Eucatastrophe: Tolkien’s Perfect Word




I first heard this term last Sunday during my pastor’s sermon. J.R.R. Tolkien coined the word. Here is its definition from a Tolkien website:

Eucatastrophe is a neologism coined by Tolkien from Greek ευ- “good” and καταστροφή “destruction”.

And here are Tolkien’s words that describe it:

“I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”

Eucatastrophe. What a powerful word given to us by a beloved writer.

I’m thinking about sorrow and joy on this Good Friday, and on through this holy weekend.

“What it was” © Darla McDavid 2012

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

3 Comments Write a comment

    • Yes. Such great sacrifice. I always take a retreat by myself on Good Friday to read and reflect on what God did for me through Jesus. Amazing, amazing grace. Easter blessings to you, too, Marylin.


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