Tolkien And C.S. Lewis: The Gift Of Friendship, by Colin Duriez
There are not nearly enough books that have been written about the subject of friendship. This particular book seeks to look at two particularly famous and illustrious friends who were both among the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century, and examines their friendship and ends up coming to some very interesting insights. Admittedly, I would be somewhat concerned of what kind of books would be written about my friendships with other creative people, but this book is a good one. It was not only an enjoyable book to read on its own terms, as someone who has read a great deal of the writings of both Tolkien and Lewis and enjoys both of them highly, but also the sort of book that makes me wonder why there are not more books in this vein. It would be a good thing, for example, for friendships that spur on the creativity of the people involved to be reflected upon and commented upon, so that people are made aware of the benefits of having chosen friends wisely as was the case with both of these men. After all, many people would be happy to have friends like Lewis or Tolkien. I know I would.
This particular book is about 200 pages long and is divided into twelve chapters along with some other material. The author begins with a preface and then the book proceeds in a chronological fashion. First, the author explores the formative years of both Lewis and Tolkien before they met in Oxford around 1925, showing both of them facing World War I and making their friends (1). After that the author talks about the meeting of minds and imaginations between the two from 1926-1929 (2), their shared interest in myths (3), as well as the context of imaginative orthodoxy that the two of them (along with others) shared (4). After that the author wrote about the start of the Inklings (5), the early wrings of the two that were influenced by the other (6), and the beginnings of the Lord of the Rings (7). The author then looks at World War II and the coming of Charles Williams to Oxford (8). The author then discusses the relationship between Narnia and the Lord of the Rings (9) as well as the distancing that came when Lewis went to Cambridge and married Joy (10). After that the author explores the period between the death of Lewis and that of Tolkien (11) as well as the gift of friendship the two of them had (12) before two appendices dealing with chronology (i) and the enduring popularity (ii) of Lewis and Tolkien as well as notes, the writings of the two friends, bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index, which close the book.
What do we learn about the friendship of Tolkien and Lewis? For one, we learn that people can be enduring and successful friends even if they are rather different. Both Lewis and Tolkien believed differently (Lewis was first an atheist and then an Anglican, Tolkien a Catholic), both had very different styles of writing (Tolkien was a perfectionist, Lewis a fluent and prolific writer), and both of them strongly disagreed about mutual acquaintances, most notably Charles Williams. And both of them were able to inspire and encourage the other. It was Lewis’ encouragement that likely led to Tolkien being able to write both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and other works, serving as an appreciative person who gave evidence that adults could be interested in fairy tales and take fantasy literature seriously. Tolkien encouraged Lewis to become a Christian early on, and then served as the model for Professor Ransom from Lewis’ Space Trilogy. All of this shows the way that good friends can be a spur to creativity, which is certainly something to think about and reflect on.