Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy Ending

In one of his essays, J. R. R. Tolkien distinguishes between different kinds of climaxes. The tragic tale, with its sorrowful ending, he calls a "dyscatastrophe"; for "the Consolation of the Happy Ending" he coins the word "eucatastrophe": the blessed cataclysm by which lovers are reunited after many tests and trials, or the true king is separated from all pretenders and finally ascends the throne. "In such stories," Tolkien says, "when the sudden turn' comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of the story, and lets a gleam come through."

--Patrick J. Wilson