Eucatastrophe

From On Fairy Stories, a lecture given by Tolkien about the purpose and value of mythological stories, and about how his stories reflect the gospel.
Fantasy can, of course, be ... put to evil uses. ... But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them... But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. [Here he inserts a Latin proverb that might be paraphrased: Abuse does not prohibit (proper) use.] ... We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.

Of the reflection of the gospel in fairy stories, he says,
Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite--I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.
... [The event in the story that causes] the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" ... is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies ... universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium [Greek for "gospel"], giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. ...
The peculiar quality of the "joy" in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth [of the tale]. It is not only a "consolation" for the sorrow of this world, but ... an answer to the question, "Is it true?" ... But in the "eucatastrophe" we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater--it may be a far off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.
... God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting this aspect, as to others, of their own strange nature. The Gospels contain ... a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels--peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: "mythical" in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.
... the joy which the "turn" in a fairy-story gives .. looks forward (or backward: the direction is this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind... But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified.

Comments

Robin said…
Huh? What'd he say?

Just kidding Carole. Deep stuff. GW