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Epic

November 10, 2016

Fair warning: I love a good fantasy epic novel and my inner geek took over the writing of this article. To understand the opening paragraphs I recommend you read all of JRR Tolkien’s books. Start with the Silmarillion (The Ainulindale) and don’t stop until Sam sits down with little Elanor on his lap. I realize that one thousand pages of background reading is a lot for a single blog article so I’ll tell you that almost all the Tolkien references come from the stories contained in the Silmarillion.

The world created in JRR Tolkien’s imagination includes Middle Earth, elves, hobbits and rings. This world is much greater than that seen by a few roving hobbits. The tales of Arda are an epic saga that begins in the heavens when Iluvatar instructed the Ainur to sing and create. The story of a small hobbit suffering soul crushing agony to carry a heavy burden to the brink of destruction and, in the end, almost fail to complete his task is a powerful story. What makes it truly great is its part in a massive story describing the entrance of evil, the suffering of the world and the sorrowing of all creatures. This fantastic backstory sets the stage for tale of the one ring. Peter Jackson’s elf queen does not compare to the passion of Feanor, the courage of Beren, the audacity of Earendil or the true majesty of Galadriel.

Tolkien’s stories are powerful but lacking. The saga descends from bliss to woe. Every victory is partial and another battle is always on the horizon. As Tolkien himself says, this makes for gripping story telling. “Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale” What is lacking in Mr. Tolkien’s tales is a final victory. Arda becomes lessened, irreparable damage is done and perfection is marred with only a vague hope of a possible return to the glory that once was.

Tolkien’s stories are so powerful because they echo the realities of the human condition. We are living in an epic saga. Our story is unlike any devised by men. What makes our story different from Tolkien’s, and almost every other hero tale, is the entrance of the Creator into our story. Aside from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, I know of no other hero tale where the Creator plays the role of hero. Whether he be man, elf, angel, billionaire, Kryptonian or demi-god, the creature saves the day over and over again.

In our story man is not the hero. The Creator is. He stepped into humanity. He became the second Adam. He journeyed into the heart of evil. He suffered the cruel attacks of the wicked. He endured the shame of the scorn of those He came to save. He bore in His own flesh the wages of sin. He overthrew the dark lord and all his minions. He released the miserable slaves from their bondage. The Creator saved the world.

Our part in the tale is a small one. We do not know what role we play in moving the story towards its great conclusion. Often our part in the tale is an unpleasant one. Though we may find ourselves in the dark places where all seems accursed we know our journey is not from sorrow through sorrow into sorrow. The redeemed pilgrimage through sorrow to a beautiful end. C.S. Lewis described this land of our life as a shadow of the real lands awaiting when life ends. We will one day go “Further in! Further up!”

The hope of eternal bliss is ours because the Creator of the universe stepped into our story. Because He is the great hero of this tale He will undo all the destruction of sin. Tolkien’s heroes could never accomplish this. Always the hero found his world a little less lovely. The bliss of paradise was forsaken for a land under the shadow of evil. The depredations of dragons could not be repaired. The glorious cities were overthrown and fell into ruins. The precious jewels were broken and could not be remade. Moria was lost and filled with horrors. The high elves left Middle Earth and took with them the last glimpses of paradise. Middle Earth was bent and broken beyond recovery.

Because the Creator of our story is the Hero of the tale all the ravages of evil will be repaired. He is the Great King who will return. He who went into the heart of the enemy’s kingdom and conquered the great foe will cast down all the towers of evil. He will cleanse the land of its filth. He will establish a reign of bliss and unending joy. Those days will be days of a story far greater than the epic sagas of any of earth’s tragic heroes. They will be stories of a conquering king, a redeemed people and eternal delight. Paradise is restored! The damage is repaired. Earth is increased. Eternal victory is secured.

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