Micro-SFF: Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair

I recall at some point reading commentary by some Twitter peers to the effect of “we moderns have lost sight of the fact that sin takes a physical toll on the body.” This was probably accompanied by a picture of some hated politician.


Now this isn’t to say that sinful behavior doesn’t ever lead to physical ruin. Excess and vice can certainly devastate one’s health, and at its core evil is a truly ugly thing. Villains are often foul-looking and run down to portray this.

But not always.

I was just thinking about this as I have recently begun reading Lloyd Alexander’s first Prydain book, and very early on the young protagonist encounters a dashing and famous adventurer-prince. The boy is initially incredulous and shocked by the prince’s ragged appearance and is gently admonished for judging by such criteria.

This reminded me also of Frodo and Sam’s early meeting with Aragorn:

At last Frodo spoke with hesitation. ‘I believed that you were a friend before the letter came,’ he said, ‘or at least I wished to. You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of his spies would — well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.’

‘I see,’ laughed Strider. ‘I look foul and feel fair. Is that it? All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.’

When it comes to storytelling, the ugly villain is an easy device to wield. But things are rarely ever so simple. And so when you or your readers encounter an ugly old man, you would do well to ask yourself whether his appearance is the wage of sin, the natural ravaging of Time, or an unlucky draw from the gene lottery.

And is that beautiful princess therefore a vessel of virtue, just because she’s super hot?

Just some food for thought.


  1. Well, considering that the Pope has claimed that he speaks for God, thus usurping God’s power, I’d say he’s definitely a vessel of evil. To take it a step further, 7th Day Adventists are just the latest to think the Catholic church and the Pope are the Beast and/or the Anti-Christ spoken about in Revelations. That particular idea goes back to at least Luther. I don’t know if it goes back even further, never looked into it.

    And that girl has ugly knees, so she probably is on them all the time, praying 😉
    Given who she actually is, The Whore of Babylon is more fitting…

          • So you feel it is ok to just butt in wherever you feel like? You must be a peach at coffee shops.

            But just so we’re clear, butt out. I am talking to Bushi here. If you want to talk to him, go start your own conversation with him.

          • I’ve not got much more to say on this topic. Don’t feel like this kind of internecine fighting is going to do anyone any good.

            Also Jill is free to chime in – as she observed, commenting is public here. You’re likewise free to ask her to stay out of it, but no foul there.

          • I probably shouldn’t have touched upon religion on this blog; wanted to focus more on the literary/philosophical point. Oh well!

          • I wasn’t even trying to get anything going, just pointing out that the Pope (not THAT pope, but the position in general) isn’t universally adored. I thought you made it quite clear you weren’t interested in talking further about it so I let it drop. Until….
            I was reacting to the interjection of another comment. The upshot is that this little episode has led down quite the rabbit trail and I’m currently typing up my thoughts on commenting etiquette.

            So overall I count this as a net positive experience. Especially learning exactly how you view the comments section.

          • Word up. It is indeed interesting that different blogs handle comments in different ways.

            I welcome individual exchanges, but I also have seen some great conversations between commenters before. There’s something to be said for a blog as a community. It also can invite discord sometimes, though.

          • I apologise. The contrast between Luther and 7th Day piqued my interest. That’s why I commented. I wasn’t trying to interject into a private conversation.

          • And I’m sorry for over-reacting. I really shouldn’t have bitten your head off on somebody else’s blog. On my blog, yes. Somebody else’s, no.

            Thanks for apologizing too. That is much appreciated.

  2. Bookstooge,

    I’m usually right along with you, opinion wise. But as a neutral observer this time, with no dog in that fight, even I read your comments as not so much dialogue as someone itching for an argument. Maybe that’s not what you intended. But I rolled my eyes right along with Bushi.

    As to the Fair is Foul is Fair concept, I believe that there is something to this. We get bombarded by all sorts of PC agitprop, much of it dissonant. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is skin deep. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Fat is beautiful. Beauty is privilege.

    But in my experience a life of sin and excess has a way of changing someone’s appearance. Addiction to drugs, the ‘Rode Hard, Put Away Wet’ look, etc.(Please pardon my crudeness). These things are evident, sometime subtly, sometimes not. In my line of work (LEO), I’ve learned to trust these indicators. They aren’t always right, they’re right often enough to pay attention.

    • Yeah, I can see the wisdom in that – if a dude looks like a drug-ravaged mess, you may want to proceed with caution.

      I just mainly wanted to note that the entertainment industry (and politics, too) is filled to the brim with good-looking people many of whom are probably rotten to the core, and plenty of good, ugly people out there. We are a simple folk. =)

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