Monday, October 17, 2022

"Lord of the Rings" and "Narnia"

Tolkien acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings would not have been completed without C.S. Lewis's encouragement. Lewis loved LOTR and published favorable reviews to promote it. But Tolkien disliked Lewis's Narnia books intensely. From "The Birth of Narnia and Why Tolkien Hated It":
Tolkien hated [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe]. His criticism went beyond evaluation and suggestion to the level of insult. The idea of mixing Father Christmas with fauns repelled him, because these two figures come from different traditions separated by time and space. Tolkien was a purist on such matters. The Norsemen would never have included Father Christmas or fauns in their stories. When he heard that Lewis had shown the story to [Roger Lancelyn] Green, Tolkien turned on Green with vehemence and declared: “It really won’t do, you know! I mean to say: ‘Nymphs and their Ways, The Love-Life of a Faun’. Doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?” ....

Lewis was writing a fairy story for children who lived in Britain just after World War II. They lived with trains, airplanes, radios, and tourists. They read the tales of King Arthur and Hercules. Their culture had inherited the stories from around the world. Children are not professors of Anglo-Saxon. As much as Tolkien talked about the boundary between our world and the world of faerie, he did not write stories that involved crossing that boundary, but Lewis did. Tolkien worked hard at imitating a style of elevated language and duplicating a form of storytelling that predated the Norman invasion of 1066. As monumental an achievement as The Lord of the Rings may be, it is not a fairy story. By contrast, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fairy story for children in 1950 who inherited the global collection of stories of the fading British Empire. For them, Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, was the magical figure who remained in the modern world and helped form a bridge to the world of imagination. .... (more)
Excerpted from a passage in The Completion of C.S. Lewis: From War to Joy (1945–1963) by Harry Lee Poe

Harry Lee Poe, "The Birth of Narnia and Why Tolkien Hated It," Crossway, Oct. 13, 2022.

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