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Of Tolkien, Tragedy, and Truth


As a young Tolkienite, I devoured "The Silmarillion." I fell in love with the epic elves therein and mourned their tragic fates. For the most part, I'm not a fan of reading tragedy, but nevertheless Tolkien's style and world drew me in, and eventually the great evil was defeated.


Still, as I grow older, I look back at some of the tragic lives of the characters and....I feel discouraged. Mainly, I am sorry for the elf Maedhros, who after swearing a deadly oath as a fiery youth, quickly comes to regret it and spends his life trying to control and temper its demands. Eventually, it overcomes him and he grows bitter, till at last he is convinced that not even Eru (God) can undo the oath's binding. He at last succeeds in his goal, looks back on his sins, despairs, and commits suicide. And I think the greatest tragedy is this--I believe Eru COULD have lifted his curse. I believe if he'd humbled himself and submitted for help, he could have eventually been restored. But he didn't believe it was possible.


This led me to start looking at other Tolkien characters who epicly failed, and I noticed that the most of them pay for it in death and no (or very little) redemption.


This led me to wonder if Tolkien, while being a devout Catholic, believed in the redemption and life-changing power of Christ as did his friend C. S. Lewis. In the end, I concluded that he did (after reading his very profound "Debate of Finrod and Andreth" in which it is discussed how man and the world could only be saved by God coming into the world directly), but I am a little sad we didn't see more examples of this in his stories.


It is here that I was inspired for my own books. After all, they say "if you want to read a story, write it yourself." And I'm convinced I started writing tales of tragic elves if only to give them happy endings.


I thought of those who had suffered great wrong or done great wrong and wondered what might have happened if they'd lived...what they needed to overcome and who they would have become. The more friends I see who become discouraged and depressed in life, the more need I feel for stories to inspire hope, empathy, and strength. Yes, this is a hint as to the theme of my upcoming series. ;)


Now, there is a danger in Christian fiction in making the change after redemption too simple. As an article I read stated, "Because, as a Christian, I don’t know about you—but just saying a prayer didn’t make every problem, every trauma, every hurt, every wrong in my life miraculously vanish. I didn’t change from some dark, confounded creature into a bright, cheerful princess." Life continues to be difficult, to be full of guilt and fear and pain. But the beautiful thing comes from the hope and value that Christ gives us. The promise that we are more precious than the stars, that we cannot undo His love, and that there is no sin that His Grace cannot cover. And with these promises, we can soldier on.


And I'll write stories that way, because it is my belief that this hope can encourage others.


Endnote: And no, I do not think people should create stories without their worldview or personal convictions, because literally EVERYONE writes according to their worldview, some are just so common we don't notice it. It only gets controversial when: A) someone doesn't agree with it or B) someone finds it poorly presented.

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(c) 2018 H. S. J. Williams