Inklings

What to Buy For An Inklings Fan

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

I have always said readers are the easiest people in the world to buy books for. Specific fandoms? Even more so. And because Tolkien and Lewis have been around for a minute or two, the options are, quite honestly, ENDLESS. 

So here we go: The perfect gift ideas for Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia fans! (Links below)

$25 and under

Reepicheep Sticker ($3.50) // LOTR Epic 1978 Cartoon (Starting at $3.99) // Narnia Cross Stitch Pattern ($5.00) // Turkish Delight ($8.00) // “Courage, Dear Heart” Print ($10.00) // Hobbiton Tea ($10.00) // “I Am Aslan” Print ($11.00) // Narnia Bracelet ($12.00) // LOTR Vintage Posters (Starting at $15.00) // Recipes from the World of Tolkien: Inspired by the Legends ($16.00) // Arwen’s Evenstar Necklace ($18.00) // Map of Narnia ($20.00) // Winter in Narnia Candle ($24.00) // “Aslan is on the move” Sign ($25.00) // The Shire Candle ($24.00)

$26.00 – $75.00 Range

LOTR Deluxe Boxed Set ($30.00) // Sting Letter Opener ($30.00) // “Speak Friend and Enter” Doormat ($40.00) // The Fellowship Bookends ($42.00) // The Two Towers Quote Wall Decor ($53.00) // Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth (Companion to the 2018-2019 exhibit) ($65.00)

$75+ (For those REALLY special occasions)

Beautiful Juniper Book Sets: The Hobbit ($50.00), The Chronicles of Narnia ($195.00), Tolkien’s Full Set (which includes The Silmarillion, the Trilogy, and The Hobbit) ($195.00), The Lord of the Rings Trio ($150.00) // Narnia Book Set and Audio Book Collection ($99.00) // Lord of the Rings Chess Set ($495.00)

I hope this list sparked a few ideas! And if your birthday coming up soon, then be sure to pass this post along as a not so subtle hint :). Do you have a favorite in this list or another? Be sure to share your favorite Tolkien/Lewis gift in the comments. We can always use more ideas!

Inklings

Where to Start with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: Guest Post by Wesley of Library Educated

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

If you’re new to Jack and Tollers and aren’t sure which book to start with, Wesley of Library Educated has got you covered!

Happy Inklings Week everybody! If you’re new to the works of the Inklings crew (maybe you’ve seen some movies and now you want to read the source materials!) you might be thinking, “this is a fair amount of books, where do I start?” (I can relate dear reader, I’ve been having these thoughts about Graham Greene and John LeCarre for a long time, so if anyone has any advice on those two…) So I’ve made some suggestions about what books you could start with and a few books that would maybe be best to wait until you have a little more experience with the author.

Let’s start with C.S. Lewis!

Books to Start With:

Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe: Even if you have never read this book or seen the movie, I bet you would recognize some names and scenes just because it’s so engrained in pop culture. Four siblings in an unfamiliar country house stumble into a magical world that is in the grip of an evil queen but hope for the inhabitants is coming in the form of Aslan, a lion that isn’t safe, but he is good. Heroes, villains, a redemption arc that will make you cry, so buckle up. 

Screwtape Letters: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – one rookie demon tempter and his old pro tempter demon uncle write letters back and forth to each other about the best way to tempt a human into a life that will lead him away from eternal salvation. I know from that description the book sounds a little dark but it’s poignant, funny (someone gets so upset they turn into a centipede, can you imagine being that mad?) and a confirmation that there is endless red tape and bureaucracy in hell, which makes PERFECT SENSE.

Out of the Silent Planet: The first of “The Space Trilogy” we follow a man who is drugged, kidnapped, and thrown into a spaceship as a sacrifice to creatures on a distant planet. (Fun fact, Lewis said he would write a space travel story and Tolkien would write a time travel story, but Tolkien never finished his). Turns out the creatures don’t actually want to eat our hero, and we are faced with the philosophical questions that are so popular in space travel: how do we relate to these previously unknown creatures? What is our obligation to each other? How do we live in peace?

Books to Wait On:

The Abolition of Man: It seems pretty obvious from this book that CS Lewis did not always have a good time in school. The book gets deep into the weeds about what things are needed to have a well rounded education and there are references to ancient philosophers (and not like, the big ones that you’ve heard of) and all sorts of other deep cut references. You can feel his passion, but it’s tough to get worked up about the English education system in the early 1900s. 

The Pilgrim’s Regress: Did you ever have to read Pilgrim’s Progress in school? It’s a book heavy with allegory and deeper meaning and you have to use your whole brain the whole time you’re reading it. Pilgrim’s Regress is C.S. Lewis’ version of the Milton classic. It’s a heavy read and it’s not really a representative example of Lewis’ writing.

Alright, on to J.R.R. Tolkien!

Books to Start with:

The Hobbit: Wizards! Adventures! Strong friendships! The threat of getting eaten! DRAGONS! (Well, just one but he’s a good one). The Hobbit is a beloved classic for generations for a reason. It’s a great place to get introduced to the Baggins clan, steadfast Gandalf and the amazing world of Middle Earth. A great place to dip your toe into this expansive universe.

The Children of Hurin: If you want to dip into Middle Earth, but don’t want a trilogy start here. It takes place 6,000 years before some rings gets a bunch of short guys into trouble during a long journey. An unlikely hero and his band rise to greatness in troubled times, but can they handle everything that will come their way?

Books to Wait On:

The Silmarillion: This book is no.joke. One of Tolkein’s last book to be published and one very near and dear to his heart, but it is not designed to be read like a traditional novel. If you put yourself in that mind set it will be an easier read. I know Jamie loves this one, but when we read it for Inklings book club I was on the struggle bus in a very real way!

The Return of the King: What I mean to say with this is – if you’re doing the Lord of the Rings trilogy you need to read them in order. It’s not like other series’ where the stories are loosely connected to each other and the characters are the same so you can read them willy nilly. Order is important with this trilogy!

What would you add to the list?

Inklings

The Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection with Archivist William Fliss

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Back in 2019, I came across the call for fans of Tolkien for Marquette’s Oral History Project – an “effort to document Tolkien Fandom, the Department of Special Collections at Marquette’s Raynor Memorial Library is building a collection of brief testimonials from Tolkien fans.” Naturally I signed up immediately (you can listen to mine here). 

The project continues, with the goal of “6,000 audio interviews, one for each of the Riders of Rohan that Théoden mustered and led to the aid of Gondor.” The curator, William Fliss, was kind enough to join this year’s Inklings Week, sharing more about the project! If you’re a fellow fan, be sure to sign up! 

Thank you William for joining us! 

Archivist William Fliss

The Hobbit saved my life.”

“If Frodo and Sam can get to Mount Doom then I can handle what I’m dealing with.”

“The legendarium has been my star-glass, my light in dark places when all other lights go out.”

These words come from fans of the Inkling J. R. R. Tolkien, captured in a collection I am building in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called the Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection. If you are a Tolkien fan, please consider contributing an interview!

Since 2012 I have served as curator for Marquette’s celebrated Tolkien Collection. It surprises many people to learn that Marquette University owns the original manuscripts for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, acquired directly from Professor Tolkien in 1957. These manuscripts are the heart of Marquette’s collection; however, over the decades Marquette has also sought to document the fandom that has sprung up around Tolkien and his works.  

This new oral history collection is one of my contributions to that effort. The concept is very simple. Tolkien fans of all ages and levels of intensity are invited to contribute a brief interview to Marquette. Each fan has up to 3 minutes in total to respond to 3 questions: (1) when did you first encounter the works of Tolkien? (2) why are you a fan? (3) what, if anything, has he meant to you?

Simple, right? Well, some people struggle mightily with the 3-minute limit, but it does force the fans to concentrate on what has been truly important to them in their relationship with Tolkien’s works.  Each audio recording and its accompanying transcript are uploaded to a digital collection on the library’s website where they can be enjoyed by other fans or studied by scholars of Fan Studies. (Yes, there is an actual academic field call Fan Studies, complete with its own peer-reviewed journals!)

The idea for this project sprang from the fact that Marquette is a pilgrimage site for Tolkien fans. Fans passing through Milwaukee often stop by the archives. We keep an exhibit of reproductions of selected manuscripts on display in our reading room. (Unavailable at present because of the pandemic.) After meeting many such fans and chatting with them about their experiences of Tolkien’s works, it dawned on me that if I wanted to document contemporary fandom, these are the voices I should be capturing.  

I have built the collection around the image of the Muster of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings. In that story, King Théoden gathers his riders from across the Riddermark and leads 6,000 of them on a desperate ride to lift the siege of Gondor. My goal is to gather interviews from 6,000 fans, one for each of the Rohirrim that rode to Gondor’s aid! I chose this number with my heart and not with my head. I realize now just how long it will take me to get there, so if you are reading this and love Tolkien, please consider contributing an interview.

I am building the collection gradually. Keeping with the spirit of the “Muster”, I group the interviews into éoreds of 120 fans, the éored being the basic unit of the Rohirrim. After an éored fills, I upload its interviews to the site and begin work on the next one. I am also assembling the interview text into a dataset that can be downloaded from Marquette’s institutional repository. My hope is that digital humanists will analyze the interviews and report on interesting patterns or commonalities across them.

I have collected over 600 interviews so far. My own study of them to date has been based on impressions rather than systematic analysis. Having listened to every interview more than once, I am struck by the number of people who came to Tolkien’s works through a parent or older sibling; and I marvel at how many of these fans have introduced their own children to the works or intend to do so in the future. This gives me great confidence that Tolkien will remain a popular author for generations to come.

I am also impressed by how much Tolkien has meant in people’s lives, especially his role in helping people overcome hardship. As the quotations above indicate, fans turn to Tolkien for strength and comfort in hard times. It can be grieving the loss of a loved one, overcoming addictions or disabilities, struggling with depression, enduring bullying, wrestling with despair—you name it—people have found in Tolkien’s works the hope to persevere.

If you are interested in learning more about the collection, I will be giving a presentation called “Forth now, and fear no darkness!”: Reflections on the Tolkien Fandom Oral History Project at Marquette University at the Digital Moot hosted by the wonderful Prancing Pony Podcast.

Please consider contributing an interview. All fans are welcome!

Inklings

Still Chasing the Inklings: Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

It’s always a delight to have award winning author Katherine Reay join us for Inklings Week! And be sure to pre-order her fall novel, The London House – it looks amazing!

When sitting down to write this post, I thought about all the academic approaches I might take about this remarkable literary group, citing the importance of camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship.

Yet my enduring love and my “chase” after them is far more personal — and that’s what I want to share. Two particular Inklings — C.S. Lewis and and J.R.R Tolkien — have become, over the years, my creative, intellectual and spiritual anchors. Years ago I read that C.S. Lewis credited George MacDonald with “baptizing his imagination” and G.K. Chesterton for baptizing his intellect. That’s what Tolkien and Lewis did for me, baptizing both imagination and intellect together. Tolkien gave me the stars (that indescribable magic within a story) and Lewis — my favorite Inkling — taught me, and is still teaching me, how to navigate them. 

While C.S. Lewis penned incredibly rich stories, he didn’t create the all-encompassing aura Tolkien offered. Lewis’s stories carry you along like an arrow, leading you somewhere great. He had a very defined purpose for each word within each story, and he often kept that purpose his little secret. He rarely revealed his point, his message, his meaning — the crystalline truth he wanted to impart — but it was always there. Lewis masterfully left finding that “deeper magic” to the reader as he wrapped it into a powerful and imaginative story. 

It is that “deeper magic” that draws me back as a reader and pulls at me when writing. I too want to lay down a theme just below the surface that invites the reader in and hints at something more. I can’t claim to have captured it by any means, but I do chase it. 

Today I’d like to peel back the curtain on my latest C.S. Lewis inspired attempts to bring a bit of “deeper magic” to the page… 

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. 

This simple line from Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters grabbed my imagination and formed the foundation for my novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. In the story, readers follow three women at varying stages in life, each dealing with her own journey and challenges, but all finding themselves thrown together in a struggling bookstore. Surrounded by mistakes, mishaps, and a budding friendships, these women slowly learn that their pasts do not define them and their futures are not immutably fixed. They learn, as Lewis points out in The Screwtape Letters, that life can only be truly lived, experienced, and savored — in the present. 

To “show” that on a different level, readers will notice that each woman tells her story from a different point-of-view. One shares in third person, as if she has stepped away from her own life and is a mere observer of the happenings around her. The second woman writes in past-tense as she has formed her present on a faulty foundation and, in many ways, is stuck in those assumptions and mistakes. Although the final woman shares her story in present-tense, she does so for all the wrong reasons — out of fear because her past is too painful and her future holds no hope. 

So, while The Printed Letter Bookshop, is a collective journey of women friendship and the joy of books, it is also a pointer to the idea that living in the past (that long-ago time when all seemed perfect) or imagining a too distant future (one in which you finally realize your goals) can only trip us and keep us from the real life, love, and blessings of our now — our present. 

In my next book, I returned to Lewis again — as I always do — but not for a perspective on time, but simply for perspective. For The London House, which will publish in November, I delved into his famous Mere Christianity. We know it as a book, but my WWII character Caroline Waite experiences it as a series of fifteen-minute BBC radio talks given between 1941 and 1944. 

Lewis was invited on air to talk to the British people and boost their morale during the fearsome days of WWII. Caroline listens to the first talk, originally titled “Common Decency”, which aired on August 6, 1941. It was his profound insight into human nature delivered within that talk that opened for me the well-spring beneath The London House — the conflict between perception and truth, sacrifice and safety, secrets and lies, all during a time when it must have felt the world was ending. 

Today I have shared about Lewis’s influence on my thoughts and writings — my chase for the “deeper magic.” But the chase doesn’t end there — the Inklings themselves possessed a “deeper magic”that would be powerful if found today among a group of readers, writers, and friends. Warren Lewis described it best: “Properly speaking, the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agenda, or formal elections.” Again — it was camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship. All things well worth chasing! 

Thank you for spending a moment with me here today and I hope you enjoy all the posts and fun this week offers.

All the best to you, 

Katherine 

Inklings

The Hope We Find in C.S. Lewis’ THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Like Samwise Gamgee oft reminded Frodo on their journey through Middle Earth and Mordor, hope keeps us going. No matter what our battle is, hope is often a defining factor. Throughout C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia we see how hope encourages many characters in Narnia. As I recently re-read The Magician’s Nephew in preparation for this week, I was pleasantly reminded of so many of my favorite scenes: Aslan singing Narnia into creation, Aslan choosing the Cabby and his wife as the first King and Queen of Narnia (King Frank and Queen Helen), Polly and Digory’s friendship…

Yet, one piece of the story struck a little differently this reading – Digory’s longing for his mother’s healing, his encounters with Aslan, his mission to help plant the Tree that would protect Narnia, and the hope we see through it all. 

After witnessing the birth of Narnia and the power in its lands, Digory felt hope for his Mom (who was back in our world and very sick), probably for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t that Digory wanted riches and fame (like Uncle Andrew’s reaction to Narnia), instead he longed for his Mother to be free of pain and suffering from her illness. There’s a beautiful scene before Digory goes on his journey to the tree: 

“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another…

The Lion drew a deep breath, stooped its head even lower and gave him a Lion’s kiss. And at once Digory felt that new strength and courage had gone into him.

What a beautiful picture of God giving us strength in our times of grief and pain. Hope is such a powerful thing and hope has often been what has given me such needed strength and courage. It reminds me of Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

With the help of Fledge and support of Polly, Digory travels to where he needs to bring back an apple to help save young Narnia. There Jadis is, having already taken what wasn’t hers, and quickly jumps into trying to turn Digory away from his task. This scene very much reminds of another story ; ). After refusing to eat the apple for himself, the Witch says to Digory: 

You simpleton! Do you know what that fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life. I know, for I have tasted it; and I feel already such changes in myself that I know I shall never grow old or die. Eat it, Boy, eat it; and you and I will both live forever and be king and queen of this whole world—or of your world, if we decide to go back there.”

How cunning Jadis is, how hard she is trying to manipulate him, not only with this, but to help his Mom. For Digory, the possibilities were never about him and his own power, but the love a son has for his mother and his deepest desire that she might be healed. But, it was another kind of love that helped Digory finally see the evil of the Witch. After multiple attempts (full of twisted lies of the apple’s power) by the Witch, we see that the love from a friendship is just as powerful:

“You needn’t take the little girl back with you, you know.” That was where the Witch made her fatal mistake. Of course Digory knew that Polly could get away by her own ring as easily as he could get away by his. But apparently the Witch didn’t know this. And the meanness of the suggestion that he should leave Polly behind suddenly made all the other things the Witch had been saying to him sound false and hollow. And even in the midst of all his misery, his head suddenly cleared, and he said (in a different and much louder voice): “Look here; where do you come into all this? Why are you so precious fond of my Mother all of a sudden? What’s it got to do with you? What’s your game?” 

“Good for you, Digs,” whispered Polly in his ear. “Quick! Get away now.” She hadn’t dared to say anything all through the argument because, you see, it wasn’t her Mother who was dying.

Even though Digory knew he made the right choice, that didn’t mean there still wasn’t grief or sadness. As they are flying back on Fledge, we read that “Digory never spoke on the way back, and the others were shy of speaking to him. He was very sad and he wasn’t even sure all the time that he had done the right thing; but whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes he became sure.” It was remembering the hope of Aslan that brought him the peace he needed. 

When Polly, Digory, and Uncle A came back to our world, Digory was able to give his mom the gift of the apple and while he waited, it was the memory of Aslan that kept his hope alive for her healing: “For the rest of that day, whenever he looked at the things about him, and saw how ordinary and unmagical they were, he hardly dared to hope; but when he remembered the face of Aslan he did hope.”

Hope is something all of us need and wherever you are, may you too find hope that will bring you peace in all things. 

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

Inklings

Inklings Week 2021 is Coming!

It’s May and that means Inklings Week next week! I’m always excited about this week of all things C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but this year I have a couple new things planned!

We’re kicking off Inklings Week with a panel and all things C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien! Joining me will be two fabulous friends and Inklings fans, Wesley of Library Educated and bestselling author Katherine Reay.

Join us Monday Night, 5/10, at 6:30 p.m. MST on FB live. You can RSVP here.

I also wanted to introduce you to those kind enough to join in with fabulous guests posts.

Wesley H. of Library Educated: Reader and blogger extraordinaire! I always enjoy our bookish and not so bookish conversations around Twitter and she reads such a variety of books, you can always find a book or two to add to your TBR.

Katherine Reay, national bestselling and award winning author: I still remember being so wowed by Katherine’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. She’s a go-to author and friend and if you enjoy women’s fiction – be sure to check out her books!

William Fliss, Archivist at Marquette University and curator of the Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection: I connected with William about this project and absolutely contributed. I’m excited for you all to find out more and the awesome things he’s encountered so far!

Looking forward to next week and hope you’ll join in the fun! Be sure to sign up for the newsletter, so you don’t miss any posts!