"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

“On Faerie Stories” Epilogue

Posted in Friends, Stuff I'm Reading by matt on Thursday, August 14, 2008
So it feels kind of lame to post stuff that’s not original (not sure why…), but my friend recently posted the epilogue to J.R.R. Tolkien’s collection of essays titled On Faerie Stories and I really wanna put it out there. Probably only 3.5 people will read it and most of you will look at the picture, but if you’re interested in narrative theory/fiction/Jesus/the fantasy genre then I highly recommend it.
Everything below here is what David posted…
What has Jerusalem to do with RIVENDELL?

Nothing original here…just Tolkien.

I’ve recommended Tolkien’s essay/lecture “ON FAERIE STORIES” to many people, but few have ever read the whole thing. It was originally an academic lecture, so it is tough to get into – – but it’s worth it.

Below is the Epilogue to this great essay, and I don’t think many people realize how important it is for understanding The Lord of the Rings or how downright radical Tolkien’s statements are. (I can tell when people haven’t actually read or understood the whole thing when I see no evidence of either scandalized shock and dismay or of wonder-full revelation).

So – here’s the surprise that has been waiting at the end of one of Tolkien’s great (and few) academic products. Without knowing this, you can’t fully understand anything Tolkien wrote.

The Greek prefix “eu” means “good.” So “eu + catastrophe” is a very peculiar term to ponder. “Evangelium” – Eu + angel (messenger/message) – means “Good News”….in all kinds of interesting senses.

I have also highlighted some of the more radical statements to help those for whom even 4 paragraphs is too much to read in the summer. Can’t wait to see comments on this one…



This “joy” which I have selected as the mark of the true fairy-story (or romance), or as the seal upon it, merits more consideration.

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,” it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the “joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Ts it true’?” The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). 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. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or 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. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy- story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

Plato’s Music

Posted in Music, Stuff I'm Reading by matt on Sunday, February 10, 2008

From one of my textbooks:

“according to Plato, music orchestrated the entire universe. In the celestial music of the heavenly spheres, as each planet in the heavens, from the moon to Saturn, resounded with its own musical note, the order of the cosmos was established as a musical harmony.”

Uhhhh, I think that’s rad. It’s similar to the formation of Tolkien’s story as the Ainur brought Middle Earth into existence by singing to Eru. And of course Lewis totally rips him off when writing The Magician’s Nephew as Aslan sings Narnia into existence.

So my question is, “What is it about music that moves the soul and conducts the cosmos?” I’m definitely addicted to the stuff, but what makes it so powerful? Da thinks it’s the most powerful of the art forms and I think he’s right. I think God is an awesome conductor and creation is his magnum opus. I know, I know. This is all ridiculously sentimental, but it’s good to pause and recognize God through metaphor.

He wrote it, He let us play along, then we tried a different tune, but now by grace we are re-invited to perform for/with/to/through/in Him. Praise He who is worthy of our every musical effort! And may we slow down long enough to perceive His music as it is everywhere.