Deus ex machina

Deus ex machina (plural: dei ex machina) from Latin deus, meaning "a god", ex, meaning "from", and machina, meaning "a device, a scaffolding, an artifice", is a calque (loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed) from Greek ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanḗs theós), meaning "god from the machine”. 

The term has evolved into a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. 

Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or as a comedic device.

Example from Lord of the Rings

J. R. R. Tolkien coined the term eucatastrophe to refer to a sudden turn of events that ensures the protagonist does not meet some impending fate. He also referred to the Great Eagles that appear in several places in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as "a dangerous 'machine’.” 


The Great Eagles, image: lotr.wikia 

Some critics have argued that eucatastrophe, and in particular the eagles, exemplify deus ex machina. For example, they save Frodo and Sam from certain death on Mount Doom in The Return of the King.

Others contend that the two concepts are not the same, and that eucatastrophe is not merely a convenience, but is an established part of a fictive world in which hope ultimately prevails

source: Deus ex machina. (2014, December 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:55, December 27, 2014, from