Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Tolkien, in his seminal Essay on Fairy Stories, I recall, writes of how one aspect man's part in Creation is to be a sub-creator, composing works of fiction that are not "lies breathed through silver" as his not-always-like-minded friend Clive Staples Lewis opined ere J.R.R. corrected him, but true works of imagination, rich myths that uplift the human spirit; what more wonderful than thus in our small fashion to reflect the creative act of God, Who in His own secret counsel prepared that all-surpassing mystery whereby the Son of God became the Son of Man, and gave to the world a myth marvellous, marvellous because it is the myth that is true: as we sing at Christmastime, "O little town of Bethlehem... the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight".  

This is the true myth, with its ultimate eucatastrophe, Tolkien's choice of name for the proverbial happy ending of fairy stories (a term too often used in a pejorative or patronizing way, belittling a genre whose fading into childish beguilements betrays a sad loss in our culture of the capacity for wonder and awe, for looking beyond the prosaic) - but in this case, the happy ending is true, and promises no lies or dreams, but a reality greater than what we are pleased to call the real world.

Subcreation!  That's what I was reminded of, when I found for it to-day at Matins its locus classicus, its proof-text in the revealed Scriptures - Genesis ii, 19-20a:
Formatis igitur, Dominus Deus, de humo cunctis animantibus terræ, et universis volatilibus cæli, adduxit ea ad Adam, ut videret quid vocaret ea: omne enim quod vocavit Adam animæ viventis, ipsum est nomen ejus.  Appellavitque Adam nominibus suis cuncta animantia, et universa volatilia cæli, et omnes bestias terræ...

The Lord God having formed, therefore, from the dust of the earth all the animals, and all the birds of the sky, He brought them to Adam ["the man"], that He should see what he should call them: for that which Adam called every one of the living animals, the very same is its name.  And Adam named with their names all the animals, and all the birds of the sky, and all the beasts of the earth...
How utterly amazing, that God should wait upon man to learn from him what the names of all His creatures should be!  Talk about Divine condescension.  Note that this is before the Fall, of course; man walked in friendship with God, and God delighted in man.  But it seems to me, taking Tolkein's part in this, that whatsoever of good that we may make, nay, sub-create in works of poetry or prose, of imagination and invention, is blessed by God Who deigns "to stoop from on high from His throne to gaze down" (cf. Ps 101:20) and is pleased to find our own endeavours, though poor reflections of His own all-Creative Word they be, yet like His Creation, we pray, in His sight "very good" (Genesis i, 31).

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