The Good News that begins and ends in Joy.

In his essay, “On Fairy Stories,” J R R Tolkien coins the term “eucatastrophe” which is a “sudden joyous turn”…a profound description of the genuinely happy ending in which things are set right. It is that moment like what we see in Tolkien’s Return of the King, when Sam awakens from several days of sleep to find that he and Frodo have not died, and that Gandalf is not dead.

Sam asks:

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

In the essay, Tolkien goes on to claim, “when the sudden ‘turn’ comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”

As the essay comes to an end, Tolkien echoes and expounds upon what he once told C. S. Lewis in the conversation that brought Lewis out of the darkness of atheism into faith in Christ:

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.

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