Tag Archives: story

“It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And a voice spoke softly behind him: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.

But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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“A true story” by G.K. Chesterton

“To sum up: the sanity of the world was restored and the soul of man offered salvation by something which did indeed satisfy the two warring tendencies of the past, which had never been satisfied in full and most certainly never satisfied together.

Christianity met the mythological search for romance by being a story and the philosophical search for truth by being a true story.”

–G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 2 (San Francisco: St. Ignatius Press, 1925/1987), 2: 380.

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“But the words were not quite the same” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“It was evening, and the stars were glimmering in the eastern sky as they passed the ruined oak and turned and went on down the hill between the hazel-thickets. Sam was silent, deep in his memories.

Presently he became aware that Frodo was singing softly to himself, singing the old-walking song, but the words were not quite the same.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 1028.

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“The very wine of blessedness” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And so the red blood blushing in their faces and their eyes shining with wonder, Frodo and Sam went forward and saw that amidst the clamorous host were set three high-seats built of green turves.

Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars.

On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey. Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind.

‘Well, if this isn’t the crown of all!’ he said. ‘Strider, or I’m still asleep!’

‘Yes, Sam, Strider,’ said Aragorn. ‘It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for us all, but yours has been the darkest road.’

And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, Frodo upon his right and Sam upon his left, he led them to the throne, and setting them upon it, he turned to the men and captains who stood by and spoke, so that his voice rang over all the host, crying: ‘Praise them with great praise!’

And when the glad shout had swelled up and died away again, to Sam’s final and complete satisfaction and pure joy, a minstrel of Gondor stood forth, and knelt, and begged leave to sing.

And behold! he said: ‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’

And when Sam heard that he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: ‘O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!’

And then he wept. And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed.

And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 953-954.

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“Is everything sad going to come untrue?” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent. He remembered that smell: the fragrance of Ithilien.

‘Bless me!’ he mused. ‘How long have I been asleep?’ For the scent had borne him back to the day when he had lit his little fire under the sunny bank; and for the moment all else between was out of waking memory. He stretched and drew a deep breath.

‘Why, what a dream I’ve had!’ he muttered. ‘I am glad to wake!’ He sat up and then he saw that Frodo was lying beside him, and slept peacefully, one hand behind his head, and the other resting upon the coverlet. It was the right hand, and the third finger was missing.

Full memory flooded back, and Sam cried aloud: ‘It wasn’t a dream! Then where are we?’

And a voice spoke softly behind him: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.

But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’ He stopped and he turned towards his master.

‘But how’s Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘Isn’t it a shame about his poor hand? But I hope he’s all right otherwise. He’s had a cruel time.’

‘Yes, I am all right otherwise,’ said Frodo, sitting up and laughing in his turn. ‘I fell asleep again waiting for you, Sam, you sleepy-head. I was awake early this morning, and now it must be nearly noon.’

‘Noon?’ said Sam, trying to calculate. ‘Noon of what day?’

‘The fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire-reckoning. But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’

‘The King?’ said Sam. ‘What king, and who is he?’

‘The King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands,’ said Gandalf; ‘and he has taken back all his ancient realm. He will ride soon to his crowning, but he waits for you.’

‘What shall we wear?’ said Sam; for all he could see was the old and tattered clothes that they had journeyed in, lying folded on the ground beside their beds.

‘The clothes that you wore on your way to Mordor,’ said Gandalf. ‘Even the orc-rags that you bore in the black land, Frodo, shall be preserved. No silks and linens, nor any armour or heraldry could be more honourable.'”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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“Eternal life is the ultimate story” by Douglas Wilson

“All the best stories which have been told or lived out before this are like dreams compared to the real story that we will all eventually wake up into. That story is one that never ends, ‘in which every chapter is better than the one before.’

In other words, heaven is like a story, but one that is better than the best book you have ever read. The hints that Lucy got in the magician’s book, or the hints that you get when you read a really great book or have an especially good dream—those all point to the final book.

All earthly stories end, even when they are so good that you wish they would go on and on for thousands of pages more. But this final story will not end. Every chapter is richer, fuller, and more thrilling than the last. Eternal life is the ultimate story.

Every good story foretells this last one in some way. Every good story that is told here on earth has a kind of shadowy reality, but it always taps into a deeper reality and truth.

J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked if he thought that The Lord of the Rings had actually happened somewhere, at some time. He replied, ‘One hopes.’ Lewis and Tolkien believed that storytelling was much more than just making something up. It was about human writers, as bearers of God’s image, imitating God’s work of creation.

Even though they cannot create physical things in reality, they can still create worlds that resonate with the truth of God’s reality. This is why Lewis said that a good adventure story is truer than a dull history.

The events in the story might not have happened, but it more closely resembles the type of world that God made than a soulless retelling of true events. And when we finally enter heaven we will realize in full how all the best stories were prefiguring that last, greatest story of all…

It is so important for you to devote yourself to reading good stories. Life is too short for bad ones. Learn to read good stories and learn to write good stories too. Practice writing good stories by writing really bad ones, and by showing them to your teachers and parents and friends so they can help you make better stories.

The Christian world needs far more good storytellers than it has. Some of us might be tempted to think that the Christian world needs more theology books instead, but I think that is fundamentally against the spirit of the Bible. The Bible is not a book full of theology and doctrine.

It is a book full of stories, poetry, prophecies, and songs, along with a few doctrinal books. Of course, I am not saying theology and doctrine are unimportant; they are essential. But most of God’s word comes to us in the form of story.

Whether they are the parables of Jesus or the great stories of the Old Testament, like David defeating Goliath, Jehoshaphat conquering with the choir in front of the army, the walls of Jericho falling down, the escape from Egypt and the dividing of the Red Sea—they all remind us to think about the Christian life and our relationship to God as a story. We are supposed to live like we are in one of God’s stories.

This is why I believe that one of the most important things C. S. Lewis did for the Christian world was to bring back the centrality of storytelling. We do not need to feel guilty about loving these stories. We do not need to think, ‘If I were a real Christian I would be reading something more serious instead of these stories.’

Rather, we are supposed to love stories. We are supposed to think in these categories and try out these thought experiments. If you were with King Tirian in The Last Battle, what would you do? If you were sailing on the Dawn Treader, what kind of character would you be?

How would you react in this or that situation? We are continually telling ourselves stories all day long. We convince ourselves that we are a certain kind of character and that our friends and family and other people we meet are other kinds of characters. What kind of story are you telling? Is it true?”

–Douglas Wilson, What I Learned in Narnia (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010), 125-127.

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“This is The Story” by Christopher J.H. Wright

“When we grasp that the whole Bible constitutes the coherent revelation of the mission of God, when we see this as the key that unlocks the driving purposefulness of the whole grand narrative, then we find our whole world view impacted by this vision. As has been well documented, every human worldview is an outworking of some narrative. We live out of the story or stories we believe to be true, the story of stories that ‘tell it like it is,’ we think.

So what does it mean to live out of this story? Here is The Story, the grand universal narrative that stretches from creation to new creation, and accounts for everything in between. This is The Story that tells us where we have come from, how we got to be here, who we are, why the world is in the mess it is, how it can be (and has been) changed, and where we are ultimately going.

And the whole story is predicated on the reality of this God and the mission of this God. He is the originator of the story, the teller of the story, the prime actor in the story, the planner and guide of the story’s plot, the meaning of the story and its ultimate completion. He is its beginning, end and center. It is the story of the mission of God, of this God and no other.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 533.

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