Repeating themes of creation, struggle, death and rebirth run through the greatest literature across all cultures. It seems ironic then, that many of our cleverest minds, having “got the picture”, turn to a condensed version or even, in the case of The Fellowship of the Ring, half a short poem to summarise the plot.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
(From “All that is gold does not glitter” by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Tolkien’s claim that myths (or universal stories) are fragments of the true light that is with God, stirred C.S. Lewis out of his agnosticism. He was able to understand that the Christian story condenses something heavenly, vast, challenging and myth like into an earthly, historical event but one in which humiliation leads to glory. The crownless becomes King. This idea of clouds of myth condensing may in turn help us to understand that there is, after all, much more than a tenuous connection between those Old and New Testament readings that we hear in church. As Lewis writes “the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid….a man in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee.” *
*from “Is Theology Poetry?” (The Weight of Glory)