These names may be unfamiliar, but they all speak of one thing: chaos.
They are the embodiment of entropy, disorder, and the chaos inherent in all things. They seek to restore the universe to a state of chaos, the way it was BEFORE creation brought order. Perhaps not fully “evil” in the way we perceive it, but their intentions (the undoing of all things) leads to “evil” outcomes for everyone. Thus, they are the ultimate villains!
Chaos: The Origin
The “Chaos” villain is actually a mixture of science and mythology.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, “The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.” To put it simply, the universe is always trying to return to a natural entropic or chaotic state, but it is only our efforts to organize, define, and coordinate that keep everything from devolving.
Most ancient civilizations viewed chaos as “the nothingness at the beginning of the world”. In their view, the gods brought order to the universe, and there is this nameless, faceless force of “nothingness” that is seeking to restore the universe to its natural state before the gods intervened.
Egyptian mythology had the god Apep, the giant serpent that was the embodiment of chaos and the antagonist to Ma’at, “the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice, and the personification of these concepts as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.”
On a smaller scale, Greek mythology had the goddess Eris (in Roman mythology, she was named Discord). She was the reason for the Trojan War, and she sought to bring strife and discord among men.
Chaos is more than just an Ancient Evil (see the previous post on Ancient Evils)—it’s a force of nature as immutable as time and space, one that is ever seeking to reclaim its own. It’s typically used as an opposing force to law and order, as well as to creation and life itself. If these primeval beings of chaos succeeded, the universe would cease to exist and all things would be entropy.
This taps into our most primal fears:
Fear of extinction. When the universe is unmade, no trace of our families, race, world, or universe will remain. It is the most drastic form of extinction possible!
Fear of loss of autonomy. In the face of these ancient, all-powerful beings of chaos, there is nothing we can do to prevent the total eradication of life as we know it. Thus, we are totally powerless—entrapped in a doomsday scenario from which there is no escape.
With beings of Chaos, there is no ambivalence: they want to put an end to order in the universe as we know it. Thus, though they are simply playing to their nature, they are the ultimate “evil” because their triumph would mean to total undoing of everything.
Chaos has appeared in modern fantasy:
- Tolkien’s Silmarillian talked of a void, from which Eru, the Middle Earth version of God who created all things.
- Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos has many beings of chaos: Azathoth, the “Nuclear Chaos” and Nyarlathotep, the “Crawling Chaos”, and Xexanoth, the Lurking Chaos.
- Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series had the Prim, a force of chaos that would return if the Tower ever were to fall.
On a Large Scale:
The ancient, universe-destroying creatures of Chaos tend to be the ultimate evil, the god worshipped by the Evil Cult, and the big, bad threat looming in the background of the story. Though they tend to have mortals doing their bidding, they are the ultimate horror that will be perpetrated upon the world if the hero doesn’t succeed in stopping the villain.
On the Small Scale:
Chaos can also be used as a minor antagonist. Similar to the way Eris, goddess of strife, received power as a result of the discord she sowed, so too antagonists can become more powerful due to small-scale chaos (on a city-wide, nationwide, or world-wide amount of chaos, rather than the total unmaking of the universe).
- Warmongers profit from causing two countries/kingdoms to go to war
- Evil races flourish when the “good” races fight each other, or they just enjoy violence
- People suffer and die from political and/or religious chaos tearing their city/country/kingdom apart
Whether chaos is on a cosmic scale or street level, it is a force that must be battled by the protagonists, champions of law and order.