The Tolkien Road – Ep92 – The Lord of the Rings – B3C7 – Helm’s Deep – Pt2

Concerning “Helm’s Deep”, from darkening hopes to a new day’s dawning…

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Concerning Tolkien’s Faith Pt 4: Incarnation as Eucatastrophe


The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. – Tolkien


For me, the last section of Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories makes the slog that is the first half quite worth it. Tolkien’s exposition of eucatastrophe, “the happy turn” in a story, is unforgettable, an idea that has been expounded in countless places by numerous writers. Eucatastrophe is Tolkienian through-and-through. Not only is it a beautiful idea, but it’s a beautiful word as well.

Man’s Destiny

Things get really wonderful when Tolkien speaks of the Birth of Christ – the Incarnation – as “the eucatastrophe of Man’s history.” Why does he say this? Tolkien was obsessed with the hopelessness and darkness of mankind’s case in the ancient world, something he probably picked up from his deep interest in mythology. In the Incarnation, man is re-directed towards his ultimate destiny as the benevolent viceroy of the cosmos, the blessed bridge between the heaven and earth.

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Incarnation of Jesus, Piero di Cosimo

The Incarnation is eucatastrophe because it is a surprise; like the appearance of the Eagles in various eucatastrophic moments of the Third Age, Christ first comes amid a desperate situation. Yes, the Jews hoped for a Messiah, but every indication is that they were looking for a great prophet and a warrior-king, one who would restore the kingdom of Israel to its Davidic pinnacle. Who would have thought that God would choose to draw so near to us as to become like us “in every way except sin,” indeed to renounce all of His rights as God in order to show us the beauty and triumph of the way of humility?

Eucatastrophe in Action

It seems that Tolkien was so intent on this idea that he worked it into The Lord of the Rings, for it is on March 25th, the traditional date of the Annunciation [1], that the One Ring is destroyed. And this is important: the One Ring is not finally destroyed by any Man, nor indeed by any hobbit, but by the invisible hand of the storyteller at work behind the scenes. Tolkien sets things up so that none of the three figures present [2] can claim credit for its destruction in the final analysis. No, the creature cannot save himself, not without divine aid, and though the great soul of the lowly hobbit is a sign of the greatness of humility itself, we see here that the hobbit is not even capable of finally putting the greatest of evils to death, of plunging the knife into its very heart.

Thus, we can see how fitting it is that Eagles are frequent instruments of eucatastrophe, for they represent the power and will of Manwë, the greatest of the angelic Valar. Their coming from the clouds is as the descent of a supernatural power.

Ask any Christian you know that has spent time dwelling upon it: the Incarnation is magical as a fairy-tale, and all the more so because we believe it to be as true as the fall of Rome. It is the wondrous event at the heart of everything, and yes, we mean everything. It is a thing wonderful to behold and to ponder. I get all misty-eyed when I think about it, and for good reason, for in it, we glimpse the mysterious ways of God Himself, saving and surprising us despite ourselves, drawing us ever closer to the deepness of a love vast as the cosmos.


FOOTNOTES

1 – Subtract 9 months from December 25th and what do you get? More here.

2 – Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. While Gollum is ultimately responsible on an operative level of destroying the One Ring, he certainly does not will its destruction.

 

The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Pt 25 (Of Beren and Lúthien 2/3)


But Lúthien heard his answering voice, and she sang then a song of greater power. The wolves howled, and the isle trembled. Sauron stood in the high tower , wrapped in his black thought; but he smiled hearing her voice, for he knew that it was the daughter of Melian. The fame of the beauty of Lúthien and the wonder of her song had long gone forth from Doriath; and he thought to make her captive and hand her over to the power of Morgoth, for his reward would be great. (174)


This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walkthrough of The Silmarillion. This time, I will examine the 2nd part of the 19th chapter of The Silmarillion proper, “Of Beren and Lúthien.” You can see a list of all of the posts in this series by clicking here.

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Having been sent to obtain a Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, Beren must first make his way through the lands governed by Sauron. This, of course, proves its own great challenge. Continue reading “The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Pt 25 (Of Beren and Lúthien 2/3)”

Concerning “Beowulf: The Monsters & the Critics” – Pt 3


We look down as if from a visionary height upon the house of man in the valley of the world. A light starts . . . and there is a sound of music; but the outer darkness and its hostile offspring lie ever in wait for the torches to fail and the voices to cease. (33)


This is the third part in a series on Tolkien’s essay “Beowulf: The Monster and the Critics.” You can find all of my posts about this essay under Concerning Tolkien’s Works here.

Continue reading “Concerning “Beowulf: The Monsters & the Critics” – Pt 3”

Concerning Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories – Pt 3


All tales may come true… (73)


You can find the rest of the posts in the series here under the category “Concerning Tolkien’s Work.” 

This is the third and last part in my series on Tolkien’s essay On FairyStories. Previously, I dealt with three questions posed by Tolkien: “What are fairy-stories?”,  “What is their origin?”, and “What is the use of them?” In this post, I’ll continue to look at the question “What is the use of them?”

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Continue reading “Concerning Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories – Pt 3”