eucatastrophe

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

English author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who wrote books like The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955), as a British Army officer in 1916. Tolkien coined the word eucatastrophe in a 1944 letter.

eu- +‎ catastrophe, coined in a 1944 letter by English author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973):[1] see quotation.

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Noun[edit]

eucatastrophe (plural eucatastrophes)

  1. (literature) A catastrophe (dramatic event leading to plot resolution) that results in the protagonist's well-being. [from 1944]
    • [1944 November 7, J[ohn] R[onald] R[euel] Tolkien, “88. From a Letter to Christopher Tolkien[,] 28 October 1944 (FS 58)”, in Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien, editors, Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, London: George Allen & Unwin, published 1981, →ISBN; The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin paperback edition, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, →ISBN, page 100:
      But at the story of the little boy (which is a fully attested fact of course) with its apparent sad ending and then its sudden unhoped-for happy ending, I was deeply moved and had that peculiar emotion we all have – though not often. [] For 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).]
    • 1988, Alzina Stone Dale, “Prologue: J. Alfred Prufrock among the Prophets”, in T. S. Eliot: The Philosopher Poet (The Wheaton Literary Series), Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw, →ISBN; T. S. Eliot: The Philsopher-Poet, Authors Guild Backprint.com edition, Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, 2004, →ISBN, page 5:
      The "problem" of T[homas] S[tearns] Eliot comes partly from our post-Christian sense of a world where Tolkien's eucatastrophes never happen, and partly from the way we write biography.
    • 2015, John J. Davenport, quoting Eleanor Helms, “The Virtues of Ambivalence: Wholeheartedness as Existential Telos and the Unwillable Completion of Narravives”, in John Lippitt and Patrick Stokes, editors, Narrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, →ISBN, page 159:
      Literary unity demands that once a eucatastrophe happens it must be accepted as part of the story rather than as an arbitrary whim of the author.

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