I don't think Tolkien influenced me*, and I am certain that I didn't influence him. That is, didn't influence what he wrote. My continual encouragement, carried to the point of nagging, influenced him very much to write at all with that gravity and at that length. In other words I acted as a midwife not as a father. The similarities between his work and mine are due, I think, (a) To nature - temperament. (b) to common sources. We are both soaked in Norse mythology, George MacDonald's fairy-tales, Homer, Beowulf, and medieval romance. Also, of course, we are both Christians (he, an R.C.).

The relevance of your problem to 'Higher Criticism' is extremely important. Reviewers of his books and mine, both friendly & hostile, constantly put forward imaginary histories of their composition. I do not think any one of these has ever borne the slightest resemblance to the real history. (e.g. they think his deadly Ring is a symbol of the atom bomb. Actually his myth was developed long before the atom bomb had been heard of).

You see the moral. These critics, in dealing with us, have every advantage which modern scholars lack in dealing with Scripture. They are dealing with authors who have the same mother tongue, the same education, and inhabit the same social & political world as their own, and inherit the same literary traditions. In spite of this, when they tell us how the books were written they are all wildly wrong! After that what chance can there be that any modern scholar can determine how Isaiah or the Fourth Gospel [...] came into existence? I should put the odds at 10,000 to 1 against you all. [...]

The Narnian series is not exactly allegory. I'm not saying 'Let us represent in terms of märchen** the actual story of this world.' Rather 'Supposing the Narnia world, let us guess what form the activities of the Second Person or Creator, Redeemer, and Judge might take there.' This, you see, overlaps with allegory but is not quite the same.

I don't think a marsh-wiggle is like a hobbit. The hobbit is essentially a cheerful, complacent, sanguine little creature. If Puddeglum is like any of Tolkien's characters, I'd call him 'a good Gollum'.

C.S. Lewis
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume III
Letter to Francis Anderson 23 Sept 1963

* Anderson had written to Lewis asking what the connection was between the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series and which writer had influenced the other.

**märchen - the German term for tales of enchantment and marvels, usually translated as ‘fairy tales’.

Looking for the King

"What is this Holy Grail we hear so much about?" asked Williams, pacing back and forth so rapidly that Tom could hear keys or coins clinking in his pocket. "Is the Grail the holy chalice used by Jesus on the night of the Last Supper? Is it a cup in which Joseph of Arimathea caught drops of Christ's blood as he was stretched out on the cross?" Again, Williams peered into individual faces, speaking to over a hundred people, but giving each one the impression he was talking just to him. "Or perhaps you favor the Loomis school: the Grail is a bit of 'faded mythology', a Celtic cauldron of plenty that somehow got lugged into Arthurian lore?"

Williams paced back and forth some more, throwing his hands into the air, as if to say, who can answer all these imponderable questions? Then he plunged in again: "There is no shortage of texts on the subject. Let's start with Chretien de Troyes: Percival, or the Story of the Grail, written sometime in the 1180s. This is the first known account of the Grail. The young knight Percival sits at banquet at the castle Carbonek and sees an eerie procession—a young man carrying a bleeding lance, two boys with gold candelabra, then finally a fair maid with a jeweled grail, a platter bearing the wafer of the Holy Mass. Percival doesn't ask what it all means and thereby brings a curse upon himself and on the land." Williams surveyed the crowd again, as if waiting for someone to stand and explain all this to him. The room was silent as a church at midnight, so Williams went on, listing all the famous medieval texts and their retellings of the Grail legend, noting how their dates clustered around the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

"So much for the literary versions", he continued. "But what is this Grail really"? What lies behind the texts? Some describe it as a cup or bowl, some as a stone, some as a platter. The word grail, by the way, comes from the Latin gradalis, more like a shallow dish, or a paten, than a chalice." After another strategic pause, Williams exclaimed, almost in a shout, "How extraordinary! Here we have what some would call the holiest relic in Christendom, and no one seems to know what it looks like."

Pacing some more, as if trying to work off an excess of agitation and intellectual energy, Williams went back to the lectern and leaned on it heavily…

David C. Downing
Looking for the King (Chapter 3)
Ignatius Press 2010

Faith? Or Good Works?

The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things together into one amazing sentence. The first half is, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling' - which looks as if everything depended on us and our good actions; but the second half goes on, 'For it is God who worketh in you' - which looks as if God did everything and we nothing.

I am afraid that is the sort of thing we come up against in Christianity. I am puzzled, but I am not surprised. You see, we are now trying to understand, and to separate into water-tight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does when God and man are working together. And, of course, we begin by thinking it is like two men working together, so that you could say , 'He did this bit and I did that.' But this way of thinking breaks down. God is not like that. He is inside you as well as outside: even if we could understand who did what, I do not think human language could properly express it. In the attempt to express it different Churches say different things. But you will find that even those who insist most strongly on the importance of good actions tell you you need Faith; and even those who insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do good actions. At any rate that is as far as I can go.

C.S. Lewis
'Mere Christianity' (1952)

The Kilns in Wartime

In the First World War two things had been invented which were to change the whole face of wartime life for the people living at home. One was airplanes that could fight; as well as transport bombers and fighters. The other was submarines. Bombers now allowed the vileness of war to be brought from the battlefields right into the cities and homes of the civilian populations of the warring nations. Submarines had been used to sink warships, but in this new war they were being used to sink merchant ships in an effort to starve the people of Britain into surrender.

So the first thing that had to be done was to protect the children of the cities from the danger of being blown to bits by bombs dropped from the sky. In England, children from London and other cities were evacuated to country areas, and soon several schoolgirls were living at The Kilns. Paxford and lack had built and buried a concrete air-raid shelter up by the lake (it's still there; and if you walk from the house up to the lake, turn left, and work your way through the overgrown bushes, you will find it), and the house had to be fitted with black-out curtains so that at night no slightest gleam of light could escape the windows to attract the interest of enemy pilots. These were heavy curtains often made out of thick wool blankets of the same kind as were issued to soldiers or sailors in the armed forces. Air raid protection (ARP) wardens were appointed to walk around on patrol at night, and the cry of, "Oi! Number 27, dowse that glim!" and the like were often to be heard as the warden spotted a gleam of light from the windows of number 27 of whatever street he was patrolling at the time.

At The Kilns, at first the blackout was achieved by a whole conglomeration of towels, rags, spare clothes, blankets, and all sorts of weird and wonderful bits and pieces, but eventually, heavy navy blue and khaki (of the English olive green sort) blankets were tailored to fit the windows, and only the last chinks were filled with odds and ends of material to seal in the light. They also helped to keep the cold out, and this was important because all the coal, which was the main fuel burned in the fireplaces and boilers for heating, was soon to be needed for running the steam engines of ships and trains. Coal for household use became hard to get.

Douglas Gresham
'Jack's Life' (Broadman & Holman) 2005

The Images

Henry took a few steps forward, slowly and softly, almost as if he were afraid that those small images would overhear him, and softly and slowly Aaron followed. They paused at a little distance from the table, and stood gazing at the figures, the young man in a careful comparison of them with his memory of the newly found cards. He saw among them those who bore the coins, and those who held swords or staffs or cups; and among those he searched for the shapes of the Greater Trumps, and one by one his eyes found them, but each separately, so that as he fastened his attention on one the rest faded around it to a golden blur.

But there they were, in exact presentation--the juggler who danced continuously round the edge of the circle, tossing little balls up and catching them again; the Emperor and Empress; the masculine and feminine hierophants; the old anchorite treading his measure and the hand-clasped lovers wheeling in theirs; a Sphinx-drawn chariot moving in a dancing guard of the four lesser orders; an image closing the mouth of a lion, and another bearing a cup closed by its hand, and another with scales but with unbandaged eyes--which had been numbered in the paintings under the titles of strength and temperance and justice; the wheel of fortune turning between two blinded shapes who bore it; two other shapes who bore between them a pole or cross on which hung by his foot the image of a man; the swift ubiquitous form of a sickle-armed Death; a horned mystery bestriding two chained victims; a tower that rose and fell into pieces, and then was re-arisen in some new place; and the woman who wore a crown of stars, and the twin beasts who had each of them on their heads a crescent moon, and the twin children on whose brows were two rayed suns in glory--the star, the moon, the sun; the heavenly form of judgement who danced with a skeleton half freed from its graveclothes, and held a trumpet to its lips; and the single figure who leapt in a rapture and was named the world.

One by one Henry recognized them and named them to himself, and all the while the tangled measure went swiftly on. After a few minutes he looked round: "They're certainly the same; in every detail they're the same. Some of the attributed meanings aren't here, of course, but that's all."

Charles Williams
The Greater Trumps
(Ch. 2 The Hermit)

Another Aesthetic Experience

When I was fourteen I went walking in the park on a Sunday afternoon, in clean, cold, luminous air. The trees tinkled with sleet; the city noises were muffled by the snow. Winter sunset, with a line of young maples sheathed in ice between me and the sun—as I looked up they burned unimaginably golden—burned and were not consumed. I heard the voice in the burning tree; the meaning of all things was revealed and the sacrament at the heart of all beauty lay bare; time and space fell away, and for a moment the world was only a door swinging ajar. Then the light faded, the cold stung my toes, and I went home, reflecting that I had had another aesthetic experience. I had them fairly often. That was what beautiful things did to you, I recognized, probably because of some visceral or glandular reaction that hadn't been fully explored by science just yet. For I was a well-brought-up, right-thinking child of materialism. Beauty, I knew, existed; but God, of course, did not .... A young poet like myself could be seized and shaken by spiritual powers a dozen times a day, and still take it for granted that there was no such thing as spirit. (Davidman's emphasis)

Joy Davidman
'The Longest Way Round' (1951)
rep. 'Journal of Inkling Studies' Vol 1 No 1 (March 2011)