Tuesday, December 27, 2011
My Lord Is Darker Than Your Lord
For ten years now, the debate has raged on. Who is the better Dark Lord? Who is the better villain? Who is the better character? The Dark Lord, Sauron; or Lord Voldemort. Well, better at what exactly? Let's take a look at these two masters of darkness for a moment.
Sauron is a fallen Maiar. A spiritual being who predates the existence of the world, so think of him as a fallen angel. He followed his master, Melkor, into the world and served as his chief servant. Melkor being the Satan of Tolkien's world was defeated and cast into the void. Sauron arose to claim the mantle of Dark Lord and attempted, for thousands of years to conquer the world, and bring about his own semblance of order by corrupting others and seeking to dominate all life. Had Sauron had his way, he would have ruled us all as a God King and sapped us of our very free will. Sauron is a primeval force of darkness.
Voldemort was born from a loveless union and abandoned to an orphanage where he grew into a dangerous psychopath. He was a self loathing bigot with something to prove, and he wanted to destroy all non-pureblood wizards, and eventually conquer the world. In short, Voldemort wishes he could be like Sauron. But of course that doesn't make him an inferior literary creation in the slightest.
Both of them fill archetypal roles as the Dark Lord. But Sauron represents a primeval force, and through the One Ring, that darkness which exists inside all of us that we are sometimes tempted to release. Sauron, as a character, isn't so much a person, but an idea. And an idea can often times be more dangerous than any singular person.
Voldemort, on the other hand, tried very hard to become this. He was even close to succeeding when his very name was considered a forbidden word, but ultimately, he was a petty, sadistic old man who destroyed himself through his fear that one young man would kill him. Try as he might to deny it, try as he might to change it, try as he might to alter his physical appearance, Voldemort was very much a human being. Not that this makes him a lesser villain, after all, what's scarier than a human being?
Personally, I think such a debate is pointless. I know why it's brought up. Both are very domineering Dark Lords in the two biggest fantasy series (both book and film) of the last one hundred years. Both command legions of followers, and in the end both brought about their own destruction either directly or indirectly. But those similarities are superficial at best. And I don't even think they're close enough to be superficial, both fulfill different purposes to their narrative.
Voldemort is definitely Harry Potter's enemy. Because of his fear of a prophesy, he is determined to kill Harry. He killed Harry's parents, he is responsible for the death of Sirius Black (Bellatrix may have pulled the trigger, but Voldemort was the reason), and so many other deaths. If Voldemort wants you dead, he will personally come after you and make it happen. He is an on screen person, as opposed to Sauron's off screen force.
Sauron is the main villain of "The Lord of the Rings." In addition to being the reason everything is happening, he is also the title character. Is he Frodo Baggins' enemy? No. I don't think he even knew Frodo existed until it was too late. No, Frodo's enemy is Gollum. Nor is Sauron really the enemy of Gandalf. That would be Saruman. Gollum and Saruman both are fallen versions of their respective enemies. I suppose you could make a case that Sauron is Aragorn's enemy. That makes sense to me, and it was Sauron's hate and fear of Aragorn that allowed him to be distracted from watching his own lands long enough for Frodo to make it to Mount Doom. But even then, he is not an on screen character. He is represented by his effect on everyone and everything around him, and his minions represent him appropriately, especially the Nazgul. And being an off screen character, Sauron would have his minions deal with you, or have you brought before him in his tower.
Like I said, the debate is pointless. I think both accomplish what their respective authors wanted accomplished masterfully. And both translated well when adapted into other media exquisitely. Okay, so I wish Voldemort had red eyes in the movies, and I think the Eye on top of the tower looked a little cheesy, but they were still very effective. But, at the end of the day, this is like comparing Lucifer to the Joker. Pointless.
But they're both better than Darth Vader.