Books I have read in May: Charles Williams, Tom Cox, and Silvana de Mari.
I really enjoyed the movie Tolkien but found some of it to be odd. I get that biographical movies have to truncate, elide, and simplify, but they should be true to their subject. Overall this was a very enjoyable film, and Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins were great as Tolkien and Edith. A fine performance from Adam Bregman as Geoffrey Bache Smith, too.
Spoilers after the jump…
JRR Tolkien loved ancient Pagan mythology, especially Norse mythology. He also loved trees, flowers, rivers and streams, mountains, woods, and landscape generally. His writing is infused with a love of Nature, as well as an in-depth knowledge of ancient cultures and mythologies. He was, however, a Catholic, both by upbringing and conviction. He wrote his legendarium as a supporting world for his invented languages; though the earliest version was intended “to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own”.
The Inklings and Paganism
Before he became a Christian, C S Lewis was deeply inspired by ancient Pagan mythology, and he continued to value it as mythopoeia after his conversion, and seems to have sought to reconcile the Christian worldview with the ancient Pagan one (for example in That Hideous Strength). Lewis was also fascinated by the symbolism of astrology: a practice and worldview which started in Pagan antiquity and continued well into the Christian era. Lewis’ book, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, deals in part with astrological symbolism as part of the medieval worldview.
Some of my favourite places in Oxford, UK, where I lived for seven years.
Brenton Dickinson has an interesting post up about his upcoming critique of Michael Ward’s theory that the Narnia books were written to illustrate the ideas of medieval planetary astrology (one book per planet). I read a bit about Planet Narnia when it came out, but have never got around to reading it, partly because I can see that the books have planetary symbolism now that it’s been pointed out, but it is not the main point of the books.
I just re-read Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien. I read it and enjoyed it as a child. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Tolkien’s children to receive these letters once a year – and to have to wait a year for the next instalment.