I was so glad Joe Allison wrote about Gilbert Morris earlier this month. I really like Gilbert Morris. I read the first 12 books of his House of Winslow series. I lost count after that because I started college, moved away from home, etc.
It was Rev. Morris who introduced me to phrases like “thick slices of homemade bread” coupled with “strong coffee” and good men who had “vice-like grips.” I remember noticing how important simple, but good, food was to his characters – especially male characters. I know women authors include food in their stories, but it’s treated differently in stories written by the opposite gender. Which leads me to a couple of male authors who also featured food in key parts of their stories – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
If you have read anything I’ve written for the blog so far, it will not surprise you that I favor these two gentlemen, and their stories. I love the worlds they created and truths they imparted through characters who have never been, some that could never be, but seem as real as your next door neighbor (probably more so).
So how’d they do it? As a writer, I want to know. I, too, want to produce worlds and characters that are so real to readers they may even dare to believe the truth woven through out them. THE truth. The truth that will set them free from sin and death, and give them life they didn’t know exists, a life eternal in harmony with their Creator.
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I’m sorry, but to a mind that does not know Jesus, this is fantasy. THE truth sounds like outrageous fantasy. And this is, in part, why I believe fantasy is the perfect vehicle to show the truth of the Gospel. As it turns out, I’m not alone.
I stumbled over a book in the library where I work called War of the Fantasy Worlds C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on Art and Imagination by Martha C. Sammons. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with it as I would like. I hope I can in the future. What I did find so interesting about Sammons book is that she explores how Lewis and Tolkien met, how they worked, what their processes were as writers, their definitions of fairy tales, creativity, imagination, just to name a few things. If you would like to get to know the men as authors, this is one way.
If you didn’t already know, Tolkien was Catholic and Lewis was Anglican. Both were believers. Just as they chose different ways to worship God, they also had very different ways to express their faith in Him, as their stories attest.
As I see it, Tolkien’s “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” series are rich with spiritual truths (truths I thoroughly enjoy gleaning every time I “visit” Middle-earth) while Lewis on the other hand like to write allegories, specifically the Chronicles of Narnia. If you are familiar with the Bible, you know who Aslan really is. If you’re not, you have been introduced to the lengths God has gone to to reconcile us to Himself.
I’d like to quote a small passage from Sammons’ book from the last section,
“The Great Story of the Gospels, which is both myth and fact, contains all elements of the perfect fairy tale. Each of us is also a character in the Story. In turn, our sub-creative works (a Tolkien phrase) are stories within this Story. Both Tolkien and Lewis mention stories within stories in their novels, reminding readers that they exist outside the work itself but are part of a greater narrative.”
I don’t know that I agree with everything she said, but the more I learn about “story” the more I’m convinced it is God’s favorite way to help us understand who He is and who we are in Him.
Just to set the record straight, while I really like and admire J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, their names have nothing to do with why my pen name also starts with initials. I didn’t even notice that until I started writing this month’s blog. I will say, for the record, that we three do share another favorite author – George MacDonald. I’ll save talking about him for another month.