In college, I did so much research on J.R.R. Tolkien you would have thought I was a fanatic. Perhaps I was. I have always been, and always will, be devoted to the realm of “faerie”. When I read the books of Lewis and Tolkien, I was transported to another world. In 1938, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien spoke at the University of St. Andrews about his favorite subject, fantasy. “The Secondary Worlds” (as he called them), must possess “internal consistency” as well as “strangeness and wonder” arising from their “freedom from domination of observed fact.” He adds to his statement that a Secondary World must be “credible, commanding secondary belief.”
C.S. Lewis died on this day, 50 years ago. When he was younger, he made up an imaginary land with his older brother, and the two even created an intricate history for that land. Lewis developed first-hand knowledge of war, as WWI broke out and he took a break from his studies at college in Oxford to enlist in the British Army. He was wounded in battle and discharged in 1919 and later returned to his studies. His knowledge of battles was discussed years later when he met J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Inklings” was formed. It would not be until 1950 before his first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series was released. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe became one of his most popular books. Children entered the land through the wardrobe and thus escaped the reality of war in their own land. In a land where children could do nothing to help, and into a fantasy world where they ultimately became rulers.
Interestingly enough, Tolkien wrote his world to be familiar as well. On one occasion, Frodo is speaking with Gandalf and the sound of Sam’s shears are heard clipping away at nearby bushes. Tolkien writes as if he did not invent Middle-earth or all of its beings; he is just telling the story as it was imperfectly remembered in the past. Tolkien uses these ideas to make Middle-earth seem real and not so distant. He states that information has been “found” on the history of hobbits, which he compiled into a family tree.
On this day, I reflect on my love of the two worlds, and remember the pure joy of entering The Eagle and Child pub where The Inklings might have sat. I remember my walk around The Kilns, where Lewis lived. The church with the Narnia stained glass, and the cemetery. And the pond…I will never forget the magical feeling of looking out into the trees and searching for that portal leading to a “secondary world”.