"Gil-galad was an Elven-king"

Weathertop Hollow New Zealand

(Sung by Sam to the company on Weathertop before the attack of the Nazg├╝l)

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

"That's all I know," stammered Sam, blushing.
"I learned it from Mr. Bilbo when I was a lad."

J.R.R. Tolkien – Fellowship of the Ring

Will Vaus' Oxford Visit

[Will on the bridge across the Isis with Port Meadow in the background]

Long term readers of this blog will have 'clicked through' to Will Vaus' Blog from time to time (see 'Other Inklings Site' to the left.

Will has been in the UK visiting Oxford, and his blog has some quite wonderfully atmospheric photos of the visit. It is almost a conducted tour of 'Inklings' sites in the city.

The URL is : http://willvaus.blogspot.com/

Additionally have a look at his 'Aslan to England' site here: http://aslantoengland.blogspot.com/

Happy reading...


"More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19).

One can well understand this being said of God's mercies, God's visitations, His attributes. But what the poet is actually talking about is God's law, His commands; His "ruling" as Dr. Moffatt well translates in verse 9 (for "judgements" here plainly means decisions about conduct). What is being compared to gold and honey is those "statutes" (in the Latin version "decrees") which, we are told, "rejoice the heart". For the whole poem is about the Law, not about "Judgement" in the sense to which Chapter I was devoted.

This was to me at first very mysterious. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery" - I can understand that a man can, and must, respect these "statutes", and try to obey them, and assent to them in his heart. But it is very hard to find how they could be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate. If this is difficult at any time, it is doubly so when obedience to either is opposed to some strong, and perhaps in itself innocent, desire. A man held back by his unfortunate previous marriage to some lunatic or criminal who never dies from some woman whom he faithfully loves, or a hungry man left alone, without money, in a shop filled with he smell and sight of new bread, roasting coffee, or fresh strawberries - can these find the prohibition of adultery or of theft at all like honey? They may obey, they may still respect the "statute", but surely it could be more aptly compared to the dentists's forceps or the front line than to anything enjoyable and sweet.

C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Psalms
Chapter VI "Sweeter Than Honey" (1955)

C.S. Lewis at the BBC (II)

Assessing Lewis as a broadcaster
Lewis made the connection with the audience as strongly as he could in this first broadcast. He insists that he is not preaching, and in common failings such as broken promises and excuses for bad behaviour he is no different to anyone else. He ends by saying that we can't shake off the idea that we know how to behave but in practice don't do so. We break the Law of Nature, realising this is in fact the basis for all clear thinking.

The first talk set the tone for the remainder of the series, Lewis had found a style that suited him and the listener. It was direct, colloquial and intellectually challenging. Only one recording survives of a single talk from Lewis's eventual four series for the BBC. There is a simple explanation for this. Live broadcasts offered a number of critical advantages over pre-recorded talks. First, a live talk has an immediacy and direct conversational approach that a pre-recorded broadcast can seldom match.

Second, once cleared by the censor, a talk could be broadcast without delay. A pre-recorded talk might need to be re-recorded if circumstances had changed between the recording and broadcast.

Third, recording was an expensive process - All recordings were made on twelve-inch metal discs with a coating of cellulose acetate. A steel needle cut the sound track into the disc, producing four minutes of airtime. With metal a costly and scarce resource, recordings were not made of studio broadcasts unless there was a special justification such as historic interest. Reporters in the field had to rely on discs entirely however to record the sounds of war.

Justin Phillips
C.S. Lewis at the BBC
(HarperCollins) 2002

C.S. Lewis at the BBC

Content of the first broadcast
The first talk sets out the theme for the whole series. Lewis's very first sentence and what follows is what journalists would call a 'grabber'. It engages you right away.

“Every one has heard people quarrelling… 'That's my seat, I was there first' - 'Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm' - 'Why should you shove me in first?' - 'Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine' - 'How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?' - 'Come on, you promised’.”

The point Lewis makes is that each of us appeals to or falls back upon a standard of behaviour to which we hold others to account. We may call it lots of things, decency or fair-play, or even morality. The point of a quarrel is to prove someone else is wrong and you are right. This makes no sense unless both sides have some agree¬ment of what is right and what is wrong, just as a foul in football, for instance, means nothing unless both sides are playing to the same rules.

The rest of the talk follows in the same vein, probing and clarifying,, using plenty of illustrations that would ring true. He underlines the assumption we make that the human idea of decent behaviour is universal. If not, then all that is said about the war is nonsense: 'What is the sense in saying the enemy are in the wrong unless right is a real thing which the Germans at bottom know as well as we do and ought to practise?' This sentence, written at the height of the war, is simply put into the past tense when published in Mere Christianity. The ideas that Lewis explores on natural law do not date with the passage of time. One of the keys to Lewis's appeal was his willingness to identify wholly with the listener and to reject any sense of preaching or speaking down to people. He says that none of us succeeds in keeping the law of nature. 'If there are any exceptions among you', he tells the listener, 'I apologise to them. They'd better switch on to another station, for nothing I'm going to say concerns them.' It takes a brave broadcaster to invite listeners to switch off. Lewis could take the risk because he knew that no listeners would consider themselves to be morally perfect, certainly not in August 1941.

Justin Phillips
C.S. Lewis at the BBC
(HarperCollins) 2002

A Foreword

I dedicate the book to all admirers of Bilbo, but especially to my sons and daughter, and to my friends the Inklings. To the Inklings, because they have already listened to it with a patience, and indeed with an interest, that almost leads me to suspect that they have hobbit-blood in their venerable ancestry. To my sons and my daughter for the same reason, and also because they have all helped me in the labours of composition. If composition is a just word ...'

From the Foreword to the 1954 first edition of The Fellowship Of The Ring, replaced for the second edition in 1966.

A Prologue

This tale is drawn from the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, preserved for the most part in the Great Red Book of Samwise. It has been written during many years for those who were interested in the account of the great Adventure of Bilbo, and especially for my friends, the Inklings (in whose veins, I suspect, a good deal of hobbit blood still runs), and for my sons and daughter.

'But since my children and others of their age, who first heard of the finding of the Ring, have grown older with the years, this tale speaks more clearly of those darker things which lurked only on the borders of the other tale, but which have troubled the world in all its history.

'To the Inklings I dedicate this book, since they have already endured it with patience - my only reason for supposing that they have a hobbit-strain in their venerable ancestry: otherwise it would be hard to account for their interest in the history and geography of those long-past days, between the end of the Dominion of Elves and the beginning of the Dominion of Men, when for a brief time the Hobbits played a supreme part in the movements of the world.

'For the Inklings I add this note, since they are men of lore, and curious in such matters. It is said that Hobbits spoke a language, or languages, very similar to ours ... [manuscript continues into a discussion of the languages of Middle Earth and their translation in the published book]

From the first draft of what became the Prologue to The Lord Of The Rings, as published in The Peoples Of Middle Earth, Christopher Tolkien, 1996.