Anna Thayer’s latest non-fiction book, “On Eagles’ Wings: An exploration of Eucatastrophe in Tolkien’s Fantasy”, by Luna Press Publishing, will be launched during Fantasycon 2016, in Scarborough’s Grand Hotel. Anna is well known for her fantasy series ”The Knight of Eldaran”, and if you’ve missed our previous interview with her, you can read it here.
KP: Anna, first of all, can you explain the word ‘eucatastrophe’? It’s not a word you hear every day!
AT: Eucatastrophe is a word coined by Tolkien in his extraordinary essay ‘On Fairy Stories’; the essay is a kind of apologetics for what we now call the fantasy genre, upholding faerie as a redemptive, restorative realm where we can relearn fundamental aspects of our humanity. For Tolkien, this reaches its zenith in moments of divine intervention. This is eucatastrophe – the moment when hope is snatched from the jaws of catastrophe in a miraculous way.
KP: How would you describe your relationship with Tolkien – his impact on you as a writer?
AT: So far as his influence on me goes, Tolkien (and fellow Inkling CS Lewis) have a lot to answer for! My first memories of stories are my father reading ‘The Hobbit’ to me, and my own first attempts at novels were distinctly Tolkienian. My fascination with the Professor continued into adulthood; my final dissertation for my degree was a study of the heroic modes employed and developed in Tolkien’s fiction. I have continued academic explorations into Middle Earth since then, and Tolkin’s impact – especially of his theory of eucatastrophe – is, I think, highly evident in my own fantasy trilogy, ‘The Knight of Eldaran’.
KP: To some people the term ‘non-fiction’ can be synonym of ‘boring, dry’. In your opinion, what is the value of literary criticism applied to fiction authors?
AT: Literay criticism is an invaluable tool for discerning and expressing the wonders of the subcreative process. There’s so much to be gained from exploring a text – from your own perspective and those of others. There are, of course, well and badly written critical essays, just as a poetic scale may range from doggerel to a sublime sonnet. But, at its best, the exegesis of another’s writing deepens our understanding of our fellow human beings and what shapes them; it is a pursuit that can genuinely shape us in return.
KP: Tell us about the papers in the collection.
AT: As the title implies, these papers orbit that key concept of eucatastrophe. As I explored different aspects of Tolkiens work – from heroes and minor works to visions of war, connections with Romanticism and influences on the genre – I found that each branch led back to eucatastrophe. These essays are a series of ruminations in which I hope to share and explain the marvellous ways that Tolkien has embodied his guiding principle.
“On Eagles’ Wings: An exploration of Eucatastrophe in Tolkien’s Fantasy”, will be out on the 23rd of September, on paperback and e-book. Find out more on the Luna Press Publishing website.