Inklings

The Friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (Plus It’s International Inklings Day!!)

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I don’t want you to miss any of the posts this week, so be sure to check them out here!) 

I miss you Oxford!

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.” Cicero

Today is officially International Inklings Day!!!! On this day 90 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were gathered for English tea with Oxford English faculty at Merton College and met for the first time. This would begin a 40 year friendship and this friendship would inspire generations to come and also help to produce some of literature’s greatest masterpieces.

Yet, truth be told, it wasn’t friendship at first sight. After that first meeting, Lewis commented (I believe jokingly!) about Tolkien: “No harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” He thought him rather opinionated, but this was more due to the fact that at the time Lewis was an atheist and Tolkien was a strong Roman Catholic. As Diana Pavlac Glyer’s explained in Bandersnatch (which really is an excellent book and you should all read it!)

“It got worse. As Lewis and Tolkien got to know each other, it became clear that they had a number of serious disagreements. They had different interests and personalities. They came from different religious traditions. And they had different academic specialties. Lewis was an expert in literature and philosophy; Tolkien was a philologist, an expert in languages. He loved Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Lewis said that meeting Tolkien triggered two of his childhood prejudices. He explains, “At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a [Catholic], and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.

Soon after the faculty disagreed on required courses for English students and Lewis and Tolkien found themselves on opposite sides of the debate. So Tolkien decided that in order to win people over to his curriculum, he would gather the faculty together to bring about love for mythology and ancient languages. This turned out to be a genius move. Once again, I’ll quote Bandersnatch:

Lewis and Tolkien discovered they had significant common ground. They gravitated towards each other because they shared an interest in what they called “northernness,” the vast skies, icy landscapes, and heroic tempers of the ancient Vikings. As they talked together, Lewis was slowly won over to Tolkien’s view of the English curriculum. And as they worked side by side, they forged a solid friendship. E. L. Edmonds, a student at Oxford, remembers, “It was very obvious that [Lewis and Tolkien] were great friends—indeed, they were like two young bear cubs sometimes, just happily quipping with one another.”

Tolkien would go on to play a significant role in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity (especially on the night of September 19, 1931, where, along with Hugo Dyson, the three men spent hours discussing life and faith and Lewis later said this was his final push for Christianity) and Lewis would be Tolkien’s biggest supporter and encourager in finishing Lord of the Rings and other works. Their friendship was a staple in each other’s lives and, while, in later years the friendship did change, it never lost it’s meaning.

In Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship by Colin Duriez, we see that “with C.S. Lewis’ death, it was a “wound [Tolkien] knew he would not lose, as one loses a falling lead.” Even years after Lewis’ death Tolkien wrote about Lewis: “The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. 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.”

I’ll leave with a few fun facts because I’m all about fun facts.

  • Lewis’ character, Elwin Random, in Out of the Silent Planet, resembles Tolkien quite a bit. Elwin means “elf-friend” and the character is a Cambridge philologist who has a love for languages.
  • The Professor in Narnia was also inspired by Tolkien.
  • Treebeard was inspired by C.S. Lewis.
  • They each have rad names: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis
  • They both lost their moms at a young age
  • Tolkien’s dad died when he was a toddler and Lewis’ Dad withdrew and sent Lewis to a boarding school after his mother’s death.
  • They both fought in WWI.
  • In 1961, Lewis nominated Tolkien for the Nobel Peace Prize in literature (which he totally should have won)
  • Both Humphrey Carpenter (Tolkien’s official biographer) and Edith Tolkien (when she told scholar Clyde S. Kilby) stated that C.S. Lewis actually wrote Tolkien’s obituary, which was published the day after his death (9/2/73) in The Times.

“My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends and old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs – or else sitting up till the small hours in someone’s college rooms talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer tea and pipes.”

I hope y’all enjoyed this brief look at Tolkien and Lewis’ friendship! Who has greatly encouraged and inspired you in your life?

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Inklings

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien | The Inklings Series

I’m so excited for another Inklings post! Today we’re diving into one of Tolkien’s sagas of Middle Earth, but before we do, since this is a lesser read work, I want to officially warn you that there shall be many o’ spoilers ahead, so please no hollerin at me if you feel jipped! And I will say it’s very much worth reading!

First things first. The story was not at all, I mean, AT ALL what I expected. Being used to epic heroes and characters you love, it was an interesting twist to read a tale of woe and tragedy. My blogging friend Wesley may have said it best: it was like an episode of Game of Thrones. I don’t watch the show, but I knew exactly what she meant. People dying, curses thrown down and oh yeah, PEOPLE DYING. While it was very different, I still kinda liked it. It definitely evoked emotion and it expanded the Middle Earth universe in a different kind of way. Tolkien knows how to write a story that draws you in and this one most definitely did (you know, after the first few chapters of getting into the details and Middle Earth vibe), even if it ended rather tragic.

Random sidenote: If you read the intro, you may have seen this, but I loved how Tolkien himself described The Silmarillion (since it’s one of my favorites): Tolkien said of the tale of Beren and Luthien: “the chief of the stories of The Silmarillion” and “the story is (I think a beautiful and powerful) heroic-fairy-romance…” This makes me want to read it all over again!

Random Fun Facts and Thoughts

  • Middle earth was once called the Great Lands and rests between the seas of the east and west.
  • Lembas bread! Túrin the first man to eat it. Nom! Nom! I feel geekyishly cool knowing that fact.
  • The whole time I kept thinking donde esta Hùrin? Oh wait…he was released to find his family destroyed and his wife die in his arms.
  • One of Tùrin’s names, Turambar (Master of Doom) was such a fitting name.

Favorite Quote: “I do but follow my trade, which is Orc-slaying.  I have no idea why, but it made me smile. I’m adding it to my resume.

Thoughts of Characters

Morgoth: Why hello satan! He plays dirty. Tolkien has such a way of epitomizing such things in characters. In Morgoth’s case? Pure Evil. This was a great quote about him as well: “Neither are you the most mighty; for you have spent your strength upon yourself and wasted it in your own emptiness.”

Andróg and his band of outlaws: I had flashbacks to last season on The Walking Dead and the loonies that Rick/Daryl/Michonne and Carl took care of. But they definitely redeemed themselves. Like Andróg? Times 50!

Túrin: I gotta admit, overall I wasn’t a huge fan of him. It doesn’t help that I had Aragorn on my mind. Early on, he was described as this: “…he learned to speak early and was slow to forget injustice or mockery; but the fire of his father was also in him, and he could be sudden and fierce. Yet he was quick to pity, and the hurts or sadness of living things might move him to tears…” His arrogance seemed to blind him (like from the true evil of Morgoth’s curse), but his tale is a most interesting one.

Beleg: He was such a true true friend! Like Samwise. He was probably my favorite of the book. I love the ideas and ways Tolkien displays friendship. Such strong and amazing themes. But what happens to him? HE DIES.

“Thus ended Beleg’s Strongbow, truest of friends, greatest in skill of all that harboured in the woods of Beleriand in the Elder Days, at the hands of him whom he most loved; and the grief was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded.”

Another great friend? Brandir. Too bad our buddy Túrin accidentally kills him as well. Cool.

Mîm: Shady McShady.

Niënor: I felt bad for her. I’ve decided those are my final feelings. When she finally entered the scene grown up, I thought her fate would liken to Éowyn or Arwen, but no. She did not. She died. By jumping off a cliff into raging rapids.

“Mourning you named me, but I will not mourn alone, for father, brother, and mother. But of these you only have I known, and above all do I love. And nothing that you fear nor do I.” At first I was excited to finally see more of her, but after everything that happened, homegirl, you should have stayed.

Glaurung the Dragon: He is evil. This quote is one of many examples. “The neighing of the horses and the cries of the riders came to the ears of Glaurung; and he was well pleased.” His love of destroying humanity was just creepy.

THINGS I NEED TO TALK ABOUT!

  • Remember that one time Túrin and Niënor, GOT BLOODIED MARRIED?? I mean WHA?? I thought I read it wrong or had their names mixed up. Nope. That sealed the deal that this story was 100% a tale of a cursed family. Tolkien wasn’t lying about Morgoth. Then when she finds out the truth, she jumps off a cliff and he kills himself with his sword. Twisted Morgoth. Twisted.
  • Oh and she was pregnant.

“To Brethil they brought their dark doom’s shadow. Here their doom has fallen, and of grief this land shall never again be free.”

Alright let’s discuss!

  1. How would you rank Túrin against the other men heroes of Middle Earth history?
  2. Did this book meet your expectations?
  3. I need to brush up on my Middle Earth history, but when does Morgoth get the boot?
  4. Since friendship plays such a major role, what’s one of your favorites in Tolkien lore?

The more I read of Tolkien and his tales of battles with men, the more I see how his WWI experience influenced his writings. I cannot fathom the horrors of surviving battle, but Tolkien’s tales pay homage to the brotherhood bonded in battle.

In case you missed the last announcement, we’ll be reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis next. The discussion is set for July 16, 2014. Hope to have you join us!

Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

Bookish Radness

Nostalgia Creepin In My Bookshelf

Please tell me they still have summer reading clubs at public libraries. Please!! I hope they do. All I can say is I rocked those. My mission each summer (besides running around causing outside chaos with my cousins and siblings) was to read a ton of books, so I would win prizes at the local library. I was ballin on a budget back then.

I’m moving in the next few weeks, so the OCD in me is already organizing and boxing up what I can. Going through my library, I came across the books I’ve kept from grade school and Jr. High. This discovery made me smile. I loved these books (I guess keeping them for 20 years says something). I think I might re-read them just for kicks. You know how those nostalgia days can go.

If you have young kids who are just getting into reading, I highly recommend these. Take them back a couple of decades.

Here’s the official Books and Beverages favorite Children’s book list:

My branding style back in the day

Do you remember any of these? What are some other 80’s/90’s classics?