Saturday, May 14, 2016

7 Deadly Sins of Middle-earth (Pt. II)

Part I is available here.  The final four deadly sins are sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  Again, examples are taken from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.

The first sin is sloth.  Sloth can mean being lazy in a couch-potato style, but it can also mean being unhelpful, disinterested, or neglecting duties.

Smaug was extremely lazy--he slept on his pile of gold for 150 years in Erebor.  
"They removed northward higher up the shore; for ever after they had a dread of the water where the dragon lay. He would never again return to his golden bed, but he was stretched cold as stone, twisted upon the floor of the shallows. There for ages his huge bones could be seen in calm weather amid the ruined piles of the old town." (Hobbit 276)
If Smaug had kept moving, he would not have been the target of the Dwarves' vengeance since they could have reclaimed their gold without killing him and, in the long run, he would have been better off.

Again, Hobbits sort of fit into this category, while sort of being exceptional.  It could be argued that the Hobbits are lazy and unhelpful in general, but it doesn't seem to be necessarily portrayed that way.

Denethor is, in an interesting way, also slothful.  Unlike Theoden who energizes and rides out with his army, Denethor hides like a coward inside, refusing to aid and command his men.  Theoden's people are full of renewed hope as their king shows enough faith in them to ride with them, while Denethor's people receive his clear message that he is not confident in their victory.  
"Then suddenly Denethor laughed. He stood up tall and proud again, and stepping swiftly back to the table he lifted from it the pillow on which his head had lain. Then coming to the doorway he drew aside the covering, and lo! he had between his hands a palantír. And as he held it up, it seemed to those that looked on that the globe began to glow with an inner flame, so that the lean face of the Lord was lit as with a red fire, and it seemed cut out of hard stone, sharp with black shadows, noble, proud, and terrible. His eyes glittered. 
'Pride and despair!' he cried. 'Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind? Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Fool. For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand has yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed. It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves...'
'To me it would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour.' [said Gandalf]."  (Return of the King 142)
Denethor's neglect of his duty leads to his despair and ultimately, his own suicide.

The second sin is wrath.  It is important to note that Tolkien often uses the word "wrath" in the archaic sense of the word, which does not necessarily mean disordered anger.  For instance, he refers to the anger of Orome (Silmarillion 29), but not in a negative way. Orome, an unambiguously good character had just cause to be angry at his foes--Morgoth and the orcs.  Don't automatically assume that any anger or wrath in this story is an example of the deadly sin.

There are, however, some instances of anger out of measure.  Feanor demonstrates this in The Silmarillion when he goes a step too far and threatens his own brother out of anger.  This is also related to envy, but we'll get to that later.
"Then turning upon Fingolfin he drew his sword, crying: 'Get thee gone and take thy due place!'  Fingolfin bowed before Finwe, and without word or glance to Feanor he went from the chamber.  But Feanor followed him, and at the door of the king's house he stayed him; and the point of his bright sword he set against Fingolfin's breast.  'See half-brother!' he said.  'This is sharper than thy tongue.  Try but once more to usurp my place and the love of my father, and maybe it will rid the Noldor of one who seeks to be the master of thralls.'" (Silmarillion 70)  
Clearly this little outburst does not end well for Feanor and his sin of wrath does not go unpunished:
"But Feanor was not held guiltless, for he it was that had broken the peace of Valinor and drawn his sword upon his kinsman; and Mandos said to him: 'Thou speakest of thraldom.  If thraldom it be, thou canst not escape it; for Manwe is King of Arda, and not of Aman only.  And this deed was unlawful, whether in Aman or not in Aman.  Therefore this doom is now made: for twelve years thou shalt leave Tirion where this threat was uttered.  In that time take counsel with thyself, and remember who and what thou art.'" (Silmarillion 70-71) 
Taken from Pinterest
 Feanor is not only wrathful himself, but he is the master at using other people's emotions for his own benefit.  As he and his people are leaving Valinor:
"Therefore when Finarfin spoke yet again for heed and delay, a great shout went up: 'Nay, let us be gone!' and straightaway Feanor and his sons began to prepare for the marching forth.  Little foresight could there be fort hose who dared to take so dark a road.  Yet all was done in over-haste; for Feanor drove them on, fearing lest in the cooling of their hearts his words should wane and other counsels yet prevail..." (Silmarillion 84)
This urging on of his people out of wrath does come back to bite them.  The Elves were so under-prepared that many died in the cold of the Helcaraxe and elsewhere along the rushed journey.

Eol, who was guilty of lust is also guilty of wrath.  He pursues his son and wife to Gondolin where Turgon offers him a life of happiness, but no chance of leaving the city.  Because of his hatred for Gondolin and the Noldor in general, Eol erupts into a fit of rage:
"Suddenly, swift as serpent, he seized a javelin that he held hid beneath his cloak and cast it at Maeglin, crying: 'The second choice [dying rather than remaining in Gondolin] I take and for my son also!  You shall not hold what is mine!'" (Silmarillion 138) 
Aredhel, Eol's wife and Turgon's sister leaps in front of the dart and it kills her.  For this crime, Eol is hurled over the walls of Gondolin and killed.  This fit of rage did not work out for him, clearly.

Turin Turambar also confronts wrath:
"And he [Brandir, a woodman] answered: 'Niniel is gone forever.  The dragon is dead, and Turambar is dead; and those tidings are good.'...But even as he ceased, and the people wept, Turin himself came before them...and he said: 'Nay be glad; for the Dragon is dead, and I live.  But wherefore have you scorned my counsel, and come into peril?  And where is Niniel?  For her I would see.  And surely you did not bring her from her home?'  Then Brandir told him that ti was so, and Niniel was dead.  But the wife of Dorlas cried out: 'Nay, lord, he is crazed.  For he came here saying that you were dead, and he called it good tidings.  But you live.'  Then Turambar was wrathful, and believed that all Brandir said or did was done in malice towards himself and Niniel, begrudging their love; and he spoke evilly to Brandir, calling him Club-foot.  Then Brandir reported all that he had heard, and named Niniel Nienor daughter of Hurin, and he cried out upon Turambar with the last words of Glaurung, that he was a curse unto his kin and to all that harboured him.  Then Turambar fell into a fury, for in those words he heard the feet of his doom overtaking him; and he charged Brandir with leading Niniel to her death, and publishing with delight the lies of Glaurung, if indeed he had devised them not himself.  Then he cursed Brandir, and slew him; and he fled from the people into the woods...Then at last Turin knew that doom had overtaken him, and that he had slain Brandir unjustly; so that the words of Glaurung were fulfilled in him."  (Silmarillion 224-225) 

Notice Tolkien's wording: "wrathful" and "evilly" and "fury" clearly point out that Turin is in the wrong here.  His rage causes him to kill an innocent person and just adds to his misery.

Turin's father, Hurin, watches all these events unfolds and becomes angry.  Instead of being angry at his proper enemy--that is, Morgoth, who caused all this--he takes his anger out on two other people: Thingol and Mim the petty dwarf.
"'Who are you, that would hinder me from entering the house of Finrod Felagund?'  'I am Mim; and before the proud ones cam over the Sea, Dwarves delved the halls of Nulukkizdin.  I have but returned to take what is mine; for I am the last of my people.'  'Then you shall enjoy your inheritance no longer,' said Hurin, 'for I am Hurin son of Galdor, returned out of Angband, and my son was Turin Turambar, whom you have not forgotten...' Then Mim in great fear besought Hurin to take what he would, but to spare his life; but Hurin gave no heed to his prayer, and slew him there before the doors of Nargothrond."  (Silmarillion 230)
Hurin takes from Nargothrond the Necklace of the Dwarves, which he uses to perpetuate his rage.  He brings it to Thingol:
"And Hurin cast it at the feet of Thingol with wild and bitter words.  Receive thou thy fee,' he cried, 'for thy fair keeping of my children and my wife!  For this is the Nauglamir, whose name is known to many among Elves and Men; and I bring it to thee out of the darkness of Nargothrond, where Finrod thy kinsman left it behind him when he set forth with Beren son of Barahir to fulfill the errand of Thingol of Doriath!'"  (Silmarillion 231)
Hurin is very disrespectful to Thingol, forgetting how much Thingol actually did for his family.  Luckily Thingol takes pity on him and lets him go with little punishment.  Hurin, however, is so distraught that he casts himself into the sea.
Copyright Alan Lee
Perhaps the most devastating instance of wrath comes from our own Samwise Gamgee.  He sees Gollum "pawing" around Frodo and immediately jumps to the conclusion that he is up to no good.  In reality, Gollum was just crossing the fence into the good side of things.  Sam's harsh treatment of him, however, causes him to permanently remain evil.
“And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo's head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam's brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master's breast. Peace was in both their faces. 
"Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee--but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.
"But at that touch Frodo stirred and cried out softly in his sleep and immediately Sam was wide awake.  The first thing he saw was Gollum--"pawing at master," as he thought.  'Hey you!' he said roughly.  'What are you up to?'  'Nothing, nothing,' said Gollum softly.  'Nice Master!'  'I daresay,' said Sam.  'But where have you been to--sneaking off and sneaking back, you old villain?'  Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids.  Almost spider-like he looked now, crouched back on his bent limbs, with his protruding eyed.  The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall."  (The Lord of the Rings 699) 

The next sin is envy.  Many characters exhibit envy.  Just to name a few: from the Silmarillion, Feanor is jealous of his two brothers, Fingolfin and Finarfin.
"The wedding of his father was not pleasing to Feanor; and he had no great love for Indis, nor for Fingolfin and Finarfin, her sons." (Silmarillion 65)
Maeglin is extremely jealous of Tuor:
"...and hatred for Tuor led Maeglin the easier to his treachery, most infamous in all the histories of the Elder days."  (Silmarillion 242) 
The Numenorians are jealous of the immortality of the Elves:
"And they said among themselves: 'Why do the Lords of the West sit there in peace unending, while we must die and go we know not whither, leaving our home and all that we have made?  And the Eldar die not, even those that rebelled against the Lords.'" (Silmarillion 264) 
And Saruman is jealous of Gandalf:
"And Curunir (that was Saruman the White) was chosen to be their chief, for he had most studied the devices of Sauron of old.  Galadriel indeed had wished that Mithrandir should be the head of the Council, and Saruman begrudged them that, for his pride and desire mastery was grown great..." (Silmarillion 300)

There are so many instances of this throughout The Lord of the Rings that there is no way I can record them all here.  Just to name a couple: Denethor is jealous of Gandalf, Lobelia is jealous of Bilbo and Frodo, and Boromir is jealous of Aragorn.

Pride is the most deadly of the deadly sins.  It was prideful of Adam and Eve to decide that it was their prerogative to eat the apple and do whatever they want, and it is the absolute final sin.  Really any other sin stems from this most deadly one.  Any lust comes from the thought that you are more important than the dignity of the other human; gluttony is basically saying that you are worth all the food and sensual pleasure you can get; greed is arrogating to yourself as much as you can "because you're worth it"; sloth is being too good for something; envy is having your high-horse threatened.  So while all of the sins I have listed today and yesterday stem from pride, there are also several very clear instances that are directly from pride.

I did a short essay on this a long time ago which you can read here.  I will just list some instances below since I can think of so many.

  • Melkor; thought he was better than Eru
  • Feanor; prideful over Silmarils
  • Galadriel; wanted to be a ruler of Middle-earth and get the highest place she could
  • Eol; appropriated his own desire for Aredhel over her own wants and needs
  • Thingol; was arrogant towards the Men and treated them as lesser than he
  • Turin; would not heed the advice of Ulmo's missionaries which led to the downfall of Nargothrond
  • Thingol; was arrogant towards the Dwarves and treated them as lesser than he
  • Turgon; would not heed the advice of Ulmo's missionaries which led to the downfall of Gondolin
  • Numenorians; thought they knew better than Eru
  • Thorin; was sometimes condescending towards the other travelers, Bilbo in particular
  • Boromir; placed himself on a pedestal because he was Gondorian
  • Denethor; so proud he decides it's his decision when his life ends
  • Saruman; tried to be even more powerful than Sauron
  • Sam; was sometimes too forward with Gollum
  • Sauron; was so arrogant that he didn't even guard Mt. Doom very well
In the end, you can't have a good story without some conflict.  Tolkien was a master at showing the Deadly Sins within his work fairly and sometimes even bordering compellingly.  Where else can you spot the Deadly Sins?  Tomorrow's post will be more uplifting as we will look at the Lively Virtues and where we can spot them in Middle-earth.
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