Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Courage to Create

Apologies for not getting this entry up in time yesterday. Which means I'll be double posting today for C and D so let's get right to it.

C is for Creation.

The heart of man is not compound of lies,

but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,

and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,

man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.

Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,

and keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,

his world-dominion by creative act:

not his to worship the great Artefact,

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 sow the seed of dragons, 'twas our right

(used or misused). The right has not decayed.

We make still by the law in which we're made.
                                      ~J.R.R. Tolkien

You might guess from the name of my blog that creation through storytelling, or sub-creation as J.R.R. Tolkien put it, is a subject close to my heart. Perhaps above all others it is the real reason why I write: I am compelled to create.

Tolkien coined the term "sub-creation" to express the idea that we mere mortals have an intrinsic desire to create through our arts because we were made in the image of our creator. Like him, we want to bring things into being. Unlike him, it is only from our imaginations that we can do this. So we are not creators, since we have nothing to work with that was not created by God, but we are sub-creators.

Tolkien also saw fantasy as the best medium for sub-creation. Another term he developed was mythopoesis, by which he meant the creative act of inventing imaginary worlds with detailed mythologies. This is the closest, perhaps, that man can come to mimicking God's creative act. For though the things that we invent have no physical substance in the world, one only needs to look at the lasting impact that Middle-earth has had on millions of fans of Tolkien's stories (including me) to see that Tolkien's creations have achieved reality in the souls of those who love them.

This humble blogger hopes to one day become a true sub-creator and mythopoet in the same tradition that Tolkien began.


  1. That analogy makes perfect sense! We are trying to be like God and create. We can't do it like Him though.
    Excellent post, Sarah!

  2. Really enjoyed this post, looking forward to keeping up with you through the rest of the challenge!

  3. I think that's a wonderful goal, eloquently put!

  4. I can't say that Tolkien didn't know what he was talking about.
    I'm always surprised, though, at how many people don't understand this concept.

    1. I am not surprised. People just don't think this way anymore.

  5. This poem by Tolkien is probably my favorite of all time. I think you've inadvertently posed a very important question - we don't have the power to create our things physically, but aren't we called to impact people in their souls more than their bodies, anyway?


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