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Old 07-21-2002, 08:01 PM   #1
mark12_30
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Sting eucatastrophe: piercing joy that brings tears

From letter 89 by Tolkien:
"... I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of truth.... It percieves-- if the story has literary 'truth'...--that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest fairy story-- and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love..."

--Letter 89

A number of things surface in this letter that I should like to open up for discussion.

Working backwards: What do you think of Tolkien's idea that "selfishness and altruism are lost in love"? Do you see evidence of that in LOTR, or Silm, or the Hobbit?

What do you think of Tolkien's idea that Joy and Sorrow can become one and reconciled, and where do you see evidence of that in LOTR, or Silm, or the Hobbit?

And given his definition of eucatastrophe: a sudden happy turn, a sudden glimpse of truth, that peirces you with a joy that brings tears-- what passages in LOTR, or Silm, or the Hobbit effect you that way, and what is the truth that you perceive in the "sudden happy turn"?

--Helen

[ July 22, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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