Narnia meets The Lord of the Rings in a new movie project slated for release next spring. Tolkien & Lewis will delve into the historical relationship between two of the greatest epic fantasy writers of all time: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Hard-core fantasy fans know that Lewis and Tolkien were friends and colleagues, but the average movie-goer may not even realize that the two authors were connected at all, though their best-known works have become blockbuster Hollywood movies. Indeed, there is much exciting history between the two legendary British authors, and each heavily influenced the other.
According to ‘The Hollywood Reporter, Tolkien & Lewis is projected to cost $18 million and will be produced by Attractive Films, which is based in London and Brisbane. Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Expendables 2) has been tapped as director.
The movie is described as “a drama fantasy set in war torn Britain in 1941 revealing the faith, friendship, and rivalry between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.” The Second World War had begun, and Tolkien, “a veteran of World War I, is haunted by memories of his fallen friends,” and suffers symptoms of PTSD, including nightmares. According to the Examiner, “[s]ome of those images were used in the books in some of their most arresting scenes” of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Lewis, too, fought in the war and was wounded. Indeed, war forms the backdrop for the most famous works of both Lewis and Tolkien. The World Wars helped shape their thinking as they wrote about epic battles between good and evil forces in Narnia and Middle Earth.
It is said that Lewis pushed his friend into completing The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien’s classic novel that has become one of the top-selling books of all time. The book was, at one time, in danger of never being completed. Attractive Films principal Wernher Pramschufer describes how “obsessive genius Tolkien is blocked, terrified of finishing, for fear of the strange, psychotic visions which torture him” as a result of the war.
Both men were professors at the University of Oxford, and were members of the literary discussion group, the Inklings. The Inklings were mostly academics, all males, who met together on Thursday nights over a period spanning decades to discuss literature and critique each other’s writing. They sometimes met in Lewis’ college rooms, while other times they met at a local pub. The favorite, according to the Tolkien Gateway, was The Eagle and Child, which was more commonly referred to as The Bird and Baby.
Out of those meetings came some of the most influential and wonderful literature the world has ever known. Entire worlds took shape as the men challenged each other to reach “onward and upward.” Middle Earth and Narnia found inspiration and expression as Tolkien and Lewis bandied ideas and words back and forth.
Both Clive Staples Lewis and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien are known for being Christian writers, but Lewis wasn’t always. In fact, he was an avowed agnostic, a philosophy arrived at not long after the death of his beloved mother when he was only 10. The Examiner reports, “It was Tolkien who converted Lewis, hitherto an agnostic, to Christianity.” However, it was a bit more complex than that.
The writings of George MacDonald, according to C.S. Lewis himself, and reported by Christianity Today, were heavily influential in challenging his thinking: “What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptize … my imagination.” Other favorite authors, such as John Milton (Paradise Lost) and Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queen) also factored heavily in Lewis’ journey toward faith.
It does appear that it was Lewis’ friendship with Tolkien and a couple of other Inklings that pushed Lewis into his ultimate prayer of surrender to acknowledge God and become a Christian.
Once Lewis embraced Christianity, he delved deeply, becoming a renowned apologist for the Christian faith. Tolkien was a bit miffed that Lewis was “becoming the poster boy for Christianity,” says Pramschufer, an aspect that the new biopic intends to explore.
One of the “creative differences” between Tolkien and Lewis centers on their philosophy on the use of allegory in their writings. The Oxford Dictionary defines allegory as a “story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.”
Tolkien was a linguist, and the worlds he created formed an extravagant backdrop for the elvish and other languages he devised himself. He perceived his works to “provide the necessary background of ‘history’ for Elvish tongues. Even though The Inquisitr uncovered a possible link to a historical ring that might have played a role in inspiring The Lord of the Rings, it is certain that the works were not intended by Tolkien to be allegorical in any way.
Regarding the use of allegory, he wrote in his foreword to The Lord of the Rings:
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
These impassioned words no doubt reflect many a heated debate among the writers of the Inklings.
Lewis’ works make heavy use of allegorical devices, as in The Chronicles of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, and Screwtape Letters, although Lewis himself declared that they were not actually allegory. Lewis wrote to a fan that the lion was an answer to the question: “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?” He then stated, “this is not allegory at all.”
There is no word on whether this debate will find its way into the movie.
What is certain is that the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien, the friendship, the conflict, the worlds created, provides ample material for a very exciting film. Tolkien & Lewis is projected for release Easter weekend 2015, and promises to delight the millions of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien fans around the modern world.