Delving into Tolkien’s Dark Sides (Part 2)
by John Pletcher

Crashing rocks, flashing flames, and a crumbling bridge. The doom, boom, doom of Khazad-dûm echoes off the deep walls of our souls. We feel like we are running for our lives, in the thick of it with the Fellowship. Looking back, we tremble as the Wizard faces off with the Balrog on the Bridge.

Gandalf had hauntingly warned, “There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.”1The Wizard’s prophet-like words invited the Company to deep-dive in their understanding. From their current perspective, they saw the ugliness of dark shadows and menacing goblins. The Fellowship was quite familiar with first-hand fears. But Gandalf knew it was time they began to grasp the deeper scope of the darkness.

In Part 1, we explored Tolkien’s dark side from above. With the arrival of Shadow—the Black Riders and Nazgûl—the Fellowship’s leading characters experienced foreboding fear. And we discovered the unique role of the darkness-to-light motif. The Professor intentionally used such rich metaphor to advance his consistent aim of eucatastrophe. All across Tolkien’s tales, that sudden turn—a hinge of hope and joy amid catastrophe—swings open via the overcoming power of bright light.

Now in Part 2, we take up Gandalf’s age-old challenge, to go deeper in order to explore the underbelly of Tolkien’s dark side. You might recall as darkness filled Bilbo’s hole in the ground, the dwarves sang of dungeons deep and caverns old.2 If we dare ourselves to journey into deeper and older places of Tolkien’s world, we will discover an even more dastardly, diabolical side to darkness. But we also encounter three hopeful, powerful applications for our own current journeys in Present-earth.

Deeper and fouler places of the soul

Let’s be honest. We all feel sad and sickened as we survey people’s choices upon our Present-earth landscape.

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