Beginning of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Collaborative Work Discovered

by Jul 10, 2009Books

In 1944, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to his son Christopher mentioning that he and C.S. Lewis were planning on collaborating on a book titled Language and Human Nature. While it’s always been widely assumed that this book was never even started, it seems that C.S. Lewis did indeed take the time to start the project–abbreviated though that beginning was.

Steven Beebe, Regents’ Professor and Chair of the Texas State Department of Communication Studies, made the unexpected discovery of the unpublished writing in the Oxford university Bodleian Library. And while it’s clear Lewis started the book, there’s no evidence that Tolkien actually began and real work on the project. Here’s what Beebe told the San Marcos Mercury:

“What is exciting is that the manuscript includes some of Lewis’s best and most precise statements about the nature of language and meaning.  Both Lewis and Tolkien wrote separately about language, communication, and meaning, but they published nothing collaboratively.”

Now, while Beebe found the manuscript several years ago, it was only after doing additional research about Lewis and Tolkien that he could definitively conclude that what he found was actually the beginning of the collaborative.

Imagine if we would’ve had a true collaboration between Lewis and Tolkien!  They both certainly had a love of language and the written word, though their disciplines were also quite divergent at times.  To know that they were intending on working together–and that Lewis actually had started the work–is significant in that they were clearly intent on making it happen, but also significant in that they were completely unable to work  on it in any collaborative way. Perhaps their friendship was enough to get the ideas about this work going, but they had enough philosophical differences that it made it extremely difficult to work together…

… or maybe Tolkien was working on The Lord of the Rings and just couldn’t find the time…


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