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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 Marcus_P_Hagen » 31 Jan 2006, 16:27

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


Actually, CSL said that they all read draft portions of their works in progress aloud to the group. The comments were definitely "no holds barred". Lewis recollected that while he had definitely been influenced by the comments of other members, Tolkien would either apparently ignore comments or else completely rewrite the selection in question.

It was much more "up close and personal" than simply asking someone to read it and get back with comments. The whole process reminds me of the Proverb "faithful are the wounds of a friend".

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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby jo » 31 Jan 2006, 16:57

@LarryW - yes you're right, Lewis certainly understood how to tell a simple and yet enthralling story better than Tolkien (I found the Hobbit, which is supposedly a children's book, much too heavy for me as a child). Maybe the two simply shouldn't be compared because, although both very talented, there is nothing really comparable about their major works of fiction :)
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Kolbitar » 18 Feb 2006, 18:21

:: If I'd compare Tolkien and Lewis, I'd say Deep and Wide. Tolkien was deep. Lewis was wide. Tolkien had a very narrow range of sympathies in one area, whereas Lewis loved more and more widely. (This doesn't make one better than the other, just different.)

Hello Monica! That is an excellent observation (exclamation)

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

Postby Monica » 18 Feb 2006, 20:26

Kolbitar wrote:Hello Monica! That is an excellent observation


I don't suppose you're the Jesse who used to post here -- changing your name to (the very appropriate) Kolbitar?

Either way, thank you very much for your remark.
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Kolbitar » 19 Feb 2006, 00:37

:: I don't suppose you're the Jesse who used to post here -- changing your name to (the very appropriate) Kolbitar?

Yes, the same Jesse who invoked that paranoia panic way back when, finding you-know-who behind every screen name :blush: . It's good to see you around, I've missed your contributions.

You've heard of "Kolbitar", eh? Many, I'm sure, haven't the slightest inkling ;) .

I hope all is well with you...
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Monica » 20 Feb 2006, 14:22

Kolbitar wrote:It's good to see you around.


Jesse, it is you! Hi. :-) I left for a year or more after Dr. Zeus changed to this complicated, hard-to-navigate format. My boat is constantly capsizing on the waves of too much text.


You've heard of "Kolbitar", eh?


No credit to me. I live in Canada, eh? We know all about getting that close to the fire in winter.

Good to talk to you.
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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby jo » 20 Feb 2006, 20:12

LOl I just presumed it was jesse's last name. HI to both of you though!!!!
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Kolbitar » 20 Feb 2006, 21:29

Hey jo!

:: I just presumed it was jesse's last name.

If I could change my name I think I'd go with Henry Shepherd -- maybe a pen name someday...

I hope you're also doing well...
The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before. --Chesterton

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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby alecto » 06 Mar 2006, 16:46

I have heard pieces of a debate. It was long, long ago so I can't remember the details anymore. I know Tolkien has said something like "I don't like allegories in any form" and Lewis has said something like "Narnia stories are not allegories, they're supposals," where a supposal is an alternate world with different initial conditions, i.e. an long answer to a question like "suppose there were a land of talking animals and Christ needed to go there to redeem it. How would this work out?" I remember these being a critique and counter concerning Narnia. In any case, since many would call the Chronicles allegory, including, possibly, Tolkien, then we could say he criticized them because they were allegory. This of course begs the question, why didn't Tolkien like allegory? It's probably not just the child-story thing, since there were allegorical fantasy stories that were not for children, and he chose allegory to dislike, not just children's stories.
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Re: re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Marcus_P_Hagen » 06 Mar 2006, 18:06

alecto wrote:This of course begs the question, why didn't Tolkien like allegory? It's probably not just the child-story thing, since there were allegorical fantasy stories that were not for children, and he chose allegory to dislike, not just children's stories.


Well, in the preface to LotR, he says it's because the meaning of an allegory is imposed by the author on the reader. Tolkien preferred history "real or feigned" with its "varied applicability" dependent on the reader's own interpretation.

Perhaps part of the reason that Lewis wrote true allegory (the Pilgrim's Regress is an example) is that he felt an obligation to lead the reader in a particular direction. He wrote that readers are like sheep who will escape at any opportunity, and that it is the job of the author to close off all escapes from his intended meaning -- although I think this was as much because he was thinking of the arguments in his works of apologetics, as for any other reason.

As a writer of "story", both Tolkien & Lewis afford considerable freedom to the reader.
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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby A#minor » 06 Mar 2006, 18:15

Tolkien wrote in 1964, "It is sad that "Narnia" and all that part of C.S.L.'s work should remain outside the range of my sympathy, as much as my work was outside his." - J.R.R.Tolkien:ABiography by Humphrey Carpenter

I think he was especially critical of Lewis' books, b/c Lewis had been so critical of LOTR, "especially the poetry" Carpenter tells us.
Tolkien found George MacDonald's book, The Golden Key, far less to his taste than he had recalled, and noted that it was 'ill-written, incoherent, and bad, in spite of a few memorable passages'. (Indeed Tolkien had none of C.S.Lewis's passionate devotion to Macdonald; he liked the Curdie books, but found much of Macdonald's writing spoilt for him by its moral allegorical content.) - J.R.R.Tolkien:ABiography by Humphrey Carpenter
Well, he didn't limit his dislike of allegory only to Lewis' writings evidently.
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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Larry W. » 07 Mar 2006, 02:31

Many fans of Lewis's books are also fans of Tolkien's, but strangely enough, Lewis and Tolkien did not always like each other's books even though they were close friends. Did they ever know that some of their readers were puzzled about their reasons for being so critical of each others works? It makes you wonder what Lewis would have said if you asked him, "Why do you think so many people like The Lord of the Rings?" Or what would Tolkien have said if someone asked him, "Why are so many people fascinated with The Chronicles of Narnia?"

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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Adam Linton » 07 Mar 2006, 02:58

While Tolkien was not able to appreciate Narnia, Lewis did, in fact much admire TLotR, encouraged Tolkien during the writing, and offered considerable personal and critical support after its completion. (Of course, there were elements on which they disagreed, among these being the poetry [the non-alliterative, especially].
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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby A#minor » 07 Mar 2006, 04:16

I don't think Tolkien would have been able to finish LOTR if not for the encouragement (and criticism) of people like Lewis, probably mostly Lewis.
And I have to wonder if Lewis would have thought to write CON without the idea of writing children's "fairy tales" from Tolkien. Tolkien always thought that Lewis gained a great deal of his inspiration for CON from Tolkien's ideas.
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re: Tolkien's Criticism of The Chronicles of Narnia

Postby Larry W. » 07 Mar 2006, 12:42

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. But then, since Middle Earth had its own songs and literature-- a culture of its own-- I guess it's appropriate to have something like that in the books. Lewis didn't put much verse in the Narnia books-- just a few sayings like "Wrong shall be right when Aslan comes in sight.." and Reepicheep's "When the waves grow sweet, doubt not Reepicheep, there is the utter east" (not really a poem but a poetic saying). There is also a poem called Narnian Suite in Lewis' Poems. He may have thought verse would slow down the story in the Narnia series so he put it in only when necessary.

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