We live in a world built on absolutes. Right and wrong. Win or lose. Polarised views. Religious, racial and political divides.
But what if life is not that simple? What if the world is not that straightforward?
We explain everything what we see and what happens in definite terms. Right or wrong? Good or bad? What if it’s possible to be just a little bit right and just a little bit wrong? What if life is not a matter of right or wrong, winning or losing? Not black and white? What if life is actually played out in grey areas? What if it is time for stories to reflect this?
How are right and wrong defined?
In religion, ethics and philosophy, “good and evil” is a common dichotomy. It is the concept of all human desires, behaviours and values. A dualistic spectrum-wherein in one direction is life and continuity (good), and in the other there is death and destruction (evil).
Good is a sense of having the right desirable quality.
Likewise, most religious and philosophical interpretations agree that evil behaviour itself is an aberration; one that defies any understanding, save that the path of evil is one of confusion and excessive selfish desire (greed).
It is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and “bad” (or wrong).
Religious and philosophical views both tend to agree that goodness is built-in to human nature and is ultimately based on the natural love, bonding and affection that people grow to feel for other people and creatures alike.
We can argue about what sorts of things are good, but we all know what love is, or feel the loss of it when we don’t.
Morality ultimately comes down to sympathy and fellow feelings for others. That is something we share with other intelligent ‘higher’ species, which have a conscious.
But it seems that we are the only species that understand when we do wrong when we do, or to better put it; know when we do wrong and still do it. That is what separates us, I believe. What makes us human.
Is darkness just less light?
“Why do men kill?” “Because they can.” Quote from ‘Call Off The Search’.
We all are the sum of our experiences; we are what we get fed with from an early age. We become what we know. We learn and live by example. Is that true?
Like in nature, if an animal does not receive any form of love, physical contact, a warm start in life, and example in how to behave socially, they can’t recognize nor give love.
It seems that love is the key.
Deprivation of love and affection in a child leads to insecurity, a lack of, or very low, self-esteem, and it won’t know how to deal with attention and will seek it out somehow later on in life, as if to fill a void to compensate. Some children that were abused will as an adult even choose an abusive or violent partner, for that is all they have ever known. Another theory is that they want to be in control because it was taken away from them in an early life. Sadly, some will even start to abuse their own children. They often have a twisted sense of right and wrong. They have never received honest love and can therefore not give from their heart. And thus the cycle will continue…
Someone’s background is crucial if we want to understand certain behaviour. For me as an author it is very important to investigate this subject. I do this in every story I write. The very reasons as to why things happen to a person and the people around them: what makes a protagonist tick, but also how did they get where they are in life? What is their history and how does it impact them?
Our stories simply cannot be black and white any longer. If we want to portray believable characters they will just have to be imperfect. Grey. For no one can be the manifestation of goodness, not even in a story. Not only would it come across as very unprofessional (or boring to say the least), but it would also be very unrealistic, unless you limit yourself to writing fairy-tales.
But even modern fairy-tales have changed their course. It is a hopeful change and a proof that people are starting to understand that every bad thing usually has a good reason.
Take for example the ‘Star Wars’ series by George Lucas that explores the background of Darth Father and how he became evil. And what about the book (and musical) ‘Wicked’, by Gregory Maguire, that explains the history of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the fact she didn’t die?
For isn’t that usually the case; that the wrongdoer dies at the end? What else are we suppose to do with them? The audience wasn’t ready for anything else in the seventies, but we are now.
Just like in all fairy-tales the audience wanted, or expected, a gratifying end with ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Wizard Of Oz’. But as time went on we grew ready for, not only the questions, but also the answers.
Even more interesting is the movie ‘Maleficent’, a Disney retelling of Snow-white, in whereby the story not only focuses on the why and how “the evil stepmother” became evil. This story does more. It is the opposite of what we are so used to reading in stories like these: the “evil” one does not die in the end, but changes back from evil to being good! That seems to be something new entirely!
“I believe that everybody deserves a second chance.” ‘City of Dreams’
In fairy-tales and High Fantasy, good and evil are represented very clearly, more than in any other genre. Especially Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’. The elves, dwarves, men and hobbits are on the good side, the orcs are clearly on the dark side. However, there is one character that is different: Gollum. Gollum’s desire for the Ring is not his fault. The Ring caused him to have a split personality in the first place. Under centuries of the Ring’s influence, Gollum had come to love and despise the Ring, just as he loved and hated himself. Throughout the story, Gollum was torn between his lust for the ring and his desire to be free of it. Gollum wants the ring, but Smeagol doesn’t. In ‘The Two Towers’, Smeagol says that he hates Gollum and wants him to go away.
So no, not evil. Just disturbed.
For is evil not just good tortured by his own hunger and thirst? Are we not all black and white inside? Or rather… grey?
Was that the start of a new change in literature, I wonder?
With my own writing I hope to add to that change. I especially have tried to do so with ‘The Queen’s Curse’ and the “villain” Sempervirens. This sorceress has had a disturbing upbringing which led to her evil ways. In fact, it appears that she is the one that hurts the most.
Someone’s abusive background should never be an excuse for wrong-doing, but an explanation. Can Sempervirens change her evil ways to become good?
Doesn’t change ultimately comes from within?
“I love the girl you once were and the woman you were supposed to be. Not what they made you to be. I do not believe this is all you. You were not responsible what happened to the girl, but the woman you are today can still change, if you just let go of that negative side of yours. Then you can at least start to love yourself…finally.” ‘The Queen’s Curse’
We all know deep down that we love seeing good prevail to give us hope. To feel better and safe again. To make us feel we are not alone perhaps, and give us courage and inner strength.
Justice, revenge, redemption are things we all need to see happening, and if not in real life then let it be in a story. We do what we can in our own little ways and find purpose and meaning, to make a difference, saving the planet by recycling, reducing waste, being kind to animals and each other. Isn’t that good enough?
I write because I want to do more.
My writing acknowledges that there is indeed evil in the world, but there is also good in each and every one of us, and that we can all help each other find it.
And hopefully in the process, when people read my books I will touch some hearts and minds.
Books by Natasja Hellenthal
The Queen’s Curse (lgbt Fantasy) http://smarturl.it/thequeenscurse?IQid=qr
Chained Freedom (Paranormal Fantasy) http://smarturl.it/ChainedFreedomNH
Call Off The Search, Comyenti Series #1 http://smarturl.it/calloffthesearch?IQid=qr
Children Of The Sun, Comyenti Series #2 http://smarturl.it/cots2
The Comyenti Series Book Bundle, Volume 1 and 2 (Supernatural lgbt Fantasy) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P1F2TMG
City of Dreams (Fantasy novella, coming 27th of November)
Sky Whisperers (YA Dystopian lgbt Fantasy, coming March 2015)
My facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/authorNatasjaHellenthal
My facebook group (Speculative Fiction Book Club): https://www.facebook.com/groups/568952729881225/
My website: https://natasjahellenthal.wordpress.com/