C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children

C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis is by far one of my favourite authors and thinkers. His writings were instrumental in my early development as a Christian and they continue to impact me.

When people think of C.S Lewis, they often think of his complex works such as Mere Christianity and Miracles. They are two of my favourites but they don’t give a full picture of who Lewis was.

I have had the chance to read a number of collections of his letters and have really come to appreciate the insight they give us as to who Lewis was. This is especially true of the short little book, C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children.

First, it is amazing that Lewis cared enough to write back to all of these (and this is just a small sample) children who had written to him. You can tell that their letters meant a lot to him and he took it seriously.

But I also find it interesting that he doesn’t just answer their questions, but makes himself vulnerable. Not only does he offer to pray for them, he asks them to pray for him.

The final letter in this collection was typed the day before C.S. Lewis died.

I have met many Christians who long to be an apologist like C.S. Lewis. But what kind of apologist is that? It is not just the kind that could write Mere Christianity and Miracles. It is the kind that could write Letters to Children.

If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, I encourage you to read this short book. It will only take you an hour or two but it will give you valuable insight into this influential Christian thinker.


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What We Can Learn From Hobbits

HobbitsI am writing this on September 22, which is Hobbit Day. That is because September 22 is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo. These two are the most well known of the hobbits, a race that exist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

Tolkien created some extremely powerful beings for his world, everything from dragons to wizards, balrogs to elves. Even the humans are mighty warriors.

But it is the Hobbits that are main characters of Tolkien’s most popular books, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Is it a coincidence that Tolkien’s others stories without hobbits, as amazing as they are, are not near as popular. Is there something about hobbits that we connect with on a deeper level?

At first glance, they seem to be a bit of a joke. They are barefoot and fat. They prefer to eat and drink rather than to seek adventure.

Yet Tolkien saw something very important within the hobbits. He claimed to be a hobbit himself, in all but size. In the Hobbit, Bilbo fights to gain the respect of the dwarves and overtime gets it. In the Lord of the Rings, the fate of all of Middle-earth is placed in the hands of two hobbits, Frodo and Sam. Even Gollum, who plays a role in the destruction of the ring, is a former hobbit-like creature,

The message of hobbits in Tolkien’s world is that value is not dependent on size, reputation or personal strength. There is something deeper, a strength of character within the hobbits that make them special.

One of the things that bothered me about Tolkien’s Silmarillion, is that the origins of the different races including elves, dwarves, humans, dragons, ents and balrogs are provided. we even see the trolls and orcs as corruptions of the ents and elves. But nothing is said about the origins of hobbits. They just suddenly appear.

I wonder if this is just an omission by Tolkien or something deliberate? Perhaps Tolkien wants us to see that we don’t need impressive origins to make a difference in this world.


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The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth

Who was J. R. R. Tolkien? Nearly everyone knows him as the author of two of the most beloved books of the 20th century: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many also know him as a member of the Inklings and a close friend of fellow writer and scholar C. S. Lewis. Fewer know Tolkien’s work as a literary critic, a world-class academic in medieval literature, a linguist, an inventor of languages, and a visual artist or realize that he was also a devoted husband and father.

Much of this is captured this year in a nearly comprehensive exhibit at Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries on Tolkien’s life and legacy. “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” has been billed as the exhibit of a generation, and it is indeed that. But there’s a glaring omission: any mention of the author’s devout, lifelong Christian faith. Without that piece, we cannot have a true picture of Tolkien.

Read the full article by Holly Ordway at Christianity Today here.

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Top 10 Lines Falsely Attributed to C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, described by some as the “patron saint of American evangelicals,” is a very quotable writer, and evangelical Christians love to invoke him in sermons, social media posts, and casual conversation. However, you cannot always believe what you read. Expressions credited to him on social media or through google searches aren’t always actually found in his writings. Over the last several years, William O’Flaherty has collected a growing list (over 70 at last count) of quotations attributed to Lewis that will be the focus of an upcoming book, The Misquotable C.S. Lewis, to be published by Wipf and Stock in mid-2018.

You can find the full article at Christianity Today here.

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C.S. Lewis’ Most Controversial Beliefs

Without a doubt. C.S. Lewis is my favourite Christian author. Although he is popular among evangelicals, some of his beliefs are not without controversy.

Few figures loom larger over the past century of Christianity than C.S. Lewis, whose rare and beautiful coupling of an indomitable mind and a sparkling imagination make for some of the most gripping writing on Christian thought a person could hope to read. If Lewis’ only achievement had been the creation of Reepicheep, it would have secured his place in literature. Fortunately, he did much more. In fact, he did more than most people realize.

Lewis missed the digital age, which means his great body of work is mostly remembered for the parts of it that have been accepted—not for its controversy. Twitter has made controversy the memorable part of today’s public personalities. Any thought leader who expresses an unpopular opinion is likely to be dismissed entirely, their works thrown in a furnace, they themselves banned, excommunicated and sent off to our social media pillories.

But Lewis did have beliefs that would not sit well with today’s audiences. Indeed, if he were around for his work to by hyper-analyzed by the Facebook theologians, he may well have experienced the ostracization so common for our edgier leaders today.

So here is a list of a few of Lewis’ less orthodox beliefs. These are not listed here to suggest that Lewis ought to be held in lower regard or to diminish his legacy. This is not an attempt to rally an anti-Lewis movement.

You can read the full article by Tyler Huckabee for Relevant here.

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Saint Chesterton?

As an investigation into the life of Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton nears a close, admirers of the English writer voiced hope that his sainthood cause could soon be opened.

“Chesterton stands up as that saint who contradicts the world in terms of speaking out against a bad philosophy and bad thinking,” said Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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The Meaning of Education According to Fr. Schall and G. K. Chesterton

The antidote to pride is of course humility and the fruit of humility is gratitude. Expressing such gratitude, G. K. Chesterton, in a poem titled “Evening,” writes:

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Chesterton knows that he is not the creator of his eyes, ears, hands or “the great world” around him. More so, he is not the creator of today, tomorrow, or indeed himself. None of these were his to give, but they were his to receive.

You can read the full article by Shawn White here.

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C. S. Lewis and the Great War

Like his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis fought in the First World War. Joseph Loconte has written an article on this for the National Review.

In the spring of 1918, Germany and the Central Powers staged a final massive offensive that threatened to overwhelm British and French forces along the Western Front. Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe, issued the order: “Every position must be held to the last man. . . . With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each man must fight to the end.”

One of the young soldiers with his back to the wall was Second Lieutenant Clive Staples Lewis. A confirmed atheist at the time, C. S. Lewis would survive the storm and steel of the First World War. But the experience of war would transform him, launching him on a spiritual journey that culminated, years later, in his conversion to Christianity. He would earn worldwide fame as a Christian apologist and author of a series of children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia, which tell the story of “a great war . . . with all the world looking on,” a battle between the forces of Light and Darkness.

You can read the rest of the article here.


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The Merry World of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Jo Walton has written an article on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and his impressions of it.

The unusual thing about The Hobbit for me was that Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit and a grown up. He had his own charming and unusual house and he indulged in grown up pleasures like smoking and drinking. He didn’t have to evade his parents to go off on an adventure. He lived in a world where there were not only dwarves and elves and wizards but signs that said “Expert treasure hunter wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable reward.” He lived a life a child could see as independent, with people coming to tea unexpectedly and with dishes to be done afterwards (this happened in our house all the time), but without any of the complicated adult disadvantages of jobs and romance. Bilbo didn’t want an adventure, but an adventure came and took him anyway. And it is “There and Back Again,” at the end he returns home with treasure and the gift of poetry.

You can find the full article here.


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G.K. Chesterton’s Philosophy in 3 Words

Chuck Chalberg has written an article on G.K. Chesterton, summarizing his philosophy in three words:

If one were to capture G.K. Chesterton’s philosophy to just a few words, it could be done in this sentence: Free will exists. Almost everything else that he wrote followed from this belief, including his objection to fatalism and determinism in all their forms.

You can read the full article here.


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Thoughts on Unfinished Tales

Unfinished TalesWhen most people think about J.R.R. Tolkien, they think of the Hobbit and the Lord of Rings. While those are his most popular books, there are others, even others set in the same Middle-earth. The next one I would recommend is the Silmarillion. But after that, I would recommend Unfinished Tales.

Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien has done a lot of work to edit and publish material written by his father. Tolkien started and stopped many different projects, much of it only hinted at in his other writings. One of the compilations is that of Unfinished Tales.

This book covers a large span of the history of Tolkien’s world, including the ancient history of the elves and the days when Sauron was only the lieutenant to Morgoth, the real bad guy.

One of my favourite chapters is on the wizards. Wizards for Tolkien were not humans who learned magic, but rather spirits that were incarnated into human bodies. The wizards were really of the same kind as the gods/angels/demons such as Sauron and the balrogs. The difference is that they were in human bodies. There were five wizards that were sent from the west to Middle-earth. There was a white, a grey, a brown and two blue wizards. It is pretty interesting stuff.

If you are interested in the world of Middle-earth, I highly recommend you get a copy of Unfinished Tales.


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C.S. Lewis on Prayer

Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. But role does it play? Does prayer accomplish anything or is it just a religious duty?

No one has all the answers, but C.S. Lewis, like with all topics, is able to get to the heart of the matter. I appreciated his comments in this reflection on prayer. This is taken from “The Efficacy of Prayer” from The World’s Last Night and Other Essays.

C.S. LewisThe very question “Does prayer work?” puts us in the wrong frame of mind from the outset. “Work”: as if it were magic, or a machine⏤something that functions automatically. Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adorations its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary⏤not necessarily the most important one⏤from that revelation. What he does is learned from what He is.


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Thoughts on the Last Battle

Last BattleI recently finished rereading The Chronicles of Narnia with the final battle being The Last Battle. A good book (or series of books) is only as good as its conclusion and The Last Battle is a satisfying conclusion to the Narnia stories.

If The Magicians Nephew is the Genesis of Narnia, The Last Battle is Revelation. It tells the final story of the adventures in Narnia, tying together much that had happened in previous stories.

The story begins with an ape who manipulates a donkey into wearing a lion skin, thus pretending to be Aslan. This is used for the simple purpose of power but it quickly spirals out of control. Not only do the Calormenes get involved, but their god Tash (who seems to be some sort of demon) appears as well.

Jill and Eustace, who had been important parts of the Silver Chair, play an important role. We learn that there are actually seven friends of Narnia, including: Lord Digory, Lady Polly, High King Peter, King Edmund, Lord Eustace, Queen Lucy, and Lady Jill. The saddest part of the story is that Susan is not included, as she had stopped believing in Narnia.

This is definitely the darkest of the Narnia stories and I could see some overlaps with the tone of That Hideous Strength from C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

That is not to say that it is completely dark. The book ends on a very positive note as Aslan appears. The old Narnia is wiped away but a new Narnia, a better Narnia, a more real Narnia is created. Old friends from throught the series make their appearance. It is one of the clearest portrayals of a Christian worldview in the books.

The Last Battle is worth reading for both children and adults. In a world where people are often talking about the end, it is probably one of the better books to learn from.


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Thoughts on the Silver Chair

Silver ChairLike any series of books, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia vary in quality. Although they are all good, some are better than others. One of my favourites is The Silver Chair.

This story features Eustace Scrubb, a character introduced in the Voyage of The Dawn Treader. Eustace should get the award for most developed character and greatest improvement in maturity. He moves from one of the least likeable to one of the most likeable characters in the stories. Eustace is joined by a school friend named Jill Pole in his adventure in Narnia.

The mission they are on is to find Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian, who had been missing for some years. The elderly King Caspian attempted to use his last strength to find his son. Thankfully, Aslan called in some help with the two earth children.

The adventures in Narnia are generally fun is a similar way but there is something I especially like about this story. Aslan gives Jill some signs to watch for, so that they will be able to make their away and accomplish their mission. These signs soon leave Jill’s mind and they get into all sorts of trouble that never needed to.

What is good about this is that Aslan is able to work through all their mistakes and disobedience. It is really a story of grace and is a tremendous encouragement to children and adults alike.

I need to also say that the scenes with the giants are great. I love how they are invited for dinner but don’t quite understand what (or who) is on the menu.

Puddleglum is another fun character. He is a pessimist, who not only sees the glass half-empty, he sees it as cracked as well. Despite his gloomy outlook, he is brave on the inside and demonstrates heroism exactly when he needs to.

The Silver Chair definitely ranks up there with Lewis’s best. The next Narnia movie to be made with be The Silver Chair. I hope they do it justice.


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What Were Tolkien’s Inspirations for the Hobbit?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published eighty years ago. It is a great time to be thinking about this book and the world that grew out of it. The Hobbit is so much more than the introduction to what would take place in Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit would be amazing even if it had been the only book Tolkien published.

But where did the Hobbit come from? What were Tolkien’s inspirations?

Joe Sommerlad recently wrote an article on this for the Independent.

The academic drew on his extensive knowledge of European pagan and pre-Christian folklore, myths and fairy tales for inspiration. As Oxford’s Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon between 1925 and 1945, Tolkien amused himself by writing narrative poems on fantastical themes and inventing Elvish runic languages from scratch.

The Hobbit’s character and place names are derived from Icelandic linguistic traditions and echo those given in Old Norse sagas such as the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. The cunning dragon Smaug has been compared to that in the Old English legend of Beowulf (by way of William Morris), a text Tolkien lectured on during his tenure at Pembroke College, while Thorin Okenshield’s battalion of dwarves have been likened to those described by the Brothers Grimm.

You can read the full article here.


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The Etymology of the Word ‘Hobbit’

Hobbits are well known to us, if not from Tolkien’s books, than at least from Peter Jackson’s movies. But it was not always so. There was a time when no one had heard of the word ‘Hobbit.’

If you are interested in Tolkien and Hobbits, you might appreciate this article over at the Oxford Dictionary blog. You will learn everything you wanted to know about Hobbits and more.


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C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey

This is a video of David Payne performing his one man play on C.S. Lewis. Enjoy!


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Beren and Luthien – Review

Beren and LuthienIt is amazing that so many decades after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death that he still has “new” books being released. Thankfully, his son Christopher Tolkien has gone through manuscripts and has released material. Christopher expects Beren and Luthien to be his final book.

The story of Luthien and Beren is one of my favourite stories by Tolkien. I’m familiar with it from the Silmarillion. The story takes place long before the events of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. In fact, it takes place at a time when Sauron was not the top bad guy, but was a lieutenant of Morgoth.

The story that I’m familiar with is the love story between Luthien, whose father is an elf and mother is one of the gods, and Beren, who is a human. There are a number of similarities between their love and that of Aragorn and Arwen in Lord of the Rings. Luthien’s father, being against his daughter’s love for a human, gives Beren a quest that is intended to lead to either his refusal or death. He is to retrieve a silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.

It is a great story but I wasn’t sure how it would be made into a full length book. It ended up that Beren and Luthien was not what I expected. Instead of just extending the story, it is a compilation of different versions of the story, demonstrating how the tale evolved in Tolkien’s mind.

In the original version, Beren is not a human but is an elf. He is actually a Noldor, which Tolkien originally called gnomes. Don’t think of a garden gnome, Beren was always meant to be a fearsome warrior. Also, the character that would eventually become Sauron, was originally an evil cat that ruled other evil cats.

In addition to this and the traditional version, the story is also given in verse. Tolkien never finished that version of it but it is neat to read what he did complete.

As a Tolkien fan, I really enjoyed Beren and Luthien. It is worth it for anyone who appreciates Tolkien’s mythology.

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Sexual Morality by C.S. Lewis Doodle

I really appreciate the videos by C.S. Lewis Doodle. They bring C.S. Lewis’s writings to life.


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G.K. Chesterton on Art and the Image of God

Melissa Cain Travis, who teaches at Houston Baptist University, often has great things to say. I was not surprised when she recently wrote an article on the greater writer G.K. Chesterton.

In The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton argues that man, as a species, is different in kind, not just degree, from all other living creatures. Man’s origin, he says, is one of the three grand mysteries of the cosmos, along with the birth of the universe itself and the emergence of the first life. Endowed with rationality and free will, mankind exploded onto the scene and “a third bridge was built across a third abyss of the unthinkable…not merely an evolution, but rather a revolution.”

You can find the full article here.


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5 Big Things To Know And Celebrate About G.K. Chesterton

I really enjoy reading G.K. Chesterton. He is both wise and witty. Gracy Olmstead has written a post for The Federalist on what you need to know about Chesterton.

Reading G.K. Chesterton’s work is a bit like a personal encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Present, from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” He’s a larger-than-life figure, with a writing style that’s both jovial and cutting. He paints a picture of reality you want to embrace, and he depicts what’s wrong with our world in a way that spurs the reader to action.

You can read the full article here.


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If He Hadn’t Seen Combat, J.R.R. Tolkien May Have Never Written A Word

I find the connection between J.R.R. Tolkien’s military service and his writing to be very interesting. Elliot Ackerman has written an interesting article for Task & Purpose.

Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Tolkien would emerge from the horrors of the First World War and create such a comprehensive new world after intimately witnessing the destruction of an old one. That conflict features prominently throughout his books. Famously Tolkien based the hobbits of Middle-Earth, who burrow their homes into the shire and are known for their pure hearts and steady reliability in pursuit of a quest, on the working class British Tommies among whom he served in the trenches. “I have always been impressed,” he explained in later years, “that we are here, surviving, because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds.” In a book of his correspondence, Tolkien noted how the Dead Marshes, which lead up to Mordor, with their pools of muck and floating corpses, “owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme.”

You can read the full article here.


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C.S. Lewis: Christian Reflections – Review

Christian ReflectionsI’m always looking for some more C.S. Lewis to read. So I was quite happy to read a collection of his essays in the book Christian Reflections.

Many of the chapters in this book were originally talks that he gave to a variety of groups. They are on a number of different topics, although all related to Christianity. They include reflections on culture, science, biblical interpretation, ethics and more.

This book is worth reading, not just for the content of the chapters. It is the style of Lewis that we can learn from. There are two things that readers can get from it. One is his clear thinking and careful examination of each subject he tackles. The other is the way he communicates. Lewis knew he had to do more than just pass on information, he need to connect with his audiences.

If you are a C.S. Lewis fan or are interested in becoming a clearer Christian thinker, I recommend Christian Reflections.

 

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Pilgrim’s Regress – Review

Pilgrim's RegressI’m up for reading anything by C.S. Lewis. I have reread a number of his books. But one that I had not read was The Pilgrim’s Regress. I had heard by some that it was boring and even Lewis had described it as one of his least favourite books.

For those that are not familiar with The Pilgrim’s Regress, it is a allegorical description of Lewis’s spiritual journey written in the style of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Going into the book with low expectations, I actually very much enjoyed it. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that I’m open to the allegorical style.

But another reason is that I was already familiar with Lewis’s story and so I could recognize the actual events represented by the allegory. If I had known nothing about Lewis, I would have found this book very difficult. In addition to reading a number of biographies of Lewis by other authors, I have also recently read Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy. I think a knowledge of Lewis’s story makes a major difference in understanding The Pilgrim’s Regress.

In the allegory, we read the story of John (C.S. Lewis) on his journey to capture the experience of the island he had seen in his childhood. This represents the joy that Lewis is looking for in Surprised by Joy.

In his journey, he encounters different individuals who represent a number of worldviews that Lewis faced as he made his way from atheism to Christianity. John also is accompanied for much of his journey by Vertue. Having passed through a number of ideologies in my own journey from atheism to Christianity, this allegory really rang true to me.

If you have been intimidated by the allegorical style, I would encourage you to take the chance and read The Pilgrim’s Regress. Despite being written quite a while ago, it accurately represents the spiritual challenge of wrestling with competing worldviews.


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Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

The problem of suffering is one of the most difficult subjects connected to faith. One of the resources we have in discussing this is C.S. Lewis. Whitney Dotson tackles this in an article in the Christian Herald.

Since we are only very young, we learn to become quite acquainted with physical pain. It exists even before we cut our first tooth, and, while unpleasant, comes as hardly a surprise as we grow older. Psychological and emotional wounds, no matter how common on the other hand, tend to continually jar us. There never seems to be a remedy powerful enough to ease the tears of anxiety or the burden which wreaks havoc on our blood pressure and digestive tracts. Perhaps this is what Saint Paul identified as the thorn in his flesh; perhaps each Christian, individually, must struggle with such a thorn.

You can read the full article here.


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Thoughts on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Voyage of the Dawn TreaderI have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter. We have now read five of the seven books having just completed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Strangely, I have not seen the movie based on it and so I have no idea how close it stayed to the book.

What I can say is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of my favourite books in the series. It is far superior to A Horse and His Boy and is right up there with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Part of it is that Lewis is tapping into the ancient genre of the quest. The story keeps the reader’s attention because we want to know what they will find at the end.

The basic plot is that Edmund and Lucy are staying with their relative Eustace, when they are magically transported to Narnia. There they find King Caspian on his way on the quest to find the lost lords who were friends of his father. Each step of the way becomes more bizarre and more dangerous.

I love the character development of Edmund, Lucy and Caspian. Lewis doesn’t just reuse characters, he develops them shows their growing maturity through their adventures. The real miracle, however, is the change in Eustace. His physical change is a symbol of his spiritual and emotional change.

This book also includes some of the most spiritual and Christian content. Near the end, Aslan tells Lucy that he is in their world but under a different name. That is of course Jesus. If the lion form of Aslan didn’t give it away, the lamb form should have. But it seems to be a surprise to Lucy.

The journey to Aslan’s country has always moved me. Lewis’s description of their journey to the world’s end grabs my imagination and I feel like I’m there. It is almost a spiritual experience to read it.

If you have never read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you really need to. Fiction at its best.


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What C.S. Lewis Can Teach Us About True Love

Love is one of the highest values of our culture. It is the subject of countless songs and stories. But what do we mean by love? Zachary Krueger turns to C.S. Lewis for wisdom on the nature of love.

So I brewed a pot of coffee (the natural starting point of my inquiry), poured a cup and turned to my trusted friend, Clive Staples Lewis, for insight and guidance.

You can find the article here.

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A Footnote to the Cross in The Lord of the Rings

Although the Lord of the Rings is a popular fantasy story, many do not realize that the entire story is grounded in a Christian world view. Tolkien was a devout Christian who was instrumental in C.S. Lewis coming to faith.

Scott Masson, a professor at Tyndale (where I also teach), has written an interesting article on how the Lord of the Rings informs our understanding of the cross.

For all its unforgettable portrait of evil and the corrosive power of temptation, it is the compelling sense of providential good accompanying the tale that drives the plot.

This providence is alluded to at various points. When Frodo first discovers that the ring his Uncle Bilbo once chanced upon was actually the One Ring of power, he senses his doom. Sauron seeking it with all his might, and the treacherous ring is also seeking to return to its maker.

You can read the full article here.


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How C.S. Lewis Encouraged J.R.R. Tolkien

Two of my favourite authors are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Not only were they friends, Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis becoming a Christian. What not as many people know is that Lewis helped encourage Tolkien to complete The Lord of the Rings. Alicia Kort has written an interesting article on their relationship for Newsweek.

A year after Tolkien began teaching at Merton College at Oxford University, he met fellow professor Lewis at a faculty meeting in 1926. But it wasn’t necessarily friendship-at-first-sight. In his diary, Lewis describes Tolkien as “a smooth, pale fluent little chap—no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” But the pair soon bonded over a shared interest in Norse mythology, from which Tolkien would draw heavily for The Lord of the Rings.

You can find the full article here.

 


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How J.R.R. Tolkien Redefined Fantasy Stories

I have enjoyed the fantasy genre since my teen years. There is both good and bad fantasy. Much of the best fantasy has been inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. James Ellis has written an interesting article on this for Newsweek.

Scholars, academics and casual enthusiasts have spilled tons of ink (both of the real and virtual varieties) about the exact definition of fantasy (does an epic poem such as Beowulf count?) and the genre’s origins (do Greek myths qualify? Romantic poems from the Middle Ages?). But the overwhelming influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the genre remains a fundamental certainty. The British author didn’t invent fantasy, but he defined it in the minds of millions with his seminal works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

You can read the full article here.

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What Does it Mean to Become Like Christ?

James Knight has written an article on Becoming Like Christ.

Lots of writing has had a huge impact on my life – particularly in the fields of philosophy, economics, politics, literature, science and, most pertinent here, theology. Here I want to talk about a particular chapter in C.S Lewis’s Mere Christianity called Let’s Pretend, that I recall at the time (nearly 20 years ago,) made a significant impression on my journey of exploration into Christianity, and was perhaps the piece of writing that shone the most light on the bridge between the Christian faith in theory and the Christian relationship in practice.

You can read the full article here.


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C.S. Lewis on Pain and Suffering

I recently did something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I read together two books by C.S. Lewis on a similar subject. I read both The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed.

C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain was written in 1940. It is a solid apologetic treatment of the reasons for suffering. He tackles such issues as the power of God, the goodness of God, animal suffering and hell. It is really a helpful resource for a person interested in the intellectual problem of suffering. It is interesting to note that Lewis originally wanted to publish this under a pseudonym because he was afraid that people would accuse him of not living up to the high standards in the book. His publisher didn’t let him but he does present honesty. He admits the truth to readers that he responds to pain as a coward, despite knowing the theological foundation for suffering.

C.S. LewisLewis returned to the subject of pain in 1961, this time he got his wish to publish A Grief Observed under a pseudonym (N.W. Clerk). Unfortunately this was under less than ideal circumstances. This book was written in response to the death of his wife from cancer. Writing under a pseudonym gave Lewis the freedom to be brutally honest, without any fear of affecting his public reputation. He asks the hard questions and truly pours out his heart in the pages of this book. My thoughts while reading this book was this it was like reading a modern psalm. It was also interesting that giving up the faith was not an option for Lewis. He may have hated what happened to his wife and himself, but rejecting God was not a path he would go down. The process of coming to terms with his own suffering is believable and is void of all Christian cliche.

Which book is better? There is no comparison as they are doing two different things. Both address pain but one from an intellectual perspective and the other from an experiential perspective. They are both good and both should be read. The Problem of Pain is the book to lay a theological foundation from which to understand pain and A Grief Observed is the book to read while going through suffering. Reading these two books together has increased my admiration for C.S. Lewis.

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What If the Chronicles of Narnia Was Released Today?

In this age of information overload, we can sample media sources from every perspective. John Ehrett has put together a hilarious collection of imagined media reactions to the Chronicles of Narnia from the most popular sources today. It is funny because it is true.

You really need to read his Here Are The Media Hottakes We’d See If The Chronicles Of Narnia Were Released This Year. It’s worth the two minutes of your time.

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Dante, C.S. Lewis, and the Goodness of the Good

How our conservative Christians or evangelicals known? For many people, evangelicals are known primarily for what we are against. But do Christians have anything positive to say? Jim Tonkowich has written an interesting article on this, drawing from the thought of C.S. Lewis.

Lewis read Dante’s Inferno, the first book of the three-part Divine Comedy, in Italian as a teenager. He read part two, Purgatory, as he recovered from wounds received in the trenches of World War I. Finally, after giving up his atheism, but before embracing Christianity, Lewis read Paradise. “It reaches heights of poetry which you get nowhere else;” he wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves, “an ether almost too fine to breathe. It is a pity I can give you no notion what it is like.”

Lewis was overwhelmed by Dante’s dense notion of the good. As Dante the pilgrim ascends to the heights of Heaven and finally into the presence of God, Dante the poet’s description does not become wispy, vague, or airy but thick and concrete.

You can read the full article here.

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C.S. Lewis’s View of Women

Randy Alcorn has written an interesting article on C.S. Lewis’s view of women.

In 1949, Lewis sent his five-year-old god-daughter Lucy Barfield the completed manuscript of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with a letter saying, “I wrote this story for you,” which later became the dedication in the printed book. The way he portrays Lucy, as the most spiritually perceptive and good-hearted of the children, is itself a compliment to females—no male character in the Chronicles compares to Lucy in her love for Aslan, nor does Aslan love any character more than Lucy.

You can read the full article here. You can find the book that he refers to here.


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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War – Review

Hobbit Wardrobe Great WarIf you were to look at my interests, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and military history would be near the top of my list. Therefore, I was quite pleased to come across A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War by Joseph Loconte.

Many people know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have some things in common. Both taught at Oxford, both were Christians, both were part of a literary group called the Inklings and both are known for writing fantasy literature, loved by children and adults alike. What many people do not know is that they both fought in the First World War.

What impact did that conflict have on Lewis and Tolkien? There are definitely nods to Tolkien’s experience in the trenches in his descriptions of Mordor. But there is so much more. Living a century after the events, many do not realize the intellectual shift that took place with this war. Before the war, there was great optimism that human skill and ingenuity could create a heaven on earth. World War One demonstrated that the same knowledge and technology could also create a hell on earth. People, especially in Europe, were confronted unprecedented slaughter.

In this very readable book, Loconte places the war in its cultural and intellectual context. He describes Lewis and Tolkien’s experience in the war but also how a world war shaped their thought world. Lewis and Tolkien reacted to what they had experienced but also what the world had experienced.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War should be required reading for anyone interested in Lewis and Tolkien. This is one of the most interesting books that I have read so far this year.


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Thoughts on Prince Caspian

Prince CaspianI recently finished reading Prince Caspian. I had read it before, but most of my memories of the story come from the movie version. Prince Caspian was the second of the Chronicles of Narnia to be written, although it is the fourth chronologically according to Narnian history. Having reread the book, I enjoyed it much more than the movie (not that the movie was bad).

The basic story is that it is many centuries since the events of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Humans have migrated from Earth to Narnia and have conquered it. All memory of old Narnia with its talking beasts and mythical creatures has been removed from history. Young Prince Caspian is the rightful heir to the throne but he is removed by his evil uncle Miraz. Caspian finds himself in the company of some old Narnians and leads a revolt against his uncle.

Things don’t go well for Caspian and so he blows an ancient magical horn that is said to bring help in times of need. This is the same horn that was given to Susan by Father Christmas back in the earlier story. This horn brings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy back to Narnia. Because time runs different in Earth and Narnia, it has not been long for the children but it has been centuries for Narnia.

One of the interesting things about the story is that it is difficult even for the Earth children to see Aslan, especially the older Peter and Susan. Growing into adulthood can make faith more difficult. However, Lucy not only sees Aslan, but sees him as bigger than before.

In many ways, this story represents the post-Christian culture that C.S. Lewis was trying to speak into. Not only do the new Narnians reject belief in Aslan and the kings and queens of Narnia, some of the old Narnians do as well. The old stories are written off as myths and fables. However, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are real and respond to the summon for help. And it is Aslan that ultimately brings the victory.

Prince Caspian is definitely one of my favourite books in the series. It is a great story and an insightful reflection on faith in a post-Christian world.

 

 

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Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of War

Both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis served in the First World War. Chris Gehrz has written on this:

Tolkien, older than his future friend by nearly seven years, entered military service first, arriving in France in June 1916 — not quite three months after getting married and mere weeks before the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. “Junior officers were being killed, a dozen a minute,” he remembered. “Parting from my wife then… it was like death.” And while he suffered a severe case of the lice-born ailment known as “trench fever,” Tolkien survived the war. All but one of his best friends, he later recalled, did not.

You can read the full article here.

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Tolkien, Lord of the Rings and the Horror of the Trenches

If there is one historical event that gives some insight into J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, it would be the trench warfare of the Forst World War. Nan Spowart has written a good article on this topic.

The horrors of the trenches were depicted in fiction in JRR Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings, his grandson has revealed.

Speaking to mark the 125th anniversary of the author’s birth this month, Simon Tolkien said the hell of the Great War had informed much of the saga’s “grand conception”.

His grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 but rarely spoke of his ordeal. However, his experience of the senseless waste of life and the destruction of the environment later found an outlet in Tolkien’s bleak description of evil in Middle Earth.

You can read the full article here.

Trenches

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Did Tolkien Waste His Life?

How seriously should we take J.R.R. Tolkien? After all, he basically spent his time writing fairy tales (even if they were amazing epic fairy tales). Was that a waste of his genius? Jon Bloom has written an interesting article on Tolkien’s literary activity.

There were imaginative flickers of Middle-earth in the precocious child, Ronald Tolkien. Enchanting English landscapes, a language invented with a young cousin for kicks, an awakening love of mythology, especially of the northern and Germanic variety, and a local doctor named Gamgee were all future literary fodder.

But it was in the fierce furnace of World War I, where Tolkien (a signals officer) saw unspeakable horrors and evils which took the lives of all but one of his closest friends, that the mythology and epic tales that later gave birth to his books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) were forged. He spent the rest of his life working on this fantasy (or as he preferred, “faërie”) world. When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, it fell to his son, Christopher, to work through boxes of writings to piece together and publish the mythic history of Middle-earth.

Tolkien never envisioned those tales of Middle-earth would become the global phenomenon it has. And what a phenomenon! An estimated 250 million copies of The Hobbit and LOTR books have been sold worldwide, and the revenue from Peter Jackson’s motion picture adaptations are $5 billion and growing.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creating of Fantasy Languages

J.R.R. TolkienWe may enjoy the characters and plot of Tolkien’s stories, but his passion was really in creating languages. Philip Seargeant has written an interesting article on this topic.

J.R.R. Tolkien began writing The Fall of Gondolin while on medical leave from World War I, 100 years ago this month. It is the first story in what would become his legendarium—the mythology that underpins The Lord of the Rings. But behind the fiction was his interest in another epic act of creation: the construction of imaginary languages.

You can read the full article here.

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J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sorrowful Vision of Joy

TolkienI have seen numerous Christians put J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on lists of books that Christians should NOT read. Perhaps this is out of concern for the use of wizards in his fiction. This may because of three things they do not know:

  1. Tolkien was instrumental in C.S. Lewis becoming a Christian.
  2. Wizards in Tolkien’s works are not humans whoo are sorcerers but the equivalent of angels incarnated into human bodies.
  3. The Lord of the Rings reflects a solidly Christian worldview.

Ralph C. Wood has written an interesting article on a Christian reading of Tolkien.

If Tolkien had enjoyed several more lives beyond his allotted 81, he might have extended his mythological project to include the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection – perhaps even providing a foretaste of life in the world to come.

You can read the full article here.

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Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – Review

One of my favourite books is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Too many people see The Hobbit as simply the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, a source for some interesting background information. We need to remember that The Lord of the Rings was the sequel and that it was written only because of the popularity of The Hobbit. The Hobbit is an amazing book and would still be even if The Lord of the Rings had never been written.

HobbitIf you really want to appreciate The Hobbit, I highly recommend Corey Olsen’s Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Olsen, also known as the Tolkien Professor, is a fantastic resource for all things Tolkien (see this post). He has written a very helpful introduction to The Hobbit.

One of the things that I appreciate about this book is that he does not try to interpret The Hobbit through the lens of The Lord of the Rings or other Tolkien writings. He does mention them when there are interesting connections but he looks at this book with the information that the first readers would have had.

I also appreciated observations he makes about various versions of The Hobbit. Many people do not realize that what we read today is not exactly the same as the first edition. Tolkien rewrote some of the sections, especially concerning Gollum, to bring it more into line with where The Lord of the Rings took the story.

Olsen has a very good understanding of Tolkien and he is able to highlight themes that are easy for the average reader to understand. Reading this book will help you to appreciate The Hobbit more than ever.

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The Fellowship of the Ring Movie Revisited

Fellowship of the RingIt is hard to believe that The Fellowship of the Ring movie came out way back in 2001. I can still remember the excitement of finally being able to see a live action version of my favourite story. I have seen the movies many times since then, but just recently watched The Fellowship of the Ring after not having seen it in a number of years.

I have some mixed feelings about the Peter Jackson films. As a huge Tolkien fan, it was difficult to see him change the source material for his movies. Having said that, the first movie probably follows the book more than any of his other movies. One of the changes he made was to have Arwen take the role of Glorfindel in getting Frodo to Rivendell. But that is not really a big deal.

I will say that Jackson did a fantastic job of casting the movies (even if the actor who played Gimili the dwarf was the tallest actor). When I read the books now, I see the actors from these movies in my mind. Gandalf and Saruman were perfect! The sets were also very well done. Hobbiton looked like a place I would love to visit. Moria was everything that I imagined it would be. I also really liked how they did the orcs. In fact, I like the orcs from these movies far more than the CGI orcs from Jackson’s Hobbit movies.

Watching the movie again, over fifteen years after it came out, I would say that it stands up very well. I will re-watch The Two Towers next. Unfortunately, there is one part there that was difficult to forgive Jackson for. But that is for another post.

 


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The Hell of Perpetual Happiness

In 1911, English writer, philosopher, and theologian G. K. Chesterton published a Father Brown mystery entitled The Three Tools of Death. In the tale, an ex-alcoholic named Armstrong runs a sort-of Cult of Happiness. He is aggressively happy and no one is allowed to be less than joyful in his presence, especially his daughter and the suitor he forbids her to marry.
Yet this gleeful ol’ soul is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Naturally, everyone assumes it’s murder. Surely, such a cheerful man would never do away with himself. Yet, they also can’t fathom such a happy person having any enemies.
Father Brown proves otherwise.

You can read the full article by Lenora Thompson here.

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‘The Lord of the Rings’: 10 Secrets You Probably Didn’t Know

One ring to rule them all. One ring to bind them. One film franchise that took the world by storm. In 2001, the first installment of Peter Jackson‘s long-awaited adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels hit theaters worldwide. It enthralled audiences and proved doubtful critics wrong. And it changed how studios think about fantasy films and franchises forever.
The Lord of the Rings was a gamble, for sure. Many — including Tolkien himself — thought that the lengthy story was unfilmable. But Peter Jackson’s commitment to bringing the story to the big-screen paid off. The first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, was an unqualified critical and financial success. The two subsequent films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, were equally huge. All told, The Lord of the Rings trilogy made over a billion dollars. They also proved that if it’s done right, fans will stick around to see a great fantasy story told in multiple parts — even if they have to wait years for its conclusion.
The biggest Lord of the Rings fans can tell you all about the series’ storied production. It involved thousands of players, went on for years, required massive reshoots, and so much footage was cut from the theatrical versions that each film got its own extended cut. However, there are a lot of fascinating details that sometimes get forgotten. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the making of The Lord of the Rings.

You can read the rest of the article by Katherine Webb here.

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A Tale of Two Tolkiens

The hero in Simon Tolkien’s new novel bears some resemblance to the author’s grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien. Both were orphaned, won scholarships to the University of Oxford, fell in love before leaving Britain to fight in World War I and bore witness to the horrors of the Battle of the Somme.
“No Man’s Land” marks the first time Mr. Tolkien has acknowledged the creator of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” in his fiction. J.R.R. Tolkien’s presence has hovered over his grandson’s life, delaying his belief in himself as a writer but helping promote what he produced.

You can read the full story by Ellen Gamerman here.

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Exploring Middle-Earth: Orcs


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The Lion, the Lamb and the Manger

For our family, there are a handful of movies that no Christmas season would be complete without watching together. One of these is the most recent film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Perhaps it is the snow, or the fact that Father Christmas makes an appearance, or that one of my daughters, as a little girl, played the part of Lucy one Christmas—maybe it’s all of these things—but whatever the reason, this movie has somehow ensconced itself as a Christmas tradition.
Lewis sets his story in 1940, and introduces us to four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, who are evacuated from war-torn London and sent to live with a kind but mysterious professor in a rambling old house. One afternoon as the children are exploring, they find a room with a timeworn wardrobe. Once the others have left the room, Lucy (the youngest) opens the wardrobe doors and climbs inside, attempting to feel her way to the back of the wardrobe. But instead of the back of the wardrobe, Lucy finds herself  standing in the middle of a wintry wood at nighttime with snow under her feet and snowflakes drifting through the air. She has arrived in the magical Kingdom of Narnia.

You can read the rest of the post by Drew Williams here.

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Always Winter and Never Christmas

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe can be considered a Christmas story because it is set in Narnia, a cursed kingdom where it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” Fortunately, for Narnia, the spell is conquered by the “deep magic from before the dawn of time” and the inhabitants can finally brighten their dark days with a solstice celebration.
Author Clive Staples Lewis spent his life searching for the magic that would break the curse of his darkest days. The despair he sought to overcome may be just what endears fans to this book and earned them such a prominent place in pop culture.

Read the full post by Joan MacDonald here.

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Thoughts on The Horse and His Boy

Horse and His BoyI have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my youngest daughter. I have decided to read them in chronological order rather than publication. So we read the Horse and His Boy third, even though it was the fifth one published. That is because it takes place during the events of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

I read all of the books years ago, but I find that I have forgotten much. However, of the three books that I have re-read, the Horse and His Boy is so far my least favourite. That is not to say it is a bad story or that I didn’t enjoy it. C.S. Lewis, even at his worst, is still brilliant.

I would say that I enjoyed it less than the others because it feels the least like a Narnian book. Much of it takes place outside of the country of Narnia and the main characters are not from England. In many ways, it feels like a non-Narnia story inserted into the Narnian world. Sort of like what Tolkien did with Tom Bombadil.

One of the things that I found strange is the presence of the human cultures. During the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Witch seemed surprised to discover humans. You don’t get the sense that the Witch would encounter other humans from the south. The humans in Prince Caspian make more sense because it takes place many years after the defeat of the Witch.

That is not to say I didn’t like the book. It was enjoyable and I found the characters quite interesting. I’m glad I read it, even if it didn’t feel very Narnian.

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What Narnia Teaches Us About the Star of Bethlehem

The following is an article written by Mark Woods for Christian Today.

In CS Lewis’ novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund, Lucy and their obnoxious cousin Eustace fall into the magical world of Narnia again through a painting on their wall of a ship at sea. It’s the Dawn Treader, and on board is Prince Caspian. They have all sorts of exciting adventures before they arrive safely home again.
One of them involves a meeting with a friendly wizard on an island inhabited by invisible monopods. Another is when they are almost at the end of the world, and they meet a strange old man and his daughter. Every day a bird brings the man something like a live coal and puts it in his mouth. It is a fire-berry from the valleys in the sun, and every day it takes away a little of his age.
It turns out that he is a “retired star”, who set for the last time and was carried to the island to grow young again. The wizard, Koriakin, turns out to have been a star as well, exiled to his island as a punishment.

You can read the rest of the article here.


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I Was an Atheist Until I Read Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien is known for helping C.S. Lewis leave atheism but Lewis is not the only person that Tolkien has helped spiritually. Fredric Heidemann shares his story of reading Lord of the Rings changed his life.

I grew up in a loving, comfortable atheist household of professional scientists. My dad was a lapsed Catholic, and my mom was a lapsed Lutheran. From the time that I could think rationally on the subject, I did not believe in God. God was an imaginary being for which there was no proof. At best, God was a fantasy for half-witted people to compensate their ignorance and make themselves feel better about their own mortality. At worst, God was a perverse delusion responsible for most of the atrocities committed by the human race.
What broke the ice? What made me consider God’s existence a real possibility? The Lord of the Rings. I was a young teenager when I first read the Tolkien tomes, and it immediately captivated me. The fantasy world of Middle-Earth oozes life and profundity. The cultures of the various peoples are organic, rooted in tradition while maintaining a fresh, living energy. Mountains and forests have personalities, and the relationship between people and earth is marked by stewardship and intimacy. Creation knowing creation. Tolkien describes these things with beautiful prose that reads like its half poetry and half medieval history. Everything seems “deep” in The Lord of the Rings. The combination of character archetypes and assertive “lifeness” in the novel touches on an element of fundamental humanity. Every Lord of the Rings fan knows exactly what I’m talking about.

You can read the rest of the post here.


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Tolkien’s Lost “Noel”

I found this on the Footnotes blog by Jason G. Duesing. You can find the original post here. You can find other posts by Jason on Tolkien here.
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.
Originally published in the 1936 Annual of Our Lady’s School, Abingdon, Tolkien’s “Noel” was unknown and unrecorded until scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull discovered it while searching for another poem in June 2013. In May 2015, Our Lady’s School, Abingdon discovered their copy of the Annual and in Feb 2016, news of the discovery was widely reported.
Undiscovered Tolkien Poems Found,” Independent Schools Magazine (March 2016): 10.

 


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A Critical Look at the Last Battle

I’m currently reading through the Chronicles of Narnia for the second time, the first time having been about ten years ago. So far, I’m only four books into the series (I won’t go into the order here). My memories of the final book, Last Battle are vague.

However, Shane Morris has recently written a post on why this is his least favourite book.

I am a lifelong Narnia fan. I treasure these books, constantly refer to them, and still mysteriously get something in my eye when Aslan explains the Deeper Magic from Before Time. C. S. Lewis was simply a master world-weaver, and Narnia is Lewis par excellence. So I don’t make this confession lightly. But I’ve stayed in the closet (wardrobe?) for too long. Here goes:
I’ve always found “The Last Battle” disappointing.

You can read the rest of the article here.


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G.K. Chesterton Predicted a Battle Within the Church

Sam Guzman has written an interesting article on G.K. Chesterton and his prediction about battles about sexual morality within the Roman Catholic Church.

G.K. Chesterton had an uncanny gift for prophecy. It wasn’t mystical necessarily. I don’t believe he ever saw visions of the future like the prophets of the Old Testament. But his keen intellect allowed him to see where popular fashions and ideas would inevitably lead if uncorrected, and he was almost always right.
One excellent example of his gift of foresight was his prediction of a crisis in the Catholic Church over sexual morality.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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3 Things You Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis

John Blake has written a post on C.S. Lewis at the CNN Belief Blog. You may discover that there is much that you didn’t know about C.S. Lewis.

He looked like a “red-faced pork butcher in shabby tweeds,” lived secretly with a woman for years and was so turned on by S&M that he once asked people at a party whether he could spank them.
We’re talking, of course, about C.S. Lewis, the Christian icon and author of classics such as “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
It’s tempting to remember Lewis only as the self-assured defender of Christianity who never met an argument he couldn’t demolish. His death 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has since become a patron saint of American evangelicals.
But the actual man whom friends called “Jack” had a “horrible” personal life, thought he had failed as a defender of Christianity and spent so much time in pubs that his publishers initially struggled selling him to a religious audience, scholars say.

You can read the rest of the article here.

 

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C.S. Lewis and the Art of Disagreement

We live in a world where disagreements are sharp and people are easily offended. Does C.S. Lewis have anything to teach us on this? Michael Ward has written an interesting post for the Intercollegiate Review.

As a fellow of one of the colleges at the University of Oxford, I have the responsibility of being senior member (faculty supervisor) of two student-run societies, the C. S. Lewis Society, a literary and theological discussion group, and Oxford Students for Life, a group that aims to promote a culture in which the unborn, the disabled, the terminally ill, and other vulnerable minorities have a place.
In recent years, the pro-life group has discovered how deeply people at Oxford disagree not only with its viewpoint but also with its very right to exist and hold meetings. On one occasion, the group had permission to stage a debate on abortion rescinded at just a few hours’ notice because of a threat of disruption from students who objected to their college hosting such a discussion.

You can read the rest of the article here.

 

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Exploring Middle-Earth: Elves


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Who Was Dorothy Sayers?

One of C.S. Lewis’s friends was a woman named Dorothy Sayers. Like Lewis, she wrote in the areas of both fiction and apologetics. Who was Dorothy Sayers? There is a nice summary of her life on The Christianity Today site. You can read it here.

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How J.R.R. Tolkien Led C.S. Lewis to Christianity

“I’ve always been so impressed with how J.R.R. Tolkien led his atheist friend C.S. Lewis toward faith in Christianity,” begins Tim Keller in the video clip below. He says Tolkien explained to Lewis that the fulfillment of human longings (eternal love, triumph over evil, heroic sacrifice, life out of death) that we find in beautiful stories—the stories Lewis loved so much—can be found in reality.

You can find the rest of the article here.

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The Art of the Thank You Note

David C. Downing has written an interesting post on being thankful at the official C.S. Lewis website.

On the subject of thanksgiving, C. S. Lewis believed we should be grateful for all the fortunes that come our way, both good and bad. It is easy, of course, to be grateful for the good things in our lives. But Lewis felt that we should be equally thankful for bad fortune, for that is what “works in us patience, humility, the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country” (Collected Letters 2, 869).

You can read the rest of the article here.

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C.S. Lewis and Rational Argument

In this opening lecture on “C.S. Lewis and the Rational Argument”, Professor Alister McGrath, the author of a recent biography of C.S. Lewis, explores the role that rational, philosophical argumentation played throughout Lewis’s life, before and after his conversion to Christianity. The lecture is followed by questions from the audience.

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Does The Lord of the Rings Favour Friendship over Familial Love?

The following is from a blog post by Trish Lambert on the A Pilgrim in Narnia blog.

I was asked this question not long ago. It is a good question; there is a noticeable lack of family relationships in the story. Frodo is not really Bilbo’s nephew, but a cousin (and somewhat distant at that). The members of the Fellowship are all bachelors, and only two of them, Sam and Aragorn, have loved ones to unite with if their quest succeeds. Boromir, Faramir, Théodred, and Éomer—all of royal blood either in direct line to rule or one step away from direct line—are all childless bachelors in spite of being well into adulthood.
In view of all this, my simple answer is yes, I think The Lord of the Rings favors friendship, but I would not say that it is presented as “better” than familial love. I believe that Tolkien had explicit reasons for the lack of family ties that in fact ran counter to his initial inclinations.

 

You can read the rest of the post here.


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The Power of Conversation: A Lesson from C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

A major part of C.S. Lewis’s conversion came from a conversation he had with J.R.R. Tolkien. Brett and Kate McKay have written an interesting article on this event and the example it gives for the power of conversation.

It is the evening of September 19, 1931.

Three men stroll down Addison’s Walk, a picturesque footpath that runs along the River Cherwell on the grounds of Oxford’s Magdalen College. Two of the men — C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — are particularly engaged with one another, deep inside an animated discussion on the nature of metaphor and myth.

While both men are 30-something war veterans, teach and lecture at Oxford colleges, and share a love of old literature, the two friends are in many ways a study in contrasts. Lewis has a ruddy complexion and thickly set build. His clothes are loose and shabby. His voice booms as he speaks. Tolkien is slender, dresses nattily, and speaks elusively. Lewis is more brash; Tolkien more reserved.

Besides differences in personality, the men are divided by something more fundamental: Tolkien has been a faithful Catholic since childhood, while Lewis has been a committed atheist since the age of 15.

You can read the full article here.

C.S. Lewis J.R.R. Tolkien

 

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Lewis and Tolkien: An Epic Friendship

There were many things that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had in common, including a love of literature, brilliant minds, gifted writing and Christian faith. One of the other things that they had in common is that they both served in World War One.

Paul Glader interviews Joseph Loconte, author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918, for American Legion magazine. You can find the article here.

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The Three Parts of Morality by C.S. Lewis Doodle



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G.K. Chesterton on Patriotism

G.K. Chesterton

This is a time when people are reflecting on issues of faith and patriotism. Jerry Salyer has written an article that looks to Chesterton in these confusing times.

The nature of patriotism is – or should be – a hot topic nowadays. How one sees the controversial Brexit vote, the immigration crisis in Europe, and the 2016 US presidential election depends in no small part upon the question of what patriotism is, and what (if any) weight should be accorded it. Globalists argue that patriotism is outmoded and barbaric, and should be superseded by a devotion to the planet and the human species as a whole. Within the conservative establishment, the consensus until recently has been that patriotism can and should be retained—provided it is redefined to mean not a local attachment to a particular land and people, but a commitment to the liberal democratic principles of equality and liberty. Just as they have little interest in marriage as traditionally understood, neither globalists nor conservative establishmentarians put much stock in patriotism as traditionally understood.
Iconic writer G.K. Chesterton saw patriotism quite differently, and his perspective warrants more reflection than it usually receives even in those Catholic circles which celebrate his work.

You can find the full article here.

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How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front

It is not a coincidence that some aspects of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth reflect experiences from World War One. Joseph Laconte wrote an interesting article for the New York Times on this.

In the summer of 1916, a young Oxford academic embarked for France as a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force. The Great War, as World War I was known, was only half-done, but already its industrial carnage had no parallel in European history.
“Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute,” recalled J. R. R. Tolkien. “Parting from my wife,” he wrote, doubting that he would survive the trenches, “was like a death.”
The 24-year-old Tolkien arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, a campaign intended to break the stalemate between the Allies and Central Powers. It did not.

You can find the rest of the article here.


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Exploring Middle-Earth: Morgoth

If you think that Sauron is biggest bad guy in Middle-Earth, you are wrong. Sauron was only a lieutenant of ultimate evil: Morgoth.


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C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy

How would you like to take a course on C.S. Lewis? You can find one on the BiblicalTraining website for free. It is taught by Dr. Michael L. Peterson. You can find it here.


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Exploring Middle-Earth: Sauron


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Men Without Chests by C.S. Lewis

Men Without Chests is the first chapter of C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. C.S. Lewis Doodle does another fantastic job of presenting Lewis’s thoughts in a fresh way.


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A Crash Course in C.S. Lewis

Have you always wanted to know more about C.S. Lewis? Ken Samples has written a blog post that offers a crash course on C.S. Lewis. You can find it here. I encourage you to browse his blog and discover some of the other posts in his crash course series.


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Thoughts on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

For many people, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the Chronicles of Narnia. It was likely the success of this first book (in publication order) that called for the rest of the series. In the same way, the movie for this book was successful enough for them to make more movies.

This is definitely one of C.S. Lewis’s best book, including his non-fiction. It may be that the attraction of this story is because this is the book that most closely follows the Christian story of all in the series.

As I read this book to my daughter, I was again moved by the description of the death and resurrection of Aslan. Although not identical to the story of Jesus, Lewis captures the emotion of the passion and presents it in a fresh way.

However, this book deserves to be read for more than just that part. I love the sense of wonder as Lucy, and then her siblings, enter into Narnia. I can see why many argue that this should be read first and not the Magician’s Nephew. We are meant to discover Narnia and Aslan along with the children.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will continue to be a classic of both children’s literature and Christian reflection.


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C.S. Lewis: Atheist to Christian

One of the things attractive about C.S. Lewis’s story is his journey from atheism to Christianity. You can learn about his experience in this video.


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The Silmarillion in Three Minutes

One of my favourite books by J.R.R. Tolkien is the Silmarillion. But if you don’t want to take the time to read the entire book…


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The World’s Last Night by C.S. Lewis Doodle


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Men Without Chests Threaten Civilization

It is incredible how C.S. Lewis’s writings continue to speak to us today and seem increasing relevant to our world. Chris Banescu has written an interesting article for American Think that you might enjoy.

Mid-twentieth-century C. S. Lewis witnessed and wrote about the increasing moral breakdown and intellectual decay of Western civilization.  He observed how secular and atheistic academics, philosophers, politicians, intellectuals, and cultural elites abandoned reason, denied universal truths, undermined Christian doctrines, and rejected moral principles that formed the foundation of civilized society.  “Lewis walked our cultural ground,” explained Chris R. Armstrong.  “He lived, as we do, in a society that denied objective value; lacked a coherent social ethic; wallowed in instant gratification, sexual license, moral evasion, and blame-shifting; and failed to pass on a moral framework to its children.”

You can find the rest of the article here.


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C.S. Lewis on Self-Interest and Selfishness

Is there a difference between self-interest and selfishness? Art Lindsley has written an article on C.S. Lewis’s position for the Washington Times.

C.S. Lewis wrote much about the tension between self-interest and selfishness, offering renewed clarity on these topics. To Lewis, there is a huge difference between self-interest and selfishness, and there is a proper place for self-interest in our lives.

You can find the full article here.

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C.S. Lewis on Reading Old Books

Old Books

C.S. Lewis couldn’t have predicted the details of this digital age and yet his wisdom might be exactly what we need to hear right now. Justin Dyer has written a very interesting article on this for Forbes.

In our mass democratic culture, where majority sentiment ruthlessly limits the moral and intellectual horizon, reading old books is especially important. Our only palliative to the pressures of the present outlook, Lewis concluded, “is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only be reading old books.”

You can find the full article here.


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Thoughts on the Magician’s Nephew

Although I have read the Chronicles of Narnia some years ago, I’m currently reading through them again with my daughter. I’m sure I’m enjoying the stories as much as, if not more than, my daughter.

Magician's Nephew

I decided to read them in chronological order instead of publication order and thus started with The Magician’s Nephew. The Magician’s Nephew was actually the sixth of the seven books published and it made its appearance in 1955. I suppose this book would be one of the first of what we now call a prequel.

The Magician’s Nephew is not talked about as often as some of the other books in the series and I’m not sure that they will be making a movie of it anytime soon. Still it is one of my favourites in the chronicles.

One of my favourite parts of the concern young Digory Kirke has for his sick mother’s health and the temptations he experiences to find a cure. I also liked how Uncle Andrew is so corrupted that he could not understand the speech of the animals in Narnia. What Uncle Andrew heard when Aslan spoke was much different from what the children heard. I love the transformation of Frank, from a seemingly low member of society, to the king of Narnia. Lewis really works his magic in the description of these characters.

Although I like reading the book in chronological order, I can understand why some people do not. When one reads The Lion, the Witch in the Wardrobe, there should be the same sense of discovery in learning about Aslan as the children experience.

One of the things that I notice in reading the first two books (chronologically) is that the white witch comes across a bit differently. Reading the second book, it seems as if Jadis had always been in Narnia, while the first book reveals she came from Charn, a world in which she had killed everyone. The second book also describes her as half-giant and half-djinn, something not mentioned in the first. I get the picture that Lewis was not overly concerned about continuity.

Still, it is a fantastic book and deserves to be included not just as one of the best children’s stories but one of the best fantasy novels in general.

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C.S. Lewis and Natural Law

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

Many fans of C.S. Lewis never get around to reading his Abolition of Man and yet it has been a very influential book. Justin Dyer writes an interesting article on C.S. Lewis and natural law and objective values for the National Review.

Ayn Rand, the Russian-born libertarian novelist and playwright, had no love for C. S. Lewis, whom she described in the margins of her copy of The Abolition of Man (1943) as “abysmal scum” and a “cheap, awful, touchy, social-metaphysical mediocrity.” In Abolition, ranked seventh on National Review’s list of the greatest non-fiction books of the 20th century, Lewis defended the objective reality and practical importance of such metaphysical concepts as beauty and goodness.

You can read the full article here.


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Why is C.S. Lewis Popular Among Evangelicals?

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is a hero to many evangelicals. But the reason for this is not very obvious. Lewis by no means fits the typical evangelical mould.

David Russell Mosley, an ex-evangelical and now catholic, has written an interesting article on this surprising popularity.

Lewis was seen as something of an evangelical hero. His work in apologetics particularly making him popular, and is probably one of the many sources for the wrong-headed opinion that the Chronicles of Narnia are an allegory. Still, as time has gone by, I’ve begun to question the evangelical love for Lewis and many, though certainly not all (or not to the same degree), of the Inklings.

You can find the full article here.


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