Clear all

Lewis and Mythology  

Movie Aristotle
NarniaWeb Junkie

If Lewis was such a devout Christian, why is it that he often used characters from pagan mythologies in his works? What was it about mythology that appealed to him?

Movie Aristotle, AKA Risto

Posted : April 1, 2014 9:01 pm
Thursday's Wayfaring Child Hospitality Committee

That is a good question, which has occurred to me before in passing, though I've never given it much thought. I would assume he became interested in it at some point during his classical British education? Correct me if I'm wrong, but mythology used to be a big part of school curriculum, if not directly than through other classical works. Why C.S. Lewis would get so attached, I don't know. Personally I went through a phase of fascination with Greek mythology particularly, and would literally spend an hour reading the synopses of the stories in my family dictionary. :p

avi by Flambeau

Posted : April 1, 2014 9:17 pm
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

If you can get a copy of Surprised by Joy, it tells a bit about how he was reading the older sort of mythical/heroic story as a boy, and how it really moved him.

Posted : April 1, 2014 9:46 pm
NarniaWeb Newbie

yes, Lewis goes quite a bit beyond the 'mere', concise, elementary or
'four-squared' Christianity, as we sum up all his work.

although he was trying to be concise when speaking to audiences
outside of academy, so he said. Probably with some success,
he was aware of the Problem of simplicity.
(It's a lot of work ..)

but then, he was insistent in the belief that mythology supposedly
has a potential to lead, at least some persons, towards Christian faith.

A sentiment open to doubt?
Anyway it's a sentiment - as mythology does not prove things,
it's rather suggestive and arguably dense in archetypal matter,
this depending on your definitions.
'archetypal matter', if we know what that is, is supposed to be
psychologically potent, that is: it may hit hard.

That is why I am rather open to doubt about baptizing pre-Christian
traditions and myths, generally.
Some academics of well-read brilliant minds may be capable of
sorting out these matters. We hardly know precisely, how do we
measure a professor's mind?

Lewis may have been too confident on behalf of his audiences' minds
after 'all' ?

btw, 'Surprised by Joy' details these matters a bit, like Coracle hints us.

Posted : May 31, 2014 5:50 am
Pattertwigs Pal
Member Moderator

If you can get a copy of Surprised by Joy, it tells a bit about how he was reading the older sort of mythical/heroic story as a boy, and how it really moved him.

I can see how that could be a motivating factor. I wanted to put a faun in a skit for a class and without the CoN I won't have been so attached to fauns. The other group members must have thought I was nuts and we ended up with a centaur instead.

The following quote from the Weight of Glory but help to explain it some.

In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image.

It makes sense. For some reason people are attracted to nymphs and elves. Lewis clearly knows that these "people" are not real but are created by humans. Lewis probably didn't see it as going against Christianity. Many of the mythical creatures serve Aslan so in Narnia they are not "pagan."

Silver Chair Reading Group
NW sister to Movie Aristotle & daughter of the King

Posted : June 30, 2014 9:18 am
Lady Arwen
The Mermod Moderator

I have to say, Twigs, that quote from The Weight of Glory is so perfectly worded. As an author, it made something in my heart go "that's exactly it!" I must admit I have never read that book before (I actually had to google it to confirm that the author was, indeed, Lewis, ;)) ), but it sounds very interesting. Does Lewis write extensively on the topic in there?

Many of the mythical creatures serve Aslan so in Narnia they are not "pagan."

I think you bring up another interesting point here, taking your idea and stretching it beyond Narnia. To apply the same idea in our world, where, while some cultures did tie mythical beings to pagan religions, they were not necessarily creations from paganism, but rather ones that were later incorporated. Take the minotaur for example. Most people credit his being to Greek influences, when in reality the half-bull half-man creature has appeared many times in history and around the world. The Assyrians and, earlier, Babylonians also had minotaurs in their art and lore--we just happen to have picked up the Greek name.

Avatar thanks to AITB

Posted : June 30, 2014 10:32 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

Narnia itself shows the value in putting Christian themes and messages in a less obvious way. He was a firm believer in expressing truths through other means, such as fantasy and fiction. It is also notable that many mythologies have similar plots or characters, and Lewis believed that they were all based on Christian truths. Therefore, he had no problem in using mythology as a means to convey Christianity.

Posted : July 1, 2014 10:50 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

Did Lewis ever write an essay on mythology? I feel as if I've heard of one before, but I can't seem to find anything when I look for it now.

Avatar by Rose Tree Dryad

Posted : May 4, 2018 1:35 pm
NarniaWeb Junkie

Try "Myth Become Fact." It's an article that discusses how ancient myths seem to reflect the story of Christ's coming; that is, mythology is full of stories of gods who come to die and sacrifice for the people. (Lewis was unnerved as a young atheist at hearing a hardened skeptic admit that the "dying god" theme in mythology made it possible to believe that a god (or God) would come to do such a thing.)

PM me to join the Search for the Seven Swords!
Co-founder of the newly restored Edmund Club! Find it on the Talk About Narnia Forum!

signature by aileth

Posted : January 28, 2019 11:41 am
Lady Arwen
The Mermod Moderator

Keep in mind, Myth Became Fact is a book by Brian Godawa, although it looks quite fascinating

I believe Lewis actually wrote a book about George McDonald, so I would assume he at least touches on mythology there. Perhaps, Valiant_Nymph you might look at Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's To Be Said, that Lewis wrote? More on fairytales than mythology as a whole, but it's the closest I'm finding after thumbing through several collections of his essays.

Avatar thanks to AITB

Posted : January 29, 2019 3:52 pm
NarniaWeb Newbie

This was recently on British radio:

"Although it was written nearly seventy years ago, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ still appears in the top ten favourite children’s books and has sold over 100 million copies in 47 different languages. It's set in the magical Land of Narnia where the White Witch has cast a spell to make sure that it is always winter and Christmas never comes. This changes when four siblings – Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund – stumble into Narnia through the back of a wardrobe and defeat the evil that has engulfed Narnia with the help of the mighty lion Aslan. For some readers, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is an allegory of the story of Jesus. Many others view it simply as a good yarn. To discuss the religious message behind the book – and whether or not it really matters – Ernie is joined by three authors: Lucy Mangan, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Francis Spufford. Extracts are read by Julie Hesmondhalgh."

Posted : December 29, 2019 11:12 pm
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

Spufford is the guy who wrote and self-published some fan fiction. Cheeky devil, getting onto this discussion of Lewis!

Posted : December 30, 2019 8:15 am