Books: Eucatastrophe

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A genial man with a large pipe who liked to gather with friends and translate Icelandic sagas, Tolkien bore all this stoically. He worked away at other books (Silmarillion and Akallabeth, tales about the creation and early history of Middle-earth, to be published posthumously). But he did point out that literal-minded folk who object to fairy stories as escapist mistake the wartime escape of the deserter (bad) for the wartime escape of the prisoner (necessary and good). Fairy tales represent the latter, Tolkien continued, and correspond to the primordial human desire—in a world of poverty, injustice and death —for the "consolation of the happy ending." Tolkien even coined a word—Eucatastrophe—for this happy quality.

Eucatastrophe gives the reader "a catch of breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, a piercing glimpse of joy and heart's desire."

The Lord of the Rings is often pokey and perfervid. But it provides a kind of joy, and will do so as long as men read and Hobbits live in holes.

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