Happily Ever After

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means. — Oscar Wilde; The Importance of Being Earnest

I thought it fitting, here at the end of all things… to talk about endings. Particularly happily-ever-after type endings, which are a pretty regular occurrence in the fantasy genre. I know there are lots of fantasy stories that don’t end happily, but the vast majority of the ones I have read all do end happily… for the majority of the characters.

I know many people enjoy a dark or unhappy ending to their stories from time to time. I even have some friends who prefer to read or watch stories that don’t end happily, because they feel that the story more accurately represents reality, and the unhappy or not-quite-perfect ending satisfies their need to be able to identify with the characters and know that it’s okay if their own lives or circumstances aren’t working out quite perfectly. And I get that. I don’t need every single thing to wrap up perfectly at the end of every story. A few loose threads that can lead my imagination on in the story long after I finish the last line can be extremely fun and quite satisfying.

However, the reason that I, in particular, am drawn to the happier endings of most fantasy is not because I want to deny or escape the existence of unhappy endings in real life. It is simply that I take a longer view. As a Christian, I know that God is going to win. That, in fact, he already has won. That he started out winning and though the struggle in our world and behind the scenes in the spiritual realm is referred to as a “battle” and a “struggle” throughout Scriptures, that only reflects the difficulties WE face… because the outcome was never in question. God wins, and then there is a new Heaven and a New Earth where all who believe in Jesus’ name will live forever and there will be no more crying or sadness or suffering or pain or death.

And the happy endings of numerous fantasy books remind me of that. They point, not at the end of my particular daily struggle, but to the ultimate end that Christians can look forward to.

Just wanted to share a few snippets from some of my favorite fantasy endings, from authors who have penned stories where the last lines just make my heart soar:

And as the Wise Emrys spoke, she saw that the island of bare, blasted rock miraculously changed. All around her, like a sunstruck emerald aflame in a silver setting, was a land green and blooming with the first blush of summer — the fairest of Britain’s seven isles, surrounded by a gleaming silver sea. It was Avalon as it had been once long ago… and would be again. — Stephen R. Lawhead, Avalon.

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. — C.S. Lewis; The Last Battle

 

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The gray rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Pippin: What, Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well… that isn’t so bad.

Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t.
–J.R.R. Tolkien; Return of the King; movie quote – though it is based on a quote from the very end of the book

How about you? What kind of endings do you like best? Do you have a favorite final line from a book or movie that just gives you a supreme feeling of satisfaction over a story that has concluded well? Please share in the comments!

 

~ jenelle

5 Comments

DJ Edwardson

Ah, you stole mine. The quote from The Last Battle to me is the happiest ending of all because, like you said, it most closely mirrors the true happy ending we all look forward to one day, where evil is conquered once and for all and death and suffering are no more.

On a related note, have you read Tolkien’s essay, “On Fairy Stories”? In it he coins the word “euchatasrophe” to describe that moment in a story where something unexpected and disastrous happens, but it turns out for good. So for Lord of the Rings it is Gollum seizing the ring and falling into the fire, destroying what Frodo on his own power could not.

Tolkien compares it to the ultimate, divine euchatastrophe of Jesus’ death on the cross, that terrible event which turns out to be the greatest event of all. It’s a wonderful way of looking at stories and connecting them to the larger spiritual realities present in our world. Just when it seems like all the pain and rottenness and sin will triumph and have their way, God sweeps in and turns the evil into good. As Joseph said to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”

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madelinejrose

I too love happy endings, particularly when most of the characters are alive and well. :) But I can also understand how some would like a more realistic ending.
I really love the ending of Heartless. It’s just so perfectly wrapped up for me and leaves me very satisfied.

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Rawls E. Fantasy

I love that Narnia quote so much! And I agree with what you said at the beginning. It’s for those same reasons that I like an overall happy ending to stories. Narnia’s was a special one for me back when I first read it.

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Deborah O'Carroll

YES YES YES YES YES. Happily ever afters all the way! ^_^ I totally agree, and don’t at all understand people who want books to be “realistic” and sad-endinged. It’s fiction, people! If I want realism/sadness, I’ll just consult everyday-life, thankyouverymuch. :P Great quotes and I love this post! :)

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