Thursday, February 24, 2011

Collecting Manna: Lewis on Tolkien

"But why," some ask, "why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?" Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality...The imagined beings have their insides on the outsides; they are visible souls. And man as a whole, man pitted against the universe, have we seen him at all till we see that he is like a hero in a fairy tale? In the book Eomer rashly contrasts "the green earth" with "legends." Aragorn replies that the green earth itself is "a matter of mighty legend."

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by "the veil of familiarity." The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story; you might say only then is it real meat. If you are tired of a landscape, look at in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality; we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more dipping them in myth, we see them more clearly. (CS Lewis, "The Dethronement of Power," in Understanding the Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004, 14-15.

1 comment:

  1. As much as he may be overrated, Lewis is, totally, a genius. Thank God these two quaffed together.