The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings Quotes

For Tolkien, the Happy Ending lies at the heart of fantasy and fairy story; it is so essential to the genre that when he revised his talk for publication in Essays Presented to Charles Williams, he coined the word “eucatastrophe” for eu (Greek for good) and catastrophe (Greek for overturning) to describe those glorious volte-faces in which evil, on the verge of triumph, gives way to good, corruption to innocence, grief to rejoicing, certain death to yet more certain life. It is “a sudden and miraculous grace . . . a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” There are echoes here of Lewis’s idea of Joy, that painful, delicious longing that only God can fulfill. It may be that Lewis drew inspiration for his carefully constructed account of Joy in his autobiography from Tolkien’s earlier presentation. In any event, eucatastrophe is for Tolkien the crucial even in fairy tale, the hinge upon which the greatest stories turn, imparting “a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by reason for this “peculiar quality”: the joy that floods us as eucatastrophe leads us out of literature and into faith. Through it we glimpse “a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.” Fairy tale, then, is a door opening upon divine truth. Recovery, Consolation, Escape, in their highest modes of Escape from Death and eucatastrophe, would play a crucial role in The Lord of the Rings.  (p. 246)

[Obedience] appears to me more and more the whole business of life, the only road to love and peace –the cross and the crown in one . . . What indeed can we imagine Heaven to be but unimpeded obedience. I think this is one of the causes of our love of inanimate nature, that in it we see things which unswervingly carry out the will of their Creator, and are therefore wholly beautiful and though their kind of obedience is infinitely lower than ours, yet the degree is so much more perfect that a Christian can see the reason that the Romantics had in feeling a certain holiness in the wood and water. (p. 250 but quoting from Lewis, Collected Letters, vol. 2, p. 177)

My thought and talent (such as they are) now flow in different, though I think not less Christian, channels, and I do not think I am at all likely to write more directly theological pieces. . . If I am now good for anything it is for catching the reader unawares – thro’ fiction and symbol. I have done what I could in the way of frontal attacks, but I now feel quite sure those days are over.” p. 365

On September 19, 1931, an event unfolded that has acquired its own mythic numinosity in the minds of the Inklings lovers: The Night of Addison’s Walk. Lewis, Tolkien, and their mutual friend, Hugo Dyson, strolled for hours along Addison’s Walk – a tree-lined path within Magdalen College circling a meadow bordered by the River Cherwell – discussing the nature of myth and it relation to Christianity. Lewis insisted that myths are essentially lies; Tolkien countered that myths are essentially true, for they reflect and transmit, in secondary form, the primary and primordial creative power of God. Tolkien later reworked the conversations of that night in “Mythopoeia” a soliloquy in heroic couplets addressed by Philomythus (myth-lover=Tolkien) Misomythus (myth-hater=Lewis) and dedicated “To one who said that myths are lies and therefore worthless, even though “breathed through silver.’”

Moreover, Tolkien argued –and this was the crux of the matter –that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we discover a myth that has entered history. Here God tells – indeed, enacts – a tale with all the beauty and wonder and symbolic power of myth, and yet a tale that is actually true. It was a strange thought, but it reminded Lewis of an off-hand remark he had heard five years before from the atheist Harry Weldon. “Rum thing.” Weldon had said, “all that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” It looked as if it had really happened once – and yet it lost none of its mythic power for having become fact.

Tolkien’s exposition hit home; as he talked, a strong wind rustled the overhanging leaves, and all three noted, as Lewis put it, the ecstasy of such a thing” – almost like the passing-by of a god, or of God. At 3:00 a.m., Tolkien headed home, but Dyson sustained the offensive, delineating the blessings that come from a Christian life, as he and Lewis walked in the cloister garden of New Building. They went to bed at 4:00 a.m.


This night of Lewis’s passion – intellectual, as it must surely be – bore fruit on a sunny morning a week or so later. The key moment came as in Lewis’s conversion to theism, while he rode a vehicle, this time not a bus ascending Headington Hill but the sidecar of Warnie’s motorcycle as the brothers motored toward Whipsnade Zoo, a new animal park thirty miles north of London. “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Song of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”  p. 188-189
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