Evil cannot create anything new, they can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made.
I see this quote a lot in the comments under the new Amazon The Rings of Power teaser trailer.
When and in what context did Tolkien say this?
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It doesn't appear to be anything that Tolkien ever said or wrote, but a paraphrase:
"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 them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures."
-- The Return of The King
For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindalë before the Beginning: so say the wise.
-- The Silmarillion
In fact, it appears to de a direct quote from TV Tropes:
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.
Peter Hastings, manager of the Newman Bookshop (a Catholic bookshop in Oxford), wrote expressing enthusiasm for The Lord of the Rings, but asked if Tolkien had not 'over-stepped the mark in metaphysical matters'. He gave several examples: first, 'Treebeard's statement that the Dark Lord created the Trolls and the Orcs'. Hastings suggested that evil was incapable of creating anything, and argued that even if it could create, its creatures 'could not have a tendency to good, even a very small one'; whereas, he argued, one of the Trolls in The Hobbit, William, does have a feeling of pity for Bilbo.
-- The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, No. 153
The context of the idea that evil cannot create, but instead only ruin that which good has made comes from the Silmarillion. One of the things which Morgoth desired most feverishly was to create something of his own, whether a people or an entire land. He could not, however, which drove him to capture and corrupt a group of elves, who became the orcs. That is what's originally written, though I understand that Tolkien might have backtracked a bit after doing some thinking on that idea. Personally I'm a fan of it, as it also proves a marked difference between Morgoth and Aulë; Morgoth simply couldn't make new creatures at all, while Aulë could, but had to focus on them completely in order for them to be animated, until Eru Iluvatar breathed true life into them. This can all be read in the earlier chapters of the Silmarillion, possibly depending on the version.