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C. S. Lewis and the Christian Life

C. S. Lewis and the Christian Life Ep. 2

January 31, 2018 Speaker: The Rev. Brian K. McGreevy

Mythopoeia                                         J.R.R. Tolkien (1931)

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver'.

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are 'trees', and growing is 'to grow');
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star's a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o'er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun. 

God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain's contortions with a separate dint.

Yet trees are not 'trees', until so named and seen
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense. 
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jeweled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.
The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind. 
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams' we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?
All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise -- for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bare, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah's race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced). 
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God's mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.



Shortly before his death, C.S. Lewis wrote to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien: “All my philosophy of history hangs upon a sentence of your own, ‘Deeds were done which were not wholly in vain,’ ” underscoring Tolkien’s influence on Lewis. CSU ARCHIVES/EVERETT COLLECTION


In the 20th century, two British authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, dominated the world’s imagination with their original works, which have been translated into more than 39 languages, printed in more than 300 million copies and were optioned into films earning more than $6.4 billion combined at the global box office. While the individual talent of these authors is undeniable to readers today, many may have no inkling that Tolkien and Lewis enjoyed an unshakable friendship—a relationship directly responsible for the creation of The Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

A year after Tolkien began teaching at Merton College at Oxford University, he met fellow professor Lewis at a faculty meeting in 1926. But it wasn’t necessarily friendship-at-first-sight. In his diary, Lewis describes Tolkien as “a smooth, pale fluent little chap—no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” But the pair soon bonded over a shared interest in Norse mythology, from which Tolkien would draw heavily for The Lord of the Rings.


About four years into their friendship, Tolkien and Lewis explored their love for ancient tales of gods and heroes through a literary society at Oxford called the Inklings, which met informally in a private back room, then called the Rabbit Room, of the Eagle and Child pub on the Oxford campus’s St. Giles Street. The Inklings would meet to discuss and workshop each other’s endeavors, and it was here that Tolkien and Lewis found inspiration. The pair agreed the fantasy and science-fiction genres, while enticing in their promise, lacked entries they actually wanted to read. So they decided to write their own.

“They were convinced that they were two oddball weirdos who cared about stories that nobody else cared about, who were interested in periods of literary history that no one else was interested in,” Dr. Alan Jacobs from Baylor University told NPR. “They were very convinced of their own isolation from the mainstream of intellectual culture, but through that mutual encouragement, they produced these works that ended up changing the mainstream of intellectual culture, which I am sure they would not have believed possible.”


One day, Tolkien decided to show Lewis an early draft of what would become the cornerstone of Middle-earth, the star-crossed love story of Beren and Lúthien. Lewis encouraged him to continue mapping out his universe. All the while, Lewis was undergoing a crisis of faith. But on a fall evening in 1931, he took a walk with Tolkien and another fellow Inkling, and by dawn he had decided to return to Christianity. This rededication sparked Lewis’s imagination, and he began to weave Christian themes into his writing. In turn, Lewis pushed Tolkien to bring his fantasy world to life on the page when the author got lost in his daydreams. “The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood but sheer encouragement,” Tolkien wrote in a letter to Dick Plotz, “Thain” of the Tolkien Society of America, in 1965. “He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to a conclusion.”

From the pen of Tolkien himself, it’s apparent how much he appreciated the support of Lewis and his fellow Inklings, who always went the extra mile in promoting their friend’s unusual work. Lewis even wrote on behalf of Tolkien, trying to drum up publicity for The Lord of the Rings. “I would willingly do all in my power to secure for Tolkien’s great book the recognition it deserves,” Lewis wrote in a letter on December 4, 1953, to Sir Stanley Unwin regarding The Fellowship of the Ring, which was printed in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. III. Without the Inklings, Tolkien’s wonderful world might have faded into the background of history after the publication of The Hobbit, its epic sequel remaining unrealized.

Nearly a decade after Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis passed away from a disease related to kidney failure on November 22, 1963. His longtime friend was absolutely devastated. “So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age—like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: This feels like an axe-blow near the roots,” Tolkien wrote to his daughter Priscilla four days after Lewis’s death. “Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us.” Even Tolkien believed their friendship would transcend time.

This article, written by Assistant Editor Alicia Kort, was excerpted from Newsweek's Special Edition: J.R.R. Tolkien—The Mind of a Genius. 


The real fellowship of the ring

How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' all-night argument about God paved the way for both "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia."

By Steven Hart

On a warm September night in 1931, three men went for an after-dinner walk on the grounds of Magdalen College, part of Oxford University. They took a stroll on Addison’s Walk, a beautiful tree-shaded path along the River Cherwell, and got into an argument that lasted into the wee hours of the morning — and left a lasting mark on world literature.

At the time, only one of the men had any kind of reputation: Henry Victor Dyson, a bon vivant scholar who had shared tables and bandied words with the likes of T.E. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell. His two companions were little-known Oxford academics with a shared taste for Icelandic sagas, Anglo-Saxon verse and the austere cultural mystique of “the North.” Few people remember Dyson now, while millions celebrate the names of his companions: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Yet the works that made their reputations — “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” for Tolkien, “The Chronicles of Narnia” for Lewis — were profoundly shaped by that night-long argument and the bond it cemented. It’s possible that Tolkien’s Middle-earth would have remained entirely a private obsession, and quite likely that Lewis would never have found the gateway to Narnia.

“Lovers seek for privacy,” Lewis wrote in “The Four Loves” (1960). “Friends find this solitude about them, this barrier between them and the herd, whether they want it or not.” Lewis and Tolkien quickly found this cozy solitude after they met in 1926, during a gathering of the English faculty at Merton College. Both men had fought in World War I, and come back scarred by its industrial savagery. They had seen the worst the 20th century had to offer — up to that point, anyway — and took paradoxical comfort in studying blood-soaked Viking Age stories of ambiguous heroes and gods battling monsters and the outer darkness, tales short on the milk of human kindness but long on sardonic humor. (“Broad spears are becoming fashionable nowadays,” a character remarks in “Grettir’s Saga,” just after being pierced with one.)

In the pitiless Old Norse universe, gods and their human allies face inevitable defeat, but there is no thought of surrender or negotiation with the monsters besieging them. The brave and the cowardly all come to the same end — what then must we do? “It is the strength of the northern mythological imagination,” Tolkien explained in his famous 1936 lecture on “Beowulf,” “that it faced this problem, put the monsters in the center, gave them victory but no honor, and found a potent but terrible solution in naked will and courage.” In the struggle against evil, there is no shame in defeat — only in not fighting.

The solution seems to have made a bigger impact on Tolkien’s writing than on Lewis’. There is an unmistakable Icelandic chill in the air when Aragorn, faced with a catastrophic loss in “The Lord of the Rings,” asks what hope is left, then answers his own question: “We must do without hope. At least we may yet be avenged.”

Lewis approached “the North” from the literary side, while Tolkien was a philologist immersed in the sound and history of languages. He could be spiky and opinionated: After their initial meeting, Lewis called him “a smooth, pale fluent little chap — no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” But by the next year, Tolkien had invited him to join a group known as the Coalbiters, who were devoted to reading the Icelandic sagas in the original Old Norse. (The name was a play on “kolbitars,” an old Icelandic term for tale-swappers who sat so close to the communal fire that they were almost literally biting the coals.)

Every Thursday evening the friends would gather by the fireplace, slippers on their feet and drinks at their elbows, to hear “The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki” or “The Saga of the Volsungs” or whatever epic was under study. The Coalbiters faded in the early 1930s, to be replaced by the Inklings, an informal group that lasted over the next three decades, with Tolkien and Lewis as its key members. (Much more about them can be found in such books as Humphrey Carpenter’s “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography” and Colin Duriez’s new “Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship.”)

At the time of their meeting, both men were uneasy about their literary prospects. Tolkien’s curriculum vitae consisted of a 1925 translation of the important Middle English poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” along with a 1929 essay on “Ancrene Wisse,” a 13th century manuscript offering advice for “anchoresses,” or female monks, and “Hali Meidhad,” a medieval tract praising virginity. His mind was awash in anxiety over half-completed and languishing projects; “Leaf by Niggle,” his 1939 tale of a painter who can never find time to complete an ambitious work, is accepted by Tolkien scholars as a byproduct of these worries.

Lewis, for his part, had published two books of the type automatically described as “slim volumes of verse” — no further explanation necessary. He had yet to find his voice as a writer, let alone anything worthwhile to say with it. “From the age of 16 onwards,” he wrote in a letter to his boyhood friend Arthur Greeves, “I had one single ambition, in which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really and deliberately staked my whole contentment; and I recognise myself as having unmistakeably failed in it.”

When he got his first look at Tolkien’s fiction — an early run at the love story of Beren and Luthien, a cornerstone of Middle-earth’s invented mythology and and a tale with tremendous personal associations for Tolkien — Lewis recognized a man who could spend long years grinding away at a single story, but who also had his own voice and used many of the pagan source materials Lewis loved. To his lasting credit, Lewis reacted to this discovery not with envy or jealousy, but with spontaneous and generous delight.

On that fateful night in 1931, Lewis was in the midst of a fretful return to religious faith. Raised as an Irish Protestant, he had become an agnostic as a teenager. Though he came back to accepting the idea of a divine presence in 1929, he continued to resist Christianity. It remained for Dyson, a High Anglican, and Tolkien, a devout Roman Catholic, to push him over the threshold — though it literally took them all night. As they marched back and forth along Addison’s Walk, Tolkien argued for the literal and mythological truth of the Resurrection of Christ.

By all accounts, the key moment came when Lewis declared that myths are lies, albeit “lies breathed through silver.” Tolkien replied, “No, they are not,” and demanded to know why Lewis could accept Icelandic sagas as vehicles of truth while demanding that the Gospels meet some higher standard. Hours past midnight, Tolkien finally went home to bed, leaving Dyson to carry on the campaign. Tolkien’s argument — that the Resurrection was the truest of all stories, with God as its poet — may not sound particularly convincing to nonbelievers (nor indeed to some Christians), but to a man committed to the idea of myth as the only way to express higher truths, it was irresistible. Two weeks later, Lewis told a friend he had once again fully embraced Christianity: “My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.”

The effect on Lewis was explosive. Beginning in 1933 with “The Pilgrim’s Regress,” Lewis produced a torrent of books, essays, novels and radio talks, all works of Christian apologetics or stories with obvious spiritual preoccupations. Even as he churned out these works, Lewis prodded Tolkien to pull together and complete his stories of Middle-earth — the private universe that had preoccupied him for most of his life. Thanks to that ceaseless, friendly prodding, Tolkien published “The Hobbit” to great acclaim in 1937. The prodding continued during the long, fitful gestation of its outsized sequel, “The Lord of the Rings,” which finally saw the light of print in the mid-1950s. “The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood but sheer encouragement,” Tolkien recalled. “He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby.”

But the debt did not end there. Lewis quickly built a reputation as an explainer of Christianity, but he would hardly be remembered today if his fame rested solely on books like “The Problem of Pain” (1940), with their bullying style and legalistic method of argument. The man who had returned to faith through myth and poetry seemed to think he could lawyer his readers through the gates of heaven. This point was not lost on Lewis’ critics, particularly those within the faith. “The problem of pain is bad enough,” one clergyman groused, “without Mr. Lewis making it worse.”

Lewis is at his most charming and approachable in his stories, and his journey into fiction — like his return to faith — was in large part guided by Tolkien. In 1937, on the eve of publication for “The Hobbit,” the friends found themselves deploring the state of contemporary writing. “Tollers,” Lewis said, “there is too little of that we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.” Tolkien’s response, a time-travel story called “The Lost Road,” was never finished. But Lewis completed his story, an H.G. Wells-style science fiction adventure called “Out of the Silent Planet.” It was published the next year, thanks to the support of Tolkien, who was enjoying commercial success with “The Hobbit” and had a bit of clout with publishers.

“Out of the Silent Planet” was widely praised, but it was Lewis’ second foray into fiction that made him a household name. “The Screwtape Letters,” in which a senior demon advises his infernal student on how to achieve a human’s downfall, was published in 1942 (with a dedication to Tolkien) and has apparently never been out of print since. This is all to the good, since “Screwtape” contains some of Lewis’ most waspishly elegant writing. (Some years ago there was an audiobook version, narrated by John Cleese, that needs to be reissued immediately.) Less persuasive, but still successful, were the second and third volumes of the Space Trilogy: “Perelandra” (1943) and “That Hideous Strength” (1945). Tolkien approved of all but “That Hideous Strength,” about which he wrote, “A bit tripish, I’m afraid.” But he actively detested what was to come next.

If many of Lewis’ books remain in print, it is largely as a byproduct of the continued success of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the seven-volume cycle that began in 1950 with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and continued at more or less yearly intervals until “The Last Battle” appeared in 1956. Though the Christian themes are out in the open, the sheer charm of the books seems to disarm all readers — all except Tolkien, who saw them as heavy-handed and inconsistent. Some of Tolkien’s attitude may have been grounded in chagrin. The Narnia books marched out of Lewis’ brain and into bookstores with assembly-line efficiency; “The Lord of the Rings,” meanwhile, wallowed for over a decade in dithering and endless rewrites. Lewis was unswervingly supportive of Tolkien during the long gestation. Tolkien’s chief objections, however, were those of a craftsman. He considered “The Lord of the Rings” a Christian work, but its religious themes were carefully buried in the story. (Even die-hard Lewis fans may be tempted to groan when, in the first Narnia book, Aslan sacrifices himself to redeem the human children.) Tolkien presented Middle-earth as a sort of prehistoric Europe, employing elements from the Icelandic sagas, “Beowulf” and the Finnish “Kalevala” as though they were half-understood memories of the events described in “The Lord of the Rings.” But Tolkien’s systematic approach used folklore from northern Europe. The Narnia book, in which the Germanic figure of Santa Claus rubbed elbows with Greco-Roman divinities, struck him as simply lazy and undisciplined.

This drove something of a wedge into Tolkien and Lewis’ friendship, and they were not nearly as close in their later years. But when “The Lord of the Rings” was finally ready for publication in three hefty volumes, Lewis understood that it was a major work. He put any sense of personal injury aside and placed his considerable reputation on the line to sing its praises. The mutual support that began with that argument on Addison’s Walk was still going strong (at least on one side of the equation).

It was only natural that literary gamesmanship would crop up in each man’s work. Lewis made the first move by using Tolkien as the model for John Ransom, the philologist hero of the Space Trilogy. Tolkien steadfastly denied any connection with Ransom beyond choice of profession and “some of my opinions and ideas Lewisified.” In this he has backup from Lewis biographer A.N. Wilson, who calls the hero “fairly unlike” Tolkien. Readers may want to take these denials with a few grains of salt.

In “Out of the Silent Planet,” Ransom finds himself confronted by terrifying monsters on the red planet Malacandra (aka Mars), but immediately lays plans for a grammar as soon as he discovers the creatures use language. “If you are not yourself a philologist,” Lewis explains, “I’m afraid you must take on trust the prodigious emotional consequences of this realization on Ransom’s mind … The love of knowledge is a kind of madness.” In “That Hideous Strength,” the final book of the Space Trilogy, Lewis gives Ransom a speech that might have been lifted whole from one of Tolkien’s letters:

“However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren books: men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshipping the iron works of their own hands, cut off from Earth their mother and the Father in Heaven. You might go East so far that East became West and returned to Britain across the great ocean, but even so you would not have come out anywhere into the light. The shadow of one dark wing is over all.”

Tolkien repaid the favor in “The Lord of the Rings” by giving some of Lewis’ mannerisms to Treebeard, the ligneous leader of the tree-like Ents — chiefly his booming voice and constant throat-clearing. And it’s not too far a stretch to find a faint dig at Lewis’ nonstop literary productivity when Tolkien has Treebeard describe Entish as “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”

Shortly after Lewis died, in November 1963, Tolkien wrote to his daughter: “So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man my age — like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.” By then, both men had definitively answered any self-doubts about their ability to succeed as writers. Tolkien, in fact, was about to become an international celebrity as the paperback edition of “The Lord of the Rings” caught on with college students. When he died in 1973, the Oxford don was a campus favorite alongside Hermann Hesse and Carlos Castaneda. It hardly needs to be pointed out that his epic has only grown in popularity over the decades, withstanding the sneers of critics, the songwriting of Led Zeppelin, the kitsch-sodden calendar art of the Brothers Hildebrandt, the rise of legions of subpar imitators, and animated films from Ralph Bakshi and Rankin-Bass that can still astonish viewers with their sheer awfulness.

The long-overdue arrival of a proper film adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings,” courtesy of Peter Jackson, gives this story a fitting coda. A film version of the first of the Narnia books, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” will soon go into production in New Zealand. The enterprise was finally able to go forward because of the huge success of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings,” and will use some of the same production and design people, including the Weta special-effects shop that helped bring Middle-earth to earth.

The repercussions of that 1931 conversation along the River Cherwell are still being felt. Even now, it seems, Tolkien and Lewis are helping each other out.




3 January 1892

Birth of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (South Africa), moves to UK with mother at age 3; his father dies the next year.

Autumn 1900

Tolkien attends King Edward’s School, Birmingham as a fee-paying student, but he does not attend in December.

Spring 1904

Tolkien’s mother Mabel is diagnosed with diabetes, and dies in November. Ronald and his brother Hilary become wards of Father Morgan, a priest at the Birmingham Oratory.

Summer Term 1911

Tolkien becomes school librarian, and the T.C.B.S. is formed.


October 1911

Tolkien begins studying at Oxford.

25-6 Sep 1915

Final meeting of all four main members of the T.C.B.S. in Lichfield before all depart for World War I, where most will die.

22 March 1916

Ronald and Edith are married in Warwick.

November 1918

The Tolkiens return to Oxford. Tolkien obtains employment with the Oxford English Dictionary. Tolkien probably begins work on the first version of ‘The Music of the Ainur’.



Autumn 1925

Tolkien takes up an appointment as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.

February 1926

Tolkien forms the Kolbítar club (Coalbiters) to study Icelandic literature.

11 May 1926

First known meeting between C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and they soon become friends.

December 1929

C.S. Lewis reads and critiques the Lay of Leithian.


Summer 1930

About this time, Tolkien may have written the first sentence of The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit“.

19-20 Sep 1931

Tolkien and Hugo Dyson talk with C.S. Lewis, who begins to shift from believing in God to accepting Christ. This event also inspires Tolkien to later write the poem ‘Mythopoeia’.