Transcript: Ralph Wood on Tolkien and and Lewis: Friends and Combatants | Dec 18, 2004

Ralph Wood speaks at a conference. He’s in his mid-sixties, clean-shaven and with short straight gray hair. He wears glasses, a black suit, pale blue shirt and paisley.

He says IF, IN 1939,
ANYONE IN THE ANGLOPHONE WORLD
WERE TO HAVE ASKED WHAT TWO
FIGURES WILL BE THE MOST
IMPORTANT CHRISTIAN WRITERS OF
THE 20th CENTURY, THE LAST TWO
NAMES TO HAVE COME TO MIND WOULD
HAVE BEEN C.S. LEWIS AND J.R.R.
TOLKIEN.

Pictures of C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien appear on screen.

Ralph says HOW TOTALLY
UNLIKELY, HOW COMPLETELY
IMPROBABLY, THAT THESE TWO
OXFORD DONS, NEITHER OF THEM
ORDAINED, NEITHER OF THEM
THEOLOGICALLY TRAINED, WOULD
HAVE SUCH AN OVERWHELMING IMPACT
UPON THE CHRISTIAN WORLD OF THE
20th CENTURY, AND YET THAT'S
WHAT WE'RE HERE TONIGHT
CELEBRATING.
OUR LIVES HAVE ALL BEEN
RADICALLY RESHAPED BY THE
READING OF THESE TWO FIGURES,
THAT HAVE SO IMMENSELY MUCH IN
COMMON, THAT IT MAY SEEM A BIT
INVIDIOUS TO TRY TO DRAW SOME
COMPARISONS AND CONTRASTS
BETWEEN THEM.

A caption reads “Ralph Wood. Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Tolkien and Lewis: Friends and Combatants. Yorkminster Baptist Church. Toronto, September 17, 2004.”

Ralph says BUT THAT IS,
INDEED MY INTENTION.
THEY WERE OF COURSE, DEEPLY
INDEBTED TO EACH OTHER.
LEWIS OWED TO J.R.R. TOLKIEN, AT
LEAST THE MATERIAL MEANS OF HIS
RETURN TO THE CHURCH, AND
THEREFORE HIS SALVATION, WE'D BE
TALKING ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THAT
LEWIS-- TOLKIEN MADE FOR LEWIS
IN THE FAMOUS MIDNIGHT WALK IN
THE DEER PARK OF MAUDLIN COLLEGE
THAT LED TO LEWIS' RETURN TO THE
CHURCH AND INDEED TO THE
CHRISTIAN FAITH.
SO THERE COULD BE NO GREATER
DEBT THAN THAT WHICH LEWIS OWED
TO TOLKIEN.
BUT ALSO TOLKIEN TO LEWIS, THE
DEBT WAS ALSO GREAT.
BECAUSE TOLKIEN WAS OFTEN
DISCOURAGED ABOUT THE WRITING OF
WHAT WOULD BECOME “THE LORD OF
THE RINGS.”
HE NEVER REALLY BELIEVED IT
WOULD EVER BE COMPLETED.
REMEMBER, HE WORKED FROM 1939
UNTIL 1954, 15 LONG YEARS,
PECKING OUT SUCCESSIVE DRAFTS OF
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS” TWO
FINGERED, WHILE SITTING CROSS
LEGGED IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS BED,
USUALLY BEGINNING WORK AT
MIDNIGHT AND WORKING INTO THE
SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING.
READY TO GIVE UP, READY TO QUIT,
READY TO SAY, IT'S NOT WORTH IT.
BUT LEWIS, OVER AND OVER AND
OVER AGAIN, ENCOURAGING,
ENCOURAGING TOLKIEN, NOT LETTING
HIM GIVE UP.
INSISTING THAT TOLKIEN READ
THESE SUCCESSIVE DRAFTS, TO THE
MEETING OF THE INKLINGS.
AS YOU KNOW, THAT'S A WONDERFUL
OXFORD GROUP, IT WAS LARGER THAN
LEWIS AND TOLKIEN, THOUGH THEY
WERE THE CENTRE OF IT, MEETING
REGULARLY AT THAT WONDERFUL PUB.
HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE BEEN TO THE
EAGLE AND CHILD?

Footage shows The front of The Eagle and Child building and a commemorative plaque with the caption “Courtesy of J.D Franklin.”

Ralph says GOOD, YOU CAN SIT
IN THE VERY CHAIRS IN THE CORNER
WHERE THE INKLINGS SAT, OR AT
LEWIS' OWN ROOMS AT MAUDLIN.
SO THEIR DEBT TO EACH OTHER WAS
ENORMOUS.
THEY HAD A
RELATIONSHIP THAT WAS...
WHEN LEWIS DIED, FOR EXAMPLE, ON
NOVEMBER 22, 1963, ANYBODY ELSE
KNOW WHAT OTHER EVENT OCCURRED
THAT DAY?
JOHN KENNEDY WAS SHOT.
TOLKIEN SAID, “I FEEL AS IF AN
AXE HAS STRUCK AT MY ROOT.”
SO OVERWHELMED WAS HE BY LEWIS'
DEATH.
THEY BOTH, OF COURSE, WERE
VETERANS OF THE FIRST WAR, BOTH
OF THEM CAME OUT OF THAT WAR,
LEWIS PHYSICALLY, TOLKIEN BY A
DREAD ENCOUNTER WITH TRENCH
FEVER THAT NEARLY KILLED HIM.
IF YOU READ THE JOHN GARTH NEW
BIOGRAPHY OF THE EARLY TOLKIEN,
YOU'LL FIND OUT HOW NEAR TO
DEATH TOLKIEN CAME, FROM THE
TRENCH FEVER HE CONTRACTED IN
THE TERRIBLE MUD FIELD, KILLING
FIELDS OF BELGIUM, AND FRANCE.
AND YET, I THINK WE'VE BEEN
MAKING A MISTAKE IN SIMPLY
LUMPING THEM TOGETHER, AS IF
THEY WERE TWINS, AS IF THEY WERE
SIMPLY VARIATIONS ON A COMMON
THEME, DOING IN DIFFERING WAYS,
THE SAME SORT OF THING.
MY CONVICTION IS THAT WE DO THEM
A KIND OF VIOLENCE.
WE DON'T PROPERLY HONOUR THE
DISTINCTIVENESS OF EACH OF THEIR
GIFTS, BY COLLAPSING THEM IN THE
WAY WE'RE USED TO DOING.
AND SO WHAT I THOUGHT I WOULD DO
TONIGHT, IS OFFER A KIND OF
CONTEST, A KIND OF TRIAL, TO
SHOW ON FOUR MAJOR COUNTS, THE
WAYS IN WHICH THEY DIFFERED
PROFOUNDLY, AND SOMETIMES EVEN
VIOLENTLY.
AND THESE DIFFERENCES ARE NOT
TOO WIDELY KNOWN.
THAT'S WHY I THINK IT'S HELPFUL
FOR US TO LAY THEM OUT, NOT TO
DENIGRATE ONE, AND ELEVATE THE
OTHER, BUT TO SEE HOW RADICALLY
DIFFERENT THEY WERE IN SO MANY
WAYS.
SO THE FIRST OF THESE
DIFFERENCES, THEN.
DIFFERENCES IN PERSONALITY AND
IN FRIENDSHIP.
IF YOU KNOW MUCH ABOUT TOLKIEN,
YOU KNOW THAT HE WAS A SHY,
RATHER DIFFIDENT MAN.
HE WAS NOT A HAIL FELLOW, WELL
MET.

HE DID NOT MAKE
FRIENDS EASILY.
HE WAS NOT A STAR LECTURER AT
OXFORD.
HE WAS A TERRIBLE MUMBLER.
YOU HAD TO SIT IN THE FRONT ROW
TO HAVE ANY CHANCE OF
HEARING OR UNDERSTANDING WHAT
TOLKIEN WAS SAYING.
HE DIDN'T CARE
WHETHER HIS STUDENTS HEARD HIM,
HE SIMPLY MUMBLED HIS WAY
THROUGH HIS LECTURES AND WAS
GONE, BUT, SAID W.H. AUDEN, WHEN
HE READ “BEOWULF,” OR RATHER,
WHEN HE RECITED “BEOWULF” FROM
MEMORY, “IT WAS AS IF AN ANGLO-
SAXON BARD HAD WALKED INTO THE
ROOM, AND THE WHOLE PLACE BECAME
SPELLBOUND.”
HE HAD A MARVELLOUS SENSE OF
HUMOUR.
MANY OF YOU KNOW ABOUT HIS
EXTRAORDINARILY WICKED WIT.
FOR EXAMPLE, TOLKIEN LEARNED AND
PERFECTED THE ART OF SWIMMING ON
HIS BACK WHILE WEARING A BOWLER
HAT AND SMOKING HIS PIPE.
[Audience laughter]
SO IF YOU'D GO DOWN TO
[Inaudible] THERE, AT THE ED
OF OXFORD, WITH BOWLER HAT ON,
PIPE IN HIS MOUTH, ON HIS BACK.
ON ONE OCCASION, I SUPPOSE
COMPARABLE TO OUR HALLOWEEN,
TOLKIEN DRESSED UP IN FULL
ANGLO-SAXON WARRIOR REGALIA,
WITH A HELMET ON, AND HUGE
BROADSWORD, AND CHASED KIDS UP
AND DOWN THE STREETS, FRIGHTENED
THEM ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THEIR
WITS.

The audience laughs.

Ralph continues UM, AS YOU KW, YOU FOLKS FROM
THE BRITISH TRADITION, BEING SO
MUCH MORE CIVILISED THAN
AMERICANS, OR FOLKS FROM MY
TRADITION, HAVE THE HABIT -- I
REMEMBER, WE'VE LIVED IN ENGLAND
FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR -- VERY
OFTEN, IN THE SHOPS OF ENGLAND,
WHEN YOU GET READY TO MAKE AN
EXCHANGE, A PURCHASE, YOU HOLD
OUT A HANDFUL OF COINS, AND THE
SHOPKEEPER THEN TAKES FROM YOUR
HAND, THE PROPER AMOUNT.
IT'S UNTHINKABLE SOUTH OF THE
BORDER HERE.
WELL ONE DAY, TOLKIEN WAS MAKING
SUCH A PURCHASE -- A PURCHASE OF
SUCH A KIND, AND PULLED OUT A
WHOLE BUNCH OF CHANGE, WHICH
INCLUDED AN OLD PAIR OF FALSE
TEETH.
[Chuckles]
AND SHOCKED THE SHOPKEEPER OUT
OF HER WITS.
OF COURSE ESPECIALLY GOOD WITH
HIS FAMILY, TOLKIEN WAS AN
EXTRAORDINARY FAMILY MAN, AS YOU
KNOW, WRITING EVERY YEAR THESE
MARVELLOUS CHRISTMAS STORIES,
ONE OF WHICH THEN DEVELOPED INTO
“THE HOBBIT,” AND BECAME THE
SURPRISE BEST SELLER OF 1937.
RAYNOR UNWIN, THE LONDON
PUBLISHER, COMES RUNNING BACK TO
OXFORD, AND SAYS, GIVE US MORE
OF THIS KIND OF STUFF.
SO TOLKIEN SAYS, SURE.
HE GOES BACK UPSTAIRS, HE GETS A
WHOLE BIG SHEAF OF WHAT WOULD
EVENTUALLY BECOME “THE
SILMARILLION” AND HANS IT TO
RAYNOR UNWIN.
UNWIN STRIKES HIS FOREHEAD AND
SAYS, “OH MY GOD, THIS IS LIKE
READING THE LONDON PHONE BOOK IN
ELVISH.”
[Audience laughter]
TERRIBLE, CHRONICLE, DATA,
NAMES, BUT NO PLOT, NO
CHARACTERISATION, NO THICK,
DENSE DEVELOPMENT, AND HE
PROTESTED.
“GIVE US MORE HOBBITS.”
AND SO TOLKIEN, AS YOU KNOW, SET
HIMSELF THE TASK OF TRYING TO
INTRODUCE THESE STRANGE
CREATURES, HOBBITS, INTO HIS
HUGE MYTHOLOGICAL WORLD HE HAD
BEEN WORKING ON SINCE 1917, AND
IT OF COURSE BECAME “THE LORD OF
THE RINGS.”
BUT HE REMAINED A RATHER INSULAR
MAN.
HE WAS NOT, AS I SAID, AN EASY
FRIEND MAKER.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE VERY
DISTINGUISHED SCOTS POET, EDWIN
MUIR, WROTE A NEGATIVE REVIEW OF
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS,” AND
TOLKIEN NEVER FORGAVE HIM.
HE BLOCKED HIS BEING NAMED THE
OXFORD PROFESSOR OF POETRY.
HE HELD GRUDGES, TOLKIEN DID.
TOLKIEN, FOR EXAMPLE, INTENSELY
DISLIKED THE INFLUENCE OF
CHARLES WILLIAMS ON LEWIS.
HE THOUGHT IT WAS DISASTROUS,
THAT CHARLES WILLIAMS WAS A HALF
EDUCATED, PSEUDO-PLATONIST, WHO
HAD ABSOLUTELY RUINED “THAT
HIDEOUS STRING,” THE THIRD
VOLUME OF THE SPACE TRILOGY.
AND HE RESENTED THE WAY IN WHICH
LEWIS SORT OF WELCOMED IN THIS
OUTSIDER TO THE INKLINGS.
AND NOT LEAST OF ALL, HE
INTENSELY DISLIKED JOY DAVIDMAN.
HE THOUGHT THIS WAS A TERRIBLE
INTRUSION, FOR LEWIS TO INVITE
JOY DAVIDMAN RIGHT INTO THAT
CIRCLE OF THE INKLINGS.
AND PART OF HIS RESENTMENT,
LET'S BE HONEST, WAS SEXIST.
HE DIDN'T THINK WOMEN HAD A
PLACE THERE.
HE DIDN'T THINK WOMEN WERE
CAPABLE OF THE KIND OF THOUGHT
THAT, OF COURSE JOY DAVIDMAN SO
BRILLIANTLY DISPLAYED.
SO FOR ME, THE SADDEST MOMENT OF
THEIR FRIENDSHIP CAME WHEN SHE
DIED.
HE NEVER CALLED
ON LEWIS, HIS BEST FRIEND, AT
HIS BEST FRIEND'S WIFE'S DEATH.
YOU SEE, THERE'S A JARRING,
JARRING DIFFERENCE THERE IN
LEWIS AND TOLKIEN.
AT THIS MOST
ELEMENTAL LEVEL OF PERSONALITY
AND FRIENDSHIP.
LEWIS, BY CONTRAST, WAS MUCH
ABLER AT THE MAKING OF
FRIENDSHIPS.
HE WAS A MAN WHO HAD A LARGE
FOLLOWING, OF COURSE, AT OXFORD,
OF STUDENTS.
HE WAS, OF COURSE, MOST FAMOUS
FOR HIS DEBATES AT THE OXFORD
SOCRATIC CLUB, WHERE HE WAS
FAMOUS FOR PUTTING DOWN ALL
COMERS, UNTIL OF COURSE, HE
ENCOUNTERED ELIZABETH ANSCOMBE,
WHO FLATTENED HIM, AND HE AGAIN,
HAD A WOMAN WHO COULD OUT-THINK
HIM, AND CAUSED HIM NO LITTLE
CONSTERNATION.
BUT FOR THESE DEBATES AT OXFORD,
HE BECAME VERY UNPOPULAR AMONG
THE SECULAR FACULTY AT OXFORD.
LEWIS' NICKNAME AT OXFORD WAS,
HEAVY LEWIS.
AND THAT DID NOT REFER TO LEWIS'
WEIGHT, IT REFERRED TO THE WAY
HE THREW HIS INTELLECTUAL WEIGHT
AROUND, THAT HE WAS MORE OF A
PUGILIST, A FIGHTER, THAN A
SCHOLAR AND THINKER, ON THE
PART-- AT LEAST IN THE VIEW OF
MANY OF THE OXFORD FACULTY, AND
FOR THAT REASON, OF COURSE,
LEWIS WAS DENIED A FULL
PROFESSORSHIP AT OXFORD.
ONE OF THE MAJOR ACADEMIC
SCANDALS OF THE 20th CENTURY,
WAS THIS MAN, ABSOLUTELY
BRILLIANT, IN THE PRODUCTION OF
BOTH HIS SCHOLARLY WORKS AND HIS
POPULAR WORKS, NEVER, IN FACT TO
USE CANADIAN TERMS AND AMERICAN
TERMS, NEVER GOT TENURE.
HE SERVED AS, WHAT WE WOULD CALL
AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HIS
ENTIRE CAREER AT OXFORD.
NOW, AS YOU KNOW, PARTLY THROUGH
TOLKIEN'S EFFORT, CAMBRIDGE
PLAYED ONE UPMANSHIP ON ITS
SISTER UNIVERSITY, BY GIVING
LEWIS A FULL PROFESSORSHIP THERE
AT THE VERY END, IN 19-- I
THINK, 54.
BUT LEWIS WAS A MAN, DESPITE THE
KIND OF OPPOSITION HE AROUSED AT
OXFORD, WAS ENORMOUSLY FAITHFUL
AND LOYAL TO HIS FRIENDS, A MAN
WHO MADE FRIENDS QUICKLY AND
DEEPLY.
EXAMPLES, OF COURSE ARE OBVIOUS.
HIS CHILDHOOD CLOSEST CHUM, A
HOMOSEXUAL NAMED ARTHUR GREAVES,
REMAINED LEWIS' CLOSE FRIEND HIS
ENTIRE LIFE.
ONE THINKS OF PATRICK MOORE, THE
YOUNG IRISHMAN HE MET THERE AT
OXFORD, THAT LED OF COURSE, TO
THE JANEY MOORE RELATIONSHIP.
THINK ABOUT OWEN BARFIELD.
BARFIELD, THE REAL INTELLECTUAL
MEMBER OF THE INKLINGS, WAS NOT,
HIMSELF A CHRISTIAN, HE WAS AN
ANTHROPOSOFIST.
AND YET LEWIS WELCOMED HIM IN,
AND THEY CARRIED ON THEIR FAMOUS
LONG DEBATE, BECAUSE LEWIS WOULD
NOT TURN AWAY THOSE WHO
DISAGREED WITH HIM, WHEREAS, AS
I'VE SAID BEFORE, TOLKIEN EXILED
EDWIN MUIR FROM THE OXFORD
PROFESSORSHIP OF POETRY, BECAUSE
HE WROTE A NEGATIVE REVIEW OF
HIS BOOKS.
ONE OF THE MOST MOVING
FRIENDSHIPS LEWIS MADE, I THINK,
IS THE FRIENDSHIP WITH DON
GIOVANNI CALABRIA, AN ITALIAN
PRIEST WHO HE NEVER MET IN THE
FLESH, BUT WHOM LEWIS CARRIED ON
A LONG CORRESPONDENCE WITH,
ENTIRELY IN LATIN.
HOW MANY CORRESPONDENTS SO YOU
HAVE, WITH WHOM YOU EXCHANGE
LATIN LETTERS?
AND OF COURSE LEWIS WAS A
PROLIFIC LETTER WRITER,
ANSWERING EVERY LETTER BY RETURN
POST.
SO BEGINNING EVERY MORNING, WITH
SOMETHING-- USUALLY TWO HOURS OF
FAN MAIL, EACH OF WHICH
ENQUIRIES HE ANSWERED, AND
ESPECIALLY ENJOYED THE LETTERS
HE GOT FROM CHILDREN, AND
ANSWERING THEM.
SO ON THIS FIRST SCORE, OF
PERSONALITY AND FRIENDSHIP
MAKING, I'LL HAVE TO GIVE LEWIS
THE CLEAR VICTORY.
HE'S THE BETTER MAKER OF FRIENDS
AND KEEPER OF FRIENDS THAN
TOLKIEN.
WE SHOULD REMEMBER, OF COURSE,
ARISTOTLE REGARDED FRIENDSHIP AS
THE VERY HIGHEST OF THE VIRTUES,
AND LEWIS THERE, WINS.
SECONDLY, CRAFTSMANSHIP AND
STYLE.
I'M SURE YOU KNOW THAT LEWIS HAD
IMMENSE FACILITY AT WRITING.
HE RARELY WROTE A SECOND DRAFT.
LEWIS USUALLY EVEN-- NOT JUST
HIS UM, CASUAL ESSAYS, BUT HIS
SCHOLARLY BOOKS, HE CORRECTED
FROM PAGE PROOFS.
HE SENT OFF FIRST DRAFTS, THEY
WENT DIRECTLY TO THE PRINTER,
AND HE MADE SMALL CORRECTIONS
ONLY AT THE PAGE PROOF STAGE.
AN INCREDIBLE FACILITY AT
WRITING, A MASTER PROSE STYLIST.
NO WONDER HE'S HAD SUCH
MAGNIFICENT INFLUENCE ON THE
20th CENTURY.
SOMEONE SAID THAT ONLY C.S.
LEWIS CAN MAKE RIGHTEOUSNESS
READABLE.
[Audience laughter]
EXACTLY RIGHT.
THIS MEANS, OF
COURSE, HE OUT-PUBLISHED TOLKIEN
RIGHT AND LEFT.
TOLKIEN WAS A TERRIBLY DILATORY
SCHOLAR, COULDN'T FINISH
ANYTHING.
HIS FRIENDS WOULD
HAVE TO TAKE ESSAYS AWAY FROM
HIM AND SEND THEM OFF TO THE
SCHOLARLY JOURNALS BECAUSE
TOLKIEN COULD JUST NEVER GET
FINISHED.
YOU KNOW, HE WAS ANAL RETENTIVE
ABOUT SCHOLARSHIP.
HE COULDN'T LET ANYTHING GO.
HE WOULD WRITE AN APPENDIX, AND
THEN AN APPENDIX TO THE
APPENDIX, AND YOU GET THE
PICTURE.
THUS HIS SCHOLARLY OUTPUT WAS
VERY SMALL, VERY SMALL, WHEREAS
LEWIS PUBLISHED MORE 50 BOOKS,
ALL OF WHICH ARE STILL IN PRINT.
THAT'S REMARKABLE.
USUALLY, AUTHORS WORK BEGINS TO
GO OUT OF PRINT WITHIN A
GENERATION AFTER HIS OR HER
DEATH.
HERE WE'RE CELEBRATING THE 41st
YEAR AFTER LEWIS' DEATH, AND YET
WE HAVE EVERY BOOK IN PRINT, NOT
TO MENTION THE HUGE SECONDARY
LITERATURE ON LEWIS, AND LAST
TIME I LOOKED, LEWIS' BOOKS WERE
SELLING OVER 2 MILLION COPIES A
YEAR, THAT'S REALLY REMARKABLE,
QUITE REMARKABLE.
BUT WE HAVE TO BE HONEST, THIS
LED TO RESENTMENT ON TOLKIEN'S
PART.
TOLKIEN THOUGHT THAT LEWIS WROTE
TOO MANY BOOKS TOO QUICKLY.
[Audience laughter]
THAT HE, IN FACT, UM...
THIS IS ONE OF THE POINTS OF
REAL DISJUNCTION.
TOLKIEN DISLIKED, AND I'LL
OFFEND SOME OF THE YOUNG LADIES,
I'LL OFFEND SOME OF THE CHILDREN
HERE, DISLIKED THE NARNIA
CHRONICLE INTENSELY.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HIS TITLE FOR
“THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE
WARDROBE,” WAS?
“NYMPHS AND THEIR WAYS, OR THE
LOVE LIFE OF A FAWN.”
[Audience laughter]
HE FELT THAT TOLKIEN HAD NOT
DEVELOPED THE KIND OF RICH
MYTHOLOGY THAT SHOULD UNDERLIE A
WORK LIKE THE NARNIA CHRONICLE,
AND THAT FRANKLY, HE HAD
PROBABLY CRIBBED FROM TOLKIEN'S
OWN HOBBIT, HIS OWN KIND OF
MYTHOLOGICAL WORLD.
AND HE THOUGHT IT WAS SECOND
RATE, HE REALLY DID, AND THAT
LEWIS' MYTHOLOGICAL WRITING WAS
SECOND RATE.
SOME EXAMPLES OF THAT.
NOW THEY BOTH WERE DEEPLY IN
LOVE WITH THE NATURAL WORLD.
ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS THEY DO
FOR US, IS TO HELP US RE-ENTER
RELATION TO THE NATURAL ORDER.
TOLKIEN WAS TO SAY, FOR EXAMPLE,
“OTHER CREATURES ARE LIKE OTHER
REALMS, FROM WHICH MAN HAS
BROKEN OFF RELATIONS.
WE ARE NOW AT WAR WITH THEM, OR
ELSE WE HAVE AN UNEASY ARMISTICE
WITH THEM.
SO BOTH LEWIS AND TOLKIEN SORT
OF BRING US BACK INTO RELATION
TO THE NATURAL AND ANIMAL WORLD,
AS A WORLD OF SHEER OTHERNESS
THAT WE CANNOT REDUCE TO OUR OWN
DIMENSION, THAT WE CANNOT MASTER
AND WHIP.
MISTER BALTITUDE, FOR EXAMPLE, A
WONDERFUL FIGURE OF A BEAR, THAT
WE COME TO, YOU KNOW, IN HIS
BULK, TO APPRECIATE THE WHOLE
CONDITION OF 'BEARNESS', IF
THAT'S A WORD.
BUT LOOK HOW LAME LEWIS' NAMES
ARE.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE HROSSA, H-R-O-
S-S-A, IN “OUT OF A SILENT
PLANET.”
THAT'S A KIND OF BAD REWORKING
OF THE WORD HORSE.
OR, FOR EXAMPLE, THE NAME,
DEVINE, IN “PERELANDRA” D-E-V-I-
N-E, BUT YOU KNOW, A KIND OF
HEAVY HANDED WAY OF SAYING, THIS
GUY HAS DIVINE KIND OF
PRETENSIONS, OR HIS COHORT,
WESTON, W-E-S-T-O-N, KIND OF A
HEAVY HANDED WAY OF SAYING, THIS
GUY REPRESENTS SCIENCE, OR EVEN
RANSOM, THE HERO OF THAT
TRILOGY.
I MEAN WE ALL KNOW THAT IT IS
SAID IN SCRIPTURE, THAT CHRIST
WAS A RANSOM FOR MANY.
WELL, YOU GET IT?
YOU GET IT TOO EASILY FOR
TOLKIEN.
TOLKIEN BY CONTRAST NEVER SIMPLY
MADE UP A NAME.
EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER, AND
THERE, OF COURSE NUMBER
THOUSANDS.
IF YOU NOW READ THE 12 VOLUME,
“HISTORY OF MIDDLE EARTH,” THAT
CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN HAS
ASSEMBLED, EACH VOLUME, YOU
KNOW, 500 OR 600 PAGES, EVERY
SINGLE NAME IS ROOTED IN SOME
CELTIC OR GERMANIC OR NORDIC OR
FINNISH LANGUAGE.
WE HAVEN'T BEGUN TO SCRATCH THE
SURFACE OF UNDERSTANDING
TOLKIEN, JUST OF HIS NAMES.
I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE.
I WAS GIVING A LECTURE THIS PAST
YEAR IN WICHITA, KANSAS.
AND AT THE END OF MY LECTURE, A
YOUNG MAN MADE HIS WAY FORWARD
AND SAID, “I GUESS YOU KNOW
TOLKIEN IS ANTISEMITIC.”
I SAID, “NO, I DID NOT KNOW THAT
TOLKIEN WAS ANTISEMITIC.”
THIS WAS PALPABLE
NONSENSE, TOLKIEN ABOMINATED
HITLER AND THE NAZIS.
HE HATED THE WAY THEY HAD RUINED
THE RICH MYTHOLOGY OF THE
GERMANIC NORTH.
I KNEW THIS COULDN'T BE TRUE, SO
I SAID, “TELL ME HOW.”
HE SAID, WELL,
THERE IS A MEDIEVAL LEGEND OF A
RABBI NAMED GOLEM, G-O-L-E-M,
WHO HAS A MAGICAL RING OF POWER,
THAT LETS HIM DO WHAT HE WANTS.
AT FIRST HE USES IT
BENEFICENTLY, BUT GRADUALLY
SELFISHLY AND HE BEGINS TO
ACCUMULATE GREAT TREASURES OF
WEALTH WITH IT.
AND SO, THE ARGUMENT RUNS, THAT
IN CREATING GOLLUM, TOLKIEN IS
TAKING A JAB IN AT GREEDY JEWS
WHO LIVE ONLY FOR MONEY.
THAT MADE NO SENSE, THAT MADE NO
SENSE.
SO I GOT TO RANSACKING MY OWN
RATHER THIN LINGUISTIC LIBRARY,
AND I HAVE WHAT I CALL, CHICKEN
FRIED ITALIAN.
THAT NAME WON'T MEAN ANYTHING TO
YOU, BUT CHICKEN FRIED IS A WAY
COUNTRY FOLKS PREPARE STEAK IN
TEXAS.
I HAVE WHAT I CALLED CHICKEN
FRIED ITALIAN, AND I KNOW THAT
THE ITALIAN WORD, GOLLA, MEANS
THROAT.
AND OF COURSE GOLLUM IS A THROAT
MUTTERER, GOLLUM, GOLLUM,
GOLLUM, GOLLUM...
HE TALKS TO HIMSELF ALL THE
TIME.
TOLKIEN'S WORLD IS SO COMMUNITY
CENTRED, THAT IN THE ABSENCE OF
COMMUNITY, PEOPLE CREATE PSEUDO
COMMUNITIES.
SO GOLLUM MAKES A FALSE
COMMUNITY UNTO HIMSELF, TALKING
TO HIMSELF ALL THE TIME.
SO GOLLA MEANS THROAT IN
ITALIAN.
SO I GO TO MY BIG THICK ITALIAN
DICTIONARY, PULL IT OFF THE
SHELF, LOOK UP GOLLA, TO SEE ITS
ETYMOLOGICAL SOURCE, ITS STEM,
ITS ROOT.
TURNS OUT ITS FROM AN INDO-
EUROPEAN ROOT, GOL, G-O-L, FROM
WHICH WE GET OUR WORD GULLET,
ALSO THROAT, BUT IT ALSO MEANS
GREED.
HOW BRILLIANT, ABSOLUTELY
BRILLIANT.
GOLLUM, THROAT MUTTERER,
CONSUMED BY GREED, NOT SOME
ANTI-SEMITIC FIGURE THAT TOLKIEN
INVENTED TO GET A JAB IN AT
JEWS.
THAT'S THE WAY TOLKIEN WORKS IN
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE RING WRAITHS.
NOW WHY DOES HE CALL THEM RING
WRAITHS?
WE KNOW THAT WRAITH IS ANOTHER
WORD FOR GHOST, AND THEY ARE
GHOSTLY FIGURES, THEY ARE NOW
DISEMBODIED ENTIRELY, BUT CAN
STILL ASSUME THESE FORM, WEAR
THESE AWFUL CAPES, RIDE THESE
AWFUL HORSES, WIELD SWORDS AND
THE LIKE, BUT TOM SHIPPEY, WHO
WAS TOLKIEN'S SUCCESSOR, AT
MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD, BEGAN
DIGGING AROUND AND SEEING OUT
WHERE THE WORD WRAITH COMES
FROM.
IT'S FROM THE ANGLO-SAXON WORD
WREATHON.
AND WREATHON DOES MEAN, ON THE
ONE HAND, WREATH, W-R-E-A-T-H,
TWISTED.
AND OF COURSE FOR TOLKIEN, THE
ESSENCE OF EVIL IS THAT IT'S A
TWISTED AND PERVERTED FORM OF
GOOD, AND FROM THE WREATHE, OR
TWIST, IT ALSO CAME TO MEAN
SMOKE, OR SOMETHING THIN,
GOSSAMER-LIKE, BECAUSE SMOKE,
AFTER ALL TWISTS AS IT GOES UP
IN THE AIR.
BUT WREATHON IS ALSO THE ROOT OF
OUR WORD WRATH.
RING WRAITH, TWISTED, THIN,
GHOSTLIKE WRATH.
THAT'S WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY TO
MY STUDENTS, YOU READ TOLKIEN AT
AGE 8, AND YOU READ TOLKIEN AT
AGE 80, AND YOU'VE JUST BEGUN,
JUST BEGUN.
SO, MY POINT THEN, IS THAT
TOLKIEN IS THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN.
IT SEEMS TO ME HE WINS VERY
CLEARLY OVER LEWIS ON THAT
SCORE.
I'LL GIVE YOU ONE OTHER EXAMPLE
OF A DIVISION IN THIS VERY
REGARD, AS YOU KNOW, TOLKIEN
SAYS IN HIS PREFACE TO “THE LORD
OF THE RINGS,” THAT HE CORDIALLY
DISLIKES ALLEGORY.
NOW THERE ARE VARIOUS TYPES OF
ALLEGORY, WE HAVE TO BE VERY
CAREFUL HERE.
THERE IS A MEDIEVAL ALLEGORY,
WHICH, BY ALLEGORY YOU MEAN, YOU
READ ONE TEXT IN LIGHT OF
ANOTHER TEXT, AND OF COURSE THAT
KIND OF ALLEGORY, TOLKIEN
THOROUGHLY SUPPORTS.
WHAT HE OPPOSES IS THE ONE TO
ONE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THIS
THING AND THAT THING.
AND AN OBVIOUS EXAMPLE, OF
COURSE, IS ASLAN, IN THE NARNIA
CHRONICLES.
NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT,
AT LEAST BY THE SECOND READING,
THAT ASLAN EQUALS CHRIST, YOU'RE
KIND OF SLOW ON THE UPTAKE.
I MEAN IT'S JUST OBVIOUS, IT'S
THERE.
WHEREAS, IN “THE
LORD OF THE RINGS,” THERE IS NO
CHRIST.
THERE IS NO ALLEGORY OF CHRIST.
GANDALF CERTAINLY HAS CHRIST-LIKE
FEATURES.
HE IS A CREATURE OF
EXTRAORDINARY WISDOM, INSIGHT,
COURAGE, EVEN WILLINGNESS, OF
COURSE, TO DIE IN BEHALF OF HIS
FRIENDS, AND WHAT IS MORE, TO BE
RAISED FROM THE DEAD.
BUT, GANDALF
DOESN'T MAKE ATONEMENT FOR
ANYONE'S SINS.
HE DOESN'T DIE THAT THE WORLD
MIGHT BE REDEEMED, EVEN THE
WORLD OF MIDDLE EARTH, WHEREAS
ASLAN IS CLEARLY THE CHRIST OF
MIDDLE EARTH.
SO TOLKIEN NEVER HAS ANY ONE TO
ONE LINKS.
I MEAN, FOR EXAMPLE ELROND, I
MEAN ARAGORN HAS REAL CHRIST-LIKE
FEATURES, THE POWER TO HEAL, THE
KIND OF KINGSHIP THAT YOU GET IN
THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS, WHERE
CHRIST IS LIKENED UNTO KING, BUT
SO DOES FRODO HAVE CHRIST-LIKE
FEATURES.
HE BEARS THE RING, VERY MUCH AS
CHRIST BEARS HIS CROSS.
BUT OF COURSE FOR TOLKIEN, WE'RE
ALL MEANT TO HAVE CHRIST-LIKE
FEATURES, THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE CHRISTIAN.
BUT THERE'S NO ONE TO ONE
CORRESPONDENCE, NO THIS EQUALS
THAT ANYWHERE IN TOLKIEN.
I MEAN THE RING ITSELF, DOES NOT
EQUAL THE ATOMIC BOMB.
SAURON IS NOT HITLER OR STALIN.
HE CERTAINLY HAS HITLERIAN,
STALINIST QUALITIES, THE RING
CERTAINLY HAS RESEMBLANCES TO
THE BOMB, BUT THEY'RE NOT EQUAL.
AND TOLKIEN THOUGHT THIS WAS A
REAL WEAKNESS IN LEWIS' WORK,
THAT YOU GET THIS KIND OF DIRECT
CORRESPONDENCES, WHEREAS TOLKIEN
ALWAYS CHOSE THE METHOD OF
INDIRECTION.
REMEMBER, HE WAS THE GREAT
MASTER OF BEOWULF.
AND TOLKIEN WROTE AN ESSAY IN
1937, CALLED, “THE MONSTERS AND
THE CREEKS,” WHERE HE MADE, WHAT
SEEMS NOW TO BE A COMMONSENSICAL
CASE THAT EVERYONE ACCEPTS, THAT
BEOWULF IS A PAGAN EPIC...
ABOUT A PAGAN WORLD, PRE-
CHRISTIAN, BUT WRITTEN PROBABLY
BY CHRISTIAN MONKS, CHRISTIAN
MONKS WHO WERE DETERMINED TO
PRESERVE WHAT IS GOOD AND
GLORIOUS ABOUT THAT PAGAN WORLD,
BUT AT THE SAME TIME, SILENTLY
TO INFUSE IT AND IMBUE IT WITH
CHRISTIAN QUALITIES.
IT'S EXACTLY WHAT TOLKIEN DOES
IN “THE LORD OF THE RINGS.”
SO YOU SEE, IT'S NOT KIND OF TOP
DOWN IMPOSITION OF THE FAITH ON
HIS FICTION, BUT SOMETHING THAT
RISES UP FROM BENEATH IT.
SO ON POINT TWO, ILL HAVE TO
GIVE TOLKIEN THE VICTORY.
THE THIRD AREA IS APOLOGETICS
AND EVANGELISM.
TOLKIEN REPEATEDLY CLAIMED, “I
NEITHER TEACH NOR PREACH.”
THAT'S A WAY OF SAYING THAT FOR
TOLKIEN, IF YOU DON'T SEE
ANYTHING CHRISTIAN ABOUT HIS
WORK, THAT'S FINE.
IT DOESN'T BOTHER HIM IN THE
LEAST, THAT YOU NOT PICK UP THE
CHRISTIAN QUALITY OF IS WORK.
BECAUSE, HE SAID, “I WANT MY
WORK TO STAND ON ITS OWN MERITS,
TO BE CONVINCING AS A WORK OF
ART, A WORK OF IMAGINATION, FOR
ITS PLOT, FOR ITS CHARACTERS,
FOR ITS SCENE, FOR ITS SETTING,
ALL TO HAVE A KIND OF
PLAUSIBILITY AND CONVICTION THAT
WILL WIN THE READER OVER AND
MAKE THE READER KEEP TURNING THE
PAGE.
AND SO IF THEY MISS THE
OVERTONES, IF THEY MISS, FOR
EXAMPLE, THE MARIAN QUALITIES OF
GALADRIEL, IT DOESN'T BOTHER
HIM, BECAUSE HE DOESN'T BELIEVE
ART IS MEANT FOR EVANGELISM.
HE THINKS THAT IS A MISUSE OF
ART, FOR ANY KIND OF CONVERSION.
SO THERE'S NO KIND OF EVANGELISM
GOING ON IN TOLKIEN AT ALL.
I WOULD WAGER THAT THERE HAVE
BEEN VERY FEW SOULS SAVED BY
READING TOLKIEN, TO BE HONEST
WITH YOU.
I THINK THERE HAVE BEEN MANY
SOULS DEEPENED, MANY LIVES
ENRICHED, ESPECIALLY CHRISTIAN
LIVES, BY THE READING OF
TOLKIEN, BUT I DOUBT THAT THERE
HAVE BEEN VERY MANY PEOPLE
CONVERTED BY READING TOLKIEN.
WHICH IS A WAY OF SAYING THAT
LEWIS AND TOLKIEN WERE DEEPLY
DIVIDED ABOUT THEIR
CHURCHMANSHIP.

TOLKIEN WAS A
LIFELONG CATHOLIC, WHO BELIEVED
THAT HIS MOTHER HAD BECOME A
VIRTUAL MARTYR FOR HER FAITH,
SINCE SHE WORE HERSELF OUT
REARING THESE TWO SONS IN A
CATHOLIC SETTING IN BIRMINGHAM.
SHE DIED YOUNG IN SHEER
EXHAUSTION FROM THAT.
AND SO HE REMAINED A LIFELONG,
CONVINCED CATHOLIC WHO THOUGHT
THE WHOLE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
WAS A MISTAKE.
I VISITED WITH
PRISCILLA TOLKIEN IN THE SUMMER
OF 1988, IN HER HOME JUST
OUTSIDE OXFORD.
I HAD A WONDERFUL TWO HOURS.
SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE A HOBBIT, BY
THE WAY.
[Laughing]
SHE'S ABOUT THAT HIGH, AND SHE
HAS A NICE PAUNCH.
YOU KNOW, THE HOBBITS EAT SIX
TIMES A DAY, NO SLIMFAST
ANYWHERE IN HOBBIT TOWN.
BUT SHE SAID TO ME, “YOU'RE A
BAPTIST.
MY FATHER WOULD HAVE HAD NO USE
FOR YOU.”

The audience laughs.

Ralph says IT WAS A NICE INTRODUCTION.
I SAID, “HOW'S THAT?”
SHE SAID, “OF COURSE MY
GRANDPARENTS, ON MY FATHER'S
SIDE, AND ON MY MOTHER'S SIDE,
WERE ANGLICAN.
AND WHEN SHE CONVERTED TO ROME,
THEY BOTH TOTALLY DISOWNED HER.
AND SO MISSUS TOLKIEN HAD TO REAR
THOSE TWO BOYS ON HER OWN,
BECAUSE HER PROTESTANT--
BECAUSE, REMEMBER, TO CONVERT TO
ROME, IN ENGLAND, IS A RADICALLY
COUNTER-CULTURAL ACT.
I MEAN EVERYBODY IS C OF E, IT'S
JUST LIKE BREATHING.
AND SO SHE WANTED A CHRISTIANITY
THAT WAS NOT SIMPLY A KIND OF A
CULTURAL ARTIFACT, AND SO WHEN
SHE CONVERTED, SHE WAS REJECTED,
AND THAT MADE TOLKIEN A LIFE
LONG CONVINCED FIERCE, CATHOLIC,
FOR WHOM THOSE GREAT CATHEDRALS
OF ENGLAND ARE STOLEN PROPERTY.
AND HE THOUGHT LEWIS WAS JUST AN
UNCONVERTED ULSTERMAN, A
NORTHERN -- I UNDERSTAND THE
ORANGE FREE STATE HAS SOME
PRESENCE IN TORONTO, IN HIS --
AT LEAST IN ITS ORIGINS.
TOLKIEN RESENTED THE
REFORMATION.
HE RESENTED LEWIS' NEVER BEING
WILLING TO COME OVER TO THE
CATHOLIC CHURCH.
IN FACT HE WROTE A LATE STORY --
NOT THE ULSTER MONSTER, BUT
SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THAT
CHRISTOPHER HAS SUPPRESSED, IT'S
SUCH AN UGLY ATTACK ON
PROTESTANTISM THAT CHRISTOPHER
TOLKIEN HAS SUPPRESSED IT.
THIS IS THEN TO BRING US TO A
POINT THAT IS NOT TOO WELL
KNOWN, AND THAT IS THAT TOLKIEN
ALSO DISLIKED LEWIS' APOLOGETIC
WORK INTENSELY -- THOSE WORKS
FOR WHICH LEWIS IS SO FAMOUS,
“MERE CHRISTIANITY,” “MIRACLES,”
“THE PROBLEM OF PAIN,”
“SCREWTAPE LETTERS,” “LETTERS
FROM MALCOLM,” TOLKIEN THOUGHT
WERE A MISTAKE.
HE THOUGHT LEWIS WAS WAY OUT OF
HIS DEPTH THAT LEWIS WAS
SPEAKING ABOUT THINGS IN WHICH
HE WAS NOT DEEPLY SCHOOLED AND
LEARNED.
THAT THEREFORE, THERE WAS ABOUT
THEM A KIND OF POPULAR CHARACTER
THAT MADE THEM SHALLOW.
AND HIS NICKNAME FOR LEWIS WAS,
“EVERYMAN'S THEOLOGIAN.”
[Audience laughter]
NOW YOU MAY BE ABLE TO CATCH THE
NUANCE OF THAT UP HERE, IN WHAT
WE CALL THE DEEP NORTH.
[Audience laughter]
BUT IN THE DEEP SOUTH, WE'D SAY
THAT'S JOE BLOW'S THEOLOGIAN.
YOU HAVE THAT PHRASE IN CANADA?
JOE BLOW'S THEOLOGIAN, NOT A
COMPLIMENT, TO SAY THE LEAST,
ALTHOUGH I SHOULD ADD, PRISCILLA
TOLKIEN SAID TO ME SOMETHING
REMARKABLE, SHE SAID, YOU KNOW,
“MY FATHER WOULDN'T HAVE LIKED
YOU AS A BAPTIST,” BUT SHE SAID,
“WHEN HE PUT PEN TO PAPER, ALL
OF THOSE ANIMOSITIES FELL AWAY.
AND THERE, WHEN HE BEGAN TO DO
HIS CREATIVE WORK, HE IMBIBED,
AND HE ARTICULATED AND EMBODIED
WHAT C.S. LEWIS CALLED MERE
CHRISTIANITY, ESSENTIAL,
BEDROCK, NON-NEGOTIABLE
CHRISTIANITY.
THAT'S WHAT INFORMS MY FATHER'S
WORK WHEN HE WRITES CREATIVELY.”
BUT HE HATED VATICAN II.
VATICAN II WAS A MISTAKE.
HE LIKED THE LATIN MASS, SO
NOTHING APOLOGETIC WHATSOEVER IN
TOLKIEN'S WORK.
BUT LEWIS, BY CONTRAST, WAS AN
EVANGELIST IN EVERYTHING HE
SAID, AND WROTE.
I QUOTE HIM, “THE GLORY OF GOD
IS THE SALVATION OF SOULS, AND
THE SAVING OF A SINGLE PERSON IS
WORTH MORE THAN ALL THE CLASSIC
WORKS OF LITERATURE AND CULTURE
PUT TOGETHER.
THE CHURCH,” I'M STILL QUOTING
LEWIS, “EXISTS FOR NO OTHER
REASON THAN TO DRAW MEN INTO
CHRIST, TO MAKE LITTLE CHRISTS
OF THEM.
AND APART FROM THIS, EVERYTHING
ELSE, CATHEDRALS, MINISTERS,
CHURCH MUSIC, EVEN THE BIBLE
ITSELF IS A WASTE.”
THAT'S LEWIS, THE CHURCH
EXISTING FOR NO OTHER REASON
THAN TO DRAW MEN INTO CHRIST.
SO HE WROTE PRECISELY FOR THAT
PURPOSE -- TO BRING MEN INTO
CHRIST, AND WOMEN OF COURSE.
WHICH IS TO SAY, OF COURSE, HE
BECAME THE MOST POPULAR
APOLOGIST, DEFENDER OF THE
CHRISTIAN FAITH, OF THE 20th
CENTURY, NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT.
ONE OF MY HEROES IS WALTER
PERCY, A GREAT SOUTHERN
NOVELIST, I ENCOURAGE YOU
CANADIANS TO READ.
YOU DON'T KNOW HIM.
HE WAS REVIEWING A BOOK ABOUT
20th CENTURY CONVERTS TO
CHRISTIANITY, AND GUESS WHAT
NAME KEPT COMING UP.
ABOUT THE SOURCE OF THE MOST
CONVERSIONS OF INTELLECTUALS,
AGAIN, NOT POPULAR AUDIENCES,
BUT OF INTELLECTUAL AUDIENCES,
C.S. LEWIS.
OVER AND--
I MEAN LEWIS
CONVERTED CHARLES COLSON.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHO CHUCK COLSON
WAS?
HE WAS CALLED NIXON'S NIXON.
CHUCK COLSON ONCE SAID, IF NIXON
GAVE ME THE COMMAND TO SANDBAG
MY GRANDMOTHER, I'D HAVE DONE
IT.
I MEAN HE WAS A
CROOK, A REAL CRIMINAL, AND
CONVERTED, AND OF COURSE YOU
KNOW A LOT OF JOKES WERE MADE.
WELL, THAT'S A JAILBIRD'S
CONVERSION, GUESS WHAT WILL
HAPPEN WHEN HE GETS OUT.
WELL WHAT HAPPENED WHEN HE GOT
OUT?
HE FORMED PRISON FELLOWSHIP,
WHICH HE RUNS UNTIL THIS DAY.
MAGNIFICENT MINISTRY TO
PRISONERS.
BUT CHUCK COLSON IS JUST ONE
EXAMPLE OF MANY, MANY I COULD
GIVE OF THE POWERS OF LEWIS'
APOLOGETIC WORK.
LEWIS' APOLOGETIC WORK IS
PREMISED ON THE NOTION THAT
THINKING ONE'S WAY TOWARD THE
FAITH IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIALLY.
BECAUSE OF COURSE, THAT'S HOW HE
RETURNED TO THE FAITH.
IF YOU'VE READ, “SURPRISED BY
JOY,” I'M SURE MOST OF YOU KNOW,
HE WORKED HIS WAY BACK INTO
CHRISTIANITY BY REASON, BY
THINKING.
BY WRESTLING WITH VERY LARGE AND
DIFFICULT IDEAS.
AND THAT OF COURSE ENABLED HIM
TO WRITE ABOUT THOSE IDEAS EVER
SO CLEARLY, EVER SO POWERFULLY,
WITH MARVELLOUS, MARVELLOUS
ANALOGIES AND RICH, RICH
COMPARISONS.
HOWEVER, LEWIS HAS NEVER WON THE
RESPECT OF PROFESSIONAL
THEOLOGIANS.
THEY FIND HIM FAR TOO
SIMPLISTIC.
THEY FIND HIM MAKING EASY, KNOCK
DOWN ARGUMENTS, SETTING UP STRAW
MEN, DRAWING COMPARISONS BETWEEN
THINGS THAT AREN'T REALLY
COMPARABLE.
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU KNOW, SOME
PHRASES FROM YOUR CHRISTIANITY.
YOU KNOW, EITHER JESUS IS WHO HE
SAID HE WAS, OR ELSE HE'S A
MADMAN.
WELL THERE ARE PROBABLY ABOUT A
HALF A DOZEN OR A DOZEN OTHER
THINGS JESUS COULD BE THAN A
MADMAN.
OR, CHRIST IS THE TRUE SON OF
GOD, OR ELSE HE'S A POACHED EGG.
WELL THAT'S FUNNY, BUT THAT IS
NOT TERRIBLY DEEP.
HERE'S A PHRASE, I HAVE TO
CONFESS, IT BOTHERS ME, FROM
LEWIS.
LEWIS SAID, “THAT FOR GOD TO
BECOME MAN, WOULD BE AKIN TO YOU
OR ME BECOMING A SNAIL OR A
SLUG.”
THAT STRIKES ME AS PROFOUNDLY
ANTI-INCARNATIONAL.
THE GLORY OF THE INCARNATION IS
THAT WHEN GOD BECOMES HUMAN, HE
DOES SO IN GREAT DELIGHT, NOT
THROUGH DEGRADATION INTO VERMIN
LIKE A SLUG OR A SNAIL.
MOST HORRIBLY, OF COURSE, IS
LEWIS' PHRASE FROM “THE PROBLEM
OF PAIN.”
WHEN I HAVE STUDENTS WHO COME TO
ME AND TELL ME THAT THEY HAVE A
FRIEND WHO'S COMMITTED SUICIDE,
WHEN I DEAL WITH PARENTS WHO
HAVE LOST THEIR COLLEGE STUDENTS
TO SUDDEN DEATH, THE LAST BOOK I
WOULD EVER GIVE THEM IS, “THE
PROBLEM OF PAIN.”
BECAUSE THERE YOU READ SENTENCES
LIKE THIS.
“GOD WHISPERS TO US IN OUR
PLEASURE, SPEAKS TO US IN OUR
CONSCIENCE, BUT SHOUTS TO US IN
OUR PAIN.
PAIN IS GOD'S MEGAPHONE TO
AROUSE A DEAF WORLD.”
THOSE STRIKE ME AS DEADLY
SENTENCES.
MOST PAIN IS NUMBING AT BEST.
MUCH PAIN CUTS OFF BELIEF,
DESTROYS THE POSSIBILITY OF
BELIEVING IN GOD.
AT HIS BEST, LEWIS UNDERSTOOD
THIS.
SOME OF YOU KNOW LEWIS WROTE
WHAT HE CALLED, “THE APOLOGIST'S
EVENING PRAYER.”
LISTEN TO IT, “FROM ALL MY LAME
DEFEATS, AND OH MUCH MORE FROM
ALL THE VICTORIES THAT I SEEM TO
SCORE, FROM CLEVERNESS SHOT
FORTH IN THY BEHALF, AT WHICH,
WHILE ANGELS WEEP, THE AUDIENCE
LAUGH, FROM ALL MY PROOFS OF THY
DIVINITY, THOU, WHO WOULDST GIVE
NO SIGN, DELIVER ME.”
YET THERE IS ANOTHER KIND OF
APOLOGETICS AT WORK IN LEWIS
THAT I THINK IS ABSOLUTELY
MAGNIFICENT, SO I SHOW YOU WHERE
I'M GOING, LEWIS IS GOING TO WIN
THIS ONE.
LEWIS WON THE FIRST, TOLKIEN THE
SECOND, LEWIS THE THIRD.
AND THAT IS HIS IMAGINATIVE
APOLOGETICS.
TO ME, THE LASTING WORK OF
LEWIS, THOUGH IT SOUNDS STRANGE,
WILL NOT BE, “MERE
CHRISTIANITY,” AND “MIRACLES,”
AND “THE PROBLEM OF PAIN.”
IT WILL BE “THE SPACE TRILOGY,”
AND ABOVE ALL, “TILL WE HAVE
FACES,” HIS TRULY GREAT WORK.
HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE READ, “TILL
WE HAVE FACES?”
GOOD, WONDERFUL, YOU REMEMBER--
I TELL MY STUDENTS AT BAYLOR,
YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LIST, BOOKS
TO READ BEFORE I DIE.
SO PUT THAT ONE DOWN, IF IT'S
NOT THERE, BOOKS TO READ BEFORE
I DIE.
“OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET,” FOR
EXAMPLE, IS A WONDERFULLY,
WONDERFULLY IMAGINATIVE BOOK
THAT SHOWS US WHAT LIFE WOULD BE
IN A WORLD CHARACTERISED BY
MASCULINE GENDER, NOT MASCULINE
SEX, WATCH IT, MASCULINE GENDER.
IT'S A WORLD OF
GREAT DECLIVITIES AND
ACCLIVITIES, ROCKY PEAKS AND
STEEP, STEEP SLOPES, WHERE LIFE
IS FULL OF DANGER AND RISK.
WHERE DEATH IS ALWAYS NEAR AT
HAND, BUT WHERE THE FALL HAS NOT
OCCURRED, AND LIFE IS GOOD, EVEN
IN BEING FULL OF DEATH AND
DANGER AND DEATH.
HE SHOWS US THEN
WHAT AN UNFALLEN WORLD MIGHT BE
LIKE.
IN THE SEQUEL TO THAT, OF
COURSE, PERELANDRA, HE SHOWS A
FEMININE WORLD.
NOT FEMALE, BUT FEMININE.
A WONDERFULLY CURVED, WATERY,
LIQUID WARM WOMB-LIKE WORLD,
WHERE THE FALL HAS NOT OCCURRED,
BUT ALMOST OCCURS.
AND WHAT LEWIS IS DOING IN THAT
[Inaudible] IS TRYING TO SHOW US
THE WAY IN WHICH THE FALL DID
NOT NEED TO OCCUR.
FOR YOU SEE, MUCH OF THE PREMISE
OF MODERN LIFE IS THE NOTION
THAT IF WE DIDN'T HAVE EVIL, WE
WOULDN'T HAVE GOOD.
LEWIS KNOCKS THAT DOCTRINE FLAT,
NOT BY ARGUMENT, BUT BY
DEMONSTRATION IMAGINATIVELY, BY
SHOWING WHAT AN UNFALLEN WORLD
IS LIKE, AND WHAT IT WOULD BE TO
INTRODUCE EVIL INTO IT.
BUT BY FAR HIS BEST APOLOGETIC
WORK, THOUGH NOT INTENDED AS
SUCH, EXPLICITLY AT LEAST,
IS, “TILL WE HAVE FACES.”
BY THE WAY, THAT BOOK WAS CO-
WRITTEN BY JOY DAVIDMAN.
HER NAME SHOULD BE LISTED AS CO-
AUTHOR, AND WE HAVE FOR THE
FIRST TIME A REALLY CONVINCING
FEMALE PROTAGONIST IN ORUAL.
AND WE HAVE, IN HER PROTEST
AGAINST GOD, REAL DOUBT, REAL
ATHEISM, REAL UNBELIEF, NOT THE
KIND OF UNBELIEF THAT YOU CAN
KNOCK DOWN.
SHE REALLY HAS A CAUSE AGAINST
GOD.
SHE IS A PLAIN FACED WOMAN WHO
HAS HAD TAKEN FROM HER, THE
THINGS SHE LOVES MOST IN THIS
LIFE, AND THEREFORE, SHE HAS NO
REASON WHATSOEVER TO LIVE.
SHE COMES TO THE POINT OF
SUICIDE, OF KILLING HERSELF,
WHEN SUDDENLY SHE HEARS A VOICE
THAT SAYS, SIMPLY, “DIE BEFORE
YOU DIE.”
“DIE BEFORE YOU DIE.”
SUDDENLY, EVERYTHING IS
ILLUMINATED.
SHE DISCOVERS HER RATE, HER
WRATH, HER FURY HER ANGER HAS
BEEN DIRECTED FALSELY, AND THAT
THE WOMAN WHO SEEMINGLY FORSOOK
HER, HER SISTER, PHYSIQUE, WAS
NOT FORSAKING HER, AND FOR
PHYSIQUE TO LOVE GOD ABSOLUTELY,
DOES NOT MEAN THAT PHYSIQUE NO
LONGER LOVES ORUAL.
BUT THAT PHYSIQUE, TO USE ST.
AUGUSTIN'S FAMOUS WORDS, HAS SET
HER LOVES IN ORDER.
BY LOVING GOD COMPLETELY SHE CAN
LOVE ALL OTHER THINGS RIGHTLY AS
WELL, AND THAT ORUAL IS STILL
MUCH LOVED BY PHYSIQUE.
SHE COMES TO DIE BEFORE SHE
DIES.
AS T.S. ELLIOT SAYS, “WE ARE
SAVED FROM FIRE BY FIRE.”
THE WHOLE MEANING OF COURSE, OF
MARK, 8.
IF ANYONE SHOULD COME AFTER ME,
LET HIM TAKE UP HIS CROSS,
FOLLOW ME, DIE, BE BURNED UP IN
GLAD SACRIFICE.
SO IN LEWIS' APOLOGETICS, I
THINK THEY'RE REALLY
MAGNIFICENT, ESPECIALLY THE
IMAGINATIVE APOLOGETICS, AND I
THINK CLEARLY HE WINS ON THAT
ONE.
FOURTH AND FINALLY, THE CHURCH
AND THE MODERN WORLD.
AND YOU MIGHT SAY INITIALLY,
WHAT COULD THEY POSSIBLY
DISAGREE ABOUT IN MODERNITY,
THEY BOTH HATED IT.
THEY BOTH WERE ANTI-MODERN.
I MEAN, WHEN, FOR EXAMPLE,
TOLKIEN FOUND OUT WHAT THE
AUTOMOBILE WAS DOING TO THE
RURAL ROADS OF BRITAIN, HE
STOPPED DRIVING.
LEWIS NEVER LEARNED TO DRIVE.
THAT'S ONE OF THE FAULTY THINGS
ABOUT THAT MOVIE, “SHADOW
LANDS,” IT HAS LEWIS WHEELING
AROUND IN HIS--
NO, HE NEVER LEARNED TO DRIVE.
THEY WERE LUDDITES IN MANY WAYS.
THESE MEN WERE ANTI-MACHINES.
THE MACHINE AGE, IN MANY WAYS,
THEY DESPISED.
SO WHY WOULD THEY BE DIFFERENT
IN THEIR ASSESSMENT OF
MODERNITY?
IT ALL CENTRES AROUND THE
BUSINESS OF WAR.
HERE IS THE ESSENCE.
THOUGH LEWIS WAS INJURED IN
BATTLE, BY SO-CALLED FRIENDLY
FIRE, A GRENADE HAD BEEN THROWN
FORWARD, IT FELL SHORT AND
LANDED IN LEWIS' COMPANY.
HE WAS SEVERELY WOUNDED, BROUGHT
BACK TO ENGLAND, AS YOU KNOW.
WAR HAS ALMOST NO IMPACT ON
LEWIS' IMAGINATION, ALMOST NONE.
YOU GET THE LAST BATTLE OF
COURSE, IN THE NARNIA CHRONICLE,
BUT YOU GET NOTHING LIKE THE --
WHAT IS FOR TOLKIEN THE MAJOR
FACT OF THE MODERN WORLD,
WARFARE.
NOW TO ME ONE OF THE MOST
DISTURBING SCENES, IN “THE
SCREWTAPE LETTERS,” A BOOK I
LOVE, I TEACH EVERY SEMESTER.
I NEVER GROW TIRED OF IT, BUT
YOU REMEMBER SCREWTAPE SAYS TO
HIS DISCIPLE, “AREN'T YOU GLAD
THAT THIS WAR IS GOING ON?
WE CAN MAKE SUCH GOOD USE OF
IT.”
AND SCREWTAPE WRITES BACK, “NO,
WE CAN'T, THE WAR IS USELESS TO
US.
BECAUSE AFTER ALL, WHEN MEN ARE
READY TO DIE, THEY START
THINKING ABOUT ULTIMATE THINGS.
AND THEREFORE THE WAR IS OF NO
HELP.
IT WOULD BE OF
MORE HELP TO GOD.
FOR TOLKIEN, BY CONTRAST, WAR IS
THE FUNDAMENTAL FACT OF THE
MODERN WORLD.
YOU READ THAT
JOHN GARTH BOOK, AND YOU WILL
REALLY UNDERSTAND THE DEPTH OF
THE HORROR OF TOLKIEN'S HATRED
OF WAR.
HE LOST HIS TWO BEST FRIENDS,
BUT IT WASN'T JUST THE LOSS OF
HIS TWO BEST FRIENDS, THAT
HORRIFIED HIM ABOUT WAR.
HE CAME TO SEE THAT COERCIVE
FORCE AND VIOLENCE ARE THE
FUNDAMENTAL REALITIES OF OUR
LIVES.
THAT STATISTIC THAT YOU ALL
KNOW, BUT MUST BE REPEATED, IS
THAT MORE PEOPLE WERE KILLED BY
VIOLENT MEANS IN THE 20th
CENTURY THAN IN ALL OF THE
PRECEDING CENTURIES COMBINED.
SHALL I REPEAT THAT?
MORE PEOPLE KILLED BY VIOLENT
MEANS IN THE 20th CENTURY THAN
IN ALL OF THE PREVIOUS CENTURIES
TOGETHER, ROUGHLY 180 MILLION,
MOST OF THEM OF COURSE, BY THEIR
OWN GOVERNMENTS.
THIS REGISTERED UPON TOLKIEN SO
PROFOUNDLY, THAT HE CAME TO SEE
THAT OURS IS THE AGE OF BLOOD.
OURS IS THE CENTURY INCARNADINE.
OURS IS PRECISELY WHAT HIS
HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II CALLS THE
CULTURE OF DEATH, AND THEREFORE
HE SET HIS FACE AGAINST IT LIKE
FLINT.
HE DETERMINED TO WRITE A BOOK
THAT WOULD SHOW US THE WAY IN
WHICH WAR IS THE FUNDAMENTAL
FACT OF OUR LIVES, THOUGH HE
SETS IT IN A FAR DISTANT WORLD.
BUT WHAT IS MORE, TO OFFER A
RADICAL ALTERNATIVE TO WAR, IN
THAT COMPANY OF NINE WALKERS.
IF YOU READ TOLKIEN CAREFULLY,
THIS HORRIFIED HIM TO SOME
EXTENT WHEN HE FOUND THIS OUT,
HE COMES OUT ALMOST AS A
PACIFIST BY THE END OF “THE LORD
OF THE RINGS.”
REMEMBER WHEN THEY GO BACK TO
THE SCOW OF THE SHIRE, AND
UNFORTUNATELY PETER JACKSON
LEAVES THAT SCENE OUT.
YOU KNOW WHY?
HE SAID, “I DON'T LIKE THAT PART
OF THE NOVEL.”
IT'S LIKE SAYING, “I DON'T LIKE
THE FIFTH ACT OF “KING LEAR,”
WE'LL LEAVE IT OUT.
[Audience laughter]
BUT YOU REMEMBER, FRODO SAYS,
DON'T KILL THOSE WHO WENT OVER
TO SARUMAN'S SIDE, UNLESS YOU
HAVE TO, AND I'M NOT GOING TO
KILL ANYBODY.
AND FINALLY HE SAYS, “AND I HOPE
YOU DON'T HAVE TO KILL ANYBODY.”
CAN YOU HEAR THE RADICAL-- AND I
MEAN, FARAMIR HAS A SPEECH THAT
IS JUST A FORTHRIGHT STATEMENT
OF THE CHRISTIAN JUST WAR
POLICY.
SO TOLKIEN COMES TO HAVE THIS
HORROR OF WAR, AND HE ANSWERS IT
IN A WAY THAT I DON'T THINK
LEWIS EVER UNDERSTOOD.
AND HERE I'M GIVING TOLKIEN THE
VICTORY IN THE FOURTH, THAT IS
TO SAY, THAT FOR J.R.R. TOLKIEN,
EVERYTHING BASIC, FUNDAMENTAL,
VITAL AND ETERNAL, CENTRES ON
COMMUNITY, ON OUR RELATION TO
EACH OTHER.
WHEREAS C.S. LEWIS REMAINS
PROFOUNDLY INDIVIDUALISTIC IN
HIS VISION.
RANSOM GOES OFF TO FIRST
MARALANDRA AND THEN PERALANDRA
BY HIMSELF.
HE FACES RESTON BY HIMSELF.
EACH OF THE CHILDREN IN THE
NARNIA CHRONICLES, FACE ASLAN BY
HIMSELF OR HERSELF.
I'M AFRAID TO SAY, BUT I MUST
SAY IT, I THINK MUCH OF LEWIS'
ATTRACTION TO THE PROTESTANT
EVANGELICAL WORLD LIES IN HIS
INDIVIDUALISM.
I SHOCK MY STUDENTS AT BAYLOR
WHEN I SAY THERE IS NO SUCH
THING AS A SOLITARY CHRISTIAN.
THAT'S AN OXYMORON.
TO BE CHRISTIAN IS TO BELONG TO
THE BODY OF CHRIST, AND THE BODY
OF CHRIST IS HIS PEOPLE, CALLED
THE CHURCH.
WHAT IS THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE
RING, BUT A CHURCH, WHERE YOU'VE
GOT THE ULTIMATE MULTICULTURAL
COMMUNITY.
IT PUTS TORONTO TO SHAME.
[Audience laughter]
TWO MEN, A WIZARD, A DWARF, ELF,
FOUR HOBBITS, WHAT A FRIEND OF
MINE AT BAYLOR CALLS, WONDERFUL
PHRASE, EQUAL UNLIKES, EQUAL
UNLIKES.
BUT NOTICE THEIR
DIVERSITY, THAT MAGICAL WORD
THAT OUR CULTURE SLAVERS OVER,
IS VALUABLE, NOT FOR ITS OWN
SAKE, BUT WHAT EACH BRINGS TO
THEIR COMMON TASK, AND WHAT
BINDS THE COMPANY TOGETHER, WHAT
MAKES THEM A FELLOWSHIP, NOTICE
THAT WORD, COMPANY, TO BREAK
BREAD WITH, COMPANION -- IS
THEIR TRUST, THEIR LOYALTY TO
EACH OTHER, THEIR FRIENDSHIP,
THEIR COMMONALITY.
NOTICE EVEN WHEN
THE RING IS BROKEN, THE
FELLOWSHIP IS BROKEN, YOU
DEVELOP MANY COMMUNITIES, SMALL
COMMUNITIES.
FRODO AND SAM ARE TOGETHER.
PIPPIN AND MARY ARE TOGETHER, SO
FOR TOLKIEN, THERE IS NEVER A
KIND OF SOLITUDE, A KIND OF
SOLIT--
FRODO IS NOT A SOLITARY HERO.
IF SAM HADN'T BEEN WITH HIM, HE
COULD NOT HAVE MADE IT UP MOUNT
DOOM, AND EVEN GOLLUM IS
ESSENTIAL IN HIS OWN STRANGE,
PROVIDENTIAL WAY, TO THE
COMMUNITY.
SO TOLKIEN'S VISION IS
PROFOUNDLY COMMUNITARIAN.
LEWIS' VISION IS PROFOUNDLY
INDIVIDUALISTIC, AND I HAVE TO
GIVE THE VICTORY TO TOLKIEN
THERE, SURELY.
SO WE'RE TWO AND TWO, AND SO WE
COME TO A CONCLUSION.
THE THINGS THAT UNITE THEM,
FIRST OF ALL THEIR COMMON HIGH
ESTIMATE OF THE VIRTUES OF THE
PRE-CHRISTIAN WORLD, THE PAGAN
WORLD, WHETHER IT BE OF THE
MEDITERRANEAN SOUTH, OR THE
ANGLO-SAXON NORTH OR THE CELTIC
WORLD.
LEWIS AND TOLKIEN FELT THAT OUR
FOREPARENTS, OUR ANCIENT
FOREPARENTS WERE ALL HAVING WHAT
LEWIS CALLED, GOOD DREAMS, A
FINE PHRASE, GOOD DREAMS.
THAT IS TO SAY THEY WERE HAVING
ANTICIPATIONS OF THE GOSPELS IN
THEIR STORIES, IN THEIR TALES,
IN THEIR MYTHS, IN THEIR
FOLKLORE.
THEY WERE GROPING AND GRASPING
AFTER WHAT WOULD COME TO BE THE
FULFILMENT OF THOSE DREAMS,
NAMELY GOD'S OWN SELF DISCLOSURE
IN ISRAEL, AND CHRIST AND THE
CHURCH.
THAT'S THE ARGUMENT THAT TOLKIEN
MADE TO LEWIS ON THAT LATE NIGHT
WALK IN 1929, THAT LED TO LEWIS'
RETURN TO THE CHURCH.
THEY WERE BOTH ADVOCATES OF THE
GREAT, WONDERFUL APHORISM OF ST.
THOMAS AQUINAS, WHO SAYS, “GRACE
DOES NOT DESTROY BUT COMPLETES
AND PERFECTS NATURE.”
SO GOD DOESN'T FLING HIS
REVELATION AT THE WORLD LIKE A
STONE, BURSTING A WINDOW OPEN.
FULFILS, PERFECTS WHAT'S ALREADY
PLANTED THERE BY HIS OWN SPIRIT
IN THE WORLD.
SECONDLY, THEY WERE FINALLY
AGREED, THAT EVEN SO, THE GOSPEL
WILL ALWAYS REMAIN A SCANDAL.
IT'S NEWS IS SO GOOD, THAT
PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO HEAR IT.
LEWIS, WHO WAS, I THINK, MOST
RELUCTANT TO ADMIT THIS, SAYS,
“WE NEED TO REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
WILL ALWAYS REMAIN A SCANDAL,
NOT JUST TO THE WICKED, AND THE
SELF-ABANDONED, BUT TO THE
TOLERANT AND THE CIVILISED, AND
THE ENLIGHTENED.”...AND THE URBANE AND THE
CULTURED, BECAUSE THE HEART OF
THE GOSPEL IS THE CALL THAT IS
MADE TO ORUAL, DIE BEFORE YOU
DIE.
NOT BY YOUR OWN POWER BUT BY THE
CROSS, WHICH, AS THE EASTERN
ORTHODOX CHURCH PUTS IT SO WELL,
“THERE IN THAT ONE DEATH, WE
HAVE DONE DOWN DEATH.”
THAT IS THE DEATH THAT DOES DOWN
DEATH.
THAT WAS WHAT MOST PROFOUNDLY
UNITED J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND C.S.
LEWIS, AND THAT'S WHAT MADE THEM
THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WRITERS OF
THE CHRISTIAN WORLD IN THE 20th
CENTURY.
AND I THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The audience applauds.

Watch: Ralph Wood on Tolkien and and Lewis: Friends and Combatants