“Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.” – Lewis to Tolkien
If you asked me to name the two authors whose written works made the biggest impact on my younger years, they would be John Ronald Reuel and Clive Staples, better known as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis grabbed my attention as a kid with the Chronicles of Narnia, and Tolkien was there for me in middle and high school with The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, which is my favorite book and film series of all time. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on their somewhat lesser known works, like Lewis’ space trilogy or Tolkien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I’m currently reading Tolkien’s “lost” book Children of Hurin, which is wonderful so far. I really owe these men my perspective on the fantasy genre! Both Oxford scholars, both literature nerds, both famous writers in their own arenas. Lewis gained popularity in his heyday, but Tolkien’s works were not well-received at first, especially by some Oxford colleagues who liked to tease him about his hobbits. But posthumously I believe he’s the more respected of the two in many literary circles (he’s certainly my favorite!). As I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the famous Eagle and Child pub where Tolkien and Lewis, along with other writer friends who called themselves The Inklings, brought bits of their manuscripts to read aloud for critiques over a pint or two. During this time Tolkien and Lewis became particularly close, and they talked about their respective writings and spent enough time together that Tolkien’s wife grew jealous! But over the years, disagreements and frustrations grew between them, and they eventually came to a point where their attachment faded, but they never really lost respect for each other.
“The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not influence but sheer encouragement…He was for long my only audience.-Tolkien on Lewis
Their stories captured my imagination so much in my early years that I’ve been tight with them ever since. They created such magical worlds, and both had such wonderful messages about hope and destiny, they inspired me to write down the stories and the worlds in my heart, just waiting to be let loose. They made my writing dreams attainable, and set the bar incredibly high. I’ve always aimed to hover somewhere in between these great men as far as writing style, and their works have encouraged me to shoot for the sky and to be the best storyteller I could be.