Sarehole Mill

In 1896, Mabel Tolkien took her two young sons to live in a rented house in Sarehole, Warwickshire, then in the countryside outside Birmingham city limits. Here an old brick mill stood, with a tall chimney. A stream ran under its great wheel. The mill, with its frightening miller's son, seemed to make a permanent impression on the young Tolkien's imagination. In Hobbiton, located on the Water, stood a mill which was torn down and replaced by a brick building which polluted both the air and water. Coincidence?

Pre-Christian C.S. Lewis....

"Was thinking about imagination and intellect and the unholy middle I am in about them at present: undigested scraps of anthroposophy and psychoanalysis jostling with orthodox idealism over a background of good old Kirkian rationalism. Lord what a mess!"

from All My Road Before Me - The diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-27

The Genesis of Screwtape

“Before the service was over -- one cd. wish these things came more seasonably -- I was struck by an idea for a book wh. I think might be both useful and entertaining. It wd. be called As one Devil to Another and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first ‘patient’.”

Letter to his brother Warnie, July 20th 1940

"I was often asked or advised to add to the original ‘Screwtape Letters’, but for many years I felt not the least inclination to do it. Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously... it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp."

C.S. Lewis - Foreward to “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” The scene is Hell at the annual dinner of the Training College for young devils.

An extra posting on the subject of War, from JRRT

Extract from a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher:

10 April 1944

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered.

But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.

- from "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien"

Dawn Treader and Learning in War Time

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has a passage which may remind us all of the way recent world events have affected the lives of everyone in the world:

“What awaited them on this island was going to concern Eustace more than anyone else, but it cannot be told in his words because after September 11 he forgot about keeping his diary for a long time.”

Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Chapter 5

Perhaps an opportune time to hear a passage from a talk which CS Lewis gave in Oxford during WW2. Still applicable to the ‘War on Terror’ in the 21st Century:

“The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun... we are mistaken when we compare war to 'normal life.' Life has never been normal. Even those periods we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies.

Learning in War-Time – CS Lewis

The Exeter College Essay Club

When the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, Tolkien had already been putting out feelers to obtain academic employment, and by the time he was demobilised he had been appointed Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary (the "Oxford English Dictionary"), then in preparation. While doing the serious philological work involved in this, he also gave one of his Lost Tales its first public airing -- he read The Fall of Gondolin to the Exeter College Essay Club, where it was well received by an audience which included Neville Coghill and Hugo Dyson, two future "Inklings". However, Tolkien did not stay in this job for long. In the summer of 1920 he applied for the quite senior post of Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and to his surprise was appointed.

The Geste of Beren and Lúthien

This wonderful epic poem is the core work in the Tolkien corpus. It may be read in it's entirety in "The Lays of Beleriand" available in Hard or Paperback at any bookshop. Why the core work? On the headstone of the Tolkien grave at Wolvercote are two words from his whole life's work: "Beren & Lúthien".

A king there was in days of old:
ere Men yet walked upon the mould
his power was reared in cavern's shade,
his hand was over glen and glade.
His shields were shining as the moon,
his lances keen of steel were hewn,
of silver grey his crown was wrought,
the starlight in his banners caught;
and silver thrilled his trumpets long
beneath the stars in challenge strong;
enchantment did his realm enfold,
where might and glory, wealth untold,
he wielded from his ivory throne
in many-pillared halls of stone.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
and metal wrought like fishes' mail,
buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
and gleaming spears were laid in hoard —
all these he had and loved them less
than a maiden once in Elfinesse;
for fairer than are born to Men
a daughter had he, Lúthien.

The first 22 lines (of 4,223) of The Geste of Beren and Lúthien
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charles Williams to his wife...

Shall I fall in love with you all over again?
Twice – with you then as with you now,
Either co-inherent in either, that brow
In this and this in that, but both now
Known in the one, and a double glory so.

Charles Williams to his wife after looking at her photograph
Letter of 29 November 1944.

The First Meeting

Tuesday 11 May 1926, late afternoon ...

“Tolkien managed to get the discussion round to the proposed English Prelim. I had a talk with him afterwards. He is a smooth, pale, fluent little chap – can’t read Spenser because of the forms – thinks the language is the real thing in the school – thinks all literature is written for the amusement of men between thirty and forty – we ought to vote ourselves out of existence if we were honest – still the sound-changes and the gobbets are great fun for the dons. No harm in him: he only needs a smack or so. His pet abomination is the idea of ‘liberal’ studies. Technical hobbies are more in his line.”

"All my road before me" (Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-1927)

Jack's favourite things...

Some of Jack's favourite things: good tobacco, good beer, good tea [strong Darjeeling or Ceylon tea], good friendships, good conversation, good literature, good food, a good fast walk in the countryside, preferably. Anything of beauty, anything finely crafted - well constructed. I think that Jack enjoyed what was well done. Everything God does is well done. So he enjoyed all of nature, because God did it well. I don't think he much time for shoddy things, for planned obsolescence, things of that nature. Jack enjoyed good quality anything, in a sense, those things that display the beauties of God's creation to the best of their advantage, whether they be the artisanship of man bringing those out, like finely crafted woodwork, furniture and so on, or whether they simply be a beautiful oak tree.

(Douglas Gresham – Interview September, 2000 – The Duncan Group)