My essay for Imaginative Conservative this week focuses on Tolkien’s driving force of providence behind his plot lines.
While I feel Pippin’s pain, I have confidence, because like the omniscient one, I know how Lord of the Rings ends. I can see that Pippin and Merry’s capture was no mistake. Their ordeal brings them to Fangorn to meet Treebeard who brings about the downfall of Isengard. All Middle Earth’s a stage and all the men and hobbits merely players. Pippin too had his part to play. There is a greater mind at work. As Gandalf observers, “Bilbo was meant to find the ring,” and Frodo was meant to inherit it. Boromir was meant to attempt to take the ring, and Gollum was spared for some greater reason that could not be seen. Within J.R.R. Tolkien’s complicated plot line, a more subtle and profound providence strums, and that plot line of providence gives the reader confidence, until at the climax of the story the unexpected twist of the plot turns tragedy into triumph.
In his essay on fairy tales Tolkien writes, “The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’… is a sudden and miraculous grace…. It can give to child or man who hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality…. In such stories 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 story, and lets a gleam come through.”
Go here for the full essay.
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