Brothers and Friends

[Jack and Warnie as boys in Northern Ireland]

Warnie has been home since before Christmas and is now retired... He has become a permanent member of our household and I hope we shall pass the rest of our lives together.  He has settled down as easily as a man settles into a chair, and what between his reading and working in the garden finds himself busy from morning till night.  He and I are making a path through the lower wood - first along the shore of the pond and then turning away from it up through the birch trees and rejoining at the top the ordinary track up the hill.  It is very odd and delightful to be engaged on this sort of thing together: the last time we tried to make a path together was in the field at Little Lea when he was at Malvern and I was at Cherbourg.  We both have a feeling that 'the wheel has come full circuit', that the period of wanderings is over, and that everything which has happened between 1914 and 1932 was an interruption: tho' not without a consciousness that it is dangerous for mere mortals to expect anything of the future with confidence.  We make a very contented family together.

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II
Letter to Arthur Greeves (February 4, 1933)

Of Puffins and Hobbits

From a letter to Rayner Unwin
10 December 1960

 [Puffin Books had offered to publish a paperback edition of The Hobbit.]

Thank you for your news of the 'Puffin' offer, and your advice.  I may safely leave the decision to your own wisdom.  The chances of profit or loss, in cash or otherwise, are evidently neatly balanced.  If you wish to know my personal feelings: I am no longer able to ignore cash-profit, even to the odd £100, but I do share your reluctance to cheapen the old Hobbit.  Unless the profit or advantage is clear, I would much rather leave him to amble along; and he still shows a good walking-pace.  And I am not fond of Puffins or Penguins or other soft-shelled fowl: they eat other birds' eggs, and are better left to vacated nests.

The Search for the House

He sat back, lit a cigarette, and turned to other work, till, somewhere about half-past eight, Pewitt also rang up. Pewitt was a young fellow who was being tried on the mere mechanics of this kind of work, and he had been sent up to the Finchley Road not more than two hours earlier, having been engaged on another job for most of the day. His voice now sounded depressed and worried.

"Pewitt speaking," he said, when the Commissioner had announced himself. "I'm--I'm in rather a hole, sir. I--we--can't find the house."

"Can't what ?" his chief asked.

"Can't find the house, sir," Pewitt repeated. "I know it sounds silly, but it's the simple truth. It doesn't seem to be there."

The Assistant Commissioner blinked at the telephone. "Are you mad or merely idiotic, Pewitt?" he asked. "I did think you'd got the brains of a peewit, anyhow, if not much more. Have you lost the address I gave you or what?"

"No, sir," Pewitt said, "I've got the address all right--Lord Mayor's Street. It was a chemist's, you said. But there doesn't seem to be a chemist's there. Of course, the fog makes it difficult, but still, I don't think it is there."

"The fog?" the Commissioner said.

"It's very thick up here in North London," Pewitt answered, "very thick indeed."

"Are you sure you're in the right street?" his chief asked.

"Certain, sir. The constable on duty is here too. He seems to remember the shop, sir, but he can't find it, either. All we can find, sir, is--"

"Stop a minute," the Commissioner interrupted. He rang his bell and sent for a Directory; then, having found it, he went on. "Now go ahead. Where do you begin?"

"George Giddings, grocer."


"Samuel Murchison, confectioner."


"Mrs. Thorogood, apartments."

"Damn it, man," the Commissioner exploded, "you've just gone straight over it. Dimitri Lavrodopoulos, chemist."

"But it isn't, sir," Pewitt said unhappily. "The fog's very thick, but we couldn't have missed a whole shop."

"But Colonel Conyers has been there," the Commissioner shouted, "been there and talked with this infernal fellow. Good God above, it must be there! You're drunk, Pewitt."

"I feel as if I was, sir," the mournful voice said, "groping about in this, but I'm not. I've looked at the Directory myself, sir, and it's all right there. But it's not all right here. The house has simply disappeared."

Charles Williams
War in Heaven (1930)

Planet Narnia

Secret theme behind Narnia Chronicles is based upon the stars, says new research

The hidden theme behind CS Lewis' Narnia books has finally been uncovered, according to a BBC documentary [But read my postings on this Weblog from July/August 2006]

Each of the seven children's chronicles is based on one of the seven planets that comprised the heavens in medieval astrology, says a scholar whose theory is examined in the programme.  The explanation comes after more than five decades of literary and theological debate over whether Lewis devised the fantasies with a pattern in mind or created characters and events at random.

It is put forward by Reverend Dr Michael Ward, in his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of CS Lewis.

Norman Stone, director and producer of The Narnia Code, to be screened on BBC2 at Easter, says the theory is the "best explanation yet" for the chimerical nature of the books.

The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 120m copies in 41 languages since their first publication in the early 1950s first of the books, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was turned into a film starring Tilda Swinton and James McAvoy in 2005.

The books are already known to work on two levels: the fantasy narrative enjoyed by generations of children, and the Christian allegory in which the lion Aslan represents Christ.  However, Lewis never revealed the hidden key behind the series.

Dr Ward made his discovery in 2003 after reading The Planets, a poem by Lewis which refers to the influence of Jupiter in "winter passed / And guilt forgiv'n" – a theme echoed in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

He claims Lewis' knowledge of medieval history, of which he was one of the leading scholars, made him familiar with the characteristics attributed to the seven planets during the period.  Each of these planets gives one of the books its theme.  Prince Caspian, for example, is a story ruled by Mars, who is manifested by soldiery and battle, while The Voyage of the Dawn Treader focuses on the Sun, with its light and gold themes.  In The Horse and His Boy, based on Mercury, the planet that rules the star sign Gemini and is associated with the power of communication, the characters include twins and a talking horse. 

Mr Stone said: "This isn't the first theory on Narnia and I don't suppose it will be the last but this is the best explanation yet.

"Critics of Lewis said his writing was sloppy - Tolkein, for example, said the characters were a mish-mash - but this third level of meaning shows the books were not simplistic.  In fact, writing such a complex set of notions into a novel must have been like three-dimensional chess.  "Lewis was a great medievalist - a real expert on the period.  He was also interested in astrology.  He loved the medieval view of the world.  His view of faith was also that if it is to be anything it must be cosmic."

He added: "This will help change the view of Lewis.  It will help elevate Lewis to a different level and make him the equal of Tolkien - both as a writer and thinker.  He felt that we have been blinded by facts, but he loved hiding things.  He loved the idea that people learnt more by discovering things themselves, especially hidden things.  A lot of the meaning of God is after all hidden."

Sunday Telegraph (London) – 30 November 2008 

To Charles Williams

On this day in 1945, C. S. Lewis' friend, fellow Inkling and author, Charles Williams, died suddenly at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford.


Your death blows a strange bugle call, friend, and all is hard
To see plainly or record truly. The new light imposes change,
Re-adjusts all a life-landscape as it thrusts down its probe from the sky,
To create shadows, to reveal waters, to erect hills and deepen glens.
The slant alters. I can't see the old contours. It's a larger world
Than I once thought it. I wince, caught in the bleak air that blows on the ridge.
Is it the first sting of the great winter, the world-waning? Or the cold of spring?

A hard question and worth talking a whole night on.
But with whom? Of whom now can I ask guidance? With what friend concerning your death
Is it worth while to exchange thoughts unless—oh unless it were you?

CS Lewis
Poems (Bles 1964)

Lay of the Children of Húrin

Tolkien loved archaic language, in which he often used far beyond the tolerance of the modern reader, when he wrote alliterative verse. He sometimes succumbed to all the temptations the alliterative form offers to a literary scholar: the opportunity to use archaic words to meet the alliterative requirements, the temptation to distort the syntax to meet the rhythmic demands of Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter, and various other sins less besetting, such as the temptation to include filler material for the sake of the meter. However, once tuned into Tolkien's world, the difficulties fall away in a plethora of wonderful, and often terrifying images:

Then Thalion was thrust to Thangorodrim,
that mountain that meets the misty skies
on high o'er the hills that Hithlum sees
blackly brooding on the borders of the north,
To a stool of stone on its steepest peak
they bound him in bonds, an unbreakable chain,
and the Lord of Woe there laughing stood,
then cursed him for ever and his kin and seed
with a doom of dread, of death and horror.
There the mighty man unmoved sat;
but unveiled was his vision, that he viewed afar
all earthly things with his eyes enchanted
that fell on his folk- a fiend's torment. 

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lays of Beleriand*
(The Lay of the Children of Húrin, lines 92-104)

*If I might interpose a comment (which is VERY unusual for me), I believe that in "The Lays of Beleriand" one is closer to Tolkien's sub-creation than in any other of his works.  (Roger R.)

Grasping at... what?

Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more - food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else more.

Most of us find it very difficult to want "Heaven" at all - except in so far as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise (...) There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity Chapter 10 (1952)

A (Video) interview with JRRT (1968)

Some great archival footage just released from BBC on Tolkien that was first aired in 1968.

from "The Triumph Of The Angelicals"

She was where he had left her, but dreadful change was coming over her.  Her body was writhing into curves and knots where she lay, as if cramps convulsed her. Her mouth was open but she could not scream: her hands were clutching at her twisted throat.  In her wild eyes there was now no malice, only an agony, and gradually all her body and head were drawn up backwards from the floor by an invisible force, so that from her hips she remained rigidly upright and her legs lay stretched straight out behind her up on the ground, as if a serpent in human shape raised itself before him.  The sight drove him backwards; he turned his face away, and prayed with all his strength to the Maker of the Celestials.  From that refuge he looked again, and saw her convulsed and convulsed with spasms of anguish.  But now the very colour of her skin was changing; it became blotched and blurred with black and yellow and green; not only that but it seemed distended about her. Her face rounded out till it was perfectly smooth, with no hollows or depressions, and from her nostrils and her mouth something was thrusting out.  In and out of her neck and hands another skin was forming over or under her own?  He could not distinguish which, but growing through it, here a coating. there an underveiling.  Another and an inhuman tongue was flickering out over a human lips, and the legs were twisted and thrown from side to side as if something prisoned in them were attempting to escape.  For all that lower violence her body did not fall, nor indeed, but for a slight swaying, did it much move. Her arms were interlocked in front of her, the extreme ends of her fingers touched the ground between her thighs.  But they too were drawn inwards; the stuff of her dress was rending in places; and wherever it rent and hung aside he could see that other curiously-toned skin shining behind it.  A black shadow was on her face; a huge shape was emerging from it, from her, growing larger and larger as the Domination she had invoked freed itself from the will and the mind and the body that had given it a place where it could find the earth for its immaterialization. No longer a woman but a serpent indeed surged before him in the darkening room, bursting and breaking from the woman's shape behind it. It curved and twined itself in the last achievements of liberty; there came through the silence that had accompanied that transmutation a sound as if some slight thing had dropped to the floor, and the Angelic energy was wholly free.

It was free. It glided a little forward, and its head turned lowly from side to side. Richardson stood up and faced it. The subtle eyes gazed at him, without hostility, without friendship, remote and alien. He looked back, wordlessly calling on the Maker and End of all created energies. Images poured through his brain in an unceasing riot; questions such as Anthony had recounted to him propounded themselves; there seemed to be a million things he might do, and he did none of them. He remembered the Will beyond all the makings; then with a tremendous effort he shut out even that troublesome idea of the Will--an invented word, a mortal thought--and, as far as he could, was not before what was. It had mercy on him; he saw the great snake begin to move again, and then he fainted right away.

The Place of the Lion (1933)
Charles Williams