July 6, 2016

Good and Evil in The Black Company

The Black Company (1984) is interesting because of the moral vision Glen Cook expresses through it. For the Black Company, "good" and "evil" are issues of scope and scale rather than universal moral principles. On the level of the interpersonal, i.e. relationships between brothers of the Company, such as Croaker and Raven, and other people, such as Darling and Soulcatcher, virtues such as loyalty, kindness, and empathy rule. But on the level of the global or political, i.e. the Company's relationship to, say, the Syndic of Beryl or the Lady and the Ten Who Were Taken (whatever patron the Company is serving), realpolitik, strategic cruelty, and malice prevail. The difference between "good" and "evil" in the world of The Black Company turns on the difference between a friend, a member of your "in-group," and an anonymous Other, i.e. a slave, a civilian being policed, an enemy soldier. Cook's The Black Company gives us a cruel framework for reflecting on how we can dubiously participate in evil enterprises (i.e. The Lady's war against the Circle of Eighteen) while justifying our actions as virtuous.