Secondary Worlds, 50 years later…

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”.




4 thoughts on “Secondary Worlds, 50 years later…

  1. Being the Tolkien scholar that you are, what are your thoughts on The Hobbit movie(s)? Seems like Peter Jackson took quite a bit of poetic license and although I’m not a purist, I don’t really feel the need to watch this trilogy.


    1. This question is quite a loaded one:) I remember the day I found out Peter Jackson was filming for The Lord of the Rings movies. I wanted to fly over to New Zealand and be an extra. I was hoping that he would stay true to the word of Tolkien as I had heard there was a fuss over that from Christopher Tolkien. This provides a look at Christopher’s thoughts. For me, it actually all boils down to what I believe Christopher would have wanted…simply for others to read Tolkien’s works. Back in the day, before all this, as a wedding present from my husband I was gifted the complete set of his works on CD to be listened to. I almost thought that was sacrilege, as I couldn’t go back and re-read lines to myself. But I saw the value, so I will say I see the value in these movies as people are admitting they would never have considered reading his works. I would never have considered NOT reading any book of value before a movie. So the bottom line is, read the book first:)


      1. Very good point on possibly why there were plot deviations in the movie. I’ve read The Hobbit three times and LOTR twice before the movies came out. One reason was because of D&D and the second was that silly little Bass & Rankin cartoon from back in the day. I can definitely understand why Christoper Tolkien would have approved the changes. Nice blog by the way. I love your brutally honest and real life posts!


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