A Hobbit’s Hole or a Faun’s Cave:

A Contrast and Comparison of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”(Tolkien 1) So began an epic tale of heroism and adventure, of love and romance, and of good and evil. As a best-seller for years, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga has reached the hearts of millions. However, another great series has gripped the charts along with The Lord of the Rings. As a string of brilliant children’s books, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia has become arguably one of the best fantasy series ever. Behind these wonderful novels are the lives of two quite profound men. When a closer look is taken at their lives, one will undoubtedly find that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis had both similarities and differences between them. These diversities can be broken down into three categories: life, works, and characteristics.
Perhaps the first place we ought to look when comparing the lives of men can be found at the beginning of their childhoods. As a young lad who went by the name of “Jack”, C.S. Lewis spent most of his childhood in Ireland. He grew up in the Christian faith, but he gave it up and became an atheist when he was 15. He ended up back on his knees and declared later that, “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” (Lewis 182) On the contrary, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien spent his childhood in the countryside of England near Birmingham. His love for the landscape and exploring the layout of the country can be seen throughout his works. He grew up as a Roman Catholic and became quite devout in his religious rituals after his mother died. He believed her to be a martyr for her faith. But despite their differing childhoods, Tolkien and Lewis had similar war experiences. They both served as young soldiers (Tolkien was 25-years-old while Lewis was 19-years-old) in the First World War and, as a matter of fact, they both achieved the rank of lieutenant.
A contrast between the accomplishments of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would not be complete without an in-depth look at their works. As good friends and members of a writing club called The Inklings, Tolkien and Lewis were both excellent authors. C.S. Lewis believed in ardently professing his faith, and he did so on many times throughout his Christian literature. His writing ranges from Christianity for the unbeliever (Mere Christianity) to his own personal conversion (Surprised by Joy) and to the unattractive subject of pain and suffering (The Problem of Pain). In contrast, J.R.R. Tolkien believed that to write about Christianity was to be essentially forcing his beliefs on others. When it came to sharing his faith, he didn’t think this was a proper or nice way to go about doing so. However, obvious allegorical significance can be found in his writings. When it came to the fantasy genre, Tolkien displayed his literary genius with magnificence. Best known for The Lord of the Rings, he is also famous for various works such as The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales as well as his many translations. Similarly, Lewis was also a master of fantasy. There were times when he even borrowed ideas from Tolkien. As a child he loved the concept of animals talking, dressing, and acting like humans. So he created a world full of them when he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. Perhaps even more allegorical than The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia has many parallels to the stories of creation, the crucifixion/resurrection, and various Biblical figures.
When comparing their life and works, we can’t be too careful to avoid forgetting these authors’ own personal characteristics. Tolkien and Lewis usually had different opinions when it came to faith. C.S. Lewis believed in a sort of mere Christianity; in fact, he would later do a series of radio talks which evolved into his book, Mere Christianity. In contrast, Tolkien was brought up in the Catholic religion. As a more rigid individual, Tolkien didn’t stray from his faith or denomination for a second. On the other hand, Lewis believed in putting things simply and shedding every concept of division and denomination in a sort of goal that reached towards unity in the Christian faith. Though they were different in their inward thoughts and beliefs, their outward appearances were matching. As two old college professors and great friends, each wore tweed jackets and smoked pipes in a scholarly fashion. One might suppose they were brothers if they had been seen walking down the street together.
To conclude, consider this description of Mr. Tumnus the Faun’s cave: “Lucy thought she had never been in a nicer place. It was a little, dry, clean cave of reddish stone with a carpet on the floor and two little chairs (“one for me and one for a friend,” said Mr. Tumnus) and a table and a dresser and a mantelpiece over the fire and above that a picture of an old Faun with a gray beard. In one corner there was a door which Lucy thought must lead to Mr. Tumnus’s bedroom, and on one wall was a shelf full of books.” (Lewis 15) In relation to their lives, a comparison of the hobbit’s hole and the faun’s cave fits well with the comparison of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. As two intellectuals, they were both down to earth and neither forgot the importance of creature comforts. And as two great men, many debate over which of them made a bigger difference in the world. But this debate may never be concluded because each man made contributions in his own way. Tolkien forever changed the genre of fantasy and Lewis will forever be known for his Christian literature. When you put the two together you get a fantastic combination of faith and fantasy. As a hobbit’s hole is to a faun’s cave, so is J.R.R. Tolkien to C.S. Lewis.

 

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