1. Kessie says:

    But more than giving “imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires,” fairy-stories give the “Consolation of the Happy Ending” — as defining of fantasy as tragedy is to the true form of Drama.

    I think that’s your answer right there. There are comedies, a sad story ending in happy, and there are tragedies, happy stories ending in sadness. Even though Lord of the Rings technically has a happy ending, it also has one of the saddest endings. Can you sit through the ending of the movies without getting choked up? I can’t. Heck, I can’t even listen to the music on the soundtrack.
    I like stories with happy endings. My sister likes stories with sad endings. (She’s really into Russian literature right now because of her thirst for tragedy.) There are also bittersweet endings, like Ender’s Game, where the world is saved but the hero loses something accomplishing it. I think Lord of the Rings counts as bittersweet. I also think those are the ones that really stick with you the longest.
    I tend to write “happy” endings. Stuff works out, but the heroes are irrevocably changed, for better or worse.

    • So Kessie, if I understand you, your vote is for fairy stories to follow Tolkien’s model with what he called the consolation of the happy ending, the twist at the the end that turned disaster into triumph. But as you say … as he said … these stories are not without their pain. Stop me if I’m putting words in your mouth, but you don’t think there’s anything broken, or done and redone, with that kind of story. It’s still a viable, even desirable tale.

      I’d like to believe that too. My view is that the onus is on writers to make those endings true Eucatastrophe without feeling borrowed or repeats.


      • Kessie says:

        I think that’s what I said. I don’t know what I was talking about up there. That’s what I get for trying to write something pithy with a squirming baby in my lap. :-p

  2. Galadriel says:

    It’s funny you would mention this, because I just finished reading the Binding of the Blade series, which has several of the same elements as Lord of the Rings, including a Eucatastrophe. 
    The world has been “bound to the blade” since the fallen Titan Malek created weapons. In the last book , All My Holy Mountain, the prophet Benjiah faces Malek with the very first weapon ever made.  But instead of fighting, he lays it down. Even though Malek kills Benjaih, that sacrifice enables the restoration of all things.

    • Galadriel, I’m glad you brought up Binding of the Blade. I was wondering as I answered Kessie if we could think of other stories that accomplished what Tolkien was describing. I thought of Wayne Thomas Batson’s Door Within series. He did exactly what Tolkien described, though it’s got a lot of echoes of The Last Battle. Is that bad? Can we keep the stories coming or are there really only a few scenarios that work if a writer wants to create Tolkien’s Eucatastrophe?


      • Kessie says:

        Wait … a eucatastrophe is just when all the bad stuff comes out right at the end, right? He’s not talking about the Global Reset trope, where the world is reset to paradise?
        Anime has done that one to death, and I’m not sure I like it much.

        • The eucatastrophe isn’t a global reset, as I understand it. But it’s a little more than things turning out right at the end. It has to do with the … how’d he say it a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It’s as much in the twist as it is in the happy ending, as much in the aversion of disaster by surprise. And the thing is, it rings true. The reason such endings cause us to choke up or even to cry is that we recognize them as true. And more than true — spiritual, eternal, pictures of God’s hand in our own personal experience, the disaster He prevented in our lives.


      • Kessie says:

        Can we keep the stories coming or are there really only a few scenarios that work if a writer wants to create Tolkien’s Eucatastrophe?

        I was thinking about books that have that drastic turnaround at the end, the kind that make you “Catch your breath”.
        Eucatastrophes don’t seem to happen in little 200 page novels. They’re usually at the end of trilogies, or entire series. I think you have to have a wide scope, so you can achieve lows and highs that finally achieve the heights of a eucatastrophe. But to have the heights, you have to have the lows, too.
        I don’t think every story can have an ending like that. If they all did, then we wouldn’t care, because we’d meet it all the time. Not all the Narnia books had a Last Battle ending. Only the Last Battle did, because it was the end of the series.

        • Galadriel says:

          Agreed. Binding of the Blade is five 400-page novels, and there are a lot of agonizing book endings, but the happy part….:)

        • Interesting point about the series. Tolkien never considered himself to be writing a series, so he wouldn’t probably have thought in those terms. But it’s a good point.

          Lewis, however … He seemed to manage that poignant joy/sorrow in a few of his books. I know I felt tearfully happy at the end of Dawn Treader, watching Reep-a-Cheep sail off into the sun. There was great joy/sadness in Til We Have Faces and Out of the Silent Planet. My point being, I don’t think it has to be a story of epic proportion. But I do wonder if we saw the kind of twist — joy coming from despair through a surprising and miraculous means of grace — that readers might not become jaded. Might we not love Lewis and Tolkien so much because they accomplished what so few are able to do, or perhaps what so few attempt?

          But if more writers, like L. B. Graham, author of the Binding of the Blade series, did go after eucatastrophe would we need something new after a time, or is this so right, and therefore never old, because it mimics the Great Story of miraculous grace?

          Galadriel, I read the first in the B of the B series, and the agonizing ending did me in!



  3. My mom knows it as “That series where the author kills the main characters.”

    Ha! I like the way your mom thinks, Galadriel! I was so … frustrated that I’d worked for pages cheering this character on only to have him die. It all seemed so meaningless, so I’m glad to know my assessment wasn’t right in the long run.



What do you think?