“Eucatasrophe” is a term coined by Tolkien to describe a certain necessary element in all the best fairy stories. If a catastrophe is a sudden and unexpected turn for the worst, then a eucatastrophe is a similarly unforeseen sudden joyous turn. When it seems that all is dying and would leave the world to mourn, the sun rises, and all that was sad comes undone. It doesn’t always mean the ending is unequivocally happy (just look at Tolkien’s own great fairy story), but the evil doesn’t win. The Shadow is eclipsed by light and laughter. And so it must be for this story, which is based on what is, perhaps, the eucatastrophe of all of history.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.
Lewis has a way of conveying both sorrow and joy in surprisingly powerful ways (it’s not for naught that the first time I ever cried for joy came from one of these books). But of course, this isn’t the end of the story. Again, I’m tempted to quote the whole scene where the girls discover that Aslan is alive again, but then of course I’d end up typing the whole thing. It’s all wonderful! So I’ll just settle for this part:
“Oh, children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!” He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hilltop he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.
There you have it: Aslan’s not just dancing on his grave, he’s playing and having the most epic romp ever at the place he was executed the night before. What a way to show you’ve conquered death! I suppose I could talk about how the Deep Magic relates to the Law or the way that Susan and Lucy simultaneously act as Peter & John and Mary Magdalene, but I honestly don’t care right now. It’s just such a joy to read, and I totally forgot how amazing this book was. Perhaps I’ve been more prone to be distracted by the flaws in this particular book (because it does have plenty of flaws), but taking my time on each chapter like this has helped me to focus on all of the different aspects of the book, good and bad.
We’re getting to the final chapters now. Aslan is alive again, and there really isn’t much left to overcome – certainly nothing that they can’t do with Him on their side. He’s conquered death, for crying out loud, the Witch certainly won’t pose a problem. It’s just a matter of tying up loose ends.