In the HBO version of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Arya is a sweet young princess of the House of Stark. But soon after the scene depicted above, her father dies at the hands of a rival house. Arya is forced to run from the queen. She cuts her hair, pretends to be a boy, and changes her name to Arry, taking up with a band of ruffians. There she murders by the sword, kills by black magic, and learns to hate. Martin sees good and evil as a mixed bag. Everybody has some of each. Even the worst characters in his books do noble deeds while the most innocent can bring about terrible atrocities. 

Compare that to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Everybody knows Sauron is evil, and Sauron does nothing but evil. The high elves are pure beauty and righteousness. Yes, Tolkein’s characters struggle with the ring of power, but we basically know on which side they stand. Take the classic horror thriller “Halloween” from 1978. Michael Myers is depicted as pure unadulterated human evil. He is impossible to rehabilitate because there is nothing to rehabilitate. There is only evil. 

To me, these works show a shift in our society’s views of good and evil. Martin is basically reflecting the views of today. The existence of absolute good and evil have been replaced by the idea that we are all mixed bags. I’m not against Martin’s view of the world. I think this is a healthier understanding of humanity. It’s beneficial to realize that we all have right and wrong inside of us, and we are capable of changing. But I also remember reading “Lord of the Rings,” about how the elves spurred my imagination of the existence of perfect purity and light and the depths of the darkness of Sauron. I don’t want to lose that either. I still believe in the existence of absolute good and utter evil.


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