407. Dispersion (VII)
J.R.R. Tolkien is superior to C.S. Lewis and you should be wary as regards people who overtly identify with Lewis. There is a Lewis type, often a recent convert to Christianity, who says, “Forget Orwell, you should read That Hideous Strength.” I grew up on the Narnia series, but I always found that Lewis’s works for adults made me feel sickly. The reason for this is that Lewis’s works are sentimental and untrue; my view is that he never thought Christianity was real. He started out as a strict atheist and then flipped; he was a true believer: fanatical atheist turned fanatical Christian.
I have no evidence for the assertion that Lewis did not really believe in Christianity other than the fact that I recognise the feel in his work; the feel that comes about when someone forces themselves to believe something is true, even though in their heart they feel otherwise—they think, “It’s the good and right thing to do, even if I don’t think it’s real.”
Unlike Tolkien, Lewis was a moralist. His works are didactic; and, unfortunately, his works are also spiteful and sadistic. Lewis encapsulates Nietzsche’s warning: “Beware those in whom the desire to punish is strong.” Lewis was a man in which the desire to punish was strong; he lived in a spiteful world where Turkish delight (offered by wicked witches) and makeup on girls are bad things—and people who indulge in them need to be punished, probably with a good belting. Compare this to Tolkien’s warm world where Hobbits feast, drink ale, and roll in the hay—Tolkien is a holistic writer; everything is there in Tolkien, whereas in Lewis there is just a morality lesson. Lewis’s stories are not as sophisticated as Tolkien’s sagas; everything in Lewis is allegorical and didactic—“OMG the lion is Jesus, guys!”.
In Lewis’s adult novels his sadism becomes more apparent: a secret socialist organisation takes over Oxford and uses technology to contact demons; their security service is headed by a lesbian who ties up the hero’s girlfriend and burns her with cigarettes. Tolkien never went in for anything that stark. Lewis’s real views are apparent in his late marriage to Joy Davidman, a Jewish former Communist. He married someone like him: a cold and hard fanatic, for Communism or Christianity—both rather similar beliefs. As with Lewis, Davidman converted to a new faith—this type needs faith. Further, unlike Tolkien, Lewis had no children; perhaps an indication as to how “joyful” he really perceived life to be—despite what he said in his apologetics.
The usual contrast made between Tolkien and Lewis is between Catholic and Protestant, but I would say that Tolkien is a pagan and Lewis a Christian: The Lord of the Rings is no Christian allegory; yes, Christian themes can be found within it; but, in the main, it is an Indo-Aryan legend—and this is why people respond to it strongly today. Narnia and Lewis’s other works are moralised tales about “good” and “evil” people where the bad need to be punished. Tolkien’s works are fully formed reflections of his world—industrial Birmingham and the Warwickshire countryside—interweaved with the old tongues and fairy folk of Europe. A thousand years before, men like Lewis would have banned men like Tolkien from speaking about the goblins and elves—it would offend Aslan, a jealous lion, who must be supreme (a Leo, like me) and merely tolerates the fairy folk, if at all.
Tolkien produced art; it is beautiful and not primarily moral—it is beautiful because it is whole. Nobody reads Tolkien’s works and feels they have been lectured about good and evil; they have been on the hero’s journey and lived a myth. Bilbo Baggins with his pipe and ale and his long journey is real, Aslan the Lion is not. In short, Lewis is for children who need didacticism and Tolkien is for the mature; for people on a journey that is beyond good and evil.