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[Closed] Lewis and Tolkien

NarniaWeb Zealot

Lewis and Tolkien had much in common. They were both highly religious, they were both authors, and they both created some of the greatest works of fantasy in literature. And it just so happened that they were also personal friends.

Here's a thread to discuss the works and the relationship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. How do their works compare? What is your opinion of the relationship between the two men? Who do you think had the greater influence over the other?

~Riella =:)

Topic starter Posted : July 14, 2013 12:19 pm
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

They had influence over each other in different ways.

Tolkien was one of those friends that Lewis discussed philosophy and religions with. They discussed mythology, and to make a long story short, Lewis found that Christianity, besides being a great mythology as mythologies go, also had the added quality of being a true story.

This group of friends also discussed each other's writings, and Lewis was one of those who most strongly encouraged Tolkien not to give up on his large project about Hobbits. I don't know how much he influenced the actual contents of the book, but he certainly gave his opinion to the texts that Tolkien read at their meetings - and without the encouragement, we might not have had The Lord of the Rings at all.

There is a lot more to be said about this, but this will be all for now ...

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Posted : July 14, 2013 8:34 pm
NarniaWeb Zealot

There are some similarities between the two. Re-reading The Hobbit and LOTR, which I am doing currently, I am forcibly struck by the similarities between the Ents of Fangorn and the way the trees came alive in Narnia in PC. The films of Prince Caspian vs the Two Towers only strengthened this comparison.

There may be other similarities I haven't noticed yet, in outlook and in subject matter, but there are also some distinct differences. Take dragons. C.S.Lewis' dragons don't talk, but Tolkien's dragons are pestiferous beasts that can talk the hind leg off a donkey. Well, Glaurung at any rate. Smaug is downright conceited, and I don't know how Ancalagon the Black actually fits in in Tolkien's long-running saga.

I don't think that C.S.Lewis would ever have composed anything as bleak and despairing as the story of Turin Turambar, which I really disliked. Til we have faces, which I also read (by borrowing it from a library), and which in places could be almost as bleak, has an ending which is beautiful and hopeful. Orual does have a hard time, just like Turin Turambar, but in the end she does get recognition, forgiveness and peace, whereas I fail to see how Turin Turambar does anything of the sort. ... N3dGM/view

Posted : August 27, 2013 12:32 am
A True Narnian
NarniaWeb Newbie

If I remember correctly, they both set out to write stories for different purposes. Both men were Christian. Tolkien; Catholic, Lewis; Church of England. Lewis wrote specifically to teach (in the beginning, family members) children about the love, grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I have a quote somewhere, which I'll have to find in Lewis, "Letters to Children."

Tolkien, on the other hand set out to create a mythology for England, much like the mythology that had been written for Greece. He later admitted that his Catholicism worked its way into the tales, but not because he set out to put it there.

Personally, I believe both sets of books to be inspired.

He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty He surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert Emith, The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

Posted : August 28, 2013 1:12 pm
Elluinas Mirion
NarniaWeb Regular

"In the Kingdom of Sulfur is a mirror, The Mirror of The Art, in which the Whole World can be seen..."
- Na Mysteria de As Catedrais

Oh dear...

This is one of my pet obsessions - a question I've spent almost 40 years working on.

The difficulty is one of literature - that is of their particular methodology, its "Art" so to speak (techne, in gk, jitsu in .jp) and how this reveals faith. It therefore might just as well be called a form of alchemy if not Science.

But where to begin... after much arguing with my cousin (weeks, Tru Narnian, WEEKS!) I'll do the typical elvish response: answer a question with a question - or rather in this case, answer a post by offering a homework assignment!

If you have never read "On Fairy Stories" by JRRT (be sure to get the later edition of 1988 with C Tolkien's comments) then you're just wandering in the dark. Most of the foundations of Narnia can be seen there. It might be said to be the closest text on Deep Magic that any of them ever dared to write and I will warn you that AS SUCH, it is not easy to appreciate the full import at the first reading - especially if you have never read chronicles, or the space trilogy, or essays such as Weight of Glory. It is a deceptively plain essay - but it is every bit as if you heard someone tell how Euclid (better yet- Georg Riemann) prefigures Einstein. If you listen very carefully you will hear the angels whispering


This essay dates from 1938, but it's thoughts tie it to the 19 Sept 1931 events of addison walk with CSL, JRRT and Hugo Dyson. It is THE exegesis of the "True Myth" idea par excellence. It is pre-chronicles, pre Hobbit (well, Pub date anyways) pre "Mere Christianity" and all the rest.

Tolkien originally paired this essay with "Leaf by Niggle" but I think now that a better choice would have been "Smith of Wooton Major" as it somewhat better illustrates the ideas he expresses although as a fairy story it borders on Allegory.

Waggerawolf, it also has a few veiled references to quenta silmarili - The darkness of some of these tales needs to be seen in the context - like "Out of the Silent Planet" it is the context of the Great Siege.

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a rakuenno ar kiryar.

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Posted : October 11, 2013 8:17 pm
Member Moderator Emeritus

...Tolkien, on the other hand set out to create a mythology for England, much like the mythology that had been written for Greece. He later admitted that his Catholicism worked its way into the stories...

I find much admiration in Tolkien's approach. He was a Christian who wrote for the love of writing. No direct intention to write Christian literature, but since he is a Christian he by default wrote Christian literature.

For lack of a better comparison, it would be like saying that the band U2 does not make Irish music. However, by definition, they are a band from Ireland and therefore their music is Irish though some accustomed to hearing traditional Irish folk music may scoff at it being Irish.

Likewise, Tolkien wrote literature and was a Christian. He wrote Christian literature of which LOTR is a part of.

Not sure if Lewis intended to weave his Christianity in the Chronicles or not.

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...Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,...with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2)

Posted : October 26, 2013 12:40 pm
Lady Arwen
The Mermod Moderator

Tolkien definitely had a different style than Lewis did. Lewis made a point to write things that would spiritually nourish the reader. Tolkien wrote to write and give history. To me, it seems amazing how Tolkien worked in so many references to real history, from the often mentioned Dead Marshes/flooded trenches of World War I correlation to Sam's sudden burst of speaking in Elvish words he didn't understand/early missionaries and priests praying in languages they didn't understand. There are so many little references to the known history of the UK that it feels like Tolkien is writing a history book.

Lewis, on the other hand, might use history as a tool, but it is not his focus. I think this is one of the things that make their works so different; their goals as authors were almost opposite. Both wrote for children, to some extent, but both also wrote for adults, and both definitely wrote to prompt their audience to think.

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Posted : June 2, 2014 10:10 am
NarniaWeb Nut

I think it's very fascinating. It amazes me that two such good writers knew one another, and how they both turned out famous. I like both a lot. They were very good writers. Still Tolkien didn't at first understand how great Lewis' work was going to be.

Posted : June 4, 2014 3:45 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

I would love to have eavesdropped on one of their conversations! It would have been amazing :) I was thinking of starting an 'inkling' group with some friends. I doubt any of us will be a Lewis or a Tolkien, but it would be a nice experience :)

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Posted : May 4, 2018 1:34 pm