You all know what a denouement is, right? It’s French for ‘Will this story ever end?’
After the climax the denouement comes along and ties up all the loose ends. In some cases it ties them up, reties them and then loops them so tightly that the excitement of the climax is lost in the knots.
Take ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The elements of a good story: the quest, the conflicts, the mysteries, the rising action, are all woven through with the question ‘Can Middle Earth be saved?’ They culminate in the dramatic, last minute rescue of Sam and Frodo.
I would have been content to end there. On a high note. Sam and Frodo, forever caught up in the thrill being snatched from certain death as the enemy lies mortally wounded.
Fairy stories have it right. The tide turns, the hero/heroine is rescued, the villain slain, and they all live happily ever after.
But ‘The Return of the King never seems to end. In the movie, we first have a long long wedding, Aragorn’s long long song, the crowning of the king. In the book Frodo returns home to a Shire that doesn’t honor or respect him. I don’t want a story to end with slogging. I want it to end on the mountaintop.
One of my favorite songs is ‘And Can it Be That I Should Gain?” It has all the elements of a great story.
The first verse poses a question. ‘And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood?’
Great literary device.
Then we have a mystery ‘Tis mystery all, the Immortal dies.’
And then the climax verse. The one that always gives me goosebumps. The one that ends
‘my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee.”
By this verse I am always in tears. And I want the song to stop. I’ve been rescued, snatched from certain death, the villain is conquered and I am following. I want to continue in the thrill.
But no, we need the denouement.
The final verse. The one that talks about life after the thrill of the climax, after the rush of the rescue.
The verse that describes a post-rescue life.
The wedding song of the Lamb. The King on His throne. The honor and beauty wrapped around us forever.
This denouement may not be the stuff of goosebumps.
But it most definitely is a ‘happily ever after’.