sábado, 28 de março de 2009

Tolkien: Archetype and Word

Tolkien: Archetype and Word Patrick Grant, a specialist in Renaissance literature, teaches English at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

The Lord of the Rings embodies an "inherent morality,"[1] as Tolkien calls it, which derives largely from the traditions of Christian and epic poetry. Yet the trilogy is not explicitly religious, and is neither allegorical nor doctrinal. Tolkien well knows that the Dantesque form of Christian epic, wherein history effortlessly assumes the framework of dogma, cannot be successfully imitated in post-Romantic times. In Milton's Paradise Lost the sacramentalism fundamental to Dante's vision is already transformed. The true center of Milton's epic is a "paradise within," and the doctrinal framework which supports the poem is idiosyncratic, as we discover from The Christian Doctrine. For Milton, subjective experience, not a doctrinal formula of words, is the key to faith, and Mediaeval "realism," which assumes the participation of words in the extramental reality they signify, is not part of the consciousness which produced Paradise Lost.

What remain in Milton are, in generalized form, the great themes of the Christian epic: first, and most important, that true heroism is spiritual; also, that love is obedience and involves freedom; that faith and hope are based on charity; that providence directs the affairs of the world. The reader is repeatedly challenged to establish an attitude to these issues, and the vast shifts of time and space—heavenly, infernal, past, future, pre-lapsarian, post-lapsarian—are means of pressing the challenge upon his attention. In no other Christian poem does the real (inner) meaning so energetically parody the canonical orthodoxies of the external form.

By the time of Blake (who, significantly, saw Milton as a noble spirit except for his doctrine) the "paradise within" has found expression in language even further removed than Milton's from canonical orthodoxy. The Romantics primarily inherit Blake's vision, and so, basically, does Tolkien, essentially a post-Romantic like his friends C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. One consequence is that the principles of Christian epic are experienced in Tolkien not explicitly but as embodied themes, a map of values as in Paradise Lost, and without the traditional dogmatic theology which Milton's great poem is already in process of casting off. The trilogy is, significantly, set in the essentially inner realm of Faery, close to the world of dream and myth, where, Tolkien tells us, "primordial human desires "[2] are met and interpreted.

The archetypal flavor of Tolkien's description of Faery, together with his dream-like settings in Middle-earth, have readily evoked among critics the language and mind of Jung,[3] and, in a historical context, Jung is certainly a prime example in the twentieth century of the "interiorization" of spiritual experience so characteristic of post-Romantic religion. In this the psychoanalyst complements the writer of fairy stories, and, because he faces similar problems in similar language, Jung can also offer particular insights about the structure of Tolkien's work. The Lord of the Rings can be read, with surprising consistency, as an interior journey through the psyche as Jung describes it, and archetypal structures in the trilogy will be a central concern of this essay. Yet I wish to establish from the outset that a purely Jungian approach has limitations, for Tolkien at all times evaluates the archetypes, however implicitly, in light of the literary conventions of Christian epic. The Word, in a Christian sense, is a primary archetype which for Tolkien both spiritualizes and revalidates for man the extramental world of history and material extension. Only in carefully observed physical reality can the subcreation of Faery achieve, for Tolkien, its real enchantment, and open into the truth which he describes, in the old language, as Eucharistic.[4] The great pains taken with the historical background to Middle-earth are not without point. They save the book from becoming allegory, or a thin fantasy of "interior space," and in his "eucharistic" view of history and of the Word, Tolkien addresses again the key problems of the Christian epic in modern times: the possibilities of sacramentalism, and the relation of the archetypes of inner vision to Christian ordinances and heroic themes.

I The Archetypes

The group of friends to whom Tolkien first read The Lord of the Rings, the so-called Inklings, found Jung temperamentally attractive, though they also regarded him with a certain suspicion. C.S. Lewis avows that he is "enchanted" by Jung, and has, on occasion, "slipped into" a Jungian manner of criticism.[5] He admits that Maud Bodkin, the pioneer critic of Jungian archetypal patterns in literature, has exerted considerable influence on him.[6] Owen Barfield praises Jung for understanding the spiritual nature of consciousness and its evolution: the Jungian "collective unconscious" and appeal to myth are much-needed antidotes to twentieth century materialism which threatens to make an object of man himself.[7] On the negative side, Lewis thinks that Jung's explanation of "primordial images" itself awakens a primordial image of the first water: Jung's limitation is that he uses a myth to explain a myth.[8] Barfield feels, more important for this argument, that in Jung the "Spiritual Hierarchies"[9] have withdrawn from the world, and exist, interiorized, within the individual will and too much cut off from the extramental world. It is important not to put the words of Lewis and Barfield into Tolkien's mouth (he was difficult to influence as a bandersnatch, according to Lewis),[10] yet Tolkien at least shared the interests and temperament of his friends.[11] Certainly, the reader of his essay on fairy stories cannot easily avoid the Jungian flavor of several of Tolkien's key theories. He describes Faery in relation to dream, stating that in both "strange powers of the mind may be unlocked" (13). He talks of the encounter in fairy stories with "certain primordial human desires" (13), and claims the stories are "plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability" (40). He talks of a "Cauldron of Story" which waits "for the great figures of Myth and History" (29). These are added like fresh pieces to a stock which has been simmering from the beginnings of story-telling, that is, of the human mind itself. In the essay on Beowulf, Tolkien especially appreciates the balance and "opposition of ends and beginnings, the progress from youth to old age in the hero, and the satisfaction that comes from perceiving the "rising and setting"[12] of a life.

We can easily enough feel here the typical Jungian insistence on dream and fantasy,[13] the theory of a collective unconscious which (like Tolkien's cauldron) contains archetypes stirred into activity by the artist, and the theory of transformation in the individual psyche, whereby beginnings and ends are balanced in a successful human life. But more important, Tolkien's theory finds full embodiment in The Lord of the Rings. The trilogy is set in Faery, in this case the imaginary world of Middle-earth, at a time near the beginnings of man's ascendancy in the history of the world. Middle-earth is often dreamlike: a world of shifting contours and of magic, of nightmarish fear and exquisite ethereal beauty. Helpful and treacherous animals work for the powers of good and evil, and landscapes become sentient embodiments of human fears and desires. It is a short step to the appearance of nature spirits, like Tom Bombadil, or to the magic of the Elves, and, as we move closer to those who possess more than human wisdom and power, the contours of time and space themselves begin to blur. Although controlled by the narrative art and by basic structural oppositions such as those between light and dark, good and evil, the story moves basically in a world where forms and images blend and flow and interpenetrate, and where the eye of the beholder determines fear and terror, beauty and glory. All this has the very quality of that "interior space"[14] which Barfield names as Jung's special province.

For Jung, certainly, fairy stories and dreams are characteristically inhabited by helpful and treacherous animals and monsters, and landscapes, especially when they involve woods and mountains, are favorite representations of the unconscious. [15] Jung also talks of a common figure, the "vegetation numen,"[16] king of the forest, who is associated with wood and water in a manner which recalls Tom Bombadil. Magic too is important, and Jung explains how "the concentration and tension of psychic forces have something about them which always looks like magic,"[17] He stresses also a "contamination" of images, by which he means a tendency to overflowing contours—"a melting down of images."[18] This, says Jung, may look like distortion and can be terrifying, but can also be a process of assimilation and a source of great beauty and inspiration. His perception applies precisely to the viewpoint technique of The Lord of the Rings: "The melting process is therefore either something very bad or something highly desirable according to the standpoint of the observer."[19] Jung also points to certain characteristic formal elements in dreams and fairy stories, such as "duality," "the opposition of light and dark," and "rotation (circle, sphere),"[20] but insists that they should not be considered apart from the complex flowing energy of the psyche. Moral choices are not simply a matter of black or white. Jung stresses "the bewildering play of antinomies"[21] which contribute to higher awareness. Good may be produced by evil, and possibly lead to it. This process, which Jung calls "enantiodromia,"[22] is also of central importance in the art of Tolkien: a broad opposition of light and dark, and of good and evil, becomes confused in the trilogy as we enter the minds of individuals in process of finding their way on the quest. Though Gollum bates light and loves shade, Frodo's relation to Gollum is extremely complex, and throughout the trilogy the minds of the men in particular are continually ambivalent.

That Jung and Tolkien isolate such similar motifs from fairy stories, dreams, fantasy, and myth, need hardly be surprising, but in The Lord of the Rings the inner drama corresponds also with particular fidelity to the details of the psychic process which Jung calls "individuation." This is, basically, the "realization of the whole man"[23] achieved in a balanced and fulfilled life when "consciousness and the unconscious, are linked together in a living relation."[24] The process involves a journey to the Self, which Jung describes as "not only the center" of a person's psyche but also "the circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious."[25] Characteristically, the Self is represented in dreams and mythology as a mandala—a square within a circle, or circle within a square, or in figures which are spherical or contain the idea of quaternity,[26] representing wholeness.

Jung insists that individuation, or Selfhood, is not mere ego-consciousness.[27] As the short-sighted ego responds to the demands of inner growth, the way is indicated by representations of archetypes, those primordial and recurring images in human experience which express the basic structures of the psyche, and which become increasingly numinous, impressive, and dangerous as they emerge from the deeper levels of the unconscious. First, and nearest to the surface, so that we can become aware of it by reflection, is the shadow. The shadow is the "personal unconscious" and, among the archetypes, is the "easiest to experience."[28] It represents the elements which a person represses as incompatible with his chosen ideal—"for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies."[29] The shadow is ambiguous—it contains morally reprehensible tendencies, but can also display good qualities, such as normal instincts which have been repressed but "are needed by consciousness."[30] In dreams, it is represented as a figure of the same sex as the dreamer, and, in accord with its ambiguous status, may be a threat which follows him, or a guide. It turns dangerous when ignored or misunderstood. [31]

Further from consciousness is the anima/animus archetype. These are representations of the feminine side of a man's unconscious, and the masculine side of a woman's, respectively. The anima (the more important for Tolkien) is, like the shadow, ambivalent. She is both the nourishing and the destructive mother.[32] On the one hand, she is Dante's Beatrice, the Virgin Mary, the Muses who inspire man to create, the dream girl of popular fantasy and song. On the other hand she is a witch, poisonous and malevolent, or a Siren who, however beautiful, lures a man to his death and destruction.[33] For Jung, "the animus and the anima should function as a bridge, or a door, leading to the images of the collective unconscious." [34]

More profound, and often presented with the anima as friend or protector is the archetype of the hero. He is often represented in a dangerous situation or an a difficult quest, which "signifies the potential anticipation of an individuation process which is approaching wholeness."[35] The hero often has an aura about him of the supernatural, which offsets his vulnerability, another essential trait, for he is both semi-divine and child. "This paradox . . . runs through his whole destiny like a red thread. He can cope with the greatest perils, yet, in the end, something quite insignificant is his undoing."[36] The hero archetype is often accompanied by strange and numinous events: "dragons, helpful animals, and demons; also the Wise Old Man . . . all things which in no way touch the boundaries of everyday. The reason for this is that they have to do with the realization of a part of the personality which has not yet come into existence but is still in the process of becoming." [37]

The deepest archetype on the journey towards the Self is the figure Jung mentions above in relation to the hero, namely the Old Wise Man, a helpful figure who, "when the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation . . . can extricate him."[38] He is the magician, the Guru, a personification of wisdom. He seems not to be bound with time, and is strongly endowed with numinous power, for instance, of magic. Also, "apart from his cleverness, wisdom, and insight, the old man" is "notable for his moral qualities."[39] But he, like the other archetypes, is also an ambivalent figure. He is like Merlin,[40] and in him the enantiodromia of good and evil can appear most paradoxically.

In The Lord of the Rings the theme of a quest involving a ring, symbol of binding and wholeness which must be preserved from the powers of darkness and evil by the powers of light and goodness, suggests the beginnings of a typical journey towards individuation: the promise of a "true conjunctio" which involves the threat of dissolution, or "false conjunctio." Within the quest, Frodo, at the beginning, is childlike, and must. endure the terrors of monsters, dragons, and the underworld. Aragorn, his companion, who equally undergoes such trials, is of strange and royal origins, protector of a noble lineage, and a semi-divine figure with the magic power of healing. Frodo and Aragorn represent different aspects of the hero—Frodo his childlikeness, Aragorn his nobility and power, and each must support and learn from the other. The Hobbit, for good reason, as we shall see, receives foremost attention, and the story is in a special sense his. As it proceeds, Frodo puts off more and more the childlike ways of the Shire, and assumes the lineaments of heroism, acquiring, at the end, a truly numinous quality. Moreover, as his understanding deepens, Frodo moves through a process equivalent to Jung's individuation, which is charted by the main action of the book. He encounters the shadow (Gollum), anima (Galadriel), and Old Wise Man (Gandalf). Each archetype has a good and bad side, the good leading to understanding and fellowship, the bad to death, isolation, and the loss of identity or Self. So Galadriel is opposed by Shelob, the heroes by the Ringwraiths, and Gandalf by the evil magician Saruman. Gollum is, by nature, ambivalent. He is the shadow, or personal unconscious, and we will deal with him first.

At the beginning, Frodo does not realize his shadow personality, or that he is being pursued by Gollum. He knows only a vague uncomfortable feeling which increases as the story develops. As the fellowship sets out for Lothlorien, Frodo feels "he had heard something, or thought he had. As soon as the shadows had fallen about them and the road behind was dim, he had heard again the quick patter of feet."[41] The others do not notice. Soon after, Frodo is startled by "a shadowy figure," which "slipped round the trunk of the tree and vanished" (1,360). Again, he alone sees Gollum who has been pursuing the ring, moving in the dark because he fears light.

Significantly, Gollum is of the same race and sex as Frodo, which, for a shadow figure, is appropriate. He is a hobbit, fallen into the power of the ring and debased to a froglike, emaciated, and underground creature of primitive cunning and instinct. He is certainly a threat, and one which Frodo must learn to acknowledge as representing a certain potentiality in his own being. To ignore the shadow, as Jung indicates, is to risk inflation of the ego.[42] The relationship between Frodo and the repulsive Gollum therefore must become one of mutual acknowledgment, even if disapproved by others. Sam, to his own consternation, sees the peculiar link between the two: they "were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds" (II, 225). So Frodo insists on unbinding Gollum and trusting his promise, and the shadow, ever ambivalent, becomes a guide, though without ceasing to be dangerous. Gollum leads Frodo first to Shelob's lair, but also saves him at the last moment from a fatal inflation of pride which would mean the destruction of the quest: "But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. . . . So let us forgive him!" (Ill, 225) .

Frodo has confronted Gollum before the party arrives at Lothlorien, but only after the encounter with Galadriel can he bind and release the shadow. The meeting with Galadriel is an overwhelming experience for the entire company and not only for Frodo. Although she deals more with him than with the others, she is not bound to Frodo in such a particular way as Gollum. Her significance is less in terms of the personal unconscious than the collective unconscious. She is a striking representative of the anima, a figure which, Jung says, is often "fairy like" or "Elfin,"[43] and Galadriel is, indeed, an Elf. She is also a bridge to the deeper elements of the psyche, and can reveal hidden contents in the souls of the company. "None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance" (1,372) as she shows to each one the dangers of the quest and the personal weakness each brings to it. In her mirror she shows to Frodo "parts of a great history in which he had become involved" (1, 379), and he responds with awe and terror. The numinous power characteristic of the anima almost overwhelms him, so that he even offers her the ring. Galadriel replies in words which clearly indicate the dangers of fixation on the anima, and warns of the anima's destructive aspect:

You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night. . . . All shall love me and despair! (1,381).

Frodo instead must use Galadriel's knowledge and wisdom to further the quest: she is a bridge to the darkness of Mordor, to which the hero must still journey. So Frodo carries with him the influence of Galadriel's fairy-like, timeless, and magically radiant beauty, and it serves to protect him. Symbolically, she gives him a phial of light to bear into the darkness. The light not only shows Frodo the way, but helps him against the Ringwraiths, and, most important, enables him to face Shelob.

If Galadriel is the anima in its beneficent aspect, Shelob the spider-woman is the destructive anima who often poisons to kill. Gollum talks of a mysterious "she" who may help him win back the ring, and he means Shelob—"all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness" (II, 332). As Frodo meets her, he holds up the light: "‘Galadriel!’ he called, and gathering his courage he lifted up the Phial once more" (II, 330). Galadriel's light and Shelob's darkness, the principles of life and death, of nourishment and destruction, contest for Frodo who must meet them both—the anima in both aspects, beneficent and malevolent.

Other anima figures throughout The Lord of the Rings present a similar appeal to that of Galadriel. Mainly we think of Arwen, another Elf, whose "loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind" (1, 239). She is destined to marry Aragorn, and their Limon represents the "syzygy,"[44] the ideal union of anima and animus in which, says Jung, "they form a divine pair."[45] The Self is often represented by the marriage of such a "divine, royal, or otherwise distinguished couple."[46] Less fortunate than Arwen, however, is Eowen, whose love for Aragorn cannot be reciprocated, with the result that she becomes the victim of her own animus. When Aragorn leaves her, as he must, Eowen becomes, in disguise, the warrior Dernhelf, who "desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle" (IV, 242). Eowen, in Jungian terms, is possessed by the negative animus (often represented as a death-demon)[47] which in this case drives her towards suicide. Such a possession often results, says Jung, in "a transformation of personality" which "gives prominence to those traits which are characteristic of the opposite sex.[48] Only through the love of Faramir does Eowen change—"or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her" (III, 243).

The heroic figures of The Lord of the Rings are, as we have said, Aragorn and Frodo. One is a king in exile, preserver of a noble lineage, who passes through the paths of the dead, fights a crucial turn in the epic battle, and proclaims a new dispensation. The hero, as Jung says, is a "greater man . . . semi-divine by nature," who meets "dangerous adventures and ordeals,"[49] and encounters the Old Wise Man. Significantly, the numinous quality of the semi-divine hero is not immediately obvious in Aragorn who appears first as the ranger Strider, suspected by the party and by us. Only when we pass more deeply into the quest do we learn of his noble lineage, of his destiny and his power of healing. He grows in our minds in stature as he looks into the magic palantir, passes through the paths of the dead, and is received, finally, as king. Aragorn is very much the traditional quest hero, but we observe him, primarily, from the outside.

Frodo, though his birth is peculiar among hobbits, is not a born hero like Aragorn, and we observe him more fully from within, often sharing his point of view. As the story opens, we find in Frodo the vulnerability of the child which, according to Jung, often compensates the hero's powers. But Frodo gradually develops away from his early naiveté, from the diffident hobbit wondering why he was chosen and thinking to destroy the ring with a hammer (1, 70). Growth into higher consciousness is painful, yet, as Frodo carries the burden his power increases, and as he passes through the dark experiences which lead to the Council of Elrond, the numinous aura and magic of the hero archetype adhere increasingly to him. He finds he can see more clearly in the dark. In Galadriel's mirror he sees the depths of the history in which he is involved, and becomes the bearer of the magic light into the perilous realms. Slowly he acquires wisdom and a nobility comparable to that of Aragorn, so that, as we accompany Frodo's development and participate in it, we come to understand Aragorn himself more fully. As the tale ends, Frodo has achieved a heroic sanctity verging on the otherworldly.

The heroes throughout The Lord of the Rings are opposed by the Ringwraiths. As each archetype has a negative aspect, so the hero, says Jung, is especially threatened by dissolution "under the impact of the collective forces of the psyche." The characteristic challenge is from "the old, evil power of darkness"[50] which threatens to overwhelm the hero and the self-identity he is striving to bring about. The power of Sauron the Dark Lord is exactly such an old and evil force, and in The Lord of the Rings his representatives, the negative counterparts of the heroes, are the Black Riders. The menace they present balances perfectly the power that emanates from the heroic Aragorn, while their dissolution in Sauron's old and evil darkness, representing the loss of Self, is indicated by the fact that the black riders have no faces.

The heroes must resist such loss of Self and grow towards wisdom, a spiritual quality represented by the profound archetype of the Old Wise Man. He appears in the trilogy primarily as Gandalf. More mysterious than the heroes, Gandalf's part in the quest is often beyond the reach of the story, and his knowledge remains unfathomable. When we first meet him, he seems more an old clown than a powerful magician. The interpretation of wisdom as foolishness is a traditional error of fools. In this case, it reflects the naiveté of the comfortable hobbits: Gandalf's "fame in the Shire was due mainly to his skill with fires, smokes, and lights. . . . To them he was just one of the 'attractions' at the Party" (1, 33). But Gandalf, like Aragorn, grows in stature as we, like Frodo, learn more about him. He is continually ahead of the quest, exercising a strange, almost providential control. He reproves Frodo for many mistakes, and seems to know the whole story in detail, even though it happened in his absence. "You seem to know a great deal already" (I, 231), says Frodo. We do not question Gandalf's knowledge, but believe simply that its source is beyond our ken.

Gandalf has a knack also for appearing when he is needed. At the ford he sends a flood in the nick of time as Frodo's will fades. His wisdom leads the armies to Mordor, and circumvents the trap set by the enemy who possesses Frodo's clothes. His eagles rescue Frodo and Sam at the last moment, and in the final episode of the story he makes sure (though we do not know how he knows) that Merry and Pippin will accompany Sam on his ride home, after Frodo departs for the Havens: " ‘For it will be better to ride back three together than one alone’ " (III, 310). Here Gandalf provides, as he does throughout, for the deeper need, and there is a touch of magic in his doing it.

For Jung, the Old Wise Man, as we have seen, appears especially when the hero is in trouble: "In a situation where insight, understanding, good advice, determination, planning, etc., are needed but cannot be mustered on one's own resources."[51] He often, moreover, adopts "the guise of a magician,"[52] and is, essentially, a spirit archetype.[53] Thus, the Old Man is sometimes represented by a " ‘real’ spirit, namely, the ghost of one dead."[54] Tolkien, interestingly, has described Gandalf as "an angel,"[55] and we are to believe that he really died in the struggle with Balrog, reappearing as Gandalf the White, as embodied spirit, and a figure of great numinous power. Also, the Old Wise Man "gives the necessary magical talisman,"[56] which, in Gandalf's case, is the ring itself.

The Old Man, however, has a wicked aspect too. Just as Galadriel has her Shelob, and the heroes their Ringwraiths, so Gandalf has his antitype, the magician Saruman. They meet on equal ground, and between them the great struggle for self or dissolution of self is once again fought: "Like, and yet unlike" (II, 183), says Girnii, pointedly, as he observes the two at Isengard. Their contest is based on a symbolism of light: Saruman is at first White, and Gandalf, as the lesser magician, is gray. But Gandalf becomes white as Saruman falls to the powers of darkness and his robes become multi-colored, "woven of all colors, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered" (1, 272). Saruman's multi-colors, like the facelessness of the riders, indicates a dissolution of identity. White is whole: fragmented, it is also dissipated.

The final, and most elusive, archetype is that of the Self. Perhaps Tolkien's trilogy as a work of art which is more than the sum of its parts is the most satisfactory representation of this archetype, for the whole meaning is activated within the reader, who alone can experience its completeness. But the most effective mediator between the ordinary reader and "whole" world of Middle-earth, the character who is in the end closest to ourselves and who also must return to ordinary life, is Sam Gamgee. Sam has become, in the process of the story. Samwise, but he is less removed from ourselves than Frodo or the other characters. As he leaves, Frodo says to Sam: "You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do" (III, 309). The commendation of Sam's wholeness, and the directive to return to the ordinary world, bearing that wholeness with him, is also a directive to the reader: ripeness is all. But such wisdom as Sam achieves is not easily come by, as the entire book indicates, and there is no case for critical denunciation of Tolkien on the grounds that his hobbits are simplistic or escapist. The shire is not a haven, and the burden of the tale is that there are no havens in a world where evil is a reality. It you think you live in one, you are probably naive like the early Frodo, and certainly vulnerable.

II The Word

The archetypal patterns which we have examined indicate the extent to which the trilogy can be read as a contemporary exploration of the "interior space" analyzed in such novel terms in this century by Jung. Like Barfield and Lewis, however, Tolkien assumes a firmer stance before the archetypes than Jung. Lewis's criticism, that Jung offers a myth to explain a myth, can be met only by assertion: there is a myth which is true, and fundamental. Following such a line of thought, Tolkien insists that successful fairy stories give a glimpse of truth which he describes as eucharistic. The typical "Eucatastroplie," the "turn" at the end of a good fairy story, has the sudden effect of a miraculous grace and gives a "fleeting glimpse of Joy,"[57] a momentary participation in the state that man most desires. This joy, says Tolkien, is "a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality of truth" (71). In this sense, the Christian story has "entered History and the primary world," and in it the "desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation" (71-72). In Western culture, the Christian story has thus contributed, and also transformed, the Cauldron of Story which Tolkien has discussed earlier in his essay. The basic Christian ingredient substantially alters the flavor of the entire simmering stock.

There are two significant implications in Tolkien's theory. First, the Christian influence on great poetry is profound, and particularly on the epic, which addresses itself especially to the values by which men should live. Tolkien's essay on Beowulf indicates his appreciation of this fact. Second, the insistence on an ideal eucharistic participation of the fantasy in the real world leads to a view of art analogous to the Christian Incarnation of the Word. In the greatest story, history and archetype interpenetrate. So in the fairy story, which typically activates the archetypes, historical verisimilitude is of the utmost importance. We must accept that the land of Faery is "true" before it can fully affect us.

The Lord of the Rings, therefore, as a fairy story based on these premises, is more than the inner psychodrama which a purely Jungian interpretation suggests, in which outer object is offset by inner, and in which a fairy tale typically depicts, as Jung says, "the unconscious processes that compensate the Christian, conscious situation."[58] For Tolkien, the fairy tale participates, if it is good, in the Christian, conscious situation, and in the primary archetype of the Word made Incarnate from which that Christian consciousness derives. Tolkien faces, therefore, the crucial problem for the Christian writer—the problem faced first by Milton in a modern context—of formulating a vision in which Christian assertion, history, and imagination can coinhere. For Tolkien, the "paradise within" must, ideally, be raised to fulfillment in the primary world of history, and this implies a sacramental, if non-doctrinal, view of reality. But it does not imply any simple reversion to medievalism: Tolkien does not write allegory, which assumes a corporate acceptance of dogmatic formulae based on a "realist" epistemology. The morality of his story is, as we have seen, implicit. His theory does, however, help to explain the inordinate pains spent on the appendices, the background history, the landscape, names, traditions, annals and the entire sense of a "real world" of Middle-earth. History and the "primary world" are more fully rendered in Tolkien than in Milton, and, essentially, they mark the difference between a eucharistic and a non-sacramental view of the world. Yet the great themes of the Christian epic, as we have named them for Milton, remain implicit as a map of values in much the same form in The Lord of the Rings as in Paradise Lost. First, and most important, is the concept of Christian heroism, a spiritual quality which depends on obedience rather than prowess or personal power. Second, heroism is basic to the meaning of love. Third, charity, or love, is the foundation of faith and hope. And last, Providence directs the affairs of the world.

Tolkien first broaches the question of Christian heroism in the essay on Beowulf and in the "ofermod" appendix to The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son. Echoing a tradition of Christian thought as old as Augustine's De Doctrina, Tolkien points out that Beowulf's fame is "the noble pagan's desire for the merited praise of the noble."[59] Consequently, his "real trust was in his own might,"[60] and Beowulf does not understand heaven or true "fame" in the eyes of God. This attitude leads only to excess, and drives Beowulf towards chivalry by which, when he dies, he hopes to be remembered. The possible ill consequences of such chivalry are also evident in Beorhtnoth, "hero" of the Battle of Maldon. In allowing the invading Northmen to cross the ford for a fair fight when they were in fact trapped, Beorhtnoth "was chivalrous rather than strictly heroic."[61] The most grievous consequence of his action was that he sacrificed "all the men most dear to him"[62] in his own desire for glory. The truly heroic situation, says Tolkien, was that of Beorhtnoth's soldiers. "In their situation heroism was superb. Their duty was unimpaired by the error of their master." Consequently, "it is the heroism of obedience and love not of pride or willfulness that is the most heroic and the most moving." [63]

The Christian distinction between true and false heroism is thus already at work in Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon, and certainly in Milton's Paradise Lost true Christian heroism based on obedience is at odds with mere glory won in deeds of arms. The feats of war in Paradise Lost, especially the War in Heaven, are best read as a parody of the futility of epic battles. The true heroism depends not on the acclaim of men, but on the love of God, as Adam must discover. The theme is central also in The Lord of the Rings, and it helps to explain why we are closer to Frodo and Sam than to Aragorn. The hobbits are more purely heroic, in that there is nothing chivalrous about them, and their heroism of obedience burns brightest because it is often without any hope of yielding renown or good name among men. Aragorn, true, is heroic, but he is chivalrous as well, and his fame is significantly reinforced by the acclaim of men. In total contrast is Sam Gamgee, whose part is least publicly acclaimed of all, but who, in the sense in which we are now using the word, is especially heroic. His unfailing devotion to Frodo is exemplary, and here, again, Sam is a key link in bringing the meaning of the book to the reader, the everyman who admires great deeds but wonders what his own part might be in important events which seem well enough wrought without him.

The spiritual interpretation of heroism is the most significant Christian modification of the epic tradition, and contains in essence the other motifs which we have named. Their presence in The Lord of the Rings will therefore be indicated more briefly. First, if Tolkien is careful to show his most moving moments of heroism in context of obedience to transcendent principles, he is also careful to point out that the most binding love derives directly from such obedience. The marriages at the end of the trilogy are clearly possible because the quest has been faithfully completed. Also, among the company, the strongest fellowship develops from a shared dedication to the quest, and obedience to directives from the higher sources of knowledge. The ensuing fellowship is strong enough to break even the age-old enmities between Dwarves and Elves, as displayed for instance by the intense loyalty the Dwarf Girnii feels for the Elf Galadriel. The fellowship breaks only when the bond of obedience is also broken, as it is by Boromir, whose pride and lust for personal power are the epitome of false heroism.

The love of Sam for Frodo is the most consistent, and the most heroic, of all such relationships in the trilogy, and in it the ancillary theme that love subsumes faith and hope, becomes plain. Though Frodo does not waver in faith until the very last moment at the Cracks of Doom, as he and Sam face the plain of Gorgoroth, Frodo loses hope: "I am tired, weary, I haven't a hope left" (III, 195). Soon after he states, even more defeated: "I never hoped to get across. I can't see any hope of it now" (III, 201). Finally, Frodo's hope dissolves entirely, and he tells Sam: "Lead me! As long as you've got any hope left. Mine is gone" (III, 206). Gradually, Frodo's physical power is affected and Sam carries him on his back. The story is, at this point, almost allegorical, as Sam's charity sustains his master's hope and faith. And there is no doubt about the contribution of Sam's heroic love to the success of the quest.

In the last resort, heroic obedience based on love of God and fellow man must also involve faith in God's providence, so that events which may appear undeserved or random can be accepted as part of a greater design. The wiser a man is, the more deeply he can see into that design. So Gandalf, for example, knows that Frodo and Gollum may meet. He also guesses that Aragorn has used the palantir, and his knowledge, more than coincidence, depends on his perception of the design in events. On the other hand, those characters who are less wise are more at the mercy of unexplained events. Merry and Pippin, for example, do not at all know that their "chance" meeting with the Ents is to cause the offensive which overwhelms Isengard. Early in the story, we are directed to the importance of the complex relations of chance and providence by Frodo's question to Tom Bombadil: "Was it just chance that brought you at that moment?" Tom replies, enigmatically: "Just chance brought me then, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you" (1, 137). Examples could be multiplied, but Tolkien plainly enough indicates throughout The Lord of the Rings that on some profound level a traditional providence is at work in the unfolding of events. And in a world where men must die, where there are no havens, where the tragedy of exile is an enduring truth, the sense, never full, always intermittent, of a providential design, is also a glimpse of joy.

Ill Conclusion

This essay has been centrally concerned with the analogy between Tolkien and Jung, but it is not simply an "archetypal" assessment of The Lord of the Rings. That the trilogy seems to correspond so fully to the Jungian classification certainly redounds to the mutual credit of Tolkien the teller of tales that he should intuit the structure of the psyche so well, and to Jung the analyst that he should classify so accurately the elusive images of the poets. For both, man participates in the spiritual traditions of his culture, and in a period of history such as the present the Christian expression of such a participation must be an especially private and "inner" one. Tolkien, in his theory, is aware of this, and an explication of the trilogy in terms of Jung provides some insights about the structure and dynamics of Tolkien's epic of "interior space." Yet Tolkien believes that his "inner" world partakes of spiritual truth which has found a special embodiment in history: the Word, as Archetype, was made flesh. Consequently, Tolkien insists on the "real" truth of Faerie, and his eucharistic understanding of literature causes him, in The Lord of the Rings, to expend great pains on the historical and linguistic background to Middle-earth. We must believe that it is true, and its truth must involve history, as well as the great themes deriving, in literature, from the fundamentally important Christian story which is basic as both archetype and history. We find the morality of the story not in doctrinal formulations which are the staples of allegory, but in the traditional and implicit motifs of Christian heroism, obedience, charity, and providence. Just as, historically, the simmering stock in the cauldron of story is substantially flavored by the Christian ingredient, so are the archetypes in The Lord of the Rings



[1] J, R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories," The Tolkien Reader (New York: Ballantine, 1966), p. 16.

[2] Ibid., p. 13.

[3] Many critics notice the point, though there is no systematic analysis. See J. S. Ryan, Tolkien: Cult or Culture (Annidale, New South Wales: Univ. of New England, 1969), ch. X, "Middle-Earth and the Archetypes," pp. 153-61

[4] "Fairy Stories," pp. 14, 68.

[5] "Psycho-Analysis and Literary Criticism," ed. Walter Hooper, Selected Literary Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 296, 297.

[6] Ibid. Also, "Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem," Selected Literary Essays, p. 104.

[7] Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (London: Faber, 1957), pp. 133-34

[8] "Psycho-Analysis," p. 299.

[9] Romanticism Comes of Age (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1944), pp. 193, 202.

[10] Letter to Charles Moorman, 15 May, 1959, ed. W, H. Lewis, Letters of C. S. Lewis (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1966), p. 287.

[11] There is a good deal of Barfield in "Fairy Stories," for instance the passage on the emergence of adjectives, with the criticism of Max Muller (p. 21), and the insistence on "Participation" (p. 23).

[12] "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," ed. Donald K. Fry, The Beowulf Poet: A Collection of Critical Essays (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1968), p. 34.

[13] Tolkien stresses more firmly than Jung the distinction between fairy-story and dream: they are connected, but the story-teller is in conscious control of his narrative. See "Fairy Stories," pp. 13-14.

[14] Romanticism Comes of Age, p. 193.

[15] "The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairy Tales," ed. Sir Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adier, trans. R. F. C. Hull, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Vol. 9, pt. I, pp. 231, 233, 235.

[16] Ibid., p. 226.

[17] Ibid., p. 219.

[18] Mysterium Conjunctionis, Works, vol. 14, p. 325.

[19] .Ibid.

[20] "On the Nature of the Psyche," Works, Vol. 8, p. 203.

[21] "The Spirit in Fairy Tales," Works, Vol. 9, pt. I, p. 239.

[22] Ibid., p. 215.

[23] "On the Nature of Dreams," Works, Vol 8, p. 292. 24,

[24] Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of C. G. Jung (London: Routledge, 1962), p. 102.

[25] Psychology and Alchemy, Works, Vol. 12, p. 41.

[26] Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Works, Vol. 7, p. 175.

[27] "On the Nature of the Psyche," Works, vol. 8, p. 266.

[28] Aion, ed. Violet S. de Laszlo, Psyche and Symbol (New York: Anchor 1958), p. 6.

[29] 29. "Conscious, Unconscious, and Individuation," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, p. 285.

[30] Man and His Symbols, ed. C. G. Jung (New York: Dell, 1968), p. 178.

[31] Ibid., p. 182.

[32] Aion.p. II.

[33] Ibid., p. 14. See also Man and His Symbols, pp. 188-89.

[34] Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage, 1965), p. 392.

[35] "The Psychology of the Child Archetype," Works, Vol. 9, pt. I, p. 166.

[36] Ibid., p. 167.

[37] "On the Nature of Dreams," Works, vol. 8, p. 293.

[38] Works, vol. 9, pt. I, pp. 217-18.

[39] Ibid., p. 225.

[40] Ibid., p. 227.

[41] The Lord of the Rings (London: George Alien and Unwin, 1966), 1, 351. All further references are cited in the text.

[42] Psychology and Religion: West and East, Works, vol. II, p. 341.

[43] See Man and His Symbols, p. 191; Jacobi, The Psychology of C. G. Jung, p. 117.

[44] Aioil, p. 9.

[45] Ibid., p. 20.

[46] Man and His Symbols, p. 216 .

[47] Ibid., p. 202.

[48] "Concerning Rebirth," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, p. 124.

[49] "On the Nature of Dreams," Works, vol. 8, p. 293.

[50] "Concerning Rebirth," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, pp. 146-47.

[51] "The Spirit in Fairy Tales," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, p. 216.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., p. 217.

[54] Ibid., p. 215.

[55] Edmund Fuller, "The Lord of the Hobbits," ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo, Tolkien and the Critics (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1968), p. 35.

[56] "The Spirit in Fairy Tales," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, p. 220.

[57] "Fairy Stories," p. 68.

[58] "The Spirit in Fairy Tales," Works, vol. 9, pt. I, p. 251.

[59] "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," p. 44.

[60] Ibid., p. 52.

[61] The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son, in The Tolkien Reader, p. 21

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid., p. 22.

Copyright of Cross Currents is the property of Association for Religion & Intellectual Life and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of the retrieval software used for access. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user. Source: Cross Currents, Winter 1973, pp 365-380.

terça-feira, 17 de março de 2009

Conflict and Convergence on Fundamental Matters in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

MANY enthusiasts of the Oxford Inklings assume that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, since they were scholarly friends and fellow Christians and allied writers, shared the same outlook on all fundamental matters, whether literary or religious. It is not so. They were in fact divided in important ways. As the more popular of the two writers, Lewis has come to dominate our understanding of their relationship. Indeed, many readers of Tolkien view him through the lenses of Lewis's work, as if the two fantasists shared the same method and outlook. The aim of this essay is to mark their considerable differences, not in order to denigrate one at the expense of the other, but to increase our appreciation of the oft-clashing quality of both their writing and their Christian witness. It will become evident that I regard Tolkien as the superior figure, both in the literary greatness of his Rings epic, and perhaps also in the theological depth of his vision. Yet I have reached this conclusion ever so slowly and reluctantly, for I owe an unpayable debt to C.S. Lewis - even as others owe a similar debt to Tolkien. I cannot begin to give Lewis due honor except by showing how he stands significantly opposed to Tolkien on eight counts, even if on the ninth and tenth they are united most profoundly.

Their personalities could hardly have been less alike. Tolkien was a quiet and somewhat diffident man. Only among his family and closest friends did Tolkien become animated and raffish. he once entered a contest by swimming on his back, while wearing a bowler hat and holding a pipe in his mouth. On another carnival occasion, he impersonated a polar bear; on still another, he chased a frightened neighbor with an axe while dressed as an Anglo-Saxon warrior. To hear him read Beowulf, declared W. H. Auden, was to listen to the voice of Gandalf. Another student declared that Tolkien "could turn a lecture room into a mead hall in which he was the bard and we were the feasting, listening guests." Yet, unlike Lewis, Tolkien was ill at ease when he had to appear in his own persona. he muttered when he lectured, fled from all publicity (especially after he became a world-renowned author), and did not relish the intellectual bravado that other members of the Inklings displayed in their beer-animated arguments at the Eagle and Child.

Lewis, by contrast, was a hale and bluff argufier. he engaged his students at Magdalen College with an intellectual fierceness that many of them found forbidding, and he delighted in confronting his debating opponents with rationalist rigor at the Oxford Socratic Club. Lewis's Oxonian enemies - and they were many; in fact, they twice kept him from receiving a much-deserved professorship at Oxford - labeled him "Heavy" Lewis, as if he were more boxer than scholar. Even if we acknowledge this allegation to be a canard, Lewis was (as Tolkien was not) a public intellectual, giving popular lectures and making radio talks, as well as carrying on a huge correspondence. Yet even Lewis finally drew the line on publicity, declining ever to visit the United States, despite repeated invitations from his many admirers there. Their radically opposed teaching styles are sharply incised in Anthony Curtis's comparison:

At the end of the hour with Lewis I always felt [myself] a complete ignoramus; no doubt an accurate impression but also a rather painful one; and if you did venture to challenge one of his theories the ground was cut away from beneath your feet with lightning speed. It was a fool's mate in three moves with Lewis smiling at you from the other side of the board in unmalicious glee at his victory. By contrast Tolkien was the soul of affability. he did all the talking, but he made you feel you were his intellectual equal. Yet his views beneath the deep paternal charm were passionately held, (qtd in Birzer 4)

Tolkien never found it easy to honor Lewis's immense facility at writing. Whereas Lewis turned out books almost at first draft, with only light editing of his initial text, Tolkien labored for years over both his academic and imaginative works, releasing them for publication only with the greatest reluctance. Lewis complained, in fact, about Tolkien's being a dilatory scholar, publishing only a handful of essays in his own discipline. Humphrey Carpenter and others have also wondered whether Lewis's venture into the composition of children's books may have been pirated from Tolkien's writing of The Hobbit. Lewis was writing animal stories already during his boyhood, in fact, and some of these "Boxen" stories have been published. Even so, Tolkien feared that Lewis had dashed off his Narnia books so rapidly that he had failed adequately to develop the mythology underlying them. Narnia is indeed a comparatively thin imaginative world as compared to the dense richness of Middle-earth. Hence Tolkien's derisive alternate title for the Narnia chronicle: "Nymphs and their Ways, the Love-Life of a Faun" (Carpenter 201).

Yet despite this drastic difference, Tolkien and Lewis had a shared reverence for non-human creatures - whether elves and dwarves in The Lord of the Rings, or the hrossa and seroni and pfifltriggi in Out of the Silent Planet. They also had a mutually high regard for creatures from the natural and animal world - for horses such as Gandalf's Shadowfax and Shasta's Bree, for bears like Mr. Bultitude, for the trees in Lorien, and especially for the Ents who, as treeherders, protect and form alliances with the trees. Thus did Lewis and Tolkien promote what Mark Long calls "the fellowship of unlike equals," a mystical sense of communion not only with our own kind, but also with creatures which are radically "other" to us: "Other creatures," declared Tolkien, "are like other realms with which Man has broken off relations, and sees now only from the outside at a distance, being at war with them, or on the terms of an uneasy armistice" ("On Fairy-Stories" 84).

Such mutuality is not displayed, however, in their respective onomastic skills. Lewis's names often seem clumsy and arbitrary. Hrossa, for example, is a crude reworking of the word "horse." "Devine" is an all too obvious reference to the godlike pretensions of the scientist in Out of the Silent Planet, just as "Weston" seems a rather heavy-handed signal that he embodies all of the worst aspects of modern Western culture. Ransom's name reveals, rather obviously, his allegorical function as savior. Tolkien, by contrast, devoted enormous care to every name in his vast corpus, usually rooting them in some ancient German word or mythical Scandinavian figure. The ringwraiths, for example, are one of Tolkien's most horrific inventions. They are shadowy, disembodied creatures who are nonetheless garbed and armed horsemen. Tolkien derives their name from the Old English verb writhan, which means to twist or writhe. It gradually gave birth to the words wreath (a thing twisted or braided) and wraith (something wispy and twisting like smoke). But writhan also lies at the root of our word wrath. Tolkien's ringwraiths are thus the products of an anger that is literally "twisted up inside" (Shippey 122). Such onomastic depth, unlike anything in Lewis, undergirds nearly every Tolkienian name. It is the product of a finely-honed craftsmanship.

TOLKIEN disliked Lewis's efforts in apologetics. he feared that Lewis was speaking and writing about theological matters wherein he was not carefully trained and deeply read. Tolkien called Lewis "Everyman's theologian," a description not meant entirely as a compliment (Carpenter 151). Lewis never doubted that he was meant to be an evangelist and moralist. "The glory of God, and, as our only means of glorifying him, the salvation of human souls," he declared somewhat ungrammatically, "is the real business of life" (Christian Reflections 14). "The Christian knows from the outset," Lewis often affirmed, "that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world" (Christian Reflections 10). Again, Lewis could declare that "the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they [i.e., the churches] are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time" (Mere Christianity 171). For Lewis, it is possible for the Gospel to exist without the ethos which it creates. Thus did he discern a potential divide between Christ and culture that Tolkien never observed. Whereas Tolkien sought to build up what might be called a Christian culture, Lewis was an evangelist who sought first and last to make the case for Christianity, whether by straightforward argument (as in Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain and Miracles) or by fictional embodiment (as in the space trilogy and Till We Have Faces).

As a Roman Catholic, Tolkien shared Lewis's conviction that God-implanted natural law underlies everything created. Yet for Tolkien it was the imagination, far more than the reason, that discerns this divine order. he lacked Lewis's urgency to bring people into the Kingdom by argument, despite the venerable tradition of apologetics that animates much of Catholic theology. For Tolkien, it seems, the traditional moral and sacramental witness of the church was a sufficient means of evangelism. That few if any souls will ever be converted to the Gospel by reading his work was no worry to him. Like the anonymous monks who gave written form to Beowulf, Tolkien practiced the method of indirection, quietly imbuing his pre-Christian epic with concerns that are obliquely rather than overtly Christian. Nor was he troubled that many readers failed to perceive the implicitly Christian character of The Lord of the Rings. He wanted his work to stand on its own intrinsic merits, to glorify God as a compelling and convincing story, not for it to be propped up with even so noble a purpose as evangelism.1

Tolkien may have misunderstood Lewis's apologetic work. Lewis confessed that his intellectual defense of Christianity resulted from the limitation of his own gifts, and that he preferred appeals to the heart more than to the mind (Mitchell 6nll).2 Yet argument was Lewis's first love. Christopher Mitchell is ever so correct in calling him "a naturally Socratic soul" (Mitchell 335). From his early tutelage under the atheist rationalist W.T. Kirkpatrick, Lewis had learned to relish dialectic, the cut and thrust of intellectual repartee. Lewis's own conversion to theism, moreover, as well as his subsequent return to the church, were hugely enhanced by his "Great War" with Owen Barfield, "an almost incessant disputation [ . . . ] which lasted for years" (Surprised by Joy 207). As an anthroposophist, Barfield sought to derive a full-fledged philosophy, even a theology, from the study of anthropos - human nature - alone. Yet despite his great debt to Barfield's arguments, Lewis never confused rational demonstration with the mysterious and unaccountable gift of faith - the ability to entrust one's life to God. Rather did he seek to show the intelligibility of Christianity, enabling those who already believed (as well as those who did not) to discern that, far from being irrational nonsense, the Gospel offers a cogent account of human existence.

Lewis's friend Austin Farrer rightly identifies the real intent of Lewis's apologetics:

For though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. [ . . . ] Lewis [ . . . ] provided a positive exhibition of the force of Christian ideas, morally, imaginatively, and rationally (26).

In his "Apologist's Evening Prayer," moreover, Lewis mocked his own efforts at proving the God who first and last proves himself:

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more

From all the victories that I seemed to score;

From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf

At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;

From all my proofs of Thy divinity,

Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me. (129)3

The church and its analogues play a much greater role in Tolkien than in Lewis, whose understanding of Christian faith is often individualist. This is not to suggest that Lewis himself was anything other than a faithful churchman. He gives Mother Kirk at least nominal recognition in The Pilgrim's Regress, and the monastic community of St. Anne's has an important symbolic role in That Hideous Strength. Yet most of Lewis's heroes are virtual solitaires. They do battle with evil out of their own private resources of spiritual strength. All four of the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, face Aslan alone. So does Ransom travel to Perelandra alone, and he undertakes his battle against Weston and Devine alone. Orual learns to submit her will to the divine will by means of a solitary struggle. She later learns, of course, that she has received the mystical aid of the suffering Psyche, but this cannot be regarded as anything akin to real companionship in faith.

Even so, there are communal emphases to be found in Lewis. In one of his letters, he stresses that Christians are called "not to individualism but to membership in the mystical body" (qtd in Griffin 242). In the Narnia books, frequent prayers are offered in behalf of others. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the children are "summoned" by Aslan. They enter Narnia out of curiosity, but it is the Lion who calls them. Each child also receives a gift by which he or she must serve the general good. And the failure of one inevitably touches the whole. We also find the children making common cause with beavers and others. In The Silver Chair, Puddleglum and two of the children seek to free the Prince, and in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the ship's entire company faces their peril together, as their collective fate is imperiled by the solitary Eustace.4

There is nothing individualist to be found anywhere in Tolkien. He places communal life at the very center of the Rings epic. The Nine Walkers constitute an ecclesial company in the precise meaning of the adjective: they are ekklesia - called out - for a common mission that could not be accomplished individually. That he makes their number nine is surely an analogue of the triune community and perhaps also of Christ's own company of disciples. They always function as a unity. Even when the Company is split - by the betrayal of the Judas-like Boromir - there is still no solitude in the Quest. Frodo and Sam serve as companions who bear one another's burdens and share each other's joys. Aragorn and the other separated members of the Company also act communally in seeking to draw Sauron's attention to themselves, allowing Sam and Frodo to destroy the Ring while he is attacking them.

Lewis believed that Christian faith contains an essential core of belief and practice that all Christians share. He thus lamented the fragmented state of the church. "While the name of 'Christianity' covers a hundred mutually contradictory beliefs," he asked, "who can be converted to it?" (qtd in Griffin 433) - hence his concern to locate the animating center of the Faith wherein all Christians stand. He likened it to a hall with doors leading to many rooms. In these lodgings one finds the various liturgical and doctrinal traditions. Though he aims to bring readers into the central passageway, Lewis confesses that Christian life is not to be found there: "it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is the place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in" (Mere Christianity 11). Mark Noll denies that anyone can espouse "mere Christianity," since we "must always practice one particular form of Christianity." Yet Noll confirms Andrew Walls's definition of "mere Christianity" as constituted not by the hall of a great house but by the house itself: "although the mansion of Christianity possesses only rooms, [. . . ] the inhabitants in each and every one of them can realize both that all the rooms were made by the same builder and that at least some of the features in each of the rooms resemble features in all of the others." "The universal Christ," Noll agrees with Lewis, "is able to incarnate himself over and again in particular human circumstances."5

Lewis's devotion to "mere" Christianity made him perhaps the most important ecumenist and apologist of the previous century. he became the chief Christian tutor to the twentieth century Anglophone world, helping to make converts of unbelievers and to strengthen faith in all sorts and conditions of souls. When a recent convert to Roman Catholicism wrote in worry that he and Lewis would now be separated in irreconcilable ways, Lewis replied that "in the present divided state of Christendom, those who are at the heart of each division are all closer to one another than to those who are at the fringes" (qtd in Griffin 336). So did Walker Percy discover, in writing an introduction to The New Catholics, that C.S. Lewis was more instrumental in recent conversions to the Roman church than anyone else, even Thomas Merton (Percy, 345).

Tolkien, by contrast, was no more of an ecumenist than an apologist. As his daughter Priscilla made humorously clear when I visited her in 1988, her father would have had no use for a Baptist such as me. In her father's estimate, I was no "separated brother," as Vatican II had declared Protestants to be, but a heretic! Yet she added that, when he turned to his fantasy-work, all of her father's bitter animosities faded away. Tolkien was an ardent and unapologetic Catholic, in no small part, because his mother had been ostracized by her own Unitarian father as well as her late husband's Baptist parents when she had converted to Catholicism at the turn of the twentieth century (Carpenter 1977, 24). As a widow raising two sons by herself, she also had received little aid from her own Unitarian parents. Thus did Tolkien revere his mother as a virtual martyr for her faith, since she had worked herself to death in order that her two sons might be given a vigorous Catholic upbringing by the Oratorians in Birmingham.

Neither was Tolkien an enthusiast for Anglicanism. He believed that genuine English tradition had effectively ended with the Norman invasion of 1066. How much more, then, did he regard the Reformation as a terrible error. To him, the cathedrals of England were stolen property, and Lewis remained an Ulsterman who had failed to repent for this Protestant theft of Catholic goods! For Tolkien, there is no such thing as "mere" Christianity that unites believers of all kinds. There is no common hall where Christians enter the house of faith, only then to repair to the various denominational rooms. He regarded devotion to the Virgin Mary, together with adherence to the Marian dogmas and papal infallibility, as nonnegotiable necessities for salvation. These things are located in the central vestibule, not in the ancillary quarters. While Christians may be doctrinally close in certain matters, therefore, Tolkien believed that they remain divided about other matters no less fundamental.

Lewis's ecumenism extended, ever so happily, to his friendships. He was a practitioner of Christian companionship in ways unknown to Tolkien. Among Lewis's friends were the anthroposophist philosopher Owen Barfield, the Italian priest Dom Giovanni Calabria, and Lewis's homosexual childhood mate from the Plymouth Brethren, Arthur Greeves. Nor did Lewis ever relent in his high estimate of Tolkien, even after Tolkien - resentful at Lewis's bringing Joy Davidman into the Inklings circle - virtually broke off their relationship. Tolkien, in turn, acknowledged that he would never have brought The Lord of the Rings to publication without the constant encouragement of Lewis. Tolkien was also one of the main advocates for Lewis's appointment to the Chair of English at Magdalene College Cambridge in 1954, after he had so long and so unjustly been denied a professorship at Oxford. Yet Tolkien neither called on Lewis during Davidman's illness nor did he attend her funeral when she died. Even so, Tolkien was devastated by Lewis's death in 1963. He declared that an axe-blow had been struck at his roots: "The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not 'influence' as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my 'stuff could be more than a private hobby" (Carpenter 148).

Lewis was a Platonist at heart. For him this world is the shadow of another. There is an invisible divine realm hovering over the visible world, making the natural order into a land of shadows and reflections of the really real. Like Isaac Newton, Lewis believed that the invisible God works in and through the visible process of secondary causes. Yet God remains absolutely sovereign over these natural laws. He is able drastically to telescope them whenever he chooses to perform miraculous acts. Lewis cites Jesus's turning of water into wine and his feeding of the five thousand as examples of this sudden compression of what would otherwise be the slow workings of nature. God thus remains outside the cosmic order, except for his occasional interruptions of it. That miracles are rare rather than frequent is, according to Lewis, their essence. They are dramatic demonstrations of the truest and deepest unity of the whole creation. For God not to work miracles would be the sign of real inconsistency in divine purpose (Miracles 101).

Many of Lewis's readers and critics have been puzzled by his self-confessed "romantic rationalism" - a decided oxymoron. That Lewis could be at once a hard-headed prover of God's existence and also a soft-hearted devotee of the human longing for God seems strange indeed. The key to Lewis's equal devotion to Athanasius and Wordsworth lies in his conviction that miracles are not unique disclosures of God's special will for the world revealed in Israel and Christ; rather are they revelations of the grand pattern of Death and Rebirth that operates everywhere already: the "familiar pattern" which is "written all over the world," the pattern of vegetable and animal and human life, and therefore the pattern of pagan religion and myth as well:

We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't a Narnia. (159)

Even in Lewis's late masterpiece, Till We Have Faces, readers are required to enter the Platonic super-world by the leap of faith that Coleridge called a suspension of disbelief. How can Orual believe that Psyche's palace is a blessedly real place rather than a cruel deceit, that it is not indeed a mirage of Orual's own making? Frustrated at not knowing what to believe, Orual appeals to her readers: "Can a Greek [i.e., an educated Western humanist] understand the horror of that thought [that 'there might be a hundred things . . . that I could not see]?" It was a dreadful moment, Orual explains, "when I believed I was looking at Psyche's palace and did not see it. For the horror was the same: a sickening discord, a rasping together of two worlds, like the two bits of a broken bone"(Tz7/ We Have Faces 120). For Orual as for Lewis, the visible and invisible worlds are often jaggedly and painfully joined, like the jutting fragments of a compound fracture. Both reader and protagonist are thus challenged to credit the existence of this other realm in an epistemo-logical vault that becomes the basis for belief. One must first embrace a certain metaphysical order, understood in largely Platonic terms, before one can participate in its miraculous wonders.6

Yet Lewis was a Platonist Christian and not a Christian Platonist. As James Patrick has demonstrated, Lewis was the inheritor of the Oxford Idealist tradition of T.H. Green and F.H. Bradley. They taught him that mind is no late-arriving phenomenon produced by the evolutionary process, but that the universe is mental through and through. The act of thinking, as Patrick explains, is the mind's own participation in the cosmic Logos:

Reason as [Lewis] uses the word does not refer to the quality of consistency in logical operations, but the ability, indeed the common experience, through which every man gains access to a transcendent ground of truth and discovers unavoidable responsibility for shaping his nature and nature generally in this higher image. Reason in Lewis is the light with which we grasp reality, the logos of Philo and St. John, the judge of abstract truths as well as the foundation of practical reason, and hence of morality. It stands closer to what the classical tradition meant by wisdom, understanding, art, and prudence than does the thin talent for deductive consistency that sometimes passes for rationality. (122-23)

Lewis selectively retrieved those aspects of Platonism that were useful for Christian faith and life, just as he repudiated those that were inimical to it. he scorned, for example, the Platonic disregard for the body, making clear that our incarnate condition (like God's own enfleshment in human form) is not our shame but our splendor. In both The Great Divorce and "The Weight of Glory," Lewis celebrates the sheer solidity and heft that the life of redemption accords believers, whether in this life or the next. And in The Abolition of Man, Lewis is a thorough-going Aristotelian in his call for the cultivation of virtue as the way to shape human sentiments and to order human loves.

Now if there is such a God and if he descends again, then we can understand why Christ is at once so like the Corn-King and so silent about him. he is like the Corn-King because the Corn-King is a portrait of him. The similarity is not in the least unreal or accidental. For the Corn-King is derived (through human imagination) from the facts of Nature, and the facts of Nature from her Creator; the Death and Re-birth pattern is in her because it was first in Him. On the other hand, elements of Nature-religion are strikingly absent from the teaching of Jesus and from the judaic preparation because in them Nature's Original is manifesting itself. (Miracles 116, 119-20)

Lewis's Platonism gives him an understanding of the universe as a seamless whole in which the inner and outer, the upper and lower, the divine and the natural are deeply intertwined. Yet because this interstitial relation is mystical and invisible, it cannot readily be discerned. It requires a leap of faith. This leap is everywhere evident in Lewis's work, especially in his children and space fantasies. There Lewis creates a parallel universe which we must first credit in order to enter imaginatively into it. Thus do we move from one realm to another, as if they were essentially disjunct, even though they are finally knitted together. Lucy and Edmund, Susan and Peter, pass magically through the back of the wardrobe and into Narnia. Ransom travels from the Earth to Malacandra and Perelandra. In Lewis's fiction, the realm of Deep Magic always lies on the other side of the real or ordinary world. It's an "as if world, moreover, and its reality depends on the willingness of the beholder to see it. In a frighteningly honest confession to the Witch in The Silver Chair, Puddleglum admits that he would not be disheartened or deterred if he learned that this magical other-world did not exist:

Tolkien was no sort of Platonist at all. he espoused what might be roughly called an Aristotelian metaphysics. For him, transcendent reality is to be found in the depths of this world rather than in some putative existence beyond it. Tolkien argued, for example, that fairy-stories "cannot tolerate any frame or machinery suggesting that the whole story in which they occur is a figment or illusion." Such devices create a skepticism that undermines the truthfulness of the entire fictional enterprise: "The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken" (Tolkien 42, 60, 68). Tolkien elects, therefore, to set his readers right down in the midst of Middle-earth. There is no time voyage or space travel in his fiction, no slippage through the back of a wardrobe into a magical realm. Tolkien seeks, instead, to convince readers that his imaginative world is utterly real, having no other foundation than its own laws and conventions.

For Tolkien, it follows, the universe has no upper and lower stories linked by periodic divine incursions. The life-world of The Lord of the Rings consists of interlocking realities - human and holy, demonic and natural. Even a quick glance at the battle with the Black Riders at the river-ford in Rivendell would reveal a complex involvement of colliding and colluding powers. These powers are far from equal in either might or significance. There is a profound sense of divine providence coursing through the whole of the epic, subtly undermining the seeming dominance of evil. But for Tolkien as not for Lewis, miracles are unique acts of God; they are not special demonstrations of what God always does through the operations of nature. There is, in fact, an implicit Thomism at work in Tolkien's understanding of miracles. As Brian Davies observes, Aquinas "thinks that miracles come about by virtue of the creative activity of God and nothing else. The whole point about them is that nothing subject to God's providence, i.e. no cause other than God (no secondary cause), is at work in their occurrence" This is not to say that God does violence to the created order, or that he "intervenes" to disrupt its natural processes. On the contrary, St. Thomas insists that God is totally present to every existing thing, so that all events are always the effect of God's will. Yet miracles are not worked through secondary causes, not even through their divine compression, as Lewis argues: they are brought about by God alone (Davies 171-74).7 Aquinas described miracles, therefore, as those events which, because their divine source is hidden from us, excite admiratio - the wonder which existentially and etymologically lies at the root of the word miracle.

This brief by-way into miracles helps us to understand a crucial event in Book I - and there are many others like it - when the evil Ringwraiths are bearing down on Frodo. Having no hope of defeating them, he has put on the Ruling Ring in an act of despairing resignation. Then suddenly he does something surprising:

At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground, and he heard himself crying aloud: O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy. A shrill cry rang out in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder. Even as he swooned he caught, as through a swirling mist, a glimpse of Strider leaping out of the darkness with a flaming brand of wood in either hand. With a last effort Frodo, dropping his sword, slipped the Ring from his finger and closed his hand tight upon it. (Fellowship of the Ring 208)

Frodo is far more acted upon than acting, as the narrator's passive verb indicates. Too weak of will to save himself, he is divinely enabled to invoke the star-queen Varda by her elven names. Varda is an angel-like being who is also the spouse of Manwe. She aids him in his providential care for the Earth, especially as he opposes the rebel valar (i.e., fallen angel) named Melkor and his minion named Sauron. Because Iluvatar (God) is already present to him, Frodo can still prostrate himself in the act of prayer. But the prayer itself is miraculously prayed through him without the aid of secondary causes, much as St. Paul declares in Romans 8:26: "we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us." This is an act brought about solely by God. That Strider with his fire-brand suddenly appears and drives away the light-fearing Ringwraiths would seem to be a second miracle, for Strider had no knowledge of Frodo's crisis. Yet these two petitionary miracles do not magically deliver Frodo from further harm, nor do they negate the necessity of his own valorous effort. Indeed, he flails away furiously at his enemy. Nor do they protect Frodo from the injury that he in fact suffers. But because these miraculous events bring him into the direct presence of the divine, he can at last divest himself of the evil Ring he had desperately put on.

LEWIS was hardly a disbeliever in prayers of petition, as Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer abundantly attests. Several of Lewis's characters intercede prayerfully for each other, and Joy Davidman underwent a miraculous remission of her own leukemia after Lewis and others had prayed for her. Yet Lewis seems to have understood intercessory miracles as occurring in accord with secondary causes, and thus as having a kinship with what might be called good or benign magic:

If we are in fact spirits, not Nature's offspring, then there must be some point (probably the brain) at which created spirit even now can produce effects on matter not by manipulation or technics but simply by the wish to do so. If that is what you mean by Magic then Magic is a reality manifested every time you move your hand or think a thought. And Nature, as we have seen, is not destroyed but rather perfected by her servitude. (Miracles 154)

Narnia is the land of magic precisely in this sense: its magical events reveal, as we have seen, the deep structure of the natural order but working in a telescoped fashion. And even though Merlin has to lay down his wand in That Hideous Strength, his magic is nonetheless allied with true supernaturalism. Thus could Lewis affirm the old Latin tag: Magis arnica veritas. Benign magic is the friend of truth because it shows the inseparable link between the natural with the supernatural in ways that modern secularity seeks to deny.

Lewis regarded magic of the malign and occult sort, on the other hand, as truly demonic. The mental agonies of Janie Moore's dying brother, who had dabbled in esoteric magic, had horrified Lewis, giving him a lifelong scorn for the evil magic of the kind that the White Witch of Narnia performs. Like Tolkien, moreover, Lewis linked the rise of magic to the rise of modern science. In The Abolition of Man, he argues that there was very little magic practiced in the Middle Ages. Serious magical endeavor arose, Lewis rightly observes, only with the rise of serious scientific endeavor in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They both came to replace the chief concern of ancient wisdom, whether natural or human: the conformity of the soul to reality through "knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique [ . . . . ]" In Paracelsus, he adds, the roles of magician and scientist are combined, even as the aims of Marlowe's Faustus and Francis Bacon are also the same: they do not seek knowledge so much as power:

Bacon condemns those who value knowledge as an end in itself: this, for him, is to use a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit. The true object is to extend Man's power to the performance of all things possible. he rejects magic because it does not work, but his goal is that of a magician. (1996 A, 83-84)8

Despite their general agreement about the modern origins of magic, Tolkien had a more negative estimate of it than Lewis. he was careful to describe his own art as sub-creation, for instance, in order to differentiate it from anything supernatural. he sought not to fabricate a new world ex nihilo, as only God does, but rather to create a secondary World of fantasy. The fantastic realm of Faerie, as he called it, consists of phantasms or images of things not generally believed to exist in our primary world: elves, hobbits, wizards, dwarves, ringwraiths, and the like. Fairy-stories are not meant to deny reality, therefore, but to deepen it. When they succeed, they "open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe" ("On Fairy-Stories" 56). Such magical subcreations must therefore possess what Tolkien called "the inner consistency of reality"("On Fairy-Stories" 68). They must bear a distinct likeness to our own historical existence. "The Primary World, Reality, of elves and men is the same, if differently valued and perceived" ("On Fairy-Stories" 73)

Magic of the non-literary kind attempts to alter the Primary World to coerce nature. It is not art, Tolkien agrees with Lewis, but a technique: "its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills" ("On Fairy-Stories" 73). Unlike Lewis, Tolkien sets magic in contrast with craftsmanship. A craft requires lifelong discipline and laborious effort, unlike the instantaneous results of magic. Gandalf's fireworks, for instance, are matters of skill and labor rather than sorcery - even if his wand is indeed a supernatural gift. Sauron's Ring of absolute power is the product of such magical constraint of the natural order. No wonder, then, that Tolkien regarded much of modern technology - precisely because it seeks to put nature under its command, speeding up its slow and deliberate processes - as a disguised form of magic.

Magic and allegory are linked, in Tolkien's judgment. Hence his confession that he "cordially dislike[d]" allegory. Lewis's The Allegory of Love, by contrast, mounts a strong defense of the entire Western allegorical tradition. For Tolkien, one-to-one allegorical correspondences coerce the reader's imagination and shrink the significance of both characters and events, reducing them to "the purposed domination of the author." There are links, of course, between Middle-earth and our own world. They are to be discerned not by direct identification but by means of what Tolkien called historical "applicability" (Fellowship of the Ring 7). The Ruling Ring can indeed be likened to the nuclear bomb, as Tolkien himself admitted. In his battle with the satanic Balrog, moreover, Gandalf actually dies. he also descends into an abyss that might well be Hell, just as he is resuscitated from death to newness of life. Yet Gandalf is not resurrected to die no more. And while he possesses Christ-like qualities, so does Aragorn and, by the end, so does Sam Gamgee! Never is there any equivalence between Gandalf and Christ, whereas Aslan is clearly an allegory of Christ, as are Ransom and Psyche to a lesser extent. For Tolkien, at least in his fiction, Christ is not the full and final manifestation of a Corn-King who chose to remain silent about their connection. The unique and unrepeatable figure of Jesus Christ as the God-Man has no true predecessors or successors. all anticipations and imitations of him are partial and limited, even at best. Believing, by contrast, that everything natural can be tied to something supernatural, Lewis could create multiple Christ figures.9

Lewis saw himself as a pre-modern man - indeed, as a dinosaur. He marked the pre-industrial age of Jane Austen's England as his own native era, and he regarded himself as a hoary holdover from a world that was not dependent on machines, especially the automobile. Lewis was, in fact, a reactionary figure. he ridiculed the poetry of T.S. Eliot and the fiction of James Joyce, describing Ulysses as having been produced by the "steam" of consciousness. Experiments with literary forms that echoed modernist sensibilities about time and place and selfhood were completely alien to Lewis. In these matters at least, Tolkien was very much akin to Lewis. he was an avowed Luddite who regarded our machine-ridden world as having succumbed to an especially pernicious species of magic. Once he saw what automobiles did to England's country roads, he stopped driving. Tolkien's literary predilections were even more reactionary than Lewis's. he lamented Chaucer's importation of Italian meter into English poetry, and he thought Shakespeare a hopelessly modern writer. In his chief work, therefore, Tolkien reverted to one of the most ancient of literary forms, the epic.

Yet in three important matters Lewis had modernist sympathies as Tolkien did not. Lewis embraced the Enlightenment conviction that it is possible to reason without any prior assumptions - as if it were possible to reason without presuppositions and apart from historical conditions. As Christopher Mitchell has observed, Lewis's eagerness for disputation was prompted by his desire to restore the Enlightenment exaltation of "free inquiry." he was imbued with the Socratic assurance that he could fearlessly "follow the argument wherever it led"(Mitchell 183, 193).10 So did Lewis also believe it possible to stand above the flux of history and to view things sub specie aeternitatis. Hence his attempt to discern the commonalities shared by the various world religions and to exalt their most enduring values. Lewis is indeed a foundationalist in assuming that all people of good will and right mind can agree upon the basic moral rules that are essential for human existence. The American Founding Fathers are perhaps the most obvious examples of this notion that we can elevate certain virtues as normative, without deep regard either for their dependence upon particular historical communities, or their rootage in particular narrative traditions and religious practices. Though Lewis stands at a very far remove from Thomas Jefferson, his doctrine of Objective Value and his formulation of the Tao in The Abolition of Man, like his attempt to distill the Christian essence in Mere Christianity, can be traced to the Enlightenment brand of idealism that he inherited from his Oxford teachers.

There is little doubt that certain virtues do inhere in all cultures and that we share a common human nature, a fundamental orientation to God, because we are created imago dei. Lewis is right to say that no people has ever exalted cowardice in combat or contempt for one's own kin. Yet, beyond these most rudimentary goods, the manifold cultures and religions remain divided about other fundamental matters: they have shaped our common nature in drastically different ways. The Roman Stoics and the Japanese Samurai, for example, held suicide to be one of the highest moral virtues, while Christians have regarded self-murder as a deadly sin - perhaps even the unforgivable sin. The Aztecs, though having a highly advanced civilization, also made human sacrifice central to their religion. Infanticide was so widely practiced throughout the Greco-Roman world that Christians became known as the scandalous people who did not kill their so-called "unwanted" babies.

In nearly every culture, courage manifests itself chiefly in battle, and Tolkien's heroes are indeed distinguished by such courage. Yet their warfare against the invading and coercive forces of Sauron is entirely defensive, and it meets all the requirements of the Christian just-war tradition: far from being the best, it is the worst alternative. For the early church, moreover, martyrdom became the Christian substitute for pagan courage - the willingness not to kill but to be killed. Thus does the willingness of the Company of Nine to be led like sheep to Sauron's slaughter make them far more Christian than pagan in their courage. Their ability also to forgive enemies - manifest most notably in Bilbo's refusal to slay the evil Gollum, and in Gandalf's repeated offers of repentance to the wicked Saruman - would be regarded as an actual vice in ancient Hellenistic cultures. For them, pity is to be given only to the weak and the helpless, never to the strong and undeserving. To grant mercy to such malefactors would be to commit heinous injustice. The Christian virtue of reconciliation, largely unknown in pagan cultures, is also exhibited in Gimli the dwarf and Legolas the elf. They are two historic enemies who, though initially suspicious of each other, become gradually reconciled through loyalty to their self-surrendering common mission.

Lewis is also closer to the modern Enlightenment project than Tolkien because his heroes do not rely as fully upon divine grace as do the hobbits and their friends. Certainly Lewis rejects the modern premise that life presents us with a cafeteria-line of choices, so that we construct our own existence according to whatever values we autonomously choose. Neither would he accept the assumption that the more unfettered the decision, the more authentic the life. Lewis was no sort of Pelagian holding to the notion that we make our life-determining decisions without the provision of prevenient grace. Yet Lewis, far more than Tolkien, believes that we are the sum total of our decisions. he likens free will to "the trembling needle of a compass." Though our wills are magnetically drawn to God, we must choose whether to conform or disconform them to their native direction. In fact, the word "choice" becomes the virtual leitmotiv of Lewis's work. Freedom for him does not mean freedom to choose only the good, as it does for Paul and Augustine and the long predestinarian tradition taken up by Luther and Calvin and their modern followers. On the contrary, Lewis believes that we also act freely when we redirect our loves to demonic ends. Entirely by our good or evil responses to divine grace do we create our own heaven or our own hell:

T]aking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are already turning this central thing [the will] either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. (Mere Christianity 166)

This is Lewis's central premise in The Great Divorce, as it is also his reiterated emphasis in "The Weight of Glory": "We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. [ . . . ] all day long we are helping each other to one or other of these destinations" ("The Weight of Glory" and Other Addresses 12, 15).

Repeatedly, therefore, Lewis puts his characters at the point of drastic either-or decisions. The most obvious example, perhaps, is Ransom's dilemma in Perelandra. There he must decide whether he will kill the Unman or let him continue to prey upon the Green Lady. The fate of an entire world, the narrator reminds us, hinges upon Ransom's solitary decision:

He had long known that great issues hung on his choice; but as he now realised the true width of the frightful freedom that was being put into his hands - a width to which all mere spatial infinity seemed narrow - he felt like a man brought out under naked heaven, on the edge of a precipice, into the teeth of a wind that came howling from the Pole. he had pictured himself, till now, standing before the Lord, like Peter. But it was worse. he sat before him like Pilate. It lay with him to save or spill. (Perlandra 148)

Lewis seeks to protect himself against the Pelagian charge that God himself is at the mercy of human decision. And so he grants Ransom the knowledge that, even if he himself fails, Perelandra will yet be redeemed by someone else in the future. Ransom's free decision is accompanied, therefore, by an unavoidably redemptive outcome, however well or ill he acts: "Predestination and freedom were apparently identical" (Perlandra 149). Lewis also affirms something akin to the doctrine of election in Surprised by Joy, where he declares that his return to Christian faith was totally his own act and yet totally the gift of God. Even so, Lewis could never say - with Paul and Augustine, with Luther and Calvin, with Karl Earth and Hans Urs von Balthasar - that to act sinfully is to reveal that we are enslaved rather than free, that God's grace enables our right response to it, and thus that we are the sum total of the gifts we have graciously received rather than the decisions we have bravely made.

It would be foolish to insist that there is any kind of Calvinism at work in a pre-Vatican II Catholic such as J.R.R. Tolkien! In fact, an entire chapter in The Lord of the Rings is entitled "The Choices of Master Samwise." Yet Tolkien repeatedly emphasizes the electing providence at work in The Lord of the Rings. Gollum did not intend to find the Ruling Ring, nor did Bilbo: it found them. Even less did Frodo seek to bear the Ring, and least of all did he desire the burden of destroying it: he was chosen. Though Frodo could have turned away from his vocation to become the Ringbearer, Tolkien would have hardly regarded this as a free decision. Such a rejection would have shown that Frodo's will was imprisoned to its own interest, as the doctrine of original sin teaches. At the end of the epic, moreover, Frodo's freedom is quite overwhelmed by the demonic power of the Ring, so helpless is he finally to resist its coercions. In a scene that one can hardly imagine happening in Lewis, Frodo's free will is completely consumed: he can do no other than answer the summons of Sauron. Only the strange providence at work in greedy Gollum can deliver Frodo from such enormous evil.

Conflict and convergence on fundamental matters in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
Renascence , Summer 2003 by Wood, Ralph C
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Tolkien differs from Lewis in their respective estimates of modernity in yet a third way: Tolkien regards modern warfare as without precedent and thus as uniquely evil. he was haunted by the fact that, in his dread century incarnadine, more lives were violently destroyed than in all the previous centuries combined. For Lewis, by contrast, there will always be wars and rumors of war, and modern combat is more vicious than ancient enmity only because we have more destructive weapons at hand. Thus does Screwtape declare the second War to be of no real use to demons, since the threat of death may concentrate the minds of the endangered on spiritual things (The Screwtape Letters 32). For Tolkien, by contrast, totalistic war is the very scourge of modern life, and it becomes the main manifestation of evil in his fiction. Rather than seeking, like Lewis, to rise above the Culture of Death by recourse to allegedly timeless values, he created a mythical world that is deeply grounded in history. The Rings epic constitutes a massive - as well as a wondrously imaginative - recasting of the Gospel story as the only possible hope for creating a Culture of Life.

FOR Lewis as also for Tolkien, there is an essential continuity between things pagan and Christian. Indeed, Christianity is the fulfillment and completion of what Lewis called the "good dreams" of the pagan world. Lewis learned this lesson from Tolkien himself, for in his famous 1929 conversation, as they paced through the deer park of Magdalen College through the small hours of the night, Tolkien taught Lewis that the great pagan myths are not "lies breathed through silver," as Lewis had long believed. On the contrary, argued Tolkien, Christ is "the old myth [ . . . ] become a fact" (Carpenter 44). The ancient vision of poets and myth-makers who held that the gods can become human has at last been fulfilled. The dying and rising gods of pagan religion are deep human expressions of the divinely-ingrained longing for God. In Jesus Christ, God himself has fulfilled the deep desire of which St. Augustine spoke when he declared, in the opening lines of The Confessions, that "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." It is clear that they were also agreed with St. Thomas Aquinas when he famously said that "Grace does not destroy but completes and perfects nature."

With the early Christian apologist justin Martyr, Tolkien and Lewis also believed that pagan myth served as a preparation for the Gospel. Yet Lewis turned this general intuition into a carefully-elaborated argument as Tolkien did not. he held that all religions and civilizations are built on what he called Sehnsucht, the mystical desire for fulfillment beyond the walls of the world. Yet the longing for transcendent satisfaction is not merely emotional; it is also deeply moral. Thus did Lewis come to believe, as we have seen, that all cultures and peoples have affirmed a single set of moral laws. These all-pervasive ethical norms are real proofs, Lewis insisted, that the one God has divinely implanted timeless virtues and values within the very fabric of the world. We human creatures did not invent these eternal verities; rather have we discovered the moral order that God divinely inserted into the world from its foundation. To make sure that we do not confuse the transcendent moral law with something merely Western and historically conditioned, Lewis gave this metaphysical order of Objective Value an Eastern name: the Tao. In his appendix to The Abolition of Man, Lewis gathered these perduring ethical standards under eight heads: the Law of General Beneficence; the Law of Special Beneficence; Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors; Duties to Children and Posterity; the Law of justice; the Law of Good Faith and Veracity; the Law of Mercy; the Law of Magnanimity. Tolkien and Lewis were also agreed that friendship, whether found in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics or in an Anglo-Saxon epic such as The Battle of Maldon, is a virtue that Christians are called to cultivate. It's the virtue that the children acquire in the Narnia Chronicle and that the Company of Nine Walkers exhibits in the highest degree.

In both Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, Lewis argues that objective moral standards issue in objective moral guilt: all people know, at the depths of their being, that they have failed to fulfill the standards which have been set for them. Conscience is not, therefore, the fabrication of particular cultures to insure the on-going life of their civic order. Much less is conscience a social construction of elite power groups seeking to preserve their own oppressive rule. Rather is conscience the divinely embedded compass which, when rightly-formed, orients human life in a moral direction. In view of Talibanic terrorism, this exchange between Eomer and Gandalf is especially apt: "The world is all grown strange," declares Eomer. "[B]ack to war comes the Sword that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?" "As he ever has judged," said Aragorn. "Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house" (The Two Towers 40-41).

Universal moral laws point to a universal Lawgiver. This, in Lewis's view, is the great achievement of ancient Israel: to have discovered that, behind the law of justice, stands the God of justice. Lewis also insists with Tolkien that the completion and perfection of human longing and natural law require their radical reconstruction. In The Four Loves he shows how affection and friendship and even marriage must be surrendered to the higher devotion demanded by the self-surrender of agape. In Till We Have Faces both Orual and Psyche must give up their lower loves, worthy though they surely are, in learning to love the gods above all else. This emphasis on painful sacrifice as the only way to newness of life is perhaps most acutely witnessed in A Grief Observed, where Lewis first relinquishes his apologetic effort to justify suffering, and then finally lets go of his own bitter grief for the dead Joy Davidman.

Tolkien, as we have seen, believed more fully than Lewis that the life of radical self-surrender can be accomplished only by the grace manifest in Jesus Christ. Though the triune God demands the world's moral obedience, our fallen human nature prevents us from ordering our lives aright. Thus does God himself become incarnate in his Son Jesus Christ in order to enable what he demands. God takes on flesh in the crucified and risen Nazarene, having mercy on his wayward people in order that they might overcome their native disobedience and thus fully conform their wills to God's will. In their long midnight walk, Tolkien thus stressed that, in Jesus Christ, God the Playwright has become the chief Actor in the entire cosmic drama.

In his essay "On Faerie Stories," moreover, Tolkien stresses the strangeness rather than the obviousness of the Christian gospel by linking it to traditional fairy tales. They are both characterized by happy endings that make them seem escapist. Yet the final victory envisioned both in the Christian story and in fairy stories is not cheaply and easily won; on the contrary, it is cut from the cloth of suffering and disaster. Like many fairy tales, the gospel narrative ends in what Tolkien called eucatastrophe - in a calamity which seems to destroy everything but which, in fact, surprisingly restores everything at a new and deeper level. Thus does Tolkien call the Incarnation the eucatastrophe of the Creation, since Christ's birth is accompanied by the Massacre of the Innocents, even as it brings the world's radical renewal. So is the Cross to be understood as the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation, since this worst of all Fridays is made supernally good in the Resurrection. The second Coming will constitute the eucatastrophe of Christian history, since the fearful losses wrought at Armageddon will mark the beginning of Life Eternal ("On Fairy-Stories" 85-86).

Lewis was acutely aware of this last and most important disjunction - namely, that, for all its continuity with things pagan, the Gospel remains a scandal and an offense. Toward the end of The Screwtape Letters, for example, the satanic subverter resorts to his most radical subterfuge. Having failed to seduce his Christian "patient" with the temptations of the world and the flesh, Screwtape resorts directly to the demonic. he urges his minion Wormwood to coax the young Christian into an obsession with the "historical Jesus" - that vacuous figure whom one can invest with one's own interests and prejudices. Screwtape admits that Jesus was an eminent teacher and moral exemplar, but he also concedes that these historical roles were not his essence: "The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had." Screwtape knows, with terrible satanic clarity, that Christ's uniqueness as Savior and Lord is destroyed as soon as one neglects this bedrock foundation for lesser concerns. Hence his encouragement of the Christian convert to abandon this scandalous distinctiveness in favor of various amalgams - "Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Vegetarianism [ . . . .]" (The Screwtape Letters 86-7, 91).

In a 1958 essay on the Psalms, Lewis implicitly acknowledged that he himself may sometimes have defended such an amalgamated faith - in his case, it might be called Christianity and Ethics. Surprisingly and severely, Lewis now qualified his earlier praise for the Tao as the ageless and universally agreed-upon moral norms that unite all cultures and religions. Lewis noticed that the most scandalous of the biblical summonses - the one found in the book of Proverbs no less than the Gospels: to feed and forgive the enemy - is an alien notion to the Confucian philosopher no less than to the Hellenistic worshipper. Lewis also confessed that his beloved classical thinkers, "so civilized, tolerant, humane, and enlightened, every now and then reveal that they are divided from us [Christians] by a gulf. Hence the eternal roguish tittering about pederasty in Plato or the hard pride that makes Aristotle's Ethics in places almost comic." Lewis added, even more thornily, that the Psalmists, "these same fanatical and homicidal Hebrews, and not the more enlightened peoples [ . . . ] are our predecessors, and the only predecessors we can find in antiquity" ("The Psalms" 116).

Here, I submit, is the common ground on which the two most prominent Inklings both stood, though Tolkien somewhat more firmly than Lewis: the sure footage of God's self-identification in the Jews, in Jesus Christ, and finally in the Church. For all its commonalty with things ancient and pagan, Christian revelation remains the scandalously particular, the radically offensive, the unassimilable Good News. Lewis and Tolkien profoundly converged in their commitment to this "gospel of God," as Paul calls it in Romans 1:1. Their common Faith gives their work its perduring interest, even if they were committed to it in often-conflicting ways.


1) Tolkien also refused to provide any Christian eschatology for his pre-Christian epic. At the end, Frodo and Gandalf sail for the Grey Havens, where they will enter the earthly paradise of Valinor. There they will have a peaceful but not an eternally blessed existence. At the end of all things, Valinor too shall fall. Tolkien the Christian knows that the second Coming will bring a new heaven no less than a new earth. In The Last Battle, by contrast, Lewis provides the actual eucatastrophe that Tolkien believed fairy-stories could only adumbrate.

2) I have sought to show the superiority of Lewis's imaginative over his rationalist work in "The Baptized Imagination: C.S. Lewis's Fictional Apologetics," Christian Century 112, 25 (August 30-September 6, 1995): 812-15.

3) Lewis also made this rending confession: "I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one's faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as the one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate [ . . . .] We apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually [ . . . ] from Christian apologetics to Christ himself (qtd in Griffin 244).

4) I owe my acknowledgement of these communitarian moments in Lewis to Mark Long and Gil Meilaender who, as vigorous Lewis enthusiasts and apologists, have corrected other one-sided emphases of mine. Yet it is not unfair to wonder whether certain non-ecclesial evangelicals, ignoring this stress on community in Lewis, are drawn to the individualist quality of his work because they interpret Christian faith as largely a private and individual relationship to Jesus rather than a public and communal incorporation into the Body of Christ.

5) Mark A. Noll, "C.S. Lewis's 'Mere Christianity' (the Book and the Ideal) at the End of the Twentieth Century," unpublished essay. Even so expansive a definition of "mere Christianity" elides the enormous differences between Catholics and Protestants concerning the Marian dogmas.

6) Tolkien blamed Charles Williams for the hyper-Platonic turn which Lewis took in That Hideous Strength, believing it to have had disastrous effects on the last volume of the space trilogy.

7) I gratefully confess my debt to Matthews Grant for these references.

8) Lewis might also have cited Descartes's celebrated claim that the aim of modern science is to render us "masters and possessors of nature."

9) Tolkien occasionally spoke of "magic" and the "supernatural" in a positive sense, declaring that fairy-stories "open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe" ("On Fairy-Stories," 56).

10) Yet, at least in The Discarded Image, Lewis rejected such a flight from history. There he describes the medieval world-view as having its own internal consistency and integrity, rather than subjecting it to universalizing categories. The English poet John Heath-Stubbs confessed to me, in a 1988 interview, that he became a Christian largely from hearing Lewis deliver these lectures at Oxford. They convinced him that the ancient Christian outlook was more cogent and persuasive than the naturalist and materialist world-view of modernity.

Works Cited

Birzer, Bradley J. J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth. Wilmington DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2002.

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends. Boston MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.

---. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

Davies, Brian, O.P. The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. Oxford UK: Oxford UP, 1992.

Farrer, Austin. "The Christian Apologist." Light on C.S. Lewis. Ed. Jocelyn Gibb. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1965.

Griffin, William. Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life. San Francisco CA: Harper & Row, 1986.

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Mitchell, Christopher. "Bearing the Weight of Glory: The Cost of C.S. Lewis's Witness." The Pilgrim 's Guide: C.S. Lewis and the Art of Witness. Ed. David Mills. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

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Noll, Mark A. "C.S. Lewis's 'Mere Christianity'' (the Book and the Ideal) at the End of the Twentieth Century," unpublished essay.

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Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

---. "On Fairy-Stories." The Tolkien Reader. New York: Ballantine, 1966.

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Wood, Ralph C. "The Baptized Imagination: C.S. Lewis's Fictional Apologetics." Christian Century 112, 25 (August 30-September 6, 1995): 812-15.