We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature...is still soaked with the sense of exile. - J.R.R. Tolkien.
I found this on a post from Pastor Gregory Alms on his blog, incarnatus est. I am quite thankful he posted this quotation. I had read it before on the in a few places on the internet and had also wondered about its authenticity (incidentally, he found it on Twitter). Naturally, my Tookish curiosity took over until I found the source of this quote, fabricate or factual. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter. In fact, this is only part of a quotation included in a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to his son, Christopher in 1945. It is found in Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien, published by Houghton Mifflin, 2000, p. 110. It was sitting on my shelf all along. Here is a bit more of the extended quotation from the same letter.
...I do not now feel either ashamed or dubious on the Eden myth. It has not, of course historicity of the same kind as the NT, which are virtually contemporary documents, while Genesis is separated by we do not know how many sad exiled generations from the Fall, but certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its very best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of 'exile.' If you come to think of it, your (very just) horror at the stupid murder of the hawk, and your obstinate memory of this 'home' of yours in an idyllic hour...are derived from Eden.
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not
disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which
“Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism
give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently
as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it
fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced
by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if,
finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he
thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?
...And lastly there is the oldest and deepest desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death.
Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this—which might be called the genuine
escapist, or (I would say) fugitive spirit. But so do other stories (notably those of scientific
inspiration), and so do other studies. Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The
Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness. But our
stories cannot be expected always to rise above our common level. They often do. Few
lessons are taught more clearly in them than the burden of that kind of immortality, or
rather endless serial living, to which the “fugitive” would fly. For the fairy-story is specially
apt to teach such things, of old and still today. Death is the theme that most inspired George
MacDonald. On Fairy Stories, Tolkien.
What hope! An Eden prophesied
Where tame live with the wild;
The lamb and lion side by side,
Led by a little child!
A shoot will sprout from Jesse's stem,
A branch from David's line,
A Prince of Peace in Bethlehem:
The fruit of God's design.
As banner of God's love unfurled,
Christ came to suffer loss,
That by His death a dying world
Would rally to the cross.
Come, Jesus, come, Messiah Lord,
Lost Paradise restore;
Lead past the angel's flaming sword -
Come, open heaven's door. LSB 342