He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.
JRR Tolkien, “Mythopoeia”
I posted another passage from this wonderful poem to begin to begin Advent: a call to hope and resistance through dark days. As this new year begins, I’m drawing to Tolkien’s use of textile metaphors again. Here, Tolkien argues that to see the world as “myth-woven” is a necessary condition for seeing it truly.
This sounds absurd in a world that resists myths, either because myths are transcendent, challenging the assumptions of a materialist worldview, or because myths are totalizing: providing a story that may not accord with an individualist’s opinions or pleasures.
Before this year becomes too cluttered with daily tasks and joys and sorrows, it’s important to remember the Story that gives these days their meaning. As Tolkien knew well, that Story may lead us on trying adventures, but it also is the tent that shelters us along the way — a home woven for us in the wilderness.