Category Archives: Tolkien

The Tears of Eucatastrophe

Eucatastrophe is “a good catastrophe.” But long before the story turns good, there are tears. Many tears. Tolkien invented this word to explain how good things can come from catastrophes, how unpredictable redemption can be won in the midst of unimaginable loss.

The most poignant and gripping eucatastrophic moment in The Lord of the Rings is found in The Return of the King (of course!). In Chapter 4, “The Field of Cormallen”, Samwise Gamgee wakes up to find what he never expected but what he most certainly had hoped for. The Ring has been destroyed! Gandalf is alive!

Full memory flooded back, and Sam cried aloud: ‘It wasn’t a dream! Then where are we?’

And a voice spoke softly behind: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

As Sam and Gandalf talk he learns that his master and dearest friend Frodo is alive too and that the King—THE KING!—has taken back the ancient lands. Not only that but the King of Gondor had tended Sam in his wounds and now awaits him. Gandalf will lead him to him. “He will ride soon to his crowning, but he waits for you” Gandalf says.

And there in Gondor as the King was crowned and the Hobbits were praised, there was laughing and singing and weeping “until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

This scene always brings me to tears of sorrow and joy. Tears of sorrow as I consider how much my life and this world needs redemption. Tears of joy in knowing with great hope that one day my King will truly make everything sad in this old Earth come untrue.

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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in new creation, Tolkien


Merry Christmas!!!

“The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits….This story is supreme and it is true.”

–JRRT, On Fairy Stories

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Posted by on December 24, 2010 in celebrate, Christmas, gospel, Jesus, quotes, Tolkien


New LOTR Movie: The Hunt for Gollum

It’s hard to believe that a movie based on a book’s appendices could be sooooo good! But then again the book is The Lord of the Rings and the author is J.R.R. Tolkien! That helps.

This fan-made film fills in the story of why Gandalf was so cranky and in such a hurry to get Frodo and the ring out of the Shire. Knowing that Gollum was out of his cave (and his mind?!) recklessly looking for the ring, Gandalf sends Aragorn on a hunt. Well if you watch the movie (or have read the appendices as well you should!) then you’d know that “Baggins” is in trouble and Mordor is coming to town, Shire-town. Not good news!

Anyway, this is a highly enjoyable 40 minute cinematic adaptation of part of one my favorite stories. I hope you enjoy it too!

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Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Tolkien, video


New Tolkien Book Arriving May 2009

Like the Children of Hurin I have high hopes for Tolkien’s new book, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún. But my expectations are quite different since The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is not the latest installment of Tolkien’s ‘forgotten stories’ of Middle Earth. Rather it is Tolkien’s retelling of the Norse sagas, that over 70 years ago, inspired Tolkien to sub-create his own mythology for England.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a previously unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien, written while Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford during the 1920s and ‘30s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It makes available for the first time Tolkien’s extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. It includes an introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien, drawn from one of his own lectures on Norse literature, with commentary and notes on the poems by Christopher Tolkien. (From the Publishers)

Read the Forward by Christopher Tolkien at The Tolkien Library.

To better understand and appreciate Tolkien’s literary genius check out Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle Earth: How Tolkien created a New Mythology.

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Posted by on April 27, 2009 in book recommendation, Tolkien


J.R.R. Tolkien in Therapy

If I still used a mouse, I just might be tempted to get this.

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Posted by on January 29, 2009 in humor, Tolkien


A Beowulf Tolkien Would Love

It’s been a while since I posted anything even slightly Tolkien-ish. So thanks to my buddy Bob here’s something that’s simply remarkable–Beowulf retold by a modern-day bard, Benjamin Bagby, in Old English.

Opening Lines

Grendel’s Ambush


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Posted by on November 21, 2008 in Tolkien


A New Tolkien Book: The Children of Hurin

Today, I got my (early) birthday present…The Children of Hurin. Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son, Christopher, has done a remarkable job editing and publishing his father’s unfinished (or better said, unpublished) writings. The earliest versions of The Children of Hurin go back about 90 years, to the end of WWI, when Tolkien began writing his most beloved epic, much of which was published posthumously as The Silmarillion. Although a portion of the tale was told in The Silmarillion, this new book is the most complete, readable version. I can’t wait to dig into this story, and the timing couldn’t be any better because I’m currently reading John Garth’s biography, Tolkien and the Great War.


Posted by on April 17, 2007 in Tolkien


"We’re in the same tale still!"

I never read Tolkien as a kid. My sister did though. I remember seeing The Hobbit on her bedroom floor once and noticing the dragon on the cover I asked her about it. She said something to the effect that it was a challenging read that I might be someday worthy of. Needless to say, I put off J.R.R.T until the Fellowship of the Ring hit the theatres. I watched the movie and wast totally gripped. Within a week I got my hands on the original sources. Immediately, my wife, Heidi, and I read through The Lord of the Rings, aloud together. It was a blast! Almost every night, we’d spend an hour or two (sometimes even more!) caught up in the drama, wondering what would happen next.

Our journeys into Middle Earth continued for months. One day, I became big-time convicted that I was more captivated by the drama of Tolkien than the drama of Scripture. In an amazing way, reading Tolkien introduced me to the significance of Biblical Theology. As great as it was (and continues to be) to travel alongside of Frodo throughout Middle Earth, it is earth-shattering to realize that I have a role in the Drama of Scripture. I, too am caught up in a epic drama of God’s Creation, Humanity’s Rebellion, and the Messiah’s Redemption. The story Frodo and Sam found themselves in didn’t begin at Biblo’s one hundred and eleventieth birthday party. It goes way back to Illuvatar’s creation of Arda (earth), the rebellion of Melkor, the arrival of elves and men, the forging of the Silmaril jewels and the wars that ensued. The complexity and unity of the Tolkien’s story helped reveal the amazing story that Scripture describes.

The following quote describes the “Aha!” moment I experienced several years ago, when, like Samwise Gamgee, it dawned on me that I belong to a much larger story than I ever imagined.

‘I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’

‘Yes, that’s so, said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, akind of a sport as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take anyone that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’

‘No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril form the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it—and the Silmaril went on and came to Earendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got—you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the greatest tales never end?’

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004), p. 711-712.


Posted by on January 24, 2006 in biblical theology, quotes, Tolkien


Tolkien links and more

Just added some links to the blog. Check out the NY Times archive on Tolkien; the articles go all the way back to the first printing of the Hobbit. You can even hear J.R.R. himself reading selections from the LOTR trilogy! Enjoy.


Posted by on February 13, 2005 in Tolkien


What’s a "Eucatastrophe"?

“The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a ‘consolation’ for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, ‘Is it true?’ . . . . [I]n the ‘eucatastrophe’ we see in brief vision that the answer may be greater–-it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world . . . .The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels–peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation [those who write and enjoy fanatasy literature] has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation.

The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true….But this story is supreme;and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men–and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.”–J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, 88-89.


Posted by on January 26, 2005 in Tolkien