The Theology of Eucatastrophe

The Flame Imperishable

Tolkien’s passing remark that his realization of this profound truth concerning angelic causality (see yesterday’s post) produced in him a “great sense of joy,” is itself not without significance, as it links his dialectic of divine presence to another central theme in his writing. In another earlier post I argued that Eru’s temporary absence from the narrative is what later makes possible an even more violent or striking manifestation of his ever-abiding presence. This divine “intrusion” into the story, undertaken for a specifically redemptive or salvific purpose, is the metaphysical and theological framework behind Tolkien’s well-known concept of eucatastrophe (literally “good catastrophe”), a neologism Tolkien coined in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” to describe the literary device of the “happy ending,” the “sudden joyous ‘turn’” that is the “mark of a good fairy-story” (TR 86-7). Tolkien describes the existential experience of eucatastrophe in this way: “however wild its events, however…

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