He would have been 120 years old today, but when he passed in 1973, J.R.R. Tolkien was just getting started. I think he would tell us that Heaven is a far nicer place than earth—or Middle Earth. Of all the quotes I’ve ever collected (aside from Scripture) the one that rang most personal came from him. If you’re an artist or writer, it rings ever truer. Enjoy.
“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 at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable Eucatastrophe. [The Gospels are not artistic in themselves; the Art is here in the story itself, not in the telling. For the Author of the story was not the evangelists. ‘Even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written’, if that story had been fully written down.] The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe [‘Great Happy Ending’] 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, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
“It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. Because 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, “On Fairy Stories”, Epilogue
Happy Birthday, Prof. “Tollers”.