Sunday, November 3, 2019

Tolkien, Lewis, and Kenneth Grahame

C.S. Lewis was not the only Inkling to have been impressed by The Wind in the Willows. J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote appreciatively about “this excellent book” in his essay on fairy-stories, though he was mildly critical of the Pan episode in early drafts of his essay. The reason for his unease, however, is very revealing of his own attitude towards the Numinous in fiction. 
In one draft he wrote that, “I personally think that in Pan we have that addition of an extra colour that spoils the palate: but it only comes in one corner of the delightful picture.” In another draft he added that “Pan has no business here: at least not explicit and revealed.” The second half of that sentence is important. Tolkien was certainly not rejecting awe or the Numinous. What he disliked was the explicit presence of the religious. As he famously wrote to Robert Murray S.J.:
The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.
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