Whose side are you on ?

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Re: Whose side are you on ?

Post by Bluebottle on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:44 pm

I find this a really interesting question and one I often contemplate when reading fantasy. Well, anything really. If I'm told that someone or something is evil is that really justified in the story or am I just being told. As I've found while reading Wheel of Time, a lot of the supposed "evil" characters are actually more interesting than the supposedly good ones. Particularily when they are given an interesting backstory as to why they turned in that direction. I think we can all see people doing things we would consider evil in the real world because they have convinced themselves that it is the right thing to do. And something very interesting happens when the justification for "evil" gets close to convincing one that "evil" might be the right thing to do. Is there then such a thing as good and evil, or this a construct even within the story. It's certainly interesting to contemplate at times.  

I think norc makes a very good point above about the relativety of the good/evil divide in both George RR Martin and Tolkiens work. and I think that is part of  what puts both authors work apart from many other authors who write in the same genre.

Though while the two works might share that quality, they are intrinsically different. While Tolkiens work might be read as an allegory, and the real judgement of good and evil might lie at that level, at the basic narrative level it is; a story about the fight against a Dark Lord, who is defeated against unsurmountable odds, by the few still on the side of good. This is the thing that signifies fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien, I think. And what has been missused by the people George RR Martin likes to refer to as the "Tolkien immitators." By them simply using his progression, but missing the relativety in meaning, of good and evil and the result of the fight between them among other things, in Tolkiens work. Seeing the story as allegory also points in the same direction, as his story, at that level, isn't the conflict an arbitrary good and evil side, but between two whole systems of thought.

So Tolkiens work is signified by a relativety in the seperation between good and evil at both levels.

George RR Martins work is different, but I think we can see the same basic relativety. George does have his traditional fantasy story going on in the background, with the Others and what is happening nort of the Wall, but most of the story takes place between normal people who are signified as more or less good or evil by their actions. Not by their inherent quality as either good or evil. The fight between good and evil take place in the human heart, as he likes to say. You can't point at a charcter and say wether he is good or evil, they are all both to different degrees, judged by their circumstances , the actions their circumstances drive them to, their judgement in different situations. To put it simply there are no black and white moments, there are only greys.

I think it's really interesting that one can see a correlation between the two authors here, because I think this relativety might very well be what takes fantasy literature above the black and white/good and evil struggle of myth and fairytales and makes it interesting and compelling literature.  

So, yeah, I think that was a really good and interesting point.

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Re: Whose side are you on ?

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:22 pm

How do you make a great fantasy villain?

Give them a redemption arc.

No? Very Happy

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Re: Whose side are you on ?

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:24 pm

Or perhaps preferably a "Heel face door slam."

The much more vindictive brother of Redemption Equals Death, where you have a villainous character who is beginning to realize that the way of evil is not the way, and is attempting or planning to redeem themselves, but is killed or otherwise brutally rebuffed, either by karma, the heroes, or even their boss (the latter who most often crosses the Moral Event Horizon in doing so) before they can carry out their plans.

As a result, the character doesn't even get redemption, and they will never throw off the darkness of their past. This will almost always be the response given to a villain who expresses a desire to redeem themselves, but whose past actions were too far beyond the pale for anything even resembling a convincing redemption to take place.

Those are pretty harsh though, particularily if you love the character. Sad

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Re: Whose side are you on ?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:55 pm

That sounds a bit like Saruman. He became aware of his own downfallen but instead of redemption it just made him hate everyone responsible for his downfall, including himself of course as it was his own doing and he is clever enough to know it.

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Re: Whose side are you on ?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:13 am

Saruman is definitely a good example of someone who's action were irredemable to such a degree that there was simply no way back. I'm not sure there was actually any hope for actual redemption at the end either. He did have his moment when the Nazgul appeared at the gate of Isengard and he actually went to get Gandalfs help to face them, only to discover he had already fled. So, while he might have wanted redemption, and the reader might have wanted it for him, there was just no way at the end that his actions might have been forgiven. And his last acts in the Shire doesn't point much in the direction of redemption either.

He's an interesting example though, thank you for bringing him up.

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