Tolkien & Lewis World

Welcome to Tolkien and Lewis World!

 

Since I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, followed by the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia (and later the Ransom Trilogy and all of Lewis's works, fiction and non-fiction) and then was captivated by the mere mention of the name The Lord of the Rings, I have been a devotee of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

 

If you've found your way here, you may be too.

 

I hope you will find here many things to enchant and delight you as we explore the worlds and thinking of these two authors together.

The Mountain and the City

Throughout Tolkien’s major works we can see patterns and resonances of certain images. It is as though the whole edifice of Middle-earth was built like a huge cataract of concepts captured in pictures, a waterfall of ideas pouring down from archetypes to more homely echoes.

Tolkien and 'The Kalevala'

’Do not laugh!’ Tolkien famously wrote in a letter to Milton Waldman 

 

‘But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and the cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story -- the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing slendour from the vast backcloths -- which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country….I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.’

The Politics of C. S. Lewis

If we accept that, for Lewis, the Earth was in truth a spinning speck of dust remotely distant from Heaven in a cosmos centred around God, it is not surprising that Lewis was a sharp critic of politics, ideology and culture in the Twentieth Century.

Tolkien and the Cats of Queen Berúthiel

In 1955, poet W. H. Auden was asked by the BBC to talk about The Lord of the Rings. Auden asked Tolkien for some background information about how the story had come into being, and Tolkien replied that he had had very few conscious intentions when writing the book.

Tolkien and the Music of Language

Dedicated readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work will have noted the underlying linguistic element in the shaping of his fictional world. From an early age, Tolkien was fascinated by words and entered philology as soon as he could.

The Thoughts of Charles Williams

Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886 – 1945), famous as an author and member of the Inklings along with J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and others, was educated at St Albans School, Hertfordshire, and was awarded a scholarship to University College London, but couldn’t complete the degree because of a lack of financial resources. Williams became an editor at the Oxford University Press (OUP) and continued to work there until his death in 1945. 

The Universe That 'Turns'

Of all of C. S. Lewis’s vast contribution to literature and to thought in the Twentieth Century, it is his last book, The Discarded Image, which is perhaps the most under-valued.

The Mediaeval Heavens Part 1

We’re so used to thinking of the physical universe as obeying certain ‘laws’ that we can get muddled about the idea of it.

'Eucatastrophe' in Stories

Consider the most powerful, memorable moments in your own reading. Think for a moment about the scenes in your favourite books or films which created ‘goosebump’ sensations for you. Try to recall the exact incidents which had the most lasting effect on you as a reader.

Tolkien and 'Final Participation'

According to Owen Barfield, close friend of C. S. Lewis and a member of the Inklings group, as well as being an influence upon Tolkien, the human consciousness was progressing from one based upon an external and unknowable underlying reality, which our senses and unconscious minds organised for us into the world that we perceived and knew, through a stage where these organised elements (or ‘collective representations’ as Barfield called them) were separated out from us through what we call scientific method, eventually arriving, he hoped, at a condition in which the individual human imagination would re-create the world in harmony with the underlying reality - or not, as Barfield pointed out.

Yorkshire and Middle-earth 4

If you look closely at maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth, there are plenty of places for the imagination to wander unhindered. The story takes us more or less diagonally across the landscape which Tolkien had devised, from the Shire in the middle West down to Mordor in the South East, with one or two excursions, like Boromir's journey to Rivendell, usually recalled rather than actually shown in the tale, into the regions called Enedwaith and Minhiriath.

Tolkien and the Somme

On July 1, 1916, the British launched a massive offensive against the German lines in the Somme River region of France. 

Owen Barfield and the Nature of Reality

Owen Barfield, British philosopher and close friend of C. S. Lewis, said once that Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, his famous work about the evolution of consciousness and much else was his own personal favourite.

Changing Views of the World: Lewis and Barfield

As discussed in an earlier blog entry, C. S. Lewis’s last book, The Discarded Image, introduces modern readers to the now-largely-lost medieval thought-world. It’s worth comparing a view that Lewis held of the way medievals thought with the view of Lewis’s long-time friend Owen Barfield, who was a major influence on Lewis’s thought and work. 

Caging Unsuspecting Readers

Master authors use every trick in the book to capture and hold reader attention. What is known as ‘great writing’ or even ‘good writing’ is simply the use of certain subtle techniques at a word and sentence level, in the framework of larger structural arrangements, all of it aimed at ‘caging’ unsuspecting readers for the duration of a tale.

Master Authors and the Four Key Questions

Successful stories ask readers four key questions:

Tolkien's Wisdom

Tolkien is often quoted in terms of things his characters say in his fiction, especially the world famous and highly popular The Lord of the Rings, which basically created the whole sub-genre of fantasy fiction. However, he had some profound and insightful things to say in his own right most often through his letters, which were published as a collection in 1981.

The Warrior Figure

Obvious as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, or Hans Solo in Star Wars, less obvious as Fielding in A Passage to India or Sirius Black in Harry Potter, the warrior figure in literature has many common traits across the world of fiction.

A Philological Imagination 2

A key fact about Tolkien’s fascination with creating language is not so well-known, and that is the sheer scale of his creativity in this field. The languages he invented were enormous linguistic constructions.

The Influential Wisdom of Owen Barfield

Educated at Highgate School and Wadham College, Oxford, Owen Barfield was a solicitor in London, from which he retired in 1959 aged 60.

Owen Barfield and 'Original Participation'

Scholar Owen Barfield was a major influence on C. S. Lewis, and also had an effect on J. R. R. Tolkien persuading both that myth and metaphor had a central place in language and literature. 

C. S. Lewis on How To Write

In 1954, C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Cynthia Donnelly about the role of Christianity in his or anyone’s writing:

The Creative Fertility of the Mind

Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.

-Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972)

 

As you would know from your own browsing in bookshops, a book probably has about fifteen seconds to grab a reader’s attention. Poems or shorter works have even less time.

Tolkien and the Sinfulness of Creation 3

Tolkien wrote essays and poetry discussing the importance of art and myth, quite apart from his Middle-earth tales.

The Friendship of Tolkien and Lewis

It was several year after I had first read The Lord of the Rings that I realised that its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a close friend of one of my other favourite authors, C. S. Lewis.

What C. S. Lewis Said About Charity

Lewis’s overall conclusion about love comes in his examination of the final of the four loves, Charity, which we are calling the second ‘intellectual’ love: 

 

The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as ‘decency and common sense’ but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.

What C. S. Lewis Said About Friendship

A ‘friend’, according to the dictionary, is ‘a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations’. It comes from the  Old English frēond, of Germanic origin, and is related to Dutch vriendand German Freund, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to love’, shared by ‘free’.

What C. S.Lewis Had to Say About Romantic Love

Eros in Greek Mythology was the god of love, the son of Aphrodite. His Roman equivalent, known to us as a blind cherub with wings and a bow and arrow, was Cupid. ‘Eros’ has come to mean sexual love or desire.

What C. S. Lewis said about Affection

Affection is defined by the dictionary as ‘a gentle feeling of fondness or liking’. It comes from Middle English, via Old French from Latin affectio(n-), from afficere ‘to influence’.

Aesthetics and Education

Education and aesthetics are bound together in mysterious ways, it seems. 

The Ups and Downs of Characters

If we go back to mythology and folklore, the hero of a story can have superhuman qualities and is often semi-divine in origin - in particular, in ancient Greek myths and legends, the hero’s exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of the story.

My Favourite Place in Narnia

Reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter reminded me that there is one place in Narnia that I would like to live.

Frodo's Motivation

In all the vast tapestry that is Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, one character clearly qualifies, amongst the array of masterfully drawn characters that there are, to be the ‘protagonist’: Frodo Baggins. 

More Favourite Quotes by C. S. Lewis

‘I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books.'

'Lies breathed through silver'

Though it will probably be common knowledge to you reading this, it came as a strange shock to me when, during my early teens, I discovered that C.S. Lewis, author of one of my favourite books The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was close friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, which I had recently read and fallen in love with.

What Aragorn Had To Lose

Aragorn, in The Lord of the Rings, is clearly an archetypal warrior figure, of the kind described in the book How Stories Really Work.

Some Favourite C. S. Lewis Quotes

'Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”'

In Search of Gawain's Green Chapel

Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English Arthurian romance. It draws on Welsh, Irish and English stories, as well as the French chivalric tradition.

C. S. Lewis's 'Voyage to Venus' Opening Chapter -A Case Study

Voyage to Venus or Perelandra as it was originally called, provides in its opening chapter a perfect example of an author progressing from an accepted and ordinary reality that might be shared with readers to an encounter with the supernatural which would undoubtedly be outside most people’s experience.

15 Things About J. R. R. Tolkien That You May or May Not Know

As you probably know if you’re visiting this blog, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) wrote The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in a version of the world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth, a world peopled by humans, Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Orcs (Goblins) and Tolkien’s own creation, Hobbits.

The Attributes of Antagonists

Antagonists don’t often get the attention that they deserve. Or rather, that they feel they deserve. And that’s the root of their problem, in a way, because instead of attention, they substitute something else.

Tolkien and the Sinfulness of Creativity

I wrote a thesis back in 1983, never published. In it I was exploring (amongst other Tolkieny things) the ambivalence that Tolkien had towards what he called ‘sub-creation’ or artistic endeavours.