C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien: Bitter Friends?

by Sep 26, 2005Other News

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article at Scotsman.com. It details the upcoming drama-documentary on the life of C.S. Lewis by Norman Stone, who also directed the original Lewis film, Shadowlands–and how the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien was often a strained, personal, and sometimes bitter friendship:

When Tolkien Got Precious with Lewis

FROM the cloistered world of Oxford they created two of the best-loved fantasy realms in English literature which themselves inspired blockbuster movies.

CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were the closest of friends, one struggling to make his fantasy world of Middle Earth a literary reality, the other trying to convince friends his first book about Narnia deserved to be published.

But new research has revealed that their friendship was riven by the most bitter and personal of rows on everything from literature to religion and even their choice of spouse.

The fascinating revelations about their real relationship have been made by film-maker Norman Stone while researching a new drama-documentary on the life of Lewis. Stone, who made the award-winning movie about Lewis, Shadowlands, talked to mutual friends of the literary pair as well as examining documents in minute detail.

His portrayal of their frequent and occasionally destructive bickering comes on the eve of one of the most eagerly-awaited movies of the year, the £129m The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and follows the astounding critical and commercial success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But Stone’s drama-documentary, to be broadcast in December this year, lays bare the sometimes unbearable tension between the two writers whose work would inspire Hollywood.

In CS Lewis, Beyond Narnia, Lewis and Tolkien are shown having a violent argument about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Lewis wrote afterwards: “No harm in him, only needs a smack or so.”

Tolkien disliked the first Narnia book, published in 1950, telling the author it had too many clashing elements and was pushing the Christianity “message” too far. He also apparently “hated” Lewis’s allegorical fight between good and evil, with Jesus represented by Aslan the Lion.

“Some people may see it as trading insults,” said Stone. “Initially, when Lewis turned to writing children’s books, his publisher and other friends tried to dissuade him. They thought it would hurt his reputation as a writer of serious works on literature and ethics.

“Tolkien thought there were too many elements that clashed: a Father Christmas and an evil witch, talking animals and children. He did not like allegory and thought Lewis’s book was too pushy in a Christian sense.”

Tolkien helped change Lewis from an atheist to a Christian, but, according to the film, then became concerned about his embrace of Protestantism and evolving anti-Catholic stance.

And when Lewis met and married Joy Gresham, an American widow, this – says Stone – was yet another source of trouble. Gresham needed to go through a civil wedding to allow her to stay in the UK, and Tolkien felt she was taking Lewis away from his closest circle of friends.

A friend of both writers, Brian Sibley, confirmed to Stone their strained relationship. “They took no prisoners when it came to arguing about their work,” he said.

Read the rest of the article

For more about C.S. Lewis and the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia films, head on over to our sister site, The Stone Table!


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