1. Why did I become a writer? Chiefly, I think, because my clumsiness or fingers prevented me from making things in any other way. See my Surprised by Joy, chapter I.
2. What inspires my books? Really I don't know. Does anyone know where exactly an idea comes from? With me all fiction begins with pictures in my head. But where the pictures come from I couldn't say.
3. Which of my books do I think most "representational"? Do you mean (a.) Most representative, most typical, most characteristic? or (b.) Most full of "representations" i.e. images. But whichever you mean, surely this is a question not for me but for my readers to decide. Or do you mean simply which do I like best? Now the answer would be Till We Have Faces and Perelandra.
4. I have, as usual, dozens of "plans" for books, but I don't know which, if any, of these will come off. Very often a book of mine gets written when I'm tidying a drawer and come across notes for a plan rejected by me years ago and now suddenly realize I can do it after all. This, you see, makes predictions rather difficult!
5. I enjoy writing fiction more than writing anything else. Wouldn't anyone?
Good luck with your "project."
Letters to Children (1985), letter of 6 December, 1960
Posted by Arborfield at 9:12 am
We were awakened early by my father to go to the Communion Service. It was a dark morning with a gale blowing and some very cold rain. We tumbled out and got under weigh. As we walked down to church we started discussing the time of sunrise; my father saying rather absurdly that it must have risen already, or else it wouldn't be light.
In church it was intensely cold. W offered to keep his coat on. My father expostulated and said "Well at least you won't keep it on when you go up to the Table." W asked why not and was told it was "most disrespectful". I couldn't help wondering why. But W took it off to save trouble. I then remembered that D was probably turning out this morning for Maureen's first communion, and this somehow emphasised the dreariness of this most UNcomfortable sacrament. We saw Gundrede, Kelsie and Lily. W also says he saw our cousin Joey...
We got back and had breakfast. Another day set in exactly similar to yesterday. My father amused us by saying in a tone, almost of alarm, "Hello, it's stopped raining. We ought to go out," and then adding with undisguised relief "Ah, no. It's still raining: we needn't." Christmas dinner, a rather deplorable ceremony, at quarter to four. Afterwards it had definitely cleared up: my father said he was too tired to go out, not having slept the night before, but encouraged W and me to do so - which we did with great eagerness and set out to reach Holywood by the high road and there have a drink. It was delightful to be in the open air after so many hours confinement in one room.
Fate however denied our drink: for we were met just outside Holywood by the Hamilton's car and of course had to travel back with them. Uncle Gussie drove back along the narrow winding road in' a reckless and bullying way that alarmed W and me, We soon arrived back at Leeborough and listened to Uncle Gussie smoking my father in his usual crude but effective way, telling him that he should get legal advice on some point. The Hamiltons did not stay very long.
Afterwards I read Empedocles an Etna wh. I read long ago and did not understand. I now recognised Empedocles' first lyric speech to Pausanias as a very full expression of what I almost begin to call my own philosophy. In the evening W played the gramophone. Early to bed, dead tired with talk and lack of ventilation. I found my mind was cumbling into the state which this place always produces: I have gone back six years to be flabby, sensual and unambitious. Headache again.
All My Road Before Me
Posted by Arborfield at 7:56 am
She took a step forward, and her heart beat fast and high as she seemed to move into the clouded golden mist that received her, and fantastically enlarged and changed the appearance of her hands and the cards within them. She took another step, and the Tarots quivered in her hold, and through the mist she saw but dimly the stately movement of the everlasting measure trodden out before her, but the images were themselves enlarged and heightened, and she was not very sure of what nature they were. But nothing could daunt the daring in which she went; she took a third step, and Henry's voice cried to her suddenly, "Stop there and wait for the cards."
She half-turned her head towards him at the words, but he was too far behind for her to see him. Only, still looking through that floating and distorting veil of light, she did see a figure, and knew it for Aaron's: yet it was more like one of the Tarots - it was the Knight of Sceptres. The old man's walking-stick was the raised sceptre; the old face was young again, and yet the same. The skull-cap was a heavy medieval head-dress - but as the figure loomed it moved also, and the mist swirled and hid it. The cards shook in her hands; she looked back at them, and suddenly one of them floated right out into the air and slowly sank towards the floor; another issued, and then another, and so they followed in a gentle persistent rain. She did not try to retain them; could she have tried she knew she could not succeed. The figures before her appeared and disappeared, and as each one showed, so in spiral convolution some card of those she still held slipped out and wheeled round and round and fell from her sight into the ever-swirling mist.
Chapter 5 "The Image that did not move"
Posted by Arborfield at 4:16 pm
[Image : 76 Sandfield Road, Oxford]
My heart and mind is in the Silmarillion, but I have not had much time for it. ....
It may amuse you to hear that (unsolicited) I suddenly found myself the winner of the International Fantasy Award, presented (as it says) 'as a fitting climax to the Fifteenth World Science Fiction Convention'. What it boiled down to was a lunch at the Criterion yesterday with speeches, and the handing over of an absurd 'trophy'. A massive metal 'model' of an upended Space-rocket (combined with a Ronson lighter). But the speeches were far more intelligent, especially that of the introducer: Clémence Dane, a massive woman of almost Sitwellian presence. Sir Stanley himself was present. Not having any immediate use for the trophy (save publicity=sales=cash) I deposited it in the window of 40 Museum Street. A back-wash from the Convention was a visit from an American film-agent (one of the adjudicating panel) who drove out all the way in a taxi from London to see me last week, filling 76 S[andfield] with strange men and stranger women -1 thought the taxi would never stop disgorging. But this Mr Ackerman brought some really astonishingly good pictures (Rackham rather than Disney) and some remarkable colour photographs. They have apparently toured America shooting mountain and desert scenes that seem to fit the story. The Story Line or Scenario was, however, on a lower level. In fact bad. But it looks as if business might be done. Stanley U. &: I have agreed on our policy : Art or Cash. Either very profitable terms indeed; or absolute author's veto on objectionable features or alterations.
From a letter to Christopher and Faith Tolkien
11 September 1957
Posted by Arborfield at 6:15 am
Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.
It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power - it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. When you have realized that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about. They offer an explanation of how we got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it. They offer an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person. They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God...
I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it beings in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.
Mere Christianity (1943)
Posted by Arborfield at 7:53 am
Beren and Lúthien before Morgoth's Throne in Angband. The battle in song before the throne, from the most important (IMHO of course) of all of Tolkien's works, and the composition that he returned to the most. Why do I say this? On his grave in Wolvercote Cemetery, as well as the details of J.R.R.T. and his wife Edith, are two words, "Beren and Lúthien".
In his eyes the fire to flame was fanned,
and forth he stretched his brazen hand.
Lúthien as shadow shrank aside.
'Not thus, O king! Not thus!' she cried,
'do great lords hark to humble boon!
For ever minstrel hath his tune;
and some are strong and some are soft,
and each would bear his song aloft,
and each a little while be heard,
though rude the note, and light the word.
But Lúthien hath cunning arts
for solace sweet of kingly hearts.
Now hearken!' And her wings she caught
then deftly up, and swift as thought
slipped from his grasp, and wheeling round,
fluttering, before his eyes, she wound
a mazy-wingéd dance, and sped
about his iron-crownéd head.
Suddenly her song began anew;
and soft came dropping like a dew
down from on high in that domed hall
her voice bewildering, magical,
and grew to silver-murmuring streams
pale falling in dark pools in dreams.
She let her flying raiment sweep,
enmeshed with woven spells of sleep,
as round the dark void she ranged and reeled.
From wall to wall she turned and wheeled
in dance such as never Elf nor fay
before devised, nor since that day;
than swallow swifter, than flittermouse
in dying light round darkened house
more silken-soft, more strange and fair
than slyphine maidens of the Air
whose wings in Varda's heavenly hall
in rhythmic movement heat and fall.
Down crumpled Orc, and Balrog proud;
all eyes were quenched, all heads were bowed;
the fires of heart and maw were stilled,
and ever like a bird she thrilled
above a lightless world forlorn
in ecstasy enchanted borne.
All eyes were quenched, save those that glared
in Morgoth's lowering brows, and stared
in slowly wandering wonder round,
and slow were in enchantment bound.
Their will wavered, and their fire failed,
and as beneath his brows they paled
the Silmarils like stars were kindled
that in the reek of Earth had dwindled
escaping upwards clear to shine,
glistening marvellous in heaven's mine.
Then flaring suddenly they fell,
down, down upon the floors of hell.
The dark and mighty head was bowed;
like mountain-top beneath a cloud
the shoulders foundered, the vast form
crashed, as in overwhelming storm
huge cliffs in ruin slide and fall;
and prone lay Morgoth in his hall.
His crown there rolled upon the ground,
a wheel of thunder; then all sound
died, and a silence grew as deep
as were the heart of Earth asleep.
Beneath the vast and empty throne
the adders lay like twisted stone,
the wolves like corpses foul were strewn;
and there lay Beren deep in swoon:
no thought, no dream nor shadow blind
moved in the darkness of his mind.
'Come forth, come forth! The hour hath knelled,
and Angband's mighty lord is felled!
The Geste of Beren and Lúthien
(Lines 4,044 to 4,115)
Posted by Arborfield at 8:12 am