Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary, My Love

Today is the 19th anniversary of being married to my best friend, lover, and partner in everything. She has had to put up with a lot of crap in the last 19 years. She is God's greatest physical embodiment of mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, joy, partnership, and perseverance to me. I can more easily believe that God is real and good by looking at the gift of my wife. I hope I have not turned her into an idol, but have loved her as God's gift to me. I exalt him and thank him for her, all the while striving (not so well) to love her like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25-33).

Happy Anniversary, my love.

By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly.

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by 'the veil of familiarity'. The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves. This book [The Lord of the Rings] applies the treatment not only to bread or apple but to good and evil, to our endless perils, our anguish, and our joys. By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly. I do not think he [Tolkien] could have done it any other way.

—C. S. Lewis, "Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 90.

The wine of life was drawn long since.

But in the Tolkienian world you can hardly put your foot down anywhere from Esgaroth to Forlindon or between Ered Mithrin and Khand, without stirring the dust of history. Our own world, except at certain rare moments, hardly seems so heavy with its past. This is one element in the anguish which the characters bear. But with the anguish there comes also a strange exaltation. They are at once stricken and upheld by the memory of vanished civilisations and lost splendour. They have outlived the second and third Ages; the wine of life was drawn long since. As we read we find ourselves sharing their burden; when we have finished, we return to our own life not relaxed but fortified.

—C. S. Lewis, "Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 86.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Let there be wicked kings and beheadings...

Since it is so likely that they [children growing up in this world] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened.

—C. S. Lewis, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, pp. 39-40.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No apology for good kid's books

It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one's adult enjoyment of what are called 'children's books'. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for creme de methe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.

—C. S. Lewis, "On Stories," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 14.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A splintered fragment of true light

Until, that is, he came under the altogether benign influence of a fellow don at Oxford, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien. Not only was Tolkien a Christian, but, as Lewis explained in a letter to Greeves, one of the human carriers of the Faith to him. The actual event took place on the evening of the 19th September 1931, when Lewis, Tolkien, and another friend, Hugo Dyson, were up all night discussing 'myth' and its relation to the revelation of God in Christ. Tolkien, like Lewis, had long feasted on ancient myths, particularly those of Norse origin. The difference between them was that while Lewis defined myths as 'lies breathed through silver', Tolkien—already at work on his vast invented world of Middle Earth—believed in the inherent truth of mythology. 'Just as speech is invention about objects and ideas', he said to Lewis that same evening, 'so myth is invention about truth. We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a "sub-creator" and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.'*

*Humphrey Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (1977), ch. IV.

—Walter Hooper, Preface, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, by C. S. Lewis, pp. xiii–xiv

That boy's not all cotton fluff, is he?

"You know," Henry said. He was talking more to himself than the faerie, trying to believe something. "A man once told me that sometimes winning a fight isn't as important as standing in the right place, facing what needs to be faced. And sometimes standing in the right place means you end up dead. And that's better than not standing at all." Henry twisted around and looked into the fat faerie's dark eyes.

"Oh," Frank said. "That's a dark bit of philosophy for a lad. Think that way, and all you'll ever get is your name written on a bit of stone. What I say is, don't go playing unless you can win. Only sit down to chess with idiots, only kick a dog what's dead already, and don't love a lady unless she loves you first. That's Franklin Fat-Faerie's—"

Henry was gone.

Frank puffed out his cheeks and pulled a thread from his pocket. "Well, Franklin, that boy's not all cotton fluff, is he?" He began tying the thread around one of the supporting sticks. "He's got it pretty well figured, and you know it. We're all going to get ourselves dead, and only the gulls will want our after-bits. But," he added, tugging gently on the thread, "I'll do my dying standing on the right spot, beside the son of Mordecai, even if he is a bit of a nunce."

—N. D. Wilson, Dandelion Fire, pp. 371–375

Because it is right to do so

Ron was silent for a moment. Then he spoke. "Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself."

—N. D. Wilson, Dandelion Fire, pp. 172–173