Have you ever read a story where the main character is moments away from defeat, but nature itself seems to rally behind them and helps them overcome the enemy? Or perhaps God intervenes on the protagonist's behalf? Either way, what's happening is called Eucatastrophe. Eucatastrophe is "the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears." The term was coined in 1944 by none other than J.R.R. Tolkien and comes from a combination of the Greek words eu (good) and katastrofí (destruction). According to Tolkien: "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). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary 'truth' on the second plane (....) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love." Since he coined the term, it's no surprise that the best examples of a Eucatastrophe are from his works. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is almost taken by the Ringwraiths as Glorfindel rides with him to Rivendell. As Glorfindel and Frodo cross the river, the Ringwraiths follow close behind. Before they could reach Frodo, however, the river washes the Ringwraiths away. This is a classic example of a Eucatastrophe.
Other examples of a Eucatastrophe include:
A virus ending the alien invasion- War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
When Menolly is running from Thread and gets picked up by a Dragon rider at the last minute- Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
When Aslan rises from the grave and ends the war- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
At the end of Tangled when Rapunzel's last tear brings Eugene back to life.
Adding a Eucastrophe to your story is a surefire way to bring the reader in and completely mess with their emotions. The only thing I'd caution you about is to make sure the Eucatastrophe fits the situation. Otherwise, have fun with it!
What's your favorite Eucatastrophe? Let us know!
To learn more, visit The Free Dictionary, Eucatastrophe, Oxford Dictionary, Your Dictionary, and Quora. The photo came from The Land of Shadow