Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Mt. Doom, Elev. A Billion Kajilion Feet
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2005 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
Found a bit of a 2001 article about Lord of the Rings and the problem of evil. Not theodicy, but the more pragmatic question of how we can and should fight evil. SPOILERS AHEAD!
But even the hobbits are not immune, and Frodo himself fails, finally, in his quest. He cannot relinquish the ring of power in the ultimate moment. "I will not do this deed," he cries on the brink of the volcano. "The ring is mine." And so there is not finally in Middle-earth an absolute good to counteract its absolute evil. Tolkien writes expressly about this in his letters. "The power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures," he notes, "however 'good.'"That makes the end make more sense. I always thought it made more sense for either Frodo or Sam to die, taking the ring into Mt. Doom's pit.
Does the irresistible power of evil then make the hero's quest futile? No -- the hero's effort is necessary but not sufficient. Tolkien's other insight is that evil itself will take evil down....
In the end, it is the greed of Gollum, not the virtue of Frodo, that casts the ring to its destruction. One might even say that the ring annihilates itself, as Gollum's consuming desire is one effect of its evil power over him.