Christian Writing The Deconversion of Saruman

Johne

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https://www.michaeljkruger.com/the-deconversion-of-saruman-five-lessons-to-learn/
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In theological parlance, this is called apostasy. And the Bible is filled with examples of apostasy, the most famous, of course, being Judas Iscariot. He was the consummate “insider” who abandoned Jesus and effectively left his old life behind.

We can also find examples of apostasy—symbolically and figuratively—in the world of literature and film. Most obvious is the story of Anakin Skywalker, once a Jedi but later wooed to the dark side of the force, becoming Darth Vader. But there are many others (think Cypher in The Matrix).

But, perhaps one of the most remarkable (and often overlooked) examples of apostasy is Saruman in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In many ways, Saruman has always been an odd part of the plot line. With a bad guy like Sauron to occupy the reader’s attention, why does the story even need a character like Saruman? Besides, as my kids always complain, his name actually sounds a lot like Sauron’s which makes everything very confusing.

My hunch, though, is that the name similarity is intentional. Tolkien’s world is more nuanced than just the good guys and the bad guys. Instead, there are actually good guys that become bad guys—which makes things very complicated. It’s a perfect picture of de-conversion.
 

Accord64

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As an aside, I'm left wondering if this article could've been written the same after watching Amazon's "Rings of Power." ;)

But that's another lesson - reworking beloved source material (and characters) to push every heavy-handed, modern piece of social commentary.
 
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As an aside, I'm left wondering if this article could've been written the same after watching Amazon's "Rings of Power." ;)
I have a few alternative Rings of Power articles:

"How not To Write a Likeable Female Protagonist."

"Why Adaptations Need to Stick to Source Material."

"Harfoot are the Branch of Hobbits that Were Darwined Out of Existence."

"Harfoot - A Study in How to Write Characters Made to Annoy the Audience."

The variety of potential topics is endless...
 

Wes B

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But that's another lesson - reworking beloved source material (and characters) to push every heavy-handed, modern piece of social commentary.
Too late!!! You pulled the pin from the grenade, and the sucker's live... let the fun begin...

I'm personally amazed at how it could possibly have ended so messed-up, with all it had going for it. I mean, they had some of the richest, most meticulously crafted source material available (even from just "the appendices"), a rabidly loyal fan base, widespread name recognition even among audiences that cared nothing for fantasy, and a budget that rivaled many third-world countries. Even a merely sloppy job should have made a boatload of money.

I'm guessing that in the years to come, there will be a stack of project development/management books that dissect the entire project, showing how it could be possible to produce so little from so much, while appearing to be clueless about the severity of what they were doing. There's already a rich body of material documenting some of it. Once people currently involved start talking about behind-the-scenes stuff, it is going to be fascinating...
 

Accord64

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Too late!!! You pulled the pin from the grenade, and the sucker's live... let the fun begin...


I'm guessing that in the years to come, there will be a stack of project development/management books that dissect the entire project, showing how it could be possible to produce so little from so much, while appearing to be clueless about the severity of what they were doing.

I can save everyone years of dissection (are you listening Amazon?). It all came down to the selection of showrunners: J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. Neither of them had anything close to real production credits/experience, and yet Amazon happily handed them the biggest TV production budget ever. They were clearly in over their heads, and it didn't take long for them to stumble over everything. From there it predictably snowballed into the mess we all watched.

Simply put - putting qualified people in charge can make a big difference.
 

Johne

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I honestly thought the discussion would center around the perils of abandoning one's beliefs and how we, as Christians, can write about people who do and show the wreckage that their lives become, but that's just where my mind went as I read the article.

In the end, Saruman functions as a remarkably accurate picture of what de-conversion is like. Tolkien was onto something. In the real world, it is not as simple as the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Sometimes things are more complicated than that.

Thankfully, there are people like Gandalf who resist them. When discussing Saruman’s shiny new robe, Gandalf’s response is refreshingly simple: “I liked white better.”
 
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I honestly thought the discussion would center around the perils of abandoning one's beliefs and how we, as Christians, can write about people who do and show the wreckage that their lives become, but that's just where my mind went as I read the article.
Well, I think it can be taken a couple of ways.

It can be argued that Saruman was who he'd eventually become, before he even set foot on Middle Earth. The same holds true of Radagast and Gandalf. Both Saruman and Sauron were Maiar under Aule, who was a creator of sort - forging of steel, and so on. It was Aule who made the Dwarves without the consent of Manwe or Eru Illuvitar. The Dwarves and their stubborn natures, in retrospect, would only add more strife and conflict in Middle Earth. Just like the forging of the Silmarils eventually created ALL SORTS of havoc.

Tolkien wasn't hip on "created" things. He was very much a nature buff.

I don't think it was a matter of Saruman "abandoning" his beliefs. I think he succumbed to the "slippery slope." He started researching ring lore, made a ring for himself, and then the next thing you know, he's breeding Orcs. Likewise, he was never truly allied with Sauron. In fact, if I recall correctly, his true intention was to usurp Sauron and replace him.

Both Sauron and Saruman suffered under the delusion that they could bring "order" to a "chaotic" Middle Earth. Saruman merely lost himself in his mission, using Sauron's tools against Sauron. This partly being represented by Saruman the White becoming Saruman of the Many Colors. The uniformity of thought and deed in Saruman was fractured, compartmentalized. Much in the same way politicians start out with good intentions, only to become part of the same machine they initially vowed to fight against. In order to do good, well, you may need to get your hands a little dirty, and maybe compromise. But, it's for a good cause, right? Single righteous intent eventually divided by the practicalities of "The World" or "The Mission."

So, not so much an abandoning his beliefs. More like a perversion thereof. A perversion fueled by Saruman's own willfulness and arrogance.
 

Johne

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I don't think it was a matter of Saruman "abandoning" his beliefs. I think he succumbed to the "slippery slope." He started researching ring lore, made a ring for himself, and then the next thing you know, he's breeding Orcs. Likewise, he was never truly allied with Sauron. In fact, if I recall correctly, his true intention was to usurp Sauron and replace him.

Both Sauron and Saruman suffered under the delusion that they could bring "order" to a "chaotic" Middle Earth. Saruman merely lost himself in his mission, using Sauron's tools against Sauron. This partly being represented by Saruman the White becoming Saruman of the Many Colors. The uniformity of thought and deed in Saruman was fractured, compartmentalized. Much in the same way politicians start out with good intentions, only to become part of the same machine they initially vowed to fight against. In order to do good, well, you may need to get your hands a little dirty, and maybe compromise. But, it's for a good cause, right? Single righteous intent eventually divided by the practicalities of "The World" or "The Mission."

So, not so much an abandoning his beliefs. More like a perversion thereof. A perversion fueled by Saruman's own willfulness and arrogance.
This is spectacular analysis, Jeff, and can be fodder for those writing Christian fiction (or fiction from a Christian worldview).
 

Accord64

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Back to stir the pot a little more... ;)

Actually, I brought up "Rings of Power" because some thought the mysterious wizard who fell from the sky might have been Saruman, but most think it's Gandalf. Either way, they totally reworked either one's backstory.

Anyway, for those who slogged through this show, here's a hilarious look at how the pitch meeting likely went:

 

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