Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tolkien and Lewis

I apologize-I have moved to Chicago and had no Internet in my apartment until this weekend. There are lots of posts to come! This was one I'd mostly written and hadn't scheduled yet before becoming Internetless.

Headed by a Tolkien scholar, three children's authors, and moderated by a self-described "Inklings fan," (again, names are lost due to my as-yet-unfound notes) the panel on Tolkien and Lewis explored the following questions:

Why did Tolkien and Lewis decide to write for children? What was it, either about the nature of their works or their own goals that made them write for children?

The moderator began with a poll. Who was there for Tolkien, who for Lewis, who for both, and who for neither?

Most of the room was there either for Tolkien or for both, a smattering of hands for Lewis alone, and one or two "unwilling captives" (there with friends).

The moderator went over the respective histories of Tolkien and Lewis, which I was mostly familiar with, but contrasted them in interesting ways. For example, it's well known that they were both religious Christians, but Tolkien is described as a "family man" and Lewis the "perennial bachelor." Though their situations changed later in life.

So, why children's literature?

For Tolkien, it seems more like he had no choice. Fairy tales were not taken seriously for adults, so his was children's literature by default. Lewis' choice was more deliberate, especially if you've ever paid much attention to the narrator in Chronicles of Narnia.

Also discussed were the impact of WWII on their wriring, particularly Tolkien who lost four of his closest friends. That intimacy with war is certainly present in Lord of the Rings and belief in the afterlife prominent in the work of both authors. Maybe they couldn't process it any other way.

Among the panelists and the people in the room, Tolkien was the clear favorite, but it's divided on which books are the best choice for kids. I'd personally go with Chronicles of Narnia around age 8, The Hobbit around 9 or 10, LOTR around age 12. But a lot of the panelists differed, recommending The Hobbit be read to kids as young as 4!

What do you think?

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