View Full Version : Happy Eucatastrophe Day

Manwë Súlimo
04-21-2014, 12:49 AM
Obligatory (yet belated) annual message:

J.R.R. Tolkien's Letter #89 To Christopher Tolkien
7-8 November 1944 (FS 60)
20 Northmoor Road, Oxford

[Last Sunday we heard a] wonderful commentary on the Gospels...and also by his vivid illustrations from modern miracles. The similar case of a woman similarly afflicted (owing to a vast uterine tumour) who was cured instantly at Lourdes, so that the tumour could not be found, and her belt was twice too large. And the most moving story of the little boy with tubercular peritonitis who was not healed, and was taken sadly away in the train by his parents, practically dying with 2 nurses attending him. As the train moved away it passed within sight of the Grotto. The little boy sat up. 'I want to go and talk to the little girl' – in the same train there was a little girl who had been healed. And he got up and walked there and played with the little girl; and then he came back, and he said 'I'm hungry now'. And they gave him cake and two bowls of chocolate and enormous potted meat sandwiches, and he ate them! ...So Our Lord told them to give the little daughter of Jairus something to eat. So plain and matter of fact: for so miracles are. They are intrusions (as we say, erring) into real or ordinary life, but they do intrude into real life, and so need ordinary meals and other results.

...But at the story of the little boy (which is a fully attested fact of course) with its apparent sad ending and then its sudden unhoped-for happy ending, I was deeply moved and had that peculiar emotion we all have – though not often. It is quite unlike any other sensation. And all of a sudden I realized what it was : the very thing that I have been trying to write about and explain – in that fairy-story essay that I so much wish you had read that I think I shall send it to you. For it I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives...that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

Of course I do not mean that the Gospels tell what is only a fairy-story; but I do mean very strongly that they do tell a fairy-story: the greatest. Man the story-teller would have to be redeemed in a manner consonant with his nature: by a moving story. But since the author if it is the supreme Artist and the Author of Reality, this one was also made to Be, to be true on the Primary Plane. So that in the Primary Miracle (the Resurrection) and the lesser Christian miracles too though less, you have not only that sudden glimpse of the truth behind the apparent [logic] of our world, but a glimpse that is actually a ray of light through the very chinks of the universe about us...