“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” –Gandalf, The Return of the King
Recently, a friend of mine tried to convince me that The Lord of the Rings is a story of good versus evil, a simplistic fable of light triumphing over dark, and that Tolkien liked to write in black and white morality. This is a deep misunderstanding of morality and the nature of conflict in Tolkien’s storytelling: in fact, the pull toward loss and catastrophe is far stronger than the certainty of victory, and the world of Middle-earth is always on the edge of a fall into darkness.