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C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien Faith and Fiction. Stonyhurst Essay Society May 2 nd 2008 David Alton . The Last Battle. "Welcome, in the lion\'s name. Come further up and further in....the further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.".

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c s lewis and j r r tolkien faith and fiction

C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.TolkienFaith and Fiction

Stonyhurst Essay Society

May 2nd 2008

David Alton

the last battle
The Last Battle

"Welcome, in the lion\'s name. Come further up and further in....the further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside."


“Lewis was simply a genius”


Philip Pullman

“But there is no doubt in the public mind that what matters is the Narnia cycle, and that is where the puzzle comes, because there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the most ugly and poisonous things I\'ve ever read….there is no shortage of nauseating drivel in Narnia.”  


The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe – completed 1949, published 1950

Narnian Chronicles: 85 million copies, over 30 languages


Christopher Tolkien:

  • - Silmarillion: 1977
  • History of Middle Earth:
  • 1983 & 1997
  • - The Children of Hurin: 2007
c s lewis and j r r tolkien
C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien

Who were these two men?

What influences formed them?

What was it they believed?

lewis was born in 1898 in northern ireland
Lewis was born in 1898 in Northern Ireland

With father, Albert, and older brother, Warnie.

father and brother both suffered from alcoholism
Father and brother both suffered from alcoholism

Lewis later wrote that his father’s “nerves had never been of the steadiest and his emotions had always been uncontrolled. Under the pressure of anxiety his temper became incalculable; he spoke wildly and acted unjustly.”

Brother, Warnie

jack s mother died when he was aged nine
Jack’s mother died when he was aged nine:

“With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, departed from my life”

how would you like it if your mother was ill and was going to going to die digory kirke
“how would you like it….if your Mother was ill and was going to – going to – die.”- Digory Kirke
unhappy school days
Unhappy School Days

“I was at three schools (all boarding schools) of which two were very horrid. I never hated anything so much, not even the front line trenches in World War I. Indeed, the story is far too horrid to tell anyone of your age.”

the silver chair
The Silver Chair
  • Experiment House, the school attended by Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb in “The Silver Chair” - “a mixed school; some said it was not nearly so mixed as the minds of the people who ran it.”
After Edmund has encountered Aslan, Lucy says that her brother has been transformed: “not only healed of his wounds but looking better than she has seen him look – oh for ages; in fact ever since his first term at that horrid school which was where he began to go wrong. He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face.”

John Dewey

Lewis castigates modern educationalists as “the new Conditioners” :“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise….we castrate them and then bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Of the Conditioners he says “It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all…they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.”

oxford 1916
Oxford 1916

“The place has surpassed my wildest dreams”

unskilled butchery of war
Unskilled Butchery of War

“The bear lay on the ground, moving feebly. Then it mumbled in its throaty voice, bewildered to the last, “I – I don’t – understand”, laid its big head down on the grass quietly as a child going to sleep, and never moved again.”

- ‘The Last Battle’

lewis on non belief and friendship
Lewis: on non belief and friendship:

When asked whether he had been scared during he time in the trenches, Lewis, now utterly confirmed in his non-belief, responded: “All the time, but I never sank so low as to pray.”

Lewis once wrote that “There’s no sound I like better than male laughter.”

the genesis of the inklings
The genesis of the Inklings

“CSL had a passion for hearing things read aloud.”

- Tolkien.

the inklings
The Inklings

The ‘Bird and Baby’


Owen Barfield


the four loves
The Four Loves

Lewis would write of the importance of such friendship in ‘The Four Loves’:

“He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest or funniest in all the others.”

Affection, Eros, Friendship, Caritas

surprised by joy
Surprised By Joy

“You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of Him Whom I so earnestly desired to meet. That which I greatly feared had come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England…The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

1931 conversion to christianity
1931 Conversion to Christianity

“I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ – in Christianity. …My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.”

In this moment of conversion he also recanted what he described as “depth upon depth of self-love and self-admiration.”

the screwtape letters 1942
The Screwtape Letters, 1942

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of the Christian life and Christian morality by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from the devil\'s viewpoint.

Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither devil is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.

“Our Father Below”…”The Miserific Vision”

mere christianity
Mere Christianity

Repudiation of “Christianity and water”

Lewis states that to understand Christianity, one must understand the moral law, which is the underlying moral structure of the universe. The moral law is "hard as nails." Unless one understands the dismay which comes from the moral law, one cannot understand the coming of Christ and his work.

that hideous strength
That Hideous Strength

George Orwell wrote a review of the book in The Manchester Evening News. He said that the purpose of the Belbury scientists was to wipe out life deemed to be "superfluous" to turn "common people into slaves" and to turn the "ruling caste of scientists “into our rulers "who even see their way to conferring immortal life upon themselves. Man, in short, is to storm the heavens and overthrow the gods, or even to become a god himself."

orwell on lewis
Orwell on Lewis

"There is nothing outrageously improbable in such a conspiracy. Indeed, at a moment when a single atomic bomb - of a type already pronounced "obsolete" - has just blown probably three hundred thousand people to fragments, it sounds all too topical. 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."

the pseudo scientists of belbury
The Pseudo Scientists of Belbury

At the N.I.C.E, in this contemporary Tower of Babel, the Progressive Element wage war against the Diehards.

that hideous strength35
That Hideous Strength

Lord Feverstone clinically describes the mission of NICE as "Quite simple and obvious things at first - sterilisation of the unfit, liquidation of backward races, selective breeding."

Ultimately, he declares, they will create "a new type of man: and, he tells the impressionable Studdock, "It\'s people like you who\'ve got to begin to make him."

kenneth tynan on lewis
Kenneth Tynan on Lewis

Kenneth Tynan, was one of his students in 1945, and recalled later that Lewis was “terribly sound and funny”…He was a deeply kind and charitable man too.” On one occasion when Tynan went to see his tutor he said “I had entered the room suicidal, and I left it exhilarated.”

tolkien on lewis asceticism
Tolkien on Lewis’ Asceticism

In 1944 The Daily Telegraph misleadingly referred to Lewis as “an ascetic”. Tolkien scoffed at this in a letter to his son: “Ascetic Mr.Lewis!!! I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session we had this morning and said he was ‘going short for Lent.”

lewis and joy davidman
Lewis and Joy Davidman

Lewis wrote“A year later the patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and the man who took the last X-ray photographs was saying ‘These bones are as solid as rock.’ It’s miraculous”.


“The happiness now is part of the pain later…that’s the deal.”

a grief observed
A Grief Observed

“I never thought I would have in my sixties the happiness that passed me by in my twenties”.

“Through the megaphone of pain, God speaks to an unlistening world.”

the last battle41
The Last Battle

“The dream is ended: this is the morning. And as He spoke He no longer looked at them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

j r r tolkien

- Born in Bloemfontein -1892

- Father died, returned to England – 1896

- Obtained scholarship to King Edward’s Birmingham – 1903

- Mother died -1904

- Father Francis Morgan became his guardian

1910 oxford
1910 - Oxford

From King Edward’s, Tolkien won an exhibition to Exeter College, Oxford in 1910, and graduated with First Class Honours in 1915.

marriage to edith bratt 1916
Marriage to Edith Bratt - 1916

Tolkien was commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers

On July 15, 1916, Smith wrote to Tolkien of Gilson\'s death: My dear John Ronald,I saw in the paper this morning that Rob has been killed. I am safe but what does that matter? Do please stick to me, you and Christopher. I am very tired and most frightfully depressed at this worst news. Now one realises in despair what the T.C.B.S. really was. O my dear John Ronald what ever are we going to do? Yours ever. G. B. S.
5 months later, Tolkien was informed by Wiseman that Smith had also died in a mission. Smith wrote his last letter to Tolkien just before setting out:“My chief consolation is that if I am scuppered tonight - I am off on duty in a few minutes - there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the T.C.B.S. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four! A discovery I am going to communicate to Rob before I go off tonight. And do you write it also to Christopher. May God bless you my dear John Ronald and may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them if such be my lot. Yours ever, G. B. S.”
smith to tolkien
Smith to Tolkien

“may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them if such be my lot.”

The Book of Lost Tales…..

1929 he started to write a story for his children christopher michael john and priscilla
1929: he started to write a story for his children, Christopher, Michael, John and Priscilla
tolkien s tastes
Tolkien’s tastes …

“I am in fact a Hobbit, in all but size…I like gardens, trees…I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking…”


The Fellowship of the Ring:

“The Lord of The Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision.”

– J.R.R.Tolkien


Tolkien’s Faith

"I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories), and in fact a Roman Catholic."

‘The Lord of The Rings’ is…

“…a tale, which is built on or out of certain \'religious\' ideas, but is not an allegory of them."



Aragorn has certain Christ-like qualities:

- a kingdom to come into, a bride to wed.

- Hands of the Healer image in the Houses of Healing.

- Healing of Jairus’ daughter, the centurion\'s servant, the lepers, the blind man, the sick at Capaernum.

lembas and the blessed sacrament
Lembas and the Blessed Sacrament

Every member of the Fellowship gets his own elven-cloak. Legolas puts some Lembas into the boats and talks to Merry and Pippin.

Legolas : "Lembas. Elvish waybread. One small bite is enough to the stomach of a grown man."

Merry (to Pippin) : "How many did you eat ?"

Pippin : "Four."

"I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again"

- Tolkien


The Nature of Good and Evil

The never-ending struggle between good and evil:

"I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a long defeat - though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory."

- Tolkien


The power of temptation

The general weakness of humanity to temptation:

- “Nothing was evil in the beginning.

Even Sauron was not so.”

- The idea of fallen humanity

- Gollum’s conscience

- Power of Ring to tempt analogous to temptation of Jesus


The Scouring of the Shire -

- The Orcs; fallen elves.


Temptation and Self Sacrifice…

- Evil is self-destructive.

- Frodo’s failure at Mount Doom.

- The Christian virtue of mercy.

- The blindness of evil to its own weakness.

- Evil brings barrenness and desolation.

- The desire to dominate.

chesterton s merrie england
Chesterton’s Merrie England

Contrast the destruction of Isengard with the homely life of the Shire – resonant of Chesterton’s Merrie England.


The Shire in contrast with Mordor, and elves with orcs

The Shire contains so much of the England

that Tolkien loved.


The fellowship and individuality of the forces of good…

…compared with the homogeneity of the orcs and uruk-hai.

Names - can Wormtongue, Mordor and Mount Doom be names of good things?


Death and Immortality

“I might say that if the tale is \'about\' anything it is not as seems widely supposed about \'power.\' …It is mainly concerned with Death and Immortality.”

- Tolkien in 1958 in a letter to Rhona Beare

the ring rhyme
The Ring Rhyme

"Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die…"

The Silmarillion puts it like this:

"Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought evil out of good and fear out of hope."


Resurrection and Justice

Gandalf - comes back as Gandalf the White.


- Gandalf again, and also Boromir.

- “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”


- All fallen characters given a chance to repent - but only Boromir does so…..the sin of pride…free will vs. predestination.


Providence and Free Will

Cardinal Newman – we are each assigned some unique task not assigned to any other.

The One Ring of Power

John Henry Cardinal Newman

Frodo’s destiny is to be a ring-bearer.

Frodo cannot ultimately resist the Ring – he succumbs to its power.

impossible odds

Frodo and Sam


Samwise Gamgee

- Sam, the “Encourager”, and the private soldier.

- It is Sam in the end who saves Frodo and the Shire, even though he is only a humble gardener.

Sam, as portrayed in the film of Lord of the Rings

- He shares Frodo’s burden.

- For Sam, the meek really do inherit the earth.

- Sam acts out of loyalty and love, and makes a great sacrifice for him.

- Sam and the other Shire-folk are reminiscent of Catholic recusants.


Tolkien’s longing for restoration of that which had been lost; the bravery of the recusants, clinging on against all the odds.

Stonyhurst College, Lancashire

St. Edmund Campion

tolkien s belief in the apostolic church
Tolkien’s belief in the apostolic Church

"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims…for me the Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. ”Feed my sheep" was his last charge to St.Peter."


The Ring is finally destroyed on 25th March – the Annunciation as well as the traditional date for the Crucifixion in Anglo-Saxon and European popular tradition.

The Annunciation

The Crucifixion

the final clue
The Final Clue

The final clue in this epic journey is the word Tolkien invented to describe what he saw as a good quality in a fairy-story – and that word was eucatastrophe, this being the notion that there is a“sudden joyous ‘turn’”in the story, where everything is going well,“giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy”,whilst not denying the“existence of dyscatastrophe – of sorrow and failure”.It also reminds us that catastrophe can be reversed.


Tolkien believed that a story containing eucatastrophe was a story at its highest function – and that the Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of human history.


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Clive Staples Lewis