Thread: What if Tolkien and Lewis Wrote a Book Together?
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[url=http://www.sanmarcosmercury.com/archives/9295:3gmzbto0]Full story here.[/url:3gmzbto0]
I can't wait to read this manuscript!
A bit ironic really as it was Tolkien who converted Lewis to Christianity and then gets upset when he starts beating the religious drum.
I'll do some digging and see if I can find the reference.
An interesting point about both Lewis and Tolkien, is that their views on Christianity were based not so much on theological grounds, but Mythological grounds. Here is part of an essay I wrote based on my research into this topic:
[color=#BF0000:tze5rsee]For answers to this mystery we must turn to Tolkien. Tolkien was similarly enamoured by Medievalism and believed one could not merely analyze with Reason the Old Poets and Mythology. He thought one could only truly appreciate such things on their deepest imaginal level. He discovered the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf in his youth and in the poem Crist came across these lines:
Eala Earendel engla behrtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended.
(Hail Earendel, brightest of the angels,
Sent to men upon Middle Earth.)
Earendel could be crudely translated “shining ray”—however Tolkien thought that this bright ray was more accurately Venus (pagan) and also applied in this case to John the Baptist (Christian). Earendel would eventually become Earendil, the Mariner who carried the Morning Star across the sky in Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
One night in September 1931 Lewis, Tolkien, and Henry Victor Dyson dined together at Magdelen. Wilson notes that Owen Barfield had already broken down the arbitrary distinction between “myth” and “fact” (much like Joseph Campbell would later popularize). He also pointed out that early users of language didn’t distinguish between the metaphorical and literal meanings of words. When the wind blew it wasn’t “like” someone breathing, it was literally the breath of a divinity.
Tolkien’s approach was similar. As Wilson describes it, Tolkien’s Elves are animist, pagan. It is humankind in Tolkien’s world who are to move beyond this. For the Elves being immortal will never leave the material world and do not know what will happen to men after they die. The Elves therefore are the embodiment of language users for whom the wind/breath/spirit distinction is apparently meaningless.
Apparently when Tolkien dialogued with Lewis that September night, he was arguing for an “Elven” approach to the Gospel story. Lewis had no problem being moved by the stories from other ancient mythologies, but he had trouble seeing the relevance of Christ to his own life. It would seem that Tolkien explained that Lewis had only been looking at the story with an empiricists viewpoint and that he should simply understand the story of Christ as a True Myth (I suppose as opposed to the other myths? ).
But Tolkien’s argument would be even more nuanced. Tolkien argued that the Doctrines which are extracted from the myth are less true than the actual myth itself. Lewis would argue that was tantamount to “breathing a lie through silver.” This riposte led Tolkien to reply in writing with the verse Mythopoeia. In essence Myth was the opposite of a “lie breathed through silver;” man’s capacity to mythologize was a remnant of his ability to see into the life of things (animism). All creation was “myth-woven and Elf-patterned.”
The fascinating upshot then seems that Tolkien used a Pagan argument for Christianity which largely is responsible for Lewis finally accepting Christianity, yet Lewis would then go on to Rationalize Christianity through apologetics whilst giving freer reign to his Pagan unconscious through prose. [/color:tze5rsee]
To me this suggests to me, that no matter the outer trappings of their particular denominations, they both had a view of Christianity that put them outside the mainstream of Orthodoxy and closer to the views of someone like Joseph Campbell or Mircae Eliade and even Alan Watts. I think had they been born a generation later their natures would have put them both in a more universalist camp.
I must admit I understood about half of it (but what I did understand was excellent). I get what you say though about both of them being outside the "mainstream of Orthodoxy", with all Tolkien's Valar and Elves and that. Maybe he was of the viewpoint that his own faith (in Jesus) was foreshadowed in previous belief systems. I am quite good at history and I sure remember a point in the Renaissance (have I spelt it right? ) when a bunch of modern Catholics called themselves "Humanists" and started to believe that Christ was foreshadowed in Paganism and Buddhism and stuff. But I don't hink it fully developed until Vatican II when the Church officially pronounced that other belief systems had "grains of truth". Ironically though I don't think Tolkien was very pro-Vatica II Ok I've gone to deep and I've got myself all fuddled up now....hmm...I think....no wait...damn't its gone
Thank you Light it is actually a drawing of Finrod Felagund
I really like Gandy - I've only known him for a short while but the man is growing on me I've even given him a new name (or my own slang term)
And that is a sweet avvy Fela. Did you draw/paint it yourself?
And that is a sweet avvy Fela. Did you draw/paint it yourself?
Cheers Gandy - alas no I cannot draw a stickman to spare my life I just saw it on the net about 3 years back and loved it
I believe the real issue for Tolkien was that he DETESTED allegory as a literary device. Narnia was pure allegorical Christianity.[/quote:39qtk382]
It is true that Tolkien rejected Allegory as a literary device, but his main complaint about Narnia was that it was a "hodgepodge" of concepts and characters directly culled from Established Mythology, both Christian and Pagan. Lewis was adamant that Narnia was non-allegorical, and was instead a [b:39qtk382]supposition[/b:39qtk382] of what Christlike figure might be like if He established another World apart from our own, filled with Pagan creatures and concepts. So this I think contradicts Bookworm's point that Narnia was "pure allegorical Christianity".
Narnia was really quite over-the-top with its Christian messages and allegory. The first time I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe I was 10 so a lot of it went over my head, but a re-reading a few years later left me soured. I could barely get through Prince Caspian with all the heavy-handed preachiness, not to mention that I found the message (love/follow God more than your family) to be sickening.[/quote:39qtk382]
I thoroughly disagree about Narnia being "quite over-the-top with its Christian messages and allegory" Eldo. It's true that Lewis hoped to "smuggle" values and concepts that he believed to be Christian past the "Watchful Dragons" of a child's intellect. But Lewis's own innately Pagan world-view saw to it that what he actually "smuggled" in was decidedly Pagan, and indeed largely Universal.
Odo is quite correct to point out that Christianity (particularly Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Gnosticism) itself is quite a Pagan religion, which is one aspect of the move for Reformation by many Protestant denominations. By choosing the Lion Aslan as his Christ-figure, Lewis was hearkening back to the pre-Christian Solar Deities who died Midwinter and were resurrected in Spring. Which is the Mythology Christianity drew from to begin with.
I wrote the following article some years ago and it is due for some revision and expansion. I wrote it to demonstrate that Lewis was at the very least an Inclusivist who held to a Pagan-influenced form of Christianity. Nowadays I would go much further. Many of his books including [i:39qtk382]The Abolition of Man[/i:39qtk382], and even [i:39qtk382]Mere Christianity[/i:39qtk382] demonstrate that at heart (if not always in rhetoric) Lewis was a Universalist, and that the Pagan World-View was his first love. Today, I would suggest that Lewis saw Christianity through a Pagan Lens "sanctified" by Christ. I believe there is ample evidence to more than suggest that Tolkien was of Like Mind.
[color=#FF0000:39qtk382]ARE THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA CHRISTIAN BOOKS?
Clearly, C. S. Lewis was a Christian. Also, it is obvious that he intended The Chronicles of Narnia to reflect Christian themes and ideas. Despite this, he himself did not consider the books to be Christian per se. As some scholars have already pointed out, the Chronicles are not technically allegorical. In fact, Lewis himself, like his friend Tolkien, did not necessarily approve of allegories in some fiction. [Having met at Oxford, Tolkien was perhaps his closest friend and colleague, although their relationship cooled later in their lives. They were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings.] It is apparent; however, that some allegory did indeed slip into his books. The most obvious example is Aslan who represents a Christ-like figure. As noted by others, this is not a strictly one to one relationship.
I should note at this point that Lewis was an Anglican in mid 20th century Britain. He was not, by modern American standards, a fundamentalist in any way. His views were nuanced and scholarly, and today in America they might be seen as liberal (though in his time and place they were considered conservative). He did not believe in bullying people into Christianity but gently leading them to Christ through example. His intent then was to use the fairy tale as a didactic device to teach young people in particular the values he believed were Christian.
Lewis had, in fact, been an atheist since his mother’s death and was brought back to Christianity by Tolkien, who was a Catholic and had for a long time been extremely bothered by what he perceived as Lewis's Anti-Catholicism. It is somewhat ironic then that he became a much more fervent promoter of Christianity than Tolkien and odder still that they would both write literature that greatly inspired a neo-pagan revival during the 1960s cultural-revolution that would last until today.
I return now to the question of whether The Chronicles of Narnia are, in fact, “Christian” books. In a word—no—neither by intent or allegory. But this is not the end of the story, for lurking in Lewis’s subconscious we find a passionate pagan that is revealed through a closer reading of the books. First, there is the obvious: he stuffed his fairy tale with characters from Greco-Roman mythology, and also from Celtic and Norse pre-Christian traditions.
Deeper still, an animistic spirit thrives in the Chronicles as the trees, stars and rivers are revealed to be sentient beings. Other deities are referred to, from the river god who destroys a bridge that binds his waters, to the slumbering god of time as he lies in the underworld waiting to be released at the end of Narnia.
Nor should we forget the strong feminine presence that shines through the patriarchal shackles of C. S. Lewis’s intellect, as represented by Lucy, Jill, Polly and Aravis. They are in most respects the moral center of the books and closest to Aslan. Furthermore, they easily overshadow the negative representations of women such as the White Witch, the Green Witch, and poor Susan, who seems to get a bum rap.
When we get to The Magician’s Nephew and, especially, The Last Battle, we find the traces of Eastern religious doctrines, notably Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, the wood between the worlds has a remarkably Buddhist flavor. And in the world of Charn we get a sense of deep time that is strikingly Hindu.
But it is in The Last Battle that the Hindu/Buddhist strain of thought leaps off the page in the form of the god Tash, who strongly resembles Shiva the Destroyer. Aslan himself points out to a prince of Calormen that though he worshipped Tash he was in fact a follower of Aslan all along. Perhaps in the same way as the god Krishna is an “avatar” of the supreme god Vishnu in the Hindu pantheon. In fact, it is interesting to note, given Aslan is the central character in the stories, that one of the early incarnations of Vishnu (“The Great Protector”) was the lion-headed god Narasimha (a solar deity like the many other lion associated resurrected sun gods such as Mithra[s]). This is more than suggestive of the Hindu notion that the Creator and the Destroyer are ultimately different aspects of the same being, which is a function of Hindu monism, the highest level of polytheism.
And, finally, in the New Narnia after the destruction of Old Narnia, reality is revealed as multi-dimensional. As Lewis himself describes it “…like layers of an onion” or like a many faceted jewel that infinitely reflects itself. As the Narnians race “further up and further in,” they reach the Garden which contains yet another Narnia even further up and further in. This continues until they see laid out not just another Narnia but also beyond to our own world and another England further up and further in … whew … exhausting and exhilarating—and existentially Buddhist.
In closing, yes there are Christian themes in the Chronicles of Narnia, but they are a pagan-influenced Christianity that reveals not just the hidden yearning of C. S. Lewis but, as the continuing popularity of the books attest to, a hidden longing in all of us for magic—the magical world-view of animism—and enlightenment; a chance to reach Nirvana and pull back the veil of the world for all of us to see the utmost realm, or, if you will, the Void which contains all realities within, i. e., not “Christian” in a sense that many Christians today would recognize or acknowledge.
I could barely get through Prince Caspian with all the heavy-handed preachiness, not to mention that I found the message (love/follow God more than your family) to be sickening.[/quote:39qtk382]
I am not certain to what "heavy handed preachiness" you are referring to. Prince Caspian contains some of the most Pagan elements in the series, including quite an extraordinary Bacchanal. I also don't see where you get the message to love God more than Family from (at least in regards to Prince Caspian). And it is always worth seeing Christ's own admonitions for his followers to give up their families in the Cultural Revolutionary context of His preaching.
This admonition can be viewed as an instruction to throw off the Cultural Ideologies of His day in order for a clearer view of One's relationship to Spirit, much like a Buddhist preaches detachment to liberate One-self from the shackles of One's own presuppositions.
A bit ironic really as it was Tolkien who converted Lewis to Christianity and then gets upset when he starts beating the religious drum.
I'll do some digging and see if I can find the reference.[/quote:1mkniibk]
I believe the real issue for Tolkien was that he DETESTED allegory as a literary device. Narnia was pure allegorical Christianity.
Agreed. Tolkien himself referred to such reading of messages into the story as applicability since it was done by the reader, but consciously avoided explicit messages - allegory - on the part of the author. One can find all sorts of messages and themes in TLotR, or they can just find an entertaining story.
[quote="Gandalfs Beard":fvuy7qtg]Odo is quite correct to point out that Christianity (particularly Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Gnosticism) itself is quite a Pagan religion, which is one aspect of the move for Reformation by many Protestant denominations. By choosing the Lion Aslan as his Christ-figure, Lewis was hearkening back to the pre-Christian Solar Deities who died Midwinter and were resurrected in Spring. Which is the Mythology Christianity drew from to begin with.[/quote:fvuy7qtg]
Perhaps allegory was not the best choice of word, but I felt that Lewis was fairly blatant in the Christian messages that he inserted into his works. I'm not a big Lewis fan in general so I haven't read most of his works and don't know much about his thoughts, but that's what I got out of it. You're certainly correct that he included non-Christian elements in his stories and world though, even I can see that.
[quote:fvuy7qtg]I am not certain to what "heavy handed preachiness" you are referring to. Prince Caspian contains some of the most Pagan elements in the series, including quite an extraordinary Bacchanal. I also don't see where you get the message to love God more than Family from (at least in regards to Prince Caspian). And it is always worth seeing Christ's own admonitions for his followers to give up their families in the Cultural Revolutionary context of His preaching.[/quote:fvuy7qtg]
It's been a while since I've read [i:fvuy7qtg]Prince Caspian[/i:fvuy7qtg], but I was referring to the implication that Lucy should have left her siblings behind and followed after Aslan on her own. If I recall correctly Aslan acts quite disappointed in her for showing solidarity to her family instead of following him. Since Aslan is of course God, or more specifically, Jesus, I found this to be a thinly-veiled way of saying that following God was more important than helping your closest family members. I simply find the idea of turning your back on your family for any religion to be repugnant and cult-like.
[quote:fvuy7qtg]This admonition can be viewed as an instruction to throw off the Cultural Ideologies of His day in order for a clearer view of One's relationship to Spirit, much like a Buddhist preaches detachment to liberate One-self from the shackles of One's own presuppositions. [/quote:fvuy7qtg]
I suppose it can, though I was reading it in a decidedly more literal and less symbolical sense.
P.S. What are you talking about, avaiftema?
When it came to politics, Lewis and Tolkien were both moderately Conservative for their time and place (though they also both held some views, particularly regarding the Environment and Ecology, that were decidedly Progressive by modern standards--i.e. "Treehuggers" ), but when it came to their THEOLOGY they were both quite "Liberal", with Lewis being the more "Radical" of the two.
The reason The Hobbit is so effective is because it inhabits its own universe too. When Tolkien tried to make it fit into a later jigsaw puzzle. Things got awkward for him later and so, in his Mature Wisdom, he decided he should change it. You all know he gave up. Let's face it, if it's not broke, why fix it? That's the main reason THE LAST BATTLE fails too. With jigsaws, you make a picture, chop it up, and then have fun putting it back together. A fun process (for some) but the Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not (the one) jigsaw puzzle. They strongly resist any efforts to make it one jigsaw puzzle! (Yes, three jigsaws of a London Scene, as an example, may have many features in common, and be of the same era, but the the three interpretations of that London will be quite different to each other - or they'd be copies, not separate puzzles). What jigsaw puzzle maker would try to fashion all three into one cohesive picture? I mean, why would you even try?
We must face the fact that the strongest drive in writing the Narnia books was C S Lewis's sheer pleasure in story making. He wanted to write stories he wanted to read! Any allegory or applicability to be derived from the books is purely incidental - and any Religio/Political inferences are only important to ideologues, whether Religious or Atheistic (or Feminist for that matter!) C.S. Lewis was a story teller for goodness sake, he just happened to believe he was a Christian, what brand exactly is hard to say: C.S. Lewis Brand might have to do! His personal form of Christianity was a curious story in itself. Maybe he just lived in a Fantasy Realm fullstop - God bless him... I hope so What DO they teach children in schools nowadays!?
I must admit Eldorion, I feel the same way. I always thought religion was meant to help support families and keep them together.
[quote="Gandalfs Beard":hhb7u1e7]Odo is quite correct to point out that Christianity (particularly Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Gnosticism) itself is quite a Pagan religion, which is one aspect of the move for Reformation by many Protestant denominations. By choosing the Lion Aslan as his Christ-figure, Lewis was hearkening back to the pre-Christian Solar Deities who died Midwinter and were resurrected in Spring. Which is the Mythology Christianity drew from to begin with.[/quote:hhb7u1e7]
I'm not sure Christians would agree with that, Gandalfs Beard. I read somewhere that Christians believe that some forms of Paganism was copied ahead of time from Christianity. It was called "Diabolical Mimicry," or something like that. Satan predicted Christ's coming and so gave his own followers similar ideas so as lead them into Sin.
[quote="Odo Banks":hhb7u1e7]C.S. Lewis was a story teller for goodness sake, he just happened to believe he was a Christian, what brand exactly is hard to say: C.S. Lewis Brand might have to do! His personal form of Christianity was a curious story in itself.[/quote:hhb7u1e7]
Actually, a lot of Christians don't agree with C.S. Lewis's Christian ideas. Some think the Narnia books were Christian works but others see them as almost blasphemous, or at least very casual in their Christianity. Grey Pilgrim.
I don't doubt that most Christians would disagree with many of the points I raised. Still, it's indisputable that many of the elements of Christianity can be found in many other PRE-Christian Pagan religions. Tolkien and Lewis were both QUITE aware of this fact as it was a major part of their Scholarship as Professors of Mythology and Medievalism.
Before I continue, I should let you know where I'm coming from. I'm an Agnostic with Spiritual leanings. In other words, I thing that there MAY be some sort of Universal Sentient Spirit (or Spirits) or something of the sort underlying Reality, but I know it's not provable, nor do I think any one religion holds all the answers, though they may hold some "truths", particularly if not taken literally. Yet I am as fascinated by the world's various Mythologies and Philosophies, as I am with a Scientific understanding of the Universe. It is my considered opinion (as I believe it was for Lewis and Tolkien) that Reason must be tempered with Imagination, and that a Mythic view of the World is as important to finding our place in it as is a Scientific Understanding (if not on occasion even more important).
It's quite true that some Christians view Tolkien and Lewis as Dangerous Occultists, even Satanists, for having borderline Universalist views of Christianity. Obviously I couldn't possibly agree with THAT position. Yet nor do I skim over their clearly Mythopoetic, and even Pagan contexts for Christianity (or Christian Contexts for Paganism if it suits you better ).
Grey Pilgrim, I posted a section of some of my research regarding Tolkien and Lewis's perceptions of Christianity on the first page of this thread (highlighted in Red Font). I'd be interested in discussing this some more with you after you've read it.
Tolkien and his world simply brings wonder, is the best way I can state it. It is odd, because one side of me wants to firmly state that man can achieve and know all through reason and logic, and that through science, we can come to amazing things, perhaps even the expulsion of evil. This half of me is worried about this world, however, and does not know what we are going to do with ourselves; if soon chaos shall reign over this world of our's, and all traces of civility gone.
This side of myself welcomes no silliness, and is obviously outrageously modernist. Myths are not welcome here. What is this God, I wonder, that lets terror reign in His world of beloved Children? Why should I believe in something that I can neither feel, nor taste, nor see, nor hear? No one can prove this God, and He refuses to reveal Himself... though I suppose I do not have such evidence to claim that there is indeed no God. I suppose I shall simply be Agnostic. Hrm! I need a moral code, you say? Well, well, Confucianism, then. Heaven and religion are simply comforts for those who have no knowledge, and were created in a time when people had almost no idea about the world around them, and needed some sort of explanation.
The other side of me... it does not care. Why do we debate over these things that we really do not know? Let's simply have cheer and drink and music! It delights in merriment, it revels in nostalgia and fine summer evenings and beautiful music, and wonders how Men have gotten such an appreciation for such things in the first place. It entertains tales of fantasy and myths more than often... unexplainable thoughts occur here, memories spring up on moment's notice. Tolkien is exalted to nearly a God-like figure, who brings fantasy to reality... Which way is the road to Heaven, I wonder? Heaven must indeed be a beautiful, just as Gandalf describes it. Perhaps... simply good people go to Heaven, as Gandalf seems to say, into the West.
There can not be such greatness in the world without it leading to an even greater End. There has to be some End of Time, doesn't there? This side wonders of the world of the past. Perhaps there were such things as Hobbits? Is there proof to not be such? Is there a sort of... world that is created through Tolkien's writings and imagination? Is there such a realm where things are actually in existence through one's own imagination? This side of me believes that good shall always triumph over the ways of Evil, and that justice, even if perhaps "divine" shall be dealt, instead of a reign of a terror.
I always seem to ramble like this, but, I do believe that [i:2xshxqo8]most[/i:2xshxqo8] people have each of these sides to them, no matter how large or small either of the sides is, interchanging some of my own thoughts and ideas for others.
Some things in this world are simply beautiful and cannot be explained... Tolkien portrays and addresses these rare occasions in a way that had not been done before, and in doing so, created one of these rare occasions himself.
I get this question most every time I post somewhere.
Why no, I am not a Christian.
I've been on the fence about a lot of things lately, but I continue to label myself as a Confucian-Based Ethics Agnostic.