“..Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again… There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
i’ve been thinking about endings. Story endings, relationship endings, the ending of habits and ways of being. I look back over the last 18 months or so and a lot of big stories have reached their conclusion – We’ve had Avengers Endgame, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, The Skywalker Saga, The Good Place – all reaching a point the creators called an ending.
But, you know what.
Stories never really end.
We just reach a point where the telling of it stops. Where and when a storyteller chooses that stopping point often dictates how all that went before can be understood. Once you know the destination, all the events, interactions, character beats, motifs and themes are seen in that light. But here’s one of the burdens of the Storyteller (as we have seen in the examples above) – How you have built and woven these events and interactions, How you’ve shown characters and relationships, How (or even whether) you’ve lain foreshadowing and thematic currents – all dictate how satisfying your end point will feel for reader/watcher/audience.
Stories never really end.They cycle round like a great wheel, like the great serpent Ouroboros eating his own tail; like the endless knot of Celtic lore, This cycle itself is a motif in many of our stories – the idea that all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again (as the refrain goes in the mythos of Battlestar Galactica). The idea that the Wheel of destiny merely turns and those at the top will one day be at the bottom; that ideas once thought mad will one day become visionary, then normal then archaic; that the movement that once destroyed us and was in its turn destroyed by our unity will come around again and we must reject individualism and unite to destroy. And there’s the true radical whose desire is to break that wheel – I am minded of Daenarys Targaryen, whose vision was to see the wheel broken, though in the end, it wasn’t by her.
Stories never really end.
But other priorities sometimes take over. The story becomes inconvenient to authorities so is neutered or suppressed. The story stops making money, so it is changed or abandoned. The story was only a stepping stone to another opportunity, so a conclusion is rushed and bungled. Storytellers are not immune to the dazzling treasures offered to them by today’s Robber Barons and so some are swayed from their original vision and destination.
But the beauty of Story is that it is owned by us all. It is a truly egalitarian form of expression and any of us can pick up the baton. Fan fiction, retellings of old tales, reinterpretations and “inspired by” stories thankfully abound. Once a story is freed from its originator, it can be played with by a thousand more Storytellers and so will never end.Our Stories never really end.
Not even with our death. We live on in the genes of our descendants. But not only that; our story becomes entwined within others and becomes part of the Great Tapestry, a celestial weaving where all threads tell part of the Great Story. We and our stories are interwoven, with our dearest ones, with acquaintances, even with people we have never met. Even with people long gone or recently passed. Let me give you a personal example.
Two of my dearest friends recently lost their dads. One was taken unexpectedly, the other a bittersweet release from a long painful illness. I never met either David or Dennis, but both of their stories are now a part of mine – through their daughters. Their stories have not ended – they continue in anecdote. They continue in what they passed on to children and grandchildren. They continue in the small kindnesses and passions and the values they maintained. I hear with mixed emotions of David’s compassionate care of his wife in her illness.i listen as I am told of Dennis’ devotion to duty and meticulous planning to ensure his family are secure when he is gone. Dennis at home walking in nature, on a mountain, in a bluebell wood. David at home swinging a bat on a cricket field. Both raising strong vocal daughters who know their worth and are passionate and compassionate in their turn. Both men have gifted me a dear and treasured friend, though neither knew it. Both of their stories continue here with us and always as part of the Great Story.Stories never really end.
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” The Last Battle CS Lewis