Like so many other people, the works of J. R. R. Tolkien have stirred me deeply. But it wasn’t the heroism, or the cool monsters, or even the magic that produced the effect when I was a teenager back in the early 70s. It was a deeper magic.
You may recall that Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis wrote about deeper magic in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. When Lucy and Susan ask Aslan how he could come back from the dead he replied that there is a magic incantation that goes back to before the dawn of time. It’s the magic upon which everything else is based. And it is so deep, it can even heal the world. Now that’s some really good magic. And it is that very magic that stirred me when I read Tolkien.
I was given the gift of Tolkien in the darkest period of my life. I was practically an orphan and a ward of the state. I spent time in a foster home, and I hated the eighth grade so much that I took it twice. (That’s what playing hooky will get you.)
But it was during the bleakness that I remembered a passage that someone had read aloud to me from The Lord of the Rings. It was the scene where Merry and Pippin are peering over the edge of a deep well in darkest Moria. They wonder just how deep, so they drop a stone. And far below, when it finally strikes, it awakens something—in that case, a very bad something.
But deep calls to deep, so Psalmist says. And this memory awakened a deep longing in me to read the rest of the story. So I sought out The Hobbit, and later The Lord of the Rings, and I consumed them in great gulps. This was back when most folks hadn’t heard of Tolkien. (Although his cultus had formed, it was still relatively small and obscure.)The deep magic I felt then I still feel today whenever Tolkien is read. Tolkien described the spell in a marvelous talk entitled, On Fairy Stories. The secret he reveals is euchatastrophe, or “…the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous turn (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale)….”
Tolkien was famously dismissive of allegory, but here he reveals that a literary euchatastrophe resembles the real one that really happened in our world. That real eucatastrophe is the Gospel. And the spell that it casts on believers begins in this world with the incarnation and ends in heaven.
I hope my own work in a small way reflects the euchatastrophe of the Gospel. I’m very pleased that the first book in The Weirdling Cycle is coming out at Christmas time. Christ entered our darkness to bring us his light. The Purloined Boy, the first book in a series of four books, begins in a very dark place. I know the place well. I lived in Superbia for years. It was in those days that a small light appeared to me. That’s when my life took a joyous turn. I hope my books will do something like that for my readers.