Tag Archives: fantasy writing

J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: What harvest?


It was impossible to do a Christian History issue on J R R Tolkien without paying some notice to the flourishing genre of fantasy writing. Essentially, Tolkien created the genre with his The Lord of the Rings. Where has fantasy writing gone since Tolkien? What are some worthy members of the genre? We asked writer Aaron Belz to look into this matter, and he came back with the following fascinating report:

Christian History Corner: The Lord of the Rings: What Harvest?
A reader’s guide to the best of epic fantasy
Aaron Belz, introduced by Christian History managing editor Chris Armstrong

Early one morning last week, a Christianity Today International executive joined thousands of other Americans by driving out to a major retail chain to snag a newly advertised $15 copy of the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD. He arrived to find the bins already cleaned out.

Had he then headed to his local bookstore, our colleague would likely have found a similarly brisk trade in Tolkien’s trilogy itself. Not that those books needed Peter Jackson’s help: They long ago entered the rarified ranks of the blockbuster bestsellers.

But the millions of DVDs and books sold represent only the “camel’s nose” of Tolkien’s influence under the tent of popular culture. Continue reading

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A legendary friendship


Though my friend Colin Duriez’s book Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship is no longer new, the interview I did with him when the book came out in 2003 is still fun to read. Whether you are a casual reader of these authors or an aficionado, Duriez’s books about them are packed with revelations. See especially his various Handbooks on Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings authors who met for conversation in Lewis’s Oxford rooms. They are filled with non-trivial details–“meaty,” I’d say–and interpretive insights that help to contextualize and explain the works of these beloved authors.

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A Legendary Friendship
A new book reveals how these two famous friends conspired to bring myth and legend—and Truth—to modern readers.
Chris Armstrong

Our world would be poorer without two other worlds: Narnia and Middle-earth. Yet if two young professors had not met at an otherwise ordinary Oxford faculty meeting in 1926, those wondrous lands would still be unknown to us.

British author Colin Duriez, who wrote the article “Tollers and Jack in issue #78 of Christian History, explains why this is so in his forthcoming book Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship (Hidden Spring). Duriez tells the story of how these two brilliant authors met, discovered their common love for mythical tales, and pledged to bring such stories into the mainstream of public reading taste. Continue reading

Norman Cantor on C S Lewis on the Middle Ages


In my forthcoming book Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, a number of British writers will serve as guides into the period: C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien, G K Chesterton, Dorothy L Sayers and others. The medievalist Norman Cantor, in his 1991 book Inventing the Middle Ages, spends a chapter talking about how Lewis, Tolkien, and their Oxford colleague Frederick Maurice Powicke shaped modern views of the Middle Ages. Together he labels these men “The Oxford Fantasists.”

There is good stuff in this chapter of Cantor’s on the sort of medievalism (that is, “modern uses or construals of the Middle Ages”) that Lewis and friends (including Barfield and Williams) fashioned.

Tolkien, as medievalist, though he didn’t do much in his field apart from the fantasy writing that absorbed so much of his time, was for example “the leading scholar on the subjects of two precious fourteenth-century poems written anonymously in the Midlands, about seventy miles from Oxford, in the dialect of that region. These poems, Sir [206] Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl, are now regarded, along with Beowulf (c. 800) and the works of Chaucer (late fourteenth century), as the greatest medieval poetry in the English language. There is no more beautiful poem in any medieval language than Pearl, an allegorical elegy for a dead child. Tolkien was responsible for the definitive text of Sir Gawain, published in 1925. . . .” (205-6)

“Lewis in the war years was by far the best known of the Inklings group, both within the academic world and even more among the general public. He had established his reputation as a leading medieval literary historian with The Allegory of Love (1936), a pioneering and influential study of medieval romantic literature. . . .” (206)

“Of all the medievalists of the twentieth century, Lewis and Tolkien have gained incomparably the greatest audience, although 99.9 percent of their readers have never looked at their scholarly work. They are among the best-selling authors of modern times for their works of fantasy, adult and children’s. . . . In 1949 Jack Lewis’s smiling face graced the cover of Time magazine, and he gained a huge audience in the United States.” (207) Continue reading