View Single Post
Old 08-22-2002, 08:05 PM   #56
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 228
Nar has just left Hobbiton.

LMP: 'bitter irony' was my phrase... but I didn't quite mean it that way. I didn't mean it would have been a bitter turn had Frodo and Sam laid down their lives for Middle Earth-- it would have been bitter because their deaths were not necessary. Once the quest was accomplished, it was a relief to have providence, Gandalf and the eagles adjust events a little so those who did not NEED to die did not HAVE to die. Bitter is when characters are killed off for effect or pathos or because they're minor characters the author can't be bothered to care about, not because the story or the quest requires it.

My emerging understanding of eucatastrophe is that it's a sudden turn that pulls an underlying pattern taut so that it can be perceived throughout the story. Like Belin, I would call it structural. Gollum's unexpected role in the grace that grants sucess to the quest is the best example, thank you, LMP, for reminding me. The pattern there is not so much one of 'don't kill even slimy creatures, they may come in handy later' but more one of 'mercy requites mercy'. Ultimately the pattern indicates the character of providence: of all the ways to grant this grace, acts of pity for this revolting creature are what is chosen. The foolishly sentimental actions of Bilbo and Frodo towards this creature are chosen to enable grace. What does this say about providence, and incidentally the author? What I love best is that this grace that saves middle earth from Sauron is thriftily used to knit Gollum, lost though he may be, back into the saving themes of Arda. If Gollum can't be saved, even by throwing a vessel of the living light into his power, at least he's granted a useful death-- that might help him somewhere down the line. Good thinking, providence! Sometimes I think all of LotR from Eru's point of view is about trying to get Smeagol back somehow, and saving Middle Earth from Sauron is just a welcome side effect. He's a hobbit. The author's got a soft spot for them.

Boromir's decent death which retrieves his honor just as he's run out of time and Pippin's tribute in service, which eventually saves Boromir's little brother from death by (someone else's) despair, could be part of another pattern in the story-- all the same eucatastrophe-- 'if you can't serve one way, another may be found.' I can't however, settle on one single point where the eucatastrophe occurs and the pattern becomes clear. Maybe we're talking about Maril's nesting eucatastrophes in their nesting stories. By Tolkien's definition, eucatastrophe is an event that flips the story from despair to hope; I'm adding that the effect is so profound because that flip pulls a pattern taut throughout the story and gives us a sudden and complete understanding of what that pattern was-- and that this pattern reflects the character of providence, or the author.

Going on with the pattern idea, I think of purgation not as a single suffering event but as a review of a life (confession to a guide) or trial of one's character and abilities (by enduring/overcoming an ordeal).
Child of the Seventh Age ideas may bear on this:
I think that it is not the event itelf which leads to purification, but rather the response of the particular person to that event.
The review or the trial works not because of suffering or abasement, those are just means to an end, but because it exposes the underlying pattern of a life or character. The review does this through close examination in the presence of wisdom, the trial by pulling the pattern of character taut under stress, making it clear once again: 'more about him than you guess!' This preparation is not a eucatastrophe but it prepares the way for one by revealing an existing pattern -- if a eucatastrophe occurs the pattern's suddenly pulled taut in the flipping of a knot(an unexpected event that connects to the rest of the pattern) to reveal the pattern in all its glory. So, am I saying that we have story-bound eucatastrophe and character-bound eucatastrophe and that they can be the same thing or overlap?

I found this idea of preparation/revelation convincing, Maril:
I think that in those cases where the revelation comes first, they have already had some form of preceding purgation that has brought them to that place where they are open to the revelation.
Some kind of subtler review, a series of coincidences granted by providence, or slowly moving insights spreading unaware in the back of the conscience might preceed even apparently unexpected revelations, Helen-- it seems to me that the seeker must be somehow prepared to accept them, or the same ones would work for everyone the same way all the time, and they don't. Sadly. Sam might have been prepared to understand the significance of that star not only by his service, as you say, Maril, but also by Aragorn's story of Beren and Luthien at Weathertop and Bilbo's song about Earendil at Rivendell-- and by his earlier recognition that he and Frodo are in the same story.

[ August 22, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]

[ August 22, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]
Nar is offline