Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the question of evil

entry the 4th
5:11pm, central time zone
alabamordor, hothville, privet drive, minas morgul, hovel under the stairs, invisibility cloak, just slept three days strait

Spam Count: 214

Things never work out as smoothly as you expect them to at first. If this were not true, there would be no novels. What if Bilbo's magic ring had turned out not to be Sauron's Ring of Doom, but just what it appeared at first to be: a singularly useful little gadget, encountered by luck. Or, what if the ring wraiths had never known the name of Baggins, or the whereabouts of the shire? Or, what if, once the hobbits delivered the ring to rivendell, Gimli had succeded in chopping it in half with his axe, simple as that?

What if Saruman the White had remained loyal to Gandalf the Gray? What if the imperial stormtroopers hadn't killed uncle Owen and aunt Beru?

What if there were no villains?

I think this may be one of the reasons why only a few people can pull off writing an epic morality tale. J.R.R. Tolkien fought in world war one, and he wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy while his son, Christopher, was fighting in world war two. He knew what evil was. In his heart, he had looked into the eye of Sauron, and it had changed him.

Similarly, J.K. Rowling met her Voldemort long before she had the idea for Harry Potter. One of her first jobs out of college was as a research assisstant at Amnesty International. Her department was researching the political situation in certain African countries, and it was Rowling's job to review information sent in from those places. Of course, the information had to be smuggled under the noses of the censor, because many places in Africa are run by fascist dictatorship. So the material Rowling looked at every day consisted of written accounts and photos of police brutality or torture or abduction or execution.

One day, walking through the halls of her office building, she heard a scream. A barely-human wail of terror and pain. A young woman poked her head out of her office and asked Rowling to get a hot drink for the man who was sitting with her. He had just received the news that, in retaliation for his communications with Amnesty International, the government of his home country had executed his mother.

I had wondered why Rowling chose to write a main character who was a boy, when she was female. I had thought she made Harry an orphan because it was an obvious way to win the readers' sympathies. No. It had simply been the closest she could get to representing the truth she knew.

Things are never as clear or simple or free of conflict as you first suppose they are. What if Lilly and James Potter had been death eaters, instead of Voldemort's enemies? What if one of the nazgul had found the One Ring in that cave instead of Bilbo Baggins of the Shire? What if Luke Skywalker had been raised by his real father?

fiasco joe

PS I haven't written word one of the treatment yet, I've been asleep for pretty much all of the last three days and nights.

"Listen, Fezzig. Hear that? That is the Sound of Ultimate Suffering. My heart made that sound the day my father died. The man in black makes it now."

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