Posts tagged ‘Tolkien’

November 24, 2018

the Mountains rang with it

This is the ending to J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle.” I love this story of how a modest lifetime is made to be of great worth: “for many it is the best introduction to the Mountains.” It is also noteworthy that Tolkien fills the highest heights of heaven with ringing laughter (in an ending that echoes Chesterton’s ideas about God and laughter).

“It is proving very useful indeed,” said the Second Voice. “As a holiday, and a refreshment. It is splendid for convalescence; and not only for that, for many it is the best introduction to the Mountains. It works wonders in some cases. I am sending more and more there. They seldom have to come back.”

“No, that is so,” said the First Voice. “I think we shall have to give the region a name. What do you propose?”

“The Porter settled that some time ago,” said the Second Voice. “Train for Niggle’s Parish in the bay: he has shouted that for a long while now. Niggle’s Parish. I sent a message to both of them to tell them.”

“What did they say?”

“They both laughed. Laughed—the Mountains rang with it!”

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February 10, 2018

a wise educator always trades in Beauty and Goodness before Truth

Remarkable interview with Dr. Timothy Patitsas:

You can’t consider yourself educated, unless you at least once have longed to have been born wholly other culturally—to have been born in another time, language, country, whatever. For many people, it’s reading the Tolkien epics that first give them that deep, erotic longing for a transcendent cultural otherness.

And thus Tolkien’s current significance for education, for modern Civilization, is deep. Eros is the beginning of human moral life, and Beauty in art and literature are oftentimes more effective than religion in awakening eros within us. Religion can just seem like God coming down at us, scolding us, telling us to stay where we are, but just do better. But real Religion must awaken the movement in the other direction, to make us come out of our- selves and move towards him, fall in love with him. It’s about beginning an adventure, becoming a pilgrim, an exile, a lover.

…Yes, and that was actually my point in bringing up Tolkien, and the importance of falling in love with other cultures and civilizations, or with something beautiful that can make us forget ourselves. Our lives only begin, our moral struggle only commences, once we’ve loved something enough to want to leave ourselves behind. That can be painful—but ideally it’s never worse than bittersweet.

Incidentally, a wise educator always trades in Beauty and Goodness, before Truth.

…The only real cure for bad eros is good eros, and plenty of it.

…Many times, starting with goodness—with the attempt to be good and to stop sinning—is a recipe for moral disaster, as we shall see.

…However often we fall, we cannot attack pride directly as our first priority. Rather, we return to the front lines: our simple devotion to Christ, our fasting, our chastity, and the sacred beauty our brothers, sisters, enemies, and all of creation. To contemplate this goodness, to be illumined, we must give alms. We are then illumined in both senses—we contemplate correctly, and our light “shines before men.”

…We will then look back upon that first vision of that person’s beauty, as the moment when our lives started, when we “came to be” out of a kind of nothing. We will know for ourselves what it means to be created ex nihilo, and we will weep.

…We talked about war in general, and trauma, as an anti-liturgy. Whereas liturgy knits our individual character together and integrates us; whereas liturgy promotes communion and deepens our connection to others and God and the whole of nature; and whereas liturgy teaches us the profound truth of who God really is, and thus who we are and who the world is—well, war and trauma reverse all this. They unravel our character by breaking our connection to beauty; drive us from close communion with others so that we don’t have the opportunity to be good; and teach us lies about God, others, the world, and ourselves.

The healing of the soul begins with noticing God’s many theophanies, and with falling in love with them. In other words, it begins with Beauty. In renewing our love for authentic Beauty, we slowly are cleansed of the ugly images of trauma and the false images of worldly pleasures. Our character, unraveled by what we experienced, begins to be knit together, to become whole again. We begin to be “created” again.

…First, the Beautiful: Shay says we begin when we take the trauma victim out of the ugly circumstances inciting the trauma. We bring them to good patterns of life, to friendships, to self-care. All of this represents the return of Beauty to the life. Good Patterns—in the Christopher Alexander sense of Patterns in Architecture, but applicable to patterns of action and self-care and relating.

…Shay knew that The Iliad was the crucial text; so did Simone Weil. I love the way that it combines beauty and goodness, art with empathy. In it, in its profound hearing, brother soldiers came together for a week or so, to listen to a beauty that made them forget themselves, in a safe context of hospitality and unity. Within that Beauty was Goodness, the empathic love. As we said last time, there are no enemies in The Iliad, only noble soldiers, trapped in war on both sides. Before such a monument of Beauty and Empathy, we can safely weep, practicing empathy for others—and by extension for ourselves.

You know, Truth isn’t really a “third moment.” If you have Beauty and Goodness, Truth is right there, inside them both. That weeping in the hearing of The Iliad is one of the moments that you are most alive—most true.

…All kinds of things are going on invisibly within us when we pray, though outwardly nothing has changed and we feel only the same. Although you mean everything to God, and He welcomes your urgent cries, sometimes He may be arranging things with your long-term interest in mind. And in the meantime, when you are being crucified by the trauma flashbacks, know that you are with God; you are his icon. But your strength is also limited, and He will descend.

January 6, 2018

God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves

The lecture and essay “On Fairy Stories” by J.R.R. Tolkien is incredibly rich. I’ve just reread it and am only realizing this time how little I understand it. I’ve posted several portions of it in past years, but here is a comprehensive set of passages that I wish to reflect upon more when I can.

For it is man who is, in contrast to fairies, supernatural (and often of diminutive stature); whereas they are natural, far more natural than he. Such is their doom. The road to fairyland is not the road to Heaven; nor even to Hell, I believe, though some have held that it may lead thither indirectly by the Devil’s tithe.

…Fairy-stories are not in normal English usage stories about fairies or elves, but stories about Fairy, that is Faerie, the realm or state in which fairies have their being. Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.

Stories that are actually concerned primarily with “fairies,” that is with creatures that might also in modern English be called “elves,” are relatively rare, and as a rule not very interesting. Most good “fairy-stories” are about the adventures of men in the Perilous Realm or upon its shadowy marches. Naturally so; for if elves are true, and really exist independently of our tales about them, then this also is certainly true: elves are not primarily concerned with us, nor we with them. Our fates are sundered, and our paths seldom meet. Even upon the borders of Faërie we encounter them only at some chance crossing of the ways.

…A real dream may indeed sometimes be a fairy-story of almost elvish ease and skill— while it is being dreamed. But if a waking writer tells you that his tale is only a thing imagined in his sleep, he cheats deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faerie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder. It is often reported of fairies (truly or lyingly, I do not know) that they are workers of illusion, that they are cheaters of men by “fantasy”; but that is quite another matter. That is their affair. Such trickeries happen, at any rate, inside tales in which the fairies are not themselves illusions; behind the fantasy real wills and powers exist, independent of the minds and purposes of men.

…It is precisely the colouring, the atmosphere, the unclassifiable individual details of a story, and above all the general purport that informs with life the undissected bones of the plot, that really count.

…It is plain enough that fairy-stories (in wider or in narrower sense) are very ancient indeed. Related things appear in very early records; and they are found universally, wherever there is language. We are therefore obviously confronted with a variant of the problem that the archaeologist encounters, or the comparative philologist: with the debate between independent evolution (or rather invention) of the similar; inheritance from a common ancestry; and diffusion at various times from one or more centres. Most debates depend on an attempt (by one or both sides) at over-simplification; and I do not suppose that this debate is an exception. The history of fairy-stories is probably more complex than the physical history of the human race, and as complex as the history of human language.

…But how powerful, how stimulating to the very faculty that produced it, was the invention of the adjective: no spell or incantation in Faerie is more potent. And that is not surprising: such incantations might indeed be said to be only another view of adjectives, a part of speech in a mythical grammar. The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world external to our minds awakes. It does not follow that we shall use that power well upon any plane. We may put a deadly green upon a man’s face and produce a horror; we may make the rare and terrible blue moon to shine; or we may cause woods to spring with silver leaves and rams to wear fleeces of gold, and put hot fire into the belly of the cold worm. But in such “fantasy,” as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator.

…Even fairy-stories as a whole have three faces: the Mystical towards the Supernatural; the Magical towards Nature; and the Mirror of scorn and pity towards Man. The essential face of Faerie is the middle one, the Magical. But the degree in which the others appear (if at all) is variable, and may be decided by the individual story-teller. The Magical, the fairy-story, may be used as a Mirour de l’Omme; and it may (but not so easily) be made a vehicle of Mystery. This at least is what George Mac-Donald attempted, achieving stories of power and beauty when he succeeded, as in The Golden Key (which he called a fairy-tale); and even when he partly failed, as in Lilith (which he called a romance).

…But the land of Merlin and Arthur was better than these, and best of all the nameless North of Sigurd of the Völsungs, and the prince of all dragons. Such lands were pre-eminently desirable. I never imagined that the dragon was of the same order as the horse. And that was not solely because I saw horses daily, but never even the footprint of a worm. The dragon had the trade-mark Of Faerie written plain upon him. In whatever world he had his being it was an Other-world. Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie. I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighbourhood, intruding into my relatively safe world, in which it was, for instance, possible to read stories in peace of mind, free from fear. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever cost of peril. The dweller in the quiet and fertile plains may hear of the tormented hills and the unharvested sea and long for them in his heart. For the heart is hard though the body be soft.

…Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.

…Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans. Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey: that journey upon which it is certainly not better to travel hopefully than to arrive, though we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive. But it is one of the lessons of fairy-stories (if we can speak of the lessons of things that do not lecture) that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom.

…But fairy-stories offer also, in a peculiar degree or mode, these things: Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, Consolation, all things of which children have, as a rule, less need than older people. Most of them are nowadays very commonly considered to be bad for anybody.

…Now “Faërian Drama”—those plays which according to abundant records the elves have often presented to men—can produce Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism. As a result their usual effect (upon a man) is to go beyond Secondary Belief. If you are present at a Faërian drama you yourself are, or think that you are, bodily inside its Secondary World. The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it. But in Faërian drama you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp. To experience directly a Secondary World: the potion is too strong, and you give to it Primary Belief, however marvellous the events. You are deluded— whether that is the intention of the elves (always or at any time) is another question. They at any rate are not themselves deluded. This is for them a form of Art, and distinct from Wizardry or Magic, properly so called. They do not live in it, though they can, perhaps, afford to spend more time at it than human artists can. The Primary World, Reality, of elves and men is the same, if differently valued and perceived.

…Art is the human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief. Art of the same sort, if more skilled and effortless, the elves can also use, or so the reports seem to show; but the more potent and specially elvish craft I will, for lack of a less debatable word, call Enchantment. Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. Magic produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practised, fay or mortal, it remains distinct from the other two; it is not an art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.

To the elvish craft, Enchantment, Fantasy aspires, and when it is successful of all forms of human art most nearly approaches. At the heart of many man-made stories of the elves lies, open or concealed, pure or alloyed, the desire for a living, realized sub-creative art, which (however much it may outwardly resemble it) is inwardly wholly different from the greed for self-centred power which is the mark of the mere Magician.

…Dear Sir, I said—Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons—’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.

Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.

…For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it. So upon logic was founded the nonsense that displays itself in the tales and rhymes of Lewis Carroll. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen.

Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors’ own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.

…We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity—from possessiveness. Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention, perceiving their likeness and unlikeness: that they are faces, and yet unique faces. This triteness is really the penalty of “appropriation”: the things that are trite, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.

Of course, fairy-stories are not the only means of recovery, or prophylactic against loss. Humility is enough. And there is (especially for the humble) Mooreeffoc, or Chestertonian Fantasy. Mooreeffoc is a fantastic word, but it could be seen written up in every town in this land. It is Coffee-room, viewed from the inside through a glass door, as it was seen by Dickens on a dark London day; and it was used by Chesterton to denote the queerness of things that have become trite, when they are seen suddenly from a new angle. That kind of “fantasy” most people would allow to be wholesome enough; and it can never lack for material. But it has, I think, only a limited power; for the reason that recovery of freshness of vision is its only virtue. The word Mooreeffoc may cause you suddenly to realize that England is an utterly alien land, lost either in some remote past age glimpsed by history, or in some strange dim future to be reached only by a time-machine; to see the amazing oddity and interest of its inhabitants and their customs and feeding-habits; but it cannot do more than that: act as a time-telescope focused on one spot. Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you.

…There are profounder wishes: such as the desire to converse with other living things. On this desire, as ancient as the Fall, is largely founded the talking of beasts and creatures in fairy-tales, and especially the magical understanding of their proper speech. This is the root, and not the “confusion” attributed to the minds of men of the unrecorded past, an alleged “absence of the sense of separation of ourselves from beasts.” A vivid sense of that separation is very ancient; but also a sense that it was a severance: a strange fate and a guilt lies on us. Other creatures are like other realms with which Man has broken off relations, and sees now only from the outside at a distance, being at war with them, or on the terms of an uneasy armistice. There are a few men who are privileged to travel abroad a little; others must be content with travellers’ tales.

…And the point of the story lies not in thinking frogs possible mates, but in the necessity of keeping promises (even those with intolerable consequences) that, together with observing prohibitions, runs through all Fairyland. This is one of the notes of the horns of Elfland, and not a dim note.

…Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness. But our stories cannot be expected always to rise above our common level. They often do. Few lessons are taught more clearly in them than the burden of that kind of immortality, or rather endless serial living, to which the “fugitive” would fly. For the fairy-story is specially apt to teach such things, of old and still today. Death is the theme that most inspired George MacDonald.

…The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

…It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

…I was keenly alive to the beauty of “Real things,” but it seemed to me quibbling to confuse this with the wonder of “Other things.” I was eager to study Nature, actually more eager than I was to read most fairy- stories; but I did not want to be quibbled into Science and cheated out of Faerie by people who seemed to assume that by some kind of original sin I should prefer fairy-tales, but according to some kind of new religion I ought to be induced to like science. Nature is no doubt a life-study, or a study for eternity (for those so gifted); but there is a part of man which is not “Nature,” and which therefore is not obliged to study it, and is, in fact, wholly unsatisfied by it.

January 4, 2018

small wonder that spell means both

Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.

From “On Fairy-Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Note (from Online Etymology Dictionary) in Old English “spell” meant: “story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command.” The meaning of “a set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm” was first recorded in the 1570s. Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore: “This later meaning of ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will—unlike charms for healing, protection, etc.” Also note that our word “gospel” comes from the Old English “godspel” which is literally “good spell” (from god “good” + spel “story, message”).

January 3, 2018

when we are enchanted

It is man who is, in contrast to fairies, supernatural (and often of diminutive stature); whereas they are natural, far more natural than he. Such is their doom.

…Fairy-stories are not in normal English usage stories about fairies or elves, but stories about …the realm or state in which fairies have their being. Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.

…Most good “fairy-stories” are about the adventures of men in the Perilous Realm or upon its shadowy marches. Naturally so; for if elves are true, and really exist independently of our tales about them, then this also is certainly true: elves are not primarily concerned with us, nor we with them.

Happy birthday, Professor Tolkien! Quote taken from “On Fairy Stories.”

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March 5, 2017

A Letter to Lupin and Tonks (and Their Reply)

Nessa Hake

If they were alive this is
what I’d write to them:

3-2-17
Dear Lupin and Tonks,

Wotcher! My name is Nessa Ann Hake. I have a little eight-year-old brother, and my mother is pregnant! I am almost thirteen. Harriet is a family cat that I practically own because we have a bond. She sleeps with me. St. John Chrysostom is the Orthodox Church my family goes to. My whole family works or goes to Logos Academy which is an awesome muggle school. (I think some of the staff are magical though. 😊)

My aunts (my age), my cousin and me all have read books about Harry Potter, and you are in them. I really love the books and you. Please don’t take this wrong because I know you’re humble. But, I just had some questions and would like to get to know you some more.

Here are some of my questions: What was it like fighting Lord Voldemort? What was your childhood like? How do you feel, overall, about life now in these past couple of years? What was one of your worst and best days in your life?

Some of these questions might be hard or uncomfortable for you to answer. You don’t have to, but I really would like to know.

How and when did you start falling in love? How did you tell each other? What was your different stages of love like? When Dumbledore died, what did you feel like? (I felt like it was the end of the world until, I found out you loved each other in the hospital wing.) How do you feel about your friends like Harry, the Weasleys, Dumbledore, Moody, Kingsley, and Sirius?

How many kids do you have now? What do your normal days look like? Does Harry visit often? How is everyone? Could you please give an overall of your life and feelings?

I love you! It would be nice to either meet you or get a reply.

From,

Nessa Hake

 

[And here is their reply to be delivered to our home shortly by the U.S. Postal Service.]

Dictated from a Small and Treasured Double-Portrait
On a Wall of the Potter Home
London, UK

March 5, 2017

Dear Nessa,

Ginny just read your letter to Tonks and I, and now she is kindly writing down our response as we dictate it to her. We were very glad to learn about you and how much you love our story. Of course, we are only the picture-memory of ourselves, but our real selves heard your letter while you were writing it. Our real selves, on the other side of death’s veil, know about the lives and thoughts of everyone who loves their stories. However, neither we, the picture-memories of ourselves, or our real selves on the other side of death could answer your kind questions about what would have happened if we had lived.

We did enjoy hearing your questions about our future lives if we had survived the Battle of Hogwarts, and we love to imagine with you what might have happened. At least, we, our picture-memory selves, love to imagine those future lives with you. We’re not sure what our real selves on the other side of death love to imagine.

Now we hang on the wall of Ginny’s study corner, beside her desk. We were painted from memory by Harry and given as a gift to Ginny on their tenth wedding anniversary. We are a very small painting and not a very good one, but we were made from living memory and filled with love. Teddy also has a painting of us made by Ginny several years earlier. These are the only two paintings that we have to travel between.

You asked how many children we would have if we had lived. Well, Tonks wanted lots of children, and she probably would have gotten her way in the end if we had survived the Battle of Hogwarts. She was always the crazy one of us two. I was afraid to even fall in love, and having just one child terrified me at times. You have to remember that I spent most of my life and energy as a young man just trying not to let my “little problem” cause the death of anyone that I loved. I saw my place in the world as someone who was watching it from the outside (in a way) and trying not to let myself forget that if I became careless or lazy I could end up killing someone whom I dearly loved. I was ruled by fear and loneliness. But Tonks helped to start changing all of that for me. She helped me to learn about some kinds of courage that I had not even known I needed to learn about before I began to love her.

You also asked our imaginary future selves how often Harry comes to visit us. Well, after the Battle of Hogwarts, when Harry and Ginny married, Harry probably would not have been able to visit Tonks and I as often as we would have wanted him to visit. If I had lived longer, I would have been the closest person to a father that Harry still had alive, but Harry was like his own father. Harry would have usually been busy with something that felt more important than visiting old friends, and many times he would have been right. Even now, you notice, we hang by Ginny’s desk, not Harry’s. We were painted by Harry, but our first painting was made by Ginny. We love Harry very much, but he is still learning many things even as a grown man. But you know that Tonks and I were still learning many things when we died. For example, I was still learning the courage that it takes to receive love and to live my life with her. That is maybe one of the saddest things about death. We are still learning who we are in this world, and then we must suddenly be separated from this world.

Well, that is enough about our imaginary future lives if we had been able to keep on living. Of course, we can answer your questions about our past selves much more fully. It would be wonderful to sit and chat with you some time. Chatting with portraits is not as wonderful as chatting with our real selves, but even that will almost certainly be able to happen again one day. You remember how Harry was able to chat with the real Dumbledore at King’s Cross station when Harry was almost killed just before the battle of Hogwarts? There is probably more life than we can image on the other side of the veil between life and death, and this veil does not seem like the kind of thing that will last forever.

We will share a little about our past selves in this letter because you were so kind as to tell us a little about your own wonderful and fascinating life. However, Ginny does need to go very soon, so we cannot let this letter get too much longer.

What was it like fighting Lord Voldemort? Tonks never really let the fact that we were fighting Lord Voldemort be the most important thing about her life. This was one of the many wonderful things about Tonks. She could be sweet and funny even at the most dark and terrible of times. She always seemed to understand that life was greater and more important than death even up to the last moment when death took us in the middle of the battle. This also gave Tonks a kind of bravery. In a way, she loved to fight when she had to because fighting was like running into the wind or running through the waves on a beach. Fighting could be a way of living more than it was a way of killing. Ha! Tonks is making faces at me right now in the portrait and saying that I’m too philosophical. We’ve talked together about you, Nessa, before we wrote this letter, but I am doing most of the dictating to Ginny because it saves time. However, Tonks wants to add that I was one of the greatest heroes in the fight against Lord Voldemort because I had learned so much about darkness in my own hard life. She says that fighting Lord Voldemort was sad, so terribly sad. She wanted so much to see life on the other side of this battle with Lord Voldemort, but she never got that chance. But she says that terrible sadness can train some of the greatest warriors like Dumbledore, Snape, and I. So she laughs and says that she loves sadness. I secretly think she is the philosophical one and that she must love sadness so much that she always keeps it hidden quietly in her heart and all she ever shares with other people is life and joy.

What was your childhood like? Tonks had a very normal childhood (except for her clumsiness which was a little more than normal). She says her childhood felt boring to her sometimes, but I think that her childhood is one of the great gifts that she carries with her and gives her a power that I don’t have. My own childhood was stolen from me by Fenrir Greyback, and in a way the love of Tonks has shown me what I lost and helped me to learn some lessons about life and love that I never had the chance to learn as a child.

How do you feel, overall, about life now in these past couple of years? This question actually seems to be about our future selves, and we can’t really answer it. We would be guessing just like you. It’s fun that your questions actually slip back and forth between our future and our past selves.

What was one of your worst and best days in your life? One of the best days of my life was when Tonks first announced publicly that she loved me. This forced me to deal with my love for her which, for a long time, had terrified me and caused me to run away into the most dangerous and serious work that I could find. Tonks says that one of the best days of her life was when she first caught me watching her without even seeming to notice what I was doing. She didn’t let me know about this until much later, but it is one of the things that made her so sure that I loved her just as much as she loved me (even though I would never admit it to anyone for so long). For both Tonks and I, the worst day of our life was definitely when I left Tonks after learning that we were having a child. I had been afraid all my life of hurting someone whom I loved, and becoming a father made me so afraid that I had just passed on all of my own fears to another person. I couldn’t face this, not even with the help of Tonks, but Harry was a help to me that time. He knew something about what it meant to have no father.

How and when did you start falling in love? How did you tell each other? What was your different stages of love like? Our last answer talks a little about this, and this is a topic we could say way too much about because once we start, the stories just keep going. I think that I started falling in love with Tonks first. I used to find myself thinking about her after we had been working together on assignments for the Order of the Phoenix. Everyone in the order respected her teacher Mad Eye Moody, and so they treated Tonks well. However, I think that everyone was also a little annoyed by how clumsy this young auror could be. We were living a dangerous existence, and a clumsy mistake could easily mean that someone would die. But I couldn’t help noticing that everyone always forgave Tonks and that their trust in her continued to grow each day. She was so generous and humble while at the same time having a kind of bravery that was not like the kind of bravery that I knew about. Fear didn’t seem to exist in her world. She was just always modest, hard-working, and full of fun no matter what we were doing: cooking dinner at 12 Grimmauld Place or dueling with Death Eaters. She says that she loved me from the first time that she saw me but only started to notice what she was feeling after she saw that I was falling in love with her. She says that one of the things she loved about me was that I still obviously had so much to learn about falling in love.

When Dumbledore died, what did you feel like? In our own ways, we each felt a little like you did. We felt that the world had ended in some way. Tonks says that she immediately felt that we would all be doomed to die in our fight against Voldemort but that this wasn’t what really mattered to her. Everyone who she admired most had loved Dumbledore so much. She always suspected that, even though Dumbledore held more sadness in his heart than any of her other great teachers and friends, his mischievous smile came from some place deeper than all that sadness. His smile seemed like an invincible charm and a promise of victory even at the darkest moments. She gave up hope of victory when Dumbledore died, but that didn’t matter compared to her sadness at the loss of his smile. She did not despair herself in any deep way, but she felt that one of the brightest signs of life had gone out of the world. She didn’t know Dumbledore in the same way that I did. I was probably more tempted to despair. Neither of us gave up caring or fighting after Dumbledore died, but we shared a sadness at the loss of everything he had been for us and for so many of our friends.

How do you feel about your friends like Harry, the Weasleys, Dumbledore, Moody, Kingsley, and Sirius? I guess that some of our earlier answers have hinted at how we feel about Harry, Moody, Dumbledore and other dear friends. We each loved them in different ways, and it was wonderful to learn a little more about each of our friends when we began to fall in love with each other. We could share more about each one of them, but we really do need to end this letter now.

We do want to add that you are a wonderful girl, and we are so glad to be loved by you, Nessa. Keep on enjoying the secretly magical people at your school, your cat, your little brother, and your family’s new baby on the way. We’re glad to have been introduced to them all by you. Tonks likes to tease me for reading some muggle philosophy and theology now and then, but I couldn’t help noticing that your letter understood how we were real. You were sad that we had died but you were not wishing that we were real. Maybe you will find our portrait someday. That would be fun, but, if not, we are sure that we will all find something even better. This is something that we all enjoy each day on this earth: life together. We have lost that for now. However, we think that Dumbledore’s smile is a sign that life comes from a deeper place than pain and death, and we hope that somehow life together can be restored. In that life, our story will be with you, we are sure.

Love,

Tonks and Lupin

P.S. Here is a wonderful part of another story about life that Lupin once read by a great muggle author who you probably know about, too. This part of the story reminds us of the way that we are able to speak with each other, even though others cannot see the world that we share:

Celeborn and Galadriel … had journeyed thus far by the west-ways, for they had much to speak of with Elrond and with Gandalf, and here they lingered still in converse with their friends. Often long after the hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling ages that were gone and all their joys and labours in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come. If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands.

November 4, 2015

at its gentlest and most human

We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.

From The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

March 19, 2015

I understand poor Denethor a little better

Well, well, now at any rate I understand poor Denethor a little better.

Pippin in Tolkien’s Return of the King (reflecting to himself as he faces death and finds that he to is bitter at the prospect of dying apart from Merry).

March 17, 2015

like a small star down on the dusky fields

At that moment he caught a flash of white and silver coming from the North, like a small star down on the dusky fields.

This description of Gandalf’s arrival on the battle field of Pelennor (from Tolkien’s Return of the King) seems to hint at Gandalf’s true identity and very subtly parallel this passage from Lewis.

March 17, 2015

wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song

He is bold, more bold than many deem; for in these days men are slow to believe a captain can be wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song, as he is, and yet a man of hardihood and swift judgement in the field.

Beregond on Faramir from Tolkien’s Return of the King.

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