Evil Is Sterile
The nature of evil is difficult to define. It is, after all, a highly subjective concept, which we never encounter in any truly concrete form. And so, writers have different ideas as to what evil means, what are its goals, its methods, its limitations.
One weakness typically ascribed to the force of evil is that it cannot create. The Power of Creation
is seen as positive and Good, the purview of a God
who is probably the Big Good
of any given mythos. So, Evil Is Sterile. It cannot create, cannot imagine or have new ideas, certainly cannot produce new forms of life, because Creating Life Is Awesome
. It may be able to propagate, but only in the manner of The Virus
, by turning everything into more of itself, without the possibility of evolution, or the retention of the unique qualities that once inhabited what existed before.
Beings who have fallen under evil control, whether they are Reforged into a Minion
or taken over by their Superpowered Evil Side
, become cruder and twisted versions of themselves. They may gain power, but they lose crucial aspects that once made them special, and will probably not behave very intelligently
Symbolically, this ties in with the idea that Dark is Evil
, because darkness is the absence of light and cannot change on its own. It is for this same reason that Good Hurts Evil
In historical penal laws of a number of countries, this became an Enforced Trope
in Real Life
, as criminals and other enemies of the government (allegedly "evil", depending on perspective) were forcibly castrated. Examples include historian Sima Qian, who was allegedly implicated in a treason case, and explorer Zheng He, who was a family member of a Central Asian Muslim official in service of Mongols when they were overthrown by the Han Chinese who set up the new Ming Dynasty.
Ultimately, the hope of this kind of evil is to, at best, corrupt the whole world into being just like itself, and at worst, destroy everything. The possibility of making something new and different is anathema to it.
A typical bonus is that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good
. See also Evil Knockoff
, The Corruption
and Creative Sterility
. Compare and contrast Creating Life Is Bad
. Contrast Good Is Impotent
Anime and Manga
- Implied in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann- the Anti-Spiral opposes the growth of Spiral energy, which is produced by biological evolution. Thus, the Anti-Spiral opposes evolution and represents enforced stagnation. It has a series of protocols in place to deal with burgeoning Spiral races, which consist basically of increasing numbers of mindless automata that can only destroy. When the protagonists defeat the last of these measures, the only recourse the Anti-Spiral has is to match them in form and strength.
- In Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Sheeda are so incapable of creating things that they have to travel through time and pillage previous civilizations in order to get the resources to maintain their own. The series as a whole could be considered a meta-commentary on the comic-book industry's tendency to plunder its own continuity for ideas.
- The Neflords from Hack/Slash are explicitly noted as being this by one of their minions. They're only capable of reproducing by fatally impregnating beings abducted from other dimensions.
- In TRON and its sequel, Master Control and Clu respectively had this issue, which is why they were so big on repurposing opposing Programs.
- The anti-war nightmare cartoon Wizards has a minor subplot involving the evil mutants' inability to create (healthy, sustainable) life.
- David Eddings:
- In the Keys to the Kingdom book series, it is mentioned that only The Architect, The Old One, or humans can create anything original. The Denizens can only copy things they've seen. This becomes important later.
- A defining metaphysical law in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Evil cannot create anything new, they can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made. Melkor/Morgoth, the equivalent of Satan and creator of evil, desires to remake the world according to his image, but his image isn't terribly imaginative, and he's fundamentally incapable of creating new life. He gains armies and servants by perverting and twisting existing beings (the Orcs, in some versions, are corrupted Elves), or by gaining the loyalty of existing spirits (the Balrogs and possibly the Dragons are his Fallen Angels). In the Ainulindalë, when the World is designed in cosmic song, Melkor attempts to take over the Music by interjecting of his own theme. It's "brash and repetitive," all brute force without subtlety, and it only perverts the concepts introduced by Eru (the equivalent of God) rather than inventing new ones. This is discussed in The Return of the King:
Sam: Don't orcs eat, and don't they drink? Or do they just live on foul air and poison?
Frodo: No, they eat and drink, Sam. The Shadow that bred them can only mock; it cannot make: not real, new things of its own. I don't think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined and twisted them, and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.
- In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the two gods, Ruin and Preservation, can only create when they work together, which they are inherently loath to do. Ruin in particular is fundamentally unable to improve any situation, but instead leads everything toward chaos and destruction, which is just the way he likes it. Ruin's specific method of the Metallic Arts, hemalurgy, emphasizes this, as it is end-negative, meaning that it can only be used to take an inferior version of the abilities it steals instead of providing new powers altogether, with each spike degrading over the amount of time it is not inside a body. At the end of the series, both gods are destroyed, and a main character takes in both of their powers, with which he can do essentially whatever he likes.
- The Big Bad of Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker is the Un-Maker, a being of malevolence to all existence. As an entity of non-being, it is incapable of making or creating anything, even something non-physical, like a plan for undoing the works of Alvin Maker. It instead has to rely on its willing human tools to do that sort of thing for it.
- In the Tour of the Merrimack series, the Hive is said only to learn and adapt, and unable to conceive new ideas.
- In Pact, apart from making motes (weaker demons that bud off stronger ones) demons cannot create and can only destroy.
- The Discworld has the Auditors of Reality. Counted among the Eldritch Abominations, their function is to oversee the universe and make sure the laws of physics keep working. They naturally dislike life for being untidy, and particularly loathe humans due to their creativity and ability to see the world as other than what it is. At least twice so far (in Hogfather and Thief of Time) they've tried to unmake humanity, both times by relying on humans' own ingenuity.
- In When Demons Walk this is done with a twist. Demons are not infertile by nature, but all demons summoned by wizards are made infertile via spell, as anything else would enable the demon to cause much disaster.
- In the Coldfire Trilogy, the Hunter's immortality and power came at the cost of giving up the workings of life. He can't truly Heal and he Can't Have Sex, Ever. He also can't Work fire due to fire's connection with light and renewal.
Mythology and Religion
- Doctor Who has several villains which are stated to be this way; however, because they have to be frequently reinvented to keep the show fresh (or because the studio ran out of original props), they tend to change gradually over time. Notable examples include:
- The cybermen, your basic robot assimilators. They can't reproduce and can only create more of themselves by stealing live humans and turning them into more cybermen. They can advance technologically but are incapable of evolution, biological or cultural, as they lack both reproduction and imagination. This means that the actual power and threat of an individual Cyberman varies from one episode to another, but their weaknesses tend to be retained.
- The Daleks, your basic space fascists, invoke this by being Fantastic Racists: everything the slightest bit different from them is wrong and should be destroyed. This is, however, defied by the Cult of Skaro (a group of four Daleks who even had individual names) which was created for the sole purpose of imagination. Nevertheless, their appearance is updated frequently, and in the rebooted show has been completely redone almost every series. Their tactics also vary over time.
- Supernatural: Amara, the Darkness, is God's equal opposite and sister, being just as powerful as him if not more so, and now that she's free, she intends to destroy his flawed creation, and bring back the peaceful void that came before. Except, as a smug Lucifer points out, as powerful as she is, she's ultimately inferior to God because he can create, while she, as the embodiment of nothingness, can't.
- In Egyptian Mythology the god Set, disfavored and seen as evil in later times, is said to be sterile. The story behind the birth of Anubis is that Set's wife Nepthys tricked Osiris into impregnating her because Set was infertile.
- Like most myths, this is Depending on the Writer. In some versions of the story, Nepthys and Set have a son, Sebek/Sobek the crocodile god. The reason Nepthys sleeps with Osiris is because Sebek creeps her out enough that she wants a "normal" child.
- In the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion Shivering Isles, the amazingly creepy Knights of Order and their master Jyggalag are said to have no original thoughts whatsoever. Their fighting style reflects this - Jyggalag uses some spells, but the knights just swing swords at you until you or they die. When Order tries subterfuge, Sheogorath concludes that things aren't going so bad - Order doesn't try creativity unless everything else has failed, and they suck at it.
- Fallout, the super mutants who are out to make all other humans mutants and destroy anything they can't transform, turn out to be sterile. This is a major plot point, as their Visionary Villain leader thinks mutants are the next evolution of humanity, and the revelation that every one of them is unable to reproduce means their race is doomed to eventually die out.
- In Dragon Age, the Darkspawn are incapable of reproducing like other species. They also seem to be mindless brutes who are only capable of destroying things, although the existence of the Architect suggests that Darkspawn may have the capacity to be less destructive if they are freed from the Archdemon's control.
- In Mass Effect 2, Mordin posits that the Reapers have no capacity for creativity, as evidenced by the fact that the creatures under their thrall are never seen creating anything.
- Comstock from BioShock Infinite is sterile due to overuse of the Lutece device.
- The Forsaken in World of Warcraft are easily the darkest race in the Horde and, being essentially walking corpses, are specifically noted as being unable to procreate. Following the events in Wrath of the Lich King, the Forsaken's leader Sylvanas Windrunner gains the service of some of the Lich King's Val'kyr, creatures who can bring back corpses as new Forsaken.
- All over the place in Fall from Heaven. Agares originally went out of his way to defy this trope, by using the power of creation the One gave him to create infinite planes for all twenty-one elements so he could draw power from them and continue creating after the One withdrew His own power, forming the backbone of how magic works in FFH. Unfortunately, his creations were seen as flawed compared to those made using the One's power directly, and Agares, jealous of the others, went on an Omnicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum, destroying his plane and everything in it, and then restructuring it into the deepest circle of the game's version of Hell. Technically, Agares still has all the power of creation he had before, but he doesn't want to create anything new, preferring to corrupt and destroy creation to show that the One is just as flawed as he is.