Thinking Out Loud

September 24, 2015

Tolkien and Lewis Unlikely Choices for Sci-Fi and Fantasy

by guest book reviewer: Ruth Wilkinson

A common piece of advice given to young writers is, “Write what you know.”

So how did a couple of turn of the century, word-geek, English academics become the preeminent fantasy and science fiction writers of the modern era?

Joseph Laconte - A Hobbit A Wardrobe and a Great War - Thomas Nelson In A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War (Thomas Nelson) History professor Joseph Loconte traces the parallel stories of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien through the cataclysm that was World War 1 and beyond to their shared discovery and exploration of epic fiction and alternate history.  Drawing from many sources – including historians, biographers and original writings – he connects the two young men’s experiences in the trenches, mud, fire and disease of The Great War with themes, characters and landscapes found in the Narnia series, Lord of the Rings and their other writings.

We come to understand what the fierce friendships, values and personal strength of the characters they created have to teach us about being human and at war.  Quoting Lewis, “For let us make no mistake.  All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service.  Like sickness, it threatens pain and death.  Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst and hunger.  Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice and arbitrary rule.  Like exile, it separates you from all you love.”  And when Tolkien writes,”I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.  I love only that which they protect,” is he writing about England or Middle Earth?

And we see the world through the eyes of Lewis, a teenager who had written off Christianity as “ugly architecture, ugly music and bad poetry”, and Tolkien, a young man of faith whose Catholicism survived the war intact, when his peers and culture had found God to be uninterested and absent, and therefore nonexistent.

Loconte examines the spirit of an age that worshiped science, eugenics, industrialization, technology and related forms of ‘progress’.  He lays out how those forces were put to use in a war that was more destructive and devastating than any in the past, and the profound disillusionment and cynicism that were born out of it. And, yet, Lewis is able, through his friendship with Tolkien, to rediscover “…the myth that has really happened” – the story of Jesus Christ – to turn from his skepticism and to write stories that “offer the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable.”  Loconte writes, “Against the temper of their times, these authors dared to reclaim some of the older beliefs and virtues.  Their common Christian faith had much to do with this…”

This book challenges:  both to look back at the horror that humanity is capable of, and to look forward to the hope that Christ brings – when “everything sad will come untrue.”

Advertisements

November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963: A Day to Remember

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:17 am

As I look out over this day, and also the people I’ve met online through years of having this blog, it is occurring to me that an increasing number of people weren’t alive on the day that changed history in the United States, and affected the entire world, the death of President John F. Kennedy.

Clive Staples Lewis, after whom the Staples office supply store is named

Clive Staples Lewis

But as regular readers know, I’ve always used the opportunity to remind people of faith that this was also the day that author and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis died at age 64. Often overlooked also is that on the same day Aldous Huxley, the man sometimes called (Charles) “Darwin’s bulldog” died at age 69.

As I covered this earlier this month, I simply want to point out an interesting contrast between Lewis and Kennedy. At the time of his death, JFK was the President of the most powerful nation on earth in terms of economics and military might. You could say that his popularity was at a high that cannot be matched. But Lewis was still relatively unknown in either Christian circles, or the world of children’s literature. His popularity continued to climb after his death, and he continues to gain new readers even now.

Because his death (and Huxley’s) was pushed off the newspaper pages by what happened to Kennedy in Dallas, Texas; there is a sense in which Lewis is still very much alive, that his influence is still growing. Because I work in and around the area of publishing, I often meet people to whom C. S. is a “new” author; even a few longtime readers are surprised to learn he is no longer with us. “Did that happen recently?” one asked..

All in all, not a bad legacy to have; to have one’s words and thoughts and ideas continuing to gain traction long after you are gone. Just because you don’t live to see it doesn’t mean your efforts are not going to bring results.

It is, very literally, what Jesus had in mind when he talked in agricultural terms about the planting of seeds; the seeds of the Kingdom being planted in hearts and lives.

January 6, 2010

Think Links

Once again the lynx is back, so it must be a Wednesday link list:

  • Jim Martin wrote this letter to a young girl graduating from college, but it’s great new year’s advice for anyone in their teens or twenties, from the blog, A Place for the God-Hungry, check out Dear Son/Dear Daughter
  • Scott Russ has a long piece on his blog looking back at 2009 — the whole decade actually — and forward to 2010 and what follows.   There’s some good stuff here, but if you have to choose, scroll down halfway to the “future” section of Looking Back, Looking Forward.
  • Abba Productions  of West Palm Beach, Florida is committed to doing a film version of Francine Rivers most popular book, Redeeming Love. You can navigate around their site from this page.
  • N. T. Wright explains to Trevin Wax at Kingdom People why his new book is titled After You Believe in North America, but titled Virtue Reborn in the U.K., in this blog interview.
  • Quitting Church author Julia Duin reports that the next film in the Narnia series will appear with much of its Christian sentiment somewhat compromised in the screenplay.   Read her article for The Washington Post about the picture, releasing Christmas 2010.
  • Kent Shaffer at ChurchRelevance.com analyzes the Top 100 search criteria used by kids — including kids under age seven — on the internet.   Then again, you may not want to know.    Otherwise, continue here.
  • On a not too dissimilar theme, a number of bloggers have linked to this article by Carolyn Plocher at NewsBusters concerning the “not so hidden agenda” of the American Library Association.   Their buzzterm, “Authentic Literature” masks another agenda.  She writes, “…  The ALA, for whatever reason, has taken up the cause of normalizing homosexuality and advancing the gay agenda.  Just this year alone, the ALA awarded more than forty pro-homosexual books; at least seven of those books received two or even three ALA awards.”   Check out this important article here.
  • In the search for a weekly cartoon (or two) with a Christian perspective, it’s easy to forget how many times Charles Schulz touched on church-related or Biblical subjects.  Assembled in one place, the sheer volume of his output on religious subjects probably exceeds most of our contemporary Christian cartoonists. (See below)
  • No link on this one, just a warning:  If you’re a fan of John Ortberg as I am, and you purchased his Faith and Doubt last year, do NOT purchase the new Know Doubt as it’s the same book.  (Both Zondervan.)   Why do publishers do this?
  • I don’t know anyone who puts more work into their daily devotional website than Stephen and Brooksyne Weber writing daily from Amish country in Pennsylvania.   Each day’s readings contain spectacular photography, music tracks (optional), or you can hear an audio version of the thought for each day.   The link is always in the sidebar here, or you can connect here for Daily Encouragement.

    Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.