I love a great tale. It is always a thrill in the first reading (viewing, watching, etc.) to get caught up in the motivations and actions of a compelling character, to learn the origin and history of a new (or unknown) world, or see the fabric and storylines of an ever-expanding yarn coming together in unexpected ways. Then come the repeat viewings and the exclamations of, “Oh! I never noticed that before.” Later upon reflection there comes another level of enjoyment. What I have a learned from this story? Why did that sentence strike me as so devastatingly beautiful? Why did that scene move me to tears? How did that song stir those distant memories and deep longings? These movements within me are what I love about partaking of a great story.
By why do the great tales stir me (or us) so? Perhaps they share common themes. I would argue they are great because of these themes and how they illustrate and express and elaborate upon them. These elements of the stories speak to us and lend a timeless quality to the works because the themes themselves are timeless. They are knit into the fabric of our existence. They are the background upon which we paint our lives. They are the way things have been, are, and will be. All good stories contain – in one form or another, and to various degrees – one of these four themes: Peace, War, Sacrifice, Kingdom. The great stories employ all four elements.
In this first of four posts, we will delve into the first theme, Peace.
Peace represents normal, everyday life within the tale. This is the way the story would go on ad infinitum. In some ways, it’s the way things should have been. Mostly, it’s the way things could have continued to be. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re looking at the element of Peace in stories.
In The Lord of the Rings, we are given a history of the customs and habits of the Shirefolk, the Hobbits. These hairy-footed Halflings lived and worked and ate and smoked pipeweed in peaceful, idyllic tranquility. The Shire was an Eden, unaffected by the evil and despair of the wider lands of Middle Earth. The Hobbits lived peaceable lives, never went on adventures, and lived to a ripe old age. This is the way things were. This is Peace.
In the Iliad, we are introduced in media res to scores of warriors, officers, and mighty men who had crossed the Aegean and come to Troy in order to take back Queen Helen for King Agamemnon. The Mycenaean King’s coalition of seafaring tribes had raided and plundered the islands and coasts of the sea with little-to-no resistance, securing for themselves great success. Toppling Troy, raiding the town, and taking back the Queen would be, for them, a small thing to accomplish. The soldiers’ spirits were high, and the king would soon be reunited with his wife. The Sea Peoples were doing what they did best. I do want to acknowledge that this is an odd choice to illustrate Peace, but that it is necessary to my point. Peace is the normal way of things for a character or people of any given story, and this was so for the Akhaian warriors. This was their Peace.
In the first book of the Pentateuch, God created all things. He spoke and, in an explosion of light and energy, the cosmos sprang into being. God made the heavens. He made the earth. The sun, the moon, the stars. Plants, animals, and finally, humans. There in Eden, God walked daily with the man and the woman. He taught them to cultivate the earth. God told Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the garden. The first couple subsisted off of fruit and vegetables alone. There was no need to slaughter a bull or lamb; there was no need for sacrifice. Likewise, the animals were not at enmity with one another. There was no bloodshed. No killing. No murder. The lion and the lamb were creatures sharing the wonders of God's garden. God fashioned his creation, and when he had finished he called his creation good. This was true Peace.
BEFORE THE FALL
Within the great stories, the element of Peace represents the way the world had been and would – presumably – continue to be. It is the calm before the storm. It is Luke Skywalker serving out yet another harvest on Tatooine. It’s the Dashwood sisters before their father’s death. Harry Potter living in the broom closet underneath his aunt and uncle’s stairs. It’s the Garden of Eden. But this is just the first element of a great story, and the story must go on. The next story element after Peace is War, which I’ll jump into at a later time.
What are some more examples of Peace within great stories?
Adam is one of the founding members of A|C. He is a bookkeeper-by-day and artist-by-night. His secret weapon is an eBow and it is said he never goes anywhere without one.. Adam and his wife Sherise have three children, Elijah, Amelie, and Liam.