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One morning, while strolling through Oxford, J. R. R. Tolkien described Christianity to C. S. Lewis as the “true myth.” Christ, Tolkien explained, is the full revelation of God; all other great stories merely echo that truth. Lewis later credited this discussion with Tolkien as instrumental to his Christian conversion.
A century later, the wisdom of that dialogue resurfaced in my personal life, though in humbler circumstances. I didn’t walk with scholars among halls of erudition. Instead, I sat at our kitchen table, a worn copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in hand, reading aloud while my kids munched peanut butter and jelly.
Ring - Bearer - Companions - Bridge - Khazad-dûm
The Ring Bearer and his companions had just fled across the bridge of Khazad-dûm. As Gandalf wheeled about to face the balrog, my son and daughter paused mid-bite and leaned in, enraptured. The bridge gave way; my kids leaned in farther. Then the balrog’s whip lashed around Gandalf’s ankle. The beloved wizard urged the fellowship to save themselves, and then he sank into the abyss.
I paused and studied my kids warily. Was this too much? I worried. They were both silent and wide-eyed. I counted the passing seconds, and my anxiety mounted. Will I be soothing them through nightmares tonight?
Son - Voice - Others - Mum - Kind
Finally, my son spoke up. His voice was calm. “I think he gave himself for the others, Mum,” he said. “Kind of like Jesus did for us.”
Tolkien, a devout Catholic, gave his readers ample opportunities to discuss Christian themes. Yet when he claimed that myths offer fragments of divine truth, “splintered from a single White to many hues,” he wasn’t talking about his own fiction.
Linguist - Tolkien - Welsh - Norse - Tales
A passionate linguist, Tolkien relished Welsh and Norse tales, and Lewis enjoyed Greek and Roman mythology. Their dialogues revolved around ancient stories brimming with drama and artistry, epic tales revealing our fallen condition and highlighting...
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