Satan.

Sauron.

Cthulhu.

These names immediately bring to mind ancient forces dedicated to one thing: evil.

For thousands/millions of years or “since the earliest age”, these supernatural, supreme beings have operated under the agenda of bringing death, despair, oblivion, and other evils. Whether they were created for evil purposes or simply always existed as the evil counterpoint to good, there is no ambivalence to them. They are EVIL—full on, unrelenting, deathless evil.

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Ancient Evils: The Origin

The concept of evil is as old as humanity itself. Civilizations as old as Ancient Egypt had Isfet, a god of disorder and violence that fought to kill the sun god Ra. Judaism perceives evil as a result of man’s bad actions. Platonic philosophy states that “evil does not exist as a substance or property but instead as a privation of substance, form, and goodness”.

But the origin of this “Ancient Evil villain” has its roots in two of the five primary fears common among all humans: fear of extinction and fear of loss of autonomy.

Fear of Extinction – Imagine a being so powerful that it could kill or even “unmake” you with the blink of an eye or the snap of their god-like fingers.

Fear of Loss of Autonomy – What could you, a single mortal, do to stop a god/supernatural/cosmic being from destroying our world/universe/reality? If such a being existed, we would have no control of our circumstances.

These two fears are the primary driving force behind the horror of the Ancient Evil. But there’s a third: the fear of the unknown.

Zombies are terrifying because they take something familiar (humans, friends, family, etc.) and twist them into something grotesque. It’s not the shambling, rotting corpses that are scary—it’s the shambling, rotting corpses of people we KNOW and LOVE that’s terrifying.

Belief in a Higher Power, Supreme Being, or Ultimate is something that unifies nearly all humans on the planet. Whether you call the being God, Yahweh, Allah, or Rufus, most of us believe in some sort of higher power or divinity to some extent. Given all the marvels in the world and universe around us, it’s hard not to believe in something greater than us. Even the world’s most renowned scientists agree that there is a possibility a God-like being exists.

Now comes the terrifying part: what if that God-like being WASN’T a good, loving god of mercy and peace? What if they were a god that wanted to bring death, suffering, chaos, and oblivion?

Whatever the reason for the Ancient Evil’s existence—to balance the gods of good, to bring chaos to the universe, or to destroy for their own malicious purposes—it is enough to know that their actions will be perceived as “villainous”. They cannot be bargained or reasoned with. There is no fighting them or holding them off. They simple ARE, and they intend to bring DOOM (all caps!) to the world.

In stories:

These Ancient Evils are typically used as the ultimate villain/antagonist.

  • If Frodo didn’t bring the One Ring to Mount Doom, Sauron would have regained all the might of the twenty magical Rings of Power and been absolutely unstoppable.
  • The Great Old Ones are the eternally threatening presence looming in the background of H.P. Lovecraft’s works.
  • Terry Pratchett introduced us to the “Dungeon Dimensions”, a background threat to those who use magic incorrectly.

They tend to be the greatest threat to the heroes, but will rarely be the primary villain/antagonist. Mostly, there are less powerful men and creatures seeking to summon/unlock the cage/open the gateway for these Ancient Evils to enter the world. The protagonists have to stop the primary villains/antagonists from unleashing this evil on their world. After all, saving the world is just part of the job, right?

 

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