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

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