I’m finally done my Tolkien Monroe project. My project ended up significantly narrower than my original concept. Originally, I was going to write a paper about how Tolkien’s ideas that he presents in “On Fairy-Stories” manifest themselves in his fictional works. As I started to read the secondary literature, however, I realized that that was a book-length project that I could not hope to adequately cover this summer. So, I ended up writing on one small facet of Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories.”
In my final essay, I consider the idea of the “happy ending” as Tolkien presents it in “On Fairy-Stories.” I consider the importance of having a happy ending, and the way that Tolkien structures happy endings in his fictional works, namely The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. In my readings of these works, I focus on how Tolkien mediates his happy endings. He presents the necessary happy turn in the action, the eucatastrophe, but he does not then allow the story to end. The denouement is always mediated by a continuance of action which gives the end of the written story a bittersweet tone. No Tolkienian happy ending is complete and transcendent. I connect this mediated eucatastrophe with Tolkien’s own religion. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and emphasized the consequences of the Fall in his thinking and writing. He saw human life as unable to transcend its Fallen nature and thus unable to reach a perfect happy ending. He communicates the loss of the postlapsarian state in the mediated happy ending, while communicating the theological mystery of grace in the presence of the happy ending whatsoever. Tolkien’s faith informed his fiction.