This is from his account of the long night’s conversation among Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Hugo Dyson at Oxford in 1931, which bore fruit a few days later in Lewis’s conversion. It’s tremendously important.
We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil….
Lewis listened as Dyson affirmed in his own way what Tolkien had said. You mean, asked Lewis, that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, he said, I begin to understand.
During the war he had said to Christopher: ‘We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring’ and now he wrote: ‘The War is not over (and the one that is, or part of it, has largely been lost). But it is of course wrong to fall into such a mood, for Wars are always lost, and The War always goes on, and it is no good growing faint.’
The trailers for the new Tolkien movie looked kind of good, so I figured I might go to see it. It seemed to me it would be a good idea to read a Tolkien biography before I did that. And although I’m now hearing that the movie leaves out Tolkien’s Catholic faith – which means I probably won’t see it after all – I’m glad I bought Humphrey Carpenter’s Tolkien: A Biography.
The book is easy to read and not too long. It follows “Toller’s”
life from his birth in South Africa to his death in England, and the author is
clearly a sympathetic fan – though he is often amused by Tolkien’s
eccentricities. Which were many.
This is, I believe, the classic Tolkien biography, and it’s fairly
old now. I expect there are new things to be learned from more recent ones. I
noted, for instance, that Carpenter speaks of “Jack” Lewis’s transfer to
Cambridge University only in passing, as a step backwards in the two men’s
friendship. While that’s true enough, it should have been noted that it was
through the good offices of Tolkien himself that Jack got the job.
But, reading as a fan, I found Tolkien: A Biography fascinating. I recommend it highly.