The Seal Whistle is almost done. I’m wrestling with the main ending scene. Tying loose strings together into one coherent finish. I find that the dramatic end of a story is quite different, can be quite different, from the personal end of the story for the characters. Which is why I wrote the end of A Storm in Tormay the way I did. It ended with what happened to the characters after the ending climactic scene. After, mind you. That’s the way I see stories ending (I’m writing primarily for myself). Not with a bang and a flourish and a crash of cymbals, but with the long, smooth legato of violins and the sun setting as smoothly and serenely as it always does.
Because that’s who I want to be. And how I want to die. Of course.
I have to bring up death in this context. A great deal of the fairytales, the genuine ones, have to do with death and endings and partings. Things changing irrevocably. The adventure over, the marriage begun, the evil vanquished, the wicked stepmother nailed into a barrel and rolled down into the sea (whatever happened to her next?). That’s exactly what Tolkien did at the end of The Return of the King. He was writing about death and dreadfully solemn endings to life. Things fading away with as much serenity as a ship sailing over the horizon from the Grey Havens. Because those things were even more important than the fall of Sauron.
But, in that, there is joy.
Not for the George R. R. Martins and Abercrombies and Patrick Rothfuss minions of the world. Nope. They’ve thought themselves into a box that is defined, described, bordered (up, down, top and sides) by human self. The style is well done–I won’t fault them on that–but the substance runs dry of hope. Which is logical. The human creature cannot find hope in and of himself.
Which is why you cannot will not will never can never find Tolkien’s eucatastrophe in any of their stories. For me, it’s like deliberately painting in black and white and steadfastly ignoring the dazzling panoply of color patiently waiting on the palette. Waiting and never used. Like going about with a blue plastic umbrella always over your head and thinking, this is my sky. This blue plastic curve is my sky, and that’s it.
And refusing to listen to the crash of thunder and the wind and the lightning and the rain and the sunset splashing down in more shades of purple and red and orange you could every find words to describe. All that true sky happening outside and above your umbrella, and you’re still steadfastly muttering “this blue plastic curve two inches above my head is my sky, the sky, the only sky.”
For me, that’s epic fantasy without eucatastrophe. Without joy.
4 thoughts on “Seal Whistle almost done”
That brings tears to my eyes. The ending of LOTR always does, and a lot of other parts of the books, as well
Yes, that ending is amazing. He somehow managed to bring that whole epic right around and wrapped up in Sam’s living room. There’s something incredibly endearing and humble about that.
I must say I much prefer stories that spell out the “They lived happily ever after” in detail. I need to know that the victory won over the bad guys had the desired effect of saving the Shire, and that the hobbits now live in comfort and smoke their pipes again. Because there’s no point in beating Sauron if the Shire has been destroyed (or is under the rule of Saruman).
A satisfying story needs to complete the cycle – in Joseph Campbell’s terms, the hero needs to return from his journey, or the story isn’t finished. I find that’s one thing that Lewis does really well in Narnia – he really gives you the party at the end, every time. And J. K. Rowling with the very last scene of the last book. Which is one of the reasons I love those stories.
Yeah. The Shire must go on. Or at least up the waterfall and to the new Narnia. Otherwise…what’s the point?