Antagonists are a vital element of any good fiction story. They are the people or things that you as the reader root against; the ones you want to see defeated at the end of the day. In literature, the antagonist is often defined as “…the person or thing that opposes or conflicts with the protagonist or main character…”
Though this may be true in normal circumstances, this does not apply when talking about the villains from the Lord of the Rings. These characters are not presented as being “against” the protagonists; instead they are the ones who are supposed to be defeating them. In fact, the protagonists are often portrayed as the weaker party in their interactions with the antagonist. For example, in book one of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf the Wizard is pitted against the chief antagonist, Sauron. The battle is described as being a “stalemate” where neither side can truly claim the upper hand. Similarly, in The Two Towers, Gimli and Legolas are pitted against Shelob, a giant spider who lives in the forest of Mirkwood.
One of the most interesting things about these conflicts is that the antagonists often have a very unique take on the world. They may believe that what they are doing is for the greater good, or that the world was better off before the protagonists arrived on the scene. The reason why they want to change it is often because they feel that the current state of affairs is not good and needs to be fixed. For example, in The Fellowship of the Ring, Sauron believes that Mordor is the perfect kingdom and that the entire universe should be put to rights with the aid of Mordor’s army. His goal is to destroy the free peoples of Middle-earth and replace them with his own. In the end, it is revealed that Sauron is actually the main villain of the story, and that the entire Lord of the Rings saga was his plan all along. He wanted to use the heroes to do his dirty work for him.
In a just world, the world’s greatest stories would not contain such dark elements. However, even in some of the greatest stories, there is always room for an antagonist or two. Take, for example, Star Wars. The force is a living thing and it’s presence is felt throughout the entire saga. Everyone has a piece to play in this grand story. Some are bigger than others, but they all serve a purpose. Similarly, in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist and he is introduced to the “world” of dwarves, elves, and orcs. Though he is a humble hobbit, he is not without his own share of cunning and resourcefulness. Even during his “rout,” he is able to outwit and overpower many of the creatures that he encounters along the way. It is only when he meets the giant spider Shelob that he begins to show signs of weariness. He is not a force to be reckoned with, and even the combined might of Gandalf and the other wizards is no match for this horrific creature. Fortunately for Bilbo, he is not alone. He eventually teams up with a dwarven warrior named Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves. Together, they eventually overthrow Shelob and her minions. In the end, Bilbo proves to be quite the capable leader, and he even gets to show off a bit of a heroic side.
The Power of Imaginative Thinking
If you’ve ever tried to convince a 6-year-old that books are important, then you know how difficult this can be. Though they may not always express it, children possess an incredible capacity to understand complex ideas and theories. When it comes to literature, they often have the ability to see the big picture and understand the themes and ideas that the author is trying to convey. For example, when Bilbo visits the Lonely Mountain, he discovers that the dwarves there have been enslaved by the Necromancer, Durin. Though he is an incarnation of the devil himself, Durin still has a spark of goodness in him, and it is this spark that allows for a small glimmer of hope to exist. In the end, it is Boromir who reveals to the dwarves that Durin’s real name was Durin Durumu, and that he was the leader of the dwarves before being possessed by the evil entity. This is a story about greed, prejudice, and slavery. It is also a story about the struggle to maintain one’s humanity in the face of unimaginable adversity.
It’s All in the Mind
When creating compelling fiction, it is essential to put yourself in the mind of the antagonist. If you want to write a good story, you have to be able to see it from their perspective. You have to be able to see the big picture and understand their motivation. This is especially important when writing fantasy or science fiction stories because these types of stories allow for much more creativity and innovation when it comes to the development of the antagonist’s vision for the world. For example, in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, the antagonist is a group of heretics who want to overthrow Emperor Leto Atreides. Though the novel takes place in the distant future, the ideas that they promote are extremely similar to the political and social climate in the Western world during the early 20th century. In their quest to overthrow the empire, the rebels invent a new language, alter their appearances through plastic surgery and magic, and even create human/animal hybrids as weapons. Though they are not always the “nice guys,” they are presented as being the lesser of two evils. Luckily for the protagonists, the rebellion is not entirely without good. Duke Leto is a wise ruler who does not deserve to be overthrown, and his forces eventually win the day. Though the rebellion was very real and very scary, it also contained many creative and imaginative ideas that changed the future of humanity forever.
The Importance of Setting
When writing a story, it is important to set the scene. This is particularly important when writing science fiction or fantasy stories because it often involves taking the reader on a journey through space or some other fantastical setting. In Lord of the Rings, we are given an idea of how the world works through the explanations given by Gandalf the Wizard. Though it is the 20th century in our own world, it is still described as being “…a very remote time. It is difficult for those who live there to know what is happening in the rest of the world.” In the same way, it is important to establish the setting of your story. The more you know about the world and the people in it, the easier it will be to create a convincing illusion. It is also important to give the reader an idea of what is at stake. In the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, we are told that “[…] all must struggle for happiness, which remains a distant dream for all but a few.” Though the world has changed a great deal since Frodo and his friends first set out to save Middle-earth, it is still a far cry from being a place of equality and fairness. Even in the most recent editions of the book, the author provides a glossary of terminology and a guide to pronouncing Russian names and words. Though the world has changed, many of the themes and ideas contained within the series have not. The struggle against evil remains the same, and it is an important part of anyone’s spiritual journey.