... and beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and the north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, and though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from other barbarians who occupy the north- western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas , and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card . But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and the most miserable of citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk in the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think that some great calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush .

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush , lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas , which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.”

And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket, using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis ).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For the first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock,
"Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus"
(1st published in Time and Tide, 1954)

Jack's meeting with Joy

Joy (then) Gresham at her second meeting (September 1952) with Jack and Warnie, on being given a single glass of sherry before their meal, “I call this civilized. In the States, they give you so much hard stuff that you start the meal drunk and end with a hangover.” She attacked modern American literature... “Mind you, I wrote that sort of bunk myself when I was young.” Small farm life was the only good life", she said. Jack spoke up then. Saying that, on his father’s side, he came from farming stock, “I felt that,” she said. “Where else could you get the vitality?”

George Sayer, ‘Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times’

Lewis's Accent

[Image: Little Lea, Belfast]

MARIAN VAN TIL (Associate Editor, Christian Courier, St. Catharines, Ont./Lewiston, NY) writes in MERELEWIS:

Long ago I saw a minute or two of a filmed version of him reading in a BBC studio but I didn't recall the voice. I expected him to sound slightly more Irish. It took some getting used to to match the voice and the face/personality that we've come to know.

The voice, at first hearing, is one of those perennial snobbish-sounding, upper-crust British accents that everyone likes to imitate. I can understand why Lewis was apparently taken aback and said he didn't like the way he sounded when he heard himself on tape for the first time.

Very, very ‘Oxford.’ But then you begin to hear other nuances. In fact, I kept thinking: 'Who does he sound like?' There's an actor who pronounces some of his words like that, and has a similar vocal quality. I finally had it: that actor is Sean Connery. I can't explain that in terms of the origins of and influences on their accents, obviously, but there are some definite similarities.
Another interesting tidbit: Lewis pronounces the word "supposed"/"supposal" (which he used frequently when speaking of Williams) with interior "b's" rather than "p's."

'Its more of a subdued labial-stopped "p" than a "b", and it sounds more pronounced in recordings (particularly if the quality isn't the best) than it did in real life. It was almost the only shadow of Northern Ireland that years of Public School and Oxford had left in Jack's accent.'

JAMES O'FEE added:
'Ulster, and Belfast, speech is strongly influenced by Scottish patterns. (This might explain the resemblance with the speech of Scotsman Sean Connery.)

In James Como's C. S. LEWIS AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE (Harvest, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1982) we find:

  1. (page 6) Leo Baker writes of CSL speaking, as an undergraduate after WW1, 'with the slight remains of a Belfast accent'; and
  2. (page 440) Derek Brewer writes of Lewis, as a tutor at Oxford, rather later in life: "The plump cheerful man....who rolled his Rs".

The 'rolled', or 'trilled', R occurs in several varieties of British speech, notably Scots. Yet I confess that I can find little Irish, or Ulster, in the recordings of Lewis that I've heard. Nor a rolled R.'

I never heard Jack roll or trill (not the same thing by the way) an "R" at all. And as you say there was barely a trace of Ulster left in his accent. Though of course both he and Warnie could put it on when humour required.

JAMES O'FEE again:
For example, Derek Brewer writes [C. S. LEWIS AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE, ed. James Como, New York, 1982, page 50]:

[Lewis] 'was once on a committee with [T. S.] Eliot to revise the translation of the Psalms and referred to himself, in comparison with Eliot, as a "whippersnapper" - pronounced very Irish, with aspirated initial WH with strongly rolled Rs.'

C S Lewis Centenary Group
Number 11, April 1998

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Commercial Xmas

“Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called ‘Xmas’ are one of my pet abominations: I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled. Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, an evil: but the laboured and organised jollity of this – the spurious childlikeness – the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep us some superficial connection with the Nativity – are disgusting.”

C.S. Lewis
Collected Letters, Volume III, page 686

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Jack's last letter...

21 Nov 63

Dear Philip Thompson,

To begin with, may I congratulate you on writing such a remarkably good letter; I certainly could not have written it at your age. And to go on with, thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grown ups never do!

I have’nt (sic) myself read the Puffin reprint you refer to, so of course missed the fault; but I will call the publisher’s attention to it.

Please tell your father and mother how glad I am to hear that they find my serious books of some value.

With all best wishes to you and to them,

Yours sincerely

C.S. Lewis

Jack died at around 5:34pm the day after this letter was written: Friday, 22nd November 1963. Warnie’s remembrance of the day, “... at five-thirty I heard a crash and ran in, to find him lying unconscious at the foot of the bed. He ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later.”
Collected Letters – Volume III : “Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950-1963” page 1483/4 (Harper Collins – Published this month)*

* Walter Hooper’s Preface is dated 13 September 2006

“What a state we have got into when we can’t say ‘I’ll be happy when God calls me’ without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’... if we really believe that our real home is elsewhere... why should we not look forward to the arrival?”
(Letters to an American Lady, 7th June 1959)
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Beren Defeated? Or...

He heard afar their hurrying feet,
he snuffed an odour strange and sweet;
he smelled their coming long before____________4200
they marked the waiting threat at door.
His limbs he stretched and shook off sleep,
then stood at gaze. With sudden leap
upon them as they sped he sprang,
and his howling in the arches rang.____________4205
Too swift for thought his onset came,
too swift for any spell to tame;
and Beren desperate then aside
thrust Lúthien, and forth did stride
unarmed, defenceless to defend________________4210
Tinúviel until the end.
With left he caught at hairy throat,
with right hand at the eyes he smote
- his right, from which the radiance welled
of the holy Silmaril he held.__________________4215
As gleam of swords in fire there flashed
the fangs of Carcharoth, and crashed
together like a trap, that tore
the hand about the wrist, and shore
through brittle bone and sinew nesh,___________4220
devouring the frail mortal flesh;
and in that cruel mouth unclean
engulfed the jewel's holy sheen.

Lines 4,198 to 4,223 of the "The Lay of Leithian”

Among Tolkien's papers five more lines were found:

Against the wall then Beren reeled
but still with his left he sought to shield
fair Lúthien, who cried aloud
to see his pain, and down she bowed
in anguish sinking to the ground.

However, JRRT did finish the story. See "The Silmarillion", Chapter 19.Posted by Picasa

The Last Ship (excerpt)

A sudden music to her came,
As she stood there gleaming
With free hair in the morning's flame
On her shoulders streaming.
Flutes there were, and harps were rung,
And there was sound of singing,
Like wind-voices keen and young
And far bells ringing.

JRRT - The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (Unwin 1990)
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Many of those familiar with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, or the films based on them, have been surprised to discover that the name of the headmaster of Hogwarts School also occurs in Tolkien's writings. (They might be even more surprised to find it in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.) The word is recorded by the OED as a dialect name for the bumblebee (and certain other insects), with quotations dating back to 1787. Tolkien used it in some versions of his poem "Errantry", in which the 'merry passenger', we are told, "battled with the Dumbledores" (History of Middle Earth VII. 86, 88).

He battled with the Dumbledores,
the Bumbles, and the Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb;
and running home on sunny seas
in ship of leaves and gossamer
with blossom for a canopy,
he polished up, and furbished up,
and burnished up his panoply.

The Ring of Words - Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (OUP - 2006)
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Pocket-handkerchiefs, dwarves, and dragons

Do grown-ups have any business reading The Hobbit? A book about dwarves (Tolkien insisted on this plural), elves, and a race of small people with furry feet, called hobbits, not to mention a wizard, a dragon, and a magic ring - surely these are cliches of fantastic fiction, which adults need not take seriously. What's more, unlike Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, which was clearly intended for adults, he wrote the original version of The Hobbit for reading aloud to his own children. (No he didn't - ed.)

I would beg to differ. The story of a comfort-loving hobbit who finds himself recruited as a burglar by 13 dwarves keen to avenge the deaths of their forefathers and to recover their ancestral treasure from a dragon has a great deal to tell us about courage - a virtue as important today as it was in the Anglo-Saxon times that Tolkien studied professionally.

Bilbo Baggins is far from being an ancient heroic warrior like Beowulf, though it would have been easy for Tolkien to create a cowardly character who soon leaves behind any sensation of fear and is transformed into a great hero of the old mode. Not not only does Bilbo not kill the dragon: he spends much of the climactic Battle of Five Armies knocked unconscious. On the other hand, only Bilbo has the courage to confront the dragon in his lair, and the humanity to try to stop the fighting.

Tolkien's most perceptive critic to date, Tom Shippey, argues that the hobbits are a bridge between our modern world of safe domesticity and pocket-handkerchiefs (Bilbo discovers he hasn't got any when he runs out of his house to join the dwarves in their adventure), and the frightening but exciting world of heroism, myth, and legend.

Professor Shippey writes: "Much of The Hobbit is about the clash of styles, attitudes, and behaviour patterns [between these two worlds] - though in the end one might conclude that they are not as far apart as they first seemed; that Bilbo has just as much right to the archaic world and its treasures as Thorin or Bard [the heroic warriors]" (J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the century, HarperCollins, 2001).

But there is more to The Hobbit than an exploration of courage. In Tolkien's essay "On fairy stories", written soon after the publication of The Hobbit, he argued that such stories offer, in addition to the benefits of all good literature, special values that he called "Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, Consolation, all things of which children have, as a rule, less need than older people", adding wryly: "Most of them are nowadays very commonly considered to be bad for anybody" (Tree and Leaf, George Allen & Unwin, 1964).

'Fantasy' is not a word with high status in contemporary Western culture. Indeed, so impoverished is our view of the imagination that popular entertainment prefers the contrivances of reality TV to made-up stories, and some serious writers can add gravitas to their work only by transcribing the actual words of people caught up in historic events. But, for Tolkien, the imagination was one of our most distinctively human attributes: a key element of the divine image in human beings.

He called the creation of an imaginatively consistent secondary world 'sub-creation', and wrote in a poem that he gave to C. S. Lewis (and which was a significant factor in Lewis's conversion to Christianity) "we make still by the law in which we are made" (quoted in Tree and Leaf).

By 'Recovery', Tolkien meant a rediscovery of the freshness and vitality of the world, especially the natural world and humanity's pre-industrial artefacts, such as bread and wine. Fairy stories help to free us from the drabness and triteness of our contemporary view of the world, where the enormous material wealth many of us have has blurred our vision and narrowed our focus to 'getting and spending', as William Wordsworth put it.

In praising 'Escape', Tolkien knew he was moving on to controversial ground, but, as he said, the people who are most against anyone's escaping are jailers. "Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"

'Consolation' was only one of Tolkien's names for what he regarded as the highest value of the fairy tale. By it, he meant that all true and complete fairy stories must have a happy ending, which he also called 'eucatastrophe', "a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur". He saw this as "a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief".

Unperceptive critics of Tolkien often accuse him of writing sentimental happy endings. In fact, Tolkien viewed life with a robust honesty, not denying that the world is full of suffering (both his parents had died by the time he was 12, and he fought in the First World War), and yet insisting that salvation can come when it is least expected.

Perhaps the most striking example of this in The Hobbit is when, at the climax of the Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo cries out: "The Eagles are coming!" There may be an implicit reference here to Christian iconography, but, more importantly, it underlines the fact that, no matter how hard we strive, we have no power, of ourselves, to save ourselves.

Jennifer Swift
(A fiction writer, a member of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society, and has taught courses on the Inklings).

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is published by HarperCollins.

Published in the Church Times - 3rd November 2006 Posted by Picasa

In a Punt on the Cherwell

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For he (Lewis) talked like an angel. My idea of how angels might talk derives from Lewis. His prose is brilliant, amusing, intimate, cogent; but his talk was of a superior order. It combined fluent, informal progression with the most articulate syntax, as if, somehow, it was a text remembered – and remembered perfectly. The steps of his argument succeeded without faltering, with each quotation in the original tongue, well pronounced. (To keep up his half dozen languages he belonged to reading groups – J. R. R. Tolkien’s Kolbitar for Norse, the Dante Society for Italian, another group for Homeric Greek.) Add an extraordinary memory, and you can see how any situation was for him accompanied by a full-voiced choir of verbal associations. "Probably no reader," he writes, "comes upon Lydgate’s ‘I herd other crie’ without recalling ‘the voces vagitus et ingens in Virgil’s hell.’" For this assumption, Lewis has been called "bookish" – a dumbed down response. Of course he was bookish; hang it, he tutored in literature. Even standing on the high end of a punt in a one piece swimming costume with a single shoulderstrap, about to dive, he had time for a quotation, half heard over the water, something about silvestrem. Was he teasing me for reclining at ease in my punt...

Alastair Fowler
Yale Review, Vol. 91 No. 4 (October 2003), pp. 64–80

1984 and That Hideous Strength

There are interesting parallels between Lewis's vision and that of George Orwell, despite the fact that Orwell had disliked Lewis's wartime religious broadcasts.

Orwell reviewed the book for the Manchester Evening News, commenting "Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters, and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realisable."

In some ways That Hideous Strength can be seen as describing one of the possible paths to a 1984 - one 1984, even if not quite Orwell's. The review was in 1945, before Orwell wrote 1984, and so That Hideous Strength may be considered as a possible influence.

(Source - Wikepedia)
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That Hideous Strength (1945)

In C. S. Lewis' novel, the technological super-agency is the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (NICE), which is empowered to solve all sorts of social and genetic problems without being bothered by "red tape." Mark and Jane Studdock are a young childless academic couple at Bracton College, whose faculty's Progressive Element is willing to sell its woods and its soul to entice the NICE. Mark and Jane's marriage is unhappy because, like most modern people, they see marriage as a contract for mutual advantage rather than as a sacred union. Mark's consuming desire doesn't even involve Jane. He wants to be a big shot, a member of the "inner ring" first at his college and then at the NICE. He gets his chance because he is good at writing propaganda.

(Phillip E. Johnson - First Things - March 2000)
[To read the whole piece, click on the title above]
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Charles Williams on PG Wodehouse

Barbara stretched out her hands, and Lionel pulled her to her feet. "I just want to shimmer up, like Jeeves, not walk," she said. "Do you like Jeeves, Mr. Persimmons?"
Jeeves?" Gregory asked. "I don't think I know it or him or them."
"Oh, you must," Barbara cried. "When I get back to London I'll send you a set."
"It's a book, or a man in a book," Lionel interrupted. "Barbara adores it."
"Well, so do you," Barbara said. "You always snigger when you read him."
"That is the weakness of the flesh," Lionel said. "One whouldn't snigger over Jeeves any more than one should snivel over Othello. Perfect art is beyond these easy emotions. I think Jeeves -- the whole book, preferably with the illustrations -- one of the final classic perfections of our time. It attains absolute being. Jeeves and his employer are one and yet diverse. It is the Don Quixote of the twentieth century."
"I must certainly read it," Gregory said, laughing. "Tell me more about it while we have tea."

War In Heaven (Eerdmans 1978), page 157-8
Charles Williams 1930

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Screwtape writes to his apprentice-devil nephew

Music and silence -- how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since Our Father entered Hell -- though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express -- no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominal forces, but all has been occupied by Noise -- Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile -- Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress. Meanwhile, you, disgusting little --

[Here the MS breaks off and is resumed in a different hand.]

In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertantly allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest to my secretary. Now that the transformation is complete I recognise it as a periodical phenomenon. Some rumour of it has reached the humans and a distorted account of it appears in the poet Milton, with the ridiculous addition that such changes of shape are a 'punishment' imposed on us by the Enemy. A more modern writer -- someone with a name like Pshaw -- has, however, grasped the truth. Transformation proceeds from within and is a glorious manifestation of that Life Force which Our Father would worship if he worshipped anything but himself. In my present form I feel even more anxious to see you, to unite you to myself in an indissoluble embrace,

(signed) Toadpipe (for his Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary Screwtape, TE, BS, etc.)

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Ch. 22, (1942)
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The Geste of Beren and Luthien

Book XIII.

Into the vast and echoing gloom,
more dread than many-tunnelled tomb
in Labyrinthine pyramid
where everlasting death is hid,
down awful corridors that wind
down to a menace dark enshrined;
down to the mountain's roots profound,
devoured, tormented, bored and ground
by seething vermin spawned of stone;
down to the depths they went alone.

(J.R.R. Tolkien)
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Spirits in Bondage

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain
From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness
There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
From which the hearts of men are always sore.

(C.S. Lewis - XV. Dungeon Gates) Posted by Picasa

An Unexpected Party

[Hobbiton - JRRT's own painting]

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill - The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it - and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

The Hobbit - Chapter 1
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The Inklings connection with 007 !

The year was 1959, Polish actor Vladek Sheybal arrived in England not knowing anyone and unable to speak English. He supported himself by working in menial jobs in a Polish delicatessen and then in an artifical jewellery shop in Brick Lane, London. When he finished his job at the jewellery shop, he took a train from Paddington station to Oxford with all his worldy goods in a small suitcase, and the only money he had in the world -- ten English pounds.

Soon after Vladek arrived in Oxford, the typical English weather turned sour and it began to rain. Taking refuge in a coffee shop, he was recognised and later befriended, by students who had seen the Polish film "Kanal" (1956) in which Vladek was featured, the night before at their local cinema -- a film as poignant and thought provoking now as it was then. Eventually, Vladek became a recognised student of English Literature at Merton College, Oxford after being taken under the wing of Professor Neville Coghill.

In 1963, Vladek was offered a small part in the second James Bond film 'From Russia with Love' but was reluctant to take the part and turned it down. Eventually he was persuaded by Sean Connery (who was by now a close friend) to take the role of the villanous chess master 'Kronsteen'. Vladek played the part as usual, to perfection; creating a character so elegantly arrogant that 'Kronsteen' is perhaps the most believable and memorable Bond villains of the entire genre.

Wonder if Vladek met the rest of the Inklings whilst at Merton? After all J.R.R. Tolkien, Neville Coghill and Hugo Dyson were all fellows at Merton in the 1950s. Posted by Picasa

Neville Coghill and The Canterbury Tales

With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject-matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. The tales are told by a motley crowd of pilgrims as they journey for five days from Southwark to Canterbury. Drawn from all levels of society and all walks of life (from knight to nun, miller to monk), the pilgrims reveal a picture of English life in the fourteenth century that is as robust as it is representative.

Rendered with consummate skill and sensitivity into modern English verse by Neville Coghill, The Canterbury Tales (which Geoffrey Chaucer began in 1386 and never completed) retain all their vigour, their humour and indeed their poetry.

Neville Coghill did a great service to Chaucer in making his work live for many people who would not otherwise have been able to appreciate it. C S Lewis thought it masterly, and was very pleased that his friend's labour had brought the ancient text to modern eyes whilst retaining it's basic character.

A Postscript
Professor Coghill used to appear on request before various groups to read from his Chaucer translations, and, on one occasion which he cherished long after, a lady came up afterwards and said, "That was wonderful. Thank you so much. We are so sorry that Mrs. Chaucer was unable to come with you."

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Surprised by Joy

Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to "know of the doctrine." All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion. Of course I could do nothing - I could not last out one hour - without continual conscious recourse to what I called Spirit. But the fine, philosophical distinction between this and what ordinary people call "prayer to God" breaks down as soon as you start doing it in earnest. Idealism can be talked, and even felt; it cannot be lived.

Surprise by Joy (XIV Checkmate)

(I see Jack's "Mere Christianity" is once again top of the Christian bestsellers list this week in the UK)
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A taste of Tolkien's alliterative verse

To the throne of Thingol were the three now come;
there their speech well sped, and he spoke them fair,
for Hurin of Hithlum he held in honour,
whom Beren Ermabwed as a brother had loved
and remembering Morwen, of mortals fairest,
he turned not Turin in contempt away.
There clasped him kindly the King of Doriath,
for Melian moved him with murmured counsel
and he said: "Lo, O son of the swifthanded,
the light in laughter, the loyal in need,
Hurin of Hithlum, thy home is with me,
and here shalt sojourn and be held my son.

Children of Hurin (excerpt) Posted by Picasa


.... for a week. See you on the 13th?


From Betjeman to Lewis (never sent)

It seems to me that we have two different approaches to poetry. Both, I hope, have a sense of the sound of words and of metre and stress in common. After that there is no common ground. Your approach is philosophical, or metaphysical or abstract or something I do not understand. Mine is visual. I would cite a bit of your own poetry - a poem called 'The Planets' which opens with the line: "Lady Luna in light canoe". I don't see how anyone who has looked at the moon can think of it as "cruising monthly" in a light canoe. If we are going back to the day of my lack of style, what 'style' us this?

John Betjeman - Unpublished Letter : 13th December 1939
Cited in the 'Daily Telegraph' - 29th July 2006
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Planet Narnia (XI) - Summary

Michael Ward's dissertation points out that by the medieval (Ptolemic) reckoning, there were seven planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Was it possible, Ward wondered, that each of the seven Narnia books was written under the sign of a different planet?

Looking closely at the Narnia Chronicles side-by-side with Lewis's 1935 poem, and other of his writings that touch on the planets, especially his posthumously published book, The Discarded Image, a retrieval of the medieval worldview, Ward found that indeed there is such a correspondence:

- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe corresponds to Jupiter,
- Prince Caspian to Mars,
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the Sun,
- The Silver Chair to the Moon,
- The Horse and His Boy to Mercury,
- The Magician's Nephew to Venus, and
- The Last Battle to Saturn.

Each planet, in a greatly simplified summary of the medieval understanding, represents a certain set of linked emotions and images, a temper, a disposition, along the spectrum -- we are all familiar with a 'jovial', 'saturnine' or 'mercurial' dispositions -- and these are reflected, Ward found, in the Narnia books, both in the big arc of each story and in countless fine touches throughout each volume.

What Ward has discovered is entirely consistent with Lewis's Christian humanism. The imaginative worldview embodied in the medieval astrological lore of the planets speaks to something fundamental in our experience; it is not to be rejected but rather baptised, made harmonious with the underlying Christian vision that governs Narnia.

Ward's discovery will send fellow-scholars and countless ordinary readers back to the books to evaluate the evidence for themselves. In the long term, by situating the Narnia Chronicles in the context of Lewis' lifetime fascination with the planets and showing the intricate patterning of the series, Ward will have finally laid to rest what he rightly calls A.N. Wilson's absurd suggestion that "Lewis turned to children's fiction as a retreat from apologetics after his clash with philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe at the Socratic Club." And he will have added yet another layer of appreciation for books that have delighted generations of children and their parents.

Michael Ward has lectured on Lewis in Oxford, Cambridge and many places in the United States, including Wheaton College, IL; Notre Dame University, IN; and Fuller Theological Seminary, CA.

Ward's work is to be published in the Spring of 2007 by Oxford University Press (USA) under the title "Planet Narnia".

In his 1937 TLS review, Lewis concluded by saying that Tolkien's Hobbit "will be funniest to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe...".

In a similar way, the Narnia Chronicles have yielded up their secret... only after many years and many readings. The Narnian septet has often been criticized by those who object to its Christian symbolism. Now it may be the turn of the religious fundamentalists to raise their own cry of foul. Narnia is a work of medieval astrology!

C.S. Lewis - The Planets (1937)
C.S. Lewis - That Hideous Strength (1945)
C.S. Lewis - The Discarded Image (1964)
C.S. Lewis - The Alliterative Metre, Selected Literary Essays (1969)
James Bonwick - Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions (1894)
Planet Narnia - Times Literary Supplement April 28th, 2003
The Ptolemaic Universe & Architypes - Wikipedia
Michael Ward - Wycliffe Hall, Oxford lectures (July 2006)

... and of course, all Seven Narnia Books.

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Planet Narnia (X)

Mars & Prince Caspian

MARS mercenary, makes there his camp
And flies his flag; flaunts laughingly
The graceless beauty, grey-eyed and keen,
--Blond insolence--of his blithe visage
Which is hard and happy. He hews the act,
The indifferent deed with dint of his mallet
And his chisel of choice; achievement comes not
Unhelped by him; --hired gladiator
Of evil and good. All's one to Mars,
The wrong righted, rescued meekness,
Or trouble in trenches, with trees splintered
And birds banished, banks fill'd with gold
And the liar made lord. Like handiwork
He offers to all--earns his wages
And whistles the while. White-feathered dread
Mars has mastered. His metal's iron
That was hammered through hands into holy cross,
Cruel carpentry. He is cold and strong,
Necessity's song. Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music--measureless the waves'

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

Prince Caspian - Mars
(Reepicheep is a "martial" mouse; Miraz frets over his "martial" policy; Caspian convenes a "Council of War"; events in Narnia are likened to "the Wars of the Roses".)

The Martial Type
- Courageous, vigorous, persistent
- Blunt, straight forward, resourceful
- Heroic, fearless

(Next Posting - Planet Narnia Summary) Posted by Picasa

Planet Narnia (IX)

Mercury & The Horse and His Boy

MERCURY marches;--madcap rover,
Patron of pilf'rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul's darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them--gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit's tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought. In the third region

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Horse and His Boy - Mercury
(The reunited twins, Cor and Corin, are an example of what the 1935 poem calls "meeting selves, / Same but sundered"; mercurial, "rocket"-like Narnian poetry is opposed to slow-spoken Calormene "jargon"; Mercury is "patron of pilf'rers" and Shasta several times goes "raiding"; he is also the fleet-footed messenger to Archenland.)

The Mercurial Type
- Restless, clean, energetic, quick
- Powerful, mellow voice, speaks rapidly
- The mythological thief

(Next Posting - Mars & Prince Caspian) Posted by Picasa

Planet Narnia (VIII)

Venus & The Magician's Nephew

VENUS voyages... but my voice falters;
Rude rime-making wrongs her beauty,
Whose breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness
Bewitch the worlds. Wide-spread the reign
Of her secret sceptre, in the sea's caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.
The metal copper in the mine reddens
With muffled brightness, like muted gold,
By her fingers form'd. Far beyond her
The heaven's highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv'n thunder

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Magician's Nephew - Venus
(Her beautiful and maternal influence is evident in the fecund birth of Narnia and in the story of Digory's revivified mother, Mrs Kirke; Venus's "breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness / Bewitch the worlds", rather as Jadis does; Fledge's wings are "copper".)

The Venusian Type
- Warm, passive, sympathetic, langurous
- Sensuous, vegetative
- Dull, sluggish, flesh and blood, earthy

(Next Posting - Mercury)
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Planet Narnia (VII)

Luna & The Silver Chair

Lady Luna, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us--the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count'nance
Orb'd and ageless. In earth's bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
--Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth.

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Silver Chair - the Moon
(The clue is in the title , for the Moon's metal is silver; Rilian and the Headmistress of Experiment House are both described as "lunatic"; the Moon gives rise to doubt - hence the Witch's attempt to persuade the adventurers that the Overworld does not exist.)

The Lunar Type
- Introspective, aloof, timid
- Stubborn, passive, moody
- Nocturnal, detail inclined

(Next Posting - Venus)
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