The Realms of Talithia

The Long Defeat

 The Long Defeat.

It's a phrase that conjures the image of a melancholy poet or a Shakespearean tragedy from which no one escapes alive. It is taken from the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and expresses the idea that the world is, at its core, a fallen place peopled by fallen men and women who will never be able to restore it to what it should be.

That doesn't stop us from trying.

We wage war against the long defeat, against resignation and despair. We fight with love. We fight with hope. For Tolkien, that hope was rooted in his faith. He wrote:

"Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory." (Letters, 255)

The final victory of which he writes is that which comes when the world is renewed and made whole by God at the end of time. I believe this. Until then, the war continues, and though some of the battles have been fought on the grand, historical scale, more often they are fought in the everyday lives of those who choose to do what they believe is right even—especially—when they know they're going to lose. We sacrifice our resources and comfort to care for the sick and dying. We risk censure from those we love to offer comfort and help to those rejected by society. We give a cup of cold water to a thirsty child. There are many ways to defy the long defeat, none of which is in vain.

This is what I explore in my stories, this fight. Many of my characters war against the long defeat, even when it costs them dearly; even when they know they will lose the battle. They fight the wrong they see in their world. Sometimes they fight well. Sometimes they don’t. But they fight. Their stories are generally noblebright in tone.

Welcome to Talithia.