Wholly Evil Peoples in Fiction

It has become a common theme in fiction to have specific people groups or fictional races depicted as wholly evil.  If they aren’t portrayed as completely evil, the people who make up the antagonist army are at least rarely if ever seen in a non-belligerent way.

There are the orcs of Middle-Earth (though Tolkien wasn’t keen on making them irredeemably evil).  The stormtroopers of Star Wars, reavers of Firefly, the alfar from the Dwarves series, and pretty much any non-elf or human in the Shannarah series (with few exceptions) are all examples of this.  There are many more that can be found all throughout both fantasy and science fiction.

I find such races both simplistic and fascinating at the same time.  It captivates my imagination that a people could become so corrupt, yet band together and have a sense of comradery.  Unimaginably violent and cruel societies who indulged their base natures and victimized outside groups have existed.  We know an entire culture can become bloodthirsty and/or warlike.  On the other hand, such portrayals are rather simplistic.  Within the evilest armies/societies normal or good behavior can be found.

Typically, in stories we only see the antagonistic army or culture during times of conflict, which of course always brings out the worst in people, especially in battle.  In war people have to do the unthinkable just to survive and for the sake of your comrades’ lives.  Things you’d never do in any other circumstance (unless you are a sociopath) things that would haunt you for the rest of your life, but in those instances it is do or die.

These sorts of literary antagonistic cultures give insights into what humanity can become, and in some instances where it was.  They serve as warnings to us while also providing entertainment and fodder for the heroes to overcome.  What do you think though?  Do you like seeing (mostly) completely evil societies?  Do you prefer it when there are no good guys or bad guys but people trying to survive?  Let me know!

2 thoughts on “Wholly Evil Peoples in Fiction

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  1. I wrestle with trying to understand villains, both is my stories and in real life. In writing, how villainous do I make them? At some point they become unbelievable, and therefore unrelateable. As I talk with my Jehovah’s Witness friends, for example, I wonder whether their leaders are evil deceivers, or do they believe their own lies, thus playing victims themselves of darker influences? Who are the sheep, and who are the wolves? Even wolves have a back-story that might help explain their evil. But, then again, Hitler. Seemingly pure evil, right? It’s a conundrum that penetrates to the philosophical questions surrounding the problem of evil, something we can never fully figure out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up good points that all writers wrestle with. Even Hitler and SS officials had human moments with their families. This is why I think we often have cartoonish ideas of what evil is sometimes.

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