A VERY FEW WORDS ON THE DELAY OF EAGLES
We all want happy endings. In literature, we demand happy endings. Think of the ending of Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Sam trapped on a lava flow on Mount Doom. Frodo thinks it’s all over: “I’m glad you’re here with me, Sam, at the end of all things.”
There should be suspense, but not really. We know Tolkien isn’t going to let our boys die out there. In come the eagles, the cavalry to the rescue, the eleventh-hour reprieve, the “eucatastrophe.” The happy ending.
Not so much in the pagan Viking world. At the end of time, the world-encompassing great snake (think dragon) wiggles free, the dire wolf breaks his chains, and Odin, Thor, and all the gods of Valhalla die. When you grow up in the north country, it’s a pretty grim ball of wax. In the end, Beowulf dies a heroic death, the keening begins, and things look seriously bad for the kingdom.
So where does that leave us?
I love Seamus Heaney’s line that one day “history” will rhyme with “hope,” but it seems to me that history more often places us closer to the Vikings than to Tolkien. Try explaining the eucatasatropohe to Padraig Pearse, Bobby Sands, and countless Irish martyrs.
The west utterly failed Constantine and the City of God. We did not send in the eagles, and we left him and his men to die on their own. Constantine died a heroic death, as did, we suppose, Padraig Pearse, Bobby Sounds and countless Irish martyrs.
But that’s pretty cold comfort.