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Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby A#minor » 07 Mar 2006, 17:16

Larry W. wrote:There is also some poetry in The Hobbit-- usually brief songs. Sometimes you wonder if this should have been left out since Tolkien was much better at prose than poetry.

I think his poetry is marvelous. I love every bit of it and I wish there were more. But, each to his own, I suppose. :grin:

It certainly isn't full of hidden meaning like Lewis' poetry. I like Tolkien's poetry b/c it doesn't pretend to be anything great and deep. It's just fun and tells a story.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Lirenel » 06 Apr 2009, 21:38

I know this topic's been dead awhile, but I came across another point of view and was wondering what people think about it. It's an article by Eric Seddon titled "Letters to Malcolm And the Trouble With Narnia: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their 1949 Crisis" in the journal...Mythopeia, I think. Anyway, Seddon pondered the question on why Tolkien disliked Narnia with quite a few points, only some of which I'll mention here. He also tried to disprove some of the assumptions behind the disagreement.

* Assumption 1: That Tolkien was jealous of Lewis's fast writing - Seddon basically says that Tolkien knew Lewis could write fast, and that he'd been doing it forever and there wasn't a hint that Tolkien was jealous of this.

* Assumption 2: Tolkien disliked the eclectic mythologies that Lewis used - Seddon points out that Tolkien had no problem with the Space Trilogy's mix of "Plato, Arthurian legend, direct parallels to Christian theology, and a multitude of stylistic and philosophical sources...". Basically, he says that Tolkien already knew that the mixing was just Lewis's style and had seen, and approved of, it before.

Seddon then goes on to examine Letters to Malcolm and tries to establish that Lewis became more outspoken about his disagreements with Catholic theology later in his life. I've never read Letters to Malcolm, so I can't comment on this, though the quotes he used seem to help his argument (of course, I know that quotes without complete context can be taken pretty much any way you want).

Then Seddon turns to Narnia and gives his opinions about what some of Tolkien's objections to LWW and Narnia might have been. One was the lack of a Eucharist element in LWW, since the Eucharist was very important to Tolkien and a key element of Catholicism. He quotes Mr. Beaver talking about how Aslan is here one day and gone the next as specifically implying that Christ is not always 'present', which is impossible in a Catholic context. Seddon admits, though, that the quote could be talking about cycles of spiritual dryness or something else more allegorical.

Anyway, the point I thought most intriguing was Seddon's thoughts on the nature of Aslan. He says "Simply put, if Aslan is supposed to be Christ himself, operating in a parallel universe, than Lewis has presented Christ with an illusory body, appearing here as human, there as lion," which objects to the orthodox Christian theology that Christ is fully God and fully human and his "body is not arbitrary, nor illusory, but real." Basically, that Christ can't be a Lion in another universe, because the definition of Christ is the man-who-is-God who was born of the Virgin Mary in Palestine during the reign of Augustus. Seddon thought that Tolkien would find this "profoundly disturbing", even if he couldn't articulate why he didn't like it, and that is one of the reasons he just disliked LWW and Narnia in general.

Not sure what I think of the argument. Most of the time, I don't take literary criticism of fiction seriously because it's just a story and sometimes an apple is an apple. But since Lewis did make Narnia semi-allegorical, or supposal, I thought it deserved some thought.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby archenland_knight » 05 Mar 2010, 20:45

Lirenel wrote:Anyway, the point I thought most intriguing was Seddon's thoughts on the nature of Aslan. He says "Simply put, if Aslan is supposed to be Christ himself, operating in a parallel universe, than Lewis has presented Christ with an illusory body, appearing here as human, there as lion," which objects to the orthodox Christian theology that Christ is fully God and fully human and his "body is not arbitrary, nor illusory, but real." Basically, that Christ can't be a Lion in another universe, because the definition of Christ is the man-who-is-God who was born of the Virgin Mary in Palestine during the reign of Augustus.



:stunned: :think: :read:

You know ... I had never thought of that. I don't know what Tolkien thought of it but ... well .... now I'm a little bothered by it. It's a good point, you know. The whole concept of the Hypostatic Union is that Christ was both 100% God and 100% human ... truly, really, actually human, just as human as you or I. What shall we say then, if he be a lion as well?

Of course, in the end CoN is just a story. Wardrobes aren't really portals to other realities (believe me, I've tried), and there are no talking beavers. If someone were to suggested that Christ really did show up somewhere as a lion, this would be a good argument against that. As part of a children's story, told with the understanding that it is fantasy and not reality ... well, I can still see the objection, but it becomes far less important.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Michael » 07 Mar 2010, 23:54

OT: Were they still good friends after Tolkien's criticism? Just wondering?
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Tumnus's Books » 08 Mar 2010, 01:28

archenland_knight wrote:
Lirenel wrote:Anyway, the point I thought most intriguing was Seddon's thoughts on the nature of Aslan. He says "Simply put, if Aslan is supposed to be Christ himself, operating in a parallel universe, than Lewis has presented Christ with an illusory body, appearing here as human, there as lion," which objects to the orthodox Christian theology that Christ is fully God and fully human and his "body is not arbitrary, nor illusory, but real." Basically, that Christ can't be a Lion in another universe, because the definition of Christ is the man-who-is-God who was born of the Virgin Mary in Palestine during the reign of Augustus.



:stunned: :think: :read:

You know ... I had never thought of that. I don't know what Tolkien thought of it but ... well .... now I'm a little bothered by it. It's a good point, you know. The whole concept of the Hypostatic Union is that Christ was both 100% God and 100% human ... truly, really, actually human, just as human as you or I. What shall we say then, if he be a lion as well?

Of course, in the end CoN is just a story. Wardrobes aren't really portals to other realities (believe me, I've tried), and there are no talking beavers. If someone were to suggested that Christ really did show up somewhere as a lion, this would be a good argument against that. As part of a children's story, told with the understanding that it is fantasy and not reality ... well, I can still see the objection, but it becomes far less important.


I think you two are forgetting the origins of Narnia. Think back to the Magician's Nephew: was "man" supposed to be there in the first place? Digory, Polly, and Uncle Andrew were using magic rings and hopping from world to world out of their own conflicts/interests, not by the grace of God. Narnia was originally a land of talking animals, which would make "Christ as lion" perfectly reasonable. I think it is important to remember the non-allegorical aspects of Chronicles: Lewis imagined a scenario in which if Christ came to another world, what would that be like? Therefore, even though the Hypostatic Union has extreme importance in our world, it does not really have the same priority in Narnia.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby teomiriam » 17 Mar 2010, 18:55

I always thought C.S. Lewis made the perfect choice in representing God as a lion, it's a beautiful image of the almighty God. And Jesus is called "The Lion of Judah" several times in the Bible (I am too lazy now to look for an instance), but I'm almost sure this is what Lewis hinted at when he made Aslan a lion. In the last story of Narnia, The Last Battle Aslan appears in the form of a lamb, which also tied perfectly with the image of Jesus as the Lamb of God. And then the lion is just symbol for God, it shouldn't be taken so literally, methinks :smile:
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Adam Linton » 18 Mar 2010, 10:49

Lirenel wrote:I know this topic's been dead awhile, but I came across another point of view and was wondering what people think about it. It's an article by Eric Seddon titled "Letters to Malcolm And the Trouble With Narnia: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their 1949 Crisis" in the journal...Mythopeia, I think. Anyway, Seddon pondered the question on why Tolkien disliked Narnia with quite a few points, only some of which I'll mention here. He also tried to disprove some of the assumptions behind the disagreement.

* Assumption 1: That Tolkien was jealous of Lewis's fast writing - Seddon basically says that Tolkien knew Lewis could write fast, and that he'd been doing it forever and there wasn't a hint that Tolkien was jealous of this.

* Assumption 2: Tolkien disliked the eclectic mythologies that Lewis used - Seddon points out that Tolkien had no problem with the Space Trilogy's mix of "Plato, Arthurian legend, direct parallels to Christian theology, and a multitude of stylistic and philosophical sources...". Basically, he says that Tolkien already knew that the mixing was just Lewis's style and had seen, and approved of, it before. [...]


I haven't read Seddon's article, but a couple of quick comments, coming from my reading of Tolkien's Letters:

1) There is ample evidence that Tolkien did have problems with what he thought was Lewis' too voluminous, too quickly produced writing, and,

2) Tolkien, in fact, had major problems with the Space Trilogy, especially That Hideous Strength, which Tolkien said that had been ruined by Lewis' mixing of myth (under the influence, according to Tolkien, of Charles Williams).

I'll look up the exact citations later...
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Lirenel » 19 Mar 2010, 02:30

See, I actually heard that Tolkien liked the Space Trilogy, despite the mixture of mythology. Actually, it might have been the Seddon article...
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby galion » 19 Mar 2010, 17:58

Well, he certainly didn't dislike OOTSP. In Perelandra I think he was irritated by the names Tor and Tinidril, which he thought had been lifted from his (at that time unpublished) tale of Gondolin, with Tuor and Idril. The Williams comment I'm pretty sure referred to THS only.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Adam Linton » 19 Mar 2010, 19:44

galion wrote:Well, he certainly didn't dislike OOTSP. In Perelandra I think he was irritated by the names Tor and Tinidril, which he thought had been lifted from his (at that time unpublished) tale of Gondolin, with Tuor and Idril. The Williams comment I'm pretty sure referred to THS only.


Yes, to fine-tune it. This is what I understand, as well.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby galion » 19 Mar 2010, 21:02

And to make the tuning even finer, since posting I have actually checked, and find that in a letter of 1944 to his son Christopher Tolkien remarks of his daughter Priscilla: "She's just read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra; and with good taste prefers the latter." So despite the presumed name ripoff Tolkien was keen on Perelandra as well.

Interestingly the letter goes on to say that Priscilla (aged 15 at the time) has difficulty in believing that Ransom is not meant to be a portrait of her father!
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby moordarjeeling » 07 Jun 2010, 06:52

Larry W. wrote:I just wondered what would have happened if at one of their meetings Lewis would say, "Read this copy of my new book-- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and tell me what me what you think of it.


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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby moordarjeeling » 07 Jun 2010, 06:56

Adam Linton wrote:2) Tolkien, in fact, had major problems with the Space Trilogy, especially That Hideous Strength, which Tolkien said that had been ruined by Lewis' mixing of myth (under the influence, according to Tolkien, of Charles Williams).


Haven't read much Tolkien, but I do see a lot of Charles Williams in THS. (And a lot of THS in GOOD OMENS, parody that is ;-) )
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby moordarjeeling » 07 Jun 2010, 07:10

teomiriam wrote:And Jesus is called "The Lion of Judah" several times in the Bible (I am too lazy now to look for an instance), but I'm almost sure this is what Lewis hinted at when he made Aslan a lion.


It may have been more like the other way around. Lewis was having nightmares about a giant lion. Making the lion Jesus may have been the afterthought.
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Re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby cyranorox » 09 Jun 2010, 15:49

iirc, Aslan is a docetic lion- at the end, the lion-form is shown to have been to some extent an appearance, and the Person is revealed in His true [undescribed] form. This would seem to solve the true-body problem in Lewis's favor. I don't mean to say that his sacrifice was unreal, though, but that it mystically participated in the original sacrifice before the worlds.

Moreover, "the Body of Christ" is more than His resurrected form- it is the body of the membership, the Eucharist, and possibly more. While He is a man, He has appeared as a child to numerous saints, which is odd and paradoxical - where is the form of the child now? - but not contested by the Church. Ransom is said to be an extension of the Body of Christ. With all this variety, I don't think the form of a lion is very much of a problem.
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