Of Fantasy, History, and the Greatest Eucatastrophe

I’ve been re-reading Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” and letting the concepts rattle around in my brain. I was going to post on sub-creation, but I find my thoughts haven’t coalesced enough yet. So instead, I want to share with you a particularly compelling passage:

“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 of how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of joy in the successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth….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 he marvels, is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primarily 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….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.”

As a writer, it is my hope that my stories grip people’s hearts with the “peculiar quality of joy” that comes from a reflection of Truth. Certainly, the stories I have most loved as a reader in some measure reflect a higher reality and convey Truth in their very structure and nature. Tolkien and Lewis both did this well, though in very different forms.

As a reader, what stories have impacted you by pointing to a greater truth? And if you’re a writer also, do these ideals impact the way you approach writing?

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