Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tolkien and Lewis

"Comparisons are odious," St. Teresa of Avila said. Sometimes people try to decide who was greater, St. Teresa or St. Thérèse. The great Teresa did things on a large scale, writing books and founding monasteries all over Spain, having amazing supernatural experiences and generally setting the world on fire. Little Thérèse lived on a small scale, forgotten and unknown. She formulated her Little Way, which involves approaching what is mundane and humiliating with love and heroism. St. Thérèse ended up setting the world on fire as well, being named Patroness of the Missions for the entire universal Church.

I would have loved to have listened to the discussions of the two brilliant authors, J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. It would have been in pure awe, with little or no contribution on my part, if I were able to follow the discourse at all. They were gentlemen, scholars and good friends, who may have disagreed on many things but ultimately helped and inspired each other. Not only did they form the minds of the young but they were gifted writers and storytellers.Yes, I realize that Tolkien was disappointed that Lewis never became a Catholic. Lewis being a Protestant from Belfast probably came as close as he could, and all anyone can do now is leave it to God.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was the work of a lifetime, an epic masterpiece that boggles the mind for it's sheer creativity and genius. It is a myth for modern man, and one of apocalyptic proportions. It touches the psyche on many levels, imparting spiritual truths. There is no other literary work that can quite compare.

However, The Lord of the Rings is not for small children. The Fellowship of the Ring can not be read to most five year olds, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe certainly can. Because Lewis wrote for children, using simple language and disciplined, flowing prose, it might be a temptation for some to dismiss his work as being simplistic. But it is no small thing to write stories for children, especially stories which express a great deal in a few words.

Lewis conveyed a great deal of wisdom in his Narnia stories, making it look easy. However, it is not always easy to come down to a child's level in a way which elevates and inspires. To do so successfully is beyond the mere talent of a good writer; it requires the genius of a great writer.

Tolkien and Lewis had different styles and approaches but they were both great writers, whose works have set the world on fire. Both were men of faith whose writings are still bringing light into an age of darkness. Share


Anonymous said...

Well said, Elena Maria. The two authors were writing to very different purposes. I like Tolkien just fine, but tire of the Lewis-bashing in some circles. It was good of you to post this.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Jeff. BTW, I love that post about "hope in the garden" you have on your blog.

Unknown said...

Yes! Thanks for saying this; comparisons end up diminishing one or the other of these two geniuses.