How War Influenced Lewis and Tolkien

I am a huge Lewis fan. I’m also a big Tolkien fan, or at least a fan of his Lord of the Rings trilogy (I have not ventured into his other works. . . yet). Joseph Loconte’s work A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War is about both those authors. I loved this book.

Both Lewis and Tolkien fought in the trenches of World War 1. Yet, despite their experiences on the front and seeing the utter depravity of man in war, both Lewis and Tolkien wrote works of hope, beauty, heroism, truth, and love. Other authors who survived WWI took different approaches in their works post-war. Why?

In short, their faiths were the foundation upon which their views of the world were firmly embedded. While the world was devastated the “Great Myth” (the belief that man was continually marching upwards towards civility and goodness) proved to be false, these men understood the depravity of man, the need for a savior, and the truth of a better story. Loconte tracks each of these ideas.

Reading this book opened up Lewis’ and Tolkien’s works in a new way. Loconte would quote passages from The Chronicles or LOTR and connected them to these men’s experience in WWI and the context of the “Great Myth” being annihilated by the war. When he did so, the words and actions of Lewis’ and Tolkien’s characters took on multiple levels never before imagined. I look forward to reading those works again with Loconte’s work as reference.

In short, if you are a Lewis or Tolkien fan, or you are a reader of WWI history, pick up this book. Loconte is an excellent author. His prose is highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s easily readable in a weekend. And, a good weekend it would be!

7 thoughts on “How War Influenced Lewis and Tolkien

  1. Thanks for the review! I think I’m going to pick this one up. I’ve been a huge fan of Lewis and Tolkien my whole life, so I’ll have to check it out.

    1. Drew, thanks for reading.

      I think you could read this work as an introduction to Lewis and Tolkien, as a supplement to their works, or after completing Chronicles and LOTR. I read Lewis and Tolkien’s series long before reading Loconte’s book. Yet, now my reading of Narnia or Middle Earth will include looking at how Narnia and Middle Earth were living commentaries of the 20th centuries’ annihilation of the “Great Myth.” Their works will be more than “Mere Fantasy” (to steal an idea from Lewis). The wonderfully enjoyable adventures of their stories will also be read with an eye to what the author is communicated about human mortality, beauty, truth, and how humanity must finally be rescued by the Unseen Power. I think Narnia and Middle Earth will be enriched by Loconte’s work, no matter when you read them.

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