Blogging through LOTR: Eucatastrophe

The Fellowship of the Ring

I’m nearing the end of The Return of the King, and I’m kind of overwhelmed. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the trilogy – no less than six, I’m sure. But I’d forgotten how good it is, especially as the threads come together toward the climax.

I’d remembered Frodo’s and Sam’s trek from Cirith Ungol to the Crack of Doom as taking up more pages than it does. In memory it’s a long narrative, but in the book it actually constitutes a fairly short section. I mean that as praise to Tolkien’s skill – he leaves a strong impression of weary and hopeless trudging that looms large in memory.

As I read the climactic passages describing the defeat of Sauron, sobs shook my diaphragm and tears welled up in my eyes (which was a little embarrassing because I was on a reclining table giving blood at the time). Lewis called LOTR “Good beyond hope,” and I wonder if anything as good of its kind has ever been written before – or ever will be again. Can I myself ever hope to come close?

I thought of the many children of this world who love these books. How can they bear it? How can they experience that joy – Tolkien’s eucatastrophe – and then return to the mundane world, believing that the promise of Middle Earth is just a cheat? That there will never be a true happy ending like that for them? That real life is only a descent through pain and disappointment to death, with a few bright moments which are in themselves just false promises of a happiness that can never be?

Ah well. I suppose they deal with it as best they can. The Lord of the Rings is really about not cutting down trees, after all, they believe.

2 thoughts on “Blogging through LOTR: Eucatastrophe”

  1. I’m currently making my way through George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire and its amazing how is novels encapsulate your articulation that “real life is only a descent through pain and disappointment to death, with a few bright moments which are in themselves just false promises of a happiness that can never be”. Martin really is the anti-Tolkien. While a fantastic writer, his writing is so focused on ‘realism’ and subverting the tropes of the genre that it seems like something is missing from the novels. Real life includes the sublime, which is why I think in the end LOTR is more realistic than ASOIAF. LOTR gets the grand narrative of reality correct. In the end life is full of meaning and there is a happy ending, just not in the way that we expect. Salvation is found through ‘a descent through pain and disappointment through death’ through the cross. Its something that Tolkien got, and Martin doesn’t.

    Also, I have decided that once I am through with Martin’s series I’ll probably give some of your books a reread. I’ll need something to pick me up!

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