earth to shadow? They were willing because they do not care; they are cruel and cold tyrants only interested in the continuation of their personal pleasures and the settling of their private vendettas.

Ah, and the Downfall of Numenor --- yet Sauron is innocent. He was merely an advisor --- and would the king and all his court have listened unless he spoke the truth? Would the people have did as he bid unless his words made sense? Would the fleets of Numenor have sailed against Valinor if Valinor had been their friend and treated them well?

No, though the words cold, arrogant and desperate find an application here, they do not describe Ar-Pharazon the Golden, but the uncaring, lazy lords of Valinor. Little they cared the world laid in darkness. They did not venture forth from their land: though elves praised Varda for starlight, she soared not through the nightly skies.

Though they praised Orome as a hunter of beasts, he did not come forth to destroy the misshapen forest monsters the Valar had made.

Though Yavanna was called the lady of flowers and fair growing things, did she come forth and make fruitful the barrens of Middle-Earth?

Of course not; the Valar were gods and not to be questioned by mere mortals; and when someone dared to ask, they conjured up this over-god Iluvatar only they could see: and his will was indifference and stasis.

You have been told Sauron whispered to the king's ear of the Immortal Lands, of Valinor, and of the immortality that could be found therein... yet, after all this, do you still discount these whispers as mere lies? Valinor was the fairest of all lands; why could men not enter it, unless the greedy Valar had something to hide, some fruit they were not willing to share with the filthy mortals?

When the fleets of Numenor came to their coasts, only wishing a share of their plenty; only wishing to re-negotiate this arbitrary Ban, this leash of a dog or a slave, only wishing to show men were not children nor gullible elves, but the equals of these uncaring and distant tyrants --- well, the greatest tragedy of all. The Valar were not content to merely unleash their foul power to destroy the fleet; no, their injured pride and outrage went beyond that, and they had to destroy all of Numenor ---

You might have noticed this: destroy all of Numenor, every man, woman and child. Whether it is the elves or their masters, when they march against you, you face genocide and extinction.

And of course the taint of the Valar is not easily erased --- there were always those Faithful to the old lies and half-truths, and they survived and stayed loyal as near every man, woman and child of their race was drowned by the Lords of the West... and they kept praising those cold names that never answered.

And just as soon as Elendil and his quarrelsome sons had recovered, their war against my master started again: because elves and elf-friends are not content until their enemies are destroyed to the last man, woman and child. Those that are not their allies are their enemies; and their enemies have no right to live. For them there is only death.

last updated: (Mar 15 2011)